Sunday, August 14, 2016

Occasionalism





I've been discussing Gordon Clark and Vincent Cheung on the Bible Thumping Wingnut Facebook page. Our discussion has been primarily epistemology. I think if Cheung follows Clark's necessitarianism then sense pecerception is necessary to occasion God ordaining a direct causal connection between any given cause and effect. One clear problem with Occassionalism is it presupposes continuous creation which entails there is no single ontological personal identity through out time. Each thing, including any given person, is recreated at each moment in time.

 If I were a Clarkian I'd much prefer pre-established harmony than Occasionalism 😜

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Evil and Sin



If God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, why does evil exist? 

No simple answer. Some (e.g. Oliver Crisp, Plantinga, Van Inwagen) would appeal to the possibility of  libertarian freedom. Roughly, a person is free if she can choose equally options A or B. She is understood as the primary source of her choice. As the first cause of her choice, she creates the causal chain between actions and acts, hence agent causation. This construal of freedom may be true without the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP). It denies the possibility of libertarian freedom and determinism to be compatible, thus incompatabilistic. This appeal fails to explain precisely how sin came to exist since libertarian freedom seems to reduce to indifference. Yet others see sin as a privation of good. They would argue Satan, a created peccable Angel,  chose a lesser good, namely self-love, above the greatest Good, God himself.  Notice, this is consistent with divine determinism and (compatibilistic) freedom. A person is free if she can choose from her strongest inclination either option A or B without coercion or constrain. This view allows for hypothetical alternate possibilities.  However, it concedes determinism and freedom (i.e. as so defined) is compatible. . 

Why would God allow this to obtain? God has a morally sufficient reason, it is for His glory and our good. However, more reasons can be provided:

God has a morally sufficient reason for why he allows evil to exist. To argue he doesn't cannot be shown by limited human knowledge. 

 It is for a greater good. We do not see the big picture of all the events that occur but God is orchestrating them for ultimate good. For example, Jesus died by the hands of wicked men so those that repent and trust in Him may have everlasting life.

 God created laws of nature. If God intervened every time evil or suffering occurred then people would demand God to intervene for everything at every time. It sounds like people want heaven on earth.

 God uses evil and suffering to build our character.

God gave humans originally the freedom of choice. God did not force Adam and Eve to love and obey him. He gave them the ability to choose good or evil.
 
If God removed evil from the world, God would be obligated to punish not just some but all evil and suffering. Hence, everyone would cease to exist because most evil and suffering is the results of sin. Everyone is guilty of sins thus not innocent so all would cease to exist if God chose to destroy evil now instead of deal with it through the cross of Christ.

God created all things, rules all things, controls all things, and owns all things. This means God has the right to do whatever he wants with his property (i.e. creation). Or as Romans 9 puts it, the potter has power over the clay to do whatever he wills with it.
How are Humans Sinners? 

Sin was transmitted either by realism or federal headship. I take both to be true. If realism and traducianism are true then sin can be inherited. Adam sinned thus God justly remove His goodness and restraining grace from man. The result was catastrophic, the very heart of man was corrupted and darkened.  Some may reject realism and traducianism, then one can resort to federal headship with creationism. God gave a command to Adam. Adam disobeyed. Therefore, as punishment God creates each human soul with a sinful inclination then embodies it.

Federal headship accounts for guilt imputed. We possess Adam's guilt since he represented us before God. Once he sinned we were liable for his sin. Moreover, we sin by imitation as we encounter sinful role models that influence us to sin. 

Therefore, we are sinners by inheritance, imputation and imitation.


Clarkianism Refuted?


A few remarks. 

Self-Evident?

If logic is taken as self-evident then the criterion of such a belief presupposes evidential foundationalism. But this is false. The belief that all beliefs must be based on self-evident beliefs is not itself self-evident. Thus this epistemic criterion is too restrictive; it is self-refuting.  

Transcendental? 

Kant's argument made the foundation of logic (e.g. the categories etc.) man's psychology. Why doesn't that work? It tries to ground universals from particulars. It utterly fails. It fallaciously affirms the consequent. Moreover, our friend simply asserts logic. He is a fideist. But his fideism cannot provide an overarching explanation of the world in terms of logic alone as an axiom. 

So our friend made a great attempt but failed to provide an epistemic foundation.

Perhaps this might help in his analysis: 

<http://www.proginosko.com/docs/The_Lord_of_Non-Contradiction.pdf>

But if logic is understood as divine thoughts, then some form of conceptualism is true.  Clarkians affirm some form of the Augustinian Logos doctrine. If  (as Clarkians affirm) the Bible is the revealed thoughts of God then the Bible is embedded with logic. But precisely how does this not leave the Clarkian with an instance of logic and not logic itself ( i.e. the property)? The laws of logic are used in Scripture but not mentioned. I don't think the Clarkian epistemology package (i.e. Scripturalism plus internalism) works. But I think some form of conceptualism with an Augustinian Logos doctrine can help make it coherent (e.g. Ronald Nash). 

A Clarkian Ethical Theory?



I was recently in a discussion with a Clarkian.  In my judgement the traditional divine command theory seems demonstratively false. I explained my reasoning as follows: 

(1) If the traditional divine command theory of ethics is true then moral values/duties are grounded alone in God's will. 
(2) Moral values/duties are not grounded alone in God's will.
(3) Therefore, the traditional divine command theory of ethics is false. 

Let's assume (1) entails:

(4) God can will any action or act to be morally blameworthy or praiseworthy.  [i.e. volunteerism]

Further, if we affirm (4), with possible world semantics, it seems we are left with an implausible conclusion:

(5) There is a possible world which God wills adultery to be praiseworthy in all possible worlds.   

(6) The actual world is a possible world. 

(7) Hence, God wills adultery to be praiseworthy in the actual world. 

Perhaps, this is a sloppy argument. But how does a Clarkian escape volunteerism? One possible way to avoid volunteerism from the traditional divine command theory is to adopt a modified divine command theory (e.g. Robert Adams); but it costs a philosophical price, it requires one to reject a robust doctrine of divine simplicity (i.e. the primacy of God's will: God wills His essence and His essence is His will; hence God's will and essence are one in the same qua divine simplicity). However, will a Clarkian deny a robust doctrine of divine simplicity to escape volunteerism? 

New Covenant Theology System?

We confess that there is only one God who is the greatest conceivable being, the most perfect being. God is one essence that is three distinct persons, coequal and coeternal, neither divided nor separated, namely, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Bible alone is the God breathed, inerrant, infallible, Word of God. It is sufficient, necessary, authoritative, and clear as our ultimate standard for all thought and human experience. It alone provides us with a worldview that is the ultimate coherent explanation of everything; it is livable and provides hope with fulfillment.

God created man in his image (i.e. with an intellect, will and emotions, to rule over creation). But man sinned against God with the result that man became sinners by inheritance, imputation and imitation.

God established a covenant and theocratic government exclusively with Israel. He chose them over all the nations to enter in a covenant. This covenant and theocratic government was binding to only Israel and those within the nation of Israel. Thus, for example, if one was in the land of Israel, he or she was obligated to comply with the rules of the land. If, however, one was not an Israelite or was simply outside the land of Israel, he or she was outside the covenant or jurisdiction of the theocratic government. So there is a clear distinction that must be kept. The Old Testament laws were obligatory: to a particular covenant people, namely Israel, and in a particular land---the land of Israel. Second, there is no division in the OT explicitly or implicitly between the Law of God (e.g. moral, civil and ceremonial). Hence, the whole Mosaic Law is a simple indivisible unit thus without parts; but nevertheless, we may make artificial obligatory distinctions. There is epistemic divisions but no ontic divisions. All OT laws were given by God either directly or indirectly (e.g. spoken/written by God or through men) as imperatives--thus moral in nature.

There are two types of laws God has legislated: Covenantal (relative to a covenant, people, place and time) and Trans-covenantal (objectively binding independent of any covenant, people, place and time). The former is particular; the latter is general. The way this is cashed out is that sin can refer to a description or a prescription; but for any formal connotation, it refers to any violation of God's commands in state, disposition, (i.e. internal/intrinsic) and/or act (i.e. external/extrinsic).

God legislates the law as an expression of his character, will and nature. God is not bound by any laws, since a law entails a lawgiver; rather, He is goodness itself. However, God can issue commands to be bound to them ( i.e. Covenants, promises). Kant provided a helpful distinction between following a rule and acting in accordance to a rule. We are obligated to follow God's laws. God naturally is morally perfect and good thus acts in accordance to the issued laws.

The triune God eternally planned/decreed (i.e. factual necessity) to save a particular people (from diverse covenants) for His glory and their good. This single eternal plan was centered on the Son, Jesus Christ, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Father sent the Son to take upon flesh and die as their (i.e. sinful mankind) substitute to absorb their sins, the Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to justify and sanctify them in Christ.

The Son became incarnate to rescue man from sin. Christ suffered and died upon the cross, and was resurrected three days later, to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in heaven for us. Christ offers this as a free gift to all by faith. It is not earned nor deserved. Saving faith is trusting in Jesus alone for salvation. The New Testament clearly indicates the Old Covenant, with its laws, has been fulfilled in Christ and the New Covenant, with its laws, Christ has established.

Christ alone is our living prophet, priest and king, never ceasing to teach, intercede and rule.

Christ established one never ceasing, universal, united, church which is comprised of all believers; yet it is exemplified in a diversity of local churches.

We know all these things to be true since this is God's testimony in the Bible. The Holy Spirit's inter-witness testifies this to us.  If it's rejected the alternative is utter irrationality.

Christian Philosophy

Christian Epistemology: All knowledge finds its source from God's special and general revelation.
Metaphysics: All things finds their source, support and end from God.
Ethics: All objective moral values/duties find their source, support and end from God's commands (that express God's essential goodness).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hyper-Calvinism

My assumptions before my main comments. Note, you may disagree with me here, in some of these, which is fine. I don't expect complete agreement from everyone.  But I think we all have to guard against Hyper Calvinist tendencies. We are all susceptible to degrees of Hyper Calvinism in some form. I still daily struggle with practical Hyper Calvinism not taking every opportunity to preach the gospel. 

I'm guilty of being a Hyper Calvinist at one point in my theology.  Two reasons come to mind. First, I don't like loose ends or tensions in my beliefs. Second, I was an Arminian at one point thus once I became convinced of the doctrines of grace, I felt betrayed by Arminian theology, therefore, reacted to the extreme against anything that reminded me of Arminian theology.  Also my reading diet of philosophy at the time was not balancing my theology.

I believed in eternal justification, until I wrestled with Ephesians 2:1-9 (after listening to Scott K. Oliphint's criticism of Paul Helm on this issue), then I was lead to believe, in fact, we are children of wrath until temporally we believe in Christ, hence justified by faith, not election as previously believed. I affirmed God only hates the reprobate. But Matthew 5 convinced me God loves the reprobate in some significant sense. I believed God only desires to save the elect. However, after considering the very concept of God's command to everyone (both elect and reprobate) to repent and believe implicitly is a desire or want of God but due to a greater desire He chose not to save all; nevertheless there remains a real desire of God to save everyone yet he chooses only to save some for his purposes/prerogative. 

My main comments. Is this you or someone you know? (Insert name here) was often commanded to repent and believe at church. He/she may also been taught rightly people are unable to repent and believe without divine grace. He/she has heard preaching that emphasizes divine judgment, wrath and hell. He/she may believe, God does not love anyone except the elect so he/she feels, God hates him/her. When that is not the full Biblical teaching of Matthew chapter 5. The preaching has caused him/her to look internally at his/her (levels of) conviction, guilt, shame, faith, experience, in response to the gospel rather than externally to Christ alone. It has put a burden on his/her back to meet standards Christians daily fail to attain for signs of regeneration. Hence he/she believes he/she witnesses daily hypocrisy. No, joy, rejoicing or peace in Christianity since he/she never measures up to the conviction, guilt,  faith and experience told he/she must have. It's insecurity on steroids! It's like Hyper-Calvinism mixed with legalism. A deadly drug that paralyzes the soul. Thus he/she feels helpless, oppressed and apathetic. 

I think he/she needs to hear, and experience the love, hope, mercy and scandalous grace of God in the gospel. He/she needs to see true beauty, meaning, purpose and value in Christ. Only in Him do we see God's goodness, love and grace poured out for us on the cross. He who is beautiful become ugly for us that we might be beautiful in God's sight. He who was invulnerable become vulnerable that we might find safety and security in Him.  Despair and defeat is conquered, by hope and victory in, and through, Christ's death, burial and resurrection. 

He/she needs to know Christ has not left him/her out. He offers himself, to save him/her. He demonstrates the extent of His love to him/her, God himself, Jesus, is willing to die the death he/she deserve to provide forgiveness. Jesus insists one will never have enough faith, conviction, shame, or repentance. A person will daily fail in these areas but Jesus makes right our wrongs. That is the point! We cannot be saved by good works but only by Jesus. It is not about what we need to do. We can never do enough. It's all about what Christ has done. He died for sins (which includes unbelief, apathy, hypocrisy, and shame). There is no sin to great He cannot forgive and there is no one He will reject that comes to him. He was rejected that we might not be rejected by Him. He welcomes, messed up people, with open, understanding, loving arms. 

The DNA of Church

The DNA of Church
(4) Biblical Trinitarian monotheism practically denied with subordination of the Father and Son to the Holy Spirit.

(5) Idolization of Spiritual Gifts. 
(7) Simple sermons to the congregation instead of gradually lifting up the congregation to greater and deeper insights of the Bible's complexity, beauty and elegance.

(8) Good works are absent. 

(9) Love is replaced with pride or fear. 

(10) There is concentration of either Biblical theology, worship or service over integration.