Saturday, August 26, 2006

Logomachy redux

ED: Perhaps, but of course, I am not talking about "libertarian" notions of will (at least not according to the categories which you conceptualize), so I hardly see that this is a response...

SH: There are two standard alternatives: compatibilism (soft determinism) and incompatibilism.

And there are two basic versions of incompatibilism: libertarianism and hard determinism.

Since soft determinism or compatibilism is already too deterministic for you, you’d reject hard determinism as well. That leaves libertarianism.

If you have a philosophically serious alternative to the standard models, now’s the time to spell it out.

ED: Steve, you've forgotten the most important part, the part that is the crux of what I originally posted: God, according to the paradigm of the so-called "eternal decrees," is not only responsible for the allergic reaction of your example; rather, God is also the originator of the snake bite. Therefore, that God has decreed to save me from a snake bite (through an allergic-reaction-causing syrum) that God has eternally, exhaustively, and efficaciously willed is truly neurotic.


1.Prescinding the invidious adjective (“neurotic”), the fact that he’s the originator of the snakebite (to continue with our illustration) doesn’t change the fact that he can also save us from the effects of the snakebite.

So my reply was responsive to your objection.

2.There’s nothing “neurotic” about it since the fall has a theodicean role to play in the teleology of the decree.

It isn’t simply a case of undoing what was done, and thereby restoring the status quo ante.

ED: Within the categories of Reformed theology, there can be no talk of "plan." Plan would suggest the existence of contingency, which is clearly not within the scope of a reality in which all things have been eternally and deterministically pre-ordained by the efficacious will of God.


1.You use words without knowing what they mean. There are different kinds of necessity and contingency.

In the teleology of the decree, the ends are contingent on the means.

Given the decree, the outcome is assured.

However, God was not necessitated in what he decreed. He was free to decree otherwise.

There’s an elementary difference between the idea that the decree was predetermined, and what the decree predetermines.

The future is predetermined as a result of the decree.

You are confusing contingency with uncertainty. The fact that the ends are contingent on the means doesn’t render the outcome uncertain, and the certainty of the outcome doesn’t deny the contingency of the ends upon the means.

ED: No, it's just as bad. However, you are arguing against yourself, for I am no open-theist. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Calvinism and open-theism are actually the same, for they both proceed with beginning materialist suppositions about the relationship of God to that which God has created.

SH: Either the fall happened according to plan, or it didn’t. You have proposed no third alternative.

ED: Potentially. However--and again--as I do not believe that God is "making things up as he [sic] goes along," I do not see that you have actually addressed the objections which I have raised.

SH: As I said before, either things unfold as according to plan, or not. If so, that’s predeterminism. If not, it’s indeterminism—in which case he’s making things up as he goes along.

Oh, and yes, I use the masculine pronoun for God, just as Scripture does.

ED: Rather, you are merely arguing against some characterization that does not even resemble the theological assumptions by which I operate.

SH: I can’t argue against unspoken “assumptions.”

ED: How does this answer the philosophical questions I have raised? Propositionalizing does not actually constitute a response, I'm afraid.

SH: How does this not answer the philosophical questions you have raised? Counter-"propositionalizing" does not actually constitute a counter-response, I’m afraid.

ED: Not so. Within the purview of God's so-called "eternal decrees," there can be no bifurcation of "means in isolation" and "instrumental means." After all, if God has eternally, exhaustively, and efficaciously determined all that will be, the extent of this determinism must necessarily extend to the "means" as well.


1.”Bifurcation” was your word, not mine.

2.Yes, determinism extends to the means as well as the ends. I’ve been over that ground many times now.

3.This doesn’t change the fact that something which might be bad in and of itself may be relatively good as a means to a higher end. (e.g. Gen 50:20).

If it were not a means, it would have no redeeming value.

ED: Morever, as these things occur within the eternity of the will of God, no appeal can be made to a chronology (be it actual or "logical") in which that which God decrees can be separated in any degree from the means by which these things come to pass.

SH: Once again, you use words without knowing what they mean. By definition, an end-means relation is teleological.

To draw teleological distinctions does not imply chronological distinctions.

ED: I would, of course, question positing the existence of all things in the eternity of God's will. As God's will is essential with God's being; and as Calvinism affirms that all things come to pass in the eternity of God's will; one must logically conclude that that which eternally exists within the will of God is also eternally essential with God's being (even as God's will is essential with God's being). Hence, one is left with a very peculiar and philosophically delineated pantheism. Feuerbach would be proud.


1.”Thing” is your word, not mine. If we’re going to be precise, it is not all “things” which come to pass according to God’s decree, but all “events.”

Not all “things” are events. Abstract objects aren't things which come to pass.

2.You also fail to draw a rudimentary modal distinction between a timeless exemplar and a concrete property-instance thereof.

All events subsist in the mind of God as divine ideas or concepts of the world to be. At that level, they’re consubstantial with God.

But when God instantiates his idea, he objectifies his idea in space and/or time. The finite property-instance is not consubstantial with the Godhead.

ED: Perhaps you forgot about Sinai...Again, this gets back to my contention about Calvinism's commoditizing of salvation. That you would point to the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage as an example of salvation en toto reveals that you have not grasped the larger scheme of salvation that penetrates the OT biblical texts. The same ones who were "saved" from Egypt died in the desert because they rejected relationship (covenant)with Yahweh.


1.”In toto” is your word, not mine.

2.In Biblical theology, the Exodus is a paradigm of redemption. You’re the one who hasn’t grasped the larger scheme of salvation, not me.

3.And this is also a diversionary tactic on your part to direct attention away from the use of divine might in redemption.

ED: You have a curious conception of relational reciprocity. I am not talking about "doing favors." I am talking about the concept of perichoresis, an interpenetrating of relationship in which love given is love shared and received. Your strawmen are growing tiresome.

SH: You have a curious misconception about words. “Perichoresis” is a dogmatic term exclusive to the Trinity. Looks like you’re the pantheist.

ED: Nice story, but it does not reflect the biblical account of salvation. God saved humanity by entering into our contingent existences. Salvation did not come by power (in a phenomenological sense), but rather through a stinking, ugly, and absurdly shameful and bloody cross. Christ saved not by divine fiat, but by defeat and a crushed brow at the hands of those who had rejected him.

SH: Nice try, but it does not reflect the biblical account of salvation.

You lop off the thaumaturgical aspect of our Lord’s ministry, at one end, and then lop off the session of Christ as well as his return in deliverance and judgment, at the other end.

The work of Christ doesn’t begin and end at the cross.

Christ was also an exorcist and mirabilist. What is more, he will be the Judge of the living and the dead at the end of the church age.

ED: That there are different kinds of relationships is not disputed. However, this is not how salvation came about. God did not approach us as a superior to inferiors. Rather, in Christ, God became the inferior, a servant, choosing to die by the hate and lust of our blood-drenched hands.

SH: That’s a half-truth. The downward motion.

Phil 2:6 doesn’t terminate with v8. There’s the reversal in vv9-11.

ED: Neither of them are idealists, for such is impossible, the lie of modernistic epistemologies. Determinism is ultimately a materialist cosmology (and theology, BTW) because it necessarily posits the existence of all things within the will of God. As God's eternal will is essential with God's very being, it is a logically and absolutely necessary that that which exists eternally within the will of God is also essential with God's being.

SH: That’s an equally ignorant statement of materialism and idealism alike.

ED: You do not realize it, of course, but you have actually proven my point. If the objects of God's will are not actualized until the "act" of creation, then you have subordinated the will of God to the existence of that which God creates.

SH: “Until” is your word, not mine. No temporal gap is in view.

As a timeless agent, there was never a time when God did not decree the existence of the world. As a timeless agent, there was never a time when God did not exact his decree.

ED: In this sense, then, you have unknowingly advocated that God's will is actually dependent and virtually non-existent without the prior (whether chronological or logical) existence of that which God creates and which becomes the object of GOd's eternal will.

SH: God’s will is ontological independent of the world.

But if God wills something, and God is true to his resolve, then, of course, it must come to pass.

You might as well say that if God makes a promise, then the promise is virtually nonexistent without the prior existence of the fulfillment.

ED: This is curious, however, for how can that which is created (and supposedly not eternal) define and make proper the will of God (which IS supposedly eternal)?

SH: “Curious,” as an artifact of how you’ve chosen to frame the issue, not me.

ED: This also, of course, introduces the problem already mentioned above concerning God's being. If God's will is not actualized until that which is created comes into existence; and because God's will is essential with God's being; one is basically forced to affirm that God's being is only fully actualized in its eternality with the creative act of that which is NOT eternal. Of course, this is logically impossible and is completely absurd: yet, it is the only conclusion that one can draw if your suggestions about the "ordering" of God's will and act are pursued.

SH: It’s only “absurd and “the only conclusion” one can draw if one is unable to distinguish between the faculty of the will and the object of the will.

The faculty or attribute of the divine will is devoid of potentiality. It is purus actus (as Aquinas would say).

However, the object of the will must be actualized by divine fiat.

ED: They are the same in the efficacy of their execution.

SH: You’re equivocating and prevaricating. The fact that they’re the “same” in respect to one external relation does not make them the same in every respect.

You’re now having to back down from your original overstatement.

ED: If God has truly eternally, exhaustively, and efficaciously decreed all that will come to pass, then both the "means" and "end" are necessary objects of this decree. Therefore, one cannot posit a contingent way in which the Israelites would have occupied the land, for the "means" by which they did was eternally and indellibly linked to the "end."

SH: They are necessitated by the decree, but they are not inherently necessary.

The ends are still contingent on the means. In principle, it is often possible for different means to yield the same result. It all depends.

Nothing prevented God from foreordaining that the Israelites take a different route to the promised land. Or arrive there a year earlier or later.

What we have is a case of conditional necessity. The outcome is certain given the decree. The end is contingent on these particular means given that God has chosen these particular means to achieve his objective.

That would not prevent God from having decreed a different end, had he so desired, or the same end by a different set of means.

ED: Because the transcendent reality has become un-transcendent in the person of Christ. The unknowable God has become knowable by becoming a contingent human being just like me.


1.And how do you know that apart from propositional revelation—which you reject?

2.God was not unknowable prior to the Incarnation. God reveals himself in the OT as well. God also reveals himself in nature.

3.BTW, I hope you don’t endorse the Kenotic heresy. In the Incarnation,
God does not cease to be God. He doesn’t shed his divine attributes.

ED: You are contradicting yourself. If things that are "undiscoverable by human reason or observation" can be expressed through the absolutizing nature of propositional language, than these things are not really "undiscoverable," for if they were, they could not be apprehended through propositional language. Propositional language inherently requires that the statements being made have a level of verifiability. If the content of propositional language is "undiscoverable" to human reason, either they are not truly propositional or their contents are not "undiscoverable" as they can be verified or denied.

SH: Once again, you are confounding distinct issues.

I can know what words mean by reason and observation. I can also know ideas by reason and observation.

That doesn’t imply that I know, by reason or observation alone, that a certain set of ideas is true.

I can know what “blond” is, and I can also know what “woman” is, without being able to deduce, from those two ideas, that Catherine Deneuve is a blond woman.

By itself, “blond” isn’t true or false. It’s only when we predicate that idea of a particular referent that it’s either true or false.

Is it true of Catherine Deneuve that she is blond?

Even if I learned all my words and discrete ideas apart from Scripture, that in no way means that I know how Scripture relates one idea to another in the form of propositions about God and the world.

ED: But this entire premise is built upon presuppositions about the nature of language found in Scripture over-and-against "normal" human language.

SH: You have a bad habit of interpolating your distinctions into what other people say.

There is no qualitative difference between biblical language and ordinary language.

ED: Yet, interestingly, these presuppositions are based--ironically enough--upon the force of the human language that is supposedly being overcome!

SH: I am not presupposing that human language is a force which inspiration must overcome.

I never said that or implied that.

God, in creation and providence, is the author of every human language. Verbal inspiration doesn’t select for a brand-new language, but merely selects the right words to convey the right ideas—from a preexisting vocabulary (although it’s possible that a Bible writer coins a neologism from time to time).

ED: So then, unless you can verify the divine inspiration of Scripture in support of its propositional value, your assertions are nothing more than circular. Of course, if you are able to verify this fact, you have, in fact, contradicted it.


1.The “so” follows from your faulty premise.

2.Whether I should try to verify the Bible depends, in large part, on whether I’m talking to an unbeliever or a fellow believer.

When dealing with someone who calls himself a Christian, it should be unnecessary to prove the inspiration of Scripture.

Put another way, if it’s necessary to prove the inspiration of Scripture when dealing with someone who calls himself a Christian, that very demand calls his Christian identity into question.

ED: Yawn. I have already answered this objection in my previous post. As I do not operate under the same categories of human language that you do, these objections--while seemingly novel and clever to you--do not really apply to my mode of argumentation.

SH: Meaning—you’re a Martian.

I could tell that from your crooked pinkie—as well as your unwary habit of pronouncing “about” like a-boot (always a dead giveaway).

They look like us and sound like us, but underneath, they’re different!

N.B. Watch “Men in Black” before debating existdissolve to fluent in his exobiological language games.

ED: You have merely supported my contention. If you cannot posit the existence of God apart from the (supposed) causal "beginning" of the universe, you have ultimately subordinated the existence of the Creator to that which is created. To locate the existence of all things in a "causal" relationship with God is to make that which God has created eternal, for causality is not a meaningful category apart from a contingent creation. Therefore, if the "cause" of creation is God, then there is something very temporal and contingent about the eternality of God, a supposition that is inherently self-contradicting.

SH: Now you’re slipping into heresy as well as more muddle-headed thinking.

1.I didn’t posit the existence of “God” apart from the world. Rather, I “posited” the economic role of God as the Creator of the world. The creature and the Creator are, in that respect, correlative.

The creature could not exist without the Creator, although God could exist without the creature. But to be the Creator is to be the maker of something—to wit: the creature.

2.And, yes, creation is a causal notion.

3.There is also a difference between cause and effect. That the effect is a temporal and contingent consequence of a cause does not imply that the cause is also temporal or contingent.

Although the world had a beginning in time (indeed, a beginning with time), there was never a time when God was not the Creator of the world—for God is timeless.

4.If you’re going to deny that God is the Creator of the world, or pay lip-service this title, but drain it off force by denying that God caused the world to come into being, then you forfeit the right to be called a Christian.

ED: Why bother talking about a plan? Why not just affirm that God is creator?


1.Because the Bible distinguishes between the two and affirms the truth of each.

2.A Creator without a plan? Just fumbling around?

ED: If this is so, then God is either contingent like creation, or creation is eternal like God, for God "sticking" to a plan in creation requires, logically, that the object of the plan eternally exists to be actualized.

SH: It only requires that the plan eternally exist, not the object of the plan.

Try again.

ED: God, in the eternal nature, is ineffable. However, God has become knowable through self-revelation in Christ. Apart from the self-revelation of the divine in the Logos of God which suffuses creation, we could and would know nothing of God.

1.If you’re alluding to Jn 1:9, then you’re quoting it out of context. The reference is soteriological, not cosmological.

2.What, exactly, do you think becomes knowable?

If God, in his eternal nature is ineffable, then all the Incarnation would teach us is the human side of the Incarnation. The divine side would remain impenetrable.

ED: This is not logically possible. If God's will is eternal, exhaustive and efficacious in "all things," then all things must attain in strict compliance with this will. If they did not, the "eternality, extent, and efficacy" of God's will would be undermined.

SH: True. So what?

ED: THerefore, there is no place within such a schema to posit the existence of "second-causes," for even these would fall under the purview of the eternal, exhaustive, and efficacious will of God.

SH: A non sequitur. Yes, second-causes fall under the purview of the eternal, exhaustive, and efficacious will of God.

Are you saying that God cannot effect his designs via a second-cause? Why not?

ED: The only way in which to affirm contingency is if the objects of contingency are not located within the will of God.

SH: That only follows if you arbitrarily define “contingency” in terms of uncertainty rather than dependency.

ED: Moreover, as the "future" (which is necessarily a part of God's eternal will) exists within the eternal will of God (at least according to Calvinism), one must assert that the future is, in fact, "eventuated" by this very will, for if it were not already attained, it could not exist within the eternal will of God, thus becoming an object of God's decrees.

SH: You continually fail to draw basic modal distinctions. The future, considered as an object of thought (and will) subsists in the timeless mind of God.

But the future, considered as an extramental and spatiotemporal state of affairs, is instantiated by divine fiat. The difference between “what” God wills, and God’s willing it to be. The difference between the eternal being of the future as a divine idea, and the actual becoming of the future beyond its ideal mode of subsistence.

God has an idea or complete concept of the future. And God wills that idea to be exemplified in real time and space.

ED: But all of these are the necessary objects of God's eternal decrees, the "final" cause, as you say. Therefore, if they exist eternally as objects of God's eternal, exhaustive, and efficacious will, there is no way in which to propose any form of "nested" relationships in causality. As they exist eternally within the will of God, causality is ultimately a meaningless word, and only has any relevance in the phenomenological observation of our existence.

SH: Once more, you fail to distinguish between different modes of existence.

There’s the mental mode of existence when it comes to God’s idea of the world or plan for the world.

Then there’s the extramental mode of existence as God instantiates his exemplary idea.

This involves primary causality.

But an effect of primary causality is an order of second-causes.

ED: If the decree "exists outside of" space/time, there is no way in which to say that it "foreordains" anything, for to "foreordain" something would require a context in which it operates which would lend boundaries to the semantic domain utilized. If the eternal decrees exist "outside" of space/time, then they foreordain nothing, as there is no reality IN which the decrees occur which would provide the context for determining that their execution is "prior" ("fore-) of anything.

SH: You are confusing the order of being with the order of knowing.

You are also confusing our mode of knowledge with God’s mode of knowledge.

ED: If this "creaturely mode of subsustence" is an eternal object of God's will (and necessary with God's being, to boot), then it is, in fact, absolutely necessary that it is precisely identical with the "decretive exemplar."


1.The creaturely “mode” of subsistence is not “necessary with God’s being.”

Rather, the divine “idea” of the creature is “necessary with God’s being.”

2.The exemplum is not ontologically identical with the exemplar.

Rather, it exactly conforms to the specifications of the divine idea.

ED: No, it is not. As I have pointed out, the positing of all that comes to pass within the "eternal decrees" of God necessarily defines the eternal nature of God by that which is created, for without creation there would nothing about which to speak of GOd's "eternal decrees."

SH: The nature of God is not exhausted by what God decrees. Abstract objects like numbers or unexemplified universals (possible worlds, excepting our own) are not decreed by God.

ED: Sure it does. If God's relationship to creation can be explicated through the categories of causality, one has essentially advocated a materialist conception of God, for such a proposition defines the nature of God by that which God has created (after all, "causality" is only a meaningful term in relationship to that which is temporal and contingent. As God is neither of these things, yet they are permitted to qualify the nature of God, there is no way to escape the critique I have offered).

SH: Other issues aside, you have a simplistic habit of collapsing causality into material causation.

There’s also such a thing as mental causation.

ED: Neither. The categories of objectivity and subjectivity are both unhelpful in thinking about human language and knowledge of reality, both created and divine.

SH: Arbitrary denials are also unhelpful in thinking about human language and knowledge of reality, both created and divine.

ED: I do not suppose that I am in a position of "objectivity" to make these claims. I am simply speaking…

SH: This is the one thing he’s said that I agree with.

ED: The Incarnation, really, is the best example of this. In Christ, we have self-revelaton of God, the uncreated. Yet this self-revelaton happens through that which is created. Human epistemology cannot really grasp this, and we are left with a frustrating paradox and absurd contradiction that leads many to over-absolutize on either side (which leads to the heresies of old, and of today). It is only within the tension, within the paradox of the God-human.

SH: I don’t regard the Incarnation as a paradox.

ED: The moment we try to propositionalize about it is the very moment that we have missed the point of it all.

SH: If you can’t express the “point of it all” in a proposition, then there’s no “point” to be missed.

ED: The moment that we try to say something absolute about this God-become-human is the very moment that which have denied the very reality we desire to affirm.

SH: I don’t care whether we can say something “absolute” about the Incarnation.

I do care whether we can say something “true” about the Incarnation. And if we can’t to that, then there’s nothing to either affirm or deny.

ED: You decide. I'm not trying to tell you something that can be verified absolutely and objectively as "true" or "false."


1.I’m tempted to leave this admission as it stands.

2.However, I’m also prepared to split the difference. I’ll settle for false.

ED: If Calvinism is true, the only reason humans are "needy" is because God eternally ordained that a reality attained in which we would be needy.

SH: No, the only reason human beings are needy is because human beings are creatures—dependent and interdependent creatures. That’s inherent in our finitude.

ED: Based upon the paradigm of the eternal decrees, the "greater good" is only existent because God has also eternally ordained its antithesis. However, as both are equally the objects of God's eternal will, it is still curious the need or purpose for the charades of damning others so that some could be saved, when the decision to damn and save was God's from eternity (and no external force compelled a decision one way or another). This is either severe self-aggrandizement or a demonic neurosis.

SH: You’re substituting demagoguery for rational analysis.

What we actually have is a distinction between first-order goods and second-order goods. Certain second-order good are unattainable apart from the abuse of certain first-order goods.

ED: So can the elect not be blessed apart from the damnation of others? Can God not be self-revealed without the existence of evil? Such would seem to be the necessary conclusion of your statements above.

SH: An existential knowledge of justice and mercy presupposes the existence of objects on which to bestow justice or mercy. So there’s an internal relation in play.

ED: Ah, but storybook characters do not actually perform anything, do they? They are merely projections of the author's will upon the page, for they can do nothing that the author has not determined.

SH: You were the one who tried to cast the Calvinistic problem of evil in terms of authorship. If you are now going to point out the limitations of your own chosen metaphor, then that’s a problem for your objection, not for Calvinism.

ED: Is that an answer? I didn't ask for a restatement...

SH: No, but I’m not going to let you dictate the way in the questions are framed when you throw in a lot of gratuitous or evasive adjectives.

You’re free to phrase a question however you like, and I’m free to rephrase the question however I like.

ED: As I do not propose that my language encapsulates objective or propositional truth, this critique is misplaced (as well as getting quite old). Why will you not actually engage the force of my argument instead of wasting time on irrelevencies such as this?

SH: Since, by your own admission, your language does not “encapsulate objective or propositional truth,” then there’s nothing for me to “engage” inasmuch as your argument is devoid of logical or factual force.

You’re the one who’s wasting everyone’s time as you try to play both sides of the fence.

ED: The cross would completely disagree with you, unless of course one wishes to see the power-relationship of the cross as humanity-over Christ.

SH: I don’t erect a contradiction between the cross and the Exodus.

ED: I think it's curious how you keep going back to the story of Egypt when discussing the "power" of salvation (while subsequently ignoring everything that transpired afterward...) and have yet to speak about the cross.

SH: Because you ignore everything else. And when you do come to the cross you get that wrong as well.

ED: What about the Incarnation? As the Incarnation is the very self-revelation of God in Christ, I would suggest that it should be the beginning paradigm for understanding God's relationship to creation, not the mythos of the people of Israel.

SH: You are using the cross to negate everything else in Scripture.

ED: Because there is nothing objective about the Incarnation--in Christ, we are confronted with the self-revelation of GOd in a human. This creates an insurmountable paradox that will evade attemps of categorizaiotn, qualification, and propositionalizing. THe moment we do, I would suggest, is the moment we have missed the mystery of God-become-human.


1.That’s a big fat assertion without a supporting argument.

2.It’s also incoherent. To say that in the Incarnation we are “confronted with the self-revelation of God in a human” is a propositional statement.

If it defies all attempts at propositional expression, then your claim amounts to nothing.

3.I deny that it defies categorization. “God” does not defy categorization. “Man” does not defy categorization.

We may have a very limited grasp of their interrelationship, but we can enjoy a much better grasp of their respective relata.

ED: In the end, Christ completely relinquished this power, submitting himself to the desires of sinful humanity on the cross. In this way, Christ life, from birth to death, is book-marked by the surrender of over-power relationship with the creation.

SH: The work of Christ doesn’t begin and end on Good Friday. There’s a little thing called Easter Sunday, followed by the Ascension and Session at the right hand of God, followed, someday, by the return of Christ as the Judge of the Living and the dead.

ED: Yes, but how has Christ judged sinful humanity? By submitting to sinful humanity's judgment on the cross.

SH: This is categorically false. Christ is not the judge on the cross. The Father is the Judge. Christ is judged.

He is not the judge. Not at that time and place.

Highly ironic that you fixate on the cross, only to deny penal substitution.

When push comes to shove, you also reject the meaning of Calvary.

The cross does not eliminate the eschatological role of Christ at the final judgment.

ED: The "dark side?" I think there's a copyright infringment somewhere in there...

SH: Maybe this is your attempt to be cute, but it’s also evasive. It disregards another basic feature of our Lord’s mission and ministry.

Exorcism was a demonstration of divine might and divine authority over the Devil and the demonic realm.

ED: Define "willed."

SH: Define “See Spot run!”

ED: You're missing the point, though. I do not deny that the concept which you have gained through observation of "dog" is, in fact, the meaning which you apply to "dog." However, my point is that your language is still operating on the level of the phenomenological. You have not broken through to a realm in which you have grasped the absolute meaning of "dog," a meaning which is not mediated by your experience. Moreover, I cannot imagine a situation in which one would be in a position to ascertain that they have gotten to this "ultimate" meaning of "dog," even if one were to posit that it attains.


1.You’re confusing the “absolute” or “ultimate” meaning of a word with the “absolute” or “ultimate” nature of the object it denotes.

Since the relation between word and object is an arbitrary social convention, the meaning of the word is irrelevant to the “real” nature of the object it denotes.

2.Even if language or perception is operating at the phenomenalogical level, that’s irrelevant to theology, for theological concepts move on a higher plane of abstraction anyway.

It doesn’t matter if the eyes of Christ were really black, but appeared to be brown—or if his hair was really brown, but appeared to be black.

Concepts like death, guilt, justice, humanity, divinity, fatherhood, sonship, rebirth, and so on, don’t depend on direct realism.

ED: Yes, I agree. However, I am talking about the absolute kind of "knowing" that is needed for propositional statements to attain.

SH: You keep tossing around adjectives like “absolute.” One doesn’t need “absolute” knowledge to make a true statement. Partial knowledge will do just fine.

ED: I don't see why this follows, for the very language about God as "father" is based upon human language, knowledge, experience, etc.

SH: You continually confuse the order of knowing with the order of being, as well as words with concepts.

1.Even if our concept of fatherhood were founded on human experience alone, the ontological origin of the paternal role has its basis in one aspect of God’s economical relation to the world. And, indeed, it even goes back to the immanent Trinity.

2. I also deny that our concept of fatherhood is entirely derivative of human experience. Sons have a preconception of fatherhood against which they measure the performance of their own fathers.

Fathers who fall too far below their intuitive ideal are a source of disillusionment and arrested development.

ED: In my estimation, the concept of election is ontological--Christ is the elect of God, not by divine fiat, but by participation within the life of the Godhead.

SH: What’s your exegetical argument for this claim?

ED: In what way is God "more" than this within Calvinistic methodology? Your propositional statements are nice for bumperstickers and refrigertor magnets, but they hardly address the objections that I have raised.

SH: Try reading about the attributes of God in a Reformed systematic theology. Maybe Frame’s Doctrine of God.

There’s more to Calvinism than divine omnipotence.

ED: Is that the extent of the response that you can propose to my lengthy entry? All you offer is propositional statements without actually engaging the force of my argument. Such is poor rhetorical style, in my opinion.


1.I answer you at your own level. You keep talking about your “argument,” but it’s nine parts assertion to one part argument.

2.Perceiving a color and forming the concept of love are disanalogous. Abstract concepts like love don’t depend on our being able to correlate primary qualities with secondary qualities.

3.“Love” is not a sensible property, but a moral property. Love is illustrated by concrete transactions.

Once again, though, we bring certain preconceptions to bear when we judge an action to be loving or unloving. It’s not simply a case of learning about love by observation.

Actions don’t come with labels. Rather, we label actions.

ED: Exegesis is in the eye of the beholder. There are as many exegesis' as there are interpreters.

SH: This is shallow, radical chic relativism.

ED: As the Bible was written by humans, it would seem difficult to posit its authority beyond the gathered community of worshippers.

SH: You talk like a functional atheist.

ED: The existence of the church.

SH: Suppose I say the church is in the eye of the beholder?

ED: The orthodox tradition to which all believers hold has outlined which councils have been considered authoritative in issues of proper belief.

SH: This is viciously circular.

ED: The ruling religious bodies within the Jewish faith interpreted the Scriptures for the people.

SH: Really? What about the OT prophets, who challenged the ruling religious bodies?


  1. Perhaps you forgot about Sinai...Again, this gets back to my contention about Calvinism's commoditizing of salvation. That you would point to the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage as an example of salvation en toto reveals that you have not grasped the larger scheme of salvation that penetrates the OT biblical texts. The same ones who were "saved" from Egypt died in the desert because they rejected relationship (covenant)with Yahweh.

    This is laughable.

    For starters, given your predisposition with respect to "propositionalizing," how can you appeal to propositional revelation as if its true and expect to be taken seriously?

    This also displays a remarkable ignorance of Covenant Theology. The majority of Calvinists hold to some sort of covenantalism, even in the dispensational family.

    As such the call from Egypt corresponds to redemption in a type-antitype, relationship. The nation as a whole, each individual in it or a particular general group, is a type of the elect individual or the visible church or the invisible church depending on what is in mind.

    These covenants work at two levels: the visible "church" and the invisible. When we speak of individual salvation itself in Calvinism, we're talking about the invisible church. When we talk about covenants, we could be talking about one or both elements, saving and non-saving, depending on the context.

    With respect to election, we can say that the elect themselves with respect to individual salvation are elected by God and form the core of any visible manifestation of the covenant community. At the same time, this generates a visible community composed of believers and unbelievers, and they are nevertheless "elect" in different sense. Unbelievers, if they never believe, even if they associate with the elect and insinuate themselves into the visible church are/were not elect to salvation.

    That generation did not die because they rejected the covenant per se. Rather, they perished because they apostatized from the covenant they had accepted. The covenant was conditional. Each individual was not rejected and neither was the whole nation. In order to make your objection valid, you'd need to show that the whole nation is rejected. Not even Paul makes that statement with respect to Israel, because the New Covenant expands the composition of covenant community and includes some Jews. You'd also need to show the Mosaic Law itself a justifying covenant, which the New Testament denies. Its justifying elements came by way of its relationship to the Abrahamic Covenant.

    Rather, in that generation, the elect persevered to the end, the rest did not. As to individual salvation, there were those who were saved and those who were not. The perishing of that generation is an example of corporate punishiment. Just as in the Assyrian deportation and the Babylonian exile were instances of corporate divine judgment. Yet there were pious Jews who suffered as a consequence of national apostasy. Likewise, in that generation they perished, but not all of them perished, viz. Joshua and Caleb. God still causes the nation itself to persevere, because He does not destroy them and fail on His promise to the Patriarchs. Election and deliverance, I might add, are indexed in the OC not to the Law, but to the Abrahamic Covenant. You might want to read Deut. 7 where this is specifically addressed.

    For a theology of apostasy from individual salvation to be applied to this event, you'd have to argue that each and every person was saved under this covenant in this generation and the Law itself could justify. Election is not indexed to the Law:

    For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

    7"The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,

    8but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

    9"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;

    10but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.

    11"Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.

    Likewise, in Calvinism election is indexed to the inter-Trinitarian Covenant, in that we are elected "in Christ." The Spirit is faithful to Christ and the Father to apply redemption and deliver individuals they way God was faithful to his promises to the Patriarchs. God did not abandon the nation. He rejected the rebellious of that generation.

    We view justification as indexed to the Abrahamic Covenant in any covenant period. Redemptive Covenants are unbreakable with respect to the elect with respect to individual salvation in any generation, because justification is indexed to the Abrahamic Covenant through its administration in another covenant from the time of Moses forward. In Exodus,that's the OC, today, that's the New Covenant. In addition, the Abrahamic and New Covenants are unconditional with respect to merit but not instrumentality (faith alone); the OC is conditional, but in it, justification is indexed to the Abrahamic Covenant, not the Law itself. So, we have a faith/works dynamic at work, but works do not justify under it any more than they do today.

    Were Joshua and Caleb justified by faith? Yes. Was God faithful to the Abrahamic Covenant in election and justification? Yes. Did the whole nation perish or did it continue? One generation perished but the next along with Joshua and Caleb continued. Ergo, this objection is not a proof against Calvinism at all.

    When we speak of the Exodus being paradigmatic for salvation, we're talking about it as a sign and shadow of what was to come. On one level, its about the elect with respect to individual salvation and unconditional to them through their ingrafting in the saving elements of the Abrahamic Covenant. On the other, with respect to others with that group as well, the corporate nation takes on the pledge to be faithful just as we do as individuals, and we too must perservere to the end. Then and now, the elect, with respect to personal salvation do persevere to the end, like Joshua and Caleb. Likewise, God will be faithful to the elect themselves just as He was to the whole nation without respect to the generation involved. On the other hand many who are with us in the visible church itself will perish as that generation did.

    So, when Calvinists speak of apostasy, we speak with respect to the visible, not the invisible "church." This is true, whether your're a paedobaptist or Baptist.

  2. "Unbelievers, if they never believe, even if they associate with the elect and insinuate themselves into the visible church are/were not elect to salvation."

    Never believe WHAT, exactly? That Christ died for them? That they are/were predestined? I know of one gentleman who DOES believe, but he believes he's going to Hell. Does that mean he's going to Heaven since he "believes" the "Good" News?

    As far as election, why do you imagine that God decreed from the beginning of the world that most people would go to a place where they curse Him endlessly (supposedly)? What does He gain by doing so or lose by NOT doing so? Or is all of this just so that saints (like yourselves) can be all the more thankful and shout louder praises? Perhaps you're like the man who enjoys a fine steak dinner all the more when he knows that there are people starving outside the restaurant doors.

    - Todd

  3. Todd,

    Yea even the devils believe, and tremble. But God wants your undivided LOVE and DEVOTION. The damnation of the sinners is all to God's glory. God's glory cometh before all. If men are unwilling to sacrifice EVERYTHING for God, then they have chosen their eternal fate. Do not worry about the confusion, for it is the devil's work, and he is a master craftsman of confusion. He wants you to think that God's ways are confused ways, so that you will not dedicate your life to them. This is the devil's greatest lie, and many are deceived by it. Your error is in thinking that you need to understand the Truth. We don't need to understand it, we just need to obey it. That is what God wants from us, our loving obedience and commitment to live our life in total obedience to his Will. Don't worry about the arguments, because getting all caught up in their little details will entrap you. They are the little foxes of deceit that overtake, and before you know it, it is too late. That's when you're demanding of knowledge that it be understandable. God's ways are not our ways. God wants our surrender, not our understanding. He alone understands, and that is enough. I do not see this spirit of devotion and love of God enough here at this blog. Its writers are too anxious to understand and refute the devil's lies. But we cannot prove anything to the devil something that he does not already know. We never will. We just need to help people come to Christ in whatever way we can. The devil will always be our enemy, he will always be there trying to entrap souls from God. He will entrap the very elect if he could. These are not the elect as I had thought before, because it's clear that they have not surrendered to Christ. They want Christ to surrender to their own understanding, and that is the very reason why we were cast out of the Garden. We wanted our understanding to prevail over God's wisdom, and that is the very definition of foolishness.

  4. SS: Your statements are sincere and honest, and you are right to state that ultimately, faith is something that cannot be gained through clever arguments.

    However, I'm not sure how one is to ascertain "God's Will" in this life. God does not speak with an audible voice. He does not appear to us in a cloud. Scripture is also unclear and inconsistent on the most basic ethical questions. I have heard others insist that slavery is not immoral per se because it is not explicitly condemned in the Bible. Well, if one doesn't see that as an egregious wrong, then I'd say one's sense of ethics is seriously warped.

    Thus is my problem with Calvinist ethics. What is good is what God commands, which may change with the wind. If God commands you to cut open the belly of your eldest son, one should be prepared to obey and do so (while holding out the hope that He'll say "Just kidding!" right before the knife hits). If God commands you to rape or murder, then it's good (as He did throughout much of the Old Testament). Whatever happens is God's will, so it's good. A small passenger plane just went down in Kentucky, killing 49 passengers. If it's "God's will", are we not to rejoice? Are we not to give thanks for this event? Sorry, but I would not.

    So I don't understand how a Calvinist builds a sense of ethics and finds a way to "obey" and "surrender", since what's good depends on whatever a capricious God happens to want on any given day, and who knows what that's going to be?

    - Todd

  5. Todd, just one point. God, in the view of the Calvinist, is not capricious, that is your opinion, and is based more on the classical gods. In the Calvinist view, God, who dwells in eternity and is not affected by time, has a plan planned from eternity.

    You demonstrate the typical man-centredness of fallen man, even reducing God to the form of a man. Trouble is, you wish to put God in the dock, want your own intellect and emotions flattered. Once you would have been a pagan worshipper, today you are an atheist, but you have the same base view of man and the divine.

    And I'm sorry for that, old chap. It is pride, all pride. You want to be seen as better than God, you believe yourself to be fundamentally all right.

    Me, I am a mass of corruption, lost without the love of God in Christ, dead without the death of death in the death of Christ. I know that I am blind, and I come to him who gives sight to the blind and finds the lost.

  6. Hiraeth: Capricious not as in arbitrary but as in what's deemed "good" is in NO WAY consistent from day to day. Today we are told not to murder, the next day we are told it is AOK. Today we may be told not to rape, but yesterday it was commanded. Today, slavery is taboo, while not so long ago, it was justified because there were no explicit Biblical mandates against it (and was even recommended).

    What's "good", then? How can you even worship this Being as good when you have no idea of what the word even means (if you are as "fallen" as you claim)? Is the only reason you flatter Him due to the fact that He is "all powerful" (supposedly)? This is slavish fear. You might as well worship an equally powerful fiend were he to have the power.

    So, Hiraeth, bud, define "good" for me. Come up with a coherent, sensible definition for me and we'll see if your God lives up to these standards. If you cannot come up with such a definition, I don't see how you can worship Him as such.

    - Todd

  7. Todd,

    You're recycling old objections to which detailed answers have been given.

    If you choose to be intellectually frivolous, then you deserve to be ignored.

  8. Todd -- Steve's response to the contrary, your questions do not appear to me to be frivolous. To argue that 6 million innocent people died in the Holocaust and 10 million in Stalin's Russia (in both instances many of them children) all somehow for the "glory" of God is a monstrous lie. Jesus said "He who has seen me has seen the Father." Look at what Christ did while on earth--does he look anything like Calvin's god?

    For a brief but trenchant critique of this notion read David Bentley Hart's little book "The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?" It points the way to a solution (as much as one can actually claim a 'solution') to the problem of evil that is outside of the Calvinist dialectical box (either God controls everything down to the minutest detail or He doesn't control anything at all.)