The Battling Bambis
Saturday, May 04, 2013
The Battling Bambis
The “Meta-Data” of Earliest Christian Manuscripts
The Continuing Debate:
The “nomina sacra”, a set of words given special treatment by copyists in ancient Christian manuscripts, continues to be a subject of debate about what the practice signifies and how it originated. The words in question are written in a unique abbreviated form with a curious horizontal stroke placed over the abbreviation. The earliest and most consistently treated words are the Greek words for “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” and “Christ. These words are written as nomina sacra in the earliest clear instances of them in Christian manuscripts, which take us as far back as the second century CE.
Friday, May 03, 2013
Over the past year I’ve been under attack by a handful of Calvinists who have attempted (among other things) to ensure that I lose my job. Their attacks have been characterized by quote-mining, misrepresentation, and outright deception.
I’ve also been accused of denying substitutionary atonement simply because I don’t accept penal substitutionary atonement as a theoretical account of the mechanism of atonement. Sadly, my attackers are apparently unable to grasp such theological nuance or to conceive of thoughtful evangelicals differing with their Calvinist views.
And to cap it off I’ve been called things like “apostate” and “God hater”.
For example, I’ve been accused of denying inerrancy even though I have explicitly endorsed inerrancy (properly defined) as in my article “Errant statements in an inerrant book.” (I know these attackers must be familiar with this article because they seem to document whatever I write with meticulous precision.)
But what about the Bible? Rauser’s defenses of Scripture are sure to leave some Christians dissatisfied. While it is true that he makes an effort to disabuse Loftus of his severely critical interpretations, his concessions with respect to the problem of Old Testament violence and biological evolution give the impression that there is something strange about holding to the authority of Scripture in this day of age. Why not just jettison it and search for a more adequate revelation of God? Rauser maintains that despite Scripture’s oddities, God is a supremely competent author, but if Loftus has achieved anything in this book, it is that he creates some prima facie reasonable doubt for this claim.
Thursday, May 02, 2013
The long and short of it is this. Jason Collins still claims to be a Christian even though he is openly gay. ESPN asked Broussard to comment on Collins’ claim that one can be both gay and Christian. Broussard answered the question politely and boldly, and he did so as a Christian. In fact, I think he said pretty much what I would have said if I had been asked such a question. You can watch the exchange above, but here’s Broussard in his own words:Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.
Contrary to what one respondant claims, classical Calvinism does believe that God’s election of persons to salvation is absolutely unconditional. To say it is not absolutely unconditional because it is based on God’s “good pleasure” does nothing to ease the problem. What causes God’s “good pleasure” to be found in electing one person and not another to salvation; I have read literally scores of classical Calvinist authors on this very subject (from Calvin to Piper) and found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another. The answer is always an appeal to mystery or something like “God has his good reasons” (without any suggestion what they might be) or “according to his good pleasure” which doesn’t even begin to answer the question. Jonathan Edwards was consistent in admitting it is an arbitrary choice on God’s part. I just wish more contemporary Calvinists would admit that.1. Olson wants unconditional election to be absolutely unconditional. That is, conditioned on nothing. He seems to think that it can't be demonstrated that it's conditioned on something. It's trivial to demonstrate election is conditional on something. God elects according to his plan and for a purpose, and according to his will. Absent the plan and the purpose, there would be no election.
2. Olson's response to (1) is that this "does nothing to ease the problem" because Olson has "found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another." But this (illicitly) shifts the issue from metaphysics to epistemology. Indeed, to the limits of human knowledge. The first question is: "Is there something election is conditioned on." We answer, "Yes; God's plan, purpose, and pleasure." Olson's response: "That doesn't answer the question. Why does God's plan, purpose, and pleasure select for one person over another." But that's a different question. Or does Olson hold to this principle:
PRINCIPLE 1 = X is conditioned on (or grounded in) Y if and only if we know why or how X is conditioned (or grounded in) Y.
Other than endorsing some strong form of anti-realism, or seriously overestimating the scope of our knowledge (cognitive arrogance), why believe PRINCIPLE 1?
3. Olson seems to suggest that Reformed theology (I use 'Reformed' purposefully; I know Olson's qualms with it) has confessed only that God elects according to "his good pleasure," otherwise, "it's a mystery." First, a historical point. Unconditional Election, as presented in response to the Five Articles of Remonstrance, is at pains to say God does not elect based on any condition for salvation, such as foreseen faith or good works. Arminianism had endorsed the former, and is arguably logically committed to the latter. The main concern is God electing according to foreseen faith in the believer, or meeting some other condition of salvation.
Second, let's look at two Reformed confessional statements. First from the Westminster Confession, second from the Canons of Dort:
WCF notes the choice is made: “according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will.”
Canons of Dort teach: “For Scripture declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God’s will, by which he chose us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which he prepared in advance for us to walk in.”
So why does Olson, Mr. Irenicism himself, always and only focus on "good pleasure"? These confessional statements also say God elected according to a "purpose" and "counsel" and "plan" according to which God choose us. To respond that the things God plans according to purposes and counsels give God pleasure does not entail that plans, purposes, and counsels collapse into, or are identical to, "good pleasure," where the latter is usually construed voluntaristically and lacking in any reason.
Here's a question: How is election arbitrary? Can a choice that is planned, has a purpose, and was made through a counsel be arbitrary? Perhaps, it would be if one endorsed this principle:
PRINCIPLE 2 = A choice made according to a plan, for a purpose, and through counsel is not an arbitrary choice in and only if we know the details of the plan, the exact purpose, and what the counsel consisted in.
But why accept PRINCIPLE 2?
So, since Olson now knows that Reformed theology states that God's choice to elect some sinner is based on a plan, has a purpose, and was made according to a counsel, he cannot continue to say Reformed theology always and only punts to good pleasure; otherwise, mystery. To be sure, there is some mystery, in that we don't know the reasons or details of the plan, or what the exact purpose is. But there is no mystery that God elects according to reasons, and for purposes. So, there is no mystery that there is a reason. There's a mystery as to the exact details. But a lot of things are mysterious in this way. We take a lot of things on the testimony of scientists, and it would be foolish for most of us to claim we know "the details" and "inner workings" of the theory or phenomena we believe is the case.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Yet just today they have revealed their quasi-papist ecclesiology in a very strange statement. (In all fairness, it probably seems so strange because the men behind the BAMH documentary have shown themselves to be loose cannons who easily fall into foolish statements when caught off-the-cuff on Facebook.)
There is nothing that can be done to make this a true church.The "this" refers to the church to which a fair number of abolitionists in Norman, OK belong.
This raises a number of questions for the author of this statement.
1) What is the author's answer to Matthew Martellus' article regarding the unbiblical nature of the "true church/false church" distinction?
2) What is the author's answer to the recent related questions raised by Steve Hays?
3) What precisely are the biblical requirements to be a true church to which the author refers?
Might they agree with what 9Marks says about what a church is and does?
The church is the God-ordained local assembly of believers who have committed themselves to each other. They gather regularly, they teach the Word, celebrate communion and baptism, discipline their members, establish a biblical structure of leadership, they pray and give together. Certainly the church may do more, but it is not less than this.The church to which the BAMH author refers does all of these things, and yet it is not a "true church" in his estimation. One could be forgiven for figuring that he won't allow it the title of "true church" because of personal animus, obstinacy, and/or a personal motivation to diminish AHA.
From other statements Pittman and Pastor Speed have made, I know that their stated reason for saying things like this is that the church doesn't currently have elders, and it is unbiblical for a local church to appoint elders by itself, from within its own congregation.
How does this make sense, however?
a. Imagine three Algerian men who separately receive an Arabic New Testament while traveling in France, take a ferry back to Algeria, then the Lord saves all three of them in a short span of time.
Later, in God's providence, the men meet each other and discover they are followers of Jesus, and resolve to follow the NT pattern and commands and meet together regularly for fellowship, encouragement, prayer, worship, and Bible study. Yet because of their isolation and the persecution around them in society, they don't meet another Christian for 10 years, and no Christian older than them for their entire life.
A church? Or not-a-church?
b. Where is the prescriptive teaching in the NT, anywhere, that elders/overseers are only valid when they are appointed by pre-existing elders?
Counterexamples are obvious in history.
Who appointed Martin Luther? Zwingli? Calvin? Do you count by-then apostate Roman ordinations? That's pretty ironic.
Athanasius was removed from his bishopric several times and exiled, yet came back. Does BAMH have some evidence that another elder came alongside and re-appointed him? Does excommunication not mean anything? If church structures are only to be followed in some cases, where is BAMH's definition and explanation?
c. On a related note, Pastor Speed is a Baptist. Does he claim an unbroken chain of elder-to-elder ordination all the way back to the apostles?
Why wouldn't the same criticism be applicable to whoever his episcopal (small-e) forebear was? And wouldn't that mean that his own ordination as elder is invalid, as there would have been nothing that could make that earlier church a true church?
d. Why is it that the men of the earliest church in Acts didn't show an above-all-else interest in establishing elders?
Acts 11:19-25 - Barnabas goes and helps preach the Gospel in Antioch, and yet doesn't stay to establish elders. Rather, he leaves to look for Paul. And yet there comes to be a church in Antioch (as soon as Acts 15:30). How?
Acts 13:44-52 - Paul and Barnabas are driven out of Pisidian Antioch after only about a week.
According to the qualifications for elders in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, an elder can't be a new convert. I suppose we are to assume that no church existed in Pisidian Antioch at that time? Just... a ragtag bunch of people who loved Jesus?
Acts 17:32-18:1 - Paul sees converts in Athens but doesn't stay to train any elders.
e. The Ethiopian eunuch, converted by Philip on the way back to Ethiopia, could never have been a member of a true church, at least not for the years until someone in the chain of ordination running back to the apostles also made it down to Ethiopia to be the elder.
Acts 8:39 - When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.
I guess the Holy Spirit got a little impatient and forgot that it's a good and wonderful thing for believers to worship together in local churches. He had a brilliant opportunity to delay whisking Philip away until Philip had been able to train the eunuch as an elder himself, then officially ordain him. Instead, the Holy Spirit wasted His chance.
f. Of course, that raises the question of when Philip himself was ordained to do evangelism work. Acts 6:5 indicates that he was selected to serve the daily allotment to the widows on the Jerusalem church's support rolls. No indication is given that he was duly appointed for evangelism ministry.
g. Which means the Holy Spirit was in error for sending him to the eunuch in the first place in Acts 8:29.
h. Which also means that Philip did an evil, rebellious, cowboy thing by preaching the Gospel all by himself in Samaria in Acts 8:5-8.
i. Which means that Peter and John should have rebuked Philip for going way above his pay grade when they arrived in Acts 8:14-17. But they didn't. Another opportunity wasted!
j. Speaking of which, not just Philip but a whole bunch of people were in sin for preaching the Gospel without a license in Acts 8:4. The text seems to speak commendably of them, however. Hmm. Weird.
k. Titus 1:5 - For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you...
There weren't elders in Crete before Paul sent Titus to appoint them.
Were there no churches? Where then were the Christians at that time?
l. Why do the long lists of qualifications for the office of overseer in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 include such things as "if anyone desires to be an overseer" but mention nothing about another elder of some other visible local church, unrelated to the church in question and not a member of it, appointing the elder?
Is it not, rather, true that if someone is qualified and if one desires to be an overseer, he has fulfilled the biblical qualification?
This statement from BAMH reveals a pharisaical attitude - binding on the conscience of believers a requirement that the Bible does not itself impose.
In one thread, a conservative there commented on how liberals had been bused in to post comments. Another poster said something to the effect that liberals on welfare have more time on their hands to do something like post in online forums. It's true that people often are bused in to online forums and other contexts. And it's true that welfare recipients and other people who are home a lot tend to be liberal. But I doubt that either explanation, or a combination of such explanations, even comes close to entirely explaining what's going on.
For example, there will often be a thread with, say, ten people commenting. Four of them are liberal. Even if those four were bused in, are welfare recipients, etc., it's not as though outnumbering four people by a large margin should be difficult for conservatives to do in a context like the National Review web site. Yet, it frequently doesn't happen. Often, to make the situation even worse, the conservatives who do post aren't posting as often, aren't making as much of an effort to argue for their position, and so forth. In the thread with ten participants, the four liberals will say more than the six conservatives and will make more of an effort to argue for their position. Or one conservative will make a significant effort to support his side of the argument, but the other five won't. Or something like that. It isn't just a matter of liberals being so active at a site like National Review. It's also a matter of conservatives being so inactive relative to their potential.
I've seen a lot of explanations offered for the sort of tendency I've described above, and there's some merit to those explanations. I've already mentioned some of them (busing in efforts, liberals tend to be home more). Another explanation often put forward is that liberals are more concerned about politics. They tend to be less religious, so politics is some sort of equivalent to religion for them. Liberals put the sort of effort into politics that conservatives put into other aspects of life, like religion. Though explanations like these do have some merit, they're insufficient.
Take the last explanation I mentioned. Yes, liberals are less religious, and that does explain the tendencies I'm describing to some extent. But why do the same tendencies show up in so many other contexts? For example, I often see threads at Christian apologetic web sites that are an equivalent of what I've described above regarding National Review. Five people are posting in a thread, and two of them are atheists. Or, worse yet, four of the five are atheists. The fact that only five people are posting is part of the problem. And, apparently, all of the Christians who aren't posting think it's not a problem for them to be uninvolved while they let a small handful of other Christians do all of the work. I frequently see threads at apologetic and other religious web sites, not just at political sites and in other less religious contexts, where Christian participation is absurdly low and highly disproportionate to the level of participation by non-Christians. Why?
The problem isn't just that liberals, atheists, and others who are wrong are so active. There's also a problem with conservatives, Christians, etc. being so inactive.
Apparently, one of the reasons why the Democrats did so well in the 2012 election was that they were so active online (contacting people on Facebook, sending out emails, buying ads at popular web sites, etc.). The Republicans didn't make as much of an effort, even though many of the potential voters were so open to being influenced. It's even more appalling when Christians allow themselves to be outperformed. More is at stake.
Part of the problem is that conservatives, including conservative Christians, have tended to overestimate their position in society. They've been complacent with their majority status, or they've thought of themselves as a majority when they haven't actually been one. Minorities often fight harder. Being cornered sometimes has that effect on people. Even as liberals become a majority on some issues, like homosexual marriage, they retain some elements of the minority mindset. And their conservative opponents keep thinking like a majority in some ways, a majority that's largely presumptuous, apathetic, complacent, and lazy.
Then there's the problem of being too slow to adapt to changing technology and social expectations. A Christian web site will give itself a facelift, perhaps improving its appearance and starting to have a Twitter account, for example. But the behavior of the site's owners doesn't change much. They're still too slow to notice societal trends, too shallow in how they address issues, too unwilling to interact with opposing positions in depth, etc. Their web site's facelift doesn't amount to much.
Part of what we need to do to adapt to the changes occurring in the world around us is to get more active online. That's where the technology is headed, and that's where people are. Complaining about it doesn't make it go away. If you'd prefer to spend more time offline, then too bad. God placed you in the twenty-first-century world, with its technological advances and unprecedented access to information. I suspect that the large majority of you live in a wealthy nation with a lot of technology, political freedom, and other advantages. You have opportunities that people living in other times and places haven't had. To whom much is given, much is required. Our responsibilities are largely of an intellectual nature. We have such easy access to information through books, web sites, etc. In addition to being involved in praying, reading the Bible, and other common Christian disciplines, you should be participating in online forums frequently (discussion boards, blogs, Twitter, and whatever else). Do you regularly make an effort to participate in such things? When you see a thread at a political web site about homosexual marriage, and the liberal participants have a disproportionately high presence in the discussion, do you just remain silent? Or do you speak up? When you see a Christian at an apologetics web site carrying on a discussion with an atheist (or two, three, or four atheists at once, as often happens), do you just sit back and watch? Or do you get involved? Do you help your fellow Christians carry the burden, or do you just let them do all of the heavy lifting? Why don't you give up some of the time you spend on sports, movies, housework, etc. in order to do more important things, including spending more time in online discussions about issues that are significant? Since so many of the most important issues in life are discussed online more than they are offline, and people are spending more time online than they used to, shouldn't your behavior change accordingly?
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
As abolitionists, we make no compromises, nor do we adopt a moderate or incrementalist position when it comes to the abolition of human abortion. We believe abortion is the most vicious act of dehumanization and oppression ever practiced in human history, and we advocate for its immediate and total abolition. We do not believe that the planned-and-paid-for-murder of an unborn human being is ever morally justified. Abortion is never the right choice, never the only option, and never the best solution to any situation.
Below is a guest post from Justin Edwards. Justin was one of the leaders of the Abolitionist Society of North Carolina, a chapter of the larger AHA movement. Justin is married to Jennifer, and they have three children.So to anticipate one objection, yes, I am still an abolitionist, but no, I no longer endorse or support AHA.AHA claims to be under the authority of the local church, yet the church many of them are a part of is not a local church ruled by, led by, taught by, or equipped by elders, which Jesus Christ has appointed to shepherd His Church realized in the local church (Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:17). Nor is this a church plant that was established under the authority of another local church, nor are the members at Door of Hope sent out to do any work of the ministry they claim to be doing. This is where their orthodoxy affects their orthopraxy in a negative way. They are in no way “subject to the elders” (1 Peter 5:5) and in no way can they “obey their leaders” (Hebrews 13:17) because they have no leaders (elders).
Below is a guest post from Justin Edwards. Justin was one of the leaders of the Abolitionist Society of North Carolina, a chapter of the larger AHA movement.So to anticipate one objection, yes, I am still an abolitionist, but no, I no longer endorse or support AHA.AHA claims to be under the authority of the local church, yet the church many of them are a part of is not a local church ruled by, led by, taught by, or equipped by elders, which Jesus Christ has appointed to shepherd His Church realized in the local church (Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:17). Nor is this a church plant that was established under the authority of another local church, nor are the members at Door of Hope sent out to do any work of the ministry they claim to be doing. This is where their orthodoxy affects their orthopraxy in a negative way. They are in no way “subject to the elders” (1 Peter 5:5) and in no way can they “obey their leaders” (Hebrews 13:17) because they have no leaders (elders).
13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
But the unborn child is more than a rock, tree or animal. In a perfectly ordinary sense requiring no elaborate argument, he is human. There are some who would argue that he is only a part of his mother’s body, and not an independent life. But even if he is “only” a part of his mother’s body, he is human — no less human than her arms and legs. Since he is human, he is in the image of God; for the “image of God” in the Bible includes every aspect of man, soul, body, and all parts. The Scripture tells us that we do not have power over our own bodies to do with as we please (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:4, a passage dealing specifically with the sexual function). Because we are made in the image of God, the shedding of human blood (except, of course, in situations where such bloodshed is authorized elsewhere in Scripture) is wrong (Genesis 9:6). In view of these considerations, the abortion of an unborn child may never be undertaken casually, and may never be considered except for the weightiest reasons.
The word “knowledge” bears several senses, and it can take different kinds of objects. You can know persons, skills, or propositions (a proposition being an item of information). When we say we “know that” something is the case, we’re talking about knowing propositions, as when I say I know that Phoenix is in Arizona. When we say we “know how,” we’re talking about knowing skills, as in “I know how to play lacrosse.” When we say we “know him,” we’re talking about knowledge of persons, which is usually a matter of friendship (or perhaps enmity), rather than just the knowledge of facts. Someone may know a lot of facts or information about Colin Powell without being able to say that he knows Colin Powell. To know Colin Powell is to have a personal relationship with him in friendship or enmity.
In the Bible, the most important kind of knowledge is the knowledge of persons, or, I should say, one person in particular. In John 17:3, Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” In Phil. 3, Paul states the great goal of his life: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.”
Knowing God, knowing Christ; is that the center of your life, the center of your quest for knowledge? It ought to be. And that should mean that all other knowledge is knowledge in relation to God. On the first page of his Institutes, Calvin says that he can’t know himself apart from God—or, significantly, God apart from himself. The most important part of knowing anything is knowing how that thing is related to God. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
"The whole Bible is apologetic," in that in every chapter of every book God is trying to persuade us to change our thinking or our way of living. So if you're preaching the word of God faithfully, every sermon will be apologetic, or will have an apologetic aspect. So the preacher needs to ask of every text, "What is God trying to persuade us of here, and on what grounds?" That is, of course, a perspective on preaching, but not the only perspective. Scripture performs other functions too.
In preaching you may also need to persuade your congregation that (1) the treatment of your text by radical Bible critics is wrong, (2) the modern alternatives to the biblical teaching are false and incoherent, (3) modern man actually can believe in the Biblical God, and (4) without the biblical God, there is no coherent way to think or live.
Monday, April 29, 2013
God’s command ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ is to be taken as forbidding self-destruction, especially as it does not add ‘thy neighbor’, as it does when it forbids false witness, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor’ (City of God, book I, chapter 20).
I answer that, It is altogether unlawful to kill oneself, for three reasons. First, because everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being, and resists corruptions so far as it can. Wherefore suicide is contrary to the inclination of nature, and to charity whereby every man should love himself. Hence suicide is always a mortal sin, as being contrary to the natural law and to charity.
Secondly, because every part, as such, belongs to the whole. Now every man is part of the community, and so, as such, he belongs to the community. Hence by killing himself he injures the community, as the Philosopher declares (Ethic. v, 11).
Thirdly, because life is God's gift to man, and is subject to His power, Who kills and makes to live. Hence whoever takes his own life, sins against God, even as he who kills another's slave, sins against that slave's master, and as he who usurps to himself judgment of a matter not entrusted to him. For it belongs to God alone to pronounce sentence of death and life, according to Deuteronomy 32:39, "I will kill and I will make to live."
I think I’ve made clear here that there are portions of the OT I cannot make sense of and have given up trying. I see them as Hebrew literature. God chose to include them in our canon. Jesus sometimes contradicted them. There is much wisdom in the OT but also much that is dark and impenetrable.
rogereolson says:April 25, 2013 at 12:29 pmI think our disagreement must lie in our perspectives about divine permission. I see God as sometimes (perhaps often) permitting evil because he cannot stop it–not due to any lack of power but due to what I can only call (for lack of a better term) rules that only he knows.http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/04/where-was-god-when-the-fertilizer-plant-exploded/comment-page-1/#comment-41500rogereolson says:April 25, 2013 at 12:43 pmBut, speaking only for myself now, I agree that “all this is inexplicable” except by appeal to 1) the fallenness of the world due to sin (Romans 8), 2) rules God knows, understands and abides by, and 3) the particularities of situations that no one but God fully understands (that determine when God can and cannot intervene). Again, I’ll suggest a good book for you to read: Evil and the God of Love by Christian philosopher Michael Peterson. Philosopher Keith Ward has also written much on this subject. C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain is also helpful.http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/04/where-was-god-when-the-fertilizer-plant-exploded/comment-page-1/#comment-41503rogereolson says:April 23, 2013 at 12:21 pmImagine a world exactly like ours except that God gives clear warnings to everyone who might be affected by evil or calamity. Then read C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. Also, stop thinking of God’s foreknowledge as providentially advantageous–as if foreknowing something is going to happen makes it possible for God to change what is going to happen.http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/04/where-was-god-when-the-fertilizer-plant-exploded/comment-page-1/#comment-41413rogereolson says:April 25, 2013 at 12:39 pmWell, we see things differently. What else is there to say? We’ve discussed this here many times. I’m not sure you understand what is meant by a “non-whimsical world.” It’s a world where human actions have somewhat predictable consequences. Where, for example, gun don’t turn to putty every time someone aims one at an innocent person. It’s a world where moral actions, including incompetent ones, have consequences.http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/04/where-was-god-when-the-fertilizer-plant-exploded/comment-page-1/#comment-41413rogereolson says:April 25, 2013 at 12:46 pmWell, you already said what you think. If you ask me, the “cause of the curse” is not God but, as you imply throughout, us. It is the natural consequence of our racial disobedience (distancing ourselves) from God.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
It is part of the essence of Calvinism that there are two distinct groups of individuals in God’s overall economy: the elect and the non-elect. The elect are the grateful recipients of God’s irresistible, unmerited grace and are thereby saved. The non-elect, by sad contrast, receive no such grace; they are passed over. Consequently, they are damned for all eternity.
Now even Calvinists admit that this scenario makes it at least appear that God is being unjust or unfair.
After all, why not just give irresistible grace to both groups?
First recall that according to the Calvinist story, God gives irresistible grace to some (the elect) but not others (the non-elect). If that’s the case, then some individuals are shown favor that others are not. The question at once arises: Is this just or fair?
Notice that in asking this question, we’re not asking whether it is just of God to punish those who deserve it. Of course it is. Nor are we asking whether it is generous of God to bestow grace on those who don’t deserve it. It most surely is. Rather, we are asking whether it is just or fair for these two (spiritually) qualitatively identical groups—i.e., the elect and the non-elect—to be treated differently.
But there is a further, truly fatal difficulty. The Calvinist proponent of (3) faces the following dilemma. Either God has a basis for his differential treatment of the elect and non-elect or he doesn’t. If there is no basis, then God’s decision to award irresistible grace to the one but not the other of these groups is wholly arbitrary; in which case God is a reckless, unprincipled decision-maker–a conclusion which is at once both manifestly unfair (to the non-elect) and theologically appalling.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9).What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Rom 4:1-5).
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22).
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (Jn 3:19-20).
If you don’t think it’s appalling, just ask yourself how you’d like it if your professor used a similar method to grade your term paper. Without a doubt, this horn of the dilemma is squarely on the broad road leading to destruction.
Well, let’s suppose instead that God does have a basis for his differential treatment of these groups. Then according to the Leviticus Principle, it must be contextually relevant. Now the context for giving or withholding irresistible grace is spiritual or salvific. Therefore, according to LP2, it will be just or fair for God to favor the elect over the non-elect only if God’s basis for doing so is a spiritually relevant one. By hypothesis, however, there is absolutely no spiritually relevant difference between the elect and the non-elect: they are all dead in their sins; they are all incapable of recommending themselves to God. On this horn of the dilemma, then, God has favored the elect but on a purely context irrelevant basis. By LP2, therefore, he has acted unjustly.
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly (Leviticus 19:15).
It follows logically and inescapably that God’s treatment of the elect and non-elect is either arbitrary and unprincipled or it’s contextually irrelevant. Either way, the unhappy outcome is that God has unfairly and unjustly favored some with irresistible grace while withholding it from others. But given the Leviticus Principle, the elect and non-elect should have (i) all received an installment of irresistible grace, or (ii) no one of them received an installment of irresistible grace. That’s what biblical justice or fairness demands.
And since God, if he exists, is essentially just and fair, but Calvinism implies that he’s not, it follows that Calvinism actually entails atheism: the non-existence of God.
That’s why we’re not Calvinists; it’s because we’re theists.
The solution, of course, is simple. We must recognize that because God is supremely fair and just, the grace he gives is universal but resistible. This explains why although God wants everyone to be saved, some aren’t. It’s not because God passes over some poor, wretched souls, refusing to give them the irresistible grace they so desperately need.