Friday, May 28, 2010

God is light

1 Jn 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Thibo has been quoting this verse to bludgeon Steven Names. Thibo quotes this verse to disprove the notion that God could be in any sense the source of evil. There are, however, two basic problems with Thibo’s glib, skin-deep appeal to Scripture:

1. John is using metaphors (“light” and “dark”). If Thibo is going to press the logical implications of these natural metaphors to score metaphysical points, then has he, in fact, been consistent in his inferences?

This verse compares God to a luminary. Probably the sun. A solar metaphor. Or the equivalent.

Since the sun is a luminary, it has no darkness in itself. All is light and bright within the sun. Especially the corona.

Keep in mind that I’m not describing the sun from the standpoint of modern astronomy and physics. Rather, I’m describing the appearance of the sun, and the effects of the sun, from the standpoint of 1C Jew, like the apostle John.

So the sun is a source of light. However, the sun can also cast shadows (e.g. Isa 38:8). In that respect, the sun “causes” shadows. Shadows would not be possible without sunlight.

Therefore, the fact that the sun is a source of light doesn’t preclude the possibility that the sun is also a source of darkness. For the sun can inumbrate as well as illuminate.

You could say that the sun is not the sole source of shadows. A shadow involves a relation between a luminary and some opaque object that occludes full illumination. But the sun is still a necessary condition or partial cause of shadows.

2. The standard Arminian commentary on John was written by I. H. Marshall. This is how he interprets 1:5:

“The point is not so much that God did not create darkness [“John does not raise the question of the origin of the darkness,” n3] but rather that living in the darkness is incompatible with fellowship with God,” The Epistles of John (Eerdmans 1984), 109.

Ironically, the interpretation of 1 Jn 1:5, by the leading Arminian NT scholar of his generation, directly contravenes Thibo’s appropriation of this prooftext. I’d add that Marshall’s interpretation of this verse is quite consistent with Reformed theism.

That, in turn, raises some awkward issues for Thibo. Apparently, Thibo doesn’t really care what Scripture teaches. He merely quotes the Bible for polemical purposes. He doesn’t bother to exegete his key prooftext.

And, apparently, he didn’t bother to keep up with the best Arminian scholarship on the issue at hand. Or if he is conversant with Marshall’s interpretation, he chose to suppress that information in his debate with Nemes.


  1. The other problem is that Thibo will need to avoide the "clear teaching of Scripture" when it comes to passages like Is. 45:7 (I create the light and I create the darkness (some versions have it, "I create evil"; or, take Amos 3: "If destruction befalls a city, have not I caused it?"). He will offer reasons for thinking it doesn't mean what it looks like it means. He will do what he says calvinists are suspect for doing when it comes to John 3:16, I Jn. 1:5, etc).

  2. Regarding Isa 45:7, John Oswalt, who taught at Asbury Seminary (the flagship of Arminian seminaries), has this to say:

    "What Isaiah asserts is that God, as creator, is ultimately responsible for everything in nature, from light to dark, and for everything in history, from good fortune to misfortune. No other beings or forces are responsible for anything...The point is that everything which exists, whether positive or negative from our perspective, does so because of the creative will of God," The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 204

  3. "...Apparently, Thibo doesn’t really care what Scripture teaches. He merely quotes the Bible for polemical purposes.".

    I have seen that spirit in others. It is as though they are interpreting Scripture with bias rather than let Scripture interpret them into Truth and Godly bias!

    1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
    1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.