Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Modern Philosophy 10

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 Leibniz's prefatory response Locke's Essays. The following is my submission:

While Leibniz regularly praised Locke and at times noted that he and Locke did not disagree – examples: God can do things which men do not comprehend; reliance on divine revelation alone is epistemologically unnecessary; etc. – in his prefatory response to Locke’s “Essays Concerning Human Understanding,” Leibniz’s goal was to clearly distinguish, in general terms, his Platonic philosophy from Locke’s Aristotelian philosophy. Several acute criticisms Leibniz advanced against Locke’s system are as follows:

Locke’s assertion that our mind is a blank slate clearly did not sit well with Leibniz. If all truth is derived extrinsically, Leibniz wrote, it would be impossible to validly generalize necessary truths (such as logic, metaphysic, and ethics) from a finite number of experiences. Anticipation of a repeated event based on memory of what one perceives to be a similar precursor is certainly not irrational, but it is also not, as Leibniz pointed out, an infallible expectation. While sensation can provide the occasion for the reflection and confirmation of these truths – some of which Locke must presuppose in his own argumentation – it cannot be the ground for them. In fact, Leibniz believed that Locke was conflicted about this issue, as he cited that Locke admitted some ideas originate in reflection rather than sensation. Whether Locke realized it or not, to state reflection is an attention to something within oneself which has not been produced by sensation undermines the idea all truth is learned experientially.

The relation between one’s soul and body was another disagreement Leibniz had with Locke. As a self-professed Cartesian – at least in this matter – Leibniz believed in the doctrine of concomitance. He thought that all men’s souls naturally possesses a body. Several of Locke’s beliefs clashed with this. For example, when Locke wrote that matter can think, Leibniz objected that such would require continuous miraculous intervention, as such would unnatural. Leibniz argued that the fact God can do things which men do not comprehend does not in turn imply we can’t recognize impossibilities, and speaking of God, Leibniz used His [immaterial] existence to further support his argument that matter is not a precondition of thought. Another example of a way in which Locke’s anthropological views varied from Leibniz’s stems from Locke’s belief that souls can cease to think in an analogous manner bodies which cease to move. Leibniz accused Locke of question-begging on two accounts: firstly, in that bodies do not, in fact, cease to move, for just because we do not necessarily perceive a rope lengthen past its breaking point does not mean it is not logically necessary that such be the case; secondly, that even if the idea bodies could cease to move were true, there would be a disanalogy – after all, one who is awakes from sleep would not do so if he were not continually perceiving and sensing externals.

One final example of a fundamental disagreement between Locke and Leibniz may be attributable to Leibniz’s seeming stress on the importance of theodicy. Leibniz disdained what he perceived to be a logical extension of Locke’s philosophy, viz. “that simple substances influence one another, replacing influence by mere correlation.” Leibniz thought Locke did not sufficiently address the reason men perceive secondary qualities, for the seeming arbitrariness was obviously at odds with Leibniz’s philosophical belief that the universe is made up of simple substances in perfect harmony with one another according to the eternal, purposeful will of God.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Modern Philosophy 9

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 Locke's first four chapters of book 4 of his Essays. The following is my submission:

Locke’s fourth book is primarily concerned with explaining and defending categories of knowledge. Knowledge, which Locke defines as “the perception of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas,” may allegedly be of several forms, some capable of being subsumed under others: identity, relation, co-existence, or real existence. The form “identity” is equivalent to one’s realization of the law of identity and non-contradiction, “relation” bespeaks of the minds correlation of idea, “co-existence” refers to that which is necessarily implied by a known proposition, and “real existence” means one’s ideas are more than figments of one’s mindKnowledge, then, is said to be restricted by these forms of ideas. Locke argues one’s knowledge is either “actual” or “habitual.” Actual knowledge refers to perceptions, true or false, one’s mind contemplates when relating ideas at any given instant, whereas habitual knowledge consists of continuous, repeated assent to the clearness of the truth of [a] given proposition(s), so long as ample time is given for reflection; that is, while one may “habitually” recall that a proposition is true, it may be the case that, having forgotten the particular proof, the clearness of habitual knowledge may be questionable.

Locke also concentrates on explaining degrees of knowledge. Intuitive knowledge, the first degree mentioned, refers to those propositions which the mind perceives as true without need of external justification. Demonstrative knowledge, the second degree of knowledge, refers to propositions the mind perceives as true on the basis of prior premises. Finally, sensitive knowledge is referred to by Locke as that which we perceive and know exists, more or less certainly, by means of sensation.

Locke derives from some relevant points from his discrimination, such as:

- demonstrative knowledge is, to avoid an infinite regression, necessarily dependent upon intuitive knowledge;

- propositions which one knows demonstratively are, antecedent to demonstration, doubtable and unclear;

- any known quality which has no “certain standard” against which one can judge whether or not his perception of that quality is such (e.g. color) must be intuitive;

- while ideas are always clear, knowledge is clear only insofar as the relations of ideas are unconfused.

While Locke goes to great lengths to list as many categories of knowledge as feasible, there are several seeming flaws, all of which stem from his empiricistic epistemology. For example, Locke provides no means by which one can know that what he perceives is not subject to change; that is, he does not demonstrate the validity of habitual knowledge. The tentativeness of [tabula rasa] empiricism would imply that knowledge of immutably truth is impossible: Locke presupposes the law of non-contradiction throughout all of his arguments, and yet experience can yield only a finite number of correlative observations. Sensation cannot produce abstractions, and even if such were true, Locke provides no reasoning by which he bridged either this gap or that from sensation to perception. It may be that Locke would appeal to intuitive knowledge at this juncture, but, like Descartes, Locke would have to concede that clarity of the truthfulness of a proposition is subjective. In one example, Locke disagreed with a hypothetical skeptic who rejected the idea one’s memory of the sensation of a burning fire is clearly distinguishable from actually being burned for no other reason than he thought the difference (if indeed there is a difference) was sufficiently clear. If one can take as basic any proposition one chooses, the arbitrariness of the process undermines the meaningfulness of Locke’s definition of knowledge as an appropriate demarcation criterion by which one can differentiate between opinion and fact.

Fesko's "Last Things First" 3

Knowing what it means to be in the image of God and one way in which Jesus fulfills or represents that which Adam ought not have corrupted, to examine further similarities and differences, Fesko reasons it is necessary to examine the setting in which the first things took place: the garden.

Some commentators regard Adam’s duty to tend and guard the garden as a work-ethic or merely something to keep him occupied. Fesko, on the other hand, in line with his claim that Adam was the first priest, believes that Genesis 1-3 typological richness includes the idea Eden should be viewed as the first temple. To substantiate this, Fesko separates Edenic comparisons to the temple into two categories: Eden’s features and the activity of its inhabitants. Collectively taken, the argument that Eden was a primeval temple is convincing:


- Eden’s eastern location (Genesis 2:8) correlates with God’s special presence as shown elsewhere (Ezekiel 11:1, 23, 43:1-4, 44:1-2, Luke 1:78-79).

- Eden rested on a mountain top from which the river flowed (Genesis 2:10-14, Ezekiel 28:14, 16), and God’s presence is again indicated elsewhere as special among mountains such like Horeb, Sinai, and Zion (Exodus 3:1, 18:5, 24:13, Psalm 48:1-2, Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 14:1, 21:10). Moreover, there is a close connection between the temple and mountains (Ezekiel 43:12).

- The river of Eden also identifies with temple imagery (Psalm 46:4, Ezekiel 47:1, 8). “River” is symbolic in Ezekiel as well as it is when used in reference to God’s word conjoined with the washing of the Spirit (Isaiah 8, John 7:38-39) in regenerating one’s body to become a temple for the Holy Spirit.

- The trees in the garden bear ecclesiastical significance. Firstly, the tree of knowledge is like the law of God (Genesis 3:6, Psalm 19:8-9). A copy of the law – the Decalogue – was kept inside the ark in the holy of holies with the book of the law beside it (Exodus 25:16, Deuteronomy 31:26). Touching the ark brought certain death as did eating of the tree of knowledge (Numbers 4:20, 2 Samuel 6:7). The law of God is always present in the temple, whether in the ark or a visual representation of God’s command. Secondly, the tree of life may be related to the temple menorah (Exodus 25:31-39), as both are said to be in proximity to God’s throne (cf. Revelation 22:1). Thirdly, there were many different kinds of trees in the garden (Ezekiel 31:8-9), reflecting the different decorations of the temple (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, 7:18). Trees are present in Ezekiel’s eschatological vision of the temple and appear in similar form in John’s vision as well (Ezekiel 41:18-26, 47:12, Revelation 22:2, 14). This in turn links to the river imagery (Ezekiel 47:12, Revelation 22:1-2) and has special association, as was referenced, to the tree of life. Finally, the connection between the temple and the church is also noteworthy. The church seems to be regarded by the apostles as the eschatological temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:21, 1 Peter 2:5). If the garden typifies the temple, it would seem that trees correlatively typify the church (Psalm 1:3, Matthew 3:10, 7:17-20, John 15:1, Galatians 5:22). Just as Adam stood in the midst of fruit bearing trees, then, so too will the second Adam when He stands with His brethren.

- The precious stones and metals in the garden (Genesis 2:10-14) is argued in rabbinic literature to have been created for use in the temple. Ezekiel’s prophecy against the kind of Tyre reveals more types (Ezekiel 28:13), and while the bulk of tabernacle furniture was indeed made or covered by pure gold (Exodus 25:11, 17, 24, 29, 36), some precious metals reappear in the high priest’s vestments (Exodus 28:17-20). The breastplate was supposed to be a small replica of the earthly tabernacle modeled  on the heavenly tabernacle (Beale, Revelation, 1080), and that these items also appear in the foundation of the eschatological temple should, at this point, be unsurprising (Revelation 21:20, 18-20).

- The cherubim were posted to guard the entrance of the garden upon man’s exit (Genesis 3:24) and were likewise guardians of the inner sanctuary of the temple (1 Kings 6:23-28), the ark itself (Exodus 25:18-22). and were decorated on various parts of the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 26:31, 1 Kings 6:29). Ezekiel too mentions the cherub, to which he compares the king against whom he is prophesying (Ezekiel 28:14); this is similar to the function described by John (Revelation 4:6-8). Of significance is the fact that they guard the eastern entrance (the place of God’s presence) and that Moses was instructed to hang the curtain between the inner sanctuary and the holy of holies (Exodus 26:33). Such implies Eden itself was the holy of holies in which man had direct access to God’s presence. Any who tried to enter the garden after the fall would be struck down like those who attempted to enter the holy of holies. Only the high priest could safely enter and only on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:2). The Christological connections are clear: Christ tore the veil (Matthew 27:51) – which, given the cherubim were decorated on the veil, typified our separation from God’s direct presence – and moved the cherubim back before God’s throne. Man may, through Christ, come to God in the holy of holies (Hebrews 9:24-25).

Activity of inhabitants

- God’s presence is referenced in the garden (Genesis 3:8) in same manner as in the tabernacle (Leviticus 26:11-12, Deuteronomy 23:14, 2 Samuel 67:6).

- Many parallels exist with respect to the days of creation. The seven days of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3) correlates with the seven speeches given to Moses for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:1-27:19). After the seventh speech, Moses was told to rest upon completion of his construction just as God rested (Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 31:17, 40:35). Moses had to wait six days before ascending Mount Sinai to receive these instructions (Exodus 24:15), and, interestingly, Christ ascended the mount of transfiguration after six days (Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2). The relation between creation and the tabernacle is striking in rabbinic interpretation of the meaning of the temple, as shown in Fesko’s charting:  


One/Creation: Heavens stretched curtain (Psalm 104:2)                    

One/Tabernacle: Tent (Exodus 26:7)

Two/Creation: Firmament (Genesis 1:6)

Two/Tabernacle: Temple veil (Exodus 26:33)

Three/Creation: Waters below (Genesis 1:9)                            

Three/Tabernacle: Laver or bronze sea (Exodus 30:18)

Four/Creation: Lights (Genesis 1:14)

Four/Tabernacle: Light stand (Exodus 25:31)

Five/Creation: Birds (Genesis 1:20)                                       

Five/Tabernacle: Winged cherubim (Exodus 25:20)

Six/Creation: Man (Genesis 1:27)     

Six/Tabernacle: Aaron the high priest (Exodus 28:1)

Seven: Cessation, completion, blessing (Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 39:32, 43, Numbers 7:1)

- If creation is a part of God’s cosmic temple, then Eden was the first holy of holies and Adam its first priest, further corroborated by his responsibilities.

- The duty of Adam to “work” and “keep” the garden (Genesis 2:15) uses verbs which, when mentioned together, are only otherwise used to describe the duties of a Levitical priest (Numbers 3:7-8, 4:23-26, 8:26, 18:5-6). Adam seems to have typified Levitical priests as well as Christ (who also represented the fulfillment of the Levitical priesthood).

- Specific terminology used to describe Adam’s post-Fall vestments (Genesis 3:21) is the same as that which was used to denote the garb of Levitical priests (Genesis 41:42, Exodus 28:41, 29:8, 40:13, Leviticus 8:13, 1 Samuel 17:38).While the clothing certainly anticipates our clothed righteousness, one should not miss that priests were required to clothe themselves in the presence of God (Exodus 20:26, 28:42).


These sum of these considerations can be traced back to pre-incarnate literature (e.g. book of Jubilees) and even theologians as recently as Karl Barth have, in passing noted the Eden-temple typology. The new earth which Christ will bring to fulfillment is not a generic city-farm but a city-temple. The last things show what the first ought have been. Adam, like Samuel, was taken to the temple to dwell in the Lord’s presence (1 Samuel 1:22) and minister (1 Samuel 3:1):

“God produced in Eden a microcosmic version of his cosmic sanctuary.  The garden planted there was holy ground with guardianship of its sanctity committed in turn to men and to cherubim. It was the temple-garden of God, the place chosen by the Glory-Spirit who hovered over creation from the beginning to be the focal site of his throne-presence among men... By virtue of the presence of this theophanic cloud-canopy over it, Eden had the character of a holy tabernacle, a microcosmic house of God.  And since it was God himself who, present in his theophanic Glory, constituted the Edenic temple, man in the Garden of God could quite literally confess that Yahweh was his refuge and the Most High was his habitation.” (Meredith Kline, “Images of the Spirit,” pgs. 35-37)

[As a personal note, this is one of my favorite chapters in the book. Fesko's argumentation and bibliographical references are nothing if not thorough.]

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Philosophy of Science 2

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?"

“What do you think about Feyerabend's idea of "freedom" in science?”

If Chalmer’s assesses Feyerabend correctly, I would agree with Feyerabend’s sentiment when Chalmer’s writes: “Feyerabend… leaves individuals the freedom to choose between science and other forms of knowledge” (p. 156). So long as Feyerabend is not promoting epistemic skepticism – but rather empirical skepticism – I can’t disagree with the criticisms he and others we have read thus far have made. In class, we discussed whether or not one should consider Feyerabend an anarchist or merely against scientific dogmatism. The latter indeed seems to have been the case. In other words, until or unless a normative method of science is established, Feyerabend contends that we should let people choose what to learn.

I concur with Feyerabend to a great extent, therefore, with regards to his assessment of the current state of scientific education in America: that is, that the freedom to choose what scientific criteria to believe – and thus, under which scientific criteria one would learn – is sorely lacking in public schools. The following question was raised as an implicit critique of Feyerabend: what would be the consequences of non-dogmatism? Some alleged that, due to what could be extreme differences between the curriculum of two schools, in order to change from school to the other, one would apparently have to start from the very beginning of the curriculum at the new school. The problem with this allegation is that it is question-begging: why should it matter that one would be required to start over? Given that the choice to transfer would have been made by the student – which is all Feyerabend wishes to establish anyways (the right to learn what one wants to learn) – the point is irrelevant.

“Reconstruct Chalmers’ argument against Worrall's argument.”

Worrall argues that a mutually exclusivity exists between relativity and universality; that is, one either accepts the idea that the standards (that by which we test theories et. al.) are subject to a universal method such that one is able to demonstrate a change in standards is justified, or one concedes scientific relativism. No harmonization is possible. One might picture Worrall’s argument as a vertical, dividing line between relativity and universality.

Chalmers uses Galileo as a historical example of how his argument – viz. there exists a non-universal method of changing scientific standards which does not lead to absolute relativism – is tenable. Firstly, he notes that Galileo and his peers shared a common goal: descriptions of the motions of the heavenly bodies supported by empirical evidence. When Galileo cast doubt on the correctness of the naked eye by means of certain examples, then, he was able to persuade his rivals to accept the results of telescopic observations as more accurate.

Chalmers concluded that only an a-historical account of scientific progression would suggest that the background to scientific progression is completely revolutionary. Equivalently, there always exists some contextual web in which scientists may work to examine and change parts without denying the whole. Those parts of the web which are not changed are those against which parts which are changed are judged to be better or worse. Thus, we defined in class that one could gauge whether a change in standards is justified by testing how such a change would affect the unchanged parts of the web (methods, aims, and theories). Chalmers’ approach, while not intended to be normative, does refute Worrall’s dichotomy. One could picture Chalmers’ position as a horizontal spectrum on which changes in one’s web can be more relative or less, depending on how many parts of the web are being changed/unchanged at once.

Fesko's "Last Things First" 2

The first chapter centers on the topic of man’s image, a concept which is fundamental to understanding deeper issues such as how man relates to God (covenentally). To know in what sense God made man in His own image, Fesko begins by first seeking to understand a little bit about the context of the statement, specifically by understanding the nature of God as it was presented in Genesis 1-3.

Most notable is the use plural form of the verb in Genesis 1:26. After careful examination of two alternatives, Fesko claims that this is an adumbration of the Trinity. This fits the progressive facet of divine revelation Fesko has elsewhere stressed. The plural cannot be a reference to God and the heavenly court, because the Hebrew word for “create” in verse 27 is only used in reference to direct creative acts by God. The other suggestion, that the plural represents God’s majesty, does not fit well with the facts that the passage was viewed by Jewish interpreters as an oddity in need of resolution and that the next explicit of the plural in this way is not seen until Ezra 4:18.

Fesko rebuts objections to this interpretation in the following way: The author may have been unaware of Christ’s involvement in creation just as he may have been unaware of how the proto-evangelium would come to pass, but neither possibility suggests the respective passages do not in fact convey meaning relevant to those doctrines which are made explicit in the New Testament. Genesis 1:2 mentions the involvement of the Holy Spirit, so it would not be inconceivable for the author to have some idea of the Trinity which we now know with clarity, and it is in any case a mistake to assume what the prophets knew (e.g. Jude 14). Moreover, considering the whole of Scripture, we know God is Triune. That God would plant seeds of this truth in His early revelation should not come as a surprise.

Regardless because we are made in God’s image, it is to be expected that we analogously possess plurality and unity. As the Larger Catechism states, “God endued [Adam and Eve] with living, reasonable, and immortal souls [and] made them after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness…” (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:7; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:10). In what sense we were made in God’s image can be further understood by the following points:

- “Image” and “likeness” are used interchangeably throughout Scripture.

- “Image” cannot refer to physical qualities, because God is incorporeal (Deuteronomy 4:15-16).

- Man’s image must be understood with respect to his given tasks as well as the capacities used to fulfill said tasks: man’s task was to have dominion over earth as God does in heaven, to relate to God, and to create in analogical fashion; man’s capacities included untainted spiritual and intellectual faculties such as righteousness, personality, and reason (Genesis 1:26-29, 2:15-25, Psalm 8:3).

- Historical background indicates that, in the near East, monarchs were regarded as demigods in the image of the gods over their regions of rule. Because man was given dominion over all the earth, the implication is that Yahweh rules all the earth.

- The unity in male and female reflects the communal nature of the Trinity.

- Man, as male and female (cf. Genesis 1:27), is the apex of creation, as no other created thing is said to possess the image of God.

Because the first Adam fell, man’s image was corrupted. In addition to looking at in what way we are renewed, it is necessary to look to the incarnate Christ, the second Adam, as the indefectible image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3) in order to understand completely what it means to be in the image of God (1 Corinthians 15:48-49). Jesus represents what man ought to be, and so the goal of sanctification may be neatly summarized as perfect Christ-likeness (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Ultimately, Fesko makes the interesting point that Christology defines anthropology, and this must be kept in mind when considering Genesis 1-3 and man as the image of God.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 1

A recent book I've purchased, J. V. Fesko's "Last Things First: Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology," promises to be a good read. Essentially, Fesko's purpose is to shift the lens through which many read Genesis 1-3 from creative to protological; that is, instead of narrowly regarding Genesis 1-3 as little more than a purposeless amalgamation of scientific facts, Fesko argues we should reexamine our presuppositions and: (1) understand the intent of Genesis 1-3 to be multi-faceted but primarily Christological and eschatological, (2) categorize what we learn from these chapters under a more general locus like "protology" or "first things," and (3) understand what these first things are by means of (but not exclusively) what Scripture reveals to be "last things." Although I have the bad habit of failing to review books in full, if I shall again fall short, I hope what I do cover will spark someone's interest.


As Christ’s redemption of the elect is the principal means by which God’s glory is manifested, one’s hermeneutical presuppositions should reflect Scripture’s high emphasis on Christology. It should be unsurprising, then, that the significance of Genesis 1-3 is understood by Christ, the apostles, and the prophets to be protological rather than simply and specifically creative. While scientific issues enjoy prevalence amongst contemporaries, God’s revelatory purpose in the first few chapters of Genesis lie elsewhere. After distinguishing between the typical dispensational and evolutionary approaches to Genesis 1-3, Fesko wittily observes:

“God asks a volley of questions regarding the how of creation to prove that Job does not know how the Lord created the world. If one assumes the common interpretive theory on Genesis 1-2, Job could have replied to God, ‘Yes, I do know! I’ve read Genesis!’”

In fact, the first dozen chapters in Genesis leave unanswered many questions about world history. Why? Because such information is not essential to God’s revelatory purpose. More to the point, Genesis 1-3 does explain that God created by fiat, yet specifics as to how He created beyond that are not mentioned; the reason any specifics are mentioned may sufficiently be explained by the following reasons: typological significance, utility for contrast to the special nature of the creation of man, and historically relevant elements (e.g. that which may have been regarded as gods by neighbors to the original audience is said to have been created by God, exemplifying His sovereignty).

Genesis 1-3 has less relevance to modern debates about lengths of days and evolutionary processes than either side are want to admit, and even if it were not so, noting similarities between the first and second Adams would be a more pertinent – if less attempted – goal in light of the aforementioned fact that, when Scripture is allowed to be its own interpreter, the focus upon Genesis 1-3 is clearly Christological and eschatological. The introduction provides a parting gem best summarized in Herman Bavinck’s depiction of the first Adam:

“He is the prophet who explains God and proclaims his excellencies; he is the priest who consecrates himself with all that is created to God as a holy offering; he is the king who guides and governs all things in justice and rectitude. And in all this he points to the One who in a still higher and richer sense is the revelation and image of God. To him who is the only begotten of the Father, and the firstborn of all creatures. Adam, the son of God, was a type of Christ." (The Image of God: Human Nature pg. 562)

Relevant passages: Job 38; Isaiah 65-66; Luke 24:27; John 1; Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 1, 15; Revelation 2:7

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Falsificationism and Inductivism

After posting an essay criticizing falsificationism, I received a request for a definition of it. You gotta laugh! Anyways, because I don't want to fall asleep on the job... again... this post will also briefly cover inductivism. My reply:

Falsificationism is a specific form of empiricism; as an epistemological position, it presupposes the tenets of empiricism (reliability of sensation &c.). Falsificationism has been, in the history of science, stated opposite inductivism. One could say that the difference between the two positions is as follows:

Inductivists utilize induction: they infer universal properties on the grounds of a finite amount of observations. Example: swans A, B, C,..., Z are all white. “Therefore,” says the [epistemological] inductivist, “all swans are white.” Induction, however, is always tentative; in the future, I could conceivably observe a black swan. Thus, inductivists often admit they are only interested in "progress" (not knowledge, per se): one scientifically “progresses” insofar as one’s belief that all swans are white increases in rationality with every new observation of a white swan (with no contrary cases).

This is fine so far as it goes, but falsificationists, perceiving the problem of induction to empirical epistemology, hope[d] that by discarding the inductivist methodology, they could achieve true knowledge. Rather than moving from specific observations to universal conclusions (per inductivists), falsificationists "falsify" universal conclusions by specific observations. A falsificationist would, for example, say "I observe this swan is white. Therefore, not all swans are black." Falsificationists, unlike inductivists, purport valid arguments.

The points I am making in my previous post are intended to show that, be that as it may, the arguments of falsificationists are unsound (I assume the reader knows the difference between a “valid” argument and a “sound” argument). The first few points are intended to show that falsificationism, because it presupposes empiricism, is likewise suspect to the errors of empiricism. When I state that "I observe this swan is white" is true, I am assuming answers to a number of epistemic questions empiricism is ill-equipped to handle – in this case, at least the subjectivity of sensation, problem of unknown variables, and, relatedly, the lack of an answer to the question of the contingency of knowledge.

These are problems falsificationism does not solve, so it fails in its endeavor to escape the end of inductivism: skepticism. On top of these unsatisfied questions, falsificationism leaves one without knowledge of which of the contradictory propositions (viz. the observation statement and the universal proposition) has been falsified, falsificationism is a relatively easily satisfied criterion to denote what "is" science (hence, less meaningful), and falsificationism would have, if it were adopted by 17th century empiricists, stifled many hypotheses which are [con]temporarily (!) favor (i.e. falsificationism is, on an empiricist's own grounds, historically untenable).

These considerations compelled its decline in favor amongst empiricists over the past half century or so. If nothing else, I hope this post is illustrative of how many philosophies of science have so quickly risen and fallen. The only constant seems to be that empiricism is constantly uncertain of its ground. Soli Deo Gloria, friends.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Philosophy of Science 1

As my debate opponent is slow, as I am on spring break (no new Modern Philosophy posts for a week), and as I am still working on other material I'd rather not post until it is to my liking, I've been a little quiet this past week. To remedy that, I plan to post (in no particular order) some essays I wrote in last semester's Philosophy of Science.

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?"


“What is, or what are, the main problem(s) of the falsificationist approach according to Chalmers?”

The falsificationist approach has several problems that Chalmers relates and we discussed in class: Firstly, if an observation contradicts a theory or hypothesis, the falsificationist has no method by which he can discern which is or if both are false. In other words, that either the hypothesis or observation statement predicated on the observation has been falsified does not help the falsificationist know which of the two has been falsified. From prior discussions, we noted observations can be biased by unknown variables. Unless the falsificationist can solve this dilemma such that he knows that an observation statement is true or false, he cannot know the hypothesis is necessarily contradictory to reality. Moreover, this inhibits the scientist’s ability to know at what point a new hypothesis should be framed.

Secondly, one might perceive a problem of falsificationism is that from a logical standpoint, one can, at best, only hope to make scientific progress. This problem would also be attributable to the epistemological problem of discerning which observation statements are accurate depictions of the nature of reality. The reason that one can only hope to aspire to scientific progress is that, per paragraph one, we cannot know whether or not the hypothesis or the observation statement or both is falsified. To state that the hypothesis has been falsified would be presumptuous, then, as his observation was not infallible. This led the class to conclude that a problem with falsificationism is that its demarcation criterion of science – that is, the idea that falsifiability marks what is and is not genuinely scientific – is too easy to satisfy.

Thirdly, we noted that falsificationism is inadequate on historical grounds. This especially was shown in our discussion of the Copernican system. Falsificationism doesn’t explain why one observation (naked-eye) should be preferable to another (telescopic). Also, as one might suggest that Aristotelian, Ptolemaic, and Copernican systems are complex, we don’t know for example, what Galileo’s observations falsified. It could be the initial conditions of the experiments, it could be one of the multitude of premises which comprise each system, it could be the accuracy of available technology, or any number of other factors. The last one (available technology) especially compelled us to remark on one more important point: if falsifiability is the demarcation criterion for a scientist, then many promising theories would have been immediately falsified due to limitations with regards to the instruments he uses. This and the other aforementioned factors prompted us to conclude that a certain amount of dogmatism is necessary in order for science to make the headway that falsificationists hope to acheive.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Formal Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate, Cross-ex part 1 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)"


Question 1 (me): I am sure that you are not unaware that God has killed wicked men (e.g. the Flood). God has also revealed that He does as He pleases. If, then, God desires to save all men without exception – which would by definition include those who died in the Flood – how can you reconcile such with the fact God acts in such a way that His desire to save wicked men cannot possibly be fulfilled, viz. by killing and (thus) eternally condemning them? More precisely, why doesn’t God instead prevent the death of the wicked until they repent?

(Word count: 100)

Answer 1 (Arminian): First let me begin by quoting Edmund Spencer, “There is a principle, which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep man in everlasting ignorance. That principle is condemnation before investigation.”

This is to say that you, me and the reader needs to set aside our presuppositions (even after reading through this entire rebuttal or other context’s) – to prove what is acceptable in discerning your question(s) and mine, alone and [then] combining the overall picture (which is my fair answers in proportion with yours) in this entire thread. If such were the case, the world would be a better place.

To summarise as best as possible, Genesis 6 is literally about Satan’s fallen angels marrying human women for the purpose of trying to corrupt the Seed of the woman in order to thwart the first messianic prophecy of Genesis 3:15. These particular angels are now permanently confined in Tartarus, as seen in 2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 1:6-7.

2 Peter 2:5 reveals the timing of the bên ha'ĕlôhı̂ym (Son(s) of God, or Lucifer and his Angels) confinement, which was in conjunction with the Flood. This agrees well with the events of Genesis 6:1–4, which are events that are also connected with the Flood. The purpose of the Flood was to destroy this product of fallen angels and human women! That was it!

By comparing the 2 Peter passage with the Genesis passage, there is good evidence to show that Genesis is not speaking about Sethites intermarrying with Cainites (as many great commentaries assert however), but fallen angels intermarrying with human women. It is from the events of Genesis 6:1–4 that the source of Greek and Roman mythologies was derived. These mythologies record how gods from Mount Olympus intermarried with human beings on earth and produced children who had super-human characteristics, and were greater than men but less than gods. Thus, the Book of Genesis (and in texts like the Apocrypha, Book of Enoch – which Jude interestingly relates to) details the true history of what happened, while Greek and Roman mythologies give the corrupted account. In Greek and Roman mythologies, the human perspective is given, and what happened is elevated to something special and glorified; but God called it sin.

When we look at Genesis 6:3, the result of this intermarriage was the judgment of God! The Holy Spirit would not continue to strive with this kind of evil forever, and God decreed the destruction of ([biologically / spiritually] corrupted via hybridisation) humanity to be fulfilled one hundred and twenty years later. The means of the destruction would be the Flood. The purpose of the Flood was to destroy the product of the union of angels and women, as briefly stated above. There will be likewise an even bigger ‘destruction’ during the Day of the Lord – and this is where the entire Heavens with the Earth will be “reformatted” as it were, towards pure righteousness. 2 Peter 3:12-13

Why do you think Yahweh cries out to [all], to turn from his way and live in Christ’s atonement, instead of perishing? Ezekiel 33:11, 2 Peter 3:9

That is why we rest in Noah (I elaborate more on why this is ultimately so in my second rebuttal) – because God kept his promise of the Messiah in Genesis 3:15 to both Adam and Eve, and nôach in Hebrew means, “Comfort and Rest”. This does not mean Christ had to ultimately die for all without distinction. Christ died for all without exception (those in Abraham’s bosom as well, 1 Peter 3:19), but as you ask about those whom perished in the flood – I will have to digress on a note that they were corrupted Nephilim humans whom, “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” – Genesis 6:5, Jubilees 4:15; 5:1-13; 7:20-39; 1 Enoch 9-10

Words: 645 (including quotes)

Question 2 (me): I am still a little confused as to whether your thoughts are merely tending toward agreement with or if you actually do believe that “a believer cannot and will not forfeit salvation.” Either way, you said in your opening post that TULIP is “completely unbiblical.” I would ask that you please state if and how you would reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements, explain precisely how firmly you believe that believers will certainly persevere, and how your perception of man’s free will can be compatible with a doctrine which states man is not free to fall away.

(Word count: 100)

Answer 2 (Arminian): My statement of TULIP being “completely unbiblical”, holds true in my opinion and as far as what I have written in this debate should point to this. However, my understanding of Eternal Security after this debate has become much more clarified than ever before, even though I did experience temporal speed bumps when discerning more deeply into the Calvinist’s understanding of ‘Perseverance of the Saints’.

So for you to declare that I seem to be confused on the issue of Eternal Security (and you would like me to show you that, “man’s free will can be compatible with a doctrine which states man is not free to fall away.”); at first I actually was, because the P of TULIP did seem reasonable when I researched more of MacArthur’s (and other Calvinist) theology, but I was not [just] in agreement with MacArthur – but also with James Arminius and many other Arminian theology that seem to portray the opposite, which is conditional perseverance in the faith (because the autonomy of man plays a role here), and that the Christian individual [can] theoretically turn away and be a reprobate. It has happened in history, there have been cases where advocate Christians have lost their faith and have become a harsh puerile spokesperson for the atheist community.

Basically, I have always viewed a more modified Arminianistic (Lutheran / Messianic) understanding of Eternal Security. This is also one of the reasons in why I am both a Lutheran-Arminian, than just a plain Arminian. You can see why I disagree (at least, particularly on this issue) with the [strict] Arminianist in the conclusion of my second rebuttal.

1. Problems with the Calvinists throughput of Perseverance of the Saints

- Calvinists question the eternal security of the believer by imposing the requirement for a successful follow-through. One cannot really be sure that he is elect, that Christ really died for him, that his faith is real, that God loves him, or that he will ultimately go to heaven.

- Calvinists question the eternal security of the believer by imposing a dependence on internal evidences. If we were to restrict our thoughts to the validity of God’s promises and His faithfulness, assurance may be the expected result, but the inclusion of “internal evidences” would seem to weaken, rather than strengthen, one’s assurance. Isn’t God’s promise enough? It is true that the Spirit of God witnesses that believers are children of God in His Word, Galatians 4:6; Romans 5:5; 8:15–16. But it is also true that believers still sin. And because sin certainly disrupts the subjective “internal evidences of those graces”, it follows that with such disruption there must necessarily be a diminished degree of assurance. If one is “relatively sure” that he has eternal life, does he have assurance at all? This should philosophically result in a “hope so” kind of faith – and this might ultimately have no reverent regard that Christ payed sin in full, τετελεσται.

2. Problems with the Arminianist throughput of Perseverance of the Saints

- The [strict] Arminian view fails to understand the concept of eternal life and the irrevocable nature of God’s bounteous promises.

In light of clear biblical passages (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:39–40; 10:27–28; 17:12; Romans 8:16, 29–30, 37–39; 11:29; Ephesians 1:13–14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:13; 4:18; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 5:13; Jude 24–25), it would seem that there is abundantly sufficient and convincing evidence that eternal life is the possession of every believer in Christ. Arminians consider these verses in their theological system, but essentially misunderstand them believing that salvation is offered conditionally, as being “conditioned upon the believer continuing in faith” - Geisler, Chosen But Free, 125.

So to conclude with my purported (based primarily on many of Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum’s exegesis that I have collected) biblical understanding of Eternal Security; contrast the following points here in relation to how I have the autonomous thoughts (in my second rebuttal) on becoming a Luciferianistic Monk, but ultimately I will never become one – because I [know] the consequences.

The Evidence for Eternal Security: Romans 4:21
(21) And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

- The Sovereign Purpose of God: Romans 8:28-30 spells out one of these 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.

- The Father’s Power to Keep: John 10:25–29 points out that God will give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.

- God’s Infinite Love: Romans 5:7–10 states that, if God sent His Son to die for us when we were His enemies, He would certainly keep us now that we are His friends. The love of God was proved by the sending of His Son to die for our sins while we were His enemies. If God was willing to provide salvation when we were His enemies, the love of God will make sure that He is going to keep us now that we are His friends.

- The Promise of God: John 3:16 states that the believer will not perish. If a believer could lose his salvation and end up in Hell, then obviously a believer can perish. But according to this passage, once a person has accepted Yeshua as his Saviour, as his Messiah, he simply will not perish.

Eternal security means that once a person has undergone the real experience of salvation, has undergone a true regenerated experience, that person cannot lose his salvation, either by committing a specific sin, or by ceasing to believe. That which keeps the believer safe and secure is the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of God on his behalf, not his own works. That is the basic meaning of eternal security, after the sinner hears the Gospel, has faith and repents.

When Jesus died for the sins of the world, He died for [all] of the sins of the world. The very fact that the work of Jesus was finished, the fact that He does not need to come and die again, shows that those who have received the benefits of His work cannot lose it. Those who have received salvation cannot, therefore, lose it, because it would require the Messiah to do His work all over again, Hebrews 10:12–18.

Words: 1,112 (I needed to clarify my answer, apologies for doubling the word count).

Question 1 (Arminian): I am sure that both you and me would agree with the fact that God foreknows [all] events since Genesis 1:1; for the sake of argument. If this is the case (in proportion with the Calvinist’s understanding of the doctrine of predestination), does God know events that will [not] happen? To make the question clearer, the fact that God foreknows an event doesn’t require that it should come to pass; therefore, is there no cause [and] effect relationship between foreknowledge and predestination? I am asking this in contextual proportions with 1 Samuel 23:1-14 as an example.

Words: 96

Answer 1 (me): Implicit to Robert’s question is the idea that “foreknowledge” has a single meaning. Because it seems that what is meant is “God knows beforehand what will occur,” I will, for now, step over the proverbial minefield concerning whether or not this is the exclusive definition of Scriptural “foreknowledge” and answer the question on its own terms. The question Robert seems to want to ask, given the citation of 1 Samuel 23:1-14 (especially verses 11-14), is whether or not God knows counter-factual conditionals and, if so, what implications this has with regards to possible worlds and, more particularly, this actual world.

In reply, I believe that God indeed knows counter-factual conditionals. God knows from eternity what would occur in any possible world. Knowing counterfactual conditionals is analogous to knowing that changing a variable in a given equation would yield a different answer than the given equation (which presupposes, of course, that one knows the answers). Two biblical examples:

Matthew 11:21 “If the miracles that were performed in [Korazin] had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago…”
1 Samual 23:11-14 (paraphrased): If David had stayed in Keilah, the citizens of Keilah would have surrendered David to Saul.

These explicit examples are not the only reason we can justify that God knows counter-factual conditionals. This conclusion also follows from a biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty. As I have stated explicitly and implicitly throughout this debate, God’s eternal knowledge is predicated on the fact He has unconditionally determined all things from eternity. That God knows counter-factual conditionals is unsurprising, then, for such suggests God knows what would have occurred had He decreed that events should unfold in a manner different than He actually decreed. However impossible it may be for Robert or anyone else who believes man possess free will to account for God’s eternal knowledge – including counter-factual conditionals – the consistent Calvinist’s perspective of God’s sovereign determination suffices as an explanation of how and why God is eternally omniscient.

With the space remaining, I will take this opportunity to endeavor to make clear to Robert that He should not conflate the Scriptural meaning of “foreknowledge” as exclusively synonymous with his colloquial understanding. The semantic domain of “foreknowledge” and “foreknow” in Greek (“prognosis”and [pro]ginosko”) does not only contain the concept of “know[ledge] beforehand.” Examples of the full range of the noun and verb expressions are found in the following passages: “choice” (Amos 3:2), “determinate purpose” (Acts 2:23, 1 Peter 1:2; cf. Granville Sharp Rule), “know intimately” (Romans 8:29, 11:2), “foreordained” (1 Peter 1:20), &c. Of course, some of these concepts can imply some of the other concepts.

The important points summarized, then, are that:

- “knowledge beforehand” is not the only concept in the semantic domain of “foreknowledge” and “foreknow.”
- contexts determine which concept is implied.
- “proginosko” and “prognosis” are never used as referents of God’s knowledge of counter-factual conditionals.
- God’s knowledge is not predicated on created things like man’s will.

(Word count: 499)

Question 2 (Arminian): Concerning Limited Atonement, in your second rebuttal you declare, “Christ didn’t die for particular persons? That is certainly not the message in Romans 8:32, Matthew 1:21, and Galatians 2:20”. Does this mean that Christ did [not] sacrifice himself for Anton LaVey, Hitler, et al., and atone for their sins; for if Anton LaVey happened to have accepted the Gospel – he would be saved? Can you please refute to me the obvious similarities that the Calvinist Yahweh has in conjunction with Islam’s Allah – because both deities therefore are a respecter of persons in this area? Whatever happened to Mark 16:15; John 3:16, 18, 36; 10:9; Galatians 3:28? Does it not seem completely [unjust] for God to send some men to hell because no provision was made for their salvation?

Answer 2 (me): Robert’s second question begs many questions, misrepresents my position many times, and contains many irrelevancies. Examples:

1. Every passage Robert cites is irrelevant to Calvinism:

- That God saves all who call does not mean all can call or that God hasn’t determined who will call. Hence, Robert’s references to John 3 are irrelevant.
- Mark 16:15 is irrelevant because Calvinists don’t oppose evangelizing to all men without exception; after all, Calvinists don’t know the identity of the elect.
- Galatians 3:28 is irrelevant because such a passage only implies God saves all men without distinction, and I affirmed this even before Robert. That God intends to save individuals regardless of tribe, tongue, nation, and people (cf. Revelation 5:9) does not imply He intends to save all men within every tribe et. al. This is (or should be) rather obvious.

2. What Robert thinks seems unjust is irrelevant. One’s justification of what is just should be grounded in Scripture, not intuition. Let Robert evaluate whether my beliefs are Scriptural, then, instead of asking questions which appeal to emotions, a fallacy against which I forewarned.

3. I have answered in my second rebuttal how my conception of God does not imply He is a respecter of persons:

“…the fact that Calvinists believe election is unconditional automatically refutes the idea these passages imply that the unconditional election makes God a respecter of persons...”

Furthermore, I already examined each passage Robert originally cited to support his charge, and they were all shown to mean God is not a respecter of persons insofar as He judges without corrupt bias. Calvinists don’t believe God judges with corrupt bias, so I don’t know why Robert is repeating refuted arguments.

Also, in what sense the god of Islam and the true God seem similar is irrelevant, because they are not identical. Muslims would say God is omnipotent, as would Robert. Does this somehow imply that Robert believes the god of Islam? No. So even if the charge that “I must logically believe God is a respecter of persons” were true, why should I deny this alleged similarity?

5. I believe Christ made a provision of salvation for all men without exception. Robert should reread my opening statement. The difference between our perspectives is that I believe God intended to save the elect alone and will give all things to those for whom Christ died, and Robert thinks Christ came to make all men without exception merely savable.

The only legitimate question Robert asks is his first, and in response to it I reply:

As I can only know that one is elect if he is a believer, as I cannot anticipate if an unbeliever will come to believe, and as I don’t know whether LaVey or Hitler ever believed, I cannot justifiably say Christ did or didn’t die for them. I have already justified, however, that “if they were reprobates, Christ did not die for them.” A brief summary: if Christ died for reprobates, then reprobates would be given all things (Romans 8:32). However, we know reprobates are not given all things, for if they were, they could not remain unbelievers. As I wrote earlier: “Would [all things] not include gracing us with a sufficient desire to believe according to which we actually would believe?” As reprobates are not given such a desire, they cannot be said to have been given all things. As they have not been given all things, Christ cannot have died for them. Romans 8:32 is incompatible with the view that Christ died for (viz. intended to save) reprobates.

(Word count: 600)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Modern Philosophy 8

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 Leibniz's Monadology. The following is my submission:

In Monadology, Leibniz progressed in his philosophy to describe the ontological ground of all things: monads. Monads are simple substances of which bodies are compromised. Although all monads must possess some differentiae such that a monad is recognizable as such, Leibniz also maintained that the concept must compatible with the principle of the identity of indiscernibles he established in his prior works. The qualities inherent to monads are not “parts,” per se; when a monad changes, it changes with respect to itself. Leibniz clarifies this by stating perception alone comprises the “internal activity” of simple substances, and the object of perception can obviously contain a multiplicity of characteristics such that variation in the objects can cause change in the monads. Leibniz also wrote about different qualities of these monads: the soul, for instance, is a simple substance whose perception includes feeling and memory. The soul also correlates to the senses of the body to which it is united (per concomitance), although the soul and body are “governed” in distinct ways. It seems to be the case, then, that Leibniz believed animals have souls, for he believed that the only difference between men and animals is that men are capable of reflecting upon eternal, necessary truths. Also, because men alone are rational animals, they alone can be called spirits, animals created in the image of God.

Another progression in Leibniz’s philosophy was that from his belief in the “laws of logic” and principle of sufficient reason to that of a definition of God; viz. God is the single, independent, and necessary substance who functions as the preserver, telos, and – in some sense – epistemic foundation for all things. Leibniz ascribes perfection to God because God is limitless insofar as He can actuate was is possible; it is thus the case that although we are ontologically dependent upon God, the immediate cause of imperfection is found in the nature of he who is necessarily limited. Furthermore, God’s limitless nature implies His own existence, as no contradiction is implied in His existence. God alone must necessarily exist, because He alone is not limited by possibilities, including the possibility that a limitless substance exists.

Leibniz also gives a brief account of his theodicy. As the principle of sufficient reason applies to all things, Leibniz notes that God must have reason for actualizing this world instead of all other possible worlds, and that God’s reason for having chosen to actuate this world is because it is the best of all possible worlds, reflected in the fact that this world exhibits a “universal harmony which causes every substance to express exactly all others through the relation which it has with them.” This harmony is such that each body represents its soul and each substance represents its ultimate cause (God) and the universe (as all things relate to one another in some fashion). Leibniz used this line of reasoning to support his contention that bodies and souls are [holistically] indestructible, that efficient and final causes are perfectly harmonious, and that God perfectly governs the physical realm as well as the spiritual. He concludes the Monadology assuring his readers that God will justly punish evil and reward good, that all things will work out according to God’s good will, and that men should be exhorted to make our goal that of the goal of He upon whom we depend in every intelligible sense.

Leibniz’s argumentation suffers primarily because it is suspect to the same criticism inherent to every rationalistic system: the contingency of knowledge. Unless one either is infinitely knowledgeable and omniscient or can justify that his means of acquiring knowledge has come from one who is infinitely knowledgeable and omniscient, to assert that any proposition x (e.g. “God possibly exists”) is true implies one knows that the ontological reality of x is not contingent on the ontological reality of propositions y, z, ad infinitum. Presupposing that man is able to reason functions insufficiently as a grounds upon or means by which one can construct a sound philosophical system.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Right Question

As I was thinking about my most recent post on supralapsarianism, I was struck by the idea that it is too often the case that Christians respond to the constant barrage of “why” questions relating to God’s purpose in determining any event by presupposing the legitimacy of the question. I catch myself sometimes asking these questions – why this difficulty? why now? – and proceeding to speculate as to various reasons God would decree such. There is, in truth, only one reason anything happens, one reason for God’s decrees: to the furtherance of the manifestation of His glory.

Although I am certainly not an authority on pastoral theology, I can imagine that many pastors fail to address the semantic error inherent in these questions they so often face. I say they “fail” because it really is a failure when an opportunity is missed to change the whole framework from which questions spring. If someone would only tell a person struggling with answers pertaining to meaning in life that he is asking the wrong questions – if it is only kept in mind that God’s ultimate purpose in all things is the manifestation of His glory – his attention can properly shift to the right questions asked with a proper mindset: a mindset of understanding rather than interrogation, one which asks, not “why,” but “how” a given thing can function as a proximate means unto this ultimate purpose. Any “why” question relating to God’s proximate purpose(s) can actually be resolved into “how” questions relating to God’s ultimate purpose, and reflection upon this point will prove that it is not inconsiderable.