Thursday, March 8, 2018

Conditional Immortality

I am not formally trained in Biblical languages (i.e. Hebrew and Koine Greek)  nor in Biblical exegesis/exposition. My training is in philosophy so I'll approach the subject from philosophical theology.  I agree Biblical exegesis/exposition, and not merely proof texts, should be the basis of any given doctrine affirmed. But it is possible for Biblical evidence to be undetermined in support of a particular doctrine (e.g. Divine Atemporality or Divine Temporality). In such cases, perfect being theology is a minister in our formulation of any given doctrine.  

I will assume, for the sake of argument, the Biblical evidence, for the final divine punishment against the wicked, is underdetermined. Thus the Biblical data can equally support eternal conscious torment (ECT) or conditional immortality (CI). I'll summarize each position as I understand it then provide a conceptual analysis of each view. Finally I'll provide an argument in favor of ECT.

Conditional Immortality View
The conditionalist believes life and death are physical. But have a symmetrical spiritual reality. At physical death, people are disembodied yet their souls remain in a temporary state of unconscious sleep until the final judgment. On judgment day God unites souls to resurrected bodies then grants eternal life to believers (conserves their souls/bodies in the New Heavens and New earth) but for unbelievers they are annihilated (God ceases to conserve their souls/bodies in existence).  Judgment is a one time temporary event with eternal results.

There seems to be a performative inconsistency in CI 
Let's use a transcendental argument and apply it to the doctrine of Hell

(1) If the wicked receive eternal punishment then they exist. 
(2) The wicked receive eternal punishment. 
(3) Therefore, they exist. 

This argument is analogous to Descartes's famous transcendental argument "cogito ergo sum" (i.e. I think therefore I am). Thinking presupposes existence. Likewise, punishment presupposes conscious existence. A counterexample may be provided as capital punishment. A person that dies via capital punishment demonstrates punishment can simply be conscious torment that ends with extinction without any enduring consciousness. 

Two problems with the possible counterexample. First, it begs the question on the nature of the soul. It seems to assume death is merely extinction. Second, the possible counterexample, in fact, does not show punishment can exist without conscious existence. It proves quite the opposite. A person cannot receive punishment for a crime without conscious existence. The disagreement is not merely on conscious punishment, it is on the duration of conscious punishment. The duration of conscious punishment is either temporary or eternal. If the former then punishment is temporary but the results are eternal. If the latter then punishment is eternal and the results are eternal.  If annihilation is granted then it is not itself punishment but a result of punishment (e.g. pain, mental anguish etc.) since a necessary condition of punishment is conscious existence.

Classical View
There is a presumption of hell (as eternal conscious torment) in virtue of God's holiness and the severity of sin. This belief can be deduced from perfect being theology. Soul sleep is denied in favor of some form of substance interaction dualism. Humans are understood as holistic composite beings with physical bodies that are animated by incorporeal souls. At physical death our disembodied souls go to the intermediate state of either paradise with God or conscious torment until the day of judgment. On judgment day God unites all souls to resurrected bodies. God judges all people. Believers are transformed to possess glorified bodies and granted crowns based on merits. They are to be an eternal witness/exhibition of God's Grace to the glory of God. God forever conserves their souls/bodies in the New Heavens and Earth. 

Unbelievers remain as objects of God's wrath. God concurs with unbelievers insistence to exist divorced from God. God gives unbelievers over to their self-destructive desires. God places unbelievers in Hell. They are to be an eternal witness/exhibition of God's justice to the glory of God. God forever conserves their souls/bodies in existence. The eternal conscious torment experienced by unbelievers are self-inflicted. It is perpetually sustained by their fixed unbelief. Hell is absence of joy, fulfillment, pleasure, delight or a personal relationship with God. In fact, unbelievers in Hell have lost their personal identities. They point to their fixated collection of sins as their identities. 

Critique 

1. The Old Testament should be interpreted in light of the New Testament. Types/shadows in Old Tokens/Substance in the New Testament. Progressive Revelation is predicate on God's revelation gradually disclosed more information with greater clarity. 
2. The intuitive nature of Justice. Any given punishment must be proportionate to the crime. If we offend or dishonor an infinite God we deserve an infinite punishment. 

(1) If hell is not eternal conscious torment then sin is not an infinite offense against God. 
(2) Sin is an infinite offense against God.
(3) Therefore, hell is eternal conscious torment 
3. Annihilation is a minimal punishment. Eternal conscious torment is a maximal punishment. 

(1) If God is a maximally great being then His attributes are maximally great. 
(2) God is a maximally great being 
(3) Therefore, His attributes are maximally great.

(4) If God expresses the attribute of Justice then Justice is expressed in a maximally great way. 
(5) God will express Justice in the final punishment of the wicked
(6) Justice will be expressed in a maximally great way.

It is granted premise (4) can be disputed on the grounds God is not obligated to express any given attribute nor must it be expressed in a maximally great way. In fact, if God so chooses He can express any of His attributes in a minimally great way. Thus it is dependent upon God's choice.  Premise (4) can be reformulated to be immune to such an objection. Let (4*) replace (4):

(4*) If God chooses to expresses the attribute of Justice then Justice is expressed in either a minimally great way or a maximally great way. 

(7) Either annihilation is a maximally great punishment or eternal conscious torment is a maximally great punishment.
(8) Annihilation is not a maximally great punishment.
(9) Therefore, Eternal conscious torment is a maximally great punishment.

Assuming (3), (6) and (9) we deduce:

(10) If Justice is expressed in a maximally great way then eternal conscious torment is the final punishment of the wicked.
(11) Justice is expressed in a maximally great way 
(12) Eternal conscious torment is the final punishment of the wicked.

(1) There is a possible world in which God, in all possible worlds, expresses his attribute of Justice in final punishment of the wicked with eternal conscious torment. 
(2) The actual world is a possible world. 
(3) Therefore, God expresses his attribute of Justice in final punishment of the wicked with eternal conscious torment in the actual world. 

What if the traditionalist denies the immortality of the body? 

Or what about eternal unconscious existence? Eternal unconsciousness 

Second Death 
Dead spiritually in what sense? Is the reprobate in the same condition pre after life as after life? 


What is death? 

There is a pragmatic argument to be made too: 

(1) If hell is annihilation then the punishment for sin is not the most severe.
(2) Hell is annihilation
(3) Hence,  the punishment for sin is not the most severe. 

If premise (1) is granted the punishment provides little incentive to deter/restrain sin. It further removes motivation from the unbelieving. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Calvinistic Determinism




An excellent exploration of Calvinistic determinism. Three quick points that I recall against the libertarian's arguments:
(1) The " God is the author of sin" charge is ambiguous.
(2) The insistence that Calvinism is self-refuting is ambitious but doesn't consider full blow Calvinism with its explanatory resources.
(3)  The actions of God in that He has meticulous control seems to be most consistent with Calvinistic determinism.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Doctrinal Questionnaire

Much of my responses are adapted from this statement of faith simply because it is associated with my local church

1.    What is the gospel?  What would you tell a person to do who desires to be saved?

God created mankind to honor and glorify Himself. However, mankind chose to glorify themselves and dishonor Him. The good news is albeit we deserve hell for our sins God offers us heaven in Jesus Christ. We deserve God's wrath for our sins. But God so loved us that he gave his only son Jesus Christ, the infinite God-man--whom died as our substitute on the cross and was resurrected the third day--to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in heaven for us. Christ offers himself as our substitute by faith. By the eyes of faith, we can repent, believe, and rejoice in what Christ has done on our behalf. He died in our place to rescue us from sin--that in Him we would become the children of God. The rags to riches story come true.

2.         Explain how you know for certain that you have eternal life.

My certainty lies in the reality of Christ and His promises in Scripture and not my subjective thoughts or experiences. I know for certain I have eternal life since I believe Jesus Christ alone is my salvation and security (I John 4:). It is not by the works of my hands I bring--but simply to the cross I cling (Eph 2:8-10).     

3.         What is your belief about justification?  How is a man justified before God?  What does justification mean?  What is it based upon?  Is it permanent?
I believe in justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and for the glory of God alone. Justification is the judicial act of God, whereby He declares righteous those who have placed their faith in Christ. It is a final act, so that the believer is forever and completely justified from the moment of saving faith (Romans 5:1, 9). Therefore, the believer awaits no final last day declarative justification. Justification is not based upon the believer’s own righteousness, not even the imputation of faith itself as the believer’s righteousness, but on a righteousness alien to him: the forensically imputed righteousness of Christ alone (Romans 4:3-6, 9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). In salvation the believer is called, regenerated, forgiven all sin, justified, adopted, made eternally secure, and endowed with every spiritual blessing. Salvation is of the Lord (Romans8:30; 1 Peter 1:3; Colossians 2:13; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 1:3-7; Romans 8:15).

4.         What is your view of election?  Is it unconditional or conditional?  What is it based upon?

I believe that God, under no obligation whatsoever to provide salvation for anyone, unconditionally elected certain individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world (John15:16; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-30; Acts 13:48). His election is not based on any foreseen act or response on the part of those chosen, but is based solely on His own good pleasure and sovereign will (Romans 3:11; 9:11-18). I do not believe that God elected others to hell (i.e. double predestination with active reprobation), but passed them by (i.e. single predestination with passive reprobation), leaving them to their own sinful preference, which is self-glorification and a Christ-less life (Matthew 23:37 Romans9:15-15; 10:21; John 3:19-20).


5.         What is the purpose of baptism?  Have you been baptized?

Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. Yes, I have been baptized under the authority of my prior church.


6.         What is your view of eternal security?  Are all true believers secure?

I believe in the biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. It has two parts: 1) No true child of God, born of the Holy Spirit, will ever be lost because he is kept by the power of God (Romans 8:31-39; John 10:28; Hebrews 13:5-6; 1 Peter 1:5); 2) It is equally true, however, that no person is saved without persevering to the end. Such perseverance may be marked by periods of discouragement, doubt, and even disobedience, but those genuinely saved will persevere to the end in faith and obedience (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Philippians1:6; Hebrews 8:10-11; 1 John 3:9-10; Hebrews 3:6, 14). Those who make a beginning in the Christian faith but do not continue give evidence that they never really had saving faith (1 John 2:19; Ephesians 5:5-6).


7.         What is your view of the final perseverance of the saints?  Do true believers, in spite of set backs, continue on and progress in their walk?

I believe that every believer is sanctified-that is, set apart-unto God, declared to be holy, and identified as a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2). However, sanctification is both positional and progressive (Hebrews 10:14). Positional sanctification has to do with the believer’s standing, not his present walk or experience. Progressive sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit whereby the believer is brought into an ever-increasing holiness in conformity to the will of God, becoming more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Moreover, I believe that sanctification is universal, mandatory evidence of a justification that is already final and complete, and not in any sense a means of attaining justification (Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-15). Finally, I believe that every saved person is involved in a daily, lifelong conflict against the flesh (Romans 7:14-25; Galatians 5:16-17; 1 Peter 2:11). While eradication of sin is not possible, the Holy Spirit empowers both for victory over sin and impact and fruitfulness in ministry (Ephesians 3:16; 5:18; Acts 1:8; 4:31).

8.         Explain the importance of reading and studying the Word.

God commands us to heed to His Words. That is a sufficient reason. Moreover, the Scriptures are the only infallible rule for both faith and practice. They teach us how to properly love and obey God. They are necessary for knowledge, spiritual growth and godly virtue (2 Timothy 3:16-17).


9.         Explain the importance of prayer in your life.
Prayer is sweet fellowship/communion with God. We communicate to God both mentally, verbally and audibly; but it is not vain repetition or constantly saying ‘God’ every other sentence.

I personally pray often. I also pray with my wife and son. It allows me to confess my sins or express my heart. It is a daily reminder as I behold God’s goodness toward me. I petition him with needs (e.g. illumination, humility, finances etc.) with the intent that my will be oriented toward His. I express gratitude and thanksgiving.

10.       Distinguish between the baptism of the Spirit and the filling of the Spirit.

I believe that the moment the believer rests his faith in Christ he is baptized with the Holy Spirit and becomes a functioning member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13,18; Acts 11:16; Romans 12:4-6). As a result of this baptism, the Holy Spirit imparts a spiritual gift (e.g. preaching, teaching, evangelism, hospitality etc.); the Lord Jesus Christ assigns a ministry for which that gift is to be utilized; and God the Father guarantees supernatural effects as the believer fulfills that ministry (1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Ephesians 4:15-16).

First, I affirm all believers are permanently indwelled by the Holy Spirit whereby He intimately controls (e.g. guides, teaches, intercedes, illuminates), convicts and empowers believers to obey Christ (John 14:6, 7:37-39; Eph 1:13,4:30; Gal 3:2; 2 Cor 1:22;). Second, I believe we are filled by the Holy Spirit when we yield to His influence through the preaching of the Holy Scriptures (Ep 5:18).   


11.       Explain, with Scripture, the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

The Scriptures identify the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 6:19). As such, He is referred to as a person in the Scriptures (John 14:26). He grieves (Ep 4:30), loves (Rom 15:30), knows (1 Cor 2:11) and speaks (Acts 8:29). Additionally, he can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4), tested (Acts 5:9) and resisted (Acts 7:51).


12.       What are the spiritual gifts in use today?


I believe some of the gifts given in the church during the ministry of the Apostles were directly related to the founding of the church and the completion of the New Testament and are thus no longer given, such as the gifts of prophecy, tongues, knowledge, and healing (Ephesians 2:20-3:4; Hebrews 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 14:37-38; 2 Corinthians 12:12). Nevertheless, I believe God continues to work supernaturally among His people. For example, those who have a debilitating sickness are to call for the elders who are to pray and expect supernatural healing as a part of their present-day ministry (James 5:16).

13.       How do you understand the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scripture?

I confess that the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are the objective, written revelation of God and thus constitute the Word of God (Hebrews 1:1-2); that men chosen by God wrote the Bible under the guidance and enabling of the Holy Spirit; that every word of the original autographs is God-breathed; and, therefore, that the whole of Scriptures both inerrant and authoritative for the faith and life of the believer (2 Timothy 3:16; 2Peter 1:20-21).


14.       What is your belief concerning the sufficiency of Scripture?

I believe that the Scriptures are sufficient and, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit and the caring body of Christ, are entirely adequate for every spiritual or emotional problem, and are in no need of any supplement from secular psychotherapies (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Psalms 19:7-11). Likewise, I affirm that Scripture is the fresh and present voice of Christ by which He communicates through the Holy Spirit to His people. Therefore, no current revelatory, prophetic word is necessary (Hebrews 3:7; 4:12). Furthermore, I believe that the Scriptures are to be interpreted in the literal/grammatical/historical sense.



15.       What does the Bible say about the fall of man? How has this affected the human race?

God created Adam the first man in the image and likeness of God apart from any process of evolution (Genesis 1:26; 2:7). Adam became a sinner, depraved in nature and subject to Satan’s power by personal disobedience to the will of God (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 5:12-19; John 8:44; Ephesians 2:2-3). As our representative head, the guilt of Adam’s act was imputed to the entire human race (Romans 5:12-14, 18-19). His sin and depravity was also transmitted to the entire human race; so that every man is a sinner by inheritance, imputation and imitation; and possesses within himself no means of recovery (Romans 3:9-18, 23; Ephesians 2:1-3). Man has both dignity (He is created in the image of God) and depravity (He is corrupted in every part of his nature through the Fall) (Ephesians 2:1; Jeremiah 17:9). Man’s depravity extends even to His will. While man is a free moral agent, choosing as he pleases, his will is in bondage to his sinful nature. Therefore, he always chooses darkness and is unable and unwilling to choose Christ (John 3:19-20; 5:40; 6:44, 65; Romans 8:6-8; Ephesians 2:1, 4).

16.       Explain the tri-unity of God.

I testify that there is only one God who is the maximally greatest being. He is one essence that is three distinct persons, coequal and coeternal, neither divided nor separated, namely, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These three persons are distinct, yet one in essence, that cannot be divided nor separated (Det. 6:4; Matt 22:37-38; Mark 12:29-30; Mark 1:9-11; 1 John 2:23; John 1:1, John 17:5, Phil 2:5; Acts 5:1- 4; 1 Cor 6:19). [1]      


17.       Is Christ fully God?  Was He fully man?  Explain.

Yes. The Son, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ (very God) became incarnate (very man) through the miracle of His divine conception and virgin birth without change in His deity (Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 1:20-21). He is one person with two distinct natures (i.e. Hypostatic Union, John 1:1,14,8:58, 19:28; Heb 2:17). [2]


18.       What does Christ's resurrection mean to us?

It demonstrates our faith is not in vain. Our Lord’s resurrection is vindication of our redemption accomplished. Our Lord lived a sinless life (Hebrews 7:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and died a propitiatory, substitutionary death bearing the full penalty of God’s wrath to save His people from their sins (1 Peter 3:18; Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He rose from the grave and defeated Satan, sin and death. In Christ, we dead with him and made alive unto Christ (Romans 6; 1 Cor 15:20-28,45,55-56).

19.       Was Christ's death on the cross absolutely necessary?

Yes. The proof that it was absolutely necessary is the incarnation itself. God is both loving and just. Only in the incarnation is both God’s justice and love demonstrated/fulfilled.

God created mankind to honor and glorify Himself. However, mankind chose to glorify themselves and dishonor Him. God was the offended. Mankind was the offender. Only the offended can take initiative to voluntarily be reconciled with the offender. Likewise, only the offender can make amends for their offense.  Hence, the marvelous incarnation was necessary. Jesus had to be very God for His substitutionary death to be efficacious to absorb the wrath of God. Moreover, He had to be very man to truly represent mankind before God as our prophet, priest and king.     


20.       What is the importance of the local church to a believer?  


It is vital to be obedient unto God. In the local church we are able to be accountable, encouraged, edified and equipped. I believe that in this age, commencing at Pentecost, Christ is building His church in partial fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic promise, originally stated in the Abrahamic Covenant, to bless all the nations through Abraham’s seed (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:7-9; Isaiah 49:6; Acts 13:47). Christ builds His church by calling out His elect from every tribe, nation, people, and tongue (Romans 1:5; Revelation 5:9). The Holy Spirit forms and constitutes the church by baptizing true believers into the one universal, spiritual body, which is manifested in local churches (1 Corinthians 12:13). The local church has been commissioned to preach the Word faithfully, preserve the purity of the church through discipline, and practice the two ordinances of believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper (2 Timothy 4:2;1 Corinthians 5:11-13; Matthew 18:15-18; 28:18-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The officers of the local church are elders (also referred to as bishop, overseer, and pastor)-godly men to whom is committed the oversight and care of the church-and deacons (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 5:17; Titus 1:5).




[1] Paul Copan. Trinity P
[2]  Paul Copan. Incarnation

Saturday, October 21, 2017

John and Justification


It seems some people (e.g. here and here) wish to argue John Piper’s position on justification make him a bedfellow with the Pope.  Piper supposedly has theologically drifted in his old age (e.g Billy Graham) to affirm justification by faith plus works. He is now implicitly branded a heretic corrupting the church. Perhaps God’s gadfly? Well, he is definitely irritating some with his views.  While others defend him and/or seek clarification. I have no money in this fight. But I do think one can interpret Piper in an orthodox manner. His distinction between initial/final salvation is consistent with the 'already not yet' motif. Likewise, Piper explains Paul’s teaching that justification is by faith alone as the root of salvation. Nevertheless,  James tells us good works are the fruit of our salvation. We have an active faith that works. Hence, justification is not dependent upon sanctification but sanctification is dependent upon justification.   

Ironically, some critics of Piper highly esteem Gordon H. Clark (as do I), however, they fail to realize Dr. Clark seems to concur, in part, with Piper, 

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13-14)

"Now then, what does the verse say? Well of course, it says we should work out our own salvation. Let us be quite clear on the fact that the Bible does not teach salvation by faith alone. The Bible teaches justification by faith alone. Justification then necessarily is followed by a process of sanctification, and this consists of works which we do. It consists of external actions initiated by internal volitions. We must therefore work out our own salvation; and this, in fear and trembling because we must depend on  God."(Predestination, page 120).

Note: the use of the term 'instrumental' is missing in the above quotation thus an argument may be made that this is precisely the problem with Piper's comments.