Saturday, May 08, 2010

The authorship of Hebrews

Hebrews is formally anonymous. Over the centuries, that has fueled a lot of guesswork regarding the identity of the author. There is, of course, nothing wrong with anonymity. And any ascription of authorship is bound to be conjectural to some degree. But with that in mind, this may be the most interesting suggestion I’ve run across:

“Many biblical figures are named in Hebrews (see chapter 11), but aside from Jesus, the only New Testament person named anywhere in the text is Paul’s associate, Timothy (see 13:23). This seems to eliminate Timothy from consideration as the author, for he would hardly have referred to himself by name. But does it? Some have suggested that 13:22-25 is a kind of brief appendix or postscript to the letter proper, which ends with the long benediction invoking ‘the God of peace–who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep’ (13:20). In that case, the ‘voice’ speaking those last four verses may not be that of the author but of someone else forwarding a colleague’s sermon on to its intended audience–or even a different audience, for which it was not at first intended. Possibly the reason this second voice at the end of the letter sounds like Paul (see above) is that it was Paul (so Trobisch 1993:320-323, though without hazarding a guess as to the identity of Paul’s’ colleague). Whoever it was, he mentioned that ‘our brother Timothy has been released from jail’ (13:23). Why is Timothy mentioned? The author of the letter had just asked for prayer ‘that I will be able to come back to you soon’ (13:19), suggesting that he was hindered in some way from coming. The author of the last four verses, by contrast, was not hindered. He was apparently free to come at any time, offering the good news that because Timothy was now free, he and Timothy would come just as soon as Timothy joined him. One possible explanation is that Timothy was the author of the sermon now being sent as a letter ‘to the Hebrews’ (so Legg 1968: 220-23). Timothy, more than anyone else, is named as coauthor (or at least co-sender) of several of Paul’s’ letters (see 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Thes 1:1-2; 2 Thes 1:1; Phlm 1:1), and it is conceivable that here, too, we may have a kind of joint effort. Timothy in prison would have had ample time to compose a long sermon for a specific congregation. This is consistent with the author’s notable interest in ‘those who were thrown into jail’ (10:34), or ‘chained in prisons’ (11:36), or ‘in prison’ (13:3). If this were the case, Paul might then have had the responsibility to see to it that Timothy’s ‘word of exhortation’ reached either its intended audience or perhaps a wider audience than first intended. As he prepared to send it along with his brief cover letter, Paul learned that Timothy had been released and joined with Timothy in his promise to come ‘soon’ in person (13:19,23). Then Paul sent final greetings (13:24) and added to Timothy’s long benediction (13:21-21) a short (and very characteristic) benediction of his own: ‘May God’s grace be with you all’ (13:25). (For further discussion on this see, commentary on 13:22-5).”

“All this is somewhat speculative, yet it offers perhaps the best option for those who feel they must attach a specific name to this memorable ‘Deutero-Pauline’ letter. It was Timothy, after all, whom Paul commanded to ‘focus on reading the Scriptures to the church encouraging the believers, and teaching them’ (1 Tim 4:13). In the book of Hebrews, someone, possibly Timothy, was doing exactly that.”

J. R. Michaels, Hebrews (Tyndale 2009), 310-11.

The Why and How of How I Interact with Skeptics

The following response is to one “James” who asks some good questions and makes some fair observations regarding the way that I interact with skeptics in my evangelistic outreaches. I post this because it may provide some clarification on my strategy and general thinking about engaging people with the gospel. My response will be interspersed in blue font.

James writes,

“You write: ‘They want me to prove the Christian God's existence but I never let them get away with such since the Bible says that God's existence is a self-evident truth that is hardwired into all people.’ It's certainly reasonable to conclude that what we see was created. However, is it necessarily "logical" to conclude that the Creator is the God of the Bible?”

Thanks for your comments. Your question is a fair one and I'm glad to attempt an answer. In short, the answer is yes; unbelievers know that the Creator God exists but their knowledge of Him is incomplete and thus insufficient to save them from their sins. Romans 1:19-21 says,

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:18-21 NAU - bolded portions for emphasis - Dusman)
Paul is teaching that that which is known about the Biblical, creator God "is evident within them" since He has "made it evident to them." How? Verse 20 tells us, "For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." In other words, the true God has made Himself evident to all people through the created order and that this is manifested not only as an external reality but also an internal awareness. Moreover, because His eternal power and divine nature has been "clearly seen" through what has been created they are left without excuse. Again, people intuitively know that the God exists as they see the created order and this external reality creates an internal awareness that the Creator exists. Also, verses 19 and 21 have a definite article before the word translated "God" in the Greek text, indicating that Paul is not referring to some nebulous deity, but instead this knowledge is of the one true God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Biblical God. As a matter of fact, after teaching that the message of the gospel is absolutely essential for the salvation of men, Paul reiterates what he said in Romans 1 when in Romans 10:18 he quotes King David's observation about all men's knowledge of the Creator God:

18 But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; "THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD." (Rom 10:18 NAU)

In Paul's use of Psalm 19:4, David testified by the Holy Spirit that God's general revelation of Himself has reached the entire world. So, given what Paul says about the knowledge that God Himself has hardwired into the unbeliever, yes, it is logical to conclude that unbelievers who have never heard the gospel or read a Bible intuitively know that the Biblical Creator God exists.

However, let me be as clear as possible: According to Romans chapter one, people's knowledge of the Biblical Creator through natural revelation is not enough to save them but it is enough to damn them. Natural revelation does not and cannot tell you that God is a Trinity, that the second Person of that Triune being was incarnated in Bethlehem to eventually be offered up as a wrath-bearing atoning sacrifice for sinners, and that justification is by faith apart from works. All of that must come through special revelation; whether it be in the form of gospel preaching, prophecy, dreams, or being exposed to the teaching of the Bible. This is clear from Romans 10:14-17 and 1 Peter 1:23-25,

13 for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom 10:13-17 NAU)
23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, "ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER." And this is the word which was preached to you. (1Pe 1:23-25 NAU)
You go on to state,

"The God of the Bible spoke to people with an apparently audible voice. He raised the dead, parted the seas, made fire fall from Heaven. He spoke through a burning bush. His believers were told they could drink deadly poison and handle snakes without being harmed.
Nothing like these things occurs today. So, why can't we conclude that the Creator is the God of the Koran, or the "philosopher's God" who just created everything and then either fell asleep or lost interest and just went somewhere else?"

The reason why people reject the Biblical Creator God and trade Him in for an idol is because they are "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). Apart from being exposed to God's special revelation and Holy Spirit regeneration, people will always degenerate into idolatry. The Muslim god, the unbelieving philosopher's god, or the Deist's view are all different versions of the same problem: idolatry. Idolatry is the default spiritual status of all people if they are left to natural revelation alone: "For they exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshiped and served the created thing rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25 - my translation). So, given the inherent depravity within the natural men, if they are left to natural revelation alone and are not regenerated by the Spirit, they may indeed "conclude that the Creator is the God of the Koran, or the "philosopher's God" who just created everything and then either fell asleep or lost interest and just went somewhere else?"

Apart from God's grace, this is the lot for the unsaved person (1 Cor. 2:14). This is why they need the gospel.

Again, thanks for your comments. I think some of the confusion lies in the fact that I am summarizing in my outreach reports. Much of what you read is the "meat and potatoes" of a much longer conversation that took place. Sometimes my summaries leave out information that may leave you thinking that I short shrifted someone or that I wasn't completely honest in my presentation. That is certainly understandable.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Molinism and the Case of the Missing Daddy Warbucks

Below are some slightly edited comments I made in a recent email exchange on Molinism and Mt 11:21, 23

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes…And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Mt 11:21,23).

The question is that since it looks like there are possible worlds where the above possible persons repent and believe, why didn't God create the world at where they believe. One answer is that if God had actualized that world, N1 people would have been saved who are not saved in this world, but in this world (the actual world) N2 people are saved, and N2 > N1

In full disclosure, I once read something similar to the argument made in the last email below in a journal, but I cannot recall which journal or who wrote it. It was an off-the-cuff remark towards the end of the article, the below expands on it and uses my own illustrations.

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Well, that is unfortunate for those unsaved people who wonder why God created them in those circumstances where they would freely choose to reject him since he could have created them in circumstances where they would have freely accepted him. God's reply is, "Well, yeah, that's unfortunate for you, but, you see, it isn't for mankind overall. If I had put you in those circumstances where you would have freely accepted me, N1 people would have been saved. However, N2 people have been saved in the world where you freely reject me, and N2 > N1. So, off to hell!" They might respond, "Okay, I'll go, but it still sucks that you had to make me in the first place and put me in those circumstances so to maximize a world where more get saved. So, um, I guess I'll take one for the team."

I wonder if Reppert will use his "God uses the reprobate as means to and end" argument against Calvinism, against Molinism now.

So again, it doesn't look like Molinism has any edge over Calvinism in terms of the "intuition" that it is stomach turning to contemporary philosophers of religion.


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Of course, that Molinist response [on Calvinism God determines that the reprobate will go to hell, on Molinism he doesn't] doesn't help our poor hell-bound sinner who only needed to be actualized in a world where he "freely" trusted in Christ rather than his own "selfish reasons." In fact, from his perspective (and perhaps his saved friends and relatives too (since they are his friends and they don't even know 99% of those who were saved through him going to hell)), I would think it doesn't matter much to him whether he was determined to go to hell or simply instantiated in a world with the sufficient circumstances where he freely chooses to go to hell when he could have been instantiated in another world where he didn't. How's that go for consoltation? "Well, of course I could have instantiated you in a world where you accepted the gospel, but instead I instantiated you in a world where you chose hell, and weren't able to choose otherwise [as Craig also reminds us]. But, hey, at least I didn't determine you to go to hell." I guess the response here is, "Awe, shucks, thanks."


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It's kind of like the father who has two sons. One he sends one to the best private school, enrolls him in the best etiquette schools, has him trained in polo and fencing, arranges meetings with some of the most powerful men in the world so he can develop contacts for later, lavishes affirmations of praise on him, etc. Heck, we can even stipulate that the child develops some medicine that improves the lives of others and that would not have happened had he not been put in those circumstances.

The other son is sent to an orphanage, much like little orphan Annie was. He goes to the most run-down public school in the ghettos of Chicago. Is not kept away from drug pushers and not put in circumstances where he is praised and affirmed and so takes drugs to fill the gap in his life. His diet is government cheese. He ends up robbing old ladies, sleeping with prostitutes, and selling drugs to the rich kids from the suburbs.

As the story would suggest, these two go on to different lives (though with Molinism the different life-outcomes are certain, there are no rags to riches stories, no Daddy Warbucks to come rescue the little orphan). One is successful and the other is not. One gets "heaven on earth" and the other gets "hell on earth."

The second son finds out about the different upbringings and goes to question his father (he has a gun too, 'cause he's pretty upset). After he questions his father, his father says, "Hey don't blame me. You did all those things freely, I didn't determine you to do them. So what if I knew what would happen if I placed you in those circumstances. Besides, you're brother developed that pill and so tons of people are better off. More than would be if I had put you in his circumstances. Quit yer whining."

In this case, wouldn't we justly blame the father for placing one child in circumstances where he succeeds and the other in circumstances he justifiably believes would result in failure for that son? Many, like Victor Reppert &c., argue that the "God of Calvinism must be judged by human intuitions of what is moral, and if a human did what Calvin's God did, we would call it evil, a monster!" This is one reason why I don't find free will defenses, especially in Molinism, persuasive.


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GTCC Outreach Report 5-7-2010

Today, the weather was beautiful and the people were generally friendly on the last day of class for the Spring semester 2010. We had the privilege of speaking with a few clueless "christians", a young man who truly appreciated what we were doing, an agnostic, and a man looking for a good church.

A Few Clueless "christians"

Since we live smack dab in the corroded buckle of the Bible belt, we always encounter people who have attended or are attending church but are clueless about the gospel. I have tried to think of better ways to interact with them, and so I have found the following questions to be helpful:

1. "What must a person do to be made right with God?" then I shut up. When the answer never comes, then I ask question # 2,

2. "If you profess to be a Christian but don't know what the gospel is, what reason do I have to believe that you are a Christian?" Then I ask question # 3,

3. "Can I take a few minutes to explain the gospel to you?" I start with sin and the definition of it (1 John 3:4), discuss God's righteous judgment against it (Romans 2:5), and then explain how Christ is the only solution for our sin problem (2 Corinthians 5:21). I use 2 Corinthians 5:21 to explain "the great exchange" wherein our sin is laid upon Christ and as a result we are reckoned righteous by virtue of His perfect sacrifice on the cross on our behalf (Hebrews 10:14). I then mention the resurrection as proof that God accepted what Jesus did (Romans 4:25) and explain that if one has truly become a Christian, they will never be the same because God gives them a new heart; a heart that loves Jesus, His word, and His people (see Eleven Evidences of the New Birth).

Some people are receptive to hearing this, but most end up looking over my shoulder with their eyes darting elsewhere wondering how they can get themselves out of this conversation or how much longer I'm going to be. The ones that really leave an impression on you are those people whose eyes stay fixed on you the entire time, as if they are hanging on your every word. I'm sad to say that such people are few and far between on the college campuses here in America; but God does prepare people and put them in our path regularly, whether we perceive it or not.

An Appreciative Young Man

A memorable conversation we had today was with a young man who really seemed to understand the gospel. He told us that he was grateful that we were out there engaging people with the gospel and he said that he thought that "traditionalism" was a big reason why many people are turned off to the gospel these days. Upon asking him what he meant by "traditionalism", he seemed to be referring to modern versions of legalism (i.e., don't drink, smoke, or chew, or go with girls that do, KJVonly-ism, etc.). I agreed that modern versions of legalism completely miss the point, but given what I know about the church culture in our geographical area, I was amiss as to how many fundamentalist legalists are truly driving the heathen away from the church in droves. I actually think that the problem isn't the uber righteous fundies in our area, for we have so few of them that I've never even ran across one of them when out doing evangelism. The problem is twofold: (1) pseudo-Christianity, and (2) total depravity. When I speak of pseudo-Christianity in our local context, I am speaking particularly of the market-driven, seeker-sensitive nonsense that waters the gospel down to no-gospel or the Word of Faith garbage being preached in church buildings throughout our Piedmont Triad Area every Sunday. Regarding the doctrine of total depravity, sinners hate God and the gospel and they run like cockroaches from bright light when exposed to God's truth in the Biblically faithful churches in our area. Therefore, the first problem can be subsumed under the second, since the second is the spiritual foundation for the first. I opened up my eye-strain Bible to Romans 8:7-8 and explained this to him.

Then the conversation got interesting as he said that he can't judge where his homosexual friends will go after they die. I responded, "But 1st Corinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:26-27 make it clear that homosexuality is sinful and those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That means they will go to Hell should they persist in their unbelief." He then said that he thought that some of his friends were beyond hope and that they will probably never respond to the gospel and I said, "Had you known me 16 years ago, you might have said the same thing about me." I then explained that the grace of God is powerful to change even the most vile of sinners and that he needed to consider the fact that they will spend eternity in Hell if they don't repent and trust Christ alone for salvation. At this point, his hands were visibly shaking. Its an amazing thing when a person is so gripped by truth that they are visibly shaking. I reminded him that if he was truly a believer, he needed to get spiritually fed and equipped by attending a church that teaches the word, and then forgo his fears and bring the gospel to his unbelieving friends. He appreciated the talk, we shook hands, and we went our separate ways.

A Smiling Agnostic

The next notable conversation was with a young agnostic man and his female friend. I asked them both, "What must a person do to be reconciled to God?" and they both said, "I don't know". I then asked them both, "Do you believe in God?" She said yes he said, "I don't know." I said, "What do you mean by saying that you don't know whether you believe in God or not? Do you mean to say that you are not sure whether or not God exists? Are you saying that you are an agnostic?" He said "Yes." I then asked, "Okay, do you believe in absolute truth?" He said "Yes". I asked, "Where does absolute truth come from?" He said, "I don't know." I then asked if he believed things like the laws of logic were immaterial, universal, invariant, and absolute and he and the girl agreed that they were. I then asked, "How do you account for such things?" He said, "Uh, I don't know." I then asked, "What would it take to convince you that the God of the Bible exists?" and he said, "I don't know."

At this point I felt that he was simply dodging me to get me to leave him alone so I said,
You just said you don't know what it would take to convince you that the God of the Bible exists, but God Himself says in Romans 1 that you already know of His existence (Romans 1:19-21). When you look at the dirt under your feet, the grass in the field, the birds in the sky, and the trees at your back, it all screams at you 'CREATED, CREATED, CREATED!' and you know it.
At this point the girl to his right was nodding her head enthusiastically in strong agreement. He sheepishly nodded too and said, "Yeah." I then said, "Look you know that God exists, but you're looking for Him about as much as a thief is looking for a cop. You said 'I don't know' to almost every question that I asked you, so I'm going to ask you one more: Do you know what the gospel is?"

Can you guess what his answer was? You guessed it right, "I don't know." The entire time I was witnessing to him he had a grin on his face, so I patiently wielded the law of Christ against his pride and he seemed to become a bit humbled. I then explained the gospel to him, thanked him and his female friend for their time, and was off to find someone else to talk to.

Note: When talking with atheists, agnostics, and other types of skeptics, I treat them basically the same way since Biblically speaking, they are all brothers under the skin. They want me to prove the Christian God's existence but I never let them get away with such since the Bible says that God's existence is a self-evident truth that is hardwired into all people (Romans 1:19-21). Either they are lying about their knowledge of God or God is lying about the knowledge that He hardwired into them and placed all around them in creation. Romans 3:4 puts paid the latter option. "[L]et God be found true, though every man be found a liar."

A Man Looking for a Good Church

The last person we spoke to was a very kind man who understood the gospel and believed that Jesus was the exclusive means of salvation. I couldn't help but give him a fist pump because of the truth that he spoke. Again, it was as real breath of fresh air to hear someone besides myself and my church people speak the truth about the gospel. He said he was looking for a good church and was tired of all the charismania that was going on in the churches that he visited. I told him to pay us a visit as we taught verse-by-verse through Bible books, love our other members like a family, and don't put up with any nonsense in the church. He was very encouraged and said, "Man, I think we're going to pay you a visit this coming Sunday." He thanked us for what we are doing and we shook hands. What a nice way to end the day!

IN CONCLUSION, the one thing that college campuses need is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. I need to pray with a view to see God work through our efforts as well as sanctify us in the process so that we not lose sight of why we are there and what our purpose is; namely, to be faithful to the charge that He has given us and glorify Him by proclaiming what great things He has done.

Tender mercies

Arminians and other opponents of Calvinism frequently attack Reformed theism as monstrous, cruel, &c. But let’s take a look at this from the other side, shall we?

According to Arminianism, there are two types of people who go to hell: those who were never saved, and those who were saved, but lost their salvation.

Of course, this raises the question, why does their God save a person to damn him? Why not simply leave him in his unsaved state?

Suppose there’s a new student in high school. His family moved into the area a few weeks ago. Because he’s feeling lonely and out of place, suppose I appear to befriend him by inviting him to take a fishing trip with me and two of my high school buddies. He’s overjoyed to make some new friends.

On the first day out, he falls into the water. Unfortunately, he can’t swim. Fortunately, I jump in to save him.

He hugs me and thanks me profusely for saving his life. He tells us how much he’s looking forward to the life ahead of him. I nod and smile.

The next day he falls into the water again. Only this time I don’t rescue him. I let him drown.

What is more, I had premonition that this would happen before I ever invited him to join us on the fishing trip. I knew that when I saved him the day before, I’d let him die the day after. I knew all along, as he was hugging me and thanking me for saving his life, that I’d let him die the very next day.

Why rescue him in the first place, only to let him drown a day later? Isn’t that cruel? Giving him false hope? Making him happy just to make the letdown that much harder to take? Get his hopes up just to dash them?

I know something he doesn’t. I know that he is doomed. But I allow him to entertain a tremendous sense of relief after his brush with death, even though, unbeknownst to him, that’s a temporary reprieve which is just a set-up for his untimely demise.

How is that so very different than a serial killer who orchestrates the death of his victim by befriending the victim to gain his trust, so that he can toy with the victim before he delivers the coup de grâce?

That wondrous book

From Charles Spurgeon:
And, oh, you will get a thousand helps out of that wondrous book [the Bible] if you do but read it; for, understanding the words more, you will prize it more, and, as you get older, the book will grow with your growth, and turn out to be a greybeard's manual of devotion just as it was aforetime a child's sweet story book. Yes, it will always be a new book — just as new a Bible as it was printed yesterday, and nobody had ever seen a word of it till now; and yet it will be a deal more precious for all the memories which cluster round it. As we turn over its pages how sweetly do we recollect passages in our history which will never be forgotten to all eternity, but will stand for ever intertwined with gracious promises. Beloved, the Lord teach us to read his book of life which he has opened before us here below, so that we may read our titles clear in that other book of love which we have not seen as yet, but which will be opened at the last great day. The Lord be with you, and bless you.

Prodigal

Thursday, May 06, 2010

From Son of Hamas to Child of God: Mosab Hassan Yousef

From Son of Hamas to Child of God: Mosab Hassan Yousef (1978 - )

Mosab Hassan Yousef had been warned by Israeli intelligence officials not to get baptized. As a high-profile figure in the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, publicly renouncing Islam could result in his murder. Furthermore, his critical role as a secret, counter-terrorism agent would be compromised. But, as a new believer in Christ, he insisted upon baptism, and so the ceremony took place on a Tel Aviv beach. Mosab, indeed, took precautions to keep it from Hamas, but his already dangerous life took on new peril as he began his walk with Christ, a walk which has demanded ever more courage as the years have passed.1

Yousef was born in 1978 to sheik Hassan Yousef, one of the seven founders of Hamas. By age 10, he was already throwing stones at Israeli soldiers near his West Bank home and learning to hate the people he knew only as oppressive occupiers. Through his teen years, Yousef’s animosity toward Israel increased until he was arrested in 1996 for buying and hiding weapons to attack the Jewish state.2 But while in prison he agreed to work upon his release as a spy for Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic spy bureau.3

Under the code name Green Prince—green to denote the Hamas flag and prince to reference his father’s position—he became Israel’s most reliable source of inside information on terrorists. For instance, in 2000, a group called the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades began killing Jewish troops and settlers with devastating effectiveness. When no one at Shin Bet could discover who they were, Yousef secretly tracked down the culprits and learned that they were body guards for Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who publicly pretended to hate the attacks. He also helped thwart assassination attempts on high Israeli officials4 and uncovered the mysterious masterminds behind Hamas before leaving Israel in 2007.5

During the same period, Yousef met a British Christian in Jerusalem, who invited him to a Bible study. There he received an English-Arabic New Testament and began to read it. Awed by Jesus’ ethic of love in the Sermon on the Mount, he continued to investigate Christianity and eventually committed his life to Jesus.6 However, becoming a Christian had consequences. For one, his father issued a statement in 2010 that he and his family had “completely disowned the man who was our oldest son and who is called Mosab.”7

According to Yousef, he knew that standing for Christ publicly and revealing his spying would prevent him from ever seeing his family again.8 But he did so out of a deep desire to see Middle Easterners of all races embrace Christianity. “[I]t’s a beautiful thing to see my God exist in my life and see the change in my life,” he said. “I see that when he does exist in the other Middle Easterners there will be a change [in the region’s political situation].”9 Naturally, such boldness for Christ did not sit well with his former Muslim cohorts. In fact, it resulted in death threats.

Though Hamas will probably not attack him on American soil, where he has applied for political asylum, his friends worry that an independent Muslim extremist could carry out an assassination.10 But Yousef does not allow danger to deter him from proclaiming Jesus’ saving power. “[W]e stand firm for our principles, for our beliefs, we say the truth, and this is not the time to give up,” he said. “Simply I am not going to hide. I will keep talking to them even [until] the last minute. [If] somebody is pointing a gun to me trying to kill me I will tell him about Jesus Christ and about the truth.”11

Of course, not all believers will be called to risk their lives like Yousef. Still, he serves as a reminder of the type of courage demanded from every disciple—courage to renounce all for Christ’s sake.

Footnotes:

1 Mosab Hassan Yousef, Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2010), 227-228.

2 Ibid., 63-65.

3 Ibid., 84.

4 Ibid., 170-171.

5 Ibid., 220-221.

6 Ibid., 121-123, 227.

7 Matthew Kaminski, “They Need to Be Liberated From Their God,” Wall Street Journal Website, March 6, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703915204575103481069258868.html
(accessed April 9, 2010).


8
Mindy Belz, “Declaration of War,” World Magazine Website, April 10, 2010, http://www.worldmag.com/articles/16566 (accessed April 9, 2010).


9 Kaminski.

10 Belz.

11 Michelle A. Vu, “Transcript: Mosab Hassan Yousef on Terrorism, Christianity,” Christian Post Website, March 23, 2010, http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100323/transcript-mosab-hassan-yousef-on-terrorism-christianity/print.html (accessed April 9, 2010).

The ontology of possible worlds

I'm posting some comments I gave to an email correspondent:

1. First I’ll make a preliminary point: open theism is the only theistic libertarian position I think is even coherent. It makes some sense within open theism to say a human agent has the freedom to do otherwise in the actual world, for in open theism, while the past and present are actual, the future is not actual. The future is the realm of possibilities, and our libertarian choices actualize the future by instantiating one possibility rather than another.

Of course, open theism suffers from its own liabilities. The position is heretical. And it shares a common problem with all libertarian schemes: the motivation for libertarianism is to ground human responsibility. But can libertarianism really furnish the degree of personal control which an agent needs to be morally responsible?

2. By contrast, I don’t see how a human agent can be free to do otherwise in the actual world given Arminianism or Molinism. They can be free in possible worlds, but the Arminian or Molinist God only instantiates one possible world to the exclusion of others.

3. I believe that possible agents are free to do otherwise in possible worlds. Indeed, not only to I think they can to otherwise in different possible worlds, but I believe they do otherwise in different possible worlds.

However, I don’t think they’re free to do otherwise in the actual world. And I don’t think possible agents originate their own possibilities (i.e. alternate courses of action).

4. This brings us to the ontology of possible worlds. What is a possible world? What is a possible agent?

Here I’m puzzled by the position of Craig, Plantinga, et al. They treat possible persons as a given. Given possible persons, with determinate character traits, God chooses which world to instantiate in light of what possible agents would do in different possible worlds. He chooses the possible world which achieves his objective.

But it’s unclear to me how Craig, Plantinga, et al. account for the given. How do possible persons subsist, with determinate character traits, such that God’s choice is responsive the free choices?

To me, the only logical way to embed this notion, consistent with libertarianism, is to go the route of Richard Creel. There’s a platonic plenum which is populated by possible agents in possible worlds. This exists independently of the divine nature or will. It’s like a mail order catalogue from which God can make his selection.

But, of course, the notion of a coeternal, self-subsistent plenum, alongside God, is profoundly heretical. It’s also metaphysically bizarre. What is the plenum? Is the plenum a mind-like entity?

5. My own position falls within the divine ideas tradition. Possible agents inhere in the mind of God. A possible agent is a divinely conceivable agent. A possible agent is free to do whatever is conceivable for God.

Conceivability is sometimes criticized because not everything that’s conceivable is possible. But that’s because we’re usually talking about what’s conceivable for human thinkers. And we are shortsighted. What strikes us as conceivable may be incoherent since we can’t keep track of all the variables.

But for God, whatever is conceivable is possible or compossible. God’s concepts are logically self-consistent.

6. I think that in creating the actual world, God selects one of these possible timelines to instantiate.

The question is whether that’s sufficient to ground human responsibility. Of course, that’s a purely intuitive judgment. But, offhand, I don’t see why that would be insufficient to ground human responsibility.

God isn’t making us do something opposed to what we would otherwise have done, if left to our own devices, for there’s no one thing we would have done. Put another way, there’s nothing in particular which we were going to do. It’s not as if, by making this world, God prevented us from doing what we intended to do–had he not “interfered.”

To the contrary, there are any number of things which God imagines us doing. In making this world, God simply actualized one of those forking paths.

Seems to me that this framework does justice to Biblical predestination, but it also provides a different framework for human responsibility.

*************************************

Possible agents lack the freedom to do otherwise within a given possible world, but that's because their freedom to do otherwise is cashed out by having a plurality of possible worlds which correspond to different courses of action. An ensemble of possible worlds represent their freedom to do otherwise.

But if there's only one actual world, then, of course, there is no otherwise at the concrete level.

The only way to create an analogy between the possible and the actual is if you had more than one actual world representing more than one alternative.

In a sense, that's what Lewis does. However, Lewis doesn't have two different domains: possible and actual. Rather, he collapses the possibilities into multiplicity of actual worlds.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

UNCG Outreach Report 5-4-2010

Today, the weather was beautiful but many of the students we tried to witness to seemed hurried, jittery, and "edgy". This was probably due to the fact that today was the last official day of classes and exams start in a few days. We handed out many Narrow Way tracts and spoke individually to several students who were professing Christians yet clueless about the gospel. A few notable folks that we interacted with included a man that used Word of Faith catchphrases, a muscular young man that knew the gospel, and two edgy atheists.

Professing "christians" that were Clueless about the Gospel

Today we witnessed to at least four professing Christians that could not tell me how to be reconciled to God. I was able to take the time to explain the gospel to all of them. The first two seemed completely disinterested in what I had to say given their body language. The second two listened quite well. Of course, poor body language may be due to several factors, but people seem to be doing quite fine before I start talking to them. I asked all four of them: "If you came to my home and I said I was a committed PETA donor; yet I kicked my dog and voraciously ate a hamburger in your presence, what would that say about my commitment to PETA's agenda?" They all said, "You'd be a hypocrite." I said, "Right. So, if you tell me you are a Christian, but you can't explain Christianity 101 to a dying man with a knife stuck in his back with 2.5 minutes to live, what does that say about your Christianity?" Responses ranged from apathetic to concerned. I am going to pray for both.

"I need to speak it into existence . . ."

One man we spoke to was able to articulate parts of the gospel quite well yet he told me that I need to speak my salvation into experience. I asked him if he knew what Word of Faith doctrine was and he affirmed that he did. I then had a detailed discussion with him about the difference between Word of Faith theology's definition of faith (faith is a force) and Christianity's definition of faith ("Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see." Heb 11:1 NET). He wanted to agree with me about the Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith, but also wanted to hold to Word of Faith concepts. I then asked, "Are you willing to clearly state that faith is not a force and has no power in and of itself?" and then instead of directly answering my question, he wanted to explain how the two could be merged together. I said, "The two are not the same. Faith has no power to create anything. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and being convinced of what we do not see because of our God-given trust in the promises of God's word. The Word of Faith definition of faith has nothing to do with saving faith and has its roots in the metaphysical, new thought cults started by Phineas P. Quimby in the 19th century." Of course, he had heard of none of this, so I exhorted him to go to YouTube and watch A Call For Discernment series wherein Justin Peters critiques the Word of Faith/Health & Wealth prosperity gospel in four parts: I, II, III, IV. He seemed skeptical and tried to argue that God's desire for His people to prosper isn't always associated with monetary gain (to which I agreed), but I told him that his bringing that up is irrelevant; what is important is the fact that the philosophical foundations of WoF theology are based not in a Biblical doctrine of God, salvation, and life, but in that of the metaphysical cults. I tried to talk issues of hermeneutics with him, but I sensed that was like a foreign language to him, so I urged him to watch the above linked videos and ask himself whether the "prosperity gospel" is the same message as that being preached by the apostles in the New Testament. I'm sad to say that he was a nice guy that was very firm in his WoF beliefs. However, the grace of God knows no bounds and I will continue to pray for this man in the ensuing weeks.

A Thick Neck with Good Theology

The next young man I had the privilege of speaking with was waiting at the Walker Avenue bus stop. I recognized his face since I'm a wrestling fan and I had seen him before at local High School wrestling tournaments that he had participated in as an athlete and then later as a referee. I introduced myself, asked him if he knew how a man could be reconciled to God and he quickly and succinctly said, "Yes, you must repent of your sins and believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior." I about fell outta my skin. Rarely do I get an answer like that. I probed him a little more and he was the real deal. He confessed that he was commuting to and from campus each day due to not wanting to live on campus because of temptation to drink, party, and commit other sins. He said he wanted to live for the Lord (without my prompting him to say such), and that he tried living on campus but the temptation available made it near impossible to live out a Christian life consistently in such an environment. I commended him for his stand and exhorted him to stay spiritually well fed by sitting under regular sound teaching in his local church. It was at this point that I tried to talk to the girl that was sitting beside me but she blew me off and wouldn't even take a tract from me. Keep her in mind, for she plays a part in the next section.

Two Edgy Atheists

I continued to talk to this young man about the goodness of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf in hopes that the girl next to me would ask me to shut my yapper, but about that time, I looked up, and a young girl with a UNCG polo shirt and a UNCG employee name tag was walking up to the bus stop and she had been given a Narrow Way tract by another person from our group and she was shaking her head in disapproval. I then piped up and asked, "Ma'am, I noticed that you were shaking your head at our literature, I'm curious, why?" She said, "I'm an atheist" to which I responded, "Really, why are you an atheist?" to which she responded, "I really don't want to talk about it right now" and I said, "Oh, okay, it's just that I used to be an atheist and I'm interested in talking to those who still are and asking them why they still are." She curtly replied, "Well, I don't want to talk about it. I just got off work, I had a rough morning, and I don't want to talk about religion!" I said, "Okay, no problem." At that point, the girl that was sitting to my right said to the young atheist girl, "You're in the Bible belt" to which I responded, "Actually, the buckle of the Bible belt is pretty corroded here in Greensboro and there are few churches that are really preaching, teaching, and living out Biblical Christianity." I then offered this girl a tract again and tried to engage her in conversation and she said, "No." At that point, the atheistic young lady seemed to get more frustrated as I continued to make an effort to talk about the gospel without directly addressing her and so she made a call on her cell phone and said something to the person on the other end like, "Hey, will please hurry up and come and get me." At that point I said, "Okay, I'm leaving. I can tell when I'm not welcome anymore." At that point, the young atheist lady shut her cell phone and said, "I'm not talking about you!" to which I responded, "It's cool, no problem. I'll be on my way." Of course, there's no question that she was frustrated with me, but sadly, I think I got a little frustrated at her too; especially since she was rude right off the cuff when I tried to enter into a friendly conversation. I'll pray not only for her, but for my own sanctification as I need to remind myself that the carnal mind is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7-8).

As I was walking away from the bus stop back to our group, another young lady was reading one of our Narrow Way tracts and I walked up, introduced myself and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" and she said, "I'm a foreign exchange student from Germany, and I can't believe that people in America actually do things like this?" I said, "Do things like what?" and she retorted, "Talk about religion." I said, "Why? Do you think is it weird to talk about God?" and she said, "In Germany, if you go to church, you're like a geek or something?" I said, "Really? So, in Germany, it's silly to believe that all of this was actually made by God? After all, where do you think the ball of dirt you're standing on came from?" and of course she said, "It evolved." I said, "So, you're an atheist huh?" and she said, "Yeah, pretty much; I think that the stuff about loving each other, and peace and stuff is really good, but I don't take the stories literally." I said, "Upon what basis do you determine that loving someone and promoting peace is the good and right thing to do when you believe that there's no objective transcendent standard to determine such things and all we are is a bunch of evolved pond scum? After all, why should you care what one bag of pond scum does to another?" She said, "We don't need some god to tell us what's right and wrong!" to which I said, "Actually, you're wrong. We do. And if you don't believe that, you're going to end up in a mass of self-contradiction and those who follow godless philosophies to their logical conclusions will end up hurting a whole lot of people in the process. That's exactly what history shows us." At this point, I wanted to ask her about her own country's preoccupation with killing Jews about 65 years ago, but she didn't let me go there because she immediately retorted, "Nobody really has the truth anyways" to which I responded, "Is that true?" and she said, "Uh, um, yes." I then said, "Ma'am, do you realize that you just contradicted yourself? You basically said that that no absolute truth exists. Then you refuted yourself by agreeing that nobody has the truth. If there is no absolute truth, then you can't make an absolute truth claim like 'nobody really has the truth anyways' because you have to affirm the very thing you just denied. You see, this is why you need God." At this point she said, "This is why I don't like talking to people about religion" to which I responded, "So, it's uncaring and unkind for me to point out when you are thinking irrationally?" At this point she hesitated and said, "Um, no" and I said, "So, it's a good thing to want people to think clearly, right?" and she said, "Yes." I said, "Well then, are you willing to give up your relativism and consider what I have to say about the gospel?" and she said, "Nope, I'm not interested in talking anymore." It just goes to show that some people would rather be irrational than bow the knee to Jesus. We shook hands and she was on her way.

In conclusion, we had a productive semester at UNCG because we were faithful. God never asks us to "produce converts", He just asks us to be faithful to glorify Him with our lives in whatever sphere of influence He places us in. Only eternity will tell what happened to all the small seeds faithful Christians have sown through the years in their families, their workplace, their churches, and their communities. May God cause us to be faithful to Him until death, looking for the crown of life which the Lord will grant to us on that day, and not only us, but to all who love His appearing!

The Naturalized Bible

The fine folks over at BioLogos are trying to make the Bible believable to modern man. It’s the same project that Rudolf Bultmann and Harry Emerson Fosdick pursued generations ago.

But I must express my frustration at the glacial pace at which they are proceeding. So I’d like to offer them my assistance to jump-start the process..

First of all, we need to lay a firm foundation. Thankfully, the fine folks at BioLogos have already done that. For them, everything is negotiable except evolution. Evolution is the one nonnegotiable. So we can safely build on that granite foundation.

The next thing we need to do is edit the Bible to make it more believable. So what should we edit out of the Bible, and what should we put in its place?

Perhaps we ought to start by briefly listing some of the things that educated people find unbelievable about the Scriptures as currently constituted. That would include miracles, exorcisms, contradictions, the creation account, the fall, hell, holy war, blood atonement, sexism, &c.

Suppose we rewrite Gen 1 to tell the story of the Big Bang. And, of course, we have to present the Big Bang as a natural event. We can’t attribute the Big Bang to God because that would be a “science-stopper” or “cop-out.”

We’d also rewrite Gen 1, as well as Gen 2-3, to tell the story of naturalistic evolution. I say “naturalistic,” since it would be unscientific to cast the story in terms of theistic evolution. For that would invoke the forbidden specter of “Goddidit.” Theistic evolution violates methodological naturalism.

So, would that make Gen 1-3 more believable? Yes and no. For here we bump up against a conundrum. It would make it more credible from the viewpoint of readers who believe in the Big Bang and Darwinism.

But by the same token, it would be incredible to think that Bronze Age writers would could foresee developments in modern cosmology and evolutionary biology. If we classify the OT as Bronze Age literature, then it would be unrealistic, from the viewpoint of the OT writers, to have them anticipate modern scientific theories.

Indeed, it would take nothing short of divine inspiration for Bronze Age writers to anticipate modern science. Yet inspiration is one of those antiquated doctrines which modern man finds quite incredible.

So I’m a bit at a loss to know how to make Gen 1-3 more credible. But let’s bracket that for now and turn to other parts of the story.

Modern man also tells us that he can’t believe the Bible because the Bible is full of “contradictions” and historical “errors.” So perhaps we should edit the Bible to eliminate the “contradictions” and historical “errors.” Would that make it more credible?

But, once again, we’re up against a dilemma. After all, modern man expects an ancient anthology of uninspired writings to contain contradictions and historical errors. It would be quite unrealistic to imagine that fallible Bible writers could produce an inerrant book.

So if we edit out all of the “errors” and “contradictions,” would that make the Bible more believable, or less so?

Then there’s the question of what we do with OT history in general. Obviously we need to edit out blatantly incredible material like the plagues of Egypt. But there’s a deeper problem.

What do we do with all those prophets? These are men who claim that God spoken to them in visions, theophanies and angelophanies. Needless to say, modern man doesn’t find that credible. That would be oh-so supernatural. That would violate the closed system of natural laws.

Perhaps, then, we could replace Moses (and other prophets like Daniel and Isaiah) with a Carl Sagan or Paul Kurtz figure. Instead of the Exodus and the handing down of God’s law from Mt. Sinai, we could have a local, Bronze Age chapter of CSICOP.

Would that be more believable? But that brings us back to a recurring conundrum. It might be more believable from the viewpoint of our enlightened readers. But enlightened readers don’t think the Bronze Age was terribly enlightened. Wasn’t that a superstitious age? Didn’t they believe in signs and wonders, portents and prodigies? So they wouldn’t expect credulous, OT prophets to make visionary pronouncements like Paul Kurtz or Michael Shermer. Rather, we’d expect them to be ignorant and gullible, right?

What about holy war? Civilized people can’t believe that a good God would ever command the Israelites to execute the Canaanites. So should we rewrite those portions of the OT to make Moses and Joshua into Gandhi-like peaceniks and flower children?

Well, at one level, that would make it more believable to modern man. Believable in the sense that this dovetails with their own value system.

But would that make the Bible more believable? After all, modern man has a sense of moral superiority. He thinks that all those primitive savages living in the Bronze Age were backward and brutal. So there’s an obvious sense in which OT warfare is historically realistic. Too realistic.

What about “sexism”? The Bible is so sexist, patriarchal, and homophobic, you know. Full of “hate speech.”

Well, I suppose we could rectify that by replacing St. Paul with a 1C reincarnation of Gloria Steinem. So would that make the Bible more believable? Or would it make the Bible less believable?

After all, if you think the Bible was written by some barbarians, living in ancient Near East or Roman Empire, then would we really expect the Bible to contain a draft of the Green Party platform? I mean, weren’t Bible writers merely children of their times? Culturebound? They just didn’t know any better.

As for Jesus, we’d have to edit out the Virgin Birth and one end, and the Resurrection at the other end–as well as all of the healings, exorcisms, oracles, and nature miracles in-between. That’s just for starters. In its place, we could have Jesus preach inspirational homilies on the civic duties of recycling, or the looming dangers of global warming.

So would that make the Gospels more credible? Or would that be just a tad anachronistic?

At this point I have to confess that editing the Bible to make it more user-friendly to modern man presents a serious quandary. Try as I might, I just don’t know how to update the Bible without making it historically incredible. My apologies to BioLogos. I was just trying to lend them a helping hand. But now I’m at a loss. What’s the next step?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

New frontiers in philosophical theology

steven nemes said...

As for the first question, I'll suggest this. If I find some small tracks of mud on my driveway, they look like animal tracks, and they lead to my garbage can which is knocked over, the bag has small holes bit into it, and garbage is leaking everywhere--I don't there have definitive, foolproof, certain evidence that it was a raccoon that did it. But it still is the sort of thing I'd expect to see if a raccoon did it. So also with God. Even if the evidence we have doesn't logically entail that it was God who caused the universe, or designed it, etc., it is still the sort of evidence we'd expect to see if God did exist, and I think we'd be alright in believing beyond the evidence here.

http://steven-n.blogspot.com/2010/05/terrible-response-to-theistic-arguments.html

steve said...

Congrats! You will go down in the annals of philosophy as the thinker who coined the Coonological theistic proof. Generations of phil majors will study your argument alongside Anselm, Aquinas, Philoponus, and Leibniz.

I await modal and Bayesean versions of the Coonological proof.

Vicious debates will break out in philosophy journals over the correct interpretation of the Coonological proof, viz. the Bahaman, Barbados, Cozumel, Guadeloupe, or Tres Marias Coonological proof.

Oxford and Harvard will endow Distinguished Steven Nemes Professorships of Philosophical Theology.

And I will be immortalized in footnotes of obscure German periodicals as some otherwise forgettable dude who used to leave otherwise forgettable comments at your blog.


May 4, 2010 5:12 PM

Anonymous said...

Where I live, if I find some small tracks of mud on my driveway, they look like animal tracks, and they lead to my garbage can which is knocked over, the bag has small holes bit into it, and garbage is leaking everywhere--then a possum did it. Not an Opossum--those are for Yankees. I'm talking about the oversized rat possum.

May 4, 2010 5:28 PM

steve said...

Anonymous has now produced the Cartesian version of the Coonological proof:

Cogito pos sum!


May 4, 2010 6:24 PM

You can't take it with you!

“You can’t take it with you!”–or can you?

That famous phrase takes for granted that this life is all there is. A one-shot deal. So, when you die, you leave everything behind. But from a Christian standpoint, to what extent is that true?

For one thing, we don’t know, on this side of the grave, how much continuity there is between this life and the afterlife. Will God carry over the best parts of this life, and this world, into the next world? Take whatever was best here-below and make it better in the hereafter? (In addition to whatever is distinctive to heaven itself.)

Beyond that, there are some things a Christian can take with him. If you have children who die in the faith, that’s something you can take with you–sooner or later.

Some answered prayers also have repercussions for the afterlife. Suppose you pray for a lost friend. If God answers your prayer and saves him (or her), then that’s something you can take with you.

In this respect, our prayer-life is a bridge between this life and the afterlife. Even more than just a bridge. For there’s a sense in which our prayer-life is transitional to the afterlife insofar as answered prayers play a creative role in what the afterlife will be like.

We don’t merely hope for heaven. Rather, there’s a sense in which prayer can actively shape the contours of the afterlife.

Of course, prayer has no autonomous power. God planned our prayers, and planned his answers.

Still, answered prayers are a factor, not only in history of our fallen world, but answered prayers in this life can also have eternal consequences, and thereby affect the world to come.

So, in some degree, heaven is what we pray for–within the will of God, if he answers our prayers. An investment in the future (as it were). Putting our treasure in heaven.

Craig versus Craig

Sic:

"In contrast to the Molinist view, on the deterministic view even the movement of the human will is caused by God. God moves people to choose evil, and they cannot do otherwise."

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8111

Et non:

"Now as for your argument, I think two of its premisses are false. First, it seems to me that (2) is false, both on philosophical and on theological grounds. Philosophically, I’m persuaded by arguments such as have been offered by Harry Frankfurt that free choice does not entail the ability to do otherwise. Imagine that a mad scientist has secretly wired your brain with electrodes so that he can control your choices. Suppose that in the last Presidential election, he wanted you to vote for Obama and had determined that if you were going to vote for McCain he would activate the electrodes and make you cast your vote for Obama. Now as it turns out, you also wanted to vote for Obama, and so when you went into the polling booth you marked your ballot for Obama, and therefore the scientist never activated the electrodes. I think it’s clear that you freely voted for Obama, even though it was not possible for you to do otherwise."

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=q_and_a

Monday, May 03, 2010

The incoherence of Word of Faith theology with respect to God's creation

The god of Word of Faith (WoF) theology is said to have, when he created the heavens and the earth, spoken "faith-filled words", exercising his well-developed command of the force of faith, and thus he caused the heavens and earth and universe to be created.  It was through the exercise of faith that the WoF god created.

Kenneth Copeland explains:

God framed the worlds by faith. Everything God made, He made by faith. Everything He does, He does by faith.  For you and me, it’s no different. What works for God will work for us...We receive divine health and supernatural healing by faith. We receive our spouses, our children, our homes, our food—all our earthly needs and desires—by faith. Our faith is an opening through which God can save us, deliver us, baptize us in His Spirit, anoint us for ministry...So faith comes by hearing the Word of God—and when it is released from our hearts with our mouths, it brings the fulfillment of God’s promises. 
Notice that "when it is released, it brings..."  You release faith by speaking it, just like the WoF god did. It's just that he's achieved a very high level and understanding of the principle of faith, and so can speak things into existence with more frequency and quality than most of us can.  But with practice, you can get better at it, more like the WoF god!

Copeland continues:

Again, looking to God as our Guide, we find in the book of Genesis that faith is released with words. Faith words demand results of whatever they say...The reason God released all that Word into the earth was to give substance for when the time came for Jesus—the ultimate Word given by God—to appear in the flesh. He brought Jesus into the earth by His Word!
What was that substance? Faith...Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is the heavenly materiality, or tangibility, of those things for which you and I hope...Remember, “God said...and it was so.” God’s act of speaking released faith, or heavenly materiality, to that which He believed. When He said, Light be! He fully expected light to be. His faith took action. It spoke.
Examples like this could be multiplied, but the summary is that the WoF god had faith in his faith, and used the principle of faith to speak the universe into existence.
WoF teachers unwisely claim to hold the Bible as their foremost authority, though it's probably better for them that they do, given that most evanjellyfish don't bother to read their own Bibles very closely either.  In the long-run, a cost-benefit analysis would lead the shrewd WoF teacher to go ahead and pretend the Bible is their authority rather than lose access to the evanjellyfish market and thus cost themselves $millions.  However, the Bible gives us an excellent reason to leg-drop the WoF doctrine of positive confession and the principle of faith.

The WoF god brings the universe into existence by speaking faith-filled words, invoking the power and substance of faith to make it happen.  The principle of faith and positive confession is an eternal principle, obviously, since the WoF god made use of it to make the creation happen.  So, did he create the principle of faith or has it always existed?
If he created it, how did he do so without speaking in faith?
If the latter, how is Colossians 1:15-16 correct?
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
It says that the God of the Bible created all things.  If the WoF god is the God of the Bible, how is the principle of faith, which is clearly extraneous from the WoF god and of which he makes use to create and to do anything, not part of the WoF god's creation?


Sunday, May 02, 2010

The temptation of Adam

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the man, There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that this garden didst spring into being but a few days ago. Yea, there is no logical impossibility that thou sprangest into being but a few hours ago.

And the man said unto the serpent, As a matter of fact, Snakey, I verily didst spring into being but a few hours ago!

Then the devil leaveth him and said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?