December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things were made through him,
and without him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life,
and the life was the light of men.

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light,
that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light,
which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.

He was in the world,
and the world was made through him,
yet the world did not know him.

He came to his own,
and his own people did not receive him.

But to all who did receive him,
who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God,
who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.

(John bore witness about him, and cried out,
"This was he of whom I said,
'He who comes after me ranks before me,
because he was before me.'")

And from his fullness we have all received,
grace upon grace.

For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God;
the only God, who is at the Father’s side,
he has made him known.

(John 1:1-18 ESV)

December 14, 2009

Follow-up: what about "therapeutic abortions"?

David Kjos made a really good comment on my previous post on abortion arguments on Twitter. Since Haloscan will be going bye-bye in a couple of weeks, I thought it appropriate to simply copy the comment here and reply rather than do so in the comments. (I have also decided to temporarily shut down the commenting feature until something more permanent than Haloscan can be implemented, which unfortunately automatically gives me the last word, so I hope David doesn't mind, at least for awhile.)

He writes:

This is off-topic, but ...

On the "therapeutic abortion":

I can agree if certain death for both mother and child is imminent. But I don't believe abortion to save the life of the mother should be a foregone conclusion, or considered self-defense.

First, it's not self defense because the child is not assaulting the mother.

Second, what mother or father would not -- or should not -- stand between an armed assailant and their child, or risk their lives in any number of ways, to save that child? We naturally expect that kind of self sacrifice. How is risking one's life in order to carry a child to term different?

Back on-topic, you are so right about the absurdity of the extreme case argument. What if a[n unemployed] green man from Mars with no medical insurance and no family or church to call upon suddenly needs a gizzard transplant? Am I allowed to rob a bank to finance the operation?

Thanks for the question.

I suppose that the textbook case of a life-threatening pregnancy is an ectopic pregnancy, in which a zygote implants somewhere other than the uterine lining, typically the Fallopian tube. Many ectopic pregnancies will abort spontaneously, but about half do not. Left untreated, a developing fetus will eventually grow to the point that it causes serious tissue damage or hemorrhaging that can lead to the death of the mother - and therefore also of the unborn child, who is almost always non-viable at this stage of gestation. Recent surgeries have successfully saved the life of both mother and child, but my arguments here are based on the past situation where no such surgery was available (and my assumption that such procedures are still somewhat rare and experimental).

A therapeutic abortion is not "self-defense" in the same sense as, say, shooting an armed robber or a rabid animal that is attacking you. Rather, it's more like defending yourself against a life-threatening cancer. While I don't regard pregnancy like a disease by any stretch, the situations are comparable in that nothing is attacking the mother with malicious intent, but an otherwise normal biological function has gone very wrong and now threatens her life.

So the situation that I was considering when I wrote my previous post was not merely one in which the mother is risking her health by carrying the child to term - rather, it is one in which (as David says) death is virtually imminent and drastic measures must be taken to prevent it. Not doing so isn't a mere risk, nor is it analogous to a parent risking his or her own life to shield a child from harm; it's tantamount to suicide.

Suppose a patient went into a surgeon's office and requested the amputation of her leg above the knee. No medical condition required the amputation; the patient simply had a sexual fetish associated with amputees. If the doctor carried out the surgery, it would be a mutilation and he would be guilty of medical malpractice. (In fact, the desire to become an amputee is considered a mental illness called Bodily Integrity Identity Disorder.) On the other hand, if the same woman had cancer, and the only way to stop the disease were to amputate her leg above the knee, the same procedure (while still disfiguring) is now life-saving surgery.

And this is how I see abortion in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, when no other life-saving measure is possible that would preserve the life of both mother and child. Obviously I don't deny that the unborn child is a human being deserving of life, or that therapeutic abortion is other than a necessary evil. It's just that in some cases, drastic measures are required to save one life instead of losing two. The intent is not to kill, but to save life, albeit with "collateral damage."

Again, let me stress one more time: such conditions are very rare. And just because some abortions may be medically justifiable in the face of a life-threatening pregnancy, that does not mean we can morally justify millions of abortions that have been carried out for no medically necessary reason.

December 12, 2009

Bye-bye Haloscan comments?

According to Suzanne over at Big Blue Wave, the Haloscan commenting system will be discontinued on Boxing Day.

Haloscan has powered the comments on this blog almost since its inception: the Crusty Curmudgeon is 6 years old, and as I recall Blogger didn't introduce their own built-in commenting system until a year or two later.

Although I haven't received one yet, apparently emails are going out announcing the cancellation of the service and the impending loss of all comments unless you either a) download them for posterity; or b) upgrade to Echo, Haloscan's subscription-based successor. Gee, thanks for letting us all know in a prompt and timely manner.

Well, that won't be happening. I get just enough comments to have some sort of system running to collect them, but not enough to justify what a pay service demands, which would be something like charging me 50 cents a comment. Mail me a letter, it's cheaper. And even though Haloscan was the only game in town back in 2003, that's not the case anymore: in addition to Blogger's native comment system, there's also Intense Debate, Disqus, and I'm sure plenty of other free services that will work just fine.

So, at some point in the future, commenting on this blog will change. I'm looking into the alternatives now, but since comments are pretty low-volume here, I will likely just stick with Blogger itself. Meanwhile, Haloscan lets users export comments in something called CAIF (Common Announcement Interchange Format), but whether this will be any use in the future (i.e. after the switchover, can I import them back?) remains to be seen.

Well, I'm long overdue for an overhaul anyway.

December 11, 2009

Trotting out the "12-year-old rape victim"

I have recently been following - sometimes against my better judgment, and frequently against my better emotional fitness - the #prolife hashtag on Twitter. In addition to the expected news stories and retweets, there are a small but vocal cadre of poor-choice Twittererers who also make liberal use of the tag. Not that they have much to say: mostly factoids, misrepresentations of the pro-life position, and vapid bumper-sticker aphorisms that don't really mean anything: "If you can't trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?" (When you thnk killing people is a valid moral option, should I trust you with the choice?)

Inevitably, at least daily, someone will bring up what pro-life writers like Scott Klusendorf call the "hard cases." On Twitter, this tweet is typical of what I see:

[W]hat about the 12 yr old girls who have been raped by their fathers & could die during pregnancy.

This one is so extreme, it manages to hit all the talking points: very young pregnancy, rape, incest, and danger to life. Surely, in such an instance, we can tolerate just one abortion, right?

But hold on. First of all, any one of those "hard cases" is very rare. And I'd hazard a guess that all four at once is so exceedingly rare, it's well nigh impossible.

And that's the main problem with "hard case" casuistry: at best, you can make a case for abortion in those hard cases, but you can't justify extending the argument to any and every abortion being morally permissible. If I were to admit that abortion is justified for the 12-year-old incest-rape-victim ectopic-pregnancy girl, how does that justify the hundreds of thousands of abortions that are carried out every year on adult women whose pregnancy is healthy, normal, and the result of a consensual sexual encounter where the condom happened to break?

The question to ask in these cases (unfortunately too complex to express in 140 characters) goes something like this:

If I concede that abortion is morally justifiable in this hard case (be it rape, incest, or whatever), will you join me to oppose abortions carried out for no such pressing reason?

If the pro-abortion-choice person says yes, as Klusendorf says, you may have gained an ally in working to end abortion on demand. On the other hand, if she says no, then she isn't really concerned with the hypothetical 12-year-old rape victim. The "hard case" exception is a red herring.

The unstated assumption in this argument is that "if difficult circumstance X [as well as Y, Z, and W in this particular epic tweet] obtains, then abortion is justified." But it's not necessarily so.

I'm a hard-justice kind of person. Not only do I support the death penalty, I feel it's also justified in a number of serious offenses beyond homicide - rape being one of those. String the rapist up by his testicles with concertina wire, and let him bleed to death. But it doesn't follow that a pregnancy caused by rape justifies an abortion. Regardless of his origin, someone conceived by rape is still a human being. A woman raped has certainly been victimized, but that cannot justify her victimizing another human being in turn, because of the sins of his father. It seems to me also that the same argument applies to the case of incest.

In a very small number of pregnancies, there is a very real danger to the physical health of the mother. And in this case, I believe that a therapeutic abortion may be justified if it would save her life. Although it is an unpleasant alternative, it might be an act of self-defense. Better that one person lives, than two die.

The use of a 12-year-old in this argument is ambiguous. Is it dangerous to the health of a girl of that young age? In that case, it's just a variation on the "health of the mother" argument. If it's simply a matter of a 12-year-old girl being too young to be a mother, on the other hand, then it's no different from any appeal to poverty or bad circumstances. Being 12 years old does not change the humanity of your unborn offspring, and therefore its moral status is no different than the offspring of an adult woman with a healthy pregnancy: you can't just "choose" to kill human beings merely because you don't want them.

It is wrong to kill blameless human beings without appropriate justification. That is axiomatic. And I don't find anything in the above to be appropriate justification. There is no "12-year-old pregnant rape and incest victim" exception to the axiom, no matter how many times the pro-poor-choice tweeters trot it out.1 The purpose of these "hard cases" is not to make a coherent argument for abortion rights; rather, it's intended to short-circuit your reason and go for your emotions. (After all, who would be so heartless as to "punish" a 12-year-old girl with twin Lovecraftian horrors of pregnancy and childbirth?) Don't be snowed, and don't be afraid to call it the emotionalistic nonsense that it is.

Postscript: If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, my nick is "RansomOttawa." If I recognize you as a personal friend or someone I know (or am interested in) from online, I'll probably return the favour. I do tend to be a bit high-volume when it comes to trading blows with the #prochoice clowns, so be warned.


1 My opponent in this instance, however, didn't find this so axiomatic: as he later said, "there are no absolutes in this world"; and, a few minutes later, "I think there absolutely should be a victim exception." Wrap your head around that dizzying intellect for a minute. Then, he called me an idiot for pointing out the obvious.

November 04, 2009

Bailey Salinger vs. Inara and Supergirl

The original miniseries V was broadcast when I was 12, and it's probably my fondest memory of television in the 1980s. So I had mixed feelings about ABC's new "re-imagining" of the series. But after seeing last night's premiere . . . I loved it.

The new V begins much as the old one did: with the sudden appearance of gigantic flying saucers over the major cities of Earth. The underside of each mothership is a giant Jumbotron, which broadcasts the image of the Visitors' high commander, Anna (Morena Baccarin), delivering a message of peace. The Visitors have travelled a long way and are asking for supplies of water and a mineral they require to sustain them. In return, they will provide new technology and medical services.

The arrival of the "V's" is not universally welcomed. In New York City, FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) is investigating a terrorist sleeper cell that somehow appears to be connected to them. Meanwhile, her teenage son Tyler becomes infatuated with Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) who is organizing the New York chapter of the V's "Peace Ambassador Program" for the local youth. The Vatican quickly pronounced the V's to be part of God's plan - a little two hastily for Father Jack Landry, who breaks ranks to preach that they really ought to earn humanity's trust. Meanwhile, newscaster Chad Decker (Scott Wolf), apparently the one journalist to not bombard Anna with skeptical questions, is granted an exclusive one-on-one interview with her.

Original series creator Kenneth Johnson is writing for the new series, so it treats its source matter with respect. The characters are different, but the situation is basically the same: the Visitors come to earth and gain humanity's trust, but all is not what it seems. One significant difference is our outlook on "ultimate evil" in the post-9/11 era. Gone are the Visitors' militaristic uniforms and crypto-fascist insignias, replaced with fashionable business attire. The V's are like an al-Qaeda sleeper cell. The cast was well selected, particularly Baccarin as Anna, who appropriately projects both serenity and menace.

The major problem with remaking such a landmark television program, though, is that the element of surprise is lost. Everyone knows the secret of the Visitors: they're FREAKIN REPTILES IN DISGUISE WHO WANT TO EAT US. (Sorry for spoiling the surprise if you're under 25.) But Vis off to a good start, and I'm looking forward to future installments. The thrill of seeing the lizards back on TV is almost the same as seeing Doctor Who again, four years ago.

October 18, 2009

And now . . . this - Oct. 18/09

Oh, brother:

Barack Obama - African American Bible Cover - Prayer Changes Things

This bible organizer is perfect for sporting your bible or favorite book.

Cover Reads: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14


You know, I'm all for celebrating a legitimate accomplishment - a black President was a long time coming in the United States - but, sheesh.

I'd be tempted to get a copy of The Audacity of Hope and slap a dust cover from a Bible on it. But I have the feeling that the satire would be wasted on many . . .

October 09, 2009

Ransom "elated" by Nobel Peace Prize loss

U.S. President Barack Obama is humbled by his Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him by the Norwegian Nobel committee "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between people."

[Full Story]

Past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize include:

  • Anwar el-Sadat (1978), who started the Yom Kippur War
  • Yasser Arafat (1994), Palestinian terrorist
  • Jimmy Carter (2002), for failing to find a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict
  • Al Gore (2007), for environmentalism having nothing to do with peace

Ransom shares his No-Bel with the following:

  • Mahatma Gandhi, seminal non-violent leader of the Indian independence movement
  • Pope John Paul II, pacifist and anti-Communist
  • Corazon Aquino, who restored democracy to the Philippines
  • Vaclav Havel, Czech post-Communist democratic reformer

October 08, 2009

Pro-choice fascism strikes again; or, a lecture you can't refuse

Pro-choice activism is now officially the new kindergarten.

On Tuesday night, pro-choice activists at McGill University unveiled their new campaign for abortion rights in Canada. It goes something like this:

Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O
And on this farm he had a cow, E-I-E-I-O
With a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there
Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O

See for yourself:

Yes, this is exactly as irritating as it sounds, so I'm not going to post subsequent installations. In part 2, the videographer notes that he's filming fascism in progress, as the "protesters" move from bad songs to bad jokes, then actually have the temerity to start complaining that they did not give permission to be filmed. (It apparently never occurs to them that no one was filming them outside.) The videographer does not give in - there are close to 20 installments, if you have the stomach for it.

There is, of course, not even a token attempt to reason with Jojo Ruba - who, despite their false assertions that he had no right to be there, was as usual an invited guest of a campus club at a sanctioned event. The purpose was to run out Jojo's clock, nothing more.

Arguably the most iconic scene of the novel and movie The Godfather occurs when Corleone family lawyer Tom Hagen flies to Hollywood to reason with studio owner Jack Woltz, to persuade him to cast Don Corleone's godson, singer Johnny Fontane, in a movie. Woltz refuses; he has a personal grudge over a girl that Fontane seduced away from him. The next morning, he wakes up and finds himself sharing his bed with the severed head of his prize race-horse.

In the past, Jojo and like-minded pro-life advocates have been able to air their views, whether via lecture or debate, without being drowned out. But as more and more pro-choicers find themselves on the losing end of effective arguments for life, they have abandoned any semblance of reason (Choose Life McGill tried to find a debating opponent for Jojo, but were unable) and gone instead for more direct action: what free-speech advocate Nat Hentoff has termed the "mob veto."

The debates were reasonable. Singing "Old MacDonald" to shut a public speaker up is the horse head in the bed. And we're going to see a lot more of it. Fortunately it will have the unintended consequence of showing how intellectal fascism has taken over the next generation of pro-choicers. This is what our universities are grooming, people.

October 07, 2009

And now . . . this - Oct. 7/09

Remember the dude last July who was nabbed for stealing over 125 manhole covers in Ottawa for their scrap value? The saga continues:

An arrest warrant has been issued for a man convicted of stealing manhole covers from Ottawa streets after he failed to show up at court for his sentencing.

[Full Story]

If there is any such thing as poetic justice, it's not his fault. Maybe he just fell into an open manhole.

October 06, 2009

Unintentionally ironic Pro-Choice Quote of the Day

One of the few bits of vapid pro-choice pontification that randomly appears on Twitter's #prolife hashtag:

When you force someone to do something, that is not choice. Prolife don't care if women choose life- they will force her anyway.

Meanwhile, Jojo Ruba's talk "Echoes of the Holocaust" is scheduled to begin as planned at McGill University in a little over half an hour, despite the official "censure" of the student blackshirts. I wonder if his audience will be free to exercise their choice to hear Jojo speak? Or will the SSMU force the closure of the event, as their counterparts at St. Mary's did in February?

Pro-choice rhetoric: emptier than a vacuum chamber in geosynchronous orbit.

October 02, 2009

Is mob rule on the menu at McGill?

Remember last February, when Jojo Ruba's talk "Echoes of the Holocaust" was shut down by spineless officials at St. Mary's University after a handful of student fascists shouted him down for the better part of an hour?

It is starting to look like the pro-abortion damage-control apparatus is gearing up for Jojo's upcoming talk at McGill University in Montreal, where the pro-life club Choose Life McGill will be hosting Jojo on October 6.

The Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) has recently granted Choose Life provisional club status. Basically, they are on a three-month probation during which they must hold a certain number of events and prove they are an active club, as a prerequisite to full club status being granted. This was not, naturally, well taken by the campus womyn:

Women’s Studies student Andrew Thorne, watching from the gallery, claimed Choose Life was a structurally violent group and opposed its legitimization through SSMU.

“Pro-life is inherently violent against women and against human rights,” he said of the ideological mandate of the group.

[Full Story]

During the debates over campus pro-life clubs at Carleton three years ago, we saw the same rhetorical tactic. It is irrelevant whether any actual violence takes place or can be attributed to the activities of "pro-life"; all the womyn have to say is that opposition to abortion on demand is "inherently violent against women." (As I've asked before: if talking about abortion is inherently violent, what does that make an actual abortion?)

Choose Life McGill has already held one event: the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, in which a number of women told the story of their negative experiences with abortion. Predictably, this has already been denounced as "scare tactics" by the campus feministas, who were apparently freaked out by being forced to see graphic images of women holding an "I Regret My Abortion" sign. (Time to break out the smelling salts again.) And there were protestors on site as well:

“I am deeply disturbed...that someone might walk to class and encounter signs that target a difficult decision that they had to make.... Whether they are made to feel ashamed for a minute or for the rest of the year, it’s not okay,” they said.

Arts Senator Sarah Woolf (U2 Political Science and Women’s Studies) student participated in the pro-choice protest and agreed that Choose Life’s activities, including hosting SNMAC, are offensive.

“As a woman on campus, their activities are offensive to me. Within the context of their current activities, I don’t want them on campus,” Woolf said.

[Full Story]

We can't have the poor dears be made to feel uncomfortable, can we? It's ironic that the campus blackshirts should accuse Choose Life of being "manipulative", while at the same time attempting to shame them off campus with manipulative emotional blackmail.

But never mind emotional blackmail: how about the normal kind? Last night, a motion - co-authored by the aforementioned Sarah Woolf - censuring Choose Life for scheduling Jojo's talk was passed by the SSMU Council. Should they go ahead, apparently their eligibility for funding will be revoked. ProWomanProLife has the full text of the motion, including:

Whereas this event violates tenets of social justice, anti-oppression, and respect. . . .

Be it further resolved that the SSMU demand that the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson intervene in order to cancel the event regardless of any inconvenience this will cause Jose “Jojo” Ruba or the Choose Life Club.

Yep, you have to love the way the campus blackshirts think: in the name of fighting "oppression," call upon the power of the university administration to ausrotten an ideologically impure lecture and public assembly.

Tuesday night, assuming it goes forward, is going to be interesting.

September 12, 2009

No-- no-- notorious

I've said many times that I have somehow become the intellectual equivalent of the opposite of a "chick magnet." That is, instead of naturally attracting supermodels or society's most brilliant thinkers, I seem to naturally attract kooks, cranks, and assorted weirdos.

My previous post managed to attract no less than its subject: Periander A. Esplana, the author of the mathemagical "miracle" that supposedly proves the divine origin of the 1611 KJV, even though it doesn't actually work with the 1611 KJV. And then the roof fell in. My blog is strictly small potatoes, so it's rare that I get even a handful of comments on any one post. But my previous, as well as its counterpart on the backup blog on WordPress, have already garnered a total of 29 comments as of now - including further rants by Esplana himself. (Nothing really seems to bring out commenters like a KJV-only post. I figure they must be trolling Google Blog Search just to find something to get indignant about.)

Meanwhile, Esplana has also discovered the Bible Version Discussion Board where, posting as "sciencephilosophyreligion," where he continues to hawk his math trivia. Not only that, but he has taken his rebuttals to posts on that forum, and for some reason thrown them into an ebook instead of posting them to the forum directly, as though putting his opinions into a PDF file makes them seem more legitimate.

Espana continually crows that no one can answer his "Bible Formula Challenge." Of course, I do have an answer. It's two words, in Latin:

non sequitur.

This phrase means does not follow: in other words, the argument doesn't lead to the conclusion.

The letter count of the first and last verses of the Bible simply doesn't matter. Is it a statistical curiosity? Sure. Is it an interesting bit of trivia that the letter and vowel counts of Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 sum up to the same count in 1 John 5:7? Sure, why not? But what Esplana and other math magicians fail to show is how this proves the divine origin of the KJV. Scripture itself never says that the proof of its divine origin lies in letter counts. God commands faith, but he doesn't point to 18th-century typography as proof of his existence.

Before Esplana can convince me that letter counts are proof of the divine origin of the Word of God, he has to demonstrate that it's proof of anything. On the contrary, it's completely arbitrary, and I won't let numerological nitwits like Gail Riplinger, Peter Ruckman, or Periander Espana bind my conscience contrary to the Word of God.

August 15, 2009

KJV-only silly math rides again!

It's Crank Week, take 2!

If you put Harold Camping into a particle accelerator and fired him at near-lightspeed into Gail Riplinger so they fused together, what would you get? None other than Peter S. Ruckman, of course. Dr. Petey's biblical hermeneutic, and I use that term most generously, combines the bombastic nuttery of Riplinger with the incomprehensible pseudo-mathematical hermeneutic of Camping.

Here's a real gem of an "argument" I found courtesy of the evil Alexandrian Cultists plotting to overthrow Christianity at Bible Versions Discussion Board, from the June 2009 issue [PDF] of Dr. Petey's newsletter, the Bible Believers Bulletin:

Now, do you want a bomb to put in your pocket to shut the mouths of these stupid idiots who deny the four Scriptural truths written in "the scripture of truth" (Dan. 10:21). Well, here it is: it is delivered by a Filipino Christian who came out of Manila. This is Periander Aban Esplana, who was 35 years old when he wrote it. His work is callled "The Bible Formula." . . .

Bro. Espiana's AV 1611 "Mathematical Formula" turns out to be anohter one of several hundred "advanced revelations" that were totally missed by A. T. Robertson, Kenneth Wuest. . . . The "formula" is as follows:

A. At the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1:1 - 10 words, 44 letters 17 vowels, and 27 consonants - IN ENGLISH, not ANY Hebrew manuscript.

B. At the end of the Church Age in 1 John 5:7 - 22 words, 88 letters, 34 vowels, and 54 consonants IN ENGLISH, not ANY Greek manuscript.

C. At the end of the Bible in Revelation 22:21 - 12 words, 44 letters, 17 vowels, and 27 consonants - IN ENGLISH, not in ANY Greek manuscript.

The AV 1611 Mathematical Formula is as follows:

A-44 plus C-44 equals B-88

A-17 plus C-17 equals B-34

A-27 plus C-27 equals B-54

That is, the WORDS found in Genesis 1:1 added to the WORDS found in Revelation 22:21 (the beginning and the end are summed up in 1 John 5:7 by the Trinity.

The LETTERS found in Genesis 1:1 aded to the LETTERS found in Revelation 22:21 produce the total LETTERS in 1 John 5:7.

The VOWELS found in Genesis 1:1 added to the VOWELS found in Revelation 22:21 give you the total VOWELS in 1 John 5:7.

The CONSONANTS found in Genesis 1:1 added to the CONSONANTS found in Revelation 22:21 equal those CONSONANTS found in 1 John 5:7.

Got it? Explain it. Not one Hebrew or Greek manuscript found in 2,000 years displays that mathematical miracle.

"King James only! King James Onlyism! Heresy! Oh, God, save us from RUCKMANISM! Oh, what a cultic RUCKMANITE!"

Ahh, go stick you [sic] left hind leg in your right ear.

I'll repent of that advice when you send me the EXPLANATION for that ADVANCED REVELATION God gve you through a 35-year-old Filipino. In the meantime, act like a gentleman, even though you are NOT. Go "strut your stuff" before some cloned robots like yourself, and don't waste our time. We have "the holy scriptures"; you don't.1


Paging Harold Camping.

But what's to explain? Before someone can even begin to "explain" this pseudo-mathematical loblolly, Dr. Petey has to explain a few things himself. To wit:

  • Who is Periander Aban Esplana, and why should I care?
  • Why should I expect this apparent mathematical coincidence to have any significance at all?
  • Why should we accept that 1 John 5:7 stands for the "end of the Church Age"? I suspect Dr. Petey takes some incomprehensible, hyper-Dispensationalist nitwittery for granted, but I remain not-convinced.
  • Does the letter Y count as a consonant or a vowel?
  • Does it work for spacing and punctuation as well, or just letters?
  • Is this "mathematical miracle" truly unique, or would I find another one if I started searching for it elsewhere in the Bible - or, for that matter, any other English text that I happened to download, like the ridiculous "Bible codes" that were so popular 10 years ago?

More to the point, as I asked in another recent post: What possesses people to start hunting for these arbitrary patterns in the Bible and then ascribing some sort of theological meaning to them? Did it go something like this? "If only there were the same number of letters, consonants, and vowels in the first and last verses of the Bible, and when you added them together, you got the exact letter, consonant and vowel count of 1 John 5:7! That'd sure show those Bible skeptics, wouldn't it. Say, I think I'll try it. Whaaa -? Gasp! I - I don't believe it, it's absolutely true. It's a miracle! I've got to call someone about this. Operator, give me the number for Bible Believers Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, and right away, the future of the human race is at stake!" Only, of course, it would be in Tagalog.

Well, you knew I was going to do some fact-checking, didn't you? In fact, Dr. Petey's/Esplana's word/letter count is quite correct.

But wait a minute. It's correct based upon the 1769 KJV - the revision of the KJV text made by Benjamin Blayney that is usually published today. But didn't Dr. Petey say this an "AV 1611" mathematical formula? Does the logo on the Bible Believers' Bulletin not have "AV 1611" on it? Yes, it does.

No fair pulling a bait-and-switch and substituting the wrong Bible! Let's see if this "mathematical miracle" works on the edition of the KJV that Petey says it's supposed to. After all, as KJV-onlyists constantly harp, there's no real difference between revisions of the KJV apart from corrections of spelling or punctuation. Well, suddenly, now we have a "proof" of the KJV's inspiration that relies on the precise spelling of the text, so let's see how it stacks up.

I looked up the images of the original KJV on SCETI, one of my favourite Web sites for this kind of work. Here's the text as it originally appeared in 1611, along with the word, letter, vowel, and consonant counts:

In the beginning God created the heauen, and the Earth. (Gen. 1:1)

Whoops. Thanks to the peculiarities of early-17th-century typography, there's a superfluous vowel in there. That means that this verse has a count of 10 words, comprising 44 letters, of which 18 are vowels and, obviously, 26 consonants. On to the last verse of the Bible:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Rev. 22:21)

This verse is letter-for-letter identical in both editions. Count: 12 words comprising 44 letters, of which 17 are vowels and 27 consonants.

So the total for the first and last verses of the Bible are: 22 words, comprising 88 letters of which 35 are vowels and 53 consonants. It's all up to you, Iohn:

For there are three that beare record in heauen, the Father, the Word, and the holy Ghost; and these three are one. (1 John 5:7)

So sorry. That's 22 words, 89 letters, 36 vowels and 53 consonants.

I guess we'll just have to chalk this one up as yet another crackpot KJV-only goofy proof . . . of nothing.

You gotta laugh


1 Peter S. Ruckman, "A Mathematical Bomb for 'Cloned Robots,'" Bible Believers' Bulletin, Vol. 33 No. 6 (June 2009) (accessed 14 August 2009), 13, 19. Available at; Internet. Emphasis in original.

August 14, 2009

Nothing says fun like a free car

Got an amusing email overnight from a KJV-onlyist named Keith Whitlock, who wrote:

Thought you might be interested in a little laugh. Got a nice BMW in restoration right now. If you can come up with any errors in the KJV or any lies in Gail's works I'll deliver it to your door. Great deal, Eh? Good luck!

Glad to oblige, Keith. For reasons I explained in my previous post on Gail Riplinger, I don't have a paper copy of New Age Bible Versions and cannot give a precise citation for this quote, apart from a chapter number and a corresponding footnote. I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding the exact location from the information I provide, nonetheless.

Concering the papyrus P75, Riplinger writes the following in Chapter 35 of New Age Bible Versions:

[Bruce M.] Metzger says, "Papyrus 75 supports the majority text dozens of times. In relation to the [majority] text, P46 (about A.D. 200), shows that some readings . . . go back to a very early period . . . P66 [has] readings that agree with the [majority] . . . text type." (emphasis added)

Riplinger cites this excerpt in footnote 38 of chapter 35 as coming from Metzger's book Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, pp. 64, 108. The full citation for this book is in footnote 9:

Bruce Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981) . . .

Let me note, first, that Riplinger mis-cites this quotation. None of it appears on page 108 of Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, and some appears on page 64. So it's a very badly formed citation - typical of Riplinger's sloppy writing . but it isn't, technically, a lie.

This is, however.

Note the section that I've emphasized, above. This phrase, "Papyrus 75 supports the majority text dozens of times," does not exist - on page 64, 108, or anywhere else in Manuscripts of the Greek Bible. It simply isn't there. And in any case, it contradicts what Metzger says about P75 elsewhere in the book, for example:

Textually the manuscript is of importance in showing that the Alexandrian type of text characteristic of the fourth-century codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus was current at the beginning of the third century . . . Furthermore, not only is the text of P75 Alexandrian, but it is closer to B [Vaticanus] than that of any other manuscript, while the influence of the readings of the Western type is almost non-existant. (Manuscripts of the Greek Bible, 68)

So, in short, Gail Riplinger manufactured a quotation from Bruce Metzger to say the exact opposite of what he actually says in the same book.

Certainly sounds like a lie to me.

So, Keith, once you've finished that restoration job, I'll let you know where to deliver it. I guess we'll see if you have the stones to be a man of your word. I doubt it, though. Riplinger sycophants and the KJV-onlyists who make the biggest boasts also usually have the biggest problem with integrity.

Postscript, 11:30 pm: Earlier this evening, after posting the first draft of this article, I emailed Whitlock back with a link to this post, adding:

Let me know when I can expect my car.

I reserve the right to make any further communication public.

To which Whitlock responded:

You do that. and in writing.

I am, of course, happy to oblige, so here it is. A couple of minutes later, Whitlock added:

So the Butcher never said P75 supports the Textus Receptus/Majority/ Byzantine? I'll check it out. Anyway, what is your favorite color? Don't get your hopes up.

(Believe me, I haven't.) And then, a couple of hours later, he added:

P75 does support the TR in dozens of places. Kiln and Pickering researched that. Why don't we ask the Butcher himself? I'll email him.

Note the not-so-subtle shift of categories, from the content of Metzger's book to the factuality of Riplinger's fictitious quotation? These people don't even try to be sneaky about their deception. I responded:

Hi Keith. I wondered how long it would take you to fabricate an excuse not to honour your offer after making it. Didn't take long, did it? Not even three hours, and you're already lying to my face.


Gail the Ripper said that the words:

p75 supports the Byzantine text dozens of times

appear in Bruce Metzger's _Manuscripts of the Greek Bible_ on page 64 or 108. Those words do not appear in that book on those pages or elsewhere.
Gail the Ripper made up a quotation.
Therefore, Gail the Ripper lied.

It is disingenuous of you to try to claim now that my beef was with whether or not P75 supports the TR, when you know full well my beef is with manufactured quotations.

Try again. Can you find the following words in the 1981 edition of _Manuscripts of the Greek Bible_ by Bruce Metzger:

p75 supports the Byzantine text dozens of times

What's that? They're not there? Then man up, and give me my car.

I'm still not holding my breath, mind you. You have to wonder whether honesty is even in these dolts' vocabulary.

You gotta laugh.

Post-postscript, 1:30 pm Aug. 15: Overnight I got three more emails from Keef, who really needs to learn to plan ahead instead of filling up my inbox with crap he could have sent in a single message.

Sent at 1:04 am:

KInd [sic] of weak eh? Allow me time to research the Butcher's book and/or ask Gail about it. It is possibly a mistake not a lie. Gail is a woman of God not a liar.

Got any more "lies" What [sic] is the dictionary definition of a lie. [sic] To deceive correct. [sic] The chapter of her book is about the earliest papyrus manuscripts and their support of the KJV type manuscripts of which P75 is one.. [sic]

Metzger died in 2007. Did you catch that?

Actually, I did; note, however, that the Keefster was the one who offered, earlier last night, to "email the Butcher" himself. Confused, would we?

Then, at 1:41:

Got any more lies for me? Could you be fair and allow me the time to check it out myself? I'll have to use inter-library loan. That may take a couple of weeks. I could ask Gail and she would set it straight but I need the practice " iron sharpens iron" [sic]

The BMW is a 1974 2002. All new paint, interior, souped up engine & suspension, nice stereo. A really fun car.

Maybe J R could be of assistance

Is it just me, or are Keefer's emails getting more incoherent as the night waxes late?

I'm not sending him any more lies. I've already met the terms of his challenge, and now he's trying to backpedal.

The backpedalling continues at 2:29:

Up kind of late eh? I hope it is not because of me.

No, at this point I'd already been in bed for an hour. As I said, incoherent. Unaware of this, Keef continues:

Relax, if I find out that Gail's qoute [sic] is a lie intended to deceive you as regarding the witness of ancient Papyri P75 for the common text, you will get your BMW.

Scott, this offer has been open to everyone for a few months. So far no one has been successful. You will not be either.

But I will welcome any honest attempt. What I really want is attempts to discredit the KJV.

Keefo is backpedalling so fast, I hope he's installed rear-view mirrors on his bicycle.

My response, this morning:

You KJVers wouldn't know "honesty" if it bit you in the ass, but thanks for playing MY game, Keefie. Have a day, thanks for the blog fodder, and enjoy your fictitious car.

It was fun when it started, but with Keef's emails becoming consistently more whiny and desperate for attention, it's time to move on.

Post-post-postscript, 1:40 pm: And while I'm writing this, I get yet another email from Keef, pleading with me to stay on the line. I swear this guy is worse than one of those phone psychics. Anyway, he writes:

Such verbal grace seasoned with salt. People consider "men" who beat up, slander and levy false accusations against little old ladies anything but stony.

Do your anti villification laws apply just to Canadians? Did not the Canadian Protestant Association endorse Gail's NABV?

Here is a picture of the car in restoration. I'll keep you all updasted on it's progress.

And, of course, the email had a HUGE jpeg of his totally, sincerely, no-I-mean-you-can-really-have-this one-hundred-percent-genuwine BMW attached to it, just to be extra annoying.

Now, unless I get yet another email before I sign this off, I've had enough fun with the idiot man-child.

Any moment now.

Nope? Oh well.

August 09, 2009

This is shaping up to be Crank Week on the blog

I started the week with the numerological eccentricities of Captain Camping, and so I may as well finish it off with another bit of mathematical nitwittery, this time courtesy of the King James nuts.

This is Steven L. Anderson, a self-proclaimed "Baptist" "pastor" from somewhere near Phoenix. He rose to Internet infamy a while back, thanks to his unintentionally hilarious "sermon" in which he denounced all non-KJV Bibles for omitting the phrase "pisseth against the wall" from numerous locations. He has since posted dozens of clips from his asinine preaching. Unfortunately, ignorance begets ignorance, and Anderson now also has a small cadre of "young Baptists" who imitate his style.

More recently, Anderson diversified his career by adopting a "patriot" stance, which meant cruising around looking for police, border guards, or other authority figures to harrass, then post YouTube videos accusing them of harrassing him. This reached its climax a few months ago where he pushed a little too far at an internal checkpoint, and received a well-deserved tasing from the border patrol. Meanwhile, since he hasn't appeared in court, gone to jail, or been shot, so I'm guessing that his fifteen minutes are up and he's abandoned grievance-mongering as a career opportunity, and has gone back to posting blithering nonsense on YouTube again.

Here is the latest idiocy Stevie has posted:

For those who can't be bothered to watch - and I can't blame you - he prompts the congregation to count up the number of verses in the gospel of Mark in the New International Version of the Bible, according to the last verse number of each chapter. Added together, these total 678. He then points out that though the NIV includes the longer ending of Mark, it is a disputed passage, and significant enough that it warrants a textual note in the middle of the text rather than a footnote. This ending contains 12 verses.

And what is 678-12? You do the math, and cue the spooky music.

I hardly know where to begin commenting on this codswallop.

First: so what? There is precisely one context in which the number 666 has a negative connotation: that is John's cryptic identification of the Antichrist in Revelation 13:18. Outside of that context, 666 means . . . six hundred and sixty-six. As Freud is rumoured to have remarked, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Second, so what? Chapter and verse references are not part of the original, inspired text; they were added to the New Testament in the 13th and 16th centuries by Stephen Langton and Robert Estienne, respectively, to make it easier to look up specific passages. To ascribe any specific theological meaning (e.g. "The NIV is evil!") to these divisions would be equivalent to saying that revelation was added to the Bible during the Middle Ages.

Third, Anderson's math is selective. There are all sorts of footnotes throughout the Gospel of Mark noting minor textual variants: a word here, a word there. Add them together, and they probably make up the equivalent of two or three verses. But Anderson doesn't focus on what is actually not there; he inexplicably subtracts what is there.

Finally, Anderson's math is wrong. There are, in fact, five complete verses found in the KJV's Gospel of Mark that are not in the NIV: 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, 11:26, and 15:28. The remaining verses are not renumbered (since concordances and other helps wouldn't work if they were), so adding up the last verse numbers of each chapter doesn't give an accurate count of the entire book. Of course, if his total comes to 661, Stevie can't rant and rave about the "mark of the beast."

I want to know what dimbulb actually thought counting verses in the NIV, to try and total the Spooky Number of Evil, actually proves something. Also, if you're going to be obsessive and superstitious, is it too much to ask that you be accurate, as well?

August 08, 2009

A fresh case study in KJV-only dishonesty

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the history of my exposure to KJV-onlyism: especially the way I have seen the movement's nonsensical claims, when left unchecked, tend to escalate into greater heights of foolishness.

This post generated about 9 or 10 comments. For a relatively low-traffic blog such as mine, that's a pretty decent number. Of course, being a low-traffic blog, once a post disappears from my front page, by rights it's pretty much forgotten, even by me.

Nonetheless, every so often a new comment will pop up on even a 3-and-a-half-year-old post like that one. This happened about two weeks ago, when a poster calling himself/herself "KT" (I assume the latter) wrote:

Oh just thought someone might like to know that in the book The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft (I know I shouldn't have it...) the Hermes Club is noted and it was clearly occultic through and through and praised in this secular book. W & H [i.e. B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort] were members according to your article. I don't think from the looks of things they were doing too much stuff on Greek and Roman culture in this club!!!

The second edition of The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft1 is available from and has a limited preview of the contents available. While it did not include any pages from the H's, it did at least have the complete index, so I was able to look up any references to the Hermes Club. There were none, although there are multiple references to Hermes, Hermes Trimestigus, and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This aroused my suspicion. Nonetheless, that didn't mean the book said nothing about the Hermes Club, only that it hadn't been indexed.

A quick check of the local public library's online catalogue confirmed that it holds both the first and second editions of The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, so I requested both, and waited for them to be transferred to my local branch. I had the opportunity yesterday to sit down with these volumes and inspect them for myself.

I wasn't surprised with the results. Neither edition mentions the Hermes Club of which B. F. Westcott was a member while an undergraduate. There are multiple mentions of the Greek god Hermes, of course, usually in an entry on some aspect of Greek pagan mythology: not at all surprising in a book on this subject matter. But how can The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft note that it was "clearly occultic and praised through and through" if it doesn't mention it at all?

The following excerpt, however, is notable information from the entry on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which may shed some light on how KJV zealots think:

The key founder of the Golden Dawn was Dr. William Wynn Westcott, a London coroner and a Rosicrucian. In 1887 Westcott obtained part of a manuscript written in brown-ink cipher from the Rev. A. F. A. Woodford, a Mason. The manuscript appeared to be old but probably was not. From his Hermetic knowledge, Westcott was able to decipher the manuscript and discovered it concerned fragments of rituals for the "Golden Dawn," an unknown organization that apparently admitted both men and women.

Westcott asked an occultist friend, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, to flesh out the fragments into full-scale rituals. Some papers evidently were forged to give the "Golden Dawn" authenticity and a history. It was said to be an old German occult order. Westcott produced papers that showed he had been given a charter to set up an independent lodge in England. The Isis-Urania Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was established in 1888, with Westcott, Mathers, and Dr. W. R. Woodman, Supreme Magus of the Rosicrucian Society of Anglia, as the three Chiefs. The secret society quickly caught on, and 315 initiations took place during the society's heyday, from 1888 to 1896.2

Well, there you go. Guiley says nothing about the Hermes Club co-founded by Brooke Foss Westcott, but it has plenty to say about the Hermetic Order co-founded by William Wynn Westcott. Obviously our friend KT is not telling the truth. Whether she is lying, or reporting unreliably because of sloppy reading, I leave to the Loyal Readers to decide for themselves.

But KT is merely following in the footsteps of KJV-only high priestess Gail Riplinger, who never met a fact she couldn't distort. Gail the Ripper also cannot keep her Westcotts straight. She attempts to connect B. F. Westcott with occultic practices, writing: "Westcott took the wand and relayed it into the 20th century."3 In a lengthy footnote, she then explains how

[t]he articles on Hermetic doctrine in Blavatsky's Theosophical Dictionary "were contributed at the special request of H. P. B. by Brother W. W. Westcott." She mentions B. F. Westcott, the subject of this last chapter, several times in her other books. B. .F. Westcott's son points out that his father's signature was almost always read as W., not B., preceding his last name. . . . The similar identity of these two is not a matter of historical record.

Only at the end of this footnote (and never in the main body of the text) does Riplinger admit:

The connection between B. F. Westcott and the activities attributed to the possible allonym W. W. Westcott are speculation on my part.4

Well, there you have it. In the alternate universe where KJV-onlyists spend their waking hours, similar means same. What matters is not factual accuracy, but how well a factoid supports KJV-onlyism. Supporting the system trumps integrity. So what if the lives of Brooke Foss and William Wynn Westcott are well known, and there's no way they are the same person. Hey, close enough.

So what was the Hermes Club? If we are to believe Riplinger, it was an occultic secret society, as she writes in a section titled "Hermes: Alias 'Satan'":

As a Cambridge undergraduate, Westcott organized a club and chose for its name "Hermes." the designation is derived from "the god of magic . . . and occult wisdom, the conductor of Souls [sic] to Hades . . . Lord of Death . . . cunning and trickery." . . .

Author of the Occult Underground cites Hermes as the entry point of scholars and philosophers into the occult. Westcott's "Hermes" club met weekly for three years from 1845-1848, discussing such topics as, the "Funeral Ceremonies of the Romans," "The Eleatic School of Philosophers," "The Mythology of Homeric Poems," "the Theramines" [sic] and numerous undisclosed subjects.5

Sounds spooky, until we realize that Riplinger is trumping up charges again. All too frequently, reality is quite boring, which is why we need conspiracy theorists to invent a more interesting one. Riplinger frequently cites the biography of Westcott written by his son - usually wildly inaccurately, but I assume she at least takes it seriously as a reliable source. Here is what Arthur Westcott has to say about the Hermes Club:

Westcott's most intimate friends during his career as an undergraduate were J. Llewelyn Davies, C. B. Scott, and David J. Vaughan. These four, together with W. C. Bromhead, J. E. B. Mayor, and J. C. Wright, were the original members of an essay-reading club, which was started in May 1845, under the name of "The Philological Society." At a later date the society took the name of "Hermes." The society met on Saturday evenings in one or other of the members' rooms, when a paper was read, and a discussion, not infrequently somewhat discursive, ensued. The following were the subjects of papers read by my father: - The Lydian Order of the Etruscans; The Nominative Absolute; The Roman Games of (or at) Ball; The so-called Aoristic Use of the Perfect in Latin; The Funeral Ceremonies of the Romans; The Eleatic School of Philosophy; The Mythology of the Homeric Poems; The Theology of Aristotle; Theramenes." . . .

At times the philosophic gravity relaxed, as witnesses the following entry in the minute-book under date 8th May 1848: "Mr. Vaughan having retired to his rooms, and Mr. Davies within himself, the rest of the society revived the ludus trigonalis [i.e. a Roman ball game], and kept it up for some time with great hilarity." Presumably Westcott took his share in this hilarious revival, though it did not form part of the discussion on his paper concerning Roman Games of (or at) Ball. . . .

The last recorded meeting of the society took place on 15th May 1848. . . . Whether the society survived to discuss the character of Philopœmen or not is not apparent. Probably not, for the four faithful members of the club had now graduated. There is an entry in the minute-book which indicates that in March the end was near. Above the initials B. F. W. occur these words: "Let me here offer my heartfelt tribute to a society from which I have derived great pleasure, and, I trust, the deepest good - not least under the feelings of today." The subject that evening had been "The Condition of Women at Rome"; but the discussion had wandered over a wide field, and, in its latest stages, was concerned with a comparison of Plato and Aristotle.6

Well, that's a lot less spooky. The Hermes Club was simply an essay-reading club, formed by some schoolmates, to discuss topics of interest to classics students. When most of them had graduated, the group dissolved. Of course, essays on Roman ball games and Latin verb tenses don't quite convey her negative sentiments, so she simply omits them from her citation.

Riplinger's latest tree-slaughtering missive, Hazardous Materials, promises more of the same. The Highland Host has been reading it (under duress, I am certain) and posting some of his impressions. In his latest, he accurately notes that Riplinger's usual modus operandi is simply to cast her enemies in as bad a light as possible. The general thrust of this new book appears to be to try and discredit any study of the original biblical languages. The most recent issue of the Riplinger Report, her email newsletter, touts HazMat thusly:

Learn about the corrupt source of new versions and the problems with: . . . Greek-English Lexicons by Moulton, Thayer, Danker, and Liddell. . . .

All Greek-English New Testament lexicons plagiarize the first Greek-English lexicon written by Scot and Liddell. He [sic] harbored the pedophile author of Alice in Wonderland (who yet today remains a suspect in the Jack the Ripper case). This lexicographer permitted him to take improper photographs of his daughter Alice, for whom he [sic] named the famous child's story.

I'll leave the historical inaccuracies regarding the relationship between Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, Alice Pleasance Liddell, and her father Henry Liddell to others. I shall pause only to snigger that Riplinger actually takes the claims that Dodgson was Jack the Ripper seriously. I do wonder why she sees the need to discredit Liddell and Scott, as this is the standard lexicon of classical Greek, not the koine dialect of the Bible. Perhaps she feels that studying Aeschylus in the original is just as fruitless. (I wonder which translation of Seven Against Thebes is the inspired one?) But go back up to my citation of the Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, and note that W. W. Westcott consulted with a Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers.

Spooky. Is there a relationship? Can Riplinger trump one up quickly enough for her next book?

Hey, close enough.


1 Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft (New York: Facts on File, Checkmark, 1989).

2 Ibid., 156.

3 G. A.  Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions (Munroe Falls, OH: AV Publications, 1993). I do not own a paper copy of this work. Shortly after its publication, and presumably with the approval of the author, a KJV-onlyist fan of Riplinger made an electronic copy of NABV available on his bulletin-board system, which was active for most of the 1990s. Any page numbers I refer to therefore correspond to the electronic copy, and I will also include a chapter number to assist in locating the source of the citation. This quotation appeared on page 852 (in Chapter 30).

Any KJV-onlyist feeling I should cite a more authoritative edition of NABV is invited to remedy the situation, at his expense.

4 Ibid., 866-68 n. 128.

5 Ibid., 809-10 (chapter 30).

6 Arthur Westcott, Life and Letters of Brooke Foss Westcott, vol. 1 (London: MacMillan, 1903), 46-48.

August 06, 2009

Captain Camping's cranky chronology

If you're familiar with the Bible, you've probably seen Bishop James Ussher's famous chronology of the Bible. Doing a careful calculation of the years which the biblical narrative comprised, he concluded that Creation took place on the night before October 23, 4004 BC. In these supposedly more enlightened days, we tend to dismiss Ussher's most famous work as eccentric. This is unfair: it doesn't take Ussher's rigorous literary, biblical, and historical scholarship into account. The Irish bishop's considerable intellect was regarded as one of the finest of his day.

This chart represents Ussher's chronology. Reading Genesis 5 in its plainest sense, and assuming Ussher's date of 4004 BC for Creation, the time from Adam's creation to Noah's death is about 2006 years (4004-1998 BC), and the Flood occurred at about 2348 BC:

[Ussher's chronology from Adam to Noah]

Fast forward to 2009. Harold Camping, the president of Family Radio and its primary Bible teacher, has also calculated a biblical chronology, which can be found in his book The Biblical Calendar of Creation.1 This chronology is the linchpin of Camping's suborthodox eschatology, claiming that the church age ended in AD 1988 and that the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011.

Due to Camping's unusual reading of the text, his own timeline bears no resemblance to Ussher's. He dates creation to 11,013 BC, the time from Adam's creation to Noah's life as 6373 years (11,013-4640 BC), and the Flood to 4990 BC. Other significant events in his chronology include the day of the Crucifixion, April 1, AD 33; the end of the church age in 1988, precisely 13,000 years after creation; and the Rapture on May 21, 2011, precisely 722,500 days after the Crucifixion. This is significant to Camping, who notes the coincidence of 722,500 factoring "into exactly two pairs of enormously significant spiritual numbers"2 [i.e. (5 × 10 × 17) × (5 × 10 × 17) = 722,500]. No, I'm serious.

How does Camping manage to stretch out the first ten generations of the human race more than three times as far as Ussher did? For most of the generations between Adam and Noah, instead of overlapping the lifespans of the patriarchs (as you would expect in normal father-son relationships), he simply stacks them end-to-end, like this:

[Camping's chronology from Adam to Noah]

The justification for this arrangement, argues Camping, is the "clue phrase," "called his name" (Heb. qara), which he claims "invariably . . . is indicative of parent and child."3 This phrase occurs in Gen. 4:26, 5:3, and 5:28, and therefore it indicates that the relationships of Adam and Seth, Seth and Enosh, and Lamech and Noah are all father-son. As for the rest of the patriarchs, since the Bible does not use the term qara with respect to the relationships between them, they are not immediate father-son pairs, but merely ancestors or descendants. Their lifespans are actually successive generations of history named after the significant figure of each period, and the terms "father" or "son" used in reference to them are figurative of an undetermined ancestor-descendant relationship.

This system makes no sense.

Take the following passage as typical of the generations of Genesis 5:

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. And after he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died. (Gen. 5:9-11)

The plainest sense of this passage is that Enosh was the father of Kenan, born to him when he was 90 years old, and then he lived 815 more years and died at the age of 905. However, Camping is arguing that it actually means something like this:

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the ancestor of Kenan. And after he became the ancestor of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other descendants. Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.

What does it even mean? If Enosh is the ancestor of Kenan, was he not always the ancestor of Kenan? Of what relevance is the fact that he "became" such at 90 years of age - unless the point is to state that Kenan was born when Enosh was 90? In that case, it doesn't matter whether Enosh is Kenan's father, grandfather, or father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate: Kenan is still 90 years younger than Enosh.

Camping's novel reading of the text either argues for the traditional chronology in spite of himself, regardless of the significance of qara, or it turns the biblical text into gibberish. Either way, he is wrong, and if his chronology fails, so do his predictions of the end of the world.

During James White and Harold Camping's radio debate last week, and in various places on the Net since, I have seen Campingites attempt to validate the chronology by claiming that they worked the figures out for themselves, independent of Camping, and reached exactly the same conclusion. I don't buy it. To reach the same dates, you have to buy into too many of Camping's faulty assumptions about the Bible. I call shenanigans. Rather, I think what has happened is that Camping's false air of authority has wowed a bunch of listeners who now ascribe mathematical super-powers to him. In my mind, I've started calling him "Captain Camping" for his superhuman number-crunching and listener-boring abilities.

Shortly after the Iron Sharpens Iron series wrapped up, blogger TurretinFan posted his own observations about the fatal flaws in Captain Camping's chronology, focusing on the time Israel spent in Egypt, and the genealogy of Moses. TurretinFan notes, for example, that Camping is flatly wrong when he asserts that Amram was merely the ancestor of Aaron and Moses rather than their father, and he points out that qara often does not indicate a direct parent-child relationship: it is also used, for example, with respec to a wife, a foster child, and a rock.

Camping's oddball biblical history simply cannot withstand close scrutiny. As much as I would like to think that Camping will realize the irreparable errors in his system and abandon the whole thing, I seriously doubt that is going to happen. In the past whenever his predictions have failed, he has simply "discovered" some previously unaccounted-for "new evidence" and recalculated. So when May 21, 2011 comes and goes with nary a Second Coming in sight, not long afterward we'll surely hear that it was really supposed to be sometime in 2014, because that is 25 years after 1988, and 25 is 5 × 5, and that's very significant. I wonder how many times Captain Camping has to be proven wrong before he clues in that it's the scheme, not the details, that is a complete failure.


1 Harold Camping, The Biblical Calendar of Creation (Family Radio, 1985, accessed 5 August 2009); available from; Internet.

2 Harold Camping, We Are Almost There! (Family Radio, 2008, accessed 5 August 2009), 61; available from; Internet.

3 Camping, Biblical Calendar of Creation, 1.

August 03, 2009

Love Jesus? Then love his bride.

There was a time, some years ago, when Family Radio figurehead Harold Camping was relatively normal.

Yes, his droning delivery on the radio was definitely soporific. He relied too much on an allegorical and numerological method of reading the Bible that was so dry it sucked the humidity out of the hot, summer Waterloo air. He was a hyper-Calvinist and a bit overly strict on the issue of divorce. But really, at the time, he wasn't any weirder than any of the dozens of radio preachers you could tune into at any time of day.

Then, 1994 - and his book 1994? - happened. This was what made Camping's reputation, and it wasn't positive. In the early 1990s, Camping began predicting the end of the world sometime in September of 1994. This catapulted him to, if not exactly worldwide fame, at least a greater helping of notoriety than he would otherwise have had. He appeared on Larry King Live and embarrassed himself. And when September 1994 came and went, relatively Rapture-free, Harold Camping should have quietly sunk into a well-deserved obscurity.

Only he didn't. And bad theology has, as so often happens, turned into worse theology in the meantime.

  • Camping has adopted a radical version of sola Scriptura in which he disdains any extrabiblical works as reliable helps in interpreting the Bible. In his book First Principles of Bible Study, for example, he asserts that the Bible is its own dictionary and grammar book, and even the rules of Greek or Hebrew grammar "based on secular evidence cannot stand until they are subjected to the scrutiny of the Bible."1.
  • Camping disdains the grammatico-historical hermeneutic on the supposed grounds that it is not found in the Bible. Instead, he justifies his allegorization and convoluted numerologies by appealing to verses such as Matthew 13:34: "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them" (KJV), as though it applies not to its own context (Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom), but to the whole Bible.
  • Camping has recently adopted an annihilationist position, denying that the final fate of the wicked is eternal punishment in hell; some of his more recent books now disclaim his understanding of God's justice, as he expressed it at that time.
  • If Camping is not now denying the doctrine of the Trinity in favour of the ancient heresy of Modalism, then he is very confused about his theology proper. And if Camping isn't being too forward about his anti-Trinitarianism, his disciples certainly are: I recently encountered a pro-Harold Camping supporter on James White's IRC channel #prosapologian; he argued in no uncertain terms that Jesus, being God, is Father and Holy Spirit as well.
  • Along with his Modalism has come a variation of Adoptionism: Camping says that Jesus "became" the Son when he was raised from the dead.
  • Jesus also died twice, according to Camping. Once was before the foundation of the world, as the Lamb (citing Revelation 13:8). The second death was the one on the cross, as the man Jesus. Only the first death atoned for sin; the second had no salvific effect, serving only to demonstrate that Jesus had suffered for sins.

This is all pretty bad - and enough to get Harold Camping fairly excommunicated from any church that practiced biblical discipline. But it isn't what he's best known for these days: declaring the end of the church, and the imminent end of the world. The former of these prompted James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries to pen a short book, Dangerous Airwaves: Harold Camping Refuted and Christ's Church Defended (Calvary Press, 2002). And finally, last week he had a chance to debate Camping directly, on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program on WNYG in New York.

ISI devoted a total of four days to this debate, moderated by program host Chris Arnzen: on Tuesday and Wednesday the debate proper took place; on Thursday and Friday, White and Camping appeared in turn to answer questions from callers (all links are to MP3 podcasts of each episode):

  • On Tuesday, after technical difficulties ate up almost a half hour of show time, the deejay who normally followed ISI offered a half hour of his program, and the debate actually wound up going a few minutes longer. The format consisted of five-minute opening statements by Camping and White, and then alternating three-minute responses for the remainder of the time. This was probably the most useful day: White pointed out numerous flaws with Camping's arguments, noting that the real issue is how one handles the Bible. Camping tried to interact with his arguments, but was quite weak in my opinion: he kept returning to his mantra that "Jesus spoke in parables" and therefore a grammatico-historical hermeneutic was not to be found.
  • On Wednesdayhe other, and he basically used his own time to continue to present his own theories. As the hour progressed, these presentations became increasingly bizarre, arcane, and mathematical. My brain actually went numb from drivel overload.
  • On Thursday, James White was the guest as he answered questions from callers. The majority were "Campingites" trying to rebut White's presentation, but he held his own.
  • On Friday, it was Camping's turn to field calls. However, by and large the program was "testimony time" as again, the majority of callers were Campingites calling to praise Camping and Family Radio for helping him see the light. A few critical calls came through, but had no real opportunity to develop their disagreements properly. Also, I swear Camping feigned deafness to avoid the last caller.

As White has said many times about his debates: Nothing helps demonstrate the truth better than laying it side-by-side with error. As frustrating as Wednesday's program was to listen to, it does prove the point. Compare White's pointed criticisms and biblical interpretation with Camping's oblivious monotone and judge for yourself which one is faitful teaching of the Bible.

It's the end of the world as we know it

Both of these errors, the alleged end of the world and the alleged end of the church, hinge on Camping's interpretation of biblical chronology, as expressed in his book The Biblical Calendar of History. This history is odd, to say the least, and I will have more to say in a future post. Camping dates creation to 11,013 BC, the Flood to 4990 BC, and the crucifixion to AD 33. Exactly 13,000 years after creation was the end of the church age, in 1988; 23 years after that comes the end of the world, in 2011: May 21, to be precise, will be the day of the Rapture.

Yes, that's weird.

Now, your average datesetting crank would see a mathematically significant date like 1988, supposedly exactly 13,000 years after creation, and stop. "There's your rapture," he would say. But by the time Camping worked all this out, we had already passed the magic year. No problemo: he simply found another 6 years (Daniel 8:14), and voila: 1994.2

Unfortunately, September 1994 came and went with nary a Rapture in sight. So suddenly Camping had to "discover" some miscalculations in his scheme. Now the Rapture was to take place in or about September 1995! Well, no. But, as the saying goes, enough research will always tend to support your theory. So a few years ago, Camping revisited 1988, added 23 to that (since 23 is the number of judgment, or something), called it the Great Tribulation, and declared the end of the world for May 21, 2011.

Interestingly, back in 1993-94, Camping would frequently get critical calls to the Open Forum program, asking how he could be so confident of the date of the end, when Jesus said no man could know the day or the hour. His response - in a rare display of biblical literalism - was that Jesus didn't say they couldn't know the month or the year. I guess that if he's now predicting a specific date, he's thrown that last remaining vestige of literal reading under the bus.

If we believe Harold Camping's teaching about the end of the church age, then logically we must also discard about half the New Testament. The letters of Paul, for example, are written to local churches throughout Asia Minor and Europe, with instructions for dealing with various issues that have arisen in their midst. His "pastoral" letters to Timothy and Titus are directions to his two protegés for organizing and administering new assemblies. Even the apocalyptic Revelation begins with seven circular letters to the churches in the major cities of Asia Minor.

Along the way, Paul delivers a theological rationale for the church. It is not merely a human institution; it is a divinely appointed one, instituted not merely for the assembly of the saints, but to be paradigmatic for other human relationships as well. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, for example, Paul writes that husbands are to love their wives (Eph. 5:23-33). How does he do this? He shows that the relationship of man and wife is analogous to the relationship of Christ and the church. Christ is the head of the church, which is his body (Eph. 1:22-23). All who are called by God to be in Christ are part of this body. No one hates his body; rather, he loves and takes care of it. Similarly, a man ought to love and care for his wife because Christ loves and cares for his church.

And because we are all part of Christ's body, we all fit together, each with our own particular gift, given to him by the Holy Spirit for the service of the church. This is Paul's argument in his first letter to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 12:12-31). He argues: Can any part of the body decide not to be part of the body? Or, can one part decide it has no need of the others? Of course not.

But according to Harold Camping, this is no longer true. God no longer functions through the church. The ministry of the Word is no longer effective; the Holy Spirit no longer works within the walls of the local assembly to bring either conviction of sin or assurance of salvation. Instead of loving and nurturing his bride, Christ, we must assume, now despises her. The head has severed itself from the body. What does this do for Paul's marriage analogy? Instead of loving their wives, are husbands now to hate them, separate themselves from them, or dismember them? Does Camping still teach the sanctity of marriage? If so, on what grounds?

Of course that is ridiculous. The Bible does not teach that God has destroyed the church. On the contrary, the Bible says:

loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27)

Has Christ purified the church? Has she been presented to him holy and unblemished? If so, then either Christ has failed, or the church still exists. Clearly, the former is impossible.

Consider also Paul's instructions concerning the Lord's Supper, in which he says:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)

The Lord's Supper is one of the ordinances, along with baptism, that are given to the church. Jesus gave his instructions at the Last Supper to the disciples, who then represented the whole church. Paul's instructions are to the church, correcting abuses within the Corinthian church and regulating the manner in which the Eucharistic meal was to be conducted. But he specifically says that this ordinance was to be practiced "until he comes." I'm sure that unless Harold Camping has added full preterism to his catalogue of heresies, he does not believe that Christ has yet returned. Does it not stand to reason, then, that there must still be a local church in which to participate in the supper? Camping denies it, with some handwaving and a declaration that it is merely part of ceremonial law, but he has no proof of this.

And I feel fine

It may very well be that on May 21, 2011, Christ will return. But if so, it will be in spite of, not because of, Harold Camping's mathematical predictions. His system is too arbitrary and inconsistent to provide accurate information about the Bible. I'll make a prediction of my own: when May 22, 2011 comes, there will be Christians still around, and a lot of embarrassed Campingites wondering what happened. In an ideal world, Camping will have cried "wolf" for the last time and will disappear into a well-deserved obscurity. But this isn't an ideal world, and more likely he will keep his gulls interested when he suddenly discovers more "evidence" that his calculations were mistaken. There are, after all, plenty of numbers in the Bible.

Blogger Sheila Schoonmaker, apparently a Campingite, blogged the following in advance of the debate, seemingly to poison the well in Camping's favour:

Harold Camping is the president of Family Radio stations. Family Radio has been on the air for 50 years without any need to air commercials (it still depends on donations offered by those inspired by God to operate). WNYG 1440 — The Spirit of New York radio station depends on advertisements to stay on the air. Camping’s printed material is offered free of charge, whereas White sells his books for profit.

This is a non-argument, really, considering that one could just as easily argue that Mormons give away books for free, whereas the Bible never condemns the sale of radio airtime or books. Nonetheless, I perused the Family Radio Web site and indeed found a number of free books by Camping. But I noticed that 1994? wasn't among them. Curious. I wonder whether Family Radio will be making that one available soon? Probably not. And sometime after May 22, 2011, the free downloads of Time Has An End and others will, undoubtedly, have an end as well.


1 Harold Camping, First Principles of Bible Study (Oakland: Family Stations, 2008, accessed 30 July 2009), 35; available from; Internet.

2 Gary DeMar, "Harold Camping: 1994 and 2011" (American Vision, 18 Feb 2008, accessed 1 August 2009), available from; Internet.

July 15, 2009

And now . . . this - Jul. 15/09

A man in the United States popped out to his local petrol station to buy a pack of cigarettes - only to find his card charged $23,148,855,308,184,500. . . .

He says his appeals to his bank first met with little understanding, though it eventually corrected the error.

[Full Story]

I'm sure the bank has heard every excuse. Who hasn't tried to lie their way out of a $23 quadrillion overdraft? I know I have.

Since I heard of this story from the channel rats on #prosapologian, it's only fitting that I should respond according to the latest channel craze, a haiku:

Unreal overcharge.
Moral of the story is:
Smoking's bad for you.

July 13, 2009

John Calvin's legacy

For the last three days, this blog has been celebrating the 500th birthday of one of history's most influential Christians, the Reformer John Calvin. Today I wrap up the series with the fourth and final installment: some of the influences that John Calvin's life and theology has had on our time.

Separation of church and state

Calvin believed that the church was not subject to the state; nor was the state subject to the church. Both church and state are subject to God's law, and both have their own God-ordained spheres of influence. For example, the church does not have the authority to impose penalties for civil offenses, although it can call on the civil authorities to punish them. Conversely, the state may not intrude on the operations of the church. However, it has a duty to protect the church and its ability to function as the church.

Calvin was a magisterial reformer. He thought of the state as a Christian nation, rather than a secular one. He did not advocate religious freedom in the same sense as the Baptists, for example, later would: this is why he did not oppose the death penalty for heresy for Miguel Servetus. However, his ecclesiology sowed the seeds of the modern secular democracy.


It is often assumed that vigorous evangelism or missionary activity is contradictory to Calvinism. If so, someone forgot to tell John Calvin.

Geneva became a safe haven for Protestant refugees: from Calvin's homeland of France, but also from over Europe. Calvin founded a school to train men in Reformed theology, and then to preach the Gospel and plant churches at home. The city became the nucleus of missionary activity in Europe. In 1561, for example, 140 missionaries are recorded as having left Geneva.

Calvin's evangelistic concern was mainly for France, but Geneva's missionary influence extended all over Europe: to Scotland, home of the Presbyterian Church (whose founder John Knox had been an expatriate in Geneva), England, northern Italy, the Netherlands, and even Poland. Calvin also commissioned the first two overseas missionaries in the history of Protestantism: an expedition to Bazil in 1556.

Bible translation

Bible translation is closely linked with missions and evangelism: a Bible in the common language, that can be read and understood by all, is a major aid to bringing knowledge of God to a culture. Not surprisingly, John Calvin had his hand in creating vernacular Bibles.

Calvin assisted his cousin, Pierre Oliver, to translate the Scriptures into French; the result was the Olivétan Bible, which had the same influence on French Protestantism as Luther’s Bible had had in Germany. Calvin himself wrote the preface.

In England, the accession of Mary I to the throne resulted in the restoration of Roman Catholicism as the official state religion, and the persecution or execution of hundreds of Protestant dissenters. Many English Puritans fled to Geneva to escape "Bloody Mary" and the flames. While there, they produced an English translation under Calvin’s supervision: the so-called Geneva Bible was first published in 1560. Until legislation made its publication illegal, in its day the Geneva Bible was more popular than the later, officially sanctioned Authorized Version. This was partly because of the Calvinistic explanatory notes in the margins. When the Pilgrims sailed to the New World on the ''Mayflower'' in 1620, they took the Geneva Bible with them.

The Protestant work ethic

Calvin repudiated the distinction between "sacred" and "secular" duty, and the conventional wisdom that work was a necessary evil. Instead, he taught that all work is a calling from God. Therefore, it glorifies God to work diligently and joyfully. One of the rewards of hard work is wealth. Calvin did not invent capitalism, but his philosophy of work allowed capitalism to flourish where it was practiced.

That wraps it up for this all-too-brief look at the life and work of one of history's most significant figures. This material was originally presented as a Sunday school lesson at my church on July 4, 2004 (almost exactly 1/100th of the time since Calvin's birth). If you are interested in exploring this subject further, my sources were:

Until next time, thanks.