Sunday, July 30, 2017

Open Theism

In my judgment, propositions are either true or false. Either this or that. I don't understand a proposition being neither true nor false. If a proposition can be neutral it seems to make no assertion or statement of fact. But this seems to be self-refuting in virtue that the proposition "all future contingent propositions are neutral" is not neutral.

I'm willing to make the model claim the law of contradiction obtains in all possible worlds; I guess that implies I shoulder the burden to prove the same for bivalence. Perhaps. But I too affirm God possesses non-propositional knowledge. I concur one can deny bivalence. I think open theists do this since they think it entails fatalism. I don't buy it. I think it's a logical leap.

The main contention with open theism is whether propositions of future contingents can be known. I see no reason to deny this. But what is the difference between a truth and a truth that is logically possible to know? The open theist is free to attempt to argue such truths are logically impossible to know. At best I think she can argue God does not know future contingent propositions but this is a far cry from the stronger claim it is logically impossible for Him to know them.

I do think the open theist conception of God is deficient. In open theism God is ignorant of many truths yet considered omniscient. Omniscience is taken as a model notion by the open theist when it is, in fact, a categorical notion. God doesn't merely have the 'ability' to know only and all possible truths; he knows only and all truths.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Divine Foreknowledge

How is man free if God foreknows all things (i.e. states of affairs that will happen)?

Middle knowledge and Simple Foreknowledge affirms libertarian freedom (LF), commonly called liberty of indifference. The position can be construed, roughly, that a person is free if she can choose equally options A or B as the primary source of her choice. She is the first cause of her choice in that she creates the causal chain between actions and acts. This construal of freedom may be the case without the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP). Moreover, it denies the logical possibility of LF and determinism to be compatible, thus named incompatabilism.

The alternative takes compatibilist freedom (CF) as true. This approach argues freedom is best formulated as liberty of inclination. A person is free if she can choose her strongest inclination either option A or B without coercion or constrain. This view allows for hypothetical alternate possibilities.  However, it concedes, all things considered, determinism and freedom (i.e. as so defined) are compatible.

If the first approach is true then God's foreknowledge is not equated with foreordination. God knows things intuitively and exhaustively either by simple foreknowledge  or middle knowledge. So God's foreknowledge is causally inert.

God's knows all true necessary and contingent propositions qua omniscient. Any given proposition is known by God:

(1) God knows P will obtain

But this does not logically entail:

(1)* God knows P must obtain

(1) is a contingent proposition while  (1)* is a necessary proposition. For example, God knows John will choose to eat a cheeseburger for lunch at T1. If John at T1, chose otherwise (e.g. Chicken Strips) then God would have known prior to T1. God's knowledge of free creatures is, in some significant sense, dependent upon their choices.

If the second approach is true then God's foreknowledge is grounded in foreordination. God knows things intuitively and exhaustively since He directly or indirectly determines the truth value of all contingent propositions. God determines all things such that it preserves liberty of inclination.

If, indeed, a person denies (1) he then affirms libertarian free choices are excluded from bivalence thus have no truth value until they obtain. Thus the future remains open. God's omniscience is revised. God only knows what is logically possible which excludes libertarian free choices.

Some problems with the open-theist that denies (1):

Open-theism's denial of the principle of bivalence is implausible. Propositions cannot be neutral, like concepts, since they bear truth value. Hence, a proposition is either true or false--despite it being indexed--thus bivalence applies to future contingent propositions.

If open theism is true then God is the most perfect being yet learns what free creatures will do. This seems contradictory to God as the greatest conceivable being.

Middle Knowledge is a creative attempt to reconcile meticulous providence with libertarian freedom. I agree with the Molinist it is not logically contradictory to say God determines the outcome of a free creatures decision. Perhaps some Molinist ideas can be used by the compatibilist as a heuristic device (e.g. Bruce Ware). However, in my judgement, Molinism does not reconcile the two. In fact, it compounds the problem. It adds mystery with mystery. The Molinist does not explain precisely how God knows what all free creatures will do in all circumstances. Some molinists assert God's knowledge penetrates to the very essence of free creatures. Yet this remains a mystery. But then we are asked, by Molinists, to affirm God knows what all free creatures would do in all circumstances. Two mysteries without parsimony or comprehensive explanatory power and scope.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Criticisms of Clark

Why not follow Gordon Clark or Cornelius Van Til's apologetic methodology? I think they both had strengths and weaknesses. Robert Reymond constructed a synthesis of their strengths. Dr. Reymond's book is available for free entitled "The Justification of Knowledge".

Criticisms of Dr. Clark's Philosophy 

(1) Arbitrary Axiom 
(1)* Scripturalism is self-refuting (e.g. AquaScum)
(2) Robust Thomistic divine simplicity with its inherent denial of the Trinity.
(3) Denial of the free offer of the gospel.
(4) Voluntarism 
(5) Eternal generation of the Son from the Father. The Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit eternally derived/proceed from the Father as the original source. This derivation is conditioned upon the Father's decree. 
(6) Necessitarianism with its entailed dependence upon creation
(7) Continuous creation with its denial of personal identity through time
(8)Unlivability. Basic knowledge (e.g. non-propositional knowledge of self) cannot be known only asserted as mere opinion.
(9) The three Persons of the Trinity are merely instances of a genus, namely, God. Hence, a Quadrinity.
(10) The obscurity of Clark's epistemology. Clark demands a definition of sensations from empiricists but does not explain precisely how humans come to know propositions via divine illumination through recollection/reminiscence. 
(11) Incompatibilism (Hard Determinism)
(12) Saving faith is merely understanding and assent
(13) The Son within the incarnation there possessed two distinct natures with two minds. This sounds awfully close to Nestorianism without the proper nuances (e.g. Thomas Morris).
(14) Primacy of the intellect
(15) Occassionalism
(16) Univocal knowledge of God
(17) Denial of theological paradoxes
(18) Supralapsarianism

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Covenants and Law

Just some thoughts on the Covenant of Grace and Law.

(1) If there are multiple diverse covenants in the Bible then there is an overarching covenant of Grace to unite all the diverse covenants.

(2) There are multiple diverse covenants in the Bible

(3) Therefore, there is an overarching covenant of Grace to unite all the diverse covenants.

Why affirm (1), when it is not obvious nor more plausibly true than its denial? Explanatory power and scope? Why not merely affirm one divine plan to unite the diverse covenants?

I've noticed some make a category mistake on the nature of the Mosaic Law. First, they assert the law is a whole composed of parts. The OT indicates the whole Mosaic Law is a simple indivisible unit thus without parts; but nevertheless, we may make artificial obligatory distinctions. Second, they confuse epistemic divisions with ontic divisions. Third, they implicitly deny any given law legislated by God is moral in nature.

Hebrews 7:12 elucidates a change of law:

(1) If there is a change in priesthood then there is a change in law.
(2)There is a change in priesthood.
(3) Therefore there is a change in law

James 2:10 shows us the simplicity and indivisibility of the Mosaic Law with its 613 commandments.

If any given person violates part of the Law then she violates the whole Law.

Moreover, If we assume (*1) the Mosaic Law Covenant is an agreement between God and Israel. Whereby God was to be Israel's King under a theocracy. God legislated 613 commandments that was to be Israel's rule of law including those people that were subject to the protection/jurisdiction of the nation of Israel.

If we grant (*1) then (1) to (3) follows:

(1) If the Mosaic Law is abolished then the Mosaic Law is not objectively binding.
(2) The Mosaic Law is abolished.
(3) Therefore the Mosaic Law is not objectively binding.

One can object to premise (2) but must then affirm the Mosaic Law, in some sense, which is patently false.

We grant that there are different punishments proportionate to violations of God's commands as legislated by God under a theocracy. But this does not logically demonstrate any given command is not moral in nature; nor does it establish any given command is ontologically ceremonial.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Divine Impassability

I'd be the first to admit there is no easy answer. If you affirm or deny it there will be significant implications in your theology. Let's begin with a common argument in its favor:

(1) If God is not impassible then God is not timeless nor immutable.
(2) God is timeless and immutable
(3) Therefore, God is impassable.


There are two interpretations of divine eternity, namely timelessness and everlastingness:

Timeless: God is outside of time. God does not possess temporal duration nor temporal location. For God, all of time exists in one eternal present.

Everlasting: God exists at all moments in time. Time is an attribute of God, however, God created intrinsic metric time with creation.

Both interpretations are underdetermined from scripture thus one must weigh the Pros & Cons.

Timelessness entails the B-theory of time, hence the universe is both contingent and eternal yet dependent on God. Everlastingness entails there is some change, although neither for the better nor worst, in God's life.

Whichever interpretation you affirm both agree: God has neither a beginning nor end; God is the Lord of time. He is forever!

 Psalm 90:2
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

Isaiah 57:15
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

 Jude 1:25
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

There are two interpretations of Immutability: Maximal vs. Minimal Immutability. The maximal sense of immutability interprets this attribute as it is impossible for God to change in any and all senses: in all state of affairs. Simply, God cannot change. The minimal sense of immutability concedes God can and does exhibit some change-- that is neither for the better nor worse-- yet remains unchanging in His essential nature and character.

John Feinberg provides a summary that both interpretations affirm:
"At the heart of Christian theology is the belief that God does not change in his person (being and attributes), will (decree), or purposes."

Impassability is logically entailed from timelessness and maximal immutability:

Impassibility: God is unaffected by anything outside Himself.

Richard E Creel writes,

"Some critics object that even if this is possible [God as maximally immutable and impassible], it is a cold, impersonal conception of God. But what could be more intimate than to think of oneself as and to feel oneself to be wrapped in the eternal, all-sufficient providence of a loving God who wants the best for us, who is and always has been willing the best for us, and who continually accom- panies, surrounds, and embraces us in our actuality?
Perhaps we can save what is most important on each side of this dispute [of impassible vs passible] by distinguishing between God being emotionally “touched” and emotionally “crushed” by the experiences and actions of God’s creatures. What we should save from the impassibilist position is that God is not emotionally “crushed” by what goes on in the world. God is perfectly, imperturbably happy through enjoyment of God’s own perfection, through knowledge of the goodness of God’s creation, through enjoyment of the creation, and through knowledge of God’s ultimate control over history.

What should be saved from the passibilist position is that God is emotionally touched by the joys and the sufferings and the good and the evil actions of God’s creatures. .. an adequate conception of God must include the notion that God is touched by our sufferings and joys, victories and defeats – though not necessarily in the same ways as we are."

Malachi 3:6
6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Psalm 102:26-27

26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:

27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Hebrews 6:17-18
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

18 Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.”[a] On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.[b]

1 Corinthians 18-20 HCSB

This passage is cited, from a prima facie reading, as to teach the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a common sense interpretation of this doctrine that the Holy Spirit, in fact, indwells believers whereby the Holy Spirit infuses all believers such that the Holy Spirit is present with their souls within their bodies. On this common sense interpretation all human persons possess bodies and souls. But believers have the Holy Spirit united to their souls and bodies. This interpretation has some startling theological and philosophical implications. First, it is a denial of any form of divine simplicity. It affirms the Holy Spirit is divided among all believers. Second, it denies God is timeless and immutable. If the Holy Spirit is spacially located in each believer's body then He exhibits change as He relates with spacial things. The argument can be formulated in a syllogism:

1. If the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is spacial presence then God is spacial, temporal and mutable.
2. God is incorporeal, timeless and immutable.
3. Hence the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not spacial presence.  

Third, it seems to affirm the incoherent. If the Holy Spirit is spacially located in all believers, from various spacial distances (e.g. those in Australia, China, Japan, Hawaii and Brazil), then the Holy Spirit from one spacial point can be presently "here" and equally, with millions of miles of distance apart, at another spacial point be presently "here"; two points miles apart but both "here". Fourth, it assumes a naive sense of omnipresence. There are two competing interpretations of omnipresence. Either God exists spacelessly but is present at every point in space in the sense that he is cognizant of and causally active at every point in space. Hence, immediate knowledge and power extending everywhere. Or God is spatially located in the universe but is wholly present at every point in space. Of course, both can be affirmed without contradiction. Fifth, to attribute to the Holy Spirit the temporal spacial indexical  "I am now here"  would presuppose the Holy Spirit is both spacial and temporal. 

 It's amazing to read even Hank Hanaegraaff understands many of these distinctions. 

Resources on Divine Attributes:

Resources on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:
This looks very promising:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Biblical Ethics: The Golden Rule

Covenant theology, Dispensationalism and NCT share a common core--in that any given Christian ethical theory must be both expositionally and philosophically consistent with Biblical exegesis. But when serious ethical reflections and questions are raised this commonality breaks down. For example, which particular commandments apply to contemporary Christians? Is lying ever permissible? Is war ever permissible? Answers to such questions from a specific theological position will have significant theological and philosophical implications. 

Let's examine one case example.

From most exponents of NCT the particular commandments that apply to everyone is the law(s) of conscience.

 Let's take the stipulated laws of conscience and deduce their corollaries.

(1) Any given person should, in all states of affairs, love God with all his/her heart, soul, mind and strength.

(2) Any given person should, in all states of affairs, love his/her fellow man/woman as him/herself. 

By command (1) we deduce

(a1) A priori knowledge of Trinitarian monotheism. 
(b1) A priori knowledge of love, goodness, sacrifice and personhood.
(c1) A priori knowledge of qualities and quantities (e.g. quality and quantity of love).

Likewise, from command (2) it entails:

(a2) A priori knowledge of the Imago Dei with intrinsic value/worth.
(b2) A priori knowledge of moral equality.