Saturday, May 12, 2012

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley’s position on homosexuality has come under fire from guys like Ken Silva, Denny Burk, and Albert Mohler. I don’t know much about Andy Stanley myself. I only heard him preach once. The sermon was hip, with some pleasant self-deprecating humor.

Andy is, of course, son of the famous Charles Stanley. Charles is a very gifted preacher. It’s possible that Andy doesn’t have the same talent, but parleyed his pedigree into a successful ministry. Then again, maybe that’s not fair. I don’t know enough to say.

In any case, I’d like to float a theory about Andy’s position on homosexuality. His dad is one of those fundamentalists, like Charles Ryrie, Randall Gleason, and Zane Hodges, who espouses an antinomian version of eternal security. This version of eternal security is opposed to the perseverance of the saints.

This became a cause célèbre when John MacArthur trained his guns on that position.

It’s possible that Andy’s position on homosexuality is related to his father’s antinomian theology. I don’t know that for a fact. I just offer that for consideration. A working hypothesis.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Witnesses to the Bible?

Review of Canon Revisited

The bloom is off the Rose

Devin Rose on May 8, 2012 at 10:20 am said:

Hmm, I think you are overstating the case going in the other direction. Firstly, note that the Catholic canon, including the seven deuterocanonical books, was also “codified” at the ecumenical council of Florence in the 1400s (long before the Reformation began). Trent merely reaffirmed Florence (dogmatically so), which was reaffirming the consensus that had emerged in the Church’s discernment during the first four hundred years, as seen at the council of Rome and those in North Africa in the 300s and early 400s. So it is inaccurate to say that the Catholic canon was only codified at Trent.

According to Metzger, the Tridentine Fathers were divided on the canon, some espousing the Augustinian position and others espousing the Hieronymian position. When the final vote was taken, not even a majority of the bishops voted for the Augustinian position. It merely passed by a plurality.

So Trent didn’t reaffirm a preexisting consensus on the canon. There was no consensus at the Council of Trent. Rather, it was by an arbitrary fiat.

Devin Rose on May 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm said:

Regarding the alleged horns of the dilemma you propose, yes during the time of the canon’s discernment (which was not “chaos” but did take centuries to settle), popes and apostolic succession were in place. And sola Scriptura was not. So the Church functioned fine without having a dogmatically settled canon, just as she functioned fine before having dogmatic settled doctrines of the Trinity and Christology. She had the Scriptures, such as the canon had thus far been discerned, and the Apostolic Tradition. Because she was led by rightful authorities, the legitimate successors of the Apostles, as Irenaeus and many others attested to, and this, the Magisterium, was guided by the Spirit. The gradual nature of the canon’s discernment presents a problem for Protestants (who are sola Scriptura) but not for Catholics.

Several problems:

i) You might as well say the church did just fine in the first few centuries without ecumenical councils. For the first ecumenical council wasn’t until the 4C.

ii) And when the early church did begin to settle disputes through ecumenical councils, it was the emperor rather than the pope who convened the councils. By the same token, ecumenical councils weren’t conducted under the auspices of Rome.

iii) Ecclesiology was unsettled in the early church. The Donatists and Novatianists regarded ordination as invalid if conferred by an unworthy officiant. And that would destroy apostolic succession.

Therefore, Devin can’t claim apostolic succession without begging the question. Although the Donatists and Novatianists were condemned, their condemnation is only as good as the church that condemned them. But if they were right, then the condemnation was illegitimate. For if the Roman succession was broken by invalid ordination, then Rome was in no position to condemn the Donatists and the Novatianists.

iv) At best, Devin could claim that while the papacy and apostolic succession were de jure in place, recognition of the papacy and apostolic succession was gradual.

That, however, would parallel the argument that the canon was de jure in place even though recognition of the canon was gradual. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Emperor's Whitey Tighties

Political Will and Cultural Elites

Rick Santorum said:

I will continue to fight to make sure that the cultural elites don't further undermine the institution [of marriage] that gives the best opportunity for healthy, happy children and a just and prosperous society.

You can't fight cultural elites with political weapons. Film makers, journalists, artists, university professors--these people care little for what a conservative politician says.

Even if you legislate a law against their positions, it will be overturned in a generation (or less) since these elites are the ones who train our youth and future political, cultural and business leaders.

This is why liberalism, despite being a minority position, holds ascendency in our world. Power lies in cultural transformation, and conservatives own little of it.

There's a sense in which we lost the cultural battle generations ago, when the fundamentalists fled the universities and similar cultural institutions and let the secular perspective reign unchecked.

We are just seeing the fruits of that capitulation.

There's hope, but the change will be generational, and will involve sending more Evangelicals to the university. This is also reason to be glad many Evangelical philosophers have made headway into the university setting. There is a very real sense in which philosophy undergirds all cultural pursuits.

It will also entail giving more money to foundations, scholarships, etc., for Christian artists, lawyers, academics, and similar groups--another reason to support sending more Christians into business, since they are the cash cows for serious, lasting cultural efforts.

Pederasty and the age of consent

Homosexual activists bristle at the suggestion that they are sexual predators who target underage boys. But if the allegation is false, why do homosexual activists lobby to lower or abolish the age of consent? Why do they oppose statuary rape laws–unless they wish to seduce minors with impunity? For instance:

Christianity, Philosophy, and the integrated mind

Boy meets boy

Lobbyists for sodomite marriage present a sanitized, romanticized, fact-free view of homosexuality. Here's an example of what the homosexual lifestyle actually involves. Again, this is not for the squeamish:

Christology between Jesus and Paul

Larry Hurtado has a new blog post out noting just how quickly there was a well-developed Christology, after the death and resurrection of Christ. He relies on Martin Hengel's work, Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity:
* Paul's letters (which date from ca. 50-60 CE), including notably Romans (addressed to a "pre-Pauline" Christian community), already reflect a developed christology, and do not indicate any real development across the years in which they were composed, the maximum period for the christological development reflected in the letters can be no more than ca. 18 years, "a short space of time for such an intellectual process" (39). Or, to cite another memorable statement: "In essentials more happened in christology within these few years than in the whole subsequent seven hundred years of church history" (39-40).

* This christological development took place above all in Jewish-Christian communities in Jerusalem, Caesarea, Damascus, Antioch and other places in Syria and Roman Palestine, involving both Greek-speaking and Aramaic-speaking believers.

* It is dubious, thus, to employ the multi-layered schemes of the old History-of-Religions scholars or the modified versions put out in the 60s and 70s, involving "Primitive Palestinian", "Hellenistic-Jewish", and "Hellenistic-Gentile" stages of development, all of these sometimes posited as preceding Paul's "conversion".

* Speaking of Paul's "conversion", which likely must be placed within at most a couple of years subsequent to Jesus' execution, we have to consider that an "enormously rapid christological development" took place within this even shorter period. Paul's characterization of the cognitive content of his religious re-orientation is that it was a "revelation of God's Son". But, since he then promptly associated himself with other Jewish Christians (including Peter/Cephas, per Gal. 1), the most reasonable inference is that the christological view he adopted was pretty much what he had been opposing [as a Pharisee]. And that means that some pretty powerful developments must be dated within the very first few years!

* Given this tight chronology, it is also dubious to ascribe much to any supposed influence of pagan religious ideas and practices on these early christological developments. It requires a strong necessity to ignore chronology, and some implausible assumptions about psychology too, to posit, for example, that early Jewish Christians were somehow unconsciously disposed to treat Jesus as bearing divine-like honour through the subtle influence of pagan ruler-cults.
I am taken with this: "In essentials more happened in christology within these few years than in the whole subsequent seven hundred years of church history". Roman Catholics talk "development" over centuries. What their "development" primarily does is to obscure what was "once for all given to the saints", primarily in the quest for who was greatest [and, not coincidentally, proclaiming themselves the greatest]. To be a Roman Catholic apologist is to miss the pearl of great price.

The joy of gay sex

The liberal media presents an airbrushed version of homosexual "couples." It's useful to compare the propaganda to what the homosexual lifestyle is really like. So I'm linking to some real-life examples. Be forewarned: this is graphic:

The manhood deficit

Homosexual men are unmanly. They suffer from a manhood deficit. Something in their social formation went awry. Some psychologists trace this to a dysfunctional father/son relationship.

That’s not necessarily incurable. Not necessarily something be ashamed of. Many adults suffer from aftereffects of inadequate parenting. And in many cases, their parents were poor parents because their grandparents were poor parents. For many men and women, psychological maturation is a life-long game of catch-up. 

Not only are homosexual men unmanly, but straight men who defend sodomite marriage are unmanly as well. Indeed, straight men who defend sodomite marriage carry on like sob sisters. It’s embarrassing to read.

Men have a duty to uphold basic standards of masculinity. To be good fathers, husbands, brothers, friends, and mentors. To be good role models for their sons and daughters. Or coaches, teachers, and scoutmasters. To set an example for the up-and-coming generation.

The manhood deficit is one result of rejecting God’s design for men and women. 

Does God always grant miracles to those who pray?

Michael Kruger: 10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: # 4: “Books Were Not Regarded as Scripture Until Around 200 AD”

One of the arguments that Michael Kruger makes in his work Canon Revisited, (Michael J. Kruger, “Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books”, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books © 2012), is that not only did the church passively “receive” the canon, but because of the intrinsic, “divine” qualities of the New Testament writings, (and their clear apostolic origins), that the canon of the New Testament actually imposed itself upon the early church (pg 115).

Did they do this “imposing” early or late? Another “misconception” that Kruger addresses is that it was “late”, and the notion that Irenaeus somehow invented the concept of a New Testament canon.

In recent years, … , somewhat of a quasi-consensus has been building that the canon was first regarded as Scripture at the end of the second century (c.200).  McDonald is representative of this view, ‘[New Testament] documents were not generally recognized as Scripture until the end of the second century C.E.’

Rather, he cites evidence of canon-think prior to the year 200, in the form of an emerging “canonical core” – works collected even in the first century, even during the lifetimes of the Apostles, and recognized as “core” Scriptural works of an emerging New Testament, such as the four gospels and Paul’s letters:

Justin Martyr (c.150):  He refers to plural “gospels” and at one point provides an indication of how many he has in mind when he describes these gospels as “drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them.” Since such language indicates (at least) two gospels written by apostles, and (at least) two written by apostolic companions, it is most naturally understood as reference to our four canonical gospels.   The fact that he actually cites from the Synoptics and John shows that he had a fourfold gospel in mind.

Papias (c.125):  Papias tells us that the early church had received the gospels of Mark and Matthew and valued because of their apostolic status.  In fact, Papias even affirms that Mark received his information from Peter himself—a very ancient tradition of the church.  Although Papias writes c.125, he actually refers to an earlier time (c.90) when he received this information from “the Elder” (who is no doubt John the Elder, one of Jesus’ disciples). Papias also knew 1 Peter, 1 John, Revelation, and some Pauline epistles.

Barnabas (c.130).   The Epistle of Barnabas (4.14) explicitly cites Matt 22:14: “Many are called but few are chosen.”  Barnabas clearly regards Matthew as Scripture because he introduces his citation with “It is written” (the same language he uses when citing OT books).

1 Clement (c.95).  1 Clement charges the church to “Take up the epistle of that blessed apostle, Paul… To be sure, he sent you a letter in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos.”  Scholars agree that Clement is referring here to the letter of 1 Corinthians which he said Paul wrote “in the Spirit,” no doubt showing the high authority he gave to the book.  1 Clement also makes likely allusions to other epistles of Paul including Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians; and also Hebrews.

2 Pet 3:16 (c.65).  One of the earliest examples comes from the well-known passage in 2 Pet 3:16 where Paul’s letters are regarded as on par with “the other Scriptures” of the Old Testament.  Most notably, this passage does not refer to just one letter of Paul, but to a collection of Paul’s letters (how many is unclear) that had already begun to circulate throughout the churches—so much so that the author could refer to “all his [Paul’s] letters” and expect that his audience would understand that to which he was referring.

The church today has warrant for accepting the 27-book New Testament canon as a fait accompli, because the God-breathed Scriptures – a literal “act of God” – were recognized as Apostolic, regarded as Scripture from the first, were dutifully collected, meticulously copied, and patiently handed on, from the hands of the Apostles, to their disciples, and so on, and so on…

That’s an “apostolic succession” we can count on. 

From the “be careful what you wish for” department

Everyone agrees that the election's number one issue is the U.S. economy. Insofar as it's not really possible for Mr. Obama to change that subject, he can at least give the chattering classes something else to write about. This qualifies. During a political cycle when few besides Rick Santorum wanted to talk about social issues, Mr. Obama has now reinserted one of the hottest into the debate.

One school of political thought holds that gay-rights issues typically hurt the person who raises them first. But perhaps the Obama campaign calculates that in a close election he will need a passionate base and that this will drive liberal and youth turnout in such important and evolving states as Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire and New Mexico. On the other hand, Mr. Obama looks like he has just solved that problem Mitt Romney supposedly has with rousing cultural conservatives.

The Obama endorsement also guarantees that the media will not allow Mr. Romney to go anywhere without being interrogated on this subject. The Republican could do worse than to say he supports the Defense of Marriage Act that President Bill Clinton signed less than two months before the 1996 Presidential election, ....

We’ll see how this goes

Devin Rose has chimed in on some comments on Dr Kruger’s blog, and he also responded to my comment there on his own blog. (I last encountered Devin having a returned a twenty-dollar bill of his, which he sent in via a bitter anti-Protestant blog which shall remain un-named and un-linked, lest I find that I have again stepped in dog poo or something).

Now Devin says he has purchased the book and is going to begin reading it (no telling if he’ll make it through to the end). Given that the hardcover version of the book is $15.00 (probably $19.00 with shipping), I take this as a miraculous sign from the Lord that my decision to return Devin’s $20.00 was due to the Lord providentially working in his life.

It will be interesting to see if a person who’s perpetually asking the question “yeah, but whose interpretation?” can gain any insight from this work. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Rational Argument and Model For the Trinity

Beet is murder

My eye-in-the-sky has damning footage of Steven Nemes consuming a vegetarian cheese pizza made from soymilk. I can scarcely express the depths of my disappointment.

Consistent with the scientific finding that peas embody the logos, I was so sure that our young padawan was going to do the noble thing and stage a hunger strike. If meat is murder, then beet is murder. Both fauna and flora embody the logos. But instead of sticking to his principles, Steven turns a deaf ear to the piteous screams of sentient soybeans. I’m afraid that when the potato chips are down, Steven is just another limousine vegan. A social floranist. 

Pearls of wisdom from Roger Olson

Open theism in a nutshell

Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!

A friend of mine plugged the NC amendment on his Facebook wall. This triggered some hostile feedback. I’m going to evaluate on some of the comments:

Myke Floyd Yes, but once again you are picking and choosing what you believe out of the Bible as fact and what you do not. Christianity may provide you with a moral framework but if you pick only which passages out of the Bible you choose to support, how can you honestly and validly state that Christian theism's idea of morality is greater or less than those who might disagree with your interpretation of it?

Several issues here.

i) Not every Biblical injunction is a moral absolute. There’s a distinction between laws of utility and laws of morality. Likewise, some OT laws are a means to an end rather than an end in themselves.

ii) Moderate to liberal professing Christians are often guilty of cherry-picking the Bible.

iii) Some conservative Christians are inconsistent because they don’t have the time and expertise to work through the complexities of the issue. But that’s a fairly innocent inconsistency. We have different vocations.

iv) Floyd is using a simplistic all-or-nothing argument, but that’s not the position of the NT. On the one hand, the NT indicates a degree of continuity between OT law and the new covenant (e.g. (Mt 5:17-19; 1 Tim 1:9-10). On the other hand, the NT indicates a degree of discontinuity between OT law and the new covenant (e.g. Acts 15:20,29; Gal 3:23-24; Heb 7:11-19).

Therefore, Christians are not ipso facto inconsistent when they draw some distinctions. To the contrary, Christians would be inconsistent with Scripture if they ignored the witness of the NT. Christians can’t be faulted for inconsistency if they consistently follow the NT.

v) Christians don’t have to have a general position on the degree of continuity between OT law and the new covenant to have a principled position on homosexuality, for that’s a case in which the NT specifically reaffirms OT ethics (e.g. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10). Whatever else does or doesn’t carry over, that much carries over.

vi) In addition to OT law, you also have OT narrative. On the issue of divorce, Jesus grounds his position on the creation account (Mt 19:4-6). That’s normative for the nature of marriage, which precludes homosexuality.

Exodus 21:7 sanctions selling of one's daughter into slavery. Do you find that permissible??

Several issues:

i) This is a good example of a knee-jerk reaction to Scripture. The unbeliever makes no effort to understand why that provision exists, or the particulars.

Compare this to, say, a secular anthropologist who studies a South American Indian tribe. The anthropologist doesn’t assume this judgmental attitude. Rather, he (or she) tries to understand tribal customs in the context of survival in the Amazon basin. To what extent are tribal customs an adaptation to life in the jungle?

Likewise, even if you deny the inspiration of Scripture, it’s unintelligent to attack OT laws without bothering to understand the socioeconomic conditions to which these laws are responsive. .

ii) Under the circumstances, I do think Exod 21:7 is permissible. And that would be permissible in comparable circumstances. It’s a type of arranged marriage.

iii) The practical issue which this provision deals with is how to cope if a family has too many mouths to feed. One solution is to expose the weak, the sick, the elderly, or female children.

But in Bible ethics, that’s unacceptable.

iv) As one scholar explains:

The practice of selling minors is well attested in the ancient Near East. Parents who were in debt, or unable to support their families, sold children in the markets.
In this section of Exodus we learn that Hebrew parents could sell their daughters into conditional slavery…In the Old Testament, this girl is not a slave-girl in the usual sense that we understand the term. She is better protected, and is not to be treated as other slaves As we shall we see in the following verses, the law presupposes that she will marry either her master or his son. Therefore, she has the status of a married woman and she is to be treated kindly and with utmost respect. J. Currid, Exodus: Chapters 19-40 (EP 2001), 67-68.
v) Is that an ideal solution? No. But then, no ideal solution was available in that situation. It’s because the underlying situation was less than ideal that the solution was less than ideal. Rather, it’s realistic. And it’s far better than starvation.

The Bible isn’t a fairy tale, like Cinderella, where the prince will marries the peasant girl, and they live happily ever after in a marble palace by the sea.

vi) This is analogous to medieval apprenticeship. In the past, poorer families would often apprentice their sons. That provided him with room and board, and taught him a marketable skill.

Was that ideal? No. Young sons suffered emotional separation from their families. Living and working conditions were often harsh. They were under the authority of someone who might not have natural affection for them.

But it was an economic necessity. Better than starvation.

vii) I’ll finish with a personal anecdote. I had a great-grandmother who migrated to America during the Irish potato famine. She came over as an indentured servant.

Is that ideal? No. But life was tough back then. Still is in many parts of the Third World.

Exodus 35:2 clearly defines working on the Sabbath as punishable by death. Lots of stores are open on Sundays. Should we get out the stones??

i) We use to have blue laws in this country. Life was less hectic when stores closed on Sunday. That gave everyone a day off.

ii) One question is whether the death penalty for Sabbath-breakers reflects the heightened holiness of the ceremonial law. If so, then the death penalty doesn’t carry over into the new covenant even if Sabbath-keeping remains obligatory.

iii) Based on Rom 14:5, Gal 4:10, & Col 2:16, many Bible scholars think Sabbath-keeping is no longer obligatory. Of course, that’s disputed, but you can’t fault Christians for inconsistency if they think the NT relegates that to the defunct ceremonial law. 

Leviticus 11:7 points out that that touching the skin of a dead pig is also not allowed. Should I shoot my mom which she cooks a pork roast?? Wouldn't that be allowed under your narrow canon of moral fiber??

That’s an example of ritual purity. And it’s arguable that that’s unique to Israel’s cultic holiness.

To draw that distinction is not an ad hoc distinction. For the NT itself draws that general distinction. Christians are simply taking their cue from the NT.

NATO still serves some purpose

I have found everything I've ever read from Robert Kaplan to have been worthwhile reading.

Robert D. Kaplan: NATO still serves some purpose.
[In the recent Libya operation], More than 80 percent of the gasoline used in the intervention came from the U.S. military. Almost all the individual operation orders had an American address....

"Europe is dead militarily," a U.S. general told me. In 1980, European countries accounted for 40 percent of NATO's total defense spending; now they account for 20 percent....

Analytically, it is a mistake to assume that just because a political-military organization is less useful now than it was a quarter-century ago it is useless altogether. NATO has a bureaucracy, protocols, interoperability between member militaries and all manner of standard operating procedures honed over decades that would simply be irresponsible to get rid of. NATO can act fluently in humanitarian emergencies with which European publics are comfortable and thus somewhat reduce the burden on the United States. NATO, like the United Nations on occasion, still provides diplomatic cover of varying degrees for American actions. NATO is American hegemony on the cheap. Imagine how much less of a fiasco the Iraq War would have been were it a full-fledged NATO operation, rather than a largely unilateral one. Without organizations like NATO and the United Nations, American power is more lonely in an anarchic world....

Those who casually belittle NATO assume that Europe will face no geopolitical nightmares in its future. But that assumption might be wrong. Just look at these revitalized military configurations: a Nordic Battlegroup to include the Baltic and Scandinavian states as well as Ireland; and the Visegrad Group to include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These might on some future morrow partially replace NATO; but they might continue to fall under the NATO umbrella. And they are all responses to a militarily powerful Russia lying to the east....

A more dynamic Russia, a more chaotic North Africa and continued unrest and underdevelopment in the Balkans might all pose challenges to Europe. If they do, NATO will provide a handy confidence-building mechanism. The United States needs NATO to help organize European defense, precisely so that Washington can focus on the Middle East and Asia. NATO is not great, but for the time being it is good enough.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Job Applied

The politicization of science

Liturgical rapprochement, political division

Irons in the fire

Since sodomite marriage is back in the news, here's a classic editorial:

How to Believe in God in the 2000s

A new Confession of Faith for the 21st Century

I’m going to comment on some statements from this creed:

I’ve already commented on one statement:

Moving along:

We believe in one God, who is the creator, sustainer and ruler of everything that exists.  By his eternal decrees he has established the universe and governs it according to his sovereign will. No being greater than he exists, and no being has the power to affect, modify or diminish his sovereignty over his creation.  

That’s fine as far as it goes. But it’s less detailed than the Westminster Confession. Lacks the specificity.

A new creed ought to build on the best of what came before. Improve on the past. Incorporate the finest insights and the finest formulations of earlier creedal statements.

In himself, God is often so unlike any of his creatures that we can only speak of him by saying what he is not – he is not visible, not mortal, not comprehensible either physically or mentally.

i) That’s quite agnostic. Pure apophatic theology. We don’t know what God is like, only what God is unlike.

ii) It disregards the fact that God is both analogous and disanalogous to creatures. According to Augustinian tradition of medieval exemplarism, God is imitable. Creatures finitely exemplify divine attributes in varying degrees.

iii) And this is positive, not negative. Creation by limitation. For instance, space and time are limits. By contrast, the divine mode of subsistence is a given totality. Analogous to the abstract actual infinite in mathematics (over against a potential infinite.) That’s a positive concept. It can be given a precise definition.

iv) Compare the growing past theory of time with the block view of time:

These are opposites, but it’s not as if one represents the negation of the other.

Or take timeless eternality:

What helps to form the thought that God is timeless (and spaceless) is the idea, surely a basic intuition of ‘Abrahamic’ theism, that God has fullness or self-sufficiency or perfection. Part of God's perfection is that he is changeless; he cannot change for the worse, and does not need to change for the better. He exists as a complete, entire unity, together. His existence is not spread out in time or in space, as the existence of material objects is, but his existence is all at once.

Those in time are bound by it, in this sense, that they cannot stop the process of change and therefore of time. They are the subjects of time, not its masters…In this respect the hymn-writer Isaac Watts was perfectly correct when he compared time to an ‘ever-rolling stream’ which ‘bears all its sons away’.
Another feature of time is that those who exist in time have lives which are successive. Their memories are of parts that existed earlier, present awareness is of that part that exists now, (or perhaps a short time earlier) and hopes and expectations concern those parts that exist later. If God is in time in the sort of way that human beings are in time it follows that he has earlier and later phases. At any time, a part of his life is earlier than other parts. On the reasonable supposition that he has always existed there is a series of parts that is backwardly everlasting. There never was a time when God was not. Nevertheless it follows from the supposition that God is in time that there are segments of his life which together constitute a part of God's life that are presently inaccessible to him except by memory. And the eternalist will say that such an idea is incompatible with God's fullness and self-sufficiency. For how could God be restricted in this way?

That isn’t reducible to a via negativa. This is dealing with positive concepts.

v) Certainly the Bible doesn’t carry the disclaimer that none of its statements about God tells us what God is really like.

In the Old Testament God speaks as one person, whom the New Testament equates with the Father of Jesus Christ, although the term ‘Father’ was not normally used to speak about God in Israel. 

That’s deceptive. Yes, the NT frequently equates Yahweh with the Father, but the NT also equates Yahweh with the Son. Likewise, the author of Hebrews treats the Holy Spirit as the speaker when Yahweh is the speaker.

The Son and the Holy Spirit are not very extensively described in the Old Testament…

Of course, if you stipulate at the outset that the Father is the exclusive referent of “God” in OT usage, then by definition, anything the OT says about the Son and the Spirit will be the residual after you first reserve all statements about “God” or “Lord” for the Father. That’s building on a false premise (see above).

...but they are eternally present in God and participate fully in all his acts…

This makes it sound as if the Son and the Spirit are merely divine attributes. 

It is therefore intrinsic to the teaching of Christ that there are three persons in the one God. 

The conventional formulation is one God in three persons, not three persons in one God. I don’t know why the WRF statement flips that around. It makes the Trinity sound like a 3-car garage: there are three cars in the one garage.

God made the entire universe very good.  God is not the author of evil, and his holiness is not compromised by its existence.  Evil originated in the rebellion of Satan and some of the angels.
It appears that pride was at the root of their fall.  The fallen angels are called demons and are led by Satan.  They oppose the work of God and seek to frustrate his purposes.  Nevertheless God remains sovereign over the powers of evil and uses their actions to forward his plan of salvation.  Demons are not to be worshipped or served in any way.  Their activity lies behind false religions and Satan blinds human minds to the truth. 

This fails to state the fact that God predestined the Fall. It makes it sound as if he has a plan of salvation, but not a plan for the fall. As if the fall was an unpremeditated disaster, and redemption an afterthought.

But in Calvinism, God intended the fall, and did so for an overarching reason. Both the fall and redemption are integrated elements, planned in mutual conjunction, as a part of God’s eternal design.

God’s call to human beings is to repent and believe.  No one can respond to this call without the work of the Holy Spirit. 

That, of itself, doesn’t go beyond the Arminian theory of prevenient grace or sufficient grace. It isn’t monergistic.

Though many may aurally receive the message, or read it directly from the Bible, or indirectly in Christian literature, not all are chosen.  Rather than abandon the human race in its fallen condition, God sovereignly and graciously elected some to eternal life.  Only those whose hearts and minds are illumined by the Holy Spirit are empowered to accept the promised gifts of forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God. 

i) That doesn’t clearly distinguish between conditional and unconditional election.

ii) In addition, it says nothing about reprobation. But a fundamental difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism is that Lutheranism only affirms single predestination (i.e. election) whereas Calvinism affirms double predestination (i.e. election and reprobation).

The Scriptures have a fundamental clarity but only the Christian believer can receive and understand their spiritual meaning and significance, having access to the mind of Christ.

i) It’s true that only a born-again Christian will be receptive to the message of Scripture.

ii) It’s not true that only a Christian can understand Scripture.

iii) The Bible doesn’t have a “spiritual meaning.” The Bible refers to many spiritual truths, but that doesn’t make the meaning spiritual.

Similarly, although it is possible that lost apostolic writings may one day be rediscovered, they will not be regarded as Holy Scripture because they have not been handed down from apostolic times as part of the normative rule. 

Of course, that’s hypothetical, but for the sake of argument, why shouldn't we regard a newly-discovered apostolic writing as Scripture? The process of transmission is irrelevant to its intrinsic properties (e.g. revealed truth).

If it's divinely inspired, then it’s the word of God. We have a standing obligation to believe and obey what God tells us to think or do. 

Immediately after death, the souls of human beings return to God, while their bodies are destroyed.  They do not fall into a state of sleep.


The souls of the saved enter into a state of perfect holiness and joy, in the presence of God, and reign with Christ, while they await the resurrection. This happiness is not impeded by the memory of their lives in earth, since now they consider everything from the light of God’s perfect will and plan.

i) That’s a half-truth. According to Rev 6:10, the saints aren’t perfectly happy. And that’s because they do remember what happened to them on earth. They won’t rest content until the Day of Judgment.

ii) Put another way, the WRF statement suffers from overrealized eschatology. It fails to distinguish between the intermediate state and the final state. There are stages in the process. Everything doesn’t happen all at once.

They have no power to intercede for the living or to become mediators between them and God.

This is shadowboxing with the Roman Catholic cult of the saints. But it needs to be more qualified.

i) Mediation and intercession aren't interchangeable.

ii) It’s theoretically possible that our sainted loved ones do pray for us. However, we don’t have any concrete evidence that that’s the case. So it would be improper for us to count on that or build a theological edifice on that sandy foundation. We don’t know one way or the other. It’s sheer speculation.

iii) In principle there’s a difference between loved ones interceding for us and perfect strangers interceding for us. By the same token, there’s no warrant to pray to the “saints” to intercede for us.

iv) What we do know is that Jesus ascended to heaven to intercede for his people (e.g. Heb 7:25). So we should direct our prayers to him.

Neither the souls of the saved nor those of the lost can return to the land of the living after death.  All experiences attributed to the action of disembodied souls must be attributed either to human imagination or to the action of demons. 

So when the Gospels tell us that Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and the disciples at the Transfiguration, this must be attributed either to human imagination or demonic impersonation?

And when Scripture indicates that Samuel appeared to Saul, this must be attributed either to human imagination or demonic impersonation?

Is God a first responder?


“I don't want to see good behind evil, I want to see good overwhelming and destroying evil.”

That’s because you approach evil from a very abstract, Panglossian perspective.

 “Maybe this just comes down to a difference in temperament, but the idea that evil is just evil through and through, and is not initiated for some higher purpose, is of great comfort to me, as it is to Ben Witherington.”

i) You and BW3 presumably have a different theodicean strategies. You currently espouse open theism whereas he presumably affirms divine foreknowledge.

ii) Denial can be a comforting. It’s comforting for parents to deny that their kids would ever lie to them. It’s comforting for parents to deny that their daughter is hooked on drugs. It’s comforting for a wife to refuse to believe her husband is cheating on her. It’s comforting for her to continue believing that he really loves her.

iii) The problem with denial is that it’s a very fragile coping strategy. It requires you to compartmentalize your beliefs, suppress what you know, avoid logical inferences. Your coping strategy is constantly threatened by reality intruding on your comforting illusion.

iv) It’s just a fantasy to pretend that God has nothing to do with pulmonary embolisms. That traces back to God through a chain of cause and effect.

v) God didn’t “overwhelm” the pulmonary embolism. God wasn’t “in the trenches with us, fighting” the pulmonary embolism.

So that theodicy doesn’t even mesh on its own terms.

“If God is not behind evil, then I know that it is something finite, something creaturely, and as such entirely within God's providence…”

Non sequitur. If God is behind evil, then evil is still something finite, creaturely, entirely within God’s providence.

“…nothing evil can ultimately frustrate God's purposes.”

Finite godism lacks the funds to cash that check.

“On the Arminian view, evil is not a blessing in disguise, but blessings do still follow evil, just because God is constantly working to defeat and eradicate that evil.”

i) God wasn’t constantly working to defeat and eradicate the pulmonary embolism. You keep intoning these precious pieties, but they don’t line up with the actual situation.

ii) You also cast God in a purely reactionary role, a first responder.

If God intended evil for a good purpose, then evil will serve the purpose God intended. Accomplish exactly what God planned. Evil will subserve the good rather than subvert the good. Facilitate the good rather than frustrated the good.

But if God did not intend evil for a good purpose, then God must settle for limiting the harm. Making the best of a bad hand. Salvage whatever he can retrieve from the ruins–like a homeowner sifting through the rubble after a tornado.

“Amen. How could evil be anything else and still be evil?”

You’re not trying very hard. Not giving it your best effort. You’re sharp enough to know how simplistic that is.

Take the murder of Abel. Fratricide is evil. Paradigmatic evil. That was bad for short-lived Abel, bad for his grieving parents. Even bad for Cain, who was banished.

Yet it was good for Seth. Seth was the replacement child. Had Abel not been murdered, Seth would miss out.