Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Christianity's Wax Nose

They were designed to show that persons who allow a conception of divine goodness to govern their reading of Scripture and even to affect their acceptance of the doctrine of inerrancy can be serious and dedicated Christians, who have a clue as to what it means to be a Christian.
No, Victor, you're wrong. At least with Wesley. He didn't say Scripture was in error, he said it couldn't mean what the Calvinist says it means. So, he doesn't think Scripture teaches Calvinism.

My point has been, and you have not interacted with it, if you're going to say that you believe in inerrancy, and you believe the Bible teaches X, and you believe ~X, while still believing in inerrancy, then you are irrational. Then you are an odd form of Christian. At least Lewis would deny that X was true.

You have refused to clarify exactly what your objection is.

If you deny inerrancy, speak up! Show people where you had to go (because you didn't start out the debate there) to deny Calvinism. Some might say that's a hefty price.

If you don't deny inerrancy, then if you are in the position described in my first paragraph, you are irrational and anti-Christian. How could you not be?

And, what do you mean your "concept of goodness?" Where did you get it from? You're debating on borrowed capital. You have a Christian conception of "good" since you've grown up in the largely Christian west. A Hindu's conception of good wouldn't be the same. As many Arminians have pointed out, one's Scriptures will play a role in how you understand "good" when you say, "God is good."

In Reppert’s favorite haunt, the god of the philosophers, a being is worthy of worship if he is the greatest conceivable being. But as most philosophers of religion point out, this is almost meaningless given the various religious traditions we find, and the various intuitions we have. Is impassibility a perfection? Some say yes, some say no. How about necessity? Mormons wouldn’t agree. Does God's omnipotence mean he can, say, do the logically impossible? Aquinas said no, Descartes yes. Does God's omniscience include knowledge of the future? Again, some yes, some no. Does God's goodness mean he cannot willingly permit some to go to hell for their sinful actions? Some yes, others no. In Christianity, we go to revelation to figure this out.

In Christian theology, we take God's goodness to be shown as his benevolence, lovingkindness, graciousness, mercifulness, faithfulness, longsuffering, compassion, those are some starters.

Of course these undefined terms don't do much, especially for those who want a god of the philosophers:

"It should be recognized that in setting for God's attributes we cannot possibly ignore the religious and theological tradition within which any given theology operates. If, for instance, we were to offer the Jewish religious community a conception of God radically at variance with that which is found in the Hebrew Bible and in Jewish tradition, that conception would not be warmly received. [...] As we have noted, intuitions about perfection may vary and a philosopher of religion who is seeking to apply that notion would do well to pay attention to the conception of God that actual religious communities have found best to represent perfection and worshipfulness" (Reasons & Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, eds. Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger, Oxford, 2003, pp. 61-62, emphasis added).

I'm sure Calvnists think the Lewis passage and the Wesley passage were wrong.
Again, they never said that the Bible in fact taught our beliefs. I do not think some Christian is wrong to disbelieve a religious teaching if he thinks it is not in fact taught in the Bible!

Reppert knows my reasons, he don't need to speculate on what I think. He can deal with what I have said rather than taking to easy way out and speculating about my position. I have spent considerable amount of time in this debate with Reppert and Reppert has consistently ignored my posts and posted re-heated objections without taking my answers into consideration. To not even read the other guys' stuff, take his position into account, shows that Reppert isn't motivated to honestly study this issue. He simply wanted to make his opinions known. He already knows he's right, so why read the other guys stuff, right?

Wesley does engage in inflammatory anti-Calvinist rhetoric. But with him you suggest that he had a bad day, and is a better Christian than that most of the time.
But when a Calvinist does it they, "Show their evil beliefs about God." They "Show that they are totally depraved just like their teaching." They "Don't have the love of Christ." Or other statements from the Arminian Peanut gallery in response to some things Steve has said. This debate has served as a testament to hypocrisy. Arminians love to bach the "mean" Calvinists, but we see invective from their side as well. Hopefully this side-tracking tactic of the Arminian will end as Victor has documented plenty of "mean" things said about Calvinists.

My point was not to agree with Wesley's rhetoric but to insist that you can't draw conclusions about someone's understanding of what it is to be a Christian on that basis. Unless you want to go the route of Calvinists who say that, for example, Lewis wasn't a real Christian.
But given all that Steve and I have said, this is simplistic. Reppert refuses to take into account the distinctions and qualifications made yet forges ahead repeating what he originally claimed.

Does Scripture actually teach not only that predestination is true, but also that those who use their conception of God's goodness to influence their theology and their reading of Scripture have no idea what it means to be a Christian?? Are all Christians inerrantists?
i) What if God came to Victor and told him that Calvinism was true? Would Reppert say that the being wasn't God, even though, ex hypothesis, he was? Or would he call God a liar to his face? Or, would he say, "Well, you're wrong God. You don't know how to think of yourself." What would a Christian say if, ex hypothesis, God told them that Calvinism was true and that he was good?

ii) Not all Christians are inerrantists. And I thank you for showing were you'd have to go to answer us. If you don't go their, you get caught in my dilemma argument.

You see, every time I get into an exegetical argument about Calvinism I usually end up saying "All means all," and the Calvinist says "well, it means from all groups, not all persons." To people like us, Calvinists are saying "OK you signed onto following Jesus and you think He loves everybody. But read the fine print."
All means all:

"All" always means all and "world" always means all of the world. (Note: this must be the interpretation because all(!) Calvinists do grant that some of the alls mean all and not some. Rather it is some alls that mean some but not all alls. Put differently, all the alls in scripture, taken as a sum, do not always mean all but some of the sum mean some. Same with world. If Reppert grants this, then what's the complaint? That is, if Reppert grants that some of the alls and some of the worlds do not always have universal extension, then does he also tell people to "read the fine print?" If so, he's a hypocrite and he picks on Calvinists about things he does himself.) So then, all always means all and world always means the entire world. Let's now proceed with this assumption in mind and see how Reppert reads his Bible:

Genesis 6:17 And I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon this earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is in the earth shall die.

So, ALL flesh that the breath of life was in will be destroyed and EVERYTHING that is in the earth shall die. But, we are also told that Noah and his family, along with the animals Noah brought, will live. So, the "all" in v. 17 does not really mean all but rather some. Did Noah read the fine print? Did he think, "We have a contradiction here, God says ALL living will die but then says that I will live?" Indeed, Noah, being something of a proto-Aristotelian, probably reasoned thus,

P1: All those with the breath of life will die.
P2: I am one of those with the breath of life.
C1: Therefore, I will die.

Guess all doesn't mean all here and earth doesn't mean entire earth (since Noah and company were "in the earth").

Joshua 8:33 And all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on this side of the ark ...

Here we have the view that 1 day old infants were able to "stand!" I guess all that manna made for some good breast milk.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

All means all and so Reppert must believe that going to Church, reading the Bible, sitting under the preaching of the word, and seeking to mortify indwelling sin, philosophizing, etc., is nothing but vanity and a striving after wind! Read the fine print!

I Timothy 6:13 I charge thee in the sight of God, who giveth life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession

Reppert's position is that dog poop is living!: 1) All things are given life; 2) Dog poop is a thing; 3) Therefore, dog poop has life.

3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

So we have a rather "creepy" idea that John prayed that some professing believer engaged in, say, pedophilia would prosper and be in health. After all, he said ALL things, did he not?

Let's now look at "world:"

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation.

Reppert thinks Jesus commanded the disciples to preach the gospel to the Mayan Indians. Also, McCain thinks that he should, in a St. Francis Assisi-esk style, preach the gospel to fawns, flowers, and fish! After all, Jesus did say "the WHOLE" creation, did he not? Just like he said he died for the whole world.

John 14:17 even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you.

Reppert thinks that NO ONE IN THE WORLD can receive the Spirit of truth. Jesus doesn't mean "some of the world" here, that is. So, Reppert cannot receive the Spirit of Truth.

Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world.

Wow! 1st century American Indians heard about the 1st century Church of Rome's faith. How did that happen? Get out the small print.

Colossians 1:5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world bearing fruit and increasing, as it doth in you also, since the day ye heard and knew the grace of God in truth;

Is Reppert something of a crypto-Mormon, since they're the only ones who hold that 1st century inhabitants "heard the gospel."

Read the fine print indeed!

Shoot, a Calvinist can't even walk up to someone and say Jesus loves you and He died for you, because for any random individual person it is more probable that both those statements are false for them.
i) We can if we are commanded to.

ii) Reppert doesn't know the probability. How does he know the probability of how many people in San Diego, Ca, in a particular generation, are going to hell?

iii) I have no exegetical reason to suppose that the sum total of saved will be less than the lost. It may be, it may not be.

iv) Even given libertarianism, how does Reppert's position go through. Assume he believes in foreknowledge. Then those people will not ever, no matter what, go to heaven. If Reppert thinks the Bible teaches that more will be in hell than in heaven, he has the same problem.

v) Assume Reppert tells someone that Jesus died for them. If Reppert thinks it is true, and he allows for a hell, then Reppert's position has the unjust, anti-intuitional outcome that sins are paid for twice!

vi) Where do you find people in the Bible "walking up to people and saying 'Jesus loves you and died for you?'"

For people like me, we look to Scripture to show us more deeply the loving God who sent Jesus. Believing Scripture isn't an end in itself, it is a means, a means to knowing this kind of a God.
But what if Scripture doesn't say what you think or want it to? Care to debate the text? Or, is ignorance bliss?

To be told that God is running an enormous puppet show with living breathing puppets who are going to be tortured forever at the end of he show, however "just" that may be in some sense, is, for people like me, horrifying.
Anyone can mock a position. How's this:

To be told that god is such a weakling that he intended to come to earth to save everyone and couldn't, makes him an incompetent fool. To not be in control of every detail leaves the possibility that chance could swallow him up. Rob him of a final victory. To foreknow that the world would contain thousands of raped children, and then justify it by saying, "But I gave you libertarian freedumb," makes a mockery and a spectacle out of god.

(I know this is not how Calvinists would put it, but that is how the picture appears to me to be, however it might be dressed up theologically).
(I know this is not how Arminians would put it, but that is how the picture appears to me to be, however it might be dressed up theologically).

What you denigrate as mere "intuition" is based on a picture of God that is built up by what appears to be the teaching of numerous passages of Scripture.
Anytime you want to do the exegetical debate, let us know.

It also leaves us with a picture of God that resembles to a large extent the way humans ought to treat others. It doesn't use the creator-creature distinction to justify all sorts of conduct on God's part that in human contexts would be considered reprehensible.
Of course Reppert doesn't engage the arguments Steve and I have given.

I've addressed this very objection probably 10 times.

Furthermore, as I've done numerous times, it is open to reversal. God could stop the evil. He doesn't have to allow it or permit it. He could even stop the majority of it and still give man free will. Any human who allows an evil to occur that they could have stopped with no loss of their own, is an immoral person. So, using Reppert's very reasoning, Reppert must think his god is immoral!

If the vision of God's universal love is an illusion, it's nevertheless one that is undergirded, at least on the face of things, by many Scriptures. Just off the top of my head John 3:16 and the Prodigal Son come to my mind.
i) Care to debate the text of John 3:16?

ii) The prodigal son was ALEADY A SON. It actually should be re-named the parable of the running father. The father saw him, "From a long way off." Anyway, no Calvinist would deny that God does not love his very own. No Calvinist would deny that God would turn away someone who came to him.

I could fear and perhaps obey a Calvinistic God, but without brain surgery, I don't think I could love Him.
Right, 'cause Reppert has no appreciation for his sin. Reppert thinks God owes man his saving love.

In Christianity, man hates God, spits in his face, shakes his fist at God, and kills his only son.

Say you did this to a human.

Say he forgave you.

Reppert's saying that he wouldn't love this human.

Given our sinful state, given the price paid for our sin, how could we not love God in response?

For me. God's love for all human creatures and his earnest pursuit of their salvation is what inspires my devotion to Him.
Then you worship an irrational God. God knows that Sam will never turn to him. Never ask for salvation. Yet God still tries to save Sam? That's means-end irrational.

My God desires to save someone, and he does it.

My atonement is limited in number, yours in power.

C. S. Lewis rejected inerrancy, did not defend the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement (which, by the way, is hardly the majority view through most of the Church's history), and was certainly no Calvinist. His picture of hell certainly would not pass muster with Jonathan Edwards. It is certainly possible to go beyond just differing with him on these theological points to actually questioning his faith as a Christian.
Reppert's trying to draw an analogy between Lewis and Reppert. Steve pointed out relevant areas of dissimilarity.

Anyway, I'd like to ask Victor what his definition of a Christian is. How one can be made right before God? What is sin? Does Victor seek to put it to death? Does Victor read his Bible? How often? Does he pray? How often? Does he attend a church? How often? What effect does Christianity have on his life? And, if he rejects inerrancy, what criteria does he use to determine what passages are revelation from God and which ones are not? Does his rejection of inerrnacy allow him to mold the perfect form of Christianity? Wax nose Christianity?

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