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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Revoice, a few thoughts...

 For the Love of Those Fighting Against Homosexuality - The Aquila Report
So, to those wondering if the PCA is in the process of embracing homosexuality let me say that to my knowledge there are no pastors within our denomination promoting the acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage.
This is a troublesome statement made by PCA minister Todd Pruitt. By "embracing homosexuality," presumably Pastor Pruitt means "promoting the acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage." In other words, Pastor Pruitt seems to have defined for us what it would be for the PCA to embrace homosexuality. For Pastor Pruitt, embracing homosexuality not just entails but reduces to promoting the acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage.

Before dealing with the heart of the premise, I'd like to tease out from that complex statement a less obvious concern - but a serious concern just the same.

Why should we believe that the "process of embracing homosexuality" has not already begun in the PCA? At the very least, is the process of having begun moving from any point A to any point B ever a matter of actually arriving at point B? For example, even had the United Methodist Church and PCUSA repented and stopped short of where they are today (point B), prior to doing so wouldn't the process of having moved toward embracing homosexuality already begun? After all, what does it mean to be stopped in one's tracks? Or, is the process of getting to a full blown acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage dependent upon a final acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage? If so, then there's no true process of getting anywhere until after we get there, which is a denial of the rational order of things.

No, we must face the facts, that same sex attraction (SSA) advocates have gained a seat at the table in the PCA is a sure indicator that "the PCA is in the process of embracing homosexuality." The only question is, will the denomination take a firm stance and resist the urge, now that it is unwittingly beginning a process of embracing homosexuality? (For various reasons I think my denomination will get this right and without cutting a half-way covenant.)

But all that is incidental to my main concern. Pastor Pruitt remarks:
However, the organizers and speakers of Revoice profess fidelity to the biblical position on sexual intimacy – that sexual intimacy is a gift of God legitimately experienced in marriage between a man and woman.
His next statement, which begins a new paragraph, is what is at the top of this page - "So, to those wondering if the PCA is in the process of embracing homosexuality let me say that to my knowledge there are no pastors within our denomination promoting the acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage."

Remember, at the very beginning what defined embracing homosexuality was the acceptance of homosexual acts or homosexual marriage. Accordingly, affirming a traditional position on sexual intimacy (marriage) would seem to be the same thing as rejecting homosexuality. I find that woefully inadequate. At the very least, Revoice-advocates defend the legitimacy of celibate homosexuality. They believe that homosexuals need not repent of *homosexual* attraction, which presupposes that these folks indeed are homosexuals! So, to defend the legitimacy of the heartfelt urge is to embrace homosexuality - regardless if one will "profess fidelity to the biblical position on sexual intimacy.”
Rather, the debate in the PCA is over the moral status of homosexual desires. The debate extends to the legitimacy of sexual orientation as a category and whether homosexuality is a fixed albeit broken marker of human identity. There are some in the PCA who are comfortable with using terms like Gay Christian to describe Christians who have homosexual desires but choose in obedience to Scripture to remain celibate. However, there are others who believe it is vital that terms like Gay Christian or Queer Christian must not be used in the PCA; that we must not adopt the world’s understanding of sexual orientation and identity...
Pastor Pruitt is correct. The debate is over SSA. He is also correct that conservatives in the PCA resist terms like Gay Christian. What Pastor Pruitt seems to miss is that the objection is not merely a matter of adopting "the world’s understanding of sexual orientation and identity." Rather, the problem chiefly lies with the fact that the term Gay Christian is an oxymoron. There are none. Those who refuse to turn from SSA and instead merely strive to abstain from acting on such desires are homosexuals. Their identity is not Christian but rather Gay.
But I am deeply dismayed at their insistence on using worldly and ungodly categories and language to describe human identity and sexuality. For instance, the category of sexual orientation is deceptive.
The category of Gay is accurate if it fits. The point is it has no place in the church, not because Christians should identify themselves in some other way (of course they should), but because the label isn't appropriate for the penitent.
Then of course there is the language of Gay Christian, LGBTQ Christian, Queer Christian, and sexual minority. Is it possible that the PCA hosts, organizers, and speakers of Revoice were unaware that such language would vex and confuse a great number of their brothers and sisters in Christ? It stretches credulity to believe the present controversy surprised them.
Who is confusing whom?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Free Offer Of The Gospel

Q. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Canons of Dort 2.5:

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

The free offer of the gospel (abbreviated “free offer”) has meant different things at different times. From a confessional standpoint, it can only mean that God sincerely offers salvation to all who repent and believe. The meaning is at best narrow. The confessions do not speak in terms of God’s desire for all men to be saved; they merely teach that God promises the gift of everlasting life to all who would turn from self to Christ. This promise of life through faith is sincere. It is a genuine offer. If you believe, you will be saved. This gospel is to go out to all men everywhere.

Arminians are often quick to point out that the free offer is inconsistent with Calvinism. They reason that if the offer of the gospel is sincere and to go out to all people without exception, then God must desire the salvation of all people without exception. Otherwise, they say, the offer isn’t sincere. How can God desire the salvation of all men without exception if God as the ultimate decider of man’s salvation chooses to pass over some? In other words, Arminians reason that unless God desires to save all men, which they observe does not comport with Calvinism, the free offer of life through faith is insincere when given to the reprobate. Their axiom is that a sincere gospel offer implies a sincere desire to see the offer accepted, a well-meant offer. More on that in a moment.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), representative of possibly most Calvinists today on the matter of the free offer, under the leadership of John Murray and Ned Stonehouse, adopted as a majority position the Arminian view that God desires the salvation of all men. While still holding fast to the Reformed view of predestination, the OPC affirmed the view that that the free offer cannot adequately be disassociated from a divine desire of salvation for all men without exception. In other words, such Calvinists assert that the genuineness of the gospel offer presupposes God's desire that all embrace Christ.

Subsequently, the free offer has taken on the additional meaning of a well-meant offer, or desire, that the reprobate turn and be saved. Accordingly, a major difference between Arminians and such Calvinists as these is on the question of consistency. Arminians find the free offer inconsistent with unconditional election, whereas these sorts of Calvinists (who hold to an expanded view of “free offer”) do not.

Back to first principles. What makes an offer genuine or sincere?

Can we judge whether an offer is genuine or sincere simply based on whether it is true or not? If God intends to keep his promise, then isn't the offer genuine? With respect to the gospel, if one meets the condition of faith, he will one day enter the joy of Lord. Isn't that enough to make the offer of salvation sincere? 

What was introduced in this discussion is what we might call the “well meant” offer of the gospel, that when God sincerely promises life on the condition of faith, the genuineness of the promise is predicated upon a sincere desire to see all men meet the condition. An indiscriminate call supposedly implies a desire for salvific fulfillment. Yet does a desire to keep one’s promise suggest an additional desire to see all meet the condition upon which the promise is based? Or does a sincere free offer merely require that the promise is truthful?

Well-meant offer; genuine offer; free offer; universal offer... (i.e. any offer!) now somehow implies the same thing – God desires all men without exception to exercise faith in Christ and be saved. 

Let’s do some basic theology…

What does it mean that God desires the salvation of the reprobate? Are we to believe that God desires the reprobate to do something he cannot do, namely regenerate himself and grant himself union with Christ? Or, is that to check our Calvinism at the door? Isn't it Jesus who saves? Isn't salvation of God after all? At best, if we are to remain consistent with our Calvinism, then wouldn't it follow that to argue for a well-meant offer of the gospel we'd have to posit that God desires that he himself would regenerate the reprobate unto union with Christ and salvation? Simply stated, since Calvinism affirms total depravity, wouldn't it stand to reason from a Calvinistic perspective that if God desires someone's salvation, God must desire that he save that person?

Accordingly, the question that should be considered in this regard is either (a) "Does God desire the reprobate to turn himself and live?" Or (b), "Does God desire that he himself turn the reprobate so that he can live?" Given that man is blind and deaf to spiritual things and cannot do anything to atone for his sins, how are we not strictly dealing with the theological plausibility of (b), that God desires to turn the reprobate contrary to what he has already decreed? If TULIP  is true, then (a) is a non-starter lest God desires what is impossible to occur.

Now then, is it reasonable to think that the Holy Spirit desires to turn the reprobate Godward when the Father, in eternity, did not choose the reprobate in Christ? Moreover, if Christ did not die for the reprobate and does not pray that the efficacy of the cross would be applied to the reprobate, then in what sense does God desire the reprobate’s salvation? Does God desire that for which Christ does not pray? Does the Trinity desire that persons of the Godhead work at cross purposes? Does God desire true contradictions after all? Or is this a matter of mystery? Does God have multiple wills, let alone multiple wills that are at cross-purposes? Or is this a matter of two truths that we should accept by faith? Apparent contradiction or true contradiction?

Not only can God not save the reprobate whom he did not elect in Christ; 2000 years ago didn't God act in time sealing that inability by securing salvation only for the elect? If so, then does it not follow that for God to desire the salvation of the reprobate, we should be willing to say that God, today, desires that Jesus would have died for the reprobate 2000 years ago? Or is there a third way of living looking at this? Does God live with a sense of regret or un-fulfillment? 

The OPC is quick to point out that they are not advocating a position entailing God both desiring and not desiring his decree. Fine, but then what does it mean for God to desire that men act contrary to his decree? Can God desire his decree while also desiring men to act in such a way that would thwart it? Moreover, aside from the question of whether God desires that man act contrary to God's decree, what does it mean for God to desire that he himself act contrary to how he decreed he would act? (Of course, I know no Calvinist who affirms the well-meant offer of the gospel who would also say that God desires that he elected more unto salvation, or anything like that. Yet if man cannot turn himself, as Calvinism clearly affirms, then isn't the implication of a well-meant offer that God desires to save those he has determined not to save?)

Indeed, God delights in his elect turning to Christ, but does such delight require that he also desires all men to turn to Christ, especially given that he has not seen fit to save all men?

Calling such a contra-Murray view a form of hyper-Calvinism or rationalistic appears insupportable until shown otherwise.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

New Blog

Theological Fireside Chats was created for the young men at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Once per month it will be updated with the topic for the following month's discussion group.The kickoff for this fellowship was Friday night, September 15. 14 young bucks attended. Our next meeting is scheduled for one week from today: Friday night, October 20th. 

The comments box is closed. It is used for footnotes as well as summaries of all past discussions. 

Take a peak and please pray for fruitful discussion and warm fellowship.


Proverbs 24:17-18New King James Version (NKJV)

17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.

God is more concerned with our attitude than with his temporal dealings with the unjust. If we want God's preceptive will to be carried out on earth as it is in heaven, we should not gloat lest we provoke God to withdrawal his justice in order that his higher priority obtains, ridding us of gloating in this instance.


1. Our greatest desire should be that God's glory be on display. In this case, his just anger, which implies his temporal retribution. Our participation in that endeavor is something other than gloating, whatever that might look like.

2. We become culpable of God's justice not being meted out on earth. (That has serious implications in the political realm when parties gloat over the moral failings of their enemies.)

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My first (and probably last) abortion discussion on Facebook

I had an enlightening exchange on Facebook last night with a liberal. There’s no thread to produce because this person deleted it after their non-arguments for abortion were exposed as arbitrary and inconsistent. I pointed out only a sampling of informal fallacies - one false disjunction, one red herring, an argument from silence, all in a very brief discussion. Question begging abounded. There were also isolated instances of equivocation and ad hominem. (This is not intended to be a praise of my refutations. Far from it. It merely serves to highlight what is typical of liberals. It's not that liberals aren't intelligent. It's just that liberal ideologies are rationally indefensible.)
They deleted the posts in stages. Once I noticed what was happening I posted that I can understand why the record had been deleted given the bad showing on behalf of an unargued pro-abortion position. They strikingly responded with “showing?” as if no exchange had taken place.
Some of the highlights and observations.
The discussion did not begin with abortion. It began by my pointing out that when one is unwilling to acknowledge the faults of their own party affiliation, a tension can ensue. Rather than live in tension, those disagreements can be rationalized away by minimalizing them. Even worse, one can eventually surrender to the void and end up embracing those positions they otherwise wouldn’t so to relieve the uncomfortable tension that comes with covertly disagreeing with one's own peers. (Peer pressure isn’t something just for teens. For adults, too, resistance can give way to non-resistance. Non-resistance to embracing.)
Assuming this high school friend was still Roman Catholic (Catholic upbringing with devout mother), I simply wrote “the unborn?” (I wanted to see if they'd voice what I hoped would be a disagreement with a fundamental position of the Democratic Party.) Their coy response was that they didn’t mix religion with politics. Well, I was happy to change gears into a religious discussion, but instead I pointed out that abortion is a political matter as well as a religious matter; abortion is fair game in either arena. It was said since abortion was law it wasn’t political. Really? Then why during presidential debates do moderators ask questions pertaining to Roe v. Wade? Why do nominees to the Court suffer under congressional scrutiny on this matter? Obviously, this person’s stated reason for not wanting to discuss the matter was disingenuous.

After a bit of back-and-forth this person simply volunteered they were “comfy” with their pro-abortion position. Assuming they disagreed with other types of murder, I asked what conditions necessary for murder are not met by abortion. Crickets.
They immediately changed the subject, impugning hypocrisy to those who are pro-life yet don’t support social programs for the born. This person called these sorts "not pro-life but anti-abortion." (Implication being, if they were pro-life they’d care about the born too.)
Note the equivocation. Pro-life has a distinct meaning that pertains to the question of whether abortion entails taking innocent life. It does not pertain to one’s concern for the quality of life after birth. One might dare consider granting a revision to the label “pro-life” if persuasive statistics could be offered that would suggest pro-lifers are in favor of assisted suicide or genocide. But even then, all that might show is that pro-life people are inconsistent on the matter of sanctity of life. It would not prove a pro-life position is wrong.  
When I suggested that it is happily consistent to be pro-life while believing that giving toward social concerns should primarily be left up to individuals and ecclesiastical organizations, I was met with the insufficiency of those means. So, for this person, it’s fair to conclude that people who are traditionally considered pro-life and, also, give large sums of money to the poor are not truly pro-life but rather just anti-abortion. To be pro-life, one must not only be concerned for the poor, they must also agree with the insufficiency of giving toward those causes through other means other than government mediation. Only a big government liberal can be pro-life. False premises lead to silly conclusions, like that one.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trump, grammar, partisanship and hypocrisy....

""I will tell you," Trump told Hannity, "you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem, you cannot do that.""

I must believe the President doesn't mean "cannot," proven by the fact that people often do. So, at best, he either means "may not" or "should not." If the former, then he's at odds with Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), which concludes that flag burning is "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment.*

Yet if all the POTUS means is "should not," then I'm fine with him holding to that opinion, which I share strongly, as long as he realizes that people *can* commit incendiary acts, even under the protection of the law. They can and they may.

What possibly amuses me most in all this chatter, maybe aside from the partisan imprecision I sometimes (sometimes often?) find with Sean Hannity, is that such extreme forms of protest are typically found only among *extreme* liberals; yet mainstream media refuses to admit that such behavior is at least a bit outside the norm, let alone completely out of step with what America stands for in principle. How did such truthfulness become only a conservative virtue? Or is it situational? If conservative athletes took a knee during the previous eight years, would it have been the protesting athletes or Obama's policies that would have received the blame by conservatives? There's good reason to think the latter. Yet should being right on an issue afford sympathy toward those who'd protest in objectionable ways? I should say not. As Michael Corleone aptly stated to the infamous senator from Nevada, "We're both of the same hypocrisy..." Until either side admits hypocrisy applies at least minimally to their own dealings, good luck.

What's at play here is both parties and the networks won't give an inch on the political field. Their fear is the moral equivalency factor. I won't acknowledge my wrong doing in fear that you won't acknowledge yours and yours is much worse! The moral equivalency factor gives way to "justifying" eclipsing of truth and telling outright lies in order to win an argument. Bias reporting is now somehow justified as long as the other side is behaving more unseemly than we. (No doubt, the ungodly are more comfortable among liberals. There isn't a moral equivalency between the parties, but that's not the point. Read on...)

Christians are governed by a radically different standard. A standard that often calls us to give up yardage in this world. A standard that requires us to acknowledge guilt, regardless of how little we think it compares to that of our opponents.

At the very least, all conservatives are to be about Rule of Law, but too often Rule of Law doesn't enter into the discussion when it undermines the point we'd like to make. Expedience trumps integrity. (Apropos Rule of Law - disrespecting our country is legal, whether we like it or not. Yet the Right is conspicuously silent on the constitutional rights of these juvenile knee-takers. Just like the Left refuses to acknowledge the inappropriateness of such outrageous behavior.)

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is much is permitted in this great country of ours under the rubric of "freedom of speech." For instance, we have this "American" idea that even blasphemy should be legal lest we become like a Muslim state. Where did that come from? False dilemma, obviously, but our schools don't teach critical thinking. Maybe that's where it comes from? No, bad reasoning is an ethical matter more than one of aptitude or education. Intelligent people can appear quite foolish when on the wrong side of an issue. Stephen Hawking.

Well, I'd say states' rights got swallowed up by the Federal Government long ago. I'd also say Texas pretty much had it right on this issue of flag desecration back in '89. (Though their criminal appeals court did rule contrary to the states' original ruling and subsequent appeal, as did the SCOTUS.)

Given the perpetual erosion of states' rights, maybe we can at least uphold NFL owners' rights? While I'm hoping, maybe players might one day consider taking a knee in church on Sunday - before heading off to work, of course. *sigh*

Truth may and can triumph over party. And, it most certainly should.

(*Antonin Scalia was in the 5-4 majority. Yet interestingly enough, what ended up being a defining moment in legalizing U.S. defiance took place during the 1984 Republican National Convention due to "disagreement" over certain Reagan policies. Be careful whom you appoint I guess. Oh well... If only man-on-the-street Jesse Watters could've interviewed the communist activist that night in '89 on the depth and breadth of his ideology.)

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Ridding Cities of Statues and Memorials

As a general rule we shouldn't make hasty decisions over night, especially by mob consensus, that are irreparable. The recent rage to discard monuments meets all three tests of poor judgement.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Strict Justice vs Pactum Justice

I've been considering afresh the relationship of pactum justice with respect to Adam in the CoW and how that relates to strict justice in redemption. With Adam the reward would've been disproportionate to the work. The justice would not have been according to strict justice but rather according to an agreement to over pay Adam, a pactum justice if you will. The value of the work would not have intrinsic value. No problem there I trust. 

I do find that in redemption our reward though received by grace alone is according to strict justice. The passive obedience part that deals with our demerit is more obvious perhaps, but I think some who focus on active obedience have no place to ground strict justice with respect to our right standing before God. Let me frame the dilemma and then try to solve it, but before that I'll try to address the easier part having to do with strict justice as it relates to our demerit. 

The one time sacrifice was sufficient payment to satisfy God’s strict  justice. The divine nature was required so that satisfaction could be actually intrinsic to the work. Our demerit needed the incarnate Son of God to pay for the sins of His people, for one thing to keep his human nature from sinking under God's infinite wrath. Christ being God could render God propitious and truly provide full satisfaction, a strict just payment for our sins. That's the more obvious part. No issues I trust.

The dilemma:

The Son assumed the terms of the covenant that offered a disproportionate reward for works done as a human being. So, regarding the active obedience part, I don’t see how pactum justice can be avoided and strict justice obtained if our positive merit is predicated solely on Christ fulfilling the original terms of the covenant and we grant that those original terms were according to pactum justice. I think that’s the necessary implication of a position that limits our positive standing to that which we receive only by the active obedience of Christ. If the Son took on the terms of the original covenant and if those terms offered disproportionate reward via pactum, then it stands to reason that our right standing is not according to strict justice. 

We should look at this from another angle:

Although the required work was essentially* (footnote) the same for both Adams and, therefore, disproportional to the reward, in our receiving of the whole person of Christ and not merely His obedience in the economy of redemption we do find strict justice. In other words, by union with Christ we are by grace rightful co-heirs to the heavenly Jerusalem etc. Not by His work only but by our union with the architect himself. I think if we want to speak of our reward of all things in Christ being strictly just, then I think we need to abandon the notion of merely obedient-merit imputed and start thinking in terms of Christ’s perfection being imputed in union. I fear this is eclipsed in certain quarters. Where do we ground strict justice if all Christ did for us was obey as the Second Adam in our stead as opposed to taking us into union with Himself? We have by grace what the Son has by nature and we receive that in union with Christ. I think some constructs that emphasize active obedience fail to do justice to the implications of union with the perfections of Christ – the whole Christ, which includes yet exceeds his work of obedience. There's not a strict parallel to Adam, nor is there one in Romans 5.


*Of course Christ had a harder task. Adam had to be obedient in a world with the serpent but not in world with human disciples of the serpent. 

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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Blind Followers, Inconsistencies, Double Standards and More Confusion

Roman Catholics often assert that Protestantism operates under the principle that Scripture is open to private interpretation because Protestants deny the need for an infallible magisterium to interpret Scripture. Is historic Protestantism really a religion of "me and my Bible?" Do the tenets of historical Protestantism really deny 2 Peter 1:20, which informs that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation?

An honest and informed Roman Catholic understands that Protestants do not think that Scripture has no need for an interpreter.
1. An honest and informed Roman Catholic understands and will gladly concede that historic Protestantism affirms that Scripture is the interpreter of Scripture. This is often referred to as the analogy of faith.
2. Even for the Roman Catholic, Scripture interprets Scripture with respect to the magisterium's basis for Christian doctrine. In turn the magisterium is to relay its interpretation of Scripture to the laity. Even Marian doctrines are alleged to be derived from Scripture.
3. Even when a Roman Catholic lay person offers an argument from Scripture, say to reconcile James with Paul, they too operate under the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture. At the very least, won’t a Roman Catholic appeal to Scripture’s interpretation of Scripture to derive and offer proof of Rome's doctrine for an infallible magisterium?  Rarely does one find a Roman Catholic assert “the pope has said so and that settles it.”
Roman Catholics not only often impugn Protestantism unjustly; they maintain a double standard in the process. I am not suggesting ill intent. I'm just pointing out what is commonplace.
More inconsistencies, double standards and confusion
Another common objection levied against the perspicuity and sufficiency of Scripture is that since there are so many denominations that hold conflicting views we simply cannot know what Scripture teaches without an infallible magisterium.  An easy refutation of this argument is that Christ held the Jews responsible to know the Scriptures even in spite of the error of the teaching magisterium of his day. Moreover, there is no Old Testament precedent for the need or establishment of an infallible magisterium. In fact, those that would set themselves above Scripture were often to be disregarded utterly and completely. If the New Testament abrogates this principle then it should be demonstrable from Scripture, which of course would undermine the absolute need for an infallible magisterium. In any case, allowing for the premise that Peter was the first pope (and all that entails), how does one reach the grand conclusion of an unbroken lineage of infallible popes that would reside in Rome?
Indeed, the doctrines that exist within the entire set of Protestant denominations cannot all be correct given that contradictory doctrines exist within Protestantism. Yet that’s a far cry from  substantiating the need for an infallible magisterium, especially in light of Old Testament precedence as noted above. Nor do conflicting Protestant denominations imply that Rome has true doctrine.
A Fresh Polemic?

Although in one sense Rome has a greater chance of being correct than any given set of conflicting doctrines, Roman Catholics are not able to argue successfully that Roman Catholicism has any more chance of being correct than any particular denomination that has not contradicted itself. Rome likes to compare herself with the whole of Protestantism rather than with a single Confession that is internally consistent with itself, like the Westminster standards.
Coming at this from a non-Trinitarian unbelieving perspective, we can just as easily lump Roman Catholicism in with all other Trinitarian denominations making the set even more inclusive. Given such a cataloging of Trinitarian denominations and by employing the Roman Catholic's way of reasoning, one may just as easily ask in the spirit of Roman Catholic skepticism how truth can be known given all the opposing doctrines within Trinitarian theology (Roman Catholicism included). In other words, Roman Catholic apologists often point to conflicting doctrines within the whole of Protestantism to create need for Romanism, the supposed arbiter of truth. Yet if we lump Rome in with all the rest of Christianity (and apply her reasoning) then her disagreements with the Westminster standards, for instance, makes her doctrine as questionable as all the Protestant denominations she would cast doubt upon. In response to this Roman Catholics might say that Rome claims infallibility whereas Protestant denominations don't. But how does the claim of infallibility establish actual infallibility any more than it points to absolute delusion?!

In Conclusion

If Scripture does not inform the Roman Catholic magisterium about what Scripture has to say, then who or what does? To deny that the popes affirm the analogy of Scripture for the magisterium is to reduce Scripture to brute particulars that have no  discernible coherence, which would mean that the magisterium with respect to interpreting Scripture must be making things up as they go along and that any appeal to Scripture is disingenuous at best. Therefore, it’s not that Rome so much denies the intelligibility of Scripture. Rather, Rome would have us believe that Scripture is only intelligible to the magisterium. Consequently, individual Roman Catholics should not appeal to Scripture to justify the Roman Catholic communion and the church's need for the popes. Rather, Roman Catholics should be consistent by simply pointing to the authority of the popes to defend the claims of the popes. That's viscously circular. And, it's an admission of being a blind follower of something other than Scripture, which is an embarrassment for Roman Catholics yet a necessary implication of their view of the church and Scripture.

As soon as a Roman Catholic argues from Scripture he denies the need for an infallible magisterium. Once he points to Rome apart from Scripture, he shows himself to be a blind follower of Rome in the face of Scripture.
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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Deduction, Induction, TAG and Certainty

Deduction as a construct does not bring forth certainty any more than induction. Inductivists try to move from what might be thought to be known, or considered most probably the case, to what is not yet believed with the same veracity. Induction is “open ended” we might say, because induction as a process is never fully exhaustive. Rather, it comes to an end once one is satisfied with his personal pursuit. To put it another way, once cognitive satisfaction has been achieved the inductive pursuit is over, but it always stops short of philosophical certainty due to the nature of induction.

The deductive process on the other hand often leaves people with the impression that as a construct deduction brings forth knowledge. This would only be true, that deduction yields knowledge, if epistemic certainly was only a matter of construct, which it is not. Indeed, if the deductive process is valid, then the conclusion certainly follows from the premises. Whether the premises are reliable, however, is another matter altogether that requires further investigation having nothing to do with the deduction at hand. Deduction itself does not bring forth knowledge because for one to know the conclusion for what it truly is, he would first have to justify the premises that lead to the conclusion, which the immediate deduction in view does not achieve. That does not mean that deduction cannot aid in obtaining knowledge. The justification of many propositions that can be known comes by way of deduction.

Akin to those common errors, people often require a "philosophically certain" proof. I understand what epistemic certainty is, and appreciate what people mean by psychological certainty. I also understand what constitutes a valid and invalid argument, and what distinguishes those types of arguments from sound and unsound arguments. But what is a “philosophically certain argument”? People are certain, not arguments. Whether sound arguments will persuade someone to any degree of certainty is the job of the Holy Spirit, not the apologist.

Deduction is not a sufficient condition for knowledge. First, there is the "garbage in garbage out" consideration. The conclusion of a valid deduction need not be true; it only needs to follow from the premises. Accordingly, further investigation into the truth of the premises must occur for there to be the possibility of knowledge; yet that lies beyond the scope of the deduction at hand. Added to that, the Holy Spirit must grant justification for beliefs, which truth and structure alone cannot produce. Finally, the Holy Spirit must grant the knowledge that a valid deduction is reliable given true premises, which deduction cannot do. In short, God produces knowledge. He might even use weak inductive inferences in the process, but when knowledge is attained, the justification for what is believed to be true is through the illuminating power of God. Knowledge does not rely upon the induction or deduction that might have been employed in the process, but rather when one knows he has been taught by God.

A word or two might be in order regarding transcendental arguments (TAG in particular). TAG has a distinctly inductive aspect to it because with TAG the Christian investigates what must be true in order for some experience to be intelligible. Such explorations are inductive in emphasis. Notwithstanding, the manner of the investigation is not "open ended" because the premises within TAG do not merely support the conclusion, they ensure it. That point is missed by those who think TAG is inductive: The aspect of "closure", where the premises ensure the conclusion, is unique to deduction, not induction. Moreover, the conclusion from TAG is not a mere hypothesis, but rather a sound conclusion derived through a deductive process that justifies its premises authoritatively. Finally, TAG falls short of being fully inductive because there is no asserting the consequent with TAG, as there is with all scientific inference, the playground for induction. Nonetheless, TAG has an inductive aspect to it because of the exploratory nature of TAG.

Of course TAG is deductive, but it is unlike all other deductive arguments. What sets TAG apart from garden variety deduction is that with the latter we begin with some truths (or inferences) and reason to others - but that to which we reason is not presupposed as a necessary precondition for the intelligible experience of the original fact of experience. More on that here:

As Bahnsen often quipped, "The proof of God's existence is that without Him one could not prove anything." That is nothing other than "Proof presupposes God" (or "If Proof, then God" since God is a necessary precondition for proof). Bahnsen's deduction and a defense of it can be found here:

(Given the inductive and deductive aspects of TAG, we shouldn't find it at all strange that Van Til said that in what he called the "Christian method" of apologetics, we find "elements of both induction and of deduction in it, if these terms are understood in a Christian sense.”)

Pastorally it should be said that we do not come to know the truth through cleverly devised proofs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We know God by nature (through revelation and conscience), and we must justify that knowledge by Scripture, the Christian's ultimate authority. I know my Savior lives because God has revealed that to me in His word. That is not my defense of the Christian worldview, but it's certainly a defensible fact. In other words, we don't "reason" ourselves to God, but our belief in God is indeed reasonable. In fact, it is not just reasonable; it is justifiable and true, which is to say it constitutes as knowledge.

Apologetically speaking, belief in God is the only reasonable position to hold if for no other reason, it is unreasonable to argue against God's existence because to do so one must first presuppose those tools of argumentation that only are defensible given God's existence. The precondition of intelligible experience is God. The justification for the precondition of intelligible experience is God’s word. An elaboration of that distinction is for another day.

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