Friday, February 13, 2015

Gospel and Easter

The gospel is the central theme of the New Testament and consequently central to Pauline theology. In particular, Christ is risen, with all its implications, is the primary message of the Bible. It is the good news. Not justification through faith alone (through an alien righteousness) but intimate union with the risen Christ, which envelopes the glorious reality of justification, is Paul’s message to the church. It is not merely how one might receive pardon for sins and acceptance from God but rather all the benefits in this life that proceed from effectual calling is Paul's message, the gospel.

This gospel is not delivered in some atomistic, compartmentalized sense but in all its fullness, as a unit with many parts, which corresponds with all the benefits that occur all at once through one baptism into Christ. Notwithstanding, certainly Paul distinguishes (for instance) sanctification from justification but he never separates the two from union with the resurrected and ascended Christ. Paul does not detract from the eschatological implications and sheer profundity of the believer’s participation in the first resurrection and age to come. It’s not that Paul was not a systematic theologian. He was. Yet Paul had a more pressing message than "Justification"- a message from which other theological intricacies can (and should) be derived. Yet the Reformed church, possibly through the influence of conservative Lutheranism and Evangelicalism, has lost hold of the already-not yet reality in Christ that is so prominent in Paul’s soteriology. The Reformed church is missing the most essential part of what God would have us know about redemption.

Paul’s soteriology is eschatological in nature, for when was the new age inaugurated but at the resurrection! Accordingly, when one is united to Christ by the conduit of faith he is united with the firstborn from the dead, thereby entering into the new creation – Christ’s body, the church. When the many brothers are raised in the first resurrection they are made partakers of the new age not only in and through Christ but with him, their brother, the Lord and forerunner of his people. Accordingly, Paul does not see glorification at the second resurrection as the only aspect of the believer’s eschatological-salvation. Rather, Paul sees the entire process of salvation (and it is a process!) as receiving all the benefits of redemption and entering into the already inaugurated age that awaits its final consummation in Christ, the first fruit of the one harvest.

That's the year round message of Easter. Christ the King and Savior of men is risen! The inaugurated King of Kings is subduing the nations, placing all his enemies under his feet, making them his footstool. Then comes the end, that is the consummation of all things, when Christ turns the kingdom over to the Father after destroying all dominion, authority and power, even the last enemy - death itself.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Why I Hate Roman Catholicism

Let me count the ways... No, this post is by no means exhaustive. There are many reasons why I hate the man-made system of the popes.

A  common argument for Roman Catholicism is that Rome has no disagreements within her official teachings whereas Protestant denominations often disagree. That sentiment presupposes that disagreements creates confusion for those who by grace seek the truth contained in Scripture. ("Which denomination should we trust for our source of truth? All seem equally sincere.") Such thinking leads to an additional premise, that truth can be more readily acquired by looking to a source that claims to pronounce with utmost clarity and infallibility Christian doctrine - yet while denying the lucidity of the original source from which this ecclesiastical magisterium supposedly derives its doctrine and authority(!). The implication is that God in his word is not as clear as those who would speak on his behalf (but that Scripture is somehow clear enough to derive the Roman See). But what if those who claim infallibility are deluded, if not liars? What if Rome not only interprets Scripture wrongly on essential matters of faith and morals but also goes beyond Scripture in order that she might gain authority over conscience that is not divinely appointed?

The material point is that the self-attesting authority of God’s word in conjunction with the Holy Spirit must wait final adjudication from the popes for a Roman Catholic to have full warrant for any belief on faith and practice. A Roman Catholic must reserve judgment on the absolute truth of any passage  of Scripture, no matter how plain, because the Roman magisterium may overrule what one thinks a passage means. Naturally, Rome’s authority undermines the Roman Catholic’s confidence that he has heard from God in Scripture. Rome, like Satan, says “Has God said?” There is something rather insidious (and cultish) about casting doubt upon what God has said in his word yet not upon what God has allegedly said through his supposed infallible mouthpiece. (That Rome now permits, even encourages, Bible study does not undermine the point in view.)
At the end of the day the Roman Catholic believes he may interpret and apply “tradition” yet he may not do the same with Scripture with the same degree of confidence. But why not? Why can’t Scripture interpret Scripture to the same degree that tradition can interpret Scripture?  If tradition may alter the Roman Catholic’s view of  Scripture, then why can’t Scripture alter the Roman Catholic’s understanding of tradition?! If there is an apparent discrepancy, why does God’s supposed tradition trump Scripture? Wasn’t Israel blistered by the prophets of God and Christ himself for raising tradition above Scripture? Let's make no mistake about it - Rome does not regard Scripture as she does her tradition for the former must conform to the latter and not the reverse.
So, what’s one to do?
Given all the theological nuances and outright disagreement among Protestants what is one to do? Isn’t Rome more attractive because of its internal consistency?  Aside from the inconsistencies that riddle her, to find solace in a communion that demands such loyalty is neither wise nor available to one who seeks only God’s approval. It’s also a sure sign of manipulation and doctrinal infidelity to demand such mindless submission for it is without precedence in redemptive history and contrary to the warnings given in Scripture.

Given this unlawful, allegedly authoritative, mediation of the Roman magisterium one can never have full assurance of faith while remaining true to the implications of his communion. Yet God who is love would have us set free from such tyranny, to worship him by grace in peace. 

Theology aside, Jesus told us we can know false shepherds by their fruit. Don't the thousands of perverted acts along with Rome's attempt to cover them up accuse her justly?
Peter was blessed because flesh and blood had not revealed Christ to him but rather the Father in Heaven did. Imagine though if Peter's loyalty was to the magisterium of his day? With that in mind, it's easy to see that the splits within Protestant communions only present problems to those who look to man, not God, for truth. Most Roman Catholics I know have never heard from God in this way but have merely heard some things about him, which is why they would sooner trust a communion that claims truth rather than the Christ who is the truth. By and large, Roman Catholics have no relationship with God through Christ. They know nothing of the forgiveness of sins, adoption as sons, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the hope of glory. Indeed, Roman Catholicism forbids such presumption and in doing so would deny access to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. It might just go without asking...What fellowship can be found within Rome?
Jesus was clear when he said: his sheep hear his voice; they follow him; he gives them eternal life; and nobody will pluck them from his or his Father's hand. That is why I also know that when Rome denies doctrines like perseverance of the saints that it is not Christ who is in error but Rome. That is just one reason why I hate Roman Catholicism. It’s not that she’s often wrong; rather her claim of infallibility while she errs is repugnant.

So, it’s rather easy to hate Roman Catholicism with a holy hatred once one knows the Christ of Scripture savingly and realizes how Rome has blinded so many who need the forgiveness of sins in Christ.

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Monday, December 08, 2014

The Impropriety of Trying to "Prove" The Absolute Truth Value of a Transcendental Inductively

For x (some aspect of human experience) to be the case, y must also be the case since y is the precondition of x. Since x is the case, y is the case. M.B.
Applying the above transcendental formulation in traditional form we end up with:

Prove A:The Christian God exists.
Step 1 ~A: (Assume the opposite of what we are trying to prove): The Christian God does not exist.
Step 2 (~A--> B): If God does not exist, then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility
Step 3 (~B): There is intelligible experience (Contradiction!)
Step 4 (~ ~A): It is not the case that God does not exist (Modus Tollens on 2 and 3)
Step 5 (A): --> God does exist (Law of negation.)

Many Christians hold to the above argument, which is transcendental in nature. A common debate among certain apologists will be over whether step 2 can be shown to be philosophically justified. Immediately below is what I believe to be a feeble justification for step 2 of the above proof but I have seen it enough that I believe it is worth interacting with.

Subsidiary "argument" that is intended to justify step-2 of TAG:

Premise 1: Within the worldview of Christianity intelligibility can be justified.
Premise 2: All worldviews that we have been confronted with cannot justify intelligibility.
Conclusion: Since we cannot deny intelligibility, and since only the Christian worldview so far can justify it, then the Christian worldview is true.

Some believe that step-2 of TAG can be inductively proved because every worldview that a particular apologist had encountered has been refuted. It is argued by such apologists that the “rational inference” that God exists is based upon a statistical-confidence one might have from refuting many opposing worldviews. One of the problems I have with this justification is how can an inductive argument justify the God of Christianity when it cannot justify the heart of Christianity, the Resurrection of Christ? In other words, an inductive justification for step-2 presupposes uniformity in nature, yet the existence of the Christian God requires discontinuity, the Resurrection! How does one plan on justifying discontinuity on the basis of induction, apart from presupposing the self-attesting word of God? Moreover, the conclusion of the subsidiary argument that is intended to justify step 2 of the transcendental argument, which is “the Christian worldview is true,” exceeds the scope of the premises. Induction is a posteriori in nature and can only yield as its maximal conclusion something that is probably true. To conclude that something is true by inductive inference is to employ the fallacy of asserting the consequent. If step 2 is probably true, then it might also be false; yet Christians have a more sure word of knowledge. Moreover, that the Christian worldview is "more reasonable" than the non-Christian worldview remains unjustified because the question of whether one is even philosophically justified in his use of induction, so that rational inference may be drawn, has not been established. There are no freebies in Philosophy.

In order to rationally infer that God’s existence is "most probable,” one must first presuppose that which the conclusion of the subsidiary argument does not afford – God’s actual, ontological existence(!), which is the necessary precondition for inductive inference. This problem is insurmountable. In arguing for the high probability of God’s existence, the apologist, like the unbeliever who argues against God’s existence, presupposes tools of argumentation that presuppose God’s actual existence. The subsidiary argument, which concludes that God might not exist, begins by presupposing the actual intelligibility of both deduction (TAG) and induction (the justification for step 2), which presuppose God's actual existence! Accordingly, one’s presupposition of God’s actual existence ends up contradicting his conclusion that God’s existence is only probable. Accordingly, one would have to revise his presupposition-hypothesis to “God might not exist.” In doing so, one will not be able to justify actual induction or deduction. Actual rationality presupposes neither a probable God or a conceptual scheme. In order to infer that God’s existence is philosophically uncertain, one must first borrow from a worldview that comports with philosophical certainty so that there can be philosophical uncertainty. That worldview is the Christian worldview.

In summary, the Christian need not evaluate an infinite number of worldviews in order to know (and justify) that there are only two worldviews. In the like manner, the Christian need not witness an infinite amount of deaths to know that all men are mortal. We have an appeal for such premises, the truth of God’s word, which tells us that there are only two worldviews; one is that revelation is the necessary precondition for the justification of intelligible experience and the other is a denial of the Christian worldview. Moreover, induction requires as its necessary precondition something more than a conceptual scheme for God’s existence.

TAG is sound in that the form is valid and the premises are true. We must keep in mind that the truth of any valid conclusion is not predicated upon the consensus of the truth of the premises. Accordingly, since unbelievers will not accept the truth claims of the Bible and, therefore, step 2 of the proof, the only thing the Christian can do is refute the hypothetical competitors. In doing so we might gain more psychological confidence that God exists. Notwithstanding, a demonstration of the soundness of an argument does not make an argument sound. The apologist merely demonstrates the veracity of TAG to a watching world when he exposes the various forms of the one unbelieving worldview for its arbitrariness and inconsistencies.

There is no limit to the number of sound deductive arguments for the Christian worldview. Most of which are not very useful or interesting, such as: God exits or nothing exists; not nothing exists; therefore, God exists. As Dr. Bahnsen noted, proof of the Christian worldview is child's play. The beauty of TAG as a special kind of deductive argument is not in the reductio but in the transcendental challenge, which shows that to argue against Christianity one must first presuppose only that which Christianity affords.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Quick Elaboration on Conditions, Logical Order and Causes

"Necessary conditions" is a philosophical phrase that deals with states of affairs. Take, If Y then X: That X is a necessary condition for Y means that Y cannot exist without X also existing, since Y is a sufficient condition for X.

1. If I'm regenerate, then I'm united to the risen Christ.
2. If I'm united to the risen Christ, then I'm regenerate.

1 means that it is impossible to have regeneration without union with Christ. It also means that the absence of union with Christ guarantees the absence of regeneration. This also means that the presence of regeneration guarantees the presence of union with Christ. The same sort of logic applies to 2.

Both 1 and 2 are true, yet neither proposition implies the logical order (or temporal order) of union with Christ and regeneration. Nonetheless, in both cases the consequent is a necessary condition for the antecedent; so in 1 what is indexed to the necessary condition, namely union with Christ, is that which is tied to a sufficient condition, regeneration. Most Reformed Christians do not have a conceptual problem thinking in terms of regeneration as being a "condition" for union with Christ (since they appreciate that regeneration is logically prior to union with Christ, or the means by which one becomes united to Christ). In 1, what type of "condition" is regeneration? Well, it's a sufficient condition in 1. Accordingly, if in 1 regeneration is a sufficient condition for union with Christ, then the "then" of the proposition, namely union with Christ, must be a necessary condition for regeneration - since the state of affairs of regeneration cannot exist without union with Christ. It is necessary, in other words, that union with Christ exist if regeneration exists. Causality and logical order is not even in view.

James teaches: If I'm justified, then I have good works, which is to say, good works are a necessary condition for one who is in a state of justification. Such a statement, although true, would be rather uninteresting to one who is inquiring as to whether another believes that good works are the cause or grounds of his justification. The same can be said of love.1 Corinthians 16:22

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

O'Reilly, Bloomberg and Saint Paul

"I've always felt there is a battle between good and evil and if there is a heaven you have to earn your way in through your actions on Earth." Bill O’Reilly / Roman Catholic (true to his Catholicism) 

“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” Michael Bloomberg / Reformed Jew (true to his Judaism)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Apostle Paul / Follower of Christ (true to the Scriptures) 
I don't typically watch Bill O'Reilly. (I don't typically watch much of anything not having cable television!) However, I made an exception last night from my hotel room because I wanted to hear how O'Reilly handled the topic of the after life.

After putting forth a doctrine of salvation by works, O'Reilly went on to express most ardently that he hopes that justice will prevail at the final judgment. O'Reilly couldn't have been more clear. Bill O'Reilly does not need God's mercy and grace. He, also, hopes others will receive the justice they deserve. (I prayed for this lost soul at various times throughout the day. Many verses came to mind, especially that Christ didn't come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.) Bill O'Reilly is self-righteous and, therefore, on his way to hell.*

I heard the Bloomberg quote on CNBC while driving home. Had I not heard his quote I would not have blogged on this matter.

Bloomberg is a blasphemer. The difference between him and O'Reilly is one of degree. Bloomberg has tried to convince himself (and others) that he has already earned heaven whereas O'Reilly, at best, tries to project that he can and hopefully will merit heaven. That's a distinction without a relevant difference in the grand scheme of things.

I guess it's now time to pray for Michael Bloomberg.

*If we cannot pronounce God's curses based upon His word, then we forgo the right to pronounce God's blessings. When O'Reilly professes that he is saved by God's grace alone, then it can be said that he is on his way to Heaven. It is not biblical to say one can be saved now while they clearly profess that they are trusting in self-merit alone.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Jesus Movies, Images of Christ & the Second Commandment

Most evangelicals have little regard for two of the Ten Commandments. Sabbath keeping has at best been reduced to attending a worship service on Sunday. Attend two services on Sunday and you might be called a legalist or at the other extreme a super-Christian. Whatever you are, it isn’t normal.
Whether one may make an image of God or watch a “Jesus movie” is not even on the average Christian’s radar screen. Of course you may watch a Jesus movie. It’s not just your right; God would have it that way, or so it’s thought. Use the movie as a tool for evangelism! Permissiveness and latitude is always the de facto position. It's commonly thought that either the second commandment has been abrogated with Israel’s expiration (along with Sabbath observance) or it doesn’t apply to images of Jesus under the "dispensation of grace."

Many Christians try to believe that the second commandment has always only been against making an image of God and using it as a worship aid, like Roman Catholicism promotes in practice. (The Eastern Church’s icons are usually up for grabs.) A growing number of Protestants who avoid crucifixes and such will say that the commandment is addressing carved images or possibly God’s divine nature but certainly not Jesus’ human nature acted out in a movie. But, be honest now. Are Christians going to a Jesus movie merely to get a glimpse of the Lord’s humanity, or are they looking to be spiritually edified by a visual depiction of the God-man? If they're looking for spiritual edification, then the accompanying sin is that of false worship through the mediation of an image of Christ, which is forbidden under the second commandment. If the aim is not spiritual edification, then the pursuit is a vain thing and, therefore, forbidden under the third commandment. If the commandment refers only to false gods and not the living God, then the second commandment collapses into the first commandment leaving us with nine commandments, (which although is theoretically possible it would raise a question regarding redundancy over two in light of the remaining eight, very distinct commandments).

What is most times overlooked is that Jesus’ personality is that of the Second Person of the Trinity and not just any human personality. God couldn’t have given the incarnate Christ my personality for instance. No, the incarnate Christ has the personality of the Son. It had to be that way since the Son, the Second Person, became man. Added to this, an actor, no matter how good, cannot help but project his own personality (blended with a scripted personality) onto the screen. He cannot portray the personality of another perfectly - let alone the personality of the Second Person of the Trinity even approximately! Therefore, the actor who would dare play the Christ cannot but project a false image of God even if he sticks to the written script of Scripture. It’s not as though verbal tone and body language do not proceed from personality. In fact, the reverse is true. Reactions of persons convey ideas that are propositional in nature. These picture-words are being passed off as God's communication.

I know how unspiritual it can be to use theological terms, but it’s my Blog. The idea of perichoresis as it relates to the hypostatic union is relevant to this discussion and should inform our thinking on the second commandment as it relates to images of Christ. As Oliver Crisp astutely notes, we can rightly say that the divine nature penetrates the human nature (yet without commingling or confusion of the distinct natures of Christ). Although the two natures of Christ are indeed distinct (i.e., there is no transfer of properties), the divine works of the Second Person, though they do not originate with the human nature, are performed through the human nature by the divine Son. (Again, Crisp.)(Similarly, the three persons of the Trinity although distinct, mutually indwell each other and "share the same divine space." Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, Luke 4:1; the Father indwells the Son, John 14:10, etc.To consider the Son aright, one must consider His relationship to the Father, etc., and the Trinity as a whole.)

The divine nature precedes the human nature in the incarnation. The Son of God became man. Accordingly, although the divine nature penetrates the human nature, the reverse is not true. Christ is a human being who came down from heaven.  In the time of Jesus' humiliation, no less than now, this divine penetration resulted in Jesus’ tone of voice and body language. May Jesus be accurately portrayed as effeminate or would his divine nature forbid such a penetration to his human nature? Would He grin or appear disappointed in the same way and over the same things as any mortal actor?

What possibly intrigues me most in all of this is that when I watch a good movie I have no problem suspending my beliefs so that the actor may “become” for me the character. So, Al Pacino becomes The Don and Anthony Hopkins becomes C.S. Lewis. No sin there I trust. Do Christians do the same when watching Jesus movies? I would think not. I certainly hope not! Christians are to be on their guard because they should realize that the actor will not be faithful to the Second Person. We don’t know Jesus’ facial expressions, etc. but such expressions often speak a thousand words. Are those words consistent with the Son of God? More to the point, are they His words? If not, then how are movies such as this not putting words in God’s mouth?

Once again, God’s people put their carnal reasoning and good intentions above the plain word of God. Once again the serpent hisses, “Has God said?” Once again the church falters in disobedience over the latest craze.

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