Friday, April 30, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 8

Thus far, Fesko has established that the first Adam, made in the image of God, was a prophet, priest, and king who was set in a primeval temple, Eden, which was the holy of holies in the cosmic tabernacle. This Adam existed in a covenantal relationship with God in which he was commanded to multiply, fill the earth, and extend his domain and rule all things with the help of his mate, the goal being that, as God’s vicegerent, he could extend Paradise and conquer the external chaos like God did in His creative work so that God’s presence and glory would extend to the ends of the earth. Upon fulfilling this dominion mandate, Adam would have, like God did, become indefectibly blessed and rested from his covenantal work; the Sabbath would have become a reality. Because Adam failed to follow the stipulations of the covenant, however, the curse of the covenant was placed on him: the image of God in mankind is thusly corrupted, we have become necessarily mortal, and we are in need of saving from God’s wrath. The subsequent covenants God made with men in the Old Testament each republish the covenant goals for the first Adam, yet they all display the impossibility for man to attain these goals. The law, God’s standard of righteousness has not been compromised. Hence, each of these covenants – especially the [Adamic] covenant of works itself – prefigure the coming Messiah who would be able to set His people right with God, as He would fulfill the requirements for them and the goals with them. It is to the antitypical life and work of this Messiah, the essence of the gospel, to which Fesko now turns.

The context surrounding Christ’s work is highly reminiscent of Genesis 1-3. Like Adam was: Jesus Christ is the image of God, to whom all men must now conform (Colossians 1:15, Romans 8:29); He is God’s Son; He is prophet, priest, and king (Hebrews 1:1-3, 7:23-25, 10:9-14); He was tempted with half-truths for 40 days by the devil (Luke 4:1-13), which some have suggested is meant to parallel the length of time Adam was in the garden before he succumbed to temptation. Unlike Adam: Jesus’ image was never corrupted; He never needed to be adopted by God; He was a perfect in His ability to keep His three-fold office; Adam’s surroundings during his probative period was bountiful whereas Jesus was tempted in wilderness where He fasted.

Moreover, Jesus was baptized prior to His temptation, which signals the beginning of the work of the mediator of a new, better covenant. Christ’s baptism and allusion to the Holy Spirit as a dove in Luke 4:22 should recall one to the hovering Holy Spirit during creation (Genesis 1:2) and subsequent aerial imagery during typological [re]creations (Genesis 8:11, Exodus 13:21-22, Deuteronomy 32:11). The deluge, which was an undoing of creation, enabled Noah and his family to be saved by water (1 Peter 3:20) as were Moses and the Israelites (1 Corinthians 10:1-2) – that is, by waters which could on the occasion of this destruction effect a completely new creation. Baptism puts to death the old by creating the new, which is seen too in soteriological terms as well (Colossians 2:11-15): being dead in sins, God puts to death the old man by the regenerative grace of the always present Holy Spirit, after which the elect individual is immediately raised with Christ unto faith and righteousness (cf. Romans 6:1-4, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 2:1-6, 1 Peter 3:21-22). In the same way, Christ’s baptism anticipates that He will put to death the old, Adamic means of attaining righteousness, works, by the creation of new means, grace alone (Romans 8:32), which He will purchase for His people by obeying the covenantal stipulations by His own works.

After rebuffing Satan’s temptations, Christ was evidenced as qualified to begin his ministerial work. In consideration of this work, Fesko chooses to utilize Philippians 2:5-11 to clarify more protological connections to Christology. Philippians 2:5 reiterates a point already established: that the image in which man was created has been corrupted such that he must now become transformed to Christ’s in order to recapture the intimate fellowship with God he had in the garden. Why? Because Christ, who is in the image of God, did not, as the first Adam did, regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped (2:6, cf. Genesis 3:4-5); that is, even though the Son is co-equal with the Father (Isaiah 6:1-8, John 12:41), He did not seize upon this fact during His life on earth advantageously in order that we who need to be conformed to Christ’s image could have an appropriate pattern – as persons obviously not equal to God – to follow. Adam, who wasn’t equal to God whatsoever, did try to use his position greedily. Christ, the humble servant, obeyed the will of His Father even to His [necessary] death (2:7-8), which is a point Paul uses as a contextual argument for the privilege of suffering for God’s sake (1:29-30): because it is necessary for renewal of the mind. Because of this active and passive obedience, Christ secured all the conditions necessary for the fulfillment of the covenant of works and its application to us.

Romans 5:19 particularly expresses how those under the respective federal heads are either condemned or made righteous by one man’s work: imputation (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ’s life and death made possible a substitutionary atonement by having paid for the curse of the covenant and obeying its ordinances. Those who are under the Mosaic covenant (who are also under the Adamic covenant) are made clean by Christ’s death (Hebrews 9:15-22), as He who a part of the inauguration of the covenant must bear the antitypical curse of the covenant (Jeremiah 34:17-20, cf. Genesis 15:8-17, Exodus 24:3-8). Just as the Father would have had to bear the oath curse in the Abrahamic covenant if His promises to Abraham were in vain (Hebrews 6:13-19), so too either we must bear the penalty for having transgressed the law covenant – a penalty which we can never erase by works alone – or have Christ bear it for us (Matthew 26:28).

Christ’s capacity to do this for us is the realization of Adam’s and Eve’s coverings and why we shall not revert to nakedness in heaven: Christ’s righteousness clothes us. As high priest, Christ was able to enter the holy of holies by means of His bloody sacrifice and once and for all obtain the eternal redemption of God’s people (Hebrews 8-10:14), thus sending the cherubim who were set to guard the holy of holies after the transgression of the first covenant (Genesis 3:24, cf. 26:31-33) back to the throne of God (Matthew 27:51, Revelation 4:6-8) so that we may once more approach God. His death on the sixth day of the week functioned as the New Testament deluge such that He could pronounce the old covenant’s means of attaining the goal of God’s eternal covenant to be “finished” (John 19:30). He rested on the seventh day as did God (John 19:31, cf. Genesis 2:1-3), then rose on the first day of the week (John 20:1) in signification of the beginning of the new and final creation, which is why Paul associated it with baptism as has been noted. The elements of this new creation is that with which the next half of Fesko’s chapter is concerned.

Fesko's "Last Things First" 7

Abrahamic Covenant

God’s covenant with Abraham (no longer Abram) in Genesis 17, a realization of an expectation grounded in Genesis 12:1-7, announced that Abraham would be the father of many nations who God would, like Abraham, bless by an extension of land and fruitfulness in posterity to all ends of the earth (Genesis 18:18, cf. Galatians 3:8). This covenant exemplifies a continually progressive revelation of a covenant of grace, for God no longer merely commanded man to follow the dominion mandate; now, God has declared that He will see to it that man achieves the goal.

In fact, in Genesis 12:7, Abram reacted to the first patriarchal theophany by erecting an altar – a place of meeting with God (e.g. Exodus 20:24) and priestly sacrifice (Noah, Cain, and Abel, Noah; cf. Genesis 8:20, Hebrews 11:4) – testifying to the hope of a return to Edenic intimacy between God and man as well as the importance of spreading God’s presence, the goal of the dominion mandate, post-Fall. That Abraham (e.g. Genesis 12:8) and his descendants (Isaac, Jacob, etc.) continued to build altars and that they did so in the midst of trees (e.g. 12:6, 13:18) on eastern mountaintops (e.g. 12:8, 22:9-14) plainly strengthens the protological ties. Coinciding with this Edenic recollection, Geerhardus Vos similarly noticed that Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, “…was afterwards the scene of the highest permanent theophany of the Old Testament (i.e. the temple) and therefore typical of the final consummate state of the theocracy” (Eschatology of the Old Testament).

Abraham’s actions remind one that while God’s promise to Abraham wasn’t obligated, He did expect that Abraham would respond to it by obeying His precepts (17:2), including the application of the covenant sign, circumcision, to himself and his offspring (17:9-14). Circumcision, like all covenant signs, signified divine activity and grace to which recipients were called to respond in faith, here on pain of excommunication. There is a sense in which the Abrahamic covenant was bilateral, then, but that God stated as matter of fact that Abraham would inherit the aforementioned promises is an indication of the efficacy of God’s grace upon man’s will (Genesis 15:18, cf. Hebrews 6:13-19).

There are further statements in made in the context of the Abrahamic covenant which are definitely connected with Genesis 1-2 and the new covenant. Abraham was essentially treated as a king (17:6), the role of Adam (intended) and Christ (realized) over creation as covenant heads. Next, in Genesis 12:3, God tells Abram that men will be blessed or cursed depending upon whether or not they bless or curse him, as is the case with Jesus (John 3:18). Yet another correspondence is the bloodiness of circumcision typified in Christ’s coming sacrificial death which, since He is now risen and reigns, was teleologically fulfilled and thusly replaced by baptism, an analogous sign in the covenant of grace (Colossians 2:11-15); also, the significancy of both of these signs is the regenerative work of the Spirit in which the elect individual is made a new creature in the image of Christ. This presages Christ work in fulfilling the dominion mandate, which Fesko addresses in his next chapter, but it also bespeaks of a link Paul makes between protology, eschatology, and God as omnipotent Creator: the God who is able to create ex nihilo by fiat is able to similarly create a father of many nations (Romans 4:17) and create new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26-27) in His people to effect the fulfillment the dominion mandate.

Mosaic Covenant

Briefly reviewing what elements of the Mosaic covenant have already been anticipated: the construction of the cosmic tabernacle in Genesis 1-2 parallels the construction of the tabernacle, temple decor and priestly functions parallel Adam’s intended work within Eden, and the structures of the Adamic and Mosaic covenants are analogous. Also, the Mosaic covenant is rooted in the Abrahamic (Exodus 2:24, 3:6, cf. Genesis 15:13-14), and that the context of this groundwork also mention that God appeared to Abraham and his posterity as well as Moses (Gen 17:1, 26:2, 35:9, cf. Exodus 3:2, 16) shows the special nature of theophanies to patriarchs.

The Mosaic covenant itself is fairly straight-forward. It was bilateral except insofar as God determined the terms (Exodus 19:5). It was given to Moses and Israel soon after their deliverance from Egypt (19:1), and detailed explanation of its stipulations, blessings, curses, &c. can be found in chapters 19-31. More important for the purposes of Fesko’s book is to note that content of the covenant as well as its structure and bilaterality is similar to the covenant of works: “you shall not [eat/murder, steal, &c.]” (Genesis 2:17, Exodus 20:13-17); Leviticus 26:6-12 is a lengthened echo of the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28; the blessings and curses of each covenant are also analogous (Genesis 1:28, 2:15-17, Deuteronomy 7:12-13, 8:19).

Further protological types are apparent when one considers the nature of Israel and its promised land (Isaiah 2:2-5). Israel, like Adam, is called God’s son (Exodus 4:22, Luke 3:38). It was a priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:6), an apt description of Adam’s domain and that of believers in Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Canaan itself recalls one to Edenic luxury; it was a land of milk and honey (Exodus 33:1-3, Numbers 13:27, e.g. Ezekiel 47:12). Given the nature of these patterns, it is not surprising to find that the goals of the Mosaic covenant are similar to those of the Adamic covenant: each purports to extend God’s presence to all the ends of the earth (Genesis 1:28, Isaiah 49:6).

The context of the covenant also marks its ties to Genesis 1-3. The [re]creation of Israel out of the Egyptian slavery is, like the Noahic deluge, a type of new creation which finds its antitype in the regeneration of the elect, discussed next chapter. The avian imagery (Exodus 13:21-22, 40:34-38, Deuteronomy 32:10-11, Haggai 2:5), the Holy Spirit’s witness to the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:3) in conjunction that the Hebraic phrase for “spirit of God” is always used in the context of tabernacle construction – unless Genesis 1:2 be the exception, which rather strengthens the typological reference to creation as a cosmological tabernacle in which Eden was the holy of holies – the baptism of Israel (1 Corinthians 10:2), that deliverance typifies God establishing His creation and defeating chaos (Isaiah 51:9, Psalm 89:10), the introduction of Yahweh as Elohim who brings light from darkness (e.g. Exodus 13:21), divides the waters (e.g. 14:21), draws up dry land (e.g. 14:29), and commands observance of the Sabbath (Heb 4:3-10)... if we add to these protologically relevant observations that Israel is said to be the son of God and that goal of God’s covenant with them is, in essentials, the same, the Mosaic covenant coheres remarkably coheres with the Adamic.

All elements were in place, then, for a repetition of the commands of the Adamic covenant, even though it was not a live possibility that Israel could fulfill it. Like the command to Noah in Genesis 9:1-7, Israel disobeyed and were, like Adam, ejected from their respective paradise. Hence, one should rather view the Mosaic covenant as a republication of the covenant of works insofar as God’s law – “…summarily comprehended in the 10 Commandments” (WCF Shorter Catechism) – is still the set standard which all men must meet in order to be righteous. This standard in the covenant of grace is never changed; the means by which one attains it, however, is, and so in another sense entirely the Mosaic covenant can be said to be an administration of this covenant of grace, especially since the sign of the covenant was the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13).

The Sabbath, the eschatological sign of the covenant (Exodus 31:13), is obviously significant; moreover, since we’ve seen that the Mosaic and Adamic covenants are so similar, it does validate the earlier argument that upon Adam’s completion of his probation, he would have rested from his analogous-creation-extension work as did the archetypal Creator, God. Exodus 31:13 furthermore indicates that the post-Fall Sabbath takes on a soteric function it couldn’t have in the covenant of works: i.e. typifying the completion of salvation by grace alone. As soon as God accomplishes the goal of conforming His elect to His own image (remember that Christology defines anthropology) and thus, in effect, completing the new creation, He and they will rest (Exodus 31:17); the sign of the covenant will pass into reality. The purpose of the Sabbath, then, was to invoke the believer’s reflection on the purposes of God’s work for them and the over-arching goals He had for them. It’s also worth noting that the reproduction of the Sabbatical command at the end of the completion of tabernacles (Exodus 31:12, 35:1-2) as well as at Sinai (20:8-11) indicates a recurring theme between creation, temple construction, and rest. Almost unbelievably, Fesko enters into even more specifics with regard to the Sabbath in last chapter of his book, in which he shows how it functions as the bridge between protology and eschatology.

Davidic Covenant

God’s covenant with David, found in 2 Samuel 7:8-17 (cf. 2 Chronicles 13:5), is both unilateral and signified by salt, which is a feature associated with perpetuity (e.g. Numbers 18:19) and designed to emphasize the irrevocability of God’s oath. As God tells Nathan, His promises – which here consist of rest for His people evermore from all enemies, the establishment of an eternal kingdom, and the blessing of David’s seed who was to build that kingdom – stem from the sovereignty of Him who was able to make David, a shepherd, to be the king of His people; the parallel to Christ as Shepherd and King hardly needs further explanation, but analyzing how these promises relate to protology and eschatology should summarize the high points of Old Testament Christological precursors so that Christ’s work itself can in turn be examined.

The seed motif found in the protoevangelium and Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are all promises by God borne out in the immediate offspring of each parents’ child as typification of the true fulfillment by God’s own Son, Jesus, in whom all may find eternal rest (John 5:24). Quick examples: Abel’s obedience prompted Cain, his brother, to murder him, just as the innocent Christ’s blood-brethren would murder Him (Genesis 3:15, 4:1-8, Acts 2:22-23, cf. Hebrews 12:24). Isaac, the son of promise, was nearly sacrificed by his father just as Christ was by the Father (Genesis 22, Romans 8:32, cf. Galatians 3:16).

Solomon’s work too is closely tied to Christ’s work: Solomon was to build the house of the Lord – God’s place of dwelling in Israel’s future temple – which would bring glory to God. This temple, which David began to construct, was built on Mount Moriah, where David had experienced a theophany (2 Chronicles 3:1) at which he built an altar (1 Chronicles 21:26). The protological pertinence of mountain, theophany, and altar imagery has already been covered thoroughly. The specifications of the temple are found in 2 Chronicles 3-5 and include the precious metals, cherubim, and other Edenic allusions. Christ has also built His Father’s house by securing the salvation of believers (Hebrews 3:1-6; cf. Hebrews 8-10) – who are themselves temples (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) – and, as importantly, He has brought maximum glory to God (Romans 9, Ephesians 1, 3). Further ecclesiological and eschatological illustrations will be noted in Fesko’s next chapter. Here, it suffices to understand that the Davidic covenant obviously has more protological roots in addition to the covenant of works.

The temple-extension has also been shown to be one aspect of fulfilling the dominion mandate. While this is addressed in the Davidic covenant, man’s duty to subdue the earth as God’s vicegerent receives greater emphasis here than in earlier covenants. David recognizes, however, that God’s “dominion” and “rule” extends over all things, including the covenant heads who He has ordained to bless by grace alone (1 Chronicles 29:11-12, cf. Genesis 1:28). With the covenant of grace comes the increasing revelation that God alone can enable man to make headway in that which he is obligated to do.

In Psalm 110, for instance, David, who was king and priest, acts as prophet when he foretells of Christ’s subjugation of all things to Himself (compare Solomon’s interaction with King Huram and the Queen of Sheba). Christ’s global authority is equally important for Him to fulfill of the covenant of works for us, and he briefly mentions this passage to confute the religious authorities when He asks how David can be referring to Solomon, his son, as his own Lord. While sonship is necessary for messiahship, it is necessary for the son referenced in the Davidic (Abrahamic, &c.) covenant(s) to be perfect, which Solomon (Isaac, &c.) could not have been. This simply exhibits a New Testament use of the Old to establish that Christ is the prime antitype of all Old Testament covenants and shadows. He is King of all creation, yet He is also, unlike all other Adamic figures, an obedient vicegerent who actually can and does bring to fruition the will of His Father.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Modern Philosophy 15

For the class in Modern Philosophy I'm taking this semester, we have to write 15 two-paged papers (minimum) on philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, Locke, and Leibnitz. In this essay, I wrote about the sections nine through twelve of Hume’s “Dialogues.” The following is my submission:

In section IX, Demea, having listened to Philo’s explanation of the limitations of a posteriori argumentation, suggests that a priori argumentation – specifically, the cosmological argument – is a more than adequate substitute when attempting to discern the nature of God. Cleanthes replies that a proposition is true only if the contrary is impossible to conceptualize and that conceptualizing reality without the existence of any single being, including God, is possible, as the material universe, for example, may be eternally existent. Philo, who believes that a priori arguments are unpersuasive, adds that mathematics display uncreated characteristics.

Demea replies in section X by opining that a reason many may find a priori arguments unconvincing because there are people who will use any means of argumentation to validate their intuitive beliefs. Philo agrees, also providing an answer as to why he believes natural religion is plausible, viz. the wickedness of men. This observation leads to a brief dialogue which leads Demea to remark that this could stem from the idea that man’s worst enemy is himself in the form of diseases of the mind and Philo to impute this wickedness to externals and claim that if man’s complaints and despair in all ages were absolutely sincere, more people would have committed suicide. Philo then asks how God can be anthropomorphic without being evil, introducing Epicurus’ postulation of the “problem of evil” into the discussion, to which Demea replies that evil functions as a means to future good and Cleanthes to argue that men are not absolutely miserable. Cleanthes, after calling Demea’s speculation groundless, defends his position by refusing to allow that Demea’s and Philo’s previous dialogue on the wickedness of man accurately depicts reality. Philo retorts that Cleanthes’ answer is as weak as it is doubtful, since evil still exists and is more potent, if less frequent, than good. Philo essentially rests his case for cautious skepticism with regard to the nature of God on this argument.

To begin section XI, Cleanthes posits that God may be finitely perfect, thus denying one of the premises of Epicurus to solve the problem. In rejoinder, Philo questions the know-ability of such a deity and insists that even a finitely perfect God would be capable of preventing some extant evils. He then outlines four evils which he believes cause most evil actions and may not be unavoidable: instinctual self-preservation, laws of nature, limitations in genetics to that which is necessary, and the brutality of nature. A posteriori arguments would be, in the face of these arguments, hard-pressed to demonstrate an anthropomorphic God who is good, and Philo even mentions that deism or an impersonal God – one who is neither good nor bad – would be a consistent alternative. At this, Demea and Cleanthes expresses amazement that Philo would propound such overtly skepticistic and unconventional theological beliefs, and some time thereafter Demea parted the company.

The final section consists of a conversation between the two remaining men, which begins by Philo remarking that despite his skepticism, the harmony he perceives in the sciences at every point presses upon his mind the belief in the existence of a divine being. That he finds this to be a strong indication of the existence of a sentient God’s is ironic, since this he had criticized Cleanthes’ teleological argument earlier. Cleanthes and Philo also agree that many disputes within natural theology are due to impreciseness in use of terms or exaggeration of opposite themes of similar conclusions. They furthermore agree that man’s moral capacities are defective and that evil should be ascribed to that cause rather than to God. Men even use religion, which ought to civilize, to justify evils. Superstition is too often allowed to infringe upon rational religion. The discussion proceeds in like manner, and concludes with Philo assenting to the idea that God bears an analogous intelligence to humanity but asserts that the surest way to Christianity is cautious skepticism. Pamphilus concludes the narrative declaring his instructor, Cleanthes, to have presented the strongest arguments, followed by Philo.

The criticisms of the superficial cosmological argument provided by Demea do show it is insufficient to substantiate his opinion of a priori reasoning and God’s demonstrability. Demea did seem to have argued weakly. Hume’s characters didn’t, however, note that morality within an empirical world-view is question-begging, as brute observations of physical occurrences would not logically imply how one ought to act. Finally, the argument from design which Philo eventually forwards and with which Cleanthes agrees is subjectively based, which, given Philo’s and Cleanthes’ earlier arguments against the cosmological argument, is interesting. Neither appears to recognize this confliction, however. In conclusion, then, natural theology does not seem to provide any rational reasons to believe in the existence of “God.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Modern Philosophy 14

For the class in Modern Philosophy I'm taking this semester, we have to write 15 two-paged papers (minimum) on philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, Locke, and Leibnitz. In this essay, I wrote about the sections one through five of Hume’s “Dialogues.” The following is my submission

:The subject of Hume’s Dialogues, natural religion, is one which Hume remarks is an example par excellance of a subject which is difficult because it is simultaneously important, ostensively obvious, and gives occasion for many abstruse questions. Primarily for these reasons, then, consideration of it is presented in the form of a dialogue between fictional characters (Demea, Philo, and Cleanthes).

Part 1 begins with a discussion between Philo and Demea. Philo, observing that Demea believed scientifically studying natural religion should begin only after one has been educated in other abstract philosophies such as ethics or logic, remarked that the idea man can learn of such things apart from religious instruction is destructive to natural religion itself. Cleanthes interposes that grounding religious beliefs on philosophical skepticism is, if serious, cognitive dissonance. At this point, Philo’s relatively long defense of the value of cautiousness and common sense seems to imply that his position is near to Hume’s own as described in his “Enquiry.” If this is the case, Hume must believe that all consideration of an immaterial being or realm is speculatory. Regardless, Cleanthes retorts that, given the self-defeating nature of epistemological skepticism, and given that empiricism must allow that we do not know how or why certain events cohere, the same may be said of religion; furthermore, such seems to have historic precedence prior to Lockean philosophy. Philo protests that those who do not believe in God are fools, but that such is only sensible if it is indeed the case that reason is sufficient principle by which one can become intimate with religion.

Following Cleanthes’ opinion that men are disposed to defend their dogmas by whatever means possible, Part II begins with Demea expressing surprise at Cleanthes’ argumentation thus far, which he perceives imply that the nature of God cannot be known. Upon citing Malebranche as an example of a way in which we can come to [intelligibly] know God, Philo, agreeing that the alleged soundness of the cosmological argument hinges the nature of the debate on the know-ability of God, repeats that one can only progress so far in such a manner – or in empirical investigations, for that matter – before one must give way to caution. Cleanthes replies to Philo by appealing to a teleological argument, intending to show that God is anthropomorphic. Both Demea and Philo disapprove of this argument: Demea, because the proof is hinged on empiricism, which implies that God’s existence, let alone nature, is not necessarily true; Philo, because the a posteriori, intuitively causal, analogical, and inductive inferences are fallacious (further suggesting Philo represents Hume). Demea and Philo then converse about a priori reasoning and experience. Philo claims that all a priori reasoning is founded upon experiential knowledge; for instance, we infer the universe is not eternal because we repeatedly note that matter does not form itself into perceived designs and then reason a priori that matter generally does not form itself. Of course, this common sense philosophy predicates the cosmological argument upon experience; hence, the disagreement with Cleanthes, argues Philo, should be due simply to the fact God’s nature is not strictly demonstrable. The narrator writes that Philo seems to have been jesting, and Cleanthes, not persuaded that Philo is being serious, queries whether or not we should apply such skepticism to the Copernican system. Philo replies that the analogy is not apropos, as one can compare planets but cannot compare the generation of the universe to anything.

In Part III, Cleanthes accuses Philo of not seriously considering his criticisms of analogous reasoning, as practically all inferences – inferring a voice in the dark is a man – depend upon it. Cleanthes argues that the appearance of intelligence and beauty are appropriate counterpoints to Philo’s belief that one cannot compare analogous reasoning in science to analogous reasoning pertaining to the origin of the physical world, and that if Philo were to consistently apply his arguments thus far to all things without his own prejudice, he would be left with extreme skepticism. Demea, rejoining the conversation, remarks that as forceful as Cleanthes’ arguments may be, to infer that such a designer is a deity is a non sequitur.

Cleanthes’ replies to Demea in Part IV by asking whether or not “God” is an empty word and if natural religion can be meaningful, to which Demea replies that he merely rejects Demea’s anthropomorphizing. Demea then lists several “perfections” of God, to which Cleanthes replies that such cannot be known if they are not in some sense relative to us. Philo answers that the variance of thought within humankind is enough to question how one can reasonably regard an immaterial being – a being who would possess an infinity of differences from a human mind – as anthropomorphic. Moreover, when one considers the mind of such a God and discovers that its thoughts have no origin, Philo wonders why Cleanthes does not allow this to be the case for men. Cleanthes replies that Philo’s own argument can be used against him, as the cause of a thought must at some final point be attributed to an intelligent being, and that the harmony of nature confirms this to be true.

Philo insists that he will remain cautiously skeptical, and responds to Cleanthes’ attempted rebuttal by asserting that the argument assumes perceived effects must be produced by similar causes (i.e. intelligence from intelligence); if Cleanthes is to be consistent, he must admit God is not perfect, immortal, or infinite, as man is not perfect, immortal nor infinite. Thus, Philo remarks that the idea that the “beauty” to which Cleanthes had earlier referred could be attributed to such a being is dubious. In order to avoid the import of these arguments, Philo anticipates that Cleanthes will have to complicate his argument or arbitrarily dismiss sections of his rebuttal, and Part 5 ends with Cleanthes exclaiming that he believes none of these arguments and that Philo must presuppose the teleological argument in order for his arguments to be sensible.

Briefly analyzing the dialogue so far, each character’s arguments have there own strengths and weaknesses. Philo is correct to proportion belief with evidence, but, given his criticisms of Cleanthes and his empiricism, it is not apparent for what reason he believes in God. Cleanthes is correct that Philo and Demea do not seem to be speaking about “God” with any intelligible meaning, yet he himself utilizes subjective argumentation which he cannot validly dogmatize. Demea speaks soundly when he affirms that only a priori reasoning can substantiate certainty that God exists, yet how he has discovered God’s nature is questionable. Each character must either admit he cannot know God by natural religion or explain more precisely how he can within the bounds of his own beliefs.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 6


When Adam fell, God declared that one would come to conquer Satan in the protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15). That Adam renamed his wife Eve and that they were covered with garments when they left Eden imply that they immediately understood, assented to, and looked forward to the promise that her seed would fulfill the conditions of the covenant as well as the day they could reenter Paradise. Throughout the Old Testament, shadows of this person were meant to progressively enlighten God’s people about the person and work of both Adams and evidence – through implicit references to the covenant of works and typification of the new covenant of grace – that only the God-man could tear the cherubim-decorated veil and bring those whom He saves [back] to the holy of holies, new Eden. From the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Question 34: How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?

Answer: The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.

In other words, while the goal of the covenant (the dominion mandate) has remained, the means of attaining it has changed. What was once possible by works is now only possible by grace. While each Old Testament covenant was administered in a different context and, hence, with different analogical referents, each alludes in some way to the covenant of works and each possesses the same archetypal focus: Jesus and His work. Because a proper understanding of Christ’s work is reinforced by a proper understanding of these typical Old Testament covenants, Fesko’s fourth chapter expresses the important Christological, protological, and eschatological elements in the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants:

Noahic Covenant

Genesis 9 contains the Noahic covenant as well as most of the parallels to Genesis 1-3. In the preceding chapters, the postdiluvian emergence of order from disorder (7:18-19, 8:1, 11, 17, 20-21; cf. John 1:32) inclines the reader to be reminded of the cosmological creation account provided in Genesis 1-2 (1:2, 9, 28, 2:2-3); Noah exited the ark, built an altar, and blessed God for his mercy to him and his family (8:20). In response, God smelled the aroma of rest (a Sabbatical insinuation), said to Himself that He would not to curse the earth because of man, and, interestingly, implicitly reestablished His covenant with night and day. The analogies are many: chaos, avian imagery of the Holy Spirit, land emerging from water (order from chaos), image of God, dominion mandate, temple imagery, Sabbatical principle, &c. are evidences of God’s sovereignty in His ability to control the outworking of His coherent plan as well as the intended conveyances of said plan.

The [re]creation is not the only reason to believe that the Adamic and Noahic covenants are linked. Genesis 9:1-7 is a fairly obvious parallel to the dominion mandate to mankind, who are in the image of God; obviously, the command doesn’t indicate Noah was actually capable of fulfilling it in light of the Fall, and the Noahic covenant was not predicated on this command in any case. Still, the command and the way in which Noah sinned (9:20-23) seem to demonstrate that the author’s overt desire to parallel Noah to Adam: Noah – even though he was a righteous man – got drunk from fruit in a garden-setting, was ashamed of his nakedness and was covered by another, and prompted blessing and curse to the seed (Shemites vs. Canaanites; cf. Cainites vs. Sethites). It is most sensible to understand this mandate and failure to fulfill the mandate as evidence that a new, indefectible Adam was needed.

Given that God was “establishing” a covenant with Noah and not “making” one per se (see part 4), it is not surprising that the Noahic covenant was with all creation or that the author made repeated contextual allusions to Genesis 1-2. The author’s observations, designed to prove that the root of the postdiluvian creation is in the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2, functions as a simple example that the Noahic covenant was not anachronistically constituted in a vacuum. As the Noahic covenant was unilateral (i.e. the promises were unconditional), there are certainly facets of it which are meant to look forward to the New Adam – by whose death and resurrection common grace is made possible – rather than backward to the covenant of works. But this merely proves the point made earlier: the goal of the Noahic covenant in the context of Genesis 9 is the same, but the means of accomplishing it are different. Noah could not himself hope to fulfill the means, let alone the goal, of the Adamic covenant. But if one compares the sign of the covenant, a rainbow, to Ezekiel 1:28 and Revelation 10:1, the Noahic covenant seems to anticipate that a new Adam will restore creation in purity, purchase common grace for all, and fulfill of the covenant of works on behalf of those who bear His image. Also, in the same way the promise has protological significance to creation, so too it has eschatalogical significance, viz. that the elect - new creations - will no more have to occasionally endure God's wrath and judgment upon unbelievers, having been saved in the ark (Christ) through baptismal waters (1 Peter 3:20-21).

Further thoughts: given that the Noahic covenant was established subsequent to the baptismal deluge on which occasion Noah and his family were saved, God’s covenant with His new creation may signify an eschatological promise; that is, it could, in addition to what elements of Christology it foreshadowed, be intended to convey the idea that God’s judgment of men after death will indeed be final. The unilaterality of the covenant, those with whom God covenanted (those who were saved and the renewed creation), the fact that it was the product of the first type of God’s wrath on reprobates, and the correlation which exists between the sign of the covenant – a rainbow – and apocalyptic literature (e.g. Ezekiel 1:28, Revelation 10:1) would support this argument.

[Note: this, like chapter 3, will also be a two-part post on one chapter; I didn't want to try to lump in all 4 major OT covenants into one post.]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 5

Having established that God and Adam associated with one another within the bounds of a covenant, Fesko proceeds to explain the nature of this covenant before considering several scholarly criticisms of it. Much of the content has already been anticipated at this point: the bilaterality of the covenant, the priestly work of Adam in the priestly context of Eden, the Christological parallels, &c., so at this point, Fesko is primarily concerned with explaining the way in which these elements cohere.

The stipulations of the Adamic covenant, expressed most cogently in Genesis 1:28, were for Adam and his helpmate to multiply, subdue the earth, and exercise dominion over it and its inhabitants. Those who recognize the biblicality of an Adamic covenant are in general agreement as to Adam’s actual duties. The goal of these labors, however, is disputed. Some believe that the purpose was merely an occupation. Others had argued that the tilling of the land and reproduction were commanded as an imitation of God’s own creation. These and other interpretations, however, seem to consider Adam’s work as a teleological end in itself. If one recalls that Adam was a priest within Eden, the holy of holies within God's cosmic temple, it is hard to imagine that in this design there is no more meaningful – if underlying – objective than farming for farming’s sake.

Before he clarifies exactly how the dominion mandate identifies with Adam’s priestly typification, Fesko notes the contrast between the Edenic paradise in which Adam was placed and the surrounding chaos which he was to cultivate (2:5-6, 15). Though the land vegetated and it rained both inside and outside the garden (cf. Job 36:27, Psalm 135:7), order only existed inside the garden. There is, then, certainly something to the idea Adam was to rule as vicegerent over creation analogously to God’s rule over the universe (cf. Psalm 8) by organizing disorder, but Fesko presses this point to further include the idea that the dominion mandate was an extension of the garden-temple itself. Fruit-bearing trees, rivers which proceeded from Eden to the four corners of the earth, and precious materials (Genesis 2:9-14) which would have been available to them as they subdued the rest of the earth would have ensured that Adam, Eve, and their offspring could spread “God’s glory to the ends of the earth” without having to leave the confines of their Paradise, after which they would have – as God did – rested (entered into a real Sabbath), their covenantal activity fulfilled.

This function of the covenant of works is also substantiated by the republications of this [old] covenant to other Old Testament foreshadows of Christ, not to mention the archetypes of the new covenant, and Fesko expounds on this in his next few chapters. In the remainder of his third chapter, however, Fesko addresses various criticisms of the covenant of works, using John Murray as the opposing interlocutor.

There are three fundamental arguments against the [Adamic] covenant of works, viz. nowhere in Scripture is the word “covenant” found in conjunction with Adam, covenants are always redemptive and unilateral, and “works” would be an improper adjectival denotation for whatever else one might wish to label God’s relationship with Adam. While the first two arguments are question-begging, as Fesko has already demonstrated that a covenant need not be explicitly identified as such within the immediate context of a given passage (Jeremiah 33:19-20, Malachi 2:14) and Murray offers no other possible interpretation of Hosea 6:7, the third argument is worth special consideration. The argument is essentially as follows:

“From the promise of the Adamic administration we must disassociate all notions of meritorious award. The promise of confirmed integrity and blessedness was one annexed to an obedience that Adam owed and, therefore, was a promise of grace. All that Adam could have claimed on the basis of equity was justification and life as long as he perfectly obeyed, but not confirmation so as to insure indefectibility. Adam could claim the fulfillment of the promise if he stood the probation, but only on the basis of God’s faithfulness, not on the basis of justice.” (Collected Writings of John Murray)

The first problem with this assessment is that if Adam’s obedience was the condition for life as Murray does admit, then grace cannot have been the basis of God’s reward (Romans 11:6). The second problem is that Murray assumes, without further ado, that a reward of eternal life would not have constituted an equitable reward for obedience to the stipulations of the covenant on the basis justice alone, which is why he is led to believe that Adam’s status was actually grounded on grace. But by this argument, it would seem Murray should consider that the fact Adam disobeyed should neither have merited eternal condemnation. What Murray misunderstands is that God is not treating Adam as an equal; rather, He treated Adam within the bounds of the very covenant which He established as Suzerain. A final problem is that Murray fails to parallel the work of the first Adam with the work of the last Adam. If the first could not merit eternal life, how can the last? And if the last cannot, then there is obviously no justificatory foundation for believers. Interestingly, Calvin believed Christ’s merit depends on God’s good pleasure and grace alone, which, if true, would mean that the means of redemption is arbitrary (not to mention Romans 11:6 is here too ignored). In fact, Christ’s obedience is the reason believers are made righteous (Romans 5:19), as He was able to and did procure that which was necessary in order to fulfill the covenant of works, thus establishing a new covenant of grace for those who believe in Him.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 4

Having laid some typological groundwork, Fesko turns his focus towards explicating the covenant between God and Adam, expressed in the WCF as follows: “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”

The word “covenant” (בְּרִית) denotes a special kind of treaty between two or more parties. There are a variety of covenantal agreements found in Scripture: friendship (e.g. David and Jonathan), marriage (e.g. Adam and Eve), parity (e.g. Abram and Abimelech), and Suzerain-Vassal (God and man).

Obviously, the covenant of works would fall under the purview of this last kind of covenant. The major covenants between God and fallen man in the Old Testament are each, to greater or lesser extents, in some sense unilateral. The Mosaic covenant most explicitly contains bilateral elements, denoting human responsibility (not synergism per se). As one would, for obvious reasons, expect a covenant of works to be bilateral, an outline of the nature of a Suzerain-Vassal treaty – within the Mosaic context especially – would, should one find that Genesis 1-3 is similarly structured, certainly strengthen the argument that God covenanted with Adam:

1. The introduction of the Suzerain (God) and Vassal (man).

2. Historical comments about the God’s relation to man.

3. The stipulations of the treaty.

4. A clause requiring both periodic reading of the treaty and its preservation in the temple.

5. The articulation of the blessings and curses of God depending upon man’s response to the stipulations of the treaty. 

6. The ratification of the treaty by witnesses.

So, for instance, when one compares this outline to the Mosaic covenant, he finds the parallels are striking. Exodus 20:2 lists the Suzerain, Vassal, and their relation (God has protected Moses and Israel). The stipulations are, of course, the 10 Commandments, covered throughout verses 3-17. These verses also outline the blessings or curses one can expect to receive depending upon the adherence to the stipulations in the covenant – prolonged days and loving kindness from the Lord as blessings, and punishment and the visiting of “iniquities of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him” as curses (verses 5-7, 12). Exodus 25:16 invokes the document clause and 24:4 entails the witnesses.

Obviously, there was as yet no historical relation between God and man except insofar as God explained the purpose of that which He prepared for man (Genesis 1:28-30, 2:15, 19-20). 1:28-30 and 2:3, 15-17 express the dominion mandate, command against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge (cf. Exodus 20:13-15), and the blessings (permanent Sabbath and fellowship) and curses (death, alienation) which would be bestowed on Adam depending upon the result of his actions during the probative period. Moreover, the tree of life and tree of knowledge, like signs in other Suzerain-Vassal treaties, “function sacramentally by serving as visual reminders of God’s stated blessing and curse, the promise of life or death,” which would in turn serve as the constant reminders of the covenant. Finally, the aerial imagery used to describe the presence of Holy Spirit in God’s (re)creative activity (Genesis 1:2, cf. Genesis 8:1-8, Exodus 13:21-22, Matthew 3:16, Revelation 10:1) should not be overlooked, as He is the witness to God’s covenantal exercise (cf. Jeremiah 33:19-20).

Even if the rest of Scripture were silent on the nature of God’s fellowship with Adam, then, the fact that a covenant does not need to be explicitly identified as such within the immediate context of a passage – note that, in addition to Jeremiah 33:19-20, a marriage ceremony is never explicitly mentioned, although Genesis 1-2 certainly implies such – and the fact that Genesis 1-2 follows the covenantal standard is sufficient to show that the essentials of such a relationship were extant. Fesko proceeds to note that extra-contextual evidence supports the interpretation that God covenanted with Adam.

Firstly, the fact that God said he would “establish” rather than “cut” or “make” a covenant with Noah – the first time בְּרִית appears in Genesis (6:18) – implies the republication of an extant covenant rather than a formulation of a new covenant. That the command in Genesis 1:28 is repeated in 9:7, the context in which God did establish the Noahic covenant, certainly points toward the idea that the covenant which God was re-establishing with Noah was one which He had originally “made” with Adam.

Secondly, Hosea 6:7 – “Like Adam,  they have broken the covenant…” – is proof God established a covenant with Adam. No less than Calvin argued that “Adam” means “men,” and yet this substitution lacks the specificity necessary in order for the analogy Hosea draws to be intelligible; on the other hand, it would make sense if Hosea was observing Adam and Israel – both the sons of God (Exodus 22-23, Luke 3:38) – were both unfaithful to the covenant (cf. Job 31:33).

A final passage Fesko cites in conjunction with his argument is Romans 5:12-19, as explicit a typological explanation as can be found within Scripture. Given all the ways in which Adam is said to prefigure Christ, it would be improbable that one would have lived within a covenantal context if the other did not. Regardless, the preceding arguments the nature of this covenant (explanation forthcoming in the next post) suggest that it is untenable to regard Adam’s relationship with God as anything if not covenantal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Modern Philosophy 13

For the class in Modern Philosophy I'm taking this semester, we have to write 15 two-paged papers (minimum) on philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, Locke, and Leibnitz. In this essay, I wrote about the sections nine through eleven of Hume’s “Enquiry.” The following is my submission:

Hume reasoned that his arguments from preceding sections would be more authoritative it could be demonstrated that other “reasonable” animals act similarly to mankind; hence, section nine is devoted to this purpose. Hume concedes that men reason superior to animals because men have greater focus, acuter memory, a higher capacity for observation, and possess a priori instincts which are better suited to the task. Otherwise, however, Hume argues the inferences animals make are remarkably similar to men: dogs, for example, do not respond to certain tones a certain way by means of abstruse reasoning – their responses are predicated on custom alone. The difference between men and other reasonable animals, then, lies only in the degree to which each are able to form connections from perceptions.

Hume begins his tenth section by arguing that miraculous events – events which “violate the laws of nature” – should not be believed on the basis of testimony alone. The veracity of human testimony is often taken for granted, yet the possibility of contrary testimony refutes the absolute reliability of testimony. Furthermore, the relativity of experience also implies that miracles cannot be witnessed, as what one regards as miraculous may be commonplace to another; differences in technology, topology, etc. corroborate this. Finally, the suspect character of those who have purported to have seen a miracle is such that one ought to reject future claims, regardless of how many people confirm it.

Much of Hume’s arguments in these two sections seem to utilize cause-effect and necessary connection argumentation, both of which Hume criticized in his earlier sections. References to a priori instincts, the character of those who claim to have witnessed miracles, etc. indicate inferences which, because they are at best only grounded in perceived correlations, are not justified. Also, Hume’s argument against miracles is circular, as the “laws of nature” to which Hume alleges miracles would violate (by definition) are defined in such a way that one must ignore the fact that events have been perceived which men regard as miraculous; in other words, Hume constructs his opinion of “laws of nature” without regard for miraculous experience and then uses this to invalidate miraculous experience.

In the eleventh section, Hume considers the arguments of a friend pertaining to natural theology. His friend argues that, even if it were true that a teleological argument were a good proof of the existence of a “higher” being (god), many superstitious persons further ascribe unwarranted effects from this being in an effort at anthropomorphization. Most who mean to prove the existence of God on the basis of natural theology are wont to prove more than they are able. Hume’s friend particularly criticizes these men for irrationally reasoning Hell (an effect) from a god (the cause) whose existence was purportedly established teleologically (effects). The transition from considering God as the conclusion of the observation of the world to using the same God as the premise by which one justifies a notion of Hell is a leap in logic. Hume summarizes this argument when he writes: “where any cause is known only by its particular effects, it must be impossible to infer any new effects from that cause.” While Hume reiterates his doubt that a cause can be reasoned from observation of effects, he in general agrees with his friend that one ought not to speculate on matters which are beyond the limitations of reason. The reasoning in this section is, assuming the validity of previous sections, sound.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Modern Philosophy 12.5

For the class in Modern Philosophy I'm taking this semester, I have to do a verbal presentation on sections five through eight of Hume’s “Enquiry.” The following is my outline:

Section V, Part I

n      Problem:  human predispositions, bias, and selfishness 

n      Origin: custom

n      Unreasonable

n      Practical 

n      Foundationalism: theory of epistemology

n      Axioms are necessary

n      Experience is the ground of knowledge

Section V, Part II

n      Real existence vs. figments:

n      “the difference between fiction and belief lies in some sentiment or feeling, which is annexed to the latter, not to the former, and which depends not on the will, nor can be commanded at pleasure.” 

n      Association of ideas

n      pragmatic

n      instinctual 

n      “Common sense” philosophy

Section VI

n      “Though there be no such thing as Chance in the world; our ignorance of the real cause of any event has the same influence on the understanding, and begets a like species of belief or opinion.”

n      Die example analogous to probability of causes

n      More correlations => higher probability

n      Custom established by means already explained

n      Fewer correlations => less probability

n      Custom is self-evident in stubbornness

Section VII, Part I

n      Problem of Metaphysics

n      ambiguity

n      abstruseness

n      Further problem

n      we can’t produce a sensation to clarify “necessary connection”

n      arguments against knowledge of necessary connection

Section VII, Part II

n      Problem of Metaphysics

n      ambiguity

n      abstruseness

n      Further problem

n      we can’t produce a sensation to clarify “necessary connection”

n      arguments against knowledge of necessary connection

Section VIII, Part I

n      Historically: big misunderstanding

n      Compatibilism:

n      necessity: the uniformity, observable in the operations of nature, where similar objects are constantly conjoined together, and the mind is determined by custom to infer the one from the appearance of the other

n      freedom/liberty: a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will. 

n      No liberty without necessity

Section VIII, Part II

n      Responsibility: man’s will must be necessitated

n      “Actions are, by their very nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some cause in the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can neither redound to his honour, if good; nor infamy, if evil.” 

n      An objection considered

n      Our ideas, character, &c. is predicated on experience which God has preordained for us. How, then, can we be responsible? Is God the author of sin?

Philosophy of Science 4

For the class in Philosophy of Science I took last semester, we had to write at least 7 revised essays on various topics pertaining to the philosophy of science. These essays incorporate class discussion and points from Chalmers' "What is This Thing Called Science?"

“Which of the two definitions of a scientific law that Chalmers discusses is more convincing for you? Argue for you position.”

Chalmers provides two basic possible definitions of a scientific law as follows:

Laws as regularities: If A, then B.

Laws as characterizations of powers or dispositions: “the identification and characterization of an object’s dispositions, tendencies, powers or capacities, both actual and potential.”

More specifically, laws as regularities refers to the idea that “events of type A are regularly followed, or accompanied, by events of type B provided disturbing factors are not present;” hence, “if A, then B” does not necessarily imply that A causes B, but rather that a correlation exists between the actualization of events A and B.

Moreover, in class we generalized the “objects” referred to in the definition of laws as characterizations as “entities or material systems.” Chalmers outlines several arguments against “laws as regularities.” The best objection, I think, is that the qualification of the definition – “…providing disturbing factors are not present” – reduces the applicability of a law to experimental situations, situations in which appropriate conditions are met. Essentially, the problem is that the sword cuts both ways: if one wishes to define a law in such a way that it’s dependent upon experimental conditions, then science becomes a series of tautologies. Instead of describing the nature of reality, we would actually be imposing artificial situations onto reality and passing them off as accurate descriptions of reality, a problem similar to the previously discussed “problem of models” (i.e. an ideal representation of reality rather than an actual one). On the other hand, if one wishes to assume laws are applicable outside of experimental situations as well as inside experimental situations, then laws cannot be identified with the regularities that are achievable in experimental situations – this definition of a scientific law would not stand.

Chalmers is optimistic with regards to the second definition of a scientific law. In class, we noted that if we extend Chalmers’ definition as above (i.e. material systems, as well as entities, are objects which can possess dispositions et. al.), there is a possibility that problems Chalmers poses – such as the problem of the applicability of laws as characterization to the laws of thermodynamics – would be solved. The potentiality of objects is also an aspect of the definition Chalmers fails to utilize in favor of laws as characteristics. However, a seemingly insoluble problem was that it was not explained how one comes to characterize an object’s characteristics without presupposing laws as regularities.

Hence, given that both definitions of a scientific law are dependent upon the assumption that the axiom of empiricism is sound (sensation is reliable), that an assumed solution to the problem of unknown variables exists &c., that laws as regularities seems to be the more historically accurate description of scientific laws, and that the latter law presupposes the former leads me to believe that the former (laws as regularities) is more convincing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Modern Philosophy 12

For the class in Modern Philosophy I'm taking this semester, we have to write 15 two-paged papers (minimum) on philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, Locke, and Leibnitz. In this essay, I wrote about the first three sections of Hume’s “Enquiry.” The following is my submission:

The purpose of the first section in Hume’s Enquiry is to recommend that philosophers “unite the boundaries of the different species of philosophy” – by which he means aesthetics, ethics, reason, &c. – “…by reconciling profound enquiry with clearness, and truth with novelty,” to the purpose of undermining “…the foundations of an abstruse philosophy, which seems to have hitherto served only as a shelter to superstition, and a cover to absurdity and error.”

Interestingly, Hume seemed to have been as concerned with one’s mental and physical welfare as with his philosophical contributions. He noted that man too often considers himself solely as a being born to fulfill his desires in his experience or solely as a being who should be interested in discerning the origins and soundness of abstract concepts by means of reason. A balance between each is preferable, as it is often the case that the intentions of each “species” can be met with greater satisfaction when actuated relatively equally. Abstruse philosophy, for example, may inspire better technologies or the like and thereby excite heightened experiences; on the other hand, relaxation and society may provide the occasion for one’s thoughts to be solidified in posterity.

Hume warned, however, that one must recognize his cognitive limitations, especially reflexive reflection. It may be that successive generations will succeed to breach points at which one may presently fail, but it is noble to admit such is the case while at the same time strive to overcome his barriers. Thus, said Hume, his epistemic position was not skeptical – or, at least, he does not believe skepticism is necessary – rather, he believed one should be pragmatic, weighing realism with optimism. Whether or not this first section was written in false modesty or sincerity cannot be immediately determined.

In sections two and three, the origin and correlation between ideas predominates Hume’s writing. Although section three consists simply in Hume’s listing a variety of association between ideas – resemblance, contiguity, and cause and effect – and admitting that his list may be incomplete, section two contains much more controversial assertions.

Hume began section two by distinguishing between sensation and memory of sensation and using this as an example of the difference “impressions” and “thoughts,” respectively. Briefly expounding upon each, Hume noted that while one’s thoughts or imagination may superficially seem to be virtually unbounded – which would contradict what he had stated in his first section – it is actually the case that the imagination is simply an appropriation of one’s sensations; that is, thought originates due to sensation. This becomes Hume’s thesis in this section.

Hume believed “innateness” to be an ambiguous term, but he did write that impressions, unlike ideas, may be “original or copied from no precedent perception.” Using an example to clarify his position, Hume argued that the concept of “God” is merely an augmentation of anthropomorphic qualities. Those who disagree bear the burden of explaining what alternate source (aside from sensation) has provided one with his thoughts about God. Hume further argued that thoughts logically depend upon sensation because it is evident that persons who exist without various senses (e.g. sight, hearing) are without corresponding ideas which are garnered from those senses.

Not only does Hume beg the question – as he obviously did not observe all the blind or deaf, let alone know what they thought – Hume himself confessed a perception which does not fit his basic, general assumption that all thoughts are inspired by sensation, viz. it is possible that one may conceptualize distinct shades of colors without having experienced them, per se. Contradictorily, Hume said this one instance is not enough to overthrow common experience, a precursor to Hume’s faith in the fallacy of induction.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Formal Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate, Cross-ex part 3 of 5

This is the first "formal" debate in which I've participated (with rules and such). For readers who are on facebook, they may find both sides of the debate here. If others are interested, they may email me for a word document. The format, set by my opponent, will be as follows:

"Opening Statement period (~1,000 words each)

First Rebuttal period (really depends on the opening statement, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Second Rebuttal period (really depends on the first rebuttal statements, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Cross Examination - each side asks 10 questions (there is no limit to the response word count)

Closing Statement period (~2,000 maximum, otherwise below that number is fine)"

Cross examination

Question 5 (me): I have argued that “if God's knowledge is contingent on the wills of temporal creatures, God cannot be eternally omniscient.” In response, you have referenced “Messianic Jewish” perspectives (1), God’s predictive power (2), and Matthew Henry (3), yet I respectively find these references vague (1), an indication of a misunderstanding that God’s predictive power would be proportional to man’s allegedly free will (2), or irrelevant (3). My question, then, is not whether God is eternally omniscient or whether we have free will, but rather how God can possibly know from eternity our [allegedly] antecedently uncaused choices.

(Word count: 100)

Answer 5 (Arminian): The Father is omniscient in Jeremiah 17:10, The Son is omniscient in John 21:17 and the Holy Spirit is omniscient in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11.

Let’s go through some philosophy. ‘Determinism’ is the belief that all events, including human choices, are determined or caused by another (in this case, Theistic Determinism means that God directly or indirectly has caused me to write this verse paragraph). Proponents of this view believe that human choices are the result of antecedent causes, which in turn were caused by prior causes.

Conceptions of the nature of human choice (as well as free will choices) fall within three categories,

1. Determinism,
2. Indeterminism
3. Self-determinism.

A deterministic ideology looks to actions caused by another, an indeterminist to uncaused actions, and a self-determinist to self-caused actions. I will only look at Determinism (because Ryan holds to that view, and Self-determinism, because ultimately that is what the Arminian believes in. Indeterminism is ridiculous due to the fact that such reasoning would make the world we live in to be irrational and it abuses the Heisenberg principle)

Determinism (5-Point Calvinism): There are two basic kinds of determinism, naturalistic and theistic. Naturalistic determinism is Humans who simply act according to what has been programmed into them – B. F. Skinner, “Beyond Behaviorism, Beyond Freedom and Dignity”

As you can see, Ryan who holds a very strong Calvinistic theology believes to some degree of theistic determinism.

Jonathan Edwards in his, “The Freedom of the Will”, related all actions ultimately to God as First Cause. “Free choice” for Edwards is doing what one desires, and God is the Author of the heart’s desires (and it is clear that Ryan in the unofficial thread – made adherence to such a declaration).

God is sovereign, in control of all and so ultimately the cause of all. Fallen humanity is totally without freedom of the affections, so they can do whatever they want, but what they want will forever be in the control of their corrupt, world-directed heart. God’s grace controls actions as God controls desires and their attendant thoughts and actions.

Non-determinists respond that a self-caused action is not impossible, and all actions need not be attributed to the First Cause (God). Some actions can be caused by human beings to whom God gave free moral agency. Free choice is not, as Ryan contends, doing what one desires (with God giving the desires). Rather, it is doing what one decides, which is not always the same thing. One need not reject God’s sovereign control to deny determinism. God can control by omniscience as well as by causal power.

A hard determinist believes all acts are caused by God, that God is the only efficient Cause. A soft determinist holds that God as the Primary Cause is compatible with human free choice as the secondary Cause. I am more lenient on the latter.

Self-Determinism (Arminian): According to this view, a person’s moral acts are not caused by another or uncaused, but are caused by oneself. It is important to know at the outset precisely what is meant by self-determinism or free choice. Negatively, it means that a moral action is not uncaused or caused by another (God). It is neither indeterminate nor determined by another (God). Positively, it is morally self-determined, an act freely chosen, without compulsion, in which one could have done otherwise (Yourself).

Either moral actions are uncaused (indeterminism), caused by another (determinism), or caused by oneself (self-determinism / soft determinism). However, no action can be uncaused, since this violates the fundamental rational principle that every event has a cause (as stated briefly above). Neither can a person’s actions be caused by others, for in that case they would not be personal actions. Further, if one’s acts are caused by another, then how can he or she be held responsible for them?

But Ryan declares that he has responded to such in his “Anticipated Objections”, and with this, let’s see what Ryan said (ultimately) about Man's free will, "It is certainly we who choose, feel, think, and act – and yet it is all in accordance with God’s determinative purpose."

He further states, "A fallback objection I have sometimes faced is that “even if the above argument is invalid, man cannot be faulted for his choosing that which he was predetermined to choose.” This is an example of the fallacy of begging-the-question"

And he finalises this by saying, "The fact that we are subject to God’s law despite how He has made us should not be surprising, for it the fact that He made us for His own ends functions as the very means by which Paul substantiates his claim that God is sovereign and man is responsible."

How can Charles Caldwell Ryrie (for example in my first rebuttal) beg the question when he clearly demonstrates in his philosophical reasoning that, "Thus, the biblical doctrine gives proper place to human responsibility. What’s going to be is going to be through certain means and procedures and responsible human actions. Ephesians 1:11 spotlights all things, not solely ends."

He does not beg the question when he gives a logical [realistic] illustration of two persons having a discussion. I cannot see how that illustration is begging the question / circular reasoning because go back to my Luciferianistic motive ideology.

When Ryan writes, "it is in fact God’s sovereignty which responsibility presupposes." - that is one of two things.

1. A complete contradiction in terms of the TULIP doctrine in proportion with our daily life.

2. God is Xerxes I.

The denial that some actions can be free is self-defeating. A complete determinist insists that both determinists and non-determinists are determined to believe what they believe. However, determinists believe self-determinists are wrong and ought to change their view. But “ought to change” implies freedom to change, which is contrary to determinism. If God is the cause of all human actions, then human beings are not morally responsible. And it makes no sense to praise human beings for doing good or to blame them for doing evil.

If human beings are free, are they outside God’s sovereignty? Either God determines all, or else he is not sovereign. And if he determines all, then there are no self-determined acts. However it is sufficient to note that God sovereignly delegated free choice to some of his creatures. There was no necessity for him to do so; he exercised his free will. So human freedom is a sovereignly given power to make moral choices.

Only absolute freedom would be contrary to God’s absolute sovereignty. But human freedom is a limited freedom. Humans are not free to become God themselves! A contingent being cannot become a Necessary Being. For a Necessary Being cannot come to be. It must always be what it is.
It is objected that either free, good acts spring from God’s grace, or else from our own initiative. But if the latter, they are not the result of God’s grace as seen in Ephesians 2:8–9. However, this does not necessarily follow. Free will itself is a gracious gift. Further, special grace is not forced coercively onto the person. Rather, grace works persuasively. The hard determinist’s position confuses the nature of faith. The ability of a person to receive God’s gracious gift of salvation is not the same as working for it. To think so is to give credit for the gift to the receiver, rather than to the Giver.

Others objections as seen in this debate by Ryan; that self-determinism are contrary to God’s predestination. But self-determinists respond that God can predetermine in several ways.

He can determine,
1. Contrary to free choice (forcing the person to do what he or she does not choose to do);
2. Based on free choices already made (waiting to see what the person will do);
3. Knowing omnisciently what the person will do.

1 Peter 1:2
(2) Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Romans 8:29
(29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Positions 2 or 3 insist that God can determine the future by free choice, since he omnisciently knows for sure how they will freely act. So, it is determined from the standpoint of God’s infallible knowledge but free from the vantage point of human choice.

Connected with the argument from strong determinism is that, while Adam had free choice (Romans 5:12), fallen human beings are in bondage to sin and not free to respond to God. But this view is contrary to both God’s consistent call on people to repent (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38) and believe (John 3:16; 3:36; Acts 16:31), as well as to direct statements that even unbelievers have the ability to respond to God’s grace, John 7:17
(17) If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Romans 7:18
(18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

1 Corinthians 9:17
(17) For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

1 Peter 5:2
(2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

This argument continues that if humans have the ability to respond, then salvation is not of grace (Ephesians 2:8–9) but by human effort. However, this is confusion about the nature of faith – with which I have tirelessly tried to explain throughout this entire rebuttal. The ability of a person to receive God’s gracious gift of salvation is not the same as working for it. To think so is to give credit for the gift to the receiver rather than to the Giver who graciously gave it for [all] to receive.

Words: 1,500 (excluding quotes)

Question 6 (me): Notwithstanding your more Pelagianistic comments (compare “The Father will draw the person, yet he [must] come first!” to John 6:44), a number of passages in Scripture support the doctrine of irresistible grace (1 Corinthians 1:23-24, Romans 8:28-30, John 6:37-44, 10:3-5), for it is obvious to any non-universalist that not all men without exception are so called/drawn. Since conditioning God’s effectual call on faith would be circular (cf. my comments on Romans 8:29-30 in first rebuttal) and John 8:47, 10:26 explicitly state election isn’t conditioned upon faith, how do you harmonize these aforementioned passages with Arminianism?

(Words count: 100)

Answer 6 (Arminian): Let us review the passages you cite to see if there is any apparent ratification in proportion with your defence of irresistible grace.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24
(23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
(24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Adam Clarke states – “Those, both of Jews and Greeks, who were by the preaching of the Gospel called or invited to the marriage feast, and have accordingly believed in Christ Jesus; they prove this doctrine to be divinely powerful, to enlighten and convert the soul, and to be a proof of God’s infinite wisdom, which has found out such an effectual way to glorify both his justice and mercy, and save, to the uttermost, all that come to him through Christ Jesus. The called, or invited, κλητοι, is a title of genuine Christians, and is frequently used in the New Testament. Ἁγιοι, saints, is used in the same sense.”

Romans 8:28-30
(28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
(30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Romans 8:28–30 pretty much gives us [the] run-down of the sovereign purposes of God, when Paul said those who have been justified will be glorified. He does not say only some who have truly been saved are going to persevere to the end and then make it; he does not say that only some who are justified will eventually be glorified. What is stated is that those who have been justified are also guaranteed to be glorified by God the Father.

Furthermore, Ephesians 1:4, and 11–12 states that believers have been chosen to bring glory to God. If God knew one would lose his salvation, He would not have chosen him to begin with. But this does not mean that God did predestined Anton LaVey to thus be a reprobate, or that God purposely did not seek him thereafter – especially through his saints (isn’t the whole purpose Christians to preach the bible, and to preach the Gospel to every creature true?).

John 6:37-44
(37) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
(38) For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
(39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
(40) And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
(41) The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
(42) And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
(43) Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
(44) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

According to John 6:37–40, the believer is a gift given by God the Father to the Son because of the Son’s obedience. And because the believer is God’s gift to the Son, Jesus is always going to keep him.

Verse 40 specifically states that, “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day”. This included Anton LaVey – but he did not ‘see’ nor hearken to come to the glorious Gospel of Christ. Hence he died in his sins.

Matthew Henry commentates, “The discovery of their guilt, danger, and remedy, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, makes men willing and glad to come, and to give up every thing which hinders applying to him for salvation. The Father's will is, that not one of those who were given to the Son, should be rejected or lost by him. No one will come, till Divine grace has subdued, and in part changed his heart; therefore no one who comes will ever be cast out. The gospel finds none willing to be saved in the humbling, holy manner, made known therein; but God draws with his word and the Holy Ghost; and man's duty is to hear and learn; that is to say, to receive the grace offered, and consent to the promise. None had seen the Father but his beloved Son; and the Jews must expect to be taught by his inward power upon their minds, and by his word, and the ministers whom he sent among them.”

John 10:3-5
(3) To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
(4) And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
(5) And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

Matthew Henry commentates, “Here is a parable or similitude, taken from the customs of the East, in the management of sheep. Men, as creatures depending on their Creator, are called the sheep of his pasture. The church of God in the world is as a sheep-fold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The great Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are his, guards them by his providence, guides them by his Spirit and word, and goes before them, as the Eastern shepherds went before their sheep, to set them in the way of his steps. Ministers must serve the sheep in their spiritual concerns. The Spirit of Christ will set before them an open door. The sheep of Christ will observe their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy of strangers, who would draw them from faith in him to fancies about him.”

John 10:1–39, contains the discourse on the Good Shepherd as prophesied in Zechariah 13:7
(7) Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

The prophet predicted that the rejection of the Messianic Shepherd will include His death which, in turn, will result in the scattering of the flock of Israel. The theme of the Messiah as the Good Shepherd is picked up by Jesus in John 10:1–18.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd (verses 1–6).

The Pharisees, their present shepherds, have gained rule over the flock and who climbeth up some other way like a thief and a robber (verse 1).

Jesus, however, came the right way because He came the way the Old Testament prophets predicted (verse 2).

His own sheep recognised Jesus to be the True Shepherd and they follow Him (verses 3–6). They are the poor of the flock of Zechariah 11.

Jesus then declared Himself to be the door of the sheep (verses 7–10).

Not only is He the shepherd, but He is the door of the sheepfold (verse 7).

Those who usurped authority before Him are thieves and robbers and not true shepherds (verse 8).

Those individual sheep who came through Him as the door will find salvation and spiritual food and pasture (verse 9).

The believing remnant will find this to be true. The Messianic Shepherd has come to provide the sheep with abundant life (verse 10).

Verses 7–10 likewise makes it clear that the Messiah is the door and all who can be saved, must enter by Him only. John 14:6 defends this.

Whereas earlier (verses 1–6) Jesus pictured Himself as the Good Shepherd, He now identifies Himself in that role (verses 11–18).

He is the Good Shepherd and a good shepherd will willingly lay down His life for the sheep (verse 11).

The hireling has no love for the sheep and will flee in the face of danger leaving the sheep to be destroyed (verses 12–13).

However, Jesus the Good Shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep (verses 14–15).

Furthermore, Jesus has other sheep … which are not of this fold (verse 16). The sheep of this fold are the Jewish sheep. The fold is Israel and the believing sheep of this fold are the Remnant of Israel. The other sheep are the Gentile believers. The Good Shepherd will unite together the believing Jewish and Gentile sheep to become one flock under one shepherd. This new one flock is the same as the one new man of Ephesians 2:11–16. It is the Church, the Body of Messiah with the Messiah as its Head. It is to achieve this new unity that the Messiah will die (verses 17–18).

Some of these truths are repeated in verses 26–30, adding the aspect that the Messiah’s sheep have eternal security. In Matthew 25:31–46, the Gentile believers of the Tribulation were also pictured as sheep.

John 10:24
(24) Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.

In reviewing John 10:24ff, Yeshua answers the charge of obscurity and makes four statements.

1. Jesus had already told them clearly in two ways: by His words and by His works (verse 25).

2. The real problem is that they are not His sheep (verse 26). They have not [believed] on Him, so they are not His sheep. Because they are not His sheep, they do not understand the statements He is making.

3. He points out that His sheep, the believers, do recognise Him and do understand what He is saying and do know exactly who He claims to be (verses 27–29). His sheep recognise His voice and they do follow Him (verse 27). Because [they] have [accepted] Him, they have eternal life (verse 28). Because they have eternal life, His sheep cannot lose their salvation (verses 28–29).

4. Having pointed out that the real problem is not that He has been obscure, but their lack of [faith].

As far as irresistible grace goes, we might summarise as follows:
1) Man has no ability and, therefore, cannot believe the gospel;
2) Man is powerless to resist the Spirit;
3) God doesn’t make anybody do anything; and
4) He makes the elect believe in Christ in accordance with His sovereign plan.

Rather confusing, isn’t it?

How is it possible for someone with no ability to believe the gospel and with no ability or power to resist the Spirit’s will to be personally responsible for believing or rejecting the gospel message?

Faith (as seen in point 4 above in my John 10 exegesis) is the single biblical condition for regeneration, but the Calvinist position insists:

1) that man can’t believe and is powerless to do so.

2) that God must regenerate only those so elected for salvation because he has already elected some and He cannot fail.

That all men descend from Adam and are guilty of sin argues for man’s lost condition and the universal need for eternal life. That the gospel message is intended for the whole world of mankind not only suggests that everyone needs eternal life, but also asserts its efficiency (as well as the sufficiency) to regenerate anyone and everyone in the whole world who hears that message and believes in Christ.

The gospel message itself is indeed “whosoever will” (John 3:16). This fact in no way relegates the Holy Spirit to obscurity. The omnipresent Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner as he believes the gospel. Such regeneration is a divinely powerful act, but it is always performed in conjunction with faith in Christ. So, since the need is universal (sin), the message is universal (the gospel), and the condition for regeneration is universal (faith in Christ), it follows that the effect and efficiency of God’s plan in accord with the gospel offer to all is universal.

The Bible simply places the responsibility of belief directly on the one who hears the clear gospel message. It disallows any excuse for unbelief.

"When Jewish leaders persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, He got to the heart of their problem: “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” ([John] 5:40). The general call of the gospel becomes effective when it is joined with faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ; “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” (1 John 5:10)." - Earl D. Radmacher, Salvation

Notice the simple and clear wording when Radmacher says, “The general call of the gospel becomes effective when it is joined with faith.” The difference between the general call and the effectual call of God is this: The general call is the message announced to all, i.e., the invitation. The effectual call is the message believed, the invitation received, and the correspondingly powerful work of the Holy Spirit that, at the time of faith, produces eternal life in the one who believes. The effectual call is the gospel message joined with faith, and the explanation need be no more complicated than that.

There is no necessity, either biblically, logically, or otherwise, to insist that the Holy Spirit imposes eternal life on anyone in an irresistible fashion, makes them willing, makes them willing to be willing, or gives them faith, etc., so as to fulfil God’s sovereign plan. This is so because His sovereign plan insists upon human responsibility, and thus, human freedom. And human freedom is validated when one freely believes in Christ alone.

So, can the gift of eternal life be resisted? The biblical answer is yes. The gifts of God, salvation or otherwise, are never imposed by an irresistible force, but are simply and freely received.

Does God’s sovereignty or absolute control of the universe require us to conclude that He forces selected people (the elect) to receive His gift of salvation and to enter into a holy union with Him? No, because he has made mankind an offer which cannot be exceeded.

God is not indebted to us, nor is He obligated to save us. Now, if Jesus’ death was intended to benefit only the elect, the Holy Spirit would indeed be obligated to save those for whom His death was intended. But if Jesus’ death was intended for all, God would in no way be under obligation.

Is it an affront to God to suggest that the Holy Spirit can be resisted? No, because, again, the question presupposes that rejection of the gospel offer for eternal life is the same as personal resistance to the Holy Spirit while the Holy Spirit is somehow pressing and pressuring the sinner for a decision. Rather, the rejection of Christ is indeed resistance to the message that the Holy Spirit has inspired.

Words: 1,700 (excluding quotes)

Question 5 (Arminian): Defining free choice as “doing what one desires” is contrary to experience. For people do not always do what they desire, nor do they always desire to do what they do as seen in Romans 7:15–16.

If God must give the desire before one can perform an act, then God must have given Lucifer the desire to rebel against him. But this is impossible, for in that case God would be giving a desire against God. God would in effect be against himself, which is impossible?

God could have predetermined things in accordance with free choice, rather than in contradiction to it. Even the Calvinistic Westminster Confession of Faith declares that “Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (5.2).

What are your thoughts on this?

Words: 160

Answer 5 (me): “The will always chooses according to its strongest inclination at the moment” – Jonathan Edwards

The above is indeed regarded by Calvinists as an accurate understanding of the will. The qualification that we will what we most strongly desire avoids the pitfalls of Robert’s Romans 7 objection. Furthermore, there is no contradiction between predestination and the idea that man wills what he most strongly desires; indeed, that is the very means by which God predestines! He controls our desires directly (e.g. regeneration) or indirectly (e.g. temptation via evil spirits) and thusly controls in what manner we will.

Historically, “free will or choice” has a multiplicity of meanings. Augustine believed fallen man was free to sin but not free to do good. This is another good definition with which all Calvinists could agree. However, to avoid confusion, I explicitly defined it in my opening statement as “the doctrine that… man is said to be capable of actuating one of two or more possible courses of action.” This was for convenience sake so that Robert and I could avoid frivolous quibbling. To disassociate myself from that definition of free will, I counted it as easier to simply deny free will first and then explain, as I have done, why this does not mean men cannot actually choose or will. With all this in mind, I can proceed to Robert’s two points:

1. “God could have predetermined things in accordance with free choice, rather than in contradiction to it.”

It appears, given Robert’s distaste for what he mistakenly believed to have been the Calvinist understanding of free will/choice, he has reverted to referring to it per the definition provided in my opening statement. It makes little difference, because I already anticipated this and any other counter-factual “why” question Robert may ask when I wrote:

“…God has decreed all things to His glory. Robert can contend – but not substantiate – that a counter-factual world would more greatly manifest God’s glory.”

2. “If God must give the desire before one can perform an act, then God must have given Lucifer the desire to rebel against him. But this is impossible, for in that case God would be giving a desire against God. God would in effect be against himself, which is impossible?”

As Scripture is silent as to the specifics of Satan’s fall – at least as far as Robert’s question is concerned – all I have to do to rebut his charge and defend my beliefs is present a speculatory answer which may be synthesized with Scripture in general and my belief that God predestines all things in particular. I will answer Robert in part as I did a friend who asked me how God could have predestined Satan to sin apart from direct temptation (which is a concept I totally reject in line with James 1):

//I would assume [He did so] in the same manner as He has on any other occasion, i.e. by affecting Satan's inclination in such a way that his pride became that which he most strongly desired to act upon.//

Moreover, it doesn't seem impossible that, since God created Satan and other rational creatures with a capacity to be tempted and sin, He could also have created said creatures with the necessity to sin, given certain circumstances. I speak more to myself when I write this could resurrect the “passive predestination” position I recanted some time ago. This would require further reflection and far more space than I have left, however, and I judge what I’ve already written to have sufficiently satisfied the conditions I have outlined above.

(Word count: 600)

Question 6 (Arminian): In exegeting 1 John 2:1-2, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum states, “Not only is He our Advocate, He is also our propitiation (verse 2). The word “to propitiate” means “to satisfy or to appease the wrath of God.” By propitiation, we mean that “the wrath of God against sin has been appeased; it has been propitiated; it has been satisfied.”

He points out that the Messiah is the propitiation, not just for believers but also for unbelievers; not for ours [sins] only, but for [those of] the whole world. The Messiah is the propitiation for the world.

The Messiah is the satisfaction for sins, both for us, that is, the elect; and for the world, the non-elect. This verse clearly teaches unlimited atonement; the Messiah died for the sins of all men, not just for the elect. Because He died for the sins of all men, it means that the blood of the Messiah has satisfied God’s wrath against sin for all, though salvation is only applied to those who believe.

Whereas propitiation affects everybody, the application of salvation is only for believers; therefore, He is the Advocate for believers only. What He is in verse 1, our Advocate, is true of believers only; what He is in verse 2, the propitiation, is true of both believers and unbelievers.

However, the emphasis is this: His past death as Savior of the world is the basis of His present ministry as the Advocate for believers who sin.”

Do you agree?

Words: 10 (excluding excerpts)

Answer 6 (me): There are, in general, several points Fruchtenbaum makes with which I agree as well as several with which I disagree:


- Not only is He our Advocate, He is also our propitiation.
- “To propitiate” means “to satisfy or to appease the wrath of God.”
- The emphasis is this: His past death as Savior of the world is the basis of His present ministry as the Advocate for believers who sin.


- This verse clearly teaches unlimited atonement.
- The Messiah died for the sins of all men, not just for the elect.
- The blood of the Messiah has satisfied God’s wrath against sin for all, though salvation is only applied to those who believe.

Reasons for disagreement

1. My explanation of 1 John 2:2 provided in my first rebuttal, especially the parallel demonstrated between it and John 11:51-52, has not been shown to be false. Indeed, much of John’s letters are written with the intention that it be known that Christ died for all men without distinction (Revelation 5:9). Instead, I was asked whether or not I would “find God to be love” if I were reprobate. The answer is “obviously not, as reprobates suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1). The question is not relevant to my points and seems to beg an appeal to emotions (of reprobates, no less).

2. As I have said throughout this debate, to say Christ died “for” a person is to say Christ “intended to save” Him. What sense does it make to say that Christ, by His death and resurrection, intended to save those whose destinies were already fixed by having died in wickedness? What sense does it make to say that the Son failed to fulfill the will of the Father, given that the Father desires the salvation of all men without exception and universalism is false? What sense does it make to say that the Father’s desires or will can be resisted? No sense.

3. As Spurgeon noted, while Calvinists limit the scope (intention) of the atonement, Arminians limit its power. Both the logical consequences of point 2 and passages I have elsewhere exegeted (e.g. Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 5:14, cf. Romans 6:8) substantiate that the intention of Christ’s sacrificial work cannot be separated from the application of it. It is true that Jesus is not only the propitiator (Advocate) but also the propitiation. Ironically, Fruchtenbaum misses the import of what he rightly recognized as the emphasis of 1 John 2:2, for as Robert Reymond wrote:

“It is highly unlikely that Christ’s high-priestly work of sacrifice and intercession, two parts of one harmonious work, would be carried out with different objects in view—the former (the sacrifice) for all mankind, the latter (the intercession) for only some people. Since Jesus expressly declared that his intercessory work is conductednot in behalf of the world but for the elect (“I am not praying for the world,” he said, “but for those you [the Father] have given me,” and later he prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” [John 17:9, 20; see Luke 22:31–32], that is, for God’s elect [see Rom. 8:32–34]), consistency of purpose demands that his sacrificial work would be conducted in behalf of the same group for whom he carries out his intercessory work. It is difficult to believe that Christ would refuse to intercede for a portion of those for whose sin he, by his blood, made expiation!”

(Word count: 594)