Thursday, August 24, 2006

Logomachy

I’ve been asked to weigh in on a commenter (existdissolve) over at the Calvinist Gadfly. This is the thread:

http://www.calvinistgadfly.com/?p=287

ED: It is curious that you believe the claim that a denial of the concept of “unconditional election” is somehow tantamount to an equal affirmation that one “adds” something to their salvation. I see no reason that would make this statement either self-evident or logically necessary. The positing of the role of the human will in salvation is not indicative of a theology that suggests that humans must “add” something to salvation.

SH: If we define the will in libertarian terms, then salvation is contingent on the autonomous contribution of the sinner.

ED: Moreover, I would suggest that the very doctrine of “unconditional election,” which is built upon the necessary corolary doctrines of absolute predestinationism, is itself a denial of salvation. After all, if God has eternally determined those whom God will save, from what are we being saved? If we are honest in light of predestinationism, the only answer is that we are being saved from the God that has created the necessary conditions by which we required salvation in the first place. If God wouldn’t have eternally determined to cause our fall, there would be no need to save us.

SH:

1.How would this amount to a denial of salvation?

Suppose I’m bitten by a poisonous snake. The physician administers antivenin.

But it turns out that I’m allergic to antivenin, and I go into anaphylactic shock.

The physician then administers another medication to counteract the first drug.

The physician was responsible for my allergic reaction. But this doesn’t change the fact that his intervention saved me from dying of anaphylactic shock.

2.Yes, in Calvinism, redemption and the fall are both elements of an integrated plan.

Is that worse than treating redemption as an unplanned response to the unplanned occurrence of the fall?

ED: The fact that we must be saved, in light of predestinationism, reveals that 1.) God is either inept from keeping those whom God has eternally “elected” for salvation from sinning and even falling under God’s condemnation or 2.) God is truly neurotic in choosing to predestine those whom God has chosen to save to first become that which God despises, merely so that God can then save them… Of course, as their fall and sinfulness is predestined by God from all of eternity, we cannot literally say that God despises sinfulness and rebellion, for who despises that which one freely chooses?

SH:

1.What would be inept is if God were making things up as he went along rather than executing a premeditated plan of action.

2. God foreordained the fall, as well as redemption, to reveal his wisdom, grace, and justice for the benefit of the elect.

3.There’s a difference between the means, considered in isolation, and the means as instrumental to the end in view.

ED: I see no difference between choosing to “appropriate a salvation that is merely potential” and have the same sovereignly foisted upon one. In both scenarios, the category of salvation is commoditized and rendered entirely worthless. Salvation is not a commodity that is transferred between parties; it is the reality of existing within relationship with God. As relationships are not based upon sovereignty, but rather self-giving reciprocity, I see no reason why the concept of “unconditional election” is at all helpful in discussing that nature and actualization of “salvation.”

SH:

1.Existdissolve is indulging in a do-it-yourself theology that bears no resemblance to historical redemption.

2.When, for example, God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, this was an act of power.

No reciprocity. It’s not as if the Israelites did God a favor in return.

3.When a lifeguard saves a struggling swimmer from drowning, there is no reciprocity at work.

The lifeguard is a better swimmer. That’s why he’s a lifeguard. And he employs his superior swimming skills to save a struggling swimmer from drowning. In effect, he transfers his swimming skills to the potential drowning victim.

4.Not all relationships are peer relationships. There are many relationships between superiors and subordinates.

The relationship between a devoted father and his two-year old son is hardly symmetrical. The child depends on the father, but the father doesn’t depend on the child.

ED: The problem with your questions is that they are hopelessly locked up in wrong-headed assumptions about the nature of God’s relationship to that which is “other” than God. Because you view this relationship through the paradigm of determinism, your conception of God’s involvement in creation is thoroughly materialist–you cannot think of God apart from the causality and finitude of space/time. In doing this, however, you have posited an entirely false dilemma regarding God and evil, for to you God must be the material cause, either through decree or allowance. Until you get over this materialist understanding of God’s relationship to that which God has created, you will continue to ask the wrong questions.

SH:

1.We think of God according to God’s self-revelation in Scripture.

2.There’s no logical interconnection between materialism and determinism. An absolute idealist like Bradley or McTaggart can be a thoroughgoing determinist.

ED: Give me a break. If one is consistent to the necessary nature of the so-called “eternal decrees” of God, there is no reasonable or actual way in which to separate “necessary” and “sufficient” conditions. You can distract from the issue with semantics all day long–however, the reality is that if God has eternally decreed all that will come to pass, the means and ends are one in the same, for both are necessarily the object and content of the eternal decrees of God.

SH:

1.The decree doesn’t do anything. The decree doesn’t make anything happen—just as a blueprint doesn’t build a house.

The act of creation makes things happen. Providential causes make things happen.

God makes the world in conformity with his decree. But the decree is not a sufficient condition for anything to take place.

The decree must be implemented. And the decree does not, of itself, stipulate any particular mode of causality. That’s a separate question.

2.To say the ends and means are predetermined does not imply that ends and means are one and the same. This is nonsense.

If God has predestined the Israelites to occupy the promised land via a treck through the Sinai desert, then the promised land (end) and the Sinai desert (means) are hardly one and the same thing.

ED: Technically, the problem with “propositional truth” is not mine–the problem is inherent to the nature of propositional language, for in the exposition of such, humans are irrationally asserting that the finitude of humanly-qualified expression can encapsulate that which transcends human expression.

SH: If human finitude imposes this epistemic boundary on what we can know, then how is existdissolve in a position to know about the existence of transcendent reality beyond the range of human apprehension?

ED: Moreover, if “the only way” one can know the truth is through “propositional” language, we are screwed and cannot hope to ever engage truth. This is necessary, for as I stated above, propositional language is inherently self-deceptive, for it creates the allusion of correspondence between the divine and human (language).

SH: 1.No one is arguing that propositional revelation is the only way to know anything.

Rather, propositional revelation is the only way of knowing certain things undiscoverable by human reason or observation.

2.Christians believe in a correspondence between divine propositions and human language due to the self-witness of Scripture. Divine inspiration is when makes this correspondence possible.

3.Existencedissolve says “propositional language is inherently self-deceptive.”

His own statement takes the form of a linguistic proposition. So is the linguistic proposition that “propositional language is inherently self-deceptive,” itself an inherently self-deceptive proposition?

ED: Good–cutting the causal nerve is exactly what I wish to do. It is curious to me that you feel a need to locate a “causal nerve” betweent the divine and the created. Such, as I have asserted earlier, is a fully materialist conception of God, for the only way in which you can comprehend the relationship of God to the created order is on the basis of causality and finitude. If this is the base of God’s relationship to the cosmos, however, what we have in God is not the divine “other,” but merely the biggest “similar.”

SH:

1.To be a creature is to be created by something else—ultimately by one’s Creator.

That’s a causal relation. For God to be the Creator of the world implies a causal relation between the Maker and the cosmic artifact.

All that Calvinism adds to this affirmation is the belief that God had a plan. That he make the world according to a plan.

The world was not an unplanned event. It didn’t just happen. God had a plan, and he stuck to his plan.

2.According to Scripture, God is not absolutely “other.” He is similar in some respects.

If he were absolutely other, then existdissolve couldn’t make any positive statements about him. God would be ineffable.

ED: Believe me, I understand the semantic deflecton of “necessary” and “sufficient” conditions which are positing. However, in the complex of the propositional statements about God’s eternal, exhaustive, and efficacious decrees, there is no meaningful way in which to differentiate these “conditions.”

SH: Of course there’s a meaningful way to differentiate these conditions.

The decree does not effect the outcome. The decree renders the future certain, but the decree does not eventuate the future.

Predestination is not an agent or agency. Predestination is neutral on how the decree is instantiated in time and space. That’s a separate question.

The decree is not a substitute for creation and providence. According to Scripture, God is not the only agent. Human beings are also agents. There is a providential order of second-causes in play

A doctrine of agency must be consistent with the revelation of the decree, but agency is not synonymous with predestination.

ED: “There can be actual no difference between “material” and “efficient” causes in Reformed Orthodox thought, despite the semantic smokescreen that is raised by its adherents. For example, let us say that God’s eternal decrees are the efficient cause of all that exists.”

SH: Let us not say that God’s eternal decrees are the efficient cause of all that exists.

Rather, the decree is the final (teleological) cause of all that exists.

But the cause of all that exists is a nested relationship between primary and secondary causality. God made the world. And in making the world, he made another agents and agencies. People. Animals. Natural forces.

ED: Ok. What of material causes? As all things exist eternally within the decrees of God (the “all” being necessarily exhaustive), there is no reasonable ordus upon which to dileneate between efficient and material causes. Moreover, if these materially causes are necessarily existent within the eternally-decreeing will of God, we must come back to the conclusion of pantheism, for we must affirm (if the concept of eternal decrees is correct), that “Godness” makes up and defines that which is subsequently labeld “other-than-Godness.”

SH: The decree exists outside of time and space. But what the decree foreordains is a finite instance of the decree. Finite in space and time.

The world exemplifies the decree. The creaturely mode of subsistence is not identical with the decretive exemplar.

ED: A materialist view of God is one in which the eternal nature of God is defined exclusively by that which God has created.

SH: Since Calvinism does not define God by what he has created, this is a straw man argument.

ED: As a logical necessity of this, a material conception of God is one in which God’s involvement within or relationship to creation is defined exclusively through material mechanisms.

SH:

1.Calvinism doesn’t define God’s economic role exclusive lyin terms of material mechanism. Not all miracles employ secondary modes of agency.

2.That said, God does relate to us on our own level. Having made the world, he often employs the mundane medium he made to relate to us, viz. the Incarnation.

ED: Words do have meaning, but the meanings are not “objective” nor absolute.

SH: Is the verbal statement that “meanings are not ‘objective’ nor absolute,” objective or subjective?

How can existdissolve make assertions about objective or absolute meaning when he denies objective or absolute meaning?

How is he in a position to make claims about objective or absolute meaning when his claim denies objective or absolute meaning?

ED: By this very nature, though, human language prohibits objective and transcendent meanings in language.

SH: If “human language prohibits objective and transcendent meanings in language,” then isn’t existdissolve prohibited from making claims about objective or transcendent meaning?

ED: The most we can hope for (and it’s not a bad thing) is approximation of meaning.

SH: “Approximation” is a relative or comparative concept. Approximate in relation to what?

ED: Ok…it would appear that your modernistic pseudo-belief in the ability of humans to epistemically access and categorize the truth leads you to no better of a conclusion.

SH: if human beings are unable to access and categorize the truth,” then is the statement that “human beings are unable to access and categorize the truth” a true or false statement?

ED: I agree that the propositional forms are deployed to speak about the eternal God. However, these propositional statements are only pointers towards truth–in and of themselves, as linguistic formulations, they are not truth in an objective way, and only lead us to materialize the God about whom we are attempting to speak.

SH: How does existdissolve know that propositional statements are pointing us to the truth rather than away from the truth unless he has epistemic access to the truth to form a basis of comparison?

How does he know that there’s an unknowable truth? How does he know that there’s an objective, but unattainable, truth?

Existdissolve keeps telling us that there’s a wall beyond which we can’t see. Yet he also says there’s something beyond the wall.

Apparently, he took a peek over the wall when no one else was looking.

ED: And who would determine “sound exposition?” The reason I have not yet engaged the Scriptures is because we are talking about the assumptions and presuppositions that will determine the ways in which we read the Scriptures. Contra pilgrim, we all approach the Scriptures looking for “something.” There is no such thing as an unbiased approach to the Scriptures; rather, our interpretations will be driven by the presupposed conceptions of God which we assume.

SH: This is an overstatement. Many readers had come to the Bible with certain preconceptions about God, but change their views as a result of reading the Bible.

We have many provisional, operating assumptions which are subject to change.

ED: But the thing you are not getting is that within the complex of the “eternal decrees,” there is no meaningful way in which to differentiate between these “wills.” After all, if God has eternally, efficaciously, and exhaustively decreed “all” things that shall come to pass, that God’s law should be broken is not contingent upon the volitional choices of free or even compatibalist agents. Rather, it is based upon the eternal decree of God, for God has not only decreed from all of eternity that God’s law should be broken (which seems odd in light of the fact that God damns humans for doing what they’ve been eternally decreed to do…), but has also eternally decreed the multifarious ways in which it should be broken.

SH: Yes, there is a meaningful way to differentiate the two. It’s a means-ends relation. The preceptive will is subservient to the decretive will. The law of God is instrumental to the realization of a particular end.

ED: This merely proves my point about the way in which Calvinistic philosophy leads to a materialist conception of God. After all, the cop-out for absolving God of sin is to say that it is for a “great good.”


SH: How is that a copout? Either God had a reason for evil in the world, or he didn’t. Is it better to say that God had no a reason for evil in the world?

How does that absolve God of culpability? Wouldn’t that make it worse? To have horrendous evil for no good reason?

ED: “If this is so, it must be questioned why God needed (or desired) to bring about this “great good” by means of that which God supposedly “hates.”

SH: God has no needs. But human beings are needy. And the elect are the beneficiaries of the greater good.

ED: Now back to the divine decrees: If we say that God eternally decreed the existence of evil for the accomplishment of the divine will, we must assert that the very nature of evil is inherent to the will of God. Moreover, as the will of God is essential with the eternal nature of God, we are forced to conclude that if the ordination and execution of evil proceeded from the eternal will of God, the same also found its origin in the very nature of God, for how can God will that which is contrary to God’s very being? Therefore, not only is God the source and author of evil, but God, according to a consistent Reformed orthodoxy, is, in fact, evil. Inasmuch as God is spoken of as hating evil, such leaves us with a pretty interesting picture of God, the eternally self-hating deity.

SH: This confuses ontology with teleology. The will of God, and what he willed, the attribute and the object, are hardly interchangeable. Existdissolve has a simplistic notion of divine simplicity.

ED: However, we must also grapple with the conclusion that though God is holy in whatever God does, the constructs of the so-called “eternal decrees” leads us necessarily to the conclusion that God does that which God apparently hates. So therefore, we have 2 possible conclusions: 1.) Either God is truly self-conflicted in what God desires or 2.) our beginning assumptions about the eternal decrees of God are wrong. Regardless of the rhetoric which you have supplied above, the issue still comes down to the veracity of the eternal decrees.

SH: We merely draw some elementary distinctions between means and ends, divine and human motives, primary and secondary causality.

ED: As DM said, God is glorified in whatever God does, whether or not a single human is saved or damned. It is interesting, however, that you link God glorifying Godself with that which occurs in space/time. Is God not glorified apart from creation?

SH: This misses the point. The elect are blessed by the revelation of God’s glory.

ED: If God has eternally, efficaciously, and exhaustively decreed ALL which comes to pass, it is an unavoidable conclusion that God is both the author and doer of evil.

“Author” is a metaphor. And an “author” is not the doer of what his storybook characters perform.

ED: “So you think truth can be encapsulated by a propositional statement?”

SH: Why should we frame the question is such a roundabout way?

Instead of asking, “Can truth be encapsulated by a propositional statement?” why not simply ask, “Is the statement true or false”?

ED: My point is that many overestimate the power of words to communicate truth about the infinite and eternal nature of the divine.

SH: Would existdissolve apply this disclaimer to his own disclaimer? Does he disclaim his disclaimer?

ED: No, I do not agree at all. The problem with your perspective, IMO, is that you hold to this falsely dichotomous view that there has to be some kind of “choosing” happening? Why is this so? Why does the issue of salvation have to come down to power relationships?

SH: When God delivered Israel from Egypt by the ten plagues, by drowning Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, and by sustaining the children of Israel in the wilderness by miraculous provision of food and water, I’d say the issue of salvation quite often came down to power relationships.

ED: The Scriptures present God’s relationship with the creation (and specifically humanity) as one of reciprocity and love. As love is, by nature, self-giving, we cannot speak of over-power in the relationship that occurs between God and the creation.

SH: This is a highly selective and one-sided reading of Scripture. What about the Flood? What about the Exodus? What about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the fall of Jericho?

ED: Rather, if anything, we should speak of the under-power which God exhibits in relationship to humanity, constantly wooing, pleading, even becoming INcarnate in weakness and humility in order to restore and reconcile that which had been destroyed and estranged. I think it’s funny that Calvinists and other Reformed are so intent on making sure that God has all this “power,” when God, in ultimate self-revelation, ABANDONS this very power in order to reconcile humanity to the divine.

SH:

1.If existdissolve is going to deny propositional revelation and objective meaning, then why does he believe in the Incarnation?

2.God Incarnate was the most powerful person who ever walked the earth. He performed many miracles. These were a fixture of his mission and ministry.

And unlike the prophets and apostles, who were empowered by God to work wonders, Jesus performed miracles by his intrinsic power.

3.The work of Christ doesn’t begin and end at Calvary. There’s the session of Christ. Existdissolve disregards the royal office of Christ.

Consider the way in which Ps 110 figures in NT theology.

4.Christ is not only the paschal Lamb. He is also the Judge of mankind.

5.In his exorcisms, Christ demonstrated his power over the dark side.

ED: Therefore, if God’s will is essential with God’s being, it is necessary that that which belongs to God’s will also properly belongs to God’s being. To separate the two, or to place them in opposition would be quite absurd, for how could one desire that which is contrary to one’s nature? If such contradiction exists, it is only on the level of appearances to the observer. As God’s will is essential with God’s nature, to say that God eternally wills the existence of evil reveals that the existence of evil is essential with God’s nature. The same is true, ironically enough, of any conception of God’s eternal decrees. If humans, ducks, pianos, or orange sherbert are objects of God’s “eternal decrees,” then by nature of their location in the eternal will of God, they are also necessarily essential with the being of God. As I have mentioned several times now, this is precisely the means by which Calvinism and Reformed orthodoxy create a philosophical pantheism, for that which is the object (material) of the divine will, by virtue of its eternality (as within the will of God), is necessarily essential with the very being of God.

SH: Bracketing the question of the decrees, the will of God is a divine attribute.

Does existdissolve believe that God willed the world into being?

Does the world exist because it was the will of God to bring the world into being?

Did God create the world willingly or unwillingly?

Assuming that existdissolve regards God as the Creator of the world, and assuming that God willed the world into existence, does this make the world consubstantial with God?

ED: I do not understand why true love needs an antithesis to be known.

SH: Love takes many forms. Consider the soldier who risks his on life to rescue a fallen comrade.

ED: Would this not require an everlasting dualism between God and the evil which God created (so that “love” could be known)? After all, if the evil is no more, how will one know what “true love” actually is?

SH: Memory, for one—and hell, for another.

ED: Let’s break this down: How are you going to define “perfect”, “sure”, “right” “pure,” “clean” “true,” and “righteous?” In defining these propositional statements about God, you are going to have to appeal, semantically, to some comprehension of “perfect,” “sure,” etc. that you have. But where have you gotten these perspectives? From your experiences, presuppositions, etc. Therefore, in interpreting this passage, you will take the semantic domain provided and apply to it those qualities, assumptions, etc. which cohere with your paticular methodological predispositions. HOwever, do not miss what is also happening: By claiming, propositionally, that these concepts encapsulate “absolute truth” about God, you are constraining the nature and truth of God to the semantic range of the language you deploy. In other words, you are delineating the “perfection” of God by that which your presuppositions determine to be “in keeping with perfection.” This creates an independent, necessarily self-existent quality, entity, etc. by which one adjudicates the various facets of God’s nature.

SH: This is a very muddle-headed paragraph:

1.It fails to distinguish between the way we learn about concepts and the way we learn about words.

I learn the concept of a “dog” by observation.

And I learn the meaning of the word by observation as well.

But these are quite distinct. For example, when I learn a new language, I learn new words for old ideas.

2.Likewise, even if words are ambiguous, this doesn’t mean that ideas are ambiguous.

We use words to encode ideas. We can understand a statement, even if the words are ambiguous, because certain ideas go together.

3.God is the author of human language.

4.God is the exemplar of the words we use about God. We may learn about the ideas and associated words through human experience, but human fatherhood (to take one example) is an ectypal instance of the God’s archetypal fatherhood.

ED: As such does not exist, our only conclusion must be that one is submitting the infinite God to the constraints of a finite concept.

SH: If our finite concepts are a boundary condition on what we can know, then how does existdissolve know about an infinite God?

ED: While this is potentially unavoidable with human language, things get seriously distorted when one goes further to assert that this very propositional statement is somehow “objective,” encapsulating within itself the “absolute truth” about the nature of God.

SH:

1.How does existdissolve know that our statement is distorting the true nature of God if the true nature of God is unknowable?

2.For that matter, why do we have to add an adjective to truth? Why must we always frame the question in terms of “absolute” truth or “objective” truth?

Why can we just ask if a statement is true or false?

ED: Yes, I am denying that humans can have epistemological access to absolute truth.

SH: Why does existdissolve insist on a dichotomy between relative truth and absolute truth? If absolute truth is inaccessible, how does he know where to draw the line?

ED: Yes, I am also saying that truth, as expressed through the semantic medium of human language, is not “objective” by any stretch of the imagination.

SH: Once again, if this were true, how could he possibly know it to be true?

ED: I hardly see what is more infantile that believing that the human mind has epistemological access to the eternal and infinite truth of God in an objective manner.

SH: I can see what is more infantile. And that is making categorical claims about the infinite and eternal truth of God in the very process of disclaiming any objective knowledge about the infinite and eternal mind of God.

ED: The blatant polemics against non-Protestantism aside, I hardly see how either the Incarnation nor the Scriptures are “propositional” and “objective.”

SH: File away this disclaimer for future reference.

ED: “As this author himself admitted, the texts are ocassional–they take place within particular contexts.”

SH: The fact that the NT writers are occasional writings is irrelevant to their objective or propositional character.

ED: Therefore, this fact, coupled with the fact that they are ultimately human communication, reveals that this whole rhetoric of “propositional truth” is ultimately phantasmic.

SH: And is the linguistic proposition that ““propositional truth is ultimately phantasmic,” itself a phantasmal statement?

ED: No, I affirm the concept of election, just not in the deterministic way that you do.

SH: So God chooses, but his choosing doesn’t determine anything? In that event, what’s the difference between choosing or not choosing?

ED: Your perspective makes God simply the most powerful force in creation

SH: God is more than “simply” the most powerful agent in the world, but he’s no less than such.

ED: yet a force that is entirely reducible in desciption to the parameters of space/time and causality.

SH: No, there’s a traditional distinction between God’s absolute and ordinate power. The world does not exhaust divine omnipotence.

ED: Because the self-revelation of God reveals that God is not about “power.” Calvinism wants to attribute something to God (absolute, deterministic power) that God specifically eschews in the cross of Christ.

Because a power which is “over-power,” which dominates and compels absolutely is, paradoxically, no power at all. The message of the cross is that God accomplishes salvation not through over-power, but through weakness.

SH:

i) As I’ve said before, this is a very truncated version of NT Christology, not to mention the Bible in general.

ii) As I’ve also said before, existdissolve is poorly positioned to invoke Scripture given his corrosive nominalism and Kantian epistemology.


ED: Let’s say we have the statement, “God is Love.”

If we say that we can speak propositionally about the divine (that is, that we can make statements that can be verified or falsified), what would be required for such to attain reality? It would require the same as was required of determining the value of “blue”–we would have to be able to transcend the context in which the object of our study exists. The very nature of our language necessitates this if we are to truly speak propositionally. After all, if we say that God “is” love, we are necessarily positing the existence of “love” apart from the existence of God, such that we are able to compare God to “love” and affirm that God, indeed, fulfills the requirements of “being” (is) “love.” As orthodoxy Christian belief affirms that God is self-existing and the source of all else that exists, our very propositionalizing about the eternal nature of God moves us well into heterodoxy, for we must assert not only that there are qualities that transcend the divine nature (for they become our truly propositional descriptors), but also that we transcend even these descriptive transcenders, for not only are we able to positively affirm that God is absolutely correlative to that which we posit as having existence above and beyond God, but we are able to even further affirm the truths of these divinely transcendent realities (for we correlate God to them as “truth”).

So then, while we may attempt to speak propositionally, on a philosophical level the attempts are completely empty and counterfeit. The only possible way of speaking propositionally about the divine would be if we were to actually transcend the same.

SH:

1.The short answer is that existdissolve is confounding the order of knowing with the order of being.

2.He is also confusing perception with conception. Color perception and the concept of love are hardly analogous operations.

ED: In my understanding, human communication, whether in regards to divine truth or other truths, is on the level of metaphor and approximation.

SH:

1.If the statement that “human communication metaphorical” itself a metaphorical statement?

2.A metaphor is a relative or comparative concept. A metaphor of what? In relation to what? To something literal.

ED: The self-revelation of God came is the person and work of Christ Jesus, not in the words of Scripture. The Scriptures testify to the self-revelation of God in Christ–they are not in themselves revelation. If they were, they would be consubstantial in nature with God, for that which self-reveals God is that which is God–the Logos.

SH: This is an unscriptural doctrine of Scripture. It disregards the self-witness of Scripture.

ED: Not if one does not assume that the Scriptures are meant to communicate “absolute truth.” By positing that they do this, you have subjected the Scriptures to a measure to which they will never linguistically attain.

SH: “Absolute” truth. Let’s drop the otiose adjective and ask if they’re true or false.

ED: If you want “direct” revelation, look to Christ. It is Christ, the eternal Logos of God, who is the revealer of the divine nature.

SH:

1.Unless we have a true record of who he was, what he said, and what he did, there’s nothing to look to.

2.Does existdissolve believe that Jesus “objectively” reveals the divine nature?

ED: I hardly see that this is a necessary conclusion. Again, the value of Scripture lies not in its “objective” or “absolute” nature, but rather in the fact that it proceeds from the life and witness of those who have definitively experienced the inbreaking of God in the history of humanity through the self-revelation of God in Christ.

SH: Their experience was “definitive,” but not “objective.”

ED: I completely eschew any conception of sinfulness that is forensic and occurs on the basis of imputation.

SH: Which disregards exegetical studies to the contrary.

ED: In that they testify to the self-revelation of God in the person of Christ, the Logos and revealer of God, yes, they are special revelation (in a reflective, testimonial sense). They are not themselves, however, the revelation. If they were, they would be consubstantial in nature with God, which would be idolatry.

SH: “Objectively” idolatrous?

ED: Again, you are tripping up on the language. To what extent can one “know” God–to what extent can the finite epistemologically access that which is infinite? If the will of God is eternal, how can temporal reasoning “know” it (in the sense of absolute-ness which you insinuate is possible in the category of knowledge)?

SH: We can know it because God disclosed it. Human reason didn’t discover it.

ED: I believe the Scriptures are authoritative, not because they are divinely emanated, but rather because of the place which they have occupied within the rule of faith of the people of God, as well as because they contain the testimony of the people of God to the self-revelation of God in Christ.

SH: In other words, the Bible has no intrinsic authority. Its authority is assigned to it by human authorities.

ED: I have already spoken of my opinions re: inerrancy, but I hardly see why the notion of “divine inspiration” necessitates the notion of “inerrancy”…

SH: So God inspires error?

ED: For example, you assume that when I use the word “approximation,” there has to be some referential truth by which to determine that an “approximation” really is an approximation (in relation the that which is “exact”). But I don’t share this assumption. In your methodology, an “approximation” is a reasonable resemblence to that which absolutely “is.” In mine, an approximation is a shadow of what could be…

SH: An “approximation” is a relative or comparative concept. Existdissolve tries to unpack this by appealing to the concept of a shadow. But a shadow is also a relative or comparative concept.

ED: …of that which we have only scarcely brushed with our epistemological abilities before it explodes our capacities for comprehending. It is a deliberately self-deconstructing utilization of langugage.

SH: Wow! That’s like, deep, man—real deep.

At this point, existdissolve is hiding behind a lot of words.

ED: But the point about metaphor in human language still seems, to me, to be valid. You must remember, of course, that I am not using the word “metaphor” in an intentionally absolute way, as if there was a standard against which to judge it. What I am saying is that the meaning which one would place upon metaphorical language in relation to “literal” language is, in fact, the very constitution of our forms of speaking. After all, how does one determine if one is speaking “literally” or “metaphorically?” How would you know if I was speaking “directly” about something, or “indirectly?” These values would require that there is a value outside of them that exists against which to adjudicate their nature and function. But as I pointed out in my last response, even attempts to speak directly about the word “blue” inevitably fail to attain absolute referentiality.

SH: The onus is on existdissolve, and not his opponent, to distinguish between literal and metaphorical.

He’s the one who’s constantly resorting to comparative distinctions between subjective and objective, metaphor and literal, relative and absolute.

If, by his own admission, he has no standard of reference to justify his implicit distinctions, then he has failed to meet his own burden of proof, and all his scepticism about God-talk crumbles under its own dead weight.

ED: You seem to think that the absolute-ness of divine truth can be revealed through propositions of human language. I do not.

SH: Existdissolve engages in linguistic racketeering by shifting the debate from the noun (“truth,” “meaning”) to a gratuitous adjective (“absolute,” “objective”).

ED: Did it reveal something of the divine to us? Perhaps. However, I think it was more self-revealing of human language, its functions, nature and potential (or anti-potential, as it may be) for speaking beyond itself.

SH: Notice how quickly he went from the self-revelation of God in Christ to something revealing about a human language game.

ED: Is this really true? Such a statement would seem to indicate that words have an absolute value that can be transcendently and categorically applied to all contexts. Look—words are not used in wrong ways; they are just linguistic symbols to which meanings are applied. Therefore, if there is a “wrongness” involved in human communication, it is not that words are missused (for words, it seems, are to be supplied with meanings, which inevitably happens whenever they are utilized), but that the meanings which are infused to the words are misused. Yet even this does not get at the issue, for to the person using the words (meanings), the act of communication is successful–they have communicated the meanings which were supplied to the words they uttered. However, from the perspective of another, the meanings which were supplied by the speaker to the words under consideration were different than the meaning which they normally apply to the same linguistic symbols. So then, on which end is the “misstatement” occurring, or is it even occurring at all, in an absolute sense?

SH: Now he’s getting to be silly.

ED: I am not saying that God cannot be revealed through human language. My issue is with the nature of supposed “propositional language.” While God may be able to reveal the divine in human language, human language, even when speaking within the parameters of that which is fully proper to the human experience, is inadequate.

SH: And is the statement that “human language is inadequate” itself an inadequate statement on the inadequacy of human language?

ED: Therefore, although the divine may be able to be revealed through human language, it would seem that because of the finitude of human epistemology, any revelation would be categorically unable to be quantified and qualified by human language (propositional statements).

SH: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this self-refuting statement is true, it would falsify his appeal to the revelation of God on the cross.

ED: If you noticed in my original response, I was very careful to qualify my language. I did not say that revelation, generically, has to be consubstantial in nature with God. I have been speaking of “self-revelation,” a very important distinction. This is why I stated that Christ is the only self-revelation of God.

SH: This is arbitrary. A person can reveal himself in various ways or varying degrees.

A painting by Rembrandt reveals a lot about the painter. That he was a painter. A very talented painter. That he lived at a certain place and time. His paintings tell us what he cared about.

A self-portrait by Rembrandt is, in a way, more revealing about the painter.

And if Rembrandt paid me a personal visit, that would also be a self-revelation.

But these are all different modes of self-disclosure.

ED: I would assert that the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition form the dual-nature of the regula fidei, the rule of faith of the universal church.

SH: And where’s the supporting argument?

ED: It depends which “authorities” one is talking about. I would put the ecumenical councils of the historic church on the same level of “authority” for faith and practice as I would the Scriptures. All orthodox Christians do, in fact, whether or not they admit it.

SH: And what authority authorizes one council over another? Who decides which council is ecumenical or not?

ED: The grounds is that they are opposed to the regula fidei of the universal church which is built upon Scripture and apostolic tradition.

SH: His appeal to “the universal church” is a historical fantasy.

ED: They adjudicate the various texts–even as they did with the Scriptures originally, BTW–on the basis of the tradition which they received from the apostles.

SH: How did Jews interpret the Bible in OT or Intertestamental times without church councils to “adjudicate the various texts”?

ED: Such would be impossible, for the determinations of the ecumenical councils are that which determine the boundaries for biblical interpretation in the first place.

SH:

1.What a magnificently tendentious assertion.

2. And not only does it beg the question, but it only pushes the question back a step. What determines the boundaries of conciliar interpretation?

3.Notice how backwards this is. The Bible comes first. Then the councils. But we can’t interpret the Bible apart from the councils.

No one could interpret the NT before the Council of Nicea?

ED: I have already mentioned by primary objection to Reformed theology several times throughout this post. If one begins from the foundation of the “eternal decrees of God,” I see no way in which one can avoid a thoroughly materialist conception of God’s relationship to creation. Related to this, I object to the way in which the Reformed crowd explicates the “sovereignty” of God. As the language which the Reformed crowd utilizes betrays, the Reformed conception of God’s sovereignty is utterly materialist, for it proceeds from the basis of phenomenological investigation. In other words, my experience (and actually the necessary conclusions of Reformed confessionalism) of Reformed sovereignty-speak is that God’s sovereignty is ultimately expressed through expression in the temporal/causal sphere. However, by doing this, Reformed theology has ultimately (although perhaps not consciously) reduced God’s sovereignty to that which exists—but if this happens, there is no way in which to separate that which is created from the being of God, for the very description of the nature of God is based upon creation. While I will be the first to admit that it is difficult, if not impossible to speak about God’s sovereignty apart from that which is created (for our language is ultimately linked to our createdness), I also do not believe that this admission requires the gross reduction of God’s sovereignty to causality and over-power which I understand Reformed theology to advocate.

It is this fundamental presupposition which leads to the rest of the errors which I see within Reformed theology, whether one is speaking of Christology, atonement, soteriology, etc. They can all be traced back to this fundamental assumption about the nature of God’s relationship to creation, a relationship which I cannot but see as a philosophical pantheism.

SH: Wrong on several counts:

1.Reformed theology is not an axiomatic system.

2.We do not form our conception of divine sovereignty on the basis of “phenomenological investigation,” but on the basis of Biblical exegesis.

3.If we lack access to “objective” or “absolute” truth, then existdissolve is in no position to reject the sovereignty of God.

He could only reject the sovereignty of God if he were in a position to know that Reformed theology is false.

But, by his own admission, he lacks epistemic access to the “truth-in-itself” about God.

4.Likewise, his scepticism is a universal acid which, if “true,” would have the same corrosive effect on every other theological tradition.

11 comments:

  1. Steve,

    I've dealt with this guy before. He redefines biblical terms and is obviously unorthodox, but he'll deny it. He's a young guy who's read a lot, and sounds intelligent, but after all the effort you expend addressing his assertions, you'll find that you've wasted a lot of time. Just a warning...

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  2. SH: "I learn the concept of a “dog” by observation."


    How so?

    What if you saw a black lab. How would have the concept of "dog" from this?

    If you saw a boxer, which doesn't look the same as the black lab (brown, cliped ears, etc), how could apply the concept "dog" to the boxer?

    What is it about the dog that you "observe" which allows you to form a universal concept, dogness?

    Do you "abstract" dogness? How so? What does an abstract "nose" look like? Nothing (or, some indefinable "stuff). So, is your concept of dog a concept of nothing, or a blob?

    How is the concept formed? Break it down for us, please.

    Hopefully this shows that Christian apologists should take the works of G.H. Clark more seriously. This empiricism should not be allowed to stand in Christendom.

    (Yes, yes, I know you already posted stuff on Dr. Clark, though I've not seen where you've interacted with these particular type of objections.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can confirm the first comment. ED is nothing but a toddler, wanna-be theologian. Something of a novice. He knows a lot of stuff, but he tosses big words around without any wisdom, discernment, or any demonstration that he genuinely knows what he is talking about. He is absolutely unteachable and He has become something a troll on various blogs.

    Even so, I do appreciate your willingness to take him on, because it shows to him that his ideas are easily refutable.

    Fred

    ReplyDelete
  4. steve--

    Thank you for responding to my postings. In the future, however, I would appreciate an invitation to respond--I only ran across this post by happenstance.

    SH: If we define the will in libertarian terms, then salvation is contingent on the autonomous contribution of the sinner.

    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:

    1.How would this amount to a denial of salvation?

    Suppose I’m bitten by a poisonous snake. The physician administers antivenin.

    But it turns out that I’m allergic to antivenin, and I go into anaphylactic shock.

    The physician then administers another medication to counteract the first drug.

    The physician was responsible for my allergic reaction. But this doesn’t change the fact that his intervention saved me from dying of anaphylactic shock.


    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.

    2.Yes, in Calvinism, redemption and the fall are both elements of an integrated plan.

    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.

    Is that worse than treating redemption as an unplanned response to the unplanned occurrence of the fall?

    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:

    1.What would be inept is if God were making things up as he went along rather than executing a premeditated plan of action.


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

    2. God foreordained the fall, as well as redemption, to reveal his wisdom, grace, and justice for the benefit of the elect.

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

    3.There’s a difference between the means, considered in isolation, and the means as instrumental to the end in view.

    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. 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.

    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.

    SH:

    1.Existdissolve is indulging in a do-it-yourself theology that bears no resemblance to historical redemption.


    HuH? How is what I have posted "do-it-yourself?" Because it contradicts what you think? Moreover, I would question what your definition of "historical redemption" might be.

    2.When, for example, God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, this was an act of power.

    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.

    No reciprocity. It’s not as if the Israelites did God a favor in return.

    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.

    3.When a lifeguard saves a struggling swimmer from drowning, there is no reciprocity at work.

    The lifeguard is a better swimmer. That’s why he’s a lifeguard. And he employs his superior swimming skills to save a struggling swimmer from drowning. In effect, he transfers his swimming skills to the potential drowning victim.


    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.

    4.Not all relationships are peer relationships. There are many relationships between superiors and subordinates.

    The relationship between a devoted father and his two-year old son is hardly symmetrical. The child depends on the father, but the father doesn’t depend on the child.


    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:

    1.We think of God according to God’s self-revelation in Scripture.


    Retranslated: "We think of God according to how we interpret Scripture."

    Okay...so does everyone else. How does this answer my objections?

    2.There’s no logical interconnection between materialism and determinism. An absolute idealist like Bradley or McTaggart can be a thoroughgoing determinist.

    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:

    1.The decree doesn’t do anything. The decree doesn’t make anything happen—just as a blueprint doesn’t build a house.

    The act of creation makes things happen. Providential causes make things happen.

    God makes the world in conformity with his decree. But the decree is not a sufficient condition for anything to take place.

    The decree must be implemented. And the decree does not, of itself, stipulate any particular mode of causality. That’s a separate question.


    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. 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. 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)? 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.

    2.To say the ends and means are predetermined does not imply that ends and means are one and the same. This is nonsense.

    If God has predestined the Israelites to occupy the promised land via a treck through the Sinai desert, then the promised land (end) and the Sinai desert (means) are hardly one and the same thing.


    They are the same in the efficacy of their execution. 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: If human finitude imposes this epistemic boundary on what we can know, then how is existdissolve in a position to know about the existence of transcendent reality beyond the range of human apprehension?

    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.

    SH: 1.No one is arguing that propositional revelation is the only way to know anything.

    Rather, propositional revelation is the only way of knowing certain things undiscoverable by human reason or observation.


    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.

    2.Christians believe in a correspondence between divine propositions and human language due to the self-witness of Scripture. Divine inspiration is when makes this correspondence possible.

    But this entire premise is built upon presuppositions about the nature of language found in Scripture over-and-against "normal" human language. Yet, interestingly, these presuppositions are based--ironically enough--upon the force of the human language that is supposedly being overcome! 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.

    His own statement takes the form of a linguistic proposition. So is the linguistic proposition that “propositional language is inherently self-deceptive,” itself an inherently self-deceptive proposition?

    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:

    1.To be a creature is to be created by something else—ultimately by one’s Creator.

    That’s a causal relation. For God to be the Creator of the world implies a causal relation between the Maker and the cosmic artifact.


    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.

    All that Calvinism adds to this affirmation is the belief that God had a plan. That he make the world according to a plan.

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

    The world was not an unplanned event. It didn’t just happen. God had a plan, and he stuck to his plan.

    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.

    2.According to Scripture, God is not absolutely “other.” He is similar in some respects.

    If he were absolutely other, then existdissolve couldn’t make any positive statements about him. God would be ineffable.


    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.

    SH: Of course there’s a meaningful way to differentiate these conditions.

    The decree does not effect the outcome. The decree renders the future certain, but the decree does not eventuate the future.

    Predestination is not an agent or agency. Predestination is neutral on how the decree is instantiated in time and space. That’s a separate question.

    The decree is not a substitute for creation and providence. According to Scripture, God is not the only agent. Human beings are also agents. There is a providential order of second-causes in play

    A doctrine of agency must be consistent with the revelation of the decree, but agency is not synonymous with predestination.


    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. 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. The only way in which to affirm contingency is if the objects of contingency are not located within the will of God. Of course, if one suggests this, there is no way in which to any longer affirm that God's will is eternal, exhaustive and efficacious in regards to "all" things. 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: Let us not say that God’s eternal decrees are the efficient cause of all that exists.

    Rather, the decree is the final (teleological) cause of all that exists.

    But the cause of all that exists is a nested relationship between primary and secondary causality. God made the world. And in making the world, he made another agents and agencies. People. Animals. Natural forces.


    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: The decree exists outside of time and space. But what the decree foreordains is a finite instance of the decree. Finite in space and time.

    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.

    The world exemplifies the decree. The creaturely mode of subsistence is not identical with the decretive exemplar.

    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."

    SH: Since Calvinism does not define God by what he has created, this is a straw man argument.

    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:

    1.Calvinism doesn’t define God’s economic role exclusive lyin terms of material mechanism. Not all miracles employ secondary modes of agency.


    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: Is the verbal statement that “meanings are not ‘objective’ nor absolute,” objective or subjective?

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

    How is he in a position to make claims about objective or absolute meaning when his claim denies objective or absolute meaning?

    I do not suppose that I am in a position of "objectivity" to make these claims. I am simply speaking--if you choose to interpret them according to the categories of objectivity and subjectivity, I cannot stop you. However, you will quickly miss the points I am trying to make.

    SH: If “human language prohibits objective and transcendent meanings in language,” then isn’t existdissolve prohibited from making claims about objective or transcendent meaning?

    Have I made these claims?

    SH: “Approximation” is a relative or comparative concept. Approximate in relation to what?

    It is only a relative or comparative concept if one posits that an objective, absolute meaning can be epistemologically quantified. As I do not believe this is so, my meaning of approximation means something quite different than that which you assume. I mean approximation really only in the sense of that which exists between that which may be, that which I perceive, and that which I cannot epistemologically grasp, even if I had the slightest notion that it existed to be grasped at.

    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. The moment we try to propositionalize about it is the very moment that we have missed the point of it all. 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: if human beings are unable to access and categorize the truth,” then is the statement that “human beings are unable to access and categorize the truth” a true or false statement?

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

    SH: This is an overstatement. Many readers had come to the Bible with certain preconceptions about God, but change their views as a result of reading the Bible.

    We have many provisional, operating assumptions which are subject to change.


    Yes, they are certainly subject to change. However, they will be changed into other operating assumptions which merely replace the old ones.

    SH: Yes, there is a meaningful way to differentiate the two. It’s a means-ends relation. The preceptive will is subservient to the decretive will. The law of God is instrumental to the realization of a particular end.

    I've already been through this to point of exhaustion above, so I will merely point you to that again.

    SH: How is that a copout? Either God had a reason for evil in the world, or he didn’t. Is it better to say that God had no a reason for evil in the world?

    My issue is not with the "reason." My issue is with positing this "reason," as well as the whole of the rest of creation, within the eternal decrees of God. To do say makes these things essential with the existence of God. If this is so, let it be. But let's not delude ourselves that what we are advocating is really a very convuluted form of pantheism.

    How does that absolve God of culpability? Wouldn’t that make it worse? To have horrendous evil for no good reason?

    It would only be worse if one locates the exitence of all things materially in the will and existence of God, as Calvinism's deterministic conceptions of creation necessitate.

    SH: God has no needs. But human beings are needy. And the elect are the beneficiaries of the greater good.

    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. 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.

    Obviously, if you have been following what I have written above, such a contention definitely supports my argument about the deficiency of Calvinism's cosmology.

    SH: This confuses ontology with teleology. The will of God, and what he willed, the attribute and the object, are hardly interchangeable. Existdissolve has a simplistic notion of divine simplicity.

    It is not my notion! I am merely outlining the necessary conclusions required by Calvinism's positing of the existence of all thing within the eternal will of God (which is essential with God's being).

    SH: We merely draw some elementary distinctions between means and ends, divine and human motives, primary and secondary causality.

    Sure, but they are artificial within the purview of the eternal, exhaustive and efficacious decrees of God's will.

    SH: This misses the point. The elect are blessed by the revelation of God’s glory.

    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.

    “Author” is a metaphor. And an “author” is not the doer of what his storybook characters perform.

    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: Why should we frame the question is such a roundabout way?

    Instead of asking, “Can truth be encapsulated by a propositional statement?” why not simply ask, “Is the statement true or false”?


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

    SH: Would existdissolve apply this disclaimer to his own disclaimer? Does he disclaim his disclaimer?

    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: When God delivered Israel from Egypt by the ten plagues, by drowning Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, and by sustaining the children of Israel in the wilderness by miraculous provision of food and water, I’d say the issue of salvation quite often came down to power relationships.

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

    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: This is a highly selective and one-sided reading of Scripture. What about the Flood? What about the Exodus? What about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the fall of Jericho?

    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:

    1.If existdissolve is going to deny propositional revelation and objective meaning, then why does he believe in the Incarnation?


    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.

    2.God Incarnate was the most powerful person who ever walked the earth. He performed many miracles. These were a fixture of his mission and ministry.

    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.

    4.Christ is not only the paschal Lamb. He is also the Judge of mankind.

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

    5.In his exorcisms, Christ demonstrated his power over the dark side.

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

    SH: Bracketing the question of the decrees, the will of God is a divine attribute.

    That's your answer to that extended discussion? C'mon!

    Does existdissolve believe that God willed the world into being?

    Define "willed."

    Does the world exist because it was the will of God to bring the world into being?

    Did God create the world willingly or unwillingly?

    Assuming that existdissolve regards God as the Creator of the world, and assuming that God willed the world into existence, does this make the world consubstantial with God?


    It is not the issue of God "willing" the creation that I am talking about. My sights are set on (and you have not even touched this issue yet...) on the materialist way in which Calvinist's posit the existence of all that is within the eternal decrees of God.

    SH: This is a very muddle-headed paragraph:

    I am waiting with great anticipation for you to show why this is so.

    1.It fails to distinguish between the way we learn about concepts and the way we learn about words.

    I learn the concept of a “dog” by observation.

    And I learn the meaning of the word by observation as well.

    But these are quite distinct. For example, when I learn a new language, I learn new words for old ideas.


    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.

    2.Likewise, even if words are ambiguous, this doesn’t mean that ideas are ambiguous.

    They may not be ambiguous to the one thinking the ideas. However, as the communication of this idea will require words, well, you see the problem...hopefully.

    We use words to encode ideas. We can understand a statement, even if the words are ambiguous, because certain ideas go together.

    Yes, I agree. However, I am talking about the absolute kind of "knowing" that is needed for propositional statements to attain. Do you really think this kind of knowledge is possible within the confines of human epistemology?

    3.God is the author of human language.

    I don't understand your point.

    4.God is the exemplar of the words we use about God. We may learn about the ideas and associated words through human experience, but human fatherhood (to take one example) is an ectypal instance of the God’s archetypal fatherhood.

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

    SH: If our finite concepts are a boundary condition on what we can know, then how does existdissolve know about an infinite God?

    I don't "know" in the sense of absolute certainty or epistemological positivism. I see a mystery of the divine and human in Christ, and respond to this in faith.

    SH:
    2.For that matter, why do we have to add an adjective to truth? Why must we always frame the question in terms of “absolute” truth or “objective” truth?

    Why can we just ask if a statement is true or false?


    Because it would seem that we have no position from which to determine the truth or falsity of a statement. If you can propose one, I am interested. However, I've read a lot of philosophy books in my life and have yet to come across a convincing example.

    SH: Why does existdissolve insist on a dichotomy between relative truth and absolute truth? If absolute truth is inaccessible, how does he know where to draw the line?

    I wouldn't draw a line. When I use "absolute" truth, I am speaking in the semantics of those to which I was responding. As I do not presuppose that such a thing as "absolute" truth exists (or at least that if it does, humans do not have access to it epistemologically), the categories upon which you are vainly attempting to trip me up are not actually applicable to my argument.

    SH: The fact that the NT writers are occasional writings is irrelevant to their objective or propositional character.

    I would potentially agree. The fact that the writings are communicated in human language should be a greater mitigator.

    SH: So God chooses, but his choosing doesn’t determine anything? In that event, what’s the difference between choosing or not choosing?

    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: God is more than “simply” the most powerful agent in the world, but he’s no less than such.

    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: No, there’s a traditional distinction between God’s absolute and ordinate power. The world does not exhaust divine omnipotence.

    Perhaps not in the semantics of Reformed theology, but certainly in the logical conclusions of its beginning assumptions...

    SH:

    i) As I’ve said before, this is a very truncated version of NT Christology, not to mention the Bible in general.

    ii) As I’ve also said before, existdissolve is poorly positioned to invoke Scripture given his corrosive nominalism and Kantian epistemology.


    I fail to see why your alternative epistemology puts you in a better position...

    SH:

    1.The short answer is that existdissolve is confounding the order of knowing with the order of being.

    2.He is also confusing perception with conception. Color perception and the concept of love are hardly analogous operations.


    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.

    SH:

    1.If the statement that “human communication metaphorical” itself a metaphorical statement?

    2.A metaphor is a relative or comparative concept. A metaphor of what? In relation to what? To something literal.


    Apparently, you didn't bother to quote the rest of what I wrote in relationship to the metaphorical nature of human language. Why do you not engage that, instead of only that which you want to respond to?

    SH: This is an unscriptural doctrine of Scripture. It disregards the self-witness of Scripture.

    Well, it certainly disregards your interpretation of the "self-witness" of Scripture...beyond that, I'm not sure that your argument is even applicable.

    SH:

    1.Unless we have a true record of who he was, what he said, and what he did, there’s nothing to look to.


    Really...

    2.Does existdissolve believe that Jesus “objectively” reveals the divine nature?

    Not in way that our understanding can objectively and completely encapsulate its meaning. The nature of Christ's revelation of God is not the real issue--the issue is our ability to comprehend it and engage with it.

    SH: Their experience was “definitive,” but not “objective.”

    I have no argument with that. However, it would seem to weaken the position which you have previously explicated.

    SH: Which disregards exegetical studies to the contrary.

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

    SH: We can know it because God disclosed it. Human reason didn’t discover it.

    But it does communicate it, and that brings us back to the deficiencies of human language to encapsulate truth about the divine.

    SH: In other words, the Bible has no intrinsic authority. Its authority is assigned to it by human authorities.

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

    SH: So God inspires error?

    Obviously, you didn't read my thoughts on this issue very carefully. That I reject inerrancy does not mean that I affirm "errancy." Rather, I reject both as illegitimate categories to apply to the Scriptures.

    SH: An “approximation” is a relative or comparative concept. Existdissolve tries to unpack this by appealing to the concept of a shadow. But a shadow is also a relative or comparative concept.

    Again, I am not operating within the context of assumptions about the correspondence of human language to truth.

    SH: The onus is on existdissolve, and not his opponent, to distinguish between literal and metaphorical.

    Why is the onus on me? It should be on everyone who utilizes language. I will not accept the legitimacy of your linguistic hegemonies simply because they are the status quo.

    If, by his own admission, he has no standard of reference to justify his implicit distinctions, then he has failed to meet his own burden of proof, and all his scepticism about God-talk crumbles under its own dead weight.

    What "skepticism?" Such a qualifier presupposes a standard from which my approach is deviating. However, until you can prove that this standard actually exists and definitively characterizes human language, your charge of "skepticism" is simply empty rhetoric with no critical force behind it.

    SH: Now he’s getting to be silly.

    Yes, apparently so silly that you cannot come up with an intelligent response to my attempt to explicate the position which I am advocating. Perhaps you could provide some more "observations" since this seems to be the extent of your rhetorical style.

    SH: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this self-refuting statement is true, it would falsify his appeal to the revelation of God on the cross.

    I fail to see why this unsubstantiated claim is necessary..

    SH: This is arbitrary. A person can reveal himself in various ways or varying degrees.

    I disagree.

    A painting by Rembrandt reveals a lot about the painter. That he was a painter. A very talented painter. That he lived at a certain place and time. His paintings tell us what he cared about.

    A self-portrait by Rembrandt is, in a way, more revealing about the painter.

    And if Rembrandt paid me a personal visit, that would also be a self-revelation.

    But these are all different modes of self-disclosure.


    But these are hardly what I mean by "self-revelation." Self-revelation is a perichoretic act, not a mere imaging.

    SH: And where’s the supporting argument?

    The existence of the church.

    SH: And what authority authorizes one council over another? Who decides which council is ecumenical or not?

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

    SH: His appeal to “the universal church” is a historical fantasy.

    Oh, do we really need to go here?

    SH: How did Jews interpret the Bible in OT or Intertestamental times without church councils to “adjudicate the various texts”?

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

    1.What a magnificently tendentious assertion.

    Thanks for the illuminating observation. Very insightful.

    2. And not only does it beg the question, but it only pushes the question back a step. What determines the boundaries of conciliar interpretation?

    3.Notice how backwards this is. The Bible comes first. Then the councils. But we can’t interpret the Bible apart from the councils.


    I didn't put the bible first. I mentioned it first in response to someone else's post. As I have asserted earlier, I believe the Scriptures and the tradition of the church form the regula fidei. Neither have priority; they operate as a unified authority.

    No one could interpret the NT before the Council of Nicea?

    Sure they could. Many did. Like Arius--which is one of the many reasons that the councils became necessary.


    SH: Wrong on several counts:

    1.Reformed theology is not an axiomatic system.


    Ha!

    2.We do not form our conception of divine sovereignty on the basis of “phenomenological investigation,” but on the basis of Biblical exegesis.

    Yes, that's the rhetoric, but the logical conclusions necessitated by the philosophical starting assumptions beg to differ.

    3.If we lack access to “objective” or “absolute” truth, then existdissolve is in no position to reject the sovereignty of God.

    I don't reject the sovereignty of GOd, only Calvinism's conception of it.

    He could only reject the sovereignty of God if he were in a position to know that Reformed theology is false.

    I don't reject the sovereignty of God, only Calvinism's conception of it.

    4.Likewise, his scepticism is a universal acid which, if “true,” would have the same corrosive effect on every other theological tradition.

    You have yet to substantiate why my position, in relation to yours, is skepticism.

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  5. Anonymous #1-

    He redefines biblical terms and is obviously unorthodox, but he'll deny it.

    In all of the interactions I have seen of E-D on the blogs, I haven't seen him say anything that could be considered unorthodox, and I have personally confronted certain bloggers in other blogs which E-D has frequented about their own unorthodox beliefs, such as Nestorianism in their blogs and comments.

    You make quite the accusation, but haven't backed it up with any form of meaningful evidence. If you are going to claim somebody is unorthodox, you should point to something specific and demonstrate why it is unorthdox.

    And what biblical terms have been redefined? I have seen this accusation leveled against E-D (and at times myself) without any support. So perhaps you would care to expound on your reasoning.

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  6. anonymous #18/26/2006 11:55 PM

    "Deviant" Monk,

    OK, sure, ask Exist-Dissolve about his definition and understanding of atonement and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. I think that should be sufficient to prove my point. Or maybe you could ask him about the meaning of the term "unorthodox" when it comes to a biblical understanding of any doctrine. That ought to be a very edifying trip to nowhere...

    Steve,

    See. I told you so. You'll spend more time on this guy than Jason does with Jon Curry....

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  7. Anonymous #1-

    OK, sure, ask Exist-Dissolve about his definition and understanding of atonement and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. I think that should be sufficient to prove my point.

    You are still being extremely vague- can you point me to an ecumencical council's decision/definition re:atonement and imputation to support your assertion? After all, fidelity to the decisions of the ecumenical councils has been, within Christendom, the definition of 'orthodox', unless you want to redefine it.

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  8. anonymous #18/28/2006 12:09 PM

    So I suppose if an ecumenical council hasn't defined something, we are just left in the dark as to what is orthodox? Interesting. And I thought we could interpret Scripture with Scripture and define words in their context to determine their biblical meaning. But I forgot that language is just made up of "word symbols", to quote you're mentor, and we really can't know the biblical meaning of such terms as "atonement". I guess that's a crazy notion, what was I thinking? Regardless,orthodoxy is defined by what God meant when He said what He said. That can be determined with the help of God's Spirit by the accurate and faithful exegesis of Scripture, along with a consideration of the context, grammar, history, etc. Maybe you could ask Steve, Jason, Evan, or any of the other Reformed Protestants that are on-line what they think about the atonement or the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, or Biblical Innerancy for that matter....

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  9. anon #1-

    So I suppose if an ecumenical council hasn't defined something, we are just left in the dark as to what is orthodox?

    Again, since the meaning of the word 'orthodox' within Christendom has historically referred to its dogmatic tradition, then the answer would be yes.

    And I thought we could interpret Scripture with Scripture and define words in their context to determine their biblical meaning.

    You think incorrectly. What inevitably ends up happening is that one interprets scripture with one's interpretation of scripture. Defining words in their context is fine and all, but to assume that you have complete and inerrant access to the aforementioned context is naive.

    But I forgot that language is just made up of "word symbols", to quote you're mentor, and we really can't know the biblical meaning of such terms as "atonement". I guess that's a crazy notion, what was I thinking? Regardless,orthodoxy is defined by what God meant when He said what He said.

    Since you yourself are redefining the word 'othodoxoy', you are continually proving e-d's point (mentor? ok... is this meant to be a petty personal attack?) that words are symbols that have meaning applied to them. This should be obvious even from the scriptures themselves, where certain words have different meanings, demonstrating that the words themselves don't have transcendent meanings.

    So you think the only time God has spoken is in the scriptures? And orthodoxy is determined ultimately by one's interpretation of the scriptures?

    That can be determined with the help of God's Spirit by the accurate and faithful exegesis of Scripture, along with a consideration of the context, grammar, history, etc.

    While this may be a nice concept, it is wholly unattainable. Protestantism's fragmentation proves this over and over. Every group/individual would claim the help of the Holy Spirit. This is simply an argument to buttress one's own interpretation and protect it wholly from critique.

    Who defines what accurate and faithful exegesis is?

    Maybe you could ask Steve, Jason, Evan, or any of the other Reformed Protestants that are on-line what they think about the atonement or the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, or Biblical Innerancy for that matter....

    what would this accomplish?

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  10. anonymous #18/29/2006 3:13 PM

    Orthodox--sound or correct in opinion or doctrine, esp. theological or religious doctrine.

    Who's redefining the word? The above is what I mean when I use the term. Do we need to have an ecumenical council to have orthodoxy? Please advise...

    We may not have complete or inerrant access to the context of every word of Scripture, but we have enough to accurately determine what God wanted to say to us. Otherwise, we cannot determine what anything in the Bible means. If your assertion is that we need to have complete or inerrant access to the context, what difference would an ecumenical council make anyway? They don't have complete or inerrant access to the context of every word or verse of Scripture either? You're refuting yourself...

    "So you think the only time God has spoken is in the scriptures? And orthodoxy is determined ultimately by one's interpretation of the scriptures?"

    My answer: Yes.

    "While this may be a nice concept, it is wholly unattainable"

    My answer: I'm sorry you feel that way, since it's the biblical method of hermeneutics.

    "Who defines what accurate and faithful exegesis is?"

    My answer: Well, I guess no one does. So, why bother debating theological issues. Why did you have a problem with what I was saying? We can't determine what the Bible means since we are only applying our own meaning to "word symbols"...

    What would asking Steve, et al, about those doctrines accomplish? Well, it would confirm that there is an orthodox understanding of such doctrines as the atonement, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and Biblical Inerrancy....

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  11. anon #1

    Who's redefining the word? The above is what I mean when I use the term. Do we need to have an ecumenical council to have orthodoxy? Please advise...

    If you want to use a dictionary definition without any regard for christian history that has consistently approached orthodoxy in a conciliar way so be it. To ask if one can have orthodoxy without an ecumenical council is an irrelavnet hypothetical question, since the orthodoxy that falls within the purview of historical christianity is inextricably tied to the councils, since it was the very heresies which were anathematized at the councils which served to bring about the orthodox formulations of dogma.

    We may not have complete or inerrant access to the context of every word of Scripture, but we have enough to accurately determine what God wanted to say to us.

    If by accurately you mean mediated completely by your own personal subjectivism, I agree.

    If your assertion is that we need to have complete or inerrant access to the context, what difference would an ecumenical council make anyway? They don't have complete or inerrant access to the context of every word or verse of Scripture either? You're refuting yourself...

    I'm only refuting myself if I were to take the position you seem to think I would, which is a completely incorrect assesment. I have no qualms with saying that the councils didn't have complete inerrant access. But I also don't believe that the scriptures are the complete repository of God's self-revelation, so I don't see why that would matter.

    My answer: Yes.

    Ok. So you believe yourself to be the arbiter of what the scriptures say, and the authoritative perspective on what is orthodox and what isn't. Fine. I'll say the same thing for myself, disagree with you on what the bible says. After all, the Holy Spirit is leading me as much as you.

    My answer: I'm sorry you feel that way, since it's the biblical method of hermeneutics.

    Biblical method of hermeneutics? How is it biblical? Have you ever noticed the NT writers' hermeneutical approaches? How about Matthew's hermeneutically inappropriate (according to the methodology you have advocated) use of OT scriptures to foreshadow Christ, such as "Out of Egypt I have called my son' which in its context has nothing to do with Christ. Please explain to me how you can say your approach is 'biblical'.

    My answer: Well, I guess no one does. So, why bother debating theological issues. Why did you have a problem with what I was saying? We can't determine what the Bible means since we are only applying our own meaning to "word symbols"...

    I would advocate that the councils have delineated some extremely important aspects of faith, and so there is some extent to which exegesis can be critiqued and held accountable. Since exegesis begins inevitably with some very large theological assumptions, I would say that what has been defined as dogmatic is crucial to exegetical work.

    As far as word symbols go- you are taking an extreme position of what has been said. No one is embracing outright skepticism; rather exist's point (and one I would share as well) has been that to absolutize language to encapsulate the divine is fallacious. No one is saying that words don't communicate anything; rather, that that communication does not operate in the realm of the absolute or transcendent.

    What would asking Steve, et al, about those doctrines accomplish? Well, it would confirm that there is an orthodox understanding of such doctrines as the atonement, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and Biblical Inerrancy....

    So what if they agree? That proves nothing in regards to orthodoxy; simply that they all have an opinion, and opinions I would suspect they even disagree with among themselves in some manner or another. Unless of course their opinions are encapsulated in a confession or creed of some kind, in which it still only proves that even Reformed are unable to get away from conciliar orthodoxy.

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