Saturday, August 26, 2006

Logomachy redux

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

So my reply was responsive to your objection.

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

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

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


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

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

Given the decree, the outcome is assured.

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

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

The future is predetermined as a result of the decree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

To draw teleological distinctions does not imply chronological distinctions.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


1.”In toto” is your word, not mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

SH: Once again, you are confounding distinct issues.

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

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

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

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

Is it true of Catherine Deneuve that she is blond?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never said that or implied that.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

SH: Meaning—you’re a Martian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Try again.

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

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

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

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

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

SH: True. So what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This involves primary causality.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s also such a thing as mental causation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

SH: You’re substituting demagoguery for rational analysis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ED: Define "willed."

SH: Define “See Spot run!”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s more to Calvinism than divine omnipotence.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

SH: This is shallow, radical chic relativism.

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

SH: You talk like a functional atheist.

ED: The existence of the church.

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

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

SH: This is viciously circular.

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

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

Taking Jesus Out Of Context

For those who are interested, Jon Curry recently posted a reply to me in last week's thread about early Christian eschatology, and I've posted another response to him. Notice the large amount of material in my earlier response that he ignored, and notice how he's not consistent with his own arguments.

One of the subjects he discusses in his latest reply is what Jesus taught about the Christian lifestyle in the Sermon on the Mount and other contexts. He writes:

"The gospels have the same non-sensical mindset. To be saved you are supposed to sell everything and give it to the poor. You are supposed to give to every man that asks of you (Mt 5:42). Well, I’m a man. I’ll ask of you. I want your books. Will you send them to me? I’ll give you my address. If you would include a check with all of your savings, that would be great. Will you give it to me? I want your money and your books. Can I have them?"

I don't know what passage Jon has in mind when he refers to "selling everything", but if he's referring to the account of the rich young ruler, surely he knows that Jesus' comment was directed to that individual, not to everybody. The same Jesus who speaks of how the rich young ruler should give all of his possessions away (Luke 18:22) shortly thereafter commends a man who only gave some of his possessions away (Luke 19:8-10) and suggests that investing money, not just giving it away, is acceptable (Luke 19:12-23). Jesus and His disciples owned property, and so did other early Christians (Matthew 8:14, Philemon 2, etc.). This is another example of either how poorly Jon understands the Biblical documents or how dishonest he is in arguing that the Bible is wrong in what it teaches.

Jesus, like other ancient Jewish (and non-Jewish) teachers, often spoke in general terms and used hyperbole to put emphasis on a theme (a plank in an eye, a camel going through the eye of a needle, etc.). Not only do we know that hyperbole was common among ancient Jewish teachers (as it is in many modern contexts), but we also know that the nearby Biblical context refers to Jesus as having a home (Matthew 4:13) and refers to His followers as having possessions (Matthew 8:14), and we know that Christians just after Jesus' time had possessions (Acts 12:12, Philemon 2, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, etc.).

Jesus' commands, like principles in any belief system, are interpreted in light of a larger context. One principle is weighed against another, and something that's appropriate in one circumstance may not be in another. A command to give to others would be interpreted within a belief system that also involved the responsibility of providing for one's family, for example. As D.A. Carson puts it, "Verse 40 [of Matthew 5] is clearly hyperbolic: no first-century Jew would go home wearing only a loin cloth." (The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Chapters 1 Through 12 [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995], p. 157) Thus, a passage like Proverbs 26:4-5 will deliberately set two contrary-sounding principles together, trusting that the reader will realize that each principle is valid in different circumstances. Some of Jesus' expressions in Matthew 5 are popular in our world today: "go the extra mile", "turn the other cheek", etc. Just as we today interpret and apply such principles in a context that involves examining circumstances and weighing one priority against another, so did people in ancient times. To object to a general principle on the basis that it would have unreasonable results if applied absolutely is to miss the point.

If you don't understand the limits and context of proverbial statements, hyperbole, etc., then you aren't well prepared to be having discussions like the ones Jon Curry has been participating in. And I have to wonder how Jon was ever able to understand a book like Proverbs. His method of interpretation would lead to absurd results for all sorts of literature and figures of speech, both ancient and modern.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Called by God

Here’s a little bio (from the church newsletter) of an Episcopal priest I knew back when I was living in San Diego County.


Fr. Joe [Rees] was a cradle Christian and raised in the Episcopal Church all his life. He was born in Bryn Mawr, PA, moved to Setauket, L.I., New York and graduated high school there to go on to college for two years at Adelphi University in Garden City, Long Island. At Adelphi he received his initial calling to pursue Holy Orders. Disillusioned by the church he postponed the postulancy and transferred to Rutgers University in New Jersey. He changed his major to Environmental Science and entered the pre-pilot program of the Air Force ROTC. He met Lucy there at the co-located Douglass College and at the end of their senior year they were engaged to marry

Lucy was born in Newark, Ohio and graduated High School from Glen Rock, NJ. Joe was commissioned a 2nd Lt in the Air Force after graduating from Rutgers in 1975. Lucy did a short tour in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. Joe was a greenhouse manager in Turlock, being on hold with the Air Force due to the cutbacks in officers at the end of the Vietnam War. Joe and Lucy were married on Jan. 3, 1976 and have been happily married for over 30 years.

After tours at Tyndall AFB, FL and Shaw AFB, SC and Luke AFB, AZ, their first child, Christy, was born in 1978. Joe was called to a remote tour at Osan AB, Korea in 1979. It was there at the end of his tour that he found out that he was finally accepted to pilot training. Then, a month later while still on the mountain radar site he learned his mom was dying of cancer and that Lucy was pregnant with their only son Daniel. The Air Force gave him a choice...pilot training or reassignment to be near his mom at Castle AFB, Merced, CA. He went to be with his mom.

It was there he recommitted at St. Francis, Turlock to enter the process for the priesthood. Just before his mom died, Joe was accepted to Trinity Seminary in Ambridge, PA and their family of three started off to seminary. His mom died shortly after their arrival and they flew back for the funeral.

Since this was such a great transition, and Lucy was pregnant with their second child, Joe took a year off and worked in Boston for his brother-in-law as an office manager for Data Resources Inc.

Then, the Holy Spirit pushed him back to seminary at Trinity the following year. It was there that their third child, Laurie, was born in 1982. Joe left seminary after that first year again conflicted with the church. Suddenly, the Air Force called and wanted him to come back for the AWACS program. They left seminary for Oklahoma City and Tinker AFB.

He became a radar controller on the AWACS. Their fourth child, Lily, was born to them at Tinker AFB hospital in 1985. Joe saw a lot of Saudi Arabia, Iceland, England, and other 'classified' deployments. He went to headquarters Langley AFB, VA in 1986 and spent three years there. Then, off to Okinawa, Japan where he flew with the AWACS unit for three years.

In 1989, he had a vision of the Lord Jesus letting him know in the middle of the night that "This is your last chance to serve me". He listened and obeyed, found a way to exit the AF and wound up back at Trinity seminary in 1992. Shortly after arriving, Joe got a call from his old boss saying that the first and only AWACS had crashed at Elmendorf AFB, AK and the whole crew was killed. Joe had turned down that very assignment to separate from the AF. The officer that replaced Joe was on that aircraft. Joe realized that the word from the Lord truly was a 'last chance'.

Graduating from seminary in 1994 and arriving back at St. Francis, Turlock, Joe was ordained deacon by Bishop Schofield in Sept 1994 and priest in March 1995 in the Diocese of San Joaquin. He served at St. Francis for two years and was called to Christ The King parish in Riverbank (near Modesto) where an old priest friend was beginning a new work planting a church in an old liquor store. That priest retired and Fr. Joe saw the congregation through to building a new church and having it consecrated in 2000.

In August 2001, Fr. Joe was called to All Saints, Vista (celebrating his first service the Sunday after 9-11). Growth and healing of the parish occurred and yet in 2003 after that fateful General Convention, plans for a capitol campaign evaporated and members drifted away or moved. Presently, after this latest General Convention, and the failure of the national church to engage in a faithful response to the Windsor Report recommendations, Fr. Joe was called by the Lord to leave ECUSA and be faithful to his priestly orders in the Anglican Communion, in association with Fr. Tony and St. Anne's Anglican Church.Ch

Fr. Joe and Lucy have four adult children, one grandchild and one on the way. Matt & Christy, their eldest, is due a baby girl on December 2nd. Stephen, their three year old is excited. Daniel followed Fr. Joe and is an AF pilot of a C-130 and is married just a year to Sarah of Corpus Christi, TX. Laurie is 24 and a pre-school teacher at All Saints of Shadowridge where Lucy teaches full time too. Lily is 21 and finishing Pt Loma Nazarene Univ. in Social Work. All are faithful Christians.

Dog-eat-dog world


Anonymous said:

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.)


1. Are you operating with a universal concept of dog which you apply alike to a boxers and a black lab?

You yourself are using a canine category despite various differences between one dog breed and another.

2.There’s more to forming a concept of “dog” than what a dog looks like. One can observe canine behavior. One can observe canine breeding. Internal physiology. &c. &c.

3.One can also have an abstract concept of a nose, not based on appearance, but on the function of a nose.

4.A veterinarian or dog-breeder will have a more detailed concept than a two-year old.

5. It isn’t necessary for me to have a “universal” concept of dog. Human classification schemes don’t have to be infallible to be useful.

My concept of “dog” may be somewhat vague, provisional, and arbitrary. I may misclassify a marsupial as a mammal.

So what? It’s possible to generalize without being inerrant. Sometimes I may overgeneralize.

So I made a mistake. That happens. That’s a feature of our finitude.

6.In fact, there are times when we deliberately oversimplify a problem. Leave out various exceptions or borderline cases. Otherwise we couldn’t discuss it at all.

7. We have designed machines with pattern recognition programs. They pick out concrete objects that are roughly alike.

Is this based on a universal concept? No.

But within certain parameters, it works.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Soli Deo Gloria

At 4:59 PM, Grano1 said…

Grano: Steve Hays says, "...only Calvinism can logically support the proposition that we are saved by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone." This brief sentence is loaded with presuppositions that would need to be examined before one could get to the root of the thing. What does Hays mean by "saved"? Is he talking about mere justification or the entire salvation process of justification, sanctification and glorification? Why should we assume we are saved by "faith alone" when not all Christians accept that soteriological formula? And perhaps most importantly, what does it matter whether Calvinism logically supports these presuppositions, if in fact they are incorrect?


1.I didn’t say that we’re saved by faith alone. Grano unaccountably drops the other nouns out of the claim: faith>grace>Christ.

2.Strictly speaking, we’re justified by faith and saved by grace. Salvation is wider than justification alone. Salvation does sweep in justification, sanctification, and glorification.

3.Why should we assume it? Because you can’t prove everything all at once. In every argument you have to take certain things for granted. You can revisit them at a later date if need be.

The original context of my post had to do with Billy Graham’s position that it’s possible for adults to be saved without exercising faith in Christ.

He’s come under criticism for this, and rightly so.

But my point is that the criticism needs to be broadened. Short of Calvinism, every theological tradition is implicitly or explicitly open to salvation apart from faith in Christ.

4.Now, for many people, that’s a good thing.

My article was directed at those for whom faith in Christ is not so easily disposed of.

5.And this is not some side issue. It goes to the question of why anyone should be a Christian.

Grano is pulling for Orthodoxy. But if faith in Christ is dispensable, then why should anyone be an Orthodox Christian—even if Orthodoxy is true?

Why have churches? Why have sacraments? Why read the church fathers?

If faith in Christ is inessential to salvation, then you don’t need to be a Christian. There’s no necessity, much less urgency.

Grano: I think that light can be shed on the problem here, which has surfaced over and over again in the history of Western Christianity, by taking a look at how Eastern Christianity, following the Greek fathers, has dealt with the issue. In the East, the problem of the reconciliation of God's sovereignty with man's free will has never been a major issue of contention precisely because it CAN'T be worked out logically. To the Eastern fathers the relationship between the two is a mystery, and a mystery in the strict sense, just like the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the mystery of the hypostatic union. It can no more be "solved" by logic and dialectical reasoning than can those other two mysteries. The reason that the problem has resurfaced so often during Western Christian history is that Western theologians since St. Augustine have been attempting to reconcile two things (God's sovereignty and man's freedom) that to the East are logically irreconciliable by their very nature, and thus have come down repeatedly on once side or the other; this causes the opposition to respond and the argument goes on, ad infinitum.

SH: This is also loaded with unexamined presuppositions:

1.It assumes that the relation between divine and human agency is, indeed, irreconcilable. “Logically” irreconcilable. In the “very nature” of the case.

These are ambitious claims. Where’s the supporting argument?

2.I agree that the two are irreconcilable if you assume a libertarian theory of free agency.

You can generate a specious antinomy by misdefining one term of the relation.

3.Grano’s objection is a straw man argument. Calvinism has nothing to do with “solving” the relation by logic and dialectical reasoning.

For Calvinism this is first and foremost an exegetical issue. How does the Bib le present divine sovereignty? How does the Bible present human agency and human incumbency? How does the Bible relate the two?

Does the Bible permit us to define human agency in libertarian terms? No.

Does the Bible treat divine and human agency as cofactors? No.

The Bible subordinates the human response to divine initiative.

4.Now, some critics aren’t satisfied with exegesis. They raise philosophical objections.

In that event, we respond to them on their own plane.

It takes just as much “logical and dialectical reasoning” to justify Grano’s presuppositions as it does to justify Calvinism.

Grano’s way of framing the debate is prejudicial and stipulative.

Grano: What is very helpful is to read the Church fathers on this issue, beginning with those who opposed the Augustinian understanding at the time of the Pelagian controversy, especially St. John Cassian and St. Vincent of Lerins (one of the things that was immediately apparent to me, both in Craig's article and Hays's response, was the lack of much if any appeal to the patristic witness). Cassian and Vincent are often considered "Semi-Pelagians" by later Western theologians, but as Lutheran scholars Jaroslav Pelikan and J.L. Neve have both pointed out, the moniker is inaccurate. First of all it is anachronistic (the term wasn't coined till hundreds of years later) and secondly, as Neve states, it's far more accurate to call them Semi-Augustinians, as they agreed with Augustine on everything except this one issue (Cassian in some ways was toughter on the Pelagians than Augustine).


1.Notice that he tries to frame the debate in terms of historical theology.

But if it’s very helpful to read the church fathers on this issue, then it’s far more helpful to read a few good Bib le commentaries on John, Romans, Ephesians, Isaiah, and so on.

2.Grano objects to “logical and dialectical reasoning,” but what is his alternative? Revelation? What God has revealed about divine and human agency?

No, he turns to tradition.

Grano: The best account of the theological issues at stake in Pelagian controversy and its aftermath appears in Pelikan's five volume history of doctrine (I forget if it's in vol. 1 or 2). For a brief but deep and thorough discussion of the theological and philosophical understanding of the Christian East regarding God's sovereignty and man's free will, see the appendix of Joseph Farrell's book FREE CHOICE IN ST. MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR, in which patristics scholar Farrell relates the issue to St. Maximus's struggle against the Monothelite heresy.

SH: The “philosophical” understanding of the Christian East regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.

So it’s wrong to approach the issue by logical and dialectical reasoning, but okay to approach it by philosophical reasoning. At least it’s okay to do so if you’re one of the Greek Fathers.

Grano: St. Maximus is in some ways "the Augustine of the East," but he tends to deal with this issue not in (in Farrell's words) a "primarily dialectical, anthropological, philosophical light," but as "a primarily christological, trinitarian, and eschatological problem."

SH: Why should we a deal this issue as "a primarily christological, trinitarian, and eschatological problem"?

Rather, in attempting, if possible, to understand the relationship between divine and human agency, it makes a lot more sense to look for the answer, if there is one, in books or passages of Scripture that deal directly with the relationship between divine and human agency—especially with reference to man in state of sin.


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

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.


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?


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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.