Sunday, November 26, 2006

TAG: So Basic, It's Often Honestly Misunderstood (or is it due to a desire for autonomy?)

That Modus Ponens (MP) can be misapplied does not mean that one cannot know when MP is not being misapplied. Knowledge entails a true belief that is justified. In fact, if the belief is properly justified, then it must be true! Accordingly, with a proper view of a “justified” belief, one can reduce knowledge to a justified belief – if we agree that justification requires maximal warrant. Obviously then, when one misapplies MP, then that which such a person thinks he knows by the employment of MP cannot yield true knowledge since that which would be believed would not be justified since the justification would be based upon a misapplication of MP! However, does that then necessitate that one cannot be justified in his belief that he has employed MP properly? Can’t one who is fallible have knowledge after all? If not, then how could a fallible man know he had eternal life? Or how could the apostle John have know that he was writing Scripture when he penned the epistles that bear his name, etc.? Was he not fallible, yet didn’t he have knowledge? Are we to believe that since I can make a mistake in complex reasoning that, therefore, I cannot know when I apply the law of non-contradiction validly and with true premises? Are we to reason, after all, that since I can make mistakes that I cannot know when I have not made a mistake?Let he who has ears hear!

Dr Bahnsen, in his reader on CVT, offers a severe criticism of John Frame on this very point. Frame disagreed with CVT that there is an "absolute certain" proof for Christian theism. One of Frame's points in particular, which Bahnsen disagreed with, is that there is "room for error" in the formulation of arguments. Bahnsen argued against Frame's position in a reductio fashion, noting that Frame elsewhere argues that our "justification for believing" is not merely probable (page 86 in Apologetics to the Glory of God)! Bahnsen zeroed in on an inconsistency of Frame’s, noting that Frame “cannot have it both ways.” What's ironic is that Frame has acknowledged elsewhere (probably in DKG, but I don't remember) that with respect to our knowledge of salvation, which he appreciates we can possess with infallible certainty (an unnecessary qualification of knowledge I might add), is based upon logic! After all, one must reason with premises such as “Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved;” “I am included in the set of anyone;” “I have called upon the name of the Lord” etc. Our assurance is obviously more complex than embracing syllogisms, but nonetheless the Spirit bears witness with our Spirit according to truth of God’s word, which requires us to reason in a fashion just described. The simple point is that the basis for my assurance, which is multi-faceted and which Frame allows for, can include syllogisms. Accordingly, although I am capable of reasoning fallaciously - I can have epistemic certainty of my salvation by knowing that I have reasoned validly with true premises.

At the end of the day, it is child’s play to construct sound syllogisms for the existence of God. In the like manner, it is no great feat to construct a sound transcendental argument, which is not merely a use of modus tollens (but rather a particular use of argumentation that addresses the preconditions of human experience). Moreover, it is not fallacious to appeal to God’s word for the justification of premises. After all, don’t all systems of thought have a terminus authority? Professing atheists and Christian skeptics won’t accept such appeals but they will be hard pressed to show a fallacy just the same when dealing with ultimate truth claims. Having said that, to simply offer a sound argument such as: “God exits or nothing exists; not nothing exists; therefore, God exists” is utterly useless for it does not put forth a challenge to the unbeliever. Notwithstanding, the argument is indeed sound. TAG, however, when properly constructed, which can be found here:
is quite useful in that it puts forth a transcendental challenge and, thereby offers a point of discussion with the atheist.

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. No doubt – the unbeliever will not accept the truth claims of the Bible and, therefore, the premise that “If God does not exist then there is no intelligible experience since God is the precondition of intelligibility.” Consequently, all the apologist can do is refute the hypothetical competitors to the Christian worldview one by one. He does this by performing an internal critique of the opposing worldview, exposing it for its inconsistencies and arbitrariness. Secondly, he does not merely assert TAG, but rather he shows how TAG applies to ethics, reality, knowledge, etc. NOTE: This is not to argue for God's existence inductively or that there are an infinite number of possible worldviews, but rather it is to show that the atheist cannot defeat the claims of TAG no matter how long and hard he tries. (God's existence is argued for deductively through TAG. The formulation of TAG from the link I've provided is valid and the premises are true; now if any Christian wishes to deny the truth of the premises, then we must have to question whether such a one submits to the word of God as being a source of unquestionable truth!)

Note well that all the competitors to the Christian worldview are simply variations of the single-unbelieving worldview, which posits that intelligible experience can be justified apart from revelation. Consequently, there are not an infinite number of worldviews as some have claimed, but rather only two. I know this from Scripture, which is a reliable appeal for truth and the only appeal for those who wish to justify their knowledge of anything!

In the final analyses, the demonstration of the soundness of an argument does not make an argument sound. The apologist merely demonstrates the claims of TAG to a watching world when he exposes the various forms of the one unbelieving worldview for its arbitrariness and inconsistencies. Moreover, there is no limit to the number of sound deductive arguments for the Christian worldview. The problem with Christian-skeptics is that they believe that the only acceptable argument will be one that persuades the unbeliever, which is to confuse proof with persuasion and utilize the tools of predication without a justification. Sadly, these professing believers have deceived themselves into thinking that they cannot trust the Bible apart from “proving” it’s truthfulness by means that do not comport with the denial of the need to presuppose Scripture to argue against TAG! These Christians operate from the same autonomous platform as the professing atheist.


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Monday, October 02, 2006

Obedient Faith Or Obedient Belief?

I argued in the link below that justifying faith must be distinguished from cognizant-belief, but never separated in the lives of those capable of understanding. (A reading of that entry will help in understanding what follows.) If my thesis is false and belief in certain gospel propositions is necessary for justifying faith, then infants can be united to Christ by the Holy Spirit without having received pardon from God due to a want of belief in propositions. In other words, if the essence of justifying faith requires cognizant-belief, then infants cannot be forgiven in infancy, or justification is not always by grace through faith alone.

However, if we understand saving faith as a sovereign work of God whereby He subdues a person’s heart and renews the entire soul after Christ, then it is easy to see that elect infants can be justified by faith alone prior to comprehending the gospel. Accordingly, if a justified infant lives to years of maturity, he will in time believe to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word… and in particular will accept and rest upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life…
What I find ironic in the contemporary Reformed landscape is that those who so strenuously argue that justifying faith is not “obedient” faith also argue that all men everywhere are commanded by God to repent and believe the gospel in order to appropriate Christ's righteousness. Now how does one willfully follow a command (i.e. savingly believe from beginning to end) without obeying the command? One can't. Therefore, belief can be obedient if it results from a command; so if faith is belief, then faith can be obeident-faith! Yet, if we acknowledge that justifying faith is a subdued heart that must exercise itself in belief when confronted with God’s word, then of course justifying faith cannot be “obedient” faith for a dead man (or infant) who comes forth from the grave – ready to believe — does not do so out of obedience, let alone understanding. The point is simply this. If justifying faith is belief, then of course it can be obedient faith because belief always engages the mind and what we believe can be in response to a command. However, if what I say is true, that justifying faith is the propensity to believe all of God's truth from a posture of being recreated, then it is "by this faith" one can believe in obedience; but faith itself is not obedient anymore than Adam was obedient by being created out of the dust of the earth or Lazarus was obedient by coming forth from the grave.


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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Children Of The Promise or Little Vipers?

A question of debate among those who embrace infant baptism while rejecting infant communion is How should covenant children be thought of and treated, which is to say regarded? Should they be regarded as elect? How about regenerate and, therefore, as having the mind of Christ? To do these questions justice, we need to first touch upon the subjects to whom the promise of salvation pertains and the visible-invisible church distinction.

To whom is the promise of salvation made?

The covenantal promise of eternal life is made only to the elect in Christ. Accordingly, only those to whom the promise pertains will God grant the evangelical graces of repentance and faith. And God will grant those graces to all those to whom the promise pertains. {For a discussion on the covenant of grace with respect to whom it pertains please see: }.

Who is to be regarded as part of the visible church?

Although the covenant of grace is particular in nature, (which is to say established with Christ and in Him with the elect), it is nonetheless to be outwardly administered to those who are not elected in Christ unto salvation as long as they qualify by birth or by profession. This is to say that there are those who are hell-bound that still ought to be listed on the church roles as members in good standing given the biblical precepts that the elders are to follow with respect to church membership. Although the promise of salvation pertained to Abraham and his elect son Isaac, Abraham’s son Ishmael who was not a child of promise was nonetheless to bear the sign of entrance into the covenant community, the church. Accordingly, there is precedence that certain reprobates – those that qualify – are to be regarded as members of at least the visible church.

Does the Bible regard those who might finally fall away as elect and converted?

The author of Hebrews gives some of the sternest warnings found in the Bible. After warning his hearers of the perils of apostasy, the author of Hebrews exhorts his hearers unto faithfulness, treating them as true believers: “Though we speak this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that accompany salvation.” Moreover, he enourages them by saying that “we are not of those who shrink back but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

The Apostle Paul when writing to the Galatians who were even “bewitched” by the false gospel of the Judaizers continued to refer to the baptized as those for whom Christ died, having received the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith. In fact, he goes so far as to attribute the thing signified – namely faith – to the outward sign of faith, baptism. In other words, the apostle, being a Calvinist (I speak anachronistically of course) attributes that which the sign signifies (union with Christ), to the sign itself (baptism)! “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… and if you’re Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” Children are of course included in the set of “as many of you as were baptized.” Consequently, children who have lawfully received the sign of baptism are to be regarded as having put on Christ!

{For a discussion that distinguishes between faith and belief, the former being the propensity to believe gospel propositions, which can be possessed by infants, please refer to:}

If God would have us regard congregants as united to Christ and in the invisible church even when such have the immediate need of being warned against apostasy, how much more the case when the hearers are considered more mature in the faith? When the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Ephesus whom he called “faithful in Christ Jesus,” He instructed them that they were chosen in Christ Jesus; redeemed by His precious blood; predestined to adoption; and sealed with the Holy Spirit. He taught them in other words that they were blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. The apostle Paul recognized that not all Israel was Israel and for that matter that not all the church is the church. He understood, in other words, that those he addressed might not truly be elect in Christ; yet not only did he regard them as elect - he regarded them as converted! He regarded the congregants according to their visible position in the church; for that is all any of us have to go on when there is no evidence that would bring into question someone's union with Christ. Therefore, we should not find it unusual that the apostle addressed the covenant children as well - for they too had received the same visible sign of the covenant, baptism! In chapter six of the same epistle the apostle instructs the covenant children to obey their parents in the Lord. In other words, he addressed the children as a subset of those to whom he was writing – whom he had already declared as having received the Holy Spirit, the seal of one's salvation. In a word, the apostle addressed the covenant children according to what their baptism signified (union with Christ), and nothing more. The apostle did not wait for a credible profession in order to exhort the covenant children in the Lord.


Although paedobaptists agree that the rite of water baptism is to be administered to infants born of parents with a credible profession of faith, it is not held by all paedobaptists that such infants are to be regarded as God’s elect (let alone regarded as already existentially united to Christ by the Holy Spirit). In other words, not all paedobaptists agree that infants are to be regarded as being united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. However, many paedobaptists who would prefer not to regard covenant children as already united to Christ are more than willing to regard adults as having that very position in Christ. What is the biblical argument for a such a distinction? It would seem that these paedobaptists would prefer to wait for more evidence of salvation from the covenant child than simply being born in a professing household; yet (a) no evidence can ever attain to a revelatory level whereby the elders can have certainty of the child’s invisible status with respect to Christ, which can be only known by God; and (b) the Bible does not require such evidence. No matter how credible one's profession of faith becomes over time, apart from special revelation no human person can be certain of another’s salvation. To wait for more assurance is arbitrary, contrary to Scripture and baptistic.

What's the cash value in all of this? Well, for one thing, I, who believe in "limited atonement," have told my children from birth that Jesus loves them, died for them and has secured their salvation, which is something I'd never say to the little children of infidels. At the same time, I can also tell my children that if they do not persevere in the faith they will be damned; I can also add that I am persuaded of better things of them - the things that accompany salvation...

We've all heard the words of comfort at the grave side when one of God's faithful servants departs to be with the Lord. Don't those words of comfort apply to the the parents of infants who die in infancy? If not, then why not? Again, what is being sought after by some is a greater degree of evidence. Yet there is already ample evidence that the children of the faithful are elect, for their parents by God's grace love the Lord. However, the discussion over evidence proceeds under a false premise that evidence is germane. The simple point is that we are to follow God's lead regarding how to treat covenant children.

Questions that might readily arise:

Does such a practice lead to paedocommunion? Absolutely not! The question we are dealing with is whether we ought to regard our covenant children as united to Christ; whereas the question over paedocommunion is concerned with whether certain cognizant faculties are requisite in order for one to partake of the sacrament. One can be regarded in Christ without being able to discern the Lord’s body from common food.

Should we exhort our children unto faith and repentance? Yes indeed! In fact, we all need to buffet our bodies lest we too become castaways.

Might we be telling our children a lie? No, but we might be telling them something false!

Are we at liberty to tell someone something false? Yes, when there is biblical precedence to do so. First and foremost, the apostle Paul taught the same saints at Rome that nothing could separate them from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8), knowing full well that that some might be grafted out of Christ as was Israel according to the flesh (Romans 11). He certainly did not lie. Did he say something false? Well, probably so, but who would have been responsible for the false statement? If someone is not a true believer, then he should remove himself from the congregational roles, rejecting the appellation of saint. The church is not responsible for hypocrites. Even with children, the same principle is at work. If I were to tell my child that Jesus died for her and she truly believed that He did, then she would be saved! However, if she didn't believe me, then she would be responsible to tell me so. In which case, I would be constrained to treat her as an unbeliever, encouraging her to enter the kingdom by faith. Now one will no doubt say, "well of course your child will believe you!" Well in that case, if she believes me, then why wouldn't I treat her as justified? Oh, isn't a child like faith wonderful! Let's tell them about Jesus when they're so apt to believe! (Of course the parent should ask diagnostic questions when appropriate in order to assess the validity of the child's faith, even though at least tacitly the child suggests union with Christ by believing everything he's taught from the Scriptures. We all do well to make our calling and election sure. So of course we are to help our covenant children in that regard. However, such assessment is aimed at making one's calling and election sure and not to be used as a tool of evangelism.)

I might add to these questions as new ones arise.


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Monday, September 18, 2006

Islamic Holiday-Stamp Maddens the Mindless

I received the political e-mail below at work today, which is an unusual occurrence. The e-mail, however, is typical of what I receive at my home address. My thoughts can be found below the e-mail. For those who can't wait, my conclusion is that those who would want a Mulsim holiday-stamp to be done away without also wanting the religion to be outlawed by the U.S. Government are at the very least arbitrary in their opinion and at the very most outright bigoted.

The e-mail, which can be found on the Web, concerns itself with the re-issuance of a U.S. postage stamp that commemorates the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.


How ironic is this??!! They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp, but don't dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?

This one is impossible to believe. Scroll down for the text.

If there is only one thing you forward today.....let it be this!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of PanAm Flight 103!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the military barracks in Saudi Arabia!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American Embassies in Africa!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE!

REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on 9/11/2001!

REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks!

Now the United States Postal Service REMEMBERS and HONORS the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a commemorative first class holiday postage stamp.

REMEMBER to adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT this stamp when purchasing your stamps at the post office. To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors.

REMEMBER to pass this along to every patriotic AMERICAN you know!


Sundry Comments:

1. It is false that the stamp is a “Christmas stamp.” Accordingly, it is nonsensical to argue that it is “ironic” that “They don't even believe in Christ and they're getting their own Christmas stamp…” It’s a holiday stamp!

2. Does it even bother the average American Christian that the three-day Eid Al-Adha commemorates the alleged willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael(!) in response to God's command? (It was Isaac who was offered up to God.)

3. The writer seems to be outraged over those who would remove “the ten commandments [from] federal property.” In a sense, I’m outraged as well but I believe in the Ten Commandments. Do culture Christians, let alone evangelical Christians, embrace the Ten Commandments properly understood? Do they even know what they are, let alone what they actually mean? Do these Americans really want the civil magistrate to enforce the Law of Moses when appropriate -- given that they believe what this country stands for, at least on paper, demonstrates the "genius" of a pluralistic utopian society? Or do they simply oppose (even despise) minority groups who would desecrate anything American, whether religious or purely secular? With respect to God’s commandments, do evangelicals and culture-Christians earnestly desire that U.S. citizens not be permitted by law to publicly worship other gods than the Triune God of Scripture who lives? Does the culture-Christian and evangelical desire that the civil magistrate use everything within its power to remove the statues and public idolatrous worship of Roman Catholicism, a communion that is in flagrant violation of the Second Commandment? Do they, in other words "disapprove, detest and oppose, all false worship; and, believe that all who love the Lord should, according to each one's place and calling, remove it, and all monuments of idolatry?" In other words, in principle, do they believe that false worship should be considered illegal based upon the word of God, fully appreciating that it is the job of civil magistrate – not maverick citizens – to enforce such laws with force if necessary?

Are these Christians outraged that “freedom of speech” allows for taking the Lord’s name in vain and blasphemy? Or would they prefer that the civil magistrate apply the general equity of Moses, per the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism? Now I'll really step on some toes... Are these same culture-Christians who are so outraged over a Muslim holiday-stamp pleased to work and watch football on the Christian Sabbath? Do they dine out on Sunday without Scriptural cause, contributing to the breaking of the Sabbath by restaurant workers? Would these American Christians want to see Congress legislate laws that would put an adulterer to death? How should the abominable practice of homosexuality be treated by civil magistrate? What is it to be pro “Ten Commandments” after all? Is it merely a feel-good sentiment that is on par with being pro-Fourth of July, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Or, are God’s commandments covenantal in nature and therefore, being such, often time require temporal sanctions that are to be administered by the civil magistrates? Aren’t civil laws to be considered moral in nature and, therefore, routed in the Ten Commandments? Therefore, isn’t it only reasonable that such laws along with any accompanying sanctions be justified by God’s law? Or is our moral code merely a matter of opinion or conventional, in which case 9-11 was indeed justifiable? How does one expect to justify capital punishment apart from also arguing for a rapist to be put to death, or a man guilty of steeling a loaf of bread to feed his family not to be put to death?

We must face the facts – the American Christian does not really love God’s law (unless it suits him of course) otherwise he would submit to it in faith, without remainder, while expecting his elected officials, civil and ecclesiastical, to do the same. The problem with the culture Christian is that he is arbitrary, inconsistent and in some respects outright unwilling to follow God's word in all areas of life. The evangelical is really no different.

4. With respect to “Remember the Muslim bombing of Pan Am flight 103,” what exactly is the writer’s point? Does he believe that the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 was consistent with – even a logical extension of - the practice of Islam? If so, would he want to outlaw Islamic worship in the U.S.? Would he want the U.S. Civil Magistrate to actually order the destruction of all Mosques in the United States on the basis of the word of God? Doubtful, I'm sure! If I’m wrong, however, then on what concrete basis would he begin to try to justify such military action that would sanction Islamic practice in the U.S.? I have an answer to such questions but by the grace of God I'm a presuppostional theonomist!

It would seem to me that American culture-Christians such as these have concerns that are so mindless, inconsistent and arbitrary that they would want the un-biblically instituted, independent executive branch of the U.S. government called the U.S. Postal Service to stop printing and selling stamps based upon an arbitrary whim and unbiblical hatred, which is anything but a holy hatred grounded in the word of God; yet at the same time, they are not willing to argue that false worship should be illegal in the land. In other words, such culture-Christians and evangelicals are not prepared to argue against the public practice of false religion, while at the same time they happily give themselves (sometimes mind and soul!) to arguing that mere postage stamps that honor religions that they themselves deem lawful in the land are not appropriate and should even be outlawed! The absence of any semblance of logic and the twisted priorty of concern is simply remarkable.

Again, those who would want a Mulsim holiday-stamp to be done away without also wanting the religion to be outlawed by the U.S. Government are at the very least being arbitrary in their opinion and at the very most being outright bigoted. I would argue that until one becomes thoroughly presuppositional in his thinking, which entails an appreciation of the theonomic thesis, he cannot avoid remaining arbitrary and inconsistent with respect to his worldview in general and political views in particular. For a concise defense of theonomy, please visit


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Monday, September 11, 2006

Does God Desire the Salvation of All?

A topic of much discussion among Calvinists is whether God desires the salvation of the reprobate. Popularized in recent times by John Piper, it would seem that most Calvinists indeed take the position that God desires the salvation of the reprobate while choosing not to act on such desires because of a greater desire to glorify Himself through the reprobation of some.

What does it mean that God desires the salvation of the reprobate? Are we to believe that God desires the reprobate to regenerate himself and grant himself union with Christ? Isn't it Jesus who saves? Isn't salvation of God after all? At best, one might dare to argue that God desires that He Himself would regenerate the reprobate unto union with Christ and salvation. Consequently, the question that should be considered in this regard is not whether God desires the reprobate to turn and live but whether God Himself desires to turn the reprobate so he can live. Cast in that light - is it reasonable to think that the Holy Spirit desires to turn the reprobate toward himself when the Father did not choose the reprobate in Christ? Moreover, Christ did not die for the reprobate, let alone does he pray that the efficacy of the cross would be applied to the reprobate. Consequently, it is not available for the Holy Spirit to unite the reprobate to the finished work of Christ! Does God desire what is not available to Him? Does God desire that the Godhead work at cross purposes? Does God desire contradictions after all?

It's one thing to say that God has a priority of opposing desires. It's quite another thing to say God desires what He simply cannot do due to what he has done. In a word, not only can God not save the reprobate. 2000 years ago He acted in time sealing that inability. For God to desire the salvation of the reprobate is to say that God - today - desires that Jesus would have died for the reprobate 2000 years ago. What can God desire on this regard other than the past be different? Does God live with any sense of regret?


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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Could Jesus Have Sinned?

Could Jesus have sinned? Nineteenth century, Princeton Theologian Charles Hodge argued that He could since for Hodge temptation always presupposes the possibility of sin. Naturally, therefore, Hodge reasoned that since Jesus was tempted, He must have been able to sin. In one sense, Hodge can be refuted quite readily since an action cannot be contrary to the decree of God; which would imply that since Jesus did not sin then he could not have sinned.

An argument that supports such a conclusion can be found at:

To get to the heart of what Hodge and others have asked, we might rephrase the question to “Could God have decreed that Jesus sin?” Even that, however, is an unsatisfactory question since God’s decree, being eternal, was necessary. I hope to Blog on the necessity of the divine decree in the weeks to come.

The question Hodge and others have tried to ask is indeed a hypothetical one that grants the Arminian notion of the non-necessity of choices that defy both the decree of God and the metaphysical axiom that responsible choices being caused are, therefore, necessary and not purely contingent. Such concessions as these do not, in my estimation, take away from the legitimacy of the question at hand. Whether the incarnate Christ could have sinned speaks to the question of His person, which deals with a most reasonable Christian inquiry.

The question we must concern ourselves with is whether an action (in this case the action of sin) defies an essential property of the person committing that action. For instance, if I were to have chosen to dine at a Chinese food restaurant last evening instead of a Mexican food restaurant, my choice would not have been contrary to my personhood, which is human, let alone destroyed it. However, had the incarnate Son of God sinned, he would no longer have been a divine person, which is a contradiction since divinity is an immutable property. The reason Christ could not have sinned is simply because were He to have sinned, He would have stopped being God incarnate. We might argue that if one state of affairs necessitates a contradictory state of affairs, then it is impossible that the first state of affairs obtain. If P, then Q; ~Q, therefore, ~P is a valid form of argumentation. Conseqently, it would seem to follow that if Jesus could have sinned, then Jesus could have stopped being God; but it’s not true that Jesus could have stopped being God; therefore, it is not true that Jesus could have sinned.


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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Man's First Sin - The "Mystery" Solved

In the link at the bottom I argued that Adam's first sin was not a choice but rather his nature the moment it became fallen. By way of review, I argued that if Adam's first sin was the action of taking and eating the forbidden fruit, then the act of sin would have come from a nature and inclination not to sin, which in turn would have made the act an unintended act, which of course is not consistent with an act being morally relevant. Accordingly, the first sin was the nature upon becoming fallen. Adam, in other words, had concupiscence prior to acting sinfully. To deny that Adam's first sinful choice came from a nature that had already fallen is to affirm that a sinful action came from a non-sinful nature, a monstrosity indeed.

God is not a legalist, a reductio:

If Adam intended to act sinfully and was tackled prior to acting upon his intention, wouldn't he have sinned just the same? Moreover, had Eve abstained from eating the forbidden fruit solely because she was concerned for her figure, would she not have sinned just the same in the eyes of God? Certainly God is not a legalist who overlooks the intentions of the heart!

Mystery, mystery when there is no mystery:

The reason people call the first sin a mystery is because they begin their reasoning with the false premise that the action of taking and eating the forbidden fruit was the first sin. If we get back to first principles and focus on what precedes any action, whether sinful or not, we can begin to recognize that the first sin was the desire to be like God and not the action that proceeded from that desire. The question that we should be concerned with is not how did an unrighteous act spring from an upright being (which is a question that proceeds from a false premise), but rather how did an upright being acquire an intention to act sinfully? The answer is no different than the answer to the question of how does any intention and subsequent action come into existence. Doesn’t God providentially orchestrate circumstances that come before the souls of men thereby moving them by secondary causes to act in accordance with new inclinations that are brought into existence according to God’s providence that He decrees? By God's pre-interpretation of the otherwise brute particulars of providence, the intentions of men and their subsequent actions fall out as God so determines.

For Calvinists to argue that an act of sin proceeded from an upright nature is to assert a contradiction – and no amount of mystery can save a contradiction! The only thing I find mysterious is that so many Calvinists find the entrance of sin into humanity so mysterious. Note well that I am not pretending to know how God pre-interprets particulars or how the mind of man relates to the movement of the body. That’s not in view at all. My simple point is that Calvinists do not generally find it mysterious that actions necessarily follow from intentions and that God’s orchestrating of circumstances are an ordained means by which intentions come into being. Why, therefore, should we not apply the same theological reasoning to the first sin as we do to God’s sovereignty over the intentions of fallen men?


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To Escondido: Sinai Was Gracious & The Emperor Has No Clothes

Justification and adoption are not proportional to one's personal obedience in that all Christians no matter the degree of sanctification receive the same forgiveness and sonship in Christ. It is equally true that blessings peculiar to salvation are often proportional to the degree of obedience that is exercised by grace through faith. The principle that greater faith working itself out in greater love and obedience often yields greater blessings is not peculiar to Sinai in general and the land stipulations in particular. Accordingly, with respect to Israel’s occupancy of the land, what God determined to be (as Kline referred to it as) an “appropriate measure of national fidelity” need not be thought of in terms of God’s prelapsarian covenant with Adam. “If you obey me I will bless you…” is equally true under Christ as it was under Moses. Accordingly, why should we believe that any proverbial principles put into practice that yield fruit and, therefore, increase of blessing are best considered as a display or recapitulation of the covenant of works? Sinai, plain and simple, was an administration of the covenant of grace - no more no less. The emperor has no clothes.


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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Liberty, the Seat of Moral Accountability

The question that always lurks behind the objection to the Edwardsian view of God’s determination of the human will is how can man be morally accountable for choices that are necessary and not free? In other words, if it is true that God knows the future choices of men because he has determined them and that free will is a philosophical surd, then how can man be held responsible for any choices whatsoever? The solution lies in the distinction between ability and liberty.

There are four states of man. (1) Man in the garden prior to the fall; (2) man after the fall yet prior to conversion; (3) converted man; and (4) glorified man. In all four states man does not have free will; for man cannot choose contrary to his is strongest inclination at the moment of choice; nor can man choose contrary to the truth of how he will choose. It is not as if prior to the fall Adam had free will and then lost it with sin, regaining it upon conversion, etc. Neither man nor God ever has free will.The seat of moral accountability is (a) liberty (the ability to choose what one wants), AND (b) the want of being able to choose contrary to how one will. With respect to liberty, man is morally accountable when he has the ability to choose as he wants; which is to say, man is morally accountable when he has liberty to act, which presupposes no prohibitors, whether they be economic, intellectual, physical, etc. Given liberty, it is necessary that man always choose according to his intentions and never contrary to them; for to act contrary to an intention is not to choose but to act irrationally, without intention. Accordingly, man is morally accountable when he has liberty yet no free will.

A man crippled in his legs from birth cannot be held responsible for not running around the back yard with his children. The reason being, he could not do so if he wanted. He has no liberty in other words, which is again the ability to choose as one wants. With respect to coming to Christ, God’s election of reprobates unto damnation does not prohibit them from acting according their desires and intentions. A reprobate does not lack liberty, the ability to act according to his desire or want of desire for Christ. Consequently, the reprobate is not at all like the crippled man who is prevented from running even given a desire to do so; for the crippled man cannot act according to a desire to run, whereas the reprobate can and does act according his intention toward Christ. A reprobate chooses to reject God, yet could embrace God if he so desired; whereas a crippled man cannot run with his children given a desire to do so. The difference is obvious. The reprobate has liberty, whereas the crippled man has none.

I’ve addressed the matter of the reprobate coming to Christ only because it is the most important choice one makes in his life. However, one should not become confused and think that some real choices are not determined and not according to one’s intentions and, therefore, "free." Some Calvinists wrongly think that reprobates are "free" except with respect to coming to Christ. That is false. No person is free to choose contrary to how he will, whether in the area of the gospel or in common life.
One last point:
Of course liberty is a sufficient condition for responsibility, which is not to say it is a necessary condition for responsibility. With respect to the former, if one has liberty to choose what he wants, he is responsible before God. If one due to his own sinful choices loses liberty, then of course he can still be held responsible for what he no longer has liberty to do. For instance, if one's sinful choice(s) prevents him from providing for his family, his lack of liberty to work due to having to serve prison time does not negate his responsibility to provide for his family. Accordingly, liberty is not always a necessary condition for moral responsibility but it is always a sufficient condition.


Related links from this Blog:

On free will:

On choosing contrary to what God knows:

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Conceptual Necessity Not Enough!

Although Christianity as a posited conceptual scheme can offer a justification for intelligible experience, apart from Scriptural revelation one cannot justify that Christianity as a conceptual scheme reflects the truth of how things are or must be. As Michael Butler has succinctly stated, "Conceptual necessity does not guarantee ontological necessity..." (p. 88 of Festschrift For Greg Bahnsen), And "...the necessity of a conceptual scheme cannot guarantee anything about the way the world must be... This God is... a speaking God who reveals truths to us about Himself and the world... On the Basis of His revelation, therefore, which is itself the necessary precondition of experience, we can know truths about the world and God." (p. 123 Festschrift...)

It is possible for man unaided by Scripture to construct a sound transcendental argument for God's existence by the use of general revelation alone, simply on the basis of a conceptual necessity that would "make sense" of experience. Although man can construct a sound argument (i.e. an argument with a valid form and true premises), apart from Scripture it is impossible to justify the truth values of those premises, let alone argumentation in general. Again, "Conceptual necessity does not guarantee ontological necessity...." For "the necessity of a conceptual scheme cannot guarentee anything about the way the world must be..." After all, did Kant save science or simply psychologize it?!


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Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Neccessity of Scripture in Justifying (even) Logic

Since no man has observed every instance of the law of non-contradiction no man can justify an a priori knowledge of the universal, invariant nature of the law of non-contradiction; we need special revelation from the Divine Mind that the law of non-contradictoin applies in all circumstances. Accordingly, if a universal is not revealed by an ominiscient God who knows with certainty the universality of all universals, man - unaided by special revelation - cannot deduce that the law of non-contradiction is indeed a law. The justification of all tools of reason reduce to rational inferences if God has not revealed them to man through special revelation; yet rational inferences are unjustifiable apart from a true doctrine of creation and providence, which too must be grounded in special revelation. Moreover, the law of non-contradiction presupposes truth, which too cannot be justified apart from special revelation. This is not to say that man being made in the image of God does not know the law of non-contradiction a priori. He does (and because of that he can be found guilty of bearing false witness to the truth). Yet notwithstanding, man cannot ground even that essential and basic transcendental apart from special revelation, which today is found in Scripture alone.


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Friday, May 12, 2006

More on Induction and Knowledge

If knowledge is so broad as to include things believed by inductive inference, then either one can know something on faulty justification (e.g., my clock scenario in the previous blog-entry), or one cannot be 100% certain of the truth of that which is alleged to be "known" by way of induction. In other words, since inductive inference can be based upon rational yet faulty justification, then it follows that one cannot be 100% certain of what he “knows" by induction even if what is believed were true. Accordingly, in common parlance we’d have to distinguish between knowing something “for sure” and knowing something that we’re not 100% sure about. Why not then define "knowledge" as including only that which we can be 100% sure about? Imagine the judge saying: “Do you know that Mr. Smith killed his wife?” “Yes” says Mr. Jones, "I’m nearly 90% certain that it is true!" What is it to “know” something without certainty after all? At what point does one truly “know” anything through induction?

Given inductive-knowledge, either we can know things that are false, or else we can know things that we cannot be 100% certain about. If the latter is true – that we can know things that we cannot be 100% certain about - then we cannot know for certain that which we "know" when that which we "know" comes by way of induction. If that is true, then what does it really mean that we “know” things by way of induction?!

I often hear people say that they appreciate the limitations of induction as it stands in contrast to revelation and deduction, which would suggest that the only difference between philosophers is simply the semantic tagging of words. However, there is better reason to believe that this is not the case and that these people do not grasp the limits of induction. These misguided fellows are quick to argue that one could not even know he is saved apart from induction. They reason thereby that since they can know they are saved that, therefore, induction must be able to yield absolute knowledge. What they acknowledge with one hand they take away with the other! A recent response on this site stated this very sentiment with even a broader brush: “So my point is that if you are going to claim we can't know we know anything through induction, you then have to say the same thing about language and therefore God's Word. And thus knowledge is demolished.”

It is remarkable that so many Reformed thinkers are willing to redefine knowledge so as to include inductive inference in order that they can “know” more things, such as that they are saved! If it is true that induction cannot yield absolute certainty and if it, also, true (as some would have us believe) that we come to embrace God’s word through induction, then we must concede that we cannot know with absolute certainty the truth of the gospel! Yet we can know with 100% certainty the truth of the gospel. Accordingly, either induction can yield 100% certainty or else understanding God’s word is not based on induction. Thankfully, the latter is true. Induction cannot yield 100% certainty, but it is also false that we know the gospel by way of induction. {To introduce “psychological” certainty is simply to muddy the waters. The question is not whether I have a feeling of certainty, but what degree of warrant I have for my beliefs.} A belief in my existence or that Jesus died for me is not obtained through induction, which is precisely why one can know with infallible certainty he has eternal life.

A word or two about Clarkian axioms might be in order at this time. Axioms in geometry cannot be proved as long as they are not deducible or revealed by God. What can one appeal to after all to justify such an axiom? They’re not known as true-transcendentals for they are only posited in order to maintain a rational conceptual scheme. In other words, they are not revealed to men as ontological necessities but rather assumed by men for conceptual necessity. However, the axiom of God’s revelation can be proved since a sound deductive argument can be constructed based upon God’s say so.

What needs to be appreciated is that an argument is sound given true premises and a valid form, which is available to us in Scripture. Even the following is a sound proof for God's existence:

p1. God exists or nothing exists

p.2 Not nothing exists (something exists)

C. Therefore, God exists.

The above proof is not transcendental in nature because it is not concerned with what must be true in order for some other human experience to be intelligible. Notwithstanding, it does demonstrate that proof is child's play since sound arguments are concerned with truth and form, not persuasion. {Such proofs of mathematical axioms cannot be derived since there can be only an inductive appeal for the truth value of any such axiom.}

What is Clark's axiom – but that God exists! Well, I just proved that axiom with a valid form and true premises. Since Clarkians must affirm the form and the premises of the above argument, then why not the proof? The problem is that most Clarkians do not know what is entailed by a sound argument. Accordingly, they typically reduce themselves to skepticism since they can never justify any ultimate truth claim. Without a justification for their truth claims, their arguments are equally unjustified and arbitrary. Now if more Van Tillians would appreciate that TAG is a type of deductive argument and that induction can NEVER prove an absolute truth value, I might sleep better…


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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Induction and Knowledge

Does one know that the President of the United States in the 1980’s had the initials R.R. if he thinks that Roy Rogers was President then?
Let’s talk about time.

1. Justification: Inductive inference that the clock is working based upon history

2. Belief: Believe as true the time the clock indicates, which is 12:00

3. Truth: It is 12:00

Someone might say that since all the criteria for knowledege have been met, one can know it is 12:00 given inductive-knowledge. However, the 3 criteria justify the belief that it is 12:00 even when relying upon a broken clock! Shouldn't this intuitively bother us? Can we "know" things based upon false information? The problem with induction is that inferences that are rational to maintain can always be false. Let me try to make this even more glaring. Let’s say there is another man in the room who has strong reason to believe that the clock is broken. Accordingly, this man will not rely upon the clock. In fact, this man believes that any justification of the time based upon the clock will be unwarranted. The point should be obvious. The man who is most informed about the clock is not able to know the time, whereas the man with less information about the clock would be able to “know” the time if inductive inference allows for knowledge! If anyone is looking for a reductio, then here it is. Given and inductive-knowledge, having less information can be the source of more knowledge, and having more information can cause one to rationally lose the knowledge he once had. Ignorance truly would be bliss! It is one thing to have a justification for a belief and quite another thing to justify the truth value of what is believed. The latter can only come through revelation and deduction.

Now let me sum this up. The first man’s inference about the clock was rational because based upon history the clock had an extremely high probability of working; say 99.9%. The second man had an entirely different rational inference based upon his history with broken clocks. He believed that there was less than 1% chance of the clock working the day after he observed it not working. Both men were making rational inferences based upon their finite perspectives and information. At the very least, given inductive-knowledge, deductive or revelatory knowledge becomes something of a different order and not merely a difference of degree. We need to distinguish the two. I prefer applying the term knowledge to more than inductive inference.

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Let’s say that there is one clock in the world that is the standard of time. In other words, let’s assume that it indicates the “true time.” Now let’s say we were to hook up a digital transmitter to the clock that would output the time to a series of data acquisition systems all running in parallel. Would all of the systems record the same time at any exact instance? No. How can we arrive at the true time then? Some might take the median time of all the times recorded and call it the true time. Someone else might take the arithmetic mean, whereas someone else the mode. Let’s say we were to conclude that at a particular instance the true time was 12:00 noon +/.000000000000000000000000001 milliseconds. How many points of time can fit between the variance? Well an infinite number of course. Accordingly, what is the probability of one knowing the true time? Well 1/infinity of course. Well, what is 1/infinity? Well zero of course. Consequently, no matter what the time is, nobody knows it!

Finally, induction always operates under the formal fallacy of asserting the consequent. It would be misleading, however, to say that inductive reasoning is always fallacious. Rather, by repeated tests through asserting the consequent a veracity of belief can be obtained. “If A, then B; B therefore, A” is of course fallacious. However: “If A, then B; B therefore, A would appear to have more veracity...” is of course the basis for science and indeed valid. To say that science cannot yield specific truth has great shock value but all such a statement really reduces to is that induction is not deduction, which is no great discovery - or at least it ought not be. Some have argued that induction can "prove" a truth value of a projection with some true degree of variance. This however is false, since to "prove" the truth value of any variance would require one to first "assert the consequent!" For instance: "If the variance of any projection has been proved by certain means, then by implementing those means to this set of circumstances I prove the truth of the variance. I have implemented those means to this set of circumstances, therefore, I have proved the truth of the variance." The fallacy is obvious. Again, science can only show how things might appear; we may not say that it is "true" that things will appear as they have in the past. And to say that it is true that things "might" appear a certain way, is to say that it is true that they might not. As for variances, all we can say is that it would appear, based upon the past, that variances are rational to maintain when arrived at inductively. However, we cannot even arrive at a truth value for the variance without asserting the consequent. Nonetheless, a variance can have veracity just as that which it surrounds can have veracity.

I’m sympathetic to the idea that we might actually know things through induction. However, I would say that we cannot know that we know things through induction. If we do know things through induction it is because God has granted a necessary, causal relationship to those things that appear to us as necessary. God would also have to grant us some warrant to believe that things must be the way they are. Does He do this? I don’t know nor do I think we can know.

What’s the beauty in all of this? Well, for one thing - I am more certain that Jesus lives than I am that toothpaste will squirt out of the tube in the morning!


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Monday, May 01, 2006

Adam's First Sin Not A Choice

Obviously Adam needed something additional to sustain him because given the circumstances presented to the soul he fell. Could Adam have defied the eternal decree anymore than Pilate? For Adam not to have fallen he would have needed to possess libertarian free will. Adam certainly possessed liberty, which is simply the ability to act according to one’s intention; he also possessed moral ability, which is the natural propensity or moral nature to act in a manner consistent with what is pleasing to God.

To choose is to act according to one’s intention or strongest inclination at the moment of choice. All choices, being rational, are intended; but intentions are not chosen. If intentions were chosen then each choice of an intention would require a more primitive intention that would also need to be chosen ad infinitum. Consequently, Adam’s action to choose contrary to God’s law was preceded by a sinful intention to act that was not chosen. Adam did not choose this (sinful) intention to act contrary to God’s law; for if he had, then that supposed choice of the first sinful intention would have required an even more primitive sinful intention.

Adam’s first sin was his un-chosen fallen nature, from which a specific intention to act sinfully proceeded. To deny this is to argue that Adam acted sinfully with a propensity and inclination to act uprightly! If Adam acted sinfully when his strongest inclination at the moment of choice was to act uprightly, then he could not be held responsible for his action of sin. It would have been a purely contingent act and, therefore, not one that he intended.

Options were presented to a man who was upright. The action was made in accordance to an intention, as all actions are if they are real choices made in accordance with liberty, the ability to choose as one wants. The choice was sinful. The question is whether a sinful action of choice can proceed from a pure intention. Can a choice to sin proceed from a strongest inclination that is not sinful? Can morally relevant choices be contrary to the strongest inclination at the moment of choice? If not, then the choice to sin must have proceeded from an inclination to choose contrary to God's precepts; and a sinful inclination toward a particular sinful choice can only come from a nature that is already fallen. There’s no mystery here. There are only two possibilities. Either the strongest inclination to act sinfully was a sinful inclination or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t, then the strongest inclination to act uprightly was followed by a sinful action, which would destroy the moral relevancy of the action since it would not have been according to what was intended at the moment of choice. If the strongest inclination was sinful, then the first sin was Adam’s inclination to act sinfully and not the action that followed from the sinful inclination. It’s not any harder than that folks. In sum, Adam was no less a slave to his strongest inclination at the moment of choice than an unconverted man. The issue is not whether Adam was created upright, which he was, but whether Adam possessed a radical freedom of the will that would have enabled him to choose contrary to how he intended. Such freedom, however, would destroy moral accountability for with such "freedom" one could end up intending to praise and end up cursing instead.


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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Theonomy, an Epistemological Matter

Back in March of 2000 Greenville Theological Seminary hosted a conference on the sufficiency of Scripture at which time consideration was given to the subject of Theonomy. The appointed antagonist to the theonomic thesis remarked that the often quipped slogan “either theonomy or autonomy” commits the informal fallacy of a false dichotomy. It was argued that there is another option that is overlooked by theonomists, namely that of general revelation. It was contended that with the passing of the Old Covenant civil magistrates are to govern themselves by the light of nature, or God’s general revelation that is communicated to all men apart from Scripture. I have found this line of reasoning most troublesome on many accounts. At the very least, if general revelation is binding upon civil magistrates then it is because it is God’s law – in which case any possible appeal to general revelation would be theonomic in nature!

Man knows many things through general revelation. He knows God exists and that His wrath abides upon him. Man knows through conscience that it is wrong to murder, just as he knows it is wrong to tell a lie. Consequently, general revelation makes all men culpable before God because through general revelation men have warrant for their true beliefs regarding their sin against the moral law written on their hearts. Notwithstanding, general revelation is as impotent as it is powerful. Although general revelation communicates truth that is known by all men everywhere, leaving them without excuse, it cannot equip or enable men to justify what is known through that revelation. Although all men everywhere know it is wrong to murder, it is impossible to justify that knowledge apart from Scripture. Apart from Scripture man’s formal justification for what he knows reduces to subjectivism and ultimately skepticism. Added to this, civil magistrates are not only to be concerned with a sound justification for their ethical paradigms, they must also concern themselves with a justification to punish certain wrong doings and not others.

Theonomy is concerned with three irreducible questions, which anti-theonomists cannot answer in an epistemologically satisfactory manner:

  • Which sins should civil magistrates punish?
  • What should those punishments be?
  • How does one justify the answers to the first two questions?
If we are left to govern ourselves by general revelation, then civil laws must be ultimately a matter of opinion, yet laws by their very nature are to reflect what ought to be. Moreover, apart from Scripture inductive inference cannot be justified. Therefore, apart from Scripture it cannot be proven that all persons are endowed by nature with the same moral code. Accordingly, it would be tyrannical to impose unjustifiable codes of conduct, let alone sanctions for violations of those codes, without a revelatory authority to appeal to for such impositions.

Finally, if Theonomy ought to be exchanged for general revelation, then the necessary implication is that God’s general revelation has changed over time or else God’s revelation has contradicted itself over time. After all, if general revelation today tells us that rapists are no longer to be put to death, then either general revelation has changed over time or else it contradicted special revelation under Moses! However, if general revelation has not changed over time and God's two forms of revelation have never contradicted themselves, then why discard the Old Testament case laws? In fact, why not rely on the more explicit form of law, which is contained in the only form of revelation to which we may appeal to justify laws in general and ethical laws in particular.

General revelation was never intended to inform mankind of the transgressions that are to fall under the jurisdiction of civil magistrates. Consequently, general revelation under Moses did not inform mankind that convicted rapists should be put to death anymore than it informs mankind today that convicted rapists should live. The role of general revelation has always been complementary to that of Scripture's revelation, in that general revelation is "general" - for it convicts mankind of sin that violates the moral law; whereas special revelation, as contained in Scripture, informs us of the sins that are punishable by civil magistrates and to what degree.

The non-theonomic thesis cannot justify any civil laws in any concrete fashion let alone the sanctions, if any, that are to accompany sins. At the very least, the non-theonomic thesis cannot prove that it is wrong to employ theonomic laws without implying either that God’s revelation has changed over time or that God’s revelation contradicted itself at least for a time. Consequently, the anti-theonomist’s appeal to general revelation at the expense of written revelation contradicts God’s immutability and truthfulness.

Theonomy is most often construed as harsh. However, apart from theonomy, no argument with defensible premises can be levied to combat too harsh of punishments in a fallen world! For instance, how would the anti-theonomist combat a civil magistrate that determined stealing a loaf of bread was a crime worthy of death? The epistemologically conscious theonomist has an answer for too strict of laws in a fallen world; whereas the anti-theonomist is left to appeal to an idiosyncratic sense of justice, which reduces to subjectivism, arbitrariness and knowledge falsely called.


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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another Kind of Mutual Indwelling

When we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into his life, death, resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand. In Christ, we are robed in God’s righteousness (Philippians 3:9) and accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6). There is, however, a mutual indwelling between the Son of God and those who are adopted in him; for we are not only in Christ but He resides in us. By our being in Him, we are seen as righteous in the Father’s sight, for he sees the righteousness of his only begotten Son, who is our righteousness. With Christ in us, we are enabled to walk in good works, for which we have been ordained (Ephesians 2:10). The mutual indwelling occurs at the same moment. For there is nobody in Christ who is not indwelt by His Spirit, and there is nobody indwelt by Christ’s Spirit who is not, also, in Christ. Being in union with Christ entails a mutual indwelling, which is the grounds for our forgiveness and Christian life.


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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Is Faith "Belief?"

In Chapter 14 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, saving faith is distinguished from believing. Through the grace of faith, the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls (paragraph 14.1). “By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the word…” (14.2.). The Confession does not teach that by this faith a Christian is enabled to have faith, for that would be unintelligible. Rather, the Confession teaches that by this faith – saving faith – God enables his elect to believe. In other words, by distinguishing faith and belief the Confession teaches that God effects the grace of faith by the Spirit of Christ in the hearts of His elect, whereby those with true faith, when confronted with the propositions of Scripture whereby they are understood, exercise this faith unto “obedience to the commands...” and many other “acts” of faith such as “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life…” Notwithstanding, these “acts” of faith - even the principle act of faith - are not to be confused with the essence of faith, for as we have shown – by faith one believes, which in its principle act is accepting, receiving and resting upon Christ alone for the whole of salvation. So, when a person is converted he is granted the gift of faith. In time that faith will grow to believe in x,y and z, and not just a, b, and c.

{In the like manner, repentance in the Westminster standards is distinguished from the acts of repentance. "Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ. By it [i.e. By repentance], a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments." In other words, by the grace of repentance, men repent. Accordingly, like faith, repentance can also be granted to infants prior to their having the ability to exercise their wills in response to the warnings of God.}

Because faith is distinguished from believing in the Confession’s chapter on saving faith, it is most reasonable to read 11.1 of the same Confession with that in mind. “Those who God effectually calls, He also freely justifies, not by infusing righteousness in to them…nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness…” In other words, it is most reasonable to interpret the Confession as not defining "faith itself" as “the act of believing" (let in contradicts chapter 14!), but rather again distinguishing faith from the act of believing, just as it distinguishes faith from "evangelical obedience." In other words, the Confession teaches that God does not credit either (a) faith, (b) the act of believing, or (c) any other evangelical obedience to the sinner when he is pardoned, accepted and accounted as righteous.

Given such a distinction between faith and belief, it is easy to understand how a regenerate infant who is united to Christ can be justified by grace through faith alone – apart from understanding, believing and willfully embracing gospel propositions. However, if justification is through faith alone and the three “classic” elements of faith are necessary conditions for justification, then infants (and those incapable of being called) cannot be pardoned for their sin! However, if infants can be justified, yet cannot have faith, then justification is by regeneration alone, apart from faith. At the very least, those who wish to maintain both that God may be merciful to infants and that justification is through a cognizant-faith alone have some theological reconciling to do. The simply solution is that those three elements (even if they are in some sense redundant or even tautological) pertain to belief and not to faith narrowly considered in seed form. After all, what about one who comes to Christ and then slips into a coma? He isn't believing in Christ (nor likely assenting, etc. to anything for that matter), but certainly he possesses the irrevocable gift of faith (though not being exercised). We must keep in mind that we are saved through faith so that our salvation might be of grace. Faith is the immediate result of regeneration, even prior to it being exercised by believing in Christ! Again, "by this faith one believes."

Now someone might say, isn't faith "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen - and isn't 'conviction' the very heart of assenus (or the "emotional element of faith)?" Well, one good question deserves another. Is the essence of "love" laying down one's life for his friends, or is laying down one's life for his friends a demonstration or evidence of love?

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Prayer in Light of Causality and Sufficient Conditions...

If I were to stand before a child and yell in an angry voice the child would most likely cry and become afraid. Given such a state of affairs it could be rationally inferred that I would have caused the non-volitional action and emotion of another. In the like manner, the actions of one person can even cause another person’s will to be inclined to choose contrary to how he would.

It is often said by Calvinists that prayer cannot change things (or cause things to occur) but rather that prayer can only change the person praying, bringing him into submission to what God has decreed. Those who say such things are willing to call prayer a “means” to an end, yet they deny the causal “power” of prayer. They are reluctant, in other words, to say that prayer can actually cause things to occur (or cause things not to occur). Yet these same Calvinists are quick to maintain that had the gunman been wrestled to the ground the innocent person would not have been killed. What distinction are they drawing between "means" and "cause" after all?

Obviously we cannot know with certainty anything that is inferred by inductive inference. Consequently, we cannot know with the highest degree of warrant that one actually caused a child to cry; for such is believed by inference not deduction and certainly not by revelation. How much more the case with prayer given that it is increasingly more difficult to duplicate states of affairs in order to rationally infer seemingly causal relationships between prayer and what might be inferred to be a necessary consequence of prayer! Notwithstanding, the question is not whether we can know that prayer causes some things to occur (or not to occur) but rather whether prayer can indeed change things. In other words, the question is not whether we can know whether prayer actually changed a course of events but rather whether prayer can effect change.

It can be said that one event is caused by another when one event is either logically or temporally prior as well as a sufficient condition for another event. As we’ve seen on a previous entry, sufficient conditions are not always causes since logical conditions (whether sufficient or necessary) are only concerned with states of affairs and not order, whether logical or temporal. With that in mind, is it not true that prayer precedes future events and that it is biblical to maintain that prayer can bring to pass deliverance (Philippians 1:19)?

If we are to maintain that causality is in view whenever a sufficient condition that is introduced into a relevant state of affairs is logically or temporally prior to a consequent of that same sufficient condition and state of affairs, then we must also maintain that God ordains prayer to change the apparent direction of things. Prayer stands in stark contrast to other causes of change since with prayer the immediate effect of the action is upon God not men. Effectual prayer, as a cause, immediately precedes God’s action of acting due to prayer. Effectual prayer does not immediately act upon the person for whom the prayer is offered. Rather, when effectual prayer is offered God, the mediator of prayer, in turn acts upon a state of affairs causing men to act. Therefore, it can be properly maintained that prayer often "moves" the hand of God but always according to God’s will, which precedes and transcends prayer. Prayer changes things indeed. God has entered into time and has seen fit to allow prayer to change the direction things were previously going. God is sometimes pleased not to act unless his action is beseeched.{Maybe we should consider how men are culpable for not praying, since we know that men are often culpable for not physically preventing certain acts.}

Lastly, with respect to normal providence without prayer, we need to be careful not to take God out of the equation. It is God who ultimately causes the reaction to any action. He is the one who gives intelligiblilty to sequence. It seems to me that those who claim that prayer doesn't change things are most likely leaning toward a view of autonomous providence with respect to natural causality. Something to think about.


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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Yeah for Jimmy (and Lisa)

Our newest member of the family made it through the night without soiling his space. Jimmy's faithful master, Lisa, was able to get a good night's sleep for a change, as was I. My love for Jimmy is certainly conditional - but now that he has met one of the "necessary pre-conditions" for my good favor, my love might soon "obtain." There's little grace bestowed in this relationship but Jimmy is somehow meriting his way into my heart, kinda-sorta.


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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Insight Brings Great Hope

The Phillies are off to an 0-2 start this year. No worries though - manager Charlie Manuel has profound insights into the situation: "It's hard because how you start is how you start... We could have won, but ended up losing. 0-2 is 0-2..."

Not one contradictory statement! But the "could have won" statement might indicate that Manuel is not Reformed in his theology.


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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

More Confusion over the "Covenant of Grace" and "Conditions and Causes"

In the article here, Michael Horton makes two statements that trouble me:

"God did not make the covenant of Grace with the Elect, but with believers and their children."
"Faithfulness in the Christian life is in no way a condition of justification. Sinners are justified 'apart from works,' without any reference whatsoever to their regeneration or new life."
Regarding the first quote, does Professor Horton appreciate that he has taken exception to Q & A #31 of the Westminster Larger Catechism?

Question 31: With whom was the covenant of grace made?

Answer: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.
Regarding the second quote, Professor Horton, like so many others in the Reformed tradition, does not allow for a distinction between a cause and a necessary condition. {Sadly, such a lack of appreciation actually caused an unnecessary church split in my own denomination!} In fact he seems to underscore this problem by rightly stating: "But if they are not regenerated and therefore bear fruit, they have not been justified." Professor Horton is correct here in that if one does not bear fruit, then he is not justified. But this is to say (applying modus tollens) that if one is not not-justified (i.e. is justified), then he will not not-bear-fruit (i.e. will bear fruit) - which is to say, fruit is a necessary condition for justification(!) - which is the very thing Dr. Horton denies when he writes: "Faithfulness in the Christian life is in no way a condition of justification." Again, Professor Horton is thinking in causal terms, which must not be confused with terms for condition that contemplate states of affairs and not logical priority.

p1. If no fruit, then no justification is present
p2. ~ no justification is present (i.e. negation of no justification... --> justification is present)
Therefore: ~ no fruit (i.e. negation of no fruit --> fruit is present)

In any true if-then proposition, the consequent is always a necessary condition for the antecedent (and the antecedent is a sufficient condition for the consequent). Notwithstanding, the necessary condition for the antecedent need not be a cause: If faith, then justification; but it can be: If justification, then faith. {In passing we might note that this distinction gets to the heart of why presuppositional apologists must concern themselves with necessary pre-conditions as opposed to mere necessary conditions for intelligible experience.}

Finally, I would think that Professor Horton is lamenting over Protestants who believe that works are a cause, therefore, a pre-condition for justification. If so, then who are these Protestants who believe that good works precede and cause justification? I'm not sure what all the problems are about.


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