A Review of “God and Time: Four Views”

Ganssle, Gregory E., ed. God & Time: Four Views. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2001. $24.00. 247 pages. Contributors: Paul Helm, Alan G. Padgett, William Lane Craig, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

Of the issues in theology, God’s relationship to time has become one of the most complex. How does God relate to time? This question is coupled with two theories of time. A-theory (or the process theory) holds that time moves from one point to another in a unidirectional line. The B-theory of time (or the stasis theory) holds that time essentially stands still. B-theorists holds that the process of time is an allusion and time itself is rather static, or unmovable. I readily admit that I have had the book God & Time: Four Views on my shelf for quite some time and have anticipated the time when I could read it as this topic has become interesting to me. Recently, I was able to accomplish that task. Gregory Ganssle edits the book God & Time: Four Views. (Note: it is essential that the reader reads through Ganssle’s introduction. Ganssle provides a necessary background for the complex issues that lie ahead.) The book has four contributors, all holding different perspectives about how God relates to time.

 First, Paul Helm (J. I. Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.) argues for the divine timeless eternity view. That is, God is absolutely timeless and exists beyond the scope of space-time. Helm holds a version of the B-theory of time, although it could be said that there is a combination of A-theory and B-theory in his viewpoint. While Helm offers one of the most traditional views (and perhaps most biblical), Helm seems to one one hand argue that the universe is co-eternal with God, while on the other hand holding that the universe is a special creation of God coming into existence at a particular point. Elements of Helm’s argument were quite persuasive. However, I was left somewhat confused and bewildered at his explanation. It seemed that Helm argued for a beginningless, beginning for all of creation as Helm did not seem to hold to creation ex nihilo, which is quite odd.

Next, Alan G. Padgett (Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.) argues for the relative timelessness view. Padgett holds the A-theory of time. He argues that God is timeless and remains timeless despite creation. God, thus, operates in a sequence of events in eternity. Yet, God operates in time taking part of the sequential aspect of space-time. Overall, Padgett offered a compelling argument. I was left, however, unsatisfied with his argument of divine foreknowledge. Padgett argues that God knows the future. But since the future has not happened, it seemed that Padgett accepted some limitation in divine foreknowledge. (Note: I may have misunderstood Padgett in this regard.)

William Lane Craig (Research Professor, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, La Mirada, CA) holds what is called timelessness and omnitemporality view. William Lane Craig, one of the greatest Christian philosophers and apologists of our time, holds the view that God was timeless before creation began, but then became temporal (in time) when creation came into being. I was not surprised by Craig’s argument. I previously read Craig’s work Time and Eternity: Exploring God’s Relationship to Time. My major qualm with Craig’s view is that the theologian is left accepting divine immanence without transcendence. Christian theologians have accepted for the vast majority of church history the duality of God’s transcendence and immanence. In fact, theism tends to rest upon such understanding. God is not time. God is not creation. God is outside the realm of both. Plus, since God created time, this view seems to limit God by the scope of His creation, something problematic when it comes to divine omniscience and omnipotence. Therefore, while I greatly respect William Lane Craig and his work, I hold reservations with his views pertaining to God and time.

Finally, Nicholas Wolterstorff (Noah Porter Professor of Philosophy, Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT) argues the unqualified divine temporality view. Wolterstorff holds that God has always been temporal, acting in time. While God is everlasting, God acts in a sequential mode. Creation takes part in that sequence of time. However, many physicists accept that time is a created thing, coming into being when the universe first started. Of all the views presented, I was least satisfied with Wolterstorff’s view.

I had waited for some time to read this book. Unfortunately, I was left largely dissatisfied. Some contributors were far better than others. It’s interesting that Thomas Aquinas was used to prove nearly all of the four viewpoints. From my reading of Aquinas, I feel he would accept Helm and Padgett’s viewpoints more than any other. Nevertheless, this reader was left wondering if there could not be a fifth view. It seems that one could posit a view where God is outside the scope of time and able to see all points of created space-time (like Helm’s argument), but operated in a sequential modus operandi (as found in Padgett’s viewpoint), and related to creation (as found in Craig and Wolterstorff’s cases). While some views seemed more reasonable than others, none seemed to capture the classic theological viewpoint that I had hoped for.

I give this book three out of four stars. I think the book is an important work. One will find, though, that the book is not an easy read. Those who have not had exposure to philosophy and the God and time debate will struggle with this read. I would suggest reading up on the issues of God and time before engaging this work. Be sure to thoroughly read Ganssle’s introduction also as it will help immensely.

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Copyright, September 10, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?

The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.

Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.”[1] Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.”[2] Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).[3] Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.

The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).

What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options: 1) One could claim that God holds negative attributes meaning that He is not completely perfect; 2) One could claim that the Bible is erred in its presentation of God; 3) One could claim that our understanding of God’s jealousy could be misunderstood.

The first option demerits the Bible’s presentation of God as valid. If God exists, then God must be a maximally great Being. If the God of the Bible is not a maximally great Being, then the God of the Bible is not really the God of the universe at all.

The second option devalues the Bible, the Word of God. The New Testament writers extracted their understanding of God from the Old Testament. Therefore, if the Old Testament is erred in its presentation of God, then that would carry over into the New Testament. This causes a serious problem for the believer. If we cannot accept the presentation of God in the Bible, then can we accept the God of the Bible?

The third option is best. Our understanding of God’s jealousy must be defined. There must be some misunderstanding that we hold as it pertains to the idea of divine jealousy. In fact, the third option is the only real valid option on the table. When one honestly evaluates God’s jealousy, the person comes to the understanding that God’s jealousy is actually rooted in love. Thus, God’s jealousy becomes a positive trait for three reasons.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive as it relates to God’s passion.

God has a passion for His people. Let’s go back to the passage in Deuteronomy. We all know that Scripture is often taken out of context. Placing Deuteronomy 4:24 in context, one will find that Moses was addressing the issue of the peoples’ covenant with God. God had already blessed the people immensely. God brought them out of slavery. God was about to bring them to a special place prepared for them. God was going to build a great nation out of them. However, the people kept cheating on God. God poured out His love to the nation. He was eventually going to bring the Chosen Messiah, the Savior of the world, in their midst. But they kept cheating on God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you.”

The marriage analogy is often used to describe God’s jealous passion for His people. Paul Copan rightly notes that “A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really all that committed to the marriage relationship. A marriage without the potential for jealousy when an intruder threatens isn’t much of a marriage.”[4] God had a passion for His people. While Dawkins may think that God’s jealousy is a negative attribute due to the peoples’ “flirting with other gods,” it should be remembered that idolatry is adultery against God.[5] Thus, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to God’s purpose.

God’s jealousy is also rooted in His purpose. Wayne Grudem defines God’s jealousy by “God continually seeks to protect his own honor.”[6] Critics may charge, “See! God only concerns Himself with His own glory and elevated role. This means that God is not humble.” But not so fast. Let’s put this in perspective.

Human jealousy is wrong because one covets something that he/she holds no claim in holding. It is wrong for me to covet my neighbor’s car because I hold no claim to the car. In like manner, human pride is bad because it elevates a person’s position higher than what the person possesses. I can think all day that I am the President of the United States. I can walk around like a peacock telling everyone about my successful presidency. The reality is, however, that I am not the President and will most likely never be. But what if someone who holds the office claims to be President? Right now, the President of the United States of America is Barack Obama. Regardless of your thoughts of him and his presidency, let’s ask: is it wrong for Obama to claim to be President? Is it wrong for him to demand respect for his position? Is it wrong for him to do presidential things? No. Why? It is because he is the President. Is it, therefore, wrong for God to call Himself God and to expect to be treated like God? No. Why? It is because He is God. Paul Copan rightly notes, “Is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship.”[7]

Simply put: it is not wrong for God to be jealous over His purpose and glory. Such purpose and glory belongs to God and God alone.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to the human protection.

I am a big brother. My sister is about 7-years-younger than I. Big brothers normally have a protective instinct. I most certainly do. My sister is a loving, free-spirited woman who always sees the good. I, in contrast, see the world the way it really is. My son is much like my sister. I find that my protective juices flow overtime being a parent. Without guidance, it would be easy for my son to take the wrong path as the first shiny, attractive thing gets his attention. As a parent, it is my job to help keep him on the right track. I have a jealous love for my son because I want what’s best for him.

God’s jealousy works in much the same way. God’s jealous love is actually for the benefit, not the detriment, of human protection. God is omniscient. That means that God knows all things. God is also omnisapient, meaning that God possesses all wisdom. Going back to Copan, he notes, “God seeks to protect his creatures from profound self-harm. We can deeply damage ourselves by running after gods made in our own image. God’s jealousy is other-centered.”[8] I agree wholeheartedly with Copan’s assessment. God’s jealousy is actually for the greater human good.

Conclusion

God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. The difference primarily lies in authority. It is wrong for people to be jealous over something that someone else holds because they hold no true claim to such thing. God, in contrast, having the greatest, supreme authority and power is completely justified in being jealous over His people. His jealousy is actually rooted in His love, purpose, and even human protection. Thus, God’s jealousy is not a negative attribute. It is actually a gloriously positive one.

© August 22, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 243.

[2] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 34.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 35.

[5] See the book of Hosea for a full treatment of this analogy.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 205.

[7] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 28.

[8] Ibid., 40.

Did Aliens Create Life?

Did aliens create life? For some, this question may be bizarre. However, I have recently been approached by more than one person inquiring about the possibility. Much of this inquiry stems from popular shows like Ancient Aliens or even Alien Encounters. Wild-haired personality Giorgio A. Tsoukalos popularized the view that many of the stories in the Bible involved personal encounters not with alien life forms rather than the divine.

im-not-saying-that-it-was-aliens-but-it-was-aliens
Giorgio A. Tsoukalos

It may surprise you to discover that even Richard Dawkins accepts the view of panspermia, that life was planted by alien life forms. In the movie Expelled, Ben Stein asks famed atheist Richard Dawkins the following:

What do you think is the possibility that intelligent design might turn out to be…um…the answer to some of the issues in genetics…”

Dawkins replies, “Well it could come about in the following way: It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved by probably some kind of Darwinian means by a very high level of technology and designed a form of life they seeded on this type of planet. Um…now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry of biology you might find a signature of some form of designer. And that designer could be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe. But that form of intelligence must come from an explicable process.”

 Stein remarked, “Wait a minute! Richard Dawkins thought intelligent design might be a legitimate pursuit!”[1]

stein and dawkins
Dawkins answering Stein on Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

 It seems like Dawkins does not have so much an issue with intelligent design as much as he does God. Are aliens the answer for life? Well, to give a complicated answer: no. I submit three reasons for why God’s existence is necessary rather than aliens to account for life.

God’s existence, rather than aliens, is necessary in being.

We must distinguish between necessary beings and contingent beings. This section may be a bit complicated for one who has not had experience in philosophy; for we deal with an ontological concept. Norman Geisler describes necessary beings as “one who cannot not exist (if it exists at all). But what cannot not exist has no potential for nonexistence. And what exists with no potential not to exist is Pure Existence.”[2] Philosophically complex? Yes. But, we can simplify the concept.

The issue comes down to this: something that absolutely is required to exist, exists. Let me explain the concept by the following illustration. You are reading these words on your device. These words are not random. They have meaning. Therefore, these words are contingent (dependent) upon the existence of an author (i.e. me). In this case, then, the words are contingent and my existence is necessary. The words prove my existence. However, when taken further, my existence is contingent upon the necessary existence of two other people (my parents). Because I exist, one can verifiably know that my parents exist. In this case, I am a contingent being and my parents are necessary beings. Push this far enough back to the first humans, then something has to account for all of life. God’s existence (an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, conscious Mind) is necessitated by the existence of anything that exists.

God’s existence, rather than aliens, is necessary in creation.

This second point develops from the first. Whereas the first point engages the idea of ontology (the study of being), the second examines the question cosmologically. Even if aliens do exist, the creatures (sentient or not) would be contingent beings like ourselves as they would require an explanation for their existence as they would be finite creatures. Evidence continues to further prove the case that the universe if finite. Thus, anything that was born into this universe without a prior existent endowment and by sheer natural means is a limited creature.[3] If aliens are biological creatures born into this universe, then aliens are not the ultimate creators of life. They could never be. Therefore, aliens could not account for the creation of life and the universe as the finite universe requires an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Mind. Sheer logic dictates as much. Thus, God’s existence is necessitated by creation and not aliens.

God’s existence, rather than aliens, is necessary in purpose.

The final case for God’s necessity over that of aliens deals in the realm of teleology. The book of Genesis notes that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).[4] The universe seems to have a purpose. Wayne Grudem makes the following observation, “If God created the universe to show his glory, then we would expect that the universe would fulfill the purpose for which he created it.”[5] If aliens created life, then life would have no purpose outside of being the result of a high school science experiment. If aliens created life, then there would be no sense of morality as morality requires the existence of a Supreme Good (i.e. God). Most importantly, if aliens created life, then there would be no hope for final restitution of creation. Life has been given purpose. The fact that humans possess a will, desire, and the ability to tell good from evil provides yet another reason to reject the idea of panspermia (i.e. that aliens planted life).

Conclusion

Even if it could be demonstrated that aliens planted life, the existence of God would still be mandatory. Why? Because someone had to develop the method by which life would grow. Someone would be responsible for the creation and development of alien life. Someone would still be responsible for the creation of the universe and all the laws of physics found within. As I noted before, the existence of anything necessitates the existence of an eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, Mind. We know that being to be the God presented in the Bible. While it may be fun to contemplate the existence of aliens (and who knows, aliens could exist), we should note that the potential existence of such life forms do nothing to eliminate the necessity of God’s existence. God is responsible for the creation of life, not ET.

 

© February 21, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

Bibliography

 Dawkins, Richard. Interviewed by Ben Stein. “Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins Interview.” YouTube. In Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed: No Intelligence Allowed (2008). Accessed February 21, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZtEjtlirc.

Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Notes

[1] Richard Dawkins, interviewed by Ben Stein, “Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins Interview,” YouTube, from Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed: No Intelligence Allowed (2008), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlZtEjtlirc.

[2] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 418.

[3] Notice that the statement is worded as such to exclude Christ was existed before he was born (John 1:1).

[4] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 272.

Does Paul Condemn Philosophy in Colossians 2:8?

Philosophy is defined as the “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence” (Soanes and Stevenson 2004). Advocates of Christian anti-intellectualism will criticize the use of philosophy within Christian circles due to Paul’s supposed admonition against philosophy. Such individuals charge that philosophy is antagonistic to the faith due to Paul’s so-called warning against philosophy in Colossians 2:8. But what exactly does the apostle claim? In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he warns the Colossians that they should “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).[1] According to philosophical antagonists, Paul’s warning against philosophy should dissuade anyone from participating in a philosophical endeavor. However, one should ask, is Paul actually condemning the use of philosophy or is Paul using the term “philosophy” to address another issue?

A closer examination of the Colossians text affords one the opportunity to evaluate Paul’s actual intention. When one examines the text, one will find three reasons why Paul does not discredit philosophy as it is popularly understood in modern times. Rather, one will discover that Paul actually advocates the use of good philosophy.

Paul’s Intention Behind the Word “Philosophia.”

As I was preparing this article, I had the chance to discuss the issue of Colossians 2:8 with Dr. Leo Percer. Dr. Percer is a New Testament scholar who teaches Greek, Hermeneutics, and New Testament studies at Liberty University. Dr. Percer stated, “‘Philosophy’ in Colossians is probably a reference to religious ideas more than what we mean by the word today. If memory serves, Josephus uses the word to describe the various views of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and such” (Percer 2015). Is Dr. Percer correct? It appears so for two particular reasons.

First, Louw and Nida note that “φιλοσοφία (philosophia) may be rendered in some languages as ‘the way in which people are wise’ or ‘the way in which people understand things’ or ‘the manner in which people reason’” (Louw and Nida 1996, 384). Paul’s use of the term philosophia does not indicate that he is speaking of philosophy the way modern individuals understand the term. To understand what a writer is saying, one must not force the writer into one’s time-frame, but must rather examine the writer’s literary style during the period in which the author pens their work. This leads us into another defense for Percer’s claim.

Second, while looking into Percer’s claim pertaining to Josephus’ usage of the term “philosophy,” I discovered an example of what Dr. Percer was saying in Josephus’ writings. Josephus, in the first-century, writes, “The Jews had for a great while three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees; of which sects although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I a little touch upon them now” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.11). Note that Josephus uses the term “philosophy” to describe the religious viewpoints of three religious groups: the Essenes, Sadducees, and the Pharisees. This is not the only time Josephus uses the term “philosophia” to describe religious ideas. Josephus also writes, “But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord” (Josephus, Antiquities to the Jews 18.23). Again, Josephus uses the term “philosophia” to describe a religious viewpoint. If this is the case, could it be that Paul uses the term “philosophia” to describe religious groups and religious ideas rather than philosophical concepts? To answer such a question, one will need to consider the theme of Colossians chapter 2.

Paul’s Theme in Colossians 2.

Paul’s letter to the church of Colossae was written to combat heretical viewpoints in the area. In chapter one, Paul presents what is normally recognized as an early Christian formulation denoting the incarnation of Christ (that the divine God had took on fleshly imbodiment) in writing that Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:15-18).

Paul then in Colossians 1:24-2:5 speaks of his persecutions and how through them God made his presence known to the Gentiles. In that passage, Paul writes that “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Note that Paul indicates the importance of teaching individuals the truth with wisdom. Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. Paul then turns his attention to the importance of one’s “knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Colossians 2:2). Paul says that he notes this so that “no one may delude you with plausible arguments” (Colossians 2:4). How does one decipher plausible arguments from implausible arguments? It comes from knowing the truth (theology) and knowing how one can know the truth (philosophy).

It is after such a discussion that Paul then writes that the Colossians should “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Instead of warning the Colossians against philosophy, Paul is actually warning the Colossians against well-argued false doctrines. Ben Witherington argues that “In v. 8 Paul characterizes the false teaching not only as “philosophy,” which in itself would not be a problem, but as philosophy built on merely “human tradition” and on what Paul calls “empty deceit.” The verb sylalageō is rare, found only here in biblical Greek, and means “kidnap” or better “carry off as booty” (Witherington III 2007, 154). Douglas Moo would also agree as he notes that “The word ‘philosophy’ was applied to a wide range of belief systems in the ancient world, so it tells us little about the origin or nature of the teaching. It does suggest, however, that the teaching involved a somewhat coherent system” (Moo 2008, 50). Thus, Paul’s warning is not against philosophy. Rather, Paul’s warning is against cleverly argued false doctrines. Instead of negating philosophy, proper philosophy seems to be promoted by Paul due to the incredible way Paul argues in favor of the truth.

Paul’s Use of Philosophical Argumentation.

Paul was not only a master theologian; Paul was a master philosopher, as well. Paul was a master rhetorician. In fact, Douglas Moo writes, concerning Colossians 2:8 and following, that “This key paragraph begins with a warning about the false teachers (v. 8) but is then dominated by a theologically rich explanation of why the Colossians should reject this teaching (vv. 9–15)” (Moo 2008, 184). Witherington explains that

“Paul is speaking into a rhetorically and philosophically saturated environment. When someone puts those two things together and the philosophy is false, there is a grave danger to Christians who are prone to listen to such powerful persuasion and to be influenced by it. Paul therefore is in the awkward position of not being able to speak directly and in person to his audience, thus losing a good portion of the rhetorical arsenal (gestures, tone of voice, etc.). Yet still he must offer an even more powerful and philosophically substantive act of persuasion than is given by those who are beguiling the Colossians” (Witherington 2007, 154).

Thus, Paul is using philosophical methods to argue in favor of the truth despite being at a disadvantage as he is unable to physically deliver his well-argued and well-reasoned defense for the Christian faith. Paul is not dismissing philosophy. For it was Paul who was able to hold his own defending the Christian faith to the intellectuals at Athens. So what can we take from this study?

Conclusion

Does Paul condemn philosophy in Colossians 2:8? The short answer is “no.” Paul does not demerit or condemn philosophy in Colossians 2:8. Rather, Paul eloquently warns the Colossians against false philosophical and false theological concepts. Such false concepts were considered by Paul to be teachings that “have indeed an appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23). So what was the false philosophy being presented to the Colossians? It appears that the likely problem for the Colossians was a form of syncretistic doctrine, similar to the modern day New Age movement,that blended Christianity with Jewish mysticism and pagan religions into a systematized form of belief.  Instead of condemning philosophy in general, Paul instead argued that the Colossians needed a stronger Christian theological and philosophical construct to stand against the cleverly devised falsehoods being purported in their town. Such a warning needs to be heeded among modern Christians as well.

Sources Cited

Josephus, Flavius, and William Whiston. The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008.

Percer, Leo. Interviewed by Brian Chilton. (Thursday, September 10, 2015). Online Interview. Information used with permission.

Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007.

© September 13, 2015. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Is Your Theology Influenced by Subjective Persuasions or Objective Truth?

Theology is at the epicenter of a person’s worldview. In fact, the way a person views God affects the way the person evaluates everything in life—from politics to science. Facing this task has been challenging; in that one must evaluate how one views God. N. T. Wright was correct when he stated that “all talk about God is necessarily self-involving and that the mode of this involvement will vary according to what is being said, or at least what is being meant, about God himself.[1] Paul Froese and Christopher Bader further challenged this assumption as they presented evidence that suggests that Americans view God in four different ways: “Authoritative (immanent and judging), Benevolent (immanent and loving), Critical (distant and judging), and Distant (distant and loving).[2] The question must be asked; how much of our knowledge of God is based upon subjective opinion as opposed to objective fact? Where does one find these objective facts concerning God?

Specific Revelation

One such way a person can find objective information concerning God is in the disclosed revelation of God: namely, the Bible. It is agreed with Gerald Bray in that “the Bible is an exhaustive source of theological knowledge.[3] To reduce one’s subjective reasoning pertaining to biblical objective principles concerning God, one must practice good hermeneutics in interpreting Scripture. Great theological problems have emerged throughout church history when an interpreter seeks to justify one’s personal perceptions of God as opposed to the attributes of God presented in Scripture.

The Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine Chapel

General Revelation (aka. Natural Theology)

Secondly, objective information about God can be obtained by God’s natural revelation; or the attributes of God revealed by God’s creation. While much is agreed with Gerald Bray’s book The Doctrine of God, Bray’s assumptions that the natural theologian’s “attempts to rescue God from oblivion…are best described as pathetic[4] are completely rejected. With the great success of Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Norman Geisler, and Gary Habermas, who all to a degree employ tactics found in natural theology; this writer must strongly disagree with Bray on this matter. For it was Paul who wrote that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.[5] Thus, God has revealed Himself through His creation. Truly the psalmist was correct in stating that the “heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.”[6] Hence, natural theology has its place and demonstrates many of the objective attributes of God (i.e. God’s omnipotence).

In conclusion, it is of utmost importance that one bases one’s knowledge of God upon what God has revealed about Himself through specific revelation (the Bible) and natural, or general, revelation; termed natural theology. The Christian leader must consider whether their viewpoints concerning God are based upon God’s revelation or upon personal preference. In addition, the leader would do well to lead the congregation into a proper understanding of the Creator based upon the Creator’s revelation, as well.

Addendum

It should be noted that theology influences every other walk in life. As the following chart demonstrates, a person’s theology, or lack thereof, influences how one views humanity (anthropology), Christ (Christology), the Spirit and spiritual dimension (pneumatology), the church (ecclesiology), salvation (soteriology), and the end times (eschatology). In addition, Paul Froese and Christopher Bader note, in their book America’s Four Gods, that how one views God influences how one views politics, religion, governmental affairs, ethics, and just about everything else. In their book, they describe four ways that a person views God:

Authoritative (one who views God as immanent and judgmental),

Benevolent (one who views God as immanent and loving/non-judgmental),

Critical (one who views God as distant and judging),

and Distant (one who views God as distant and loving/non-judgmental).”[7]

One must note that all four viewpoints are lacking. The authoritative and critical viewpoints are correct in thinking that God will hold each person responsible for his or her actions. However, those who hold such views may forget that “love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” [8] Those who hold to the benevolent and distant views may hold a correct view of God’s love, but may fail in their understanding when they find that God holds people accountable for their actions. For the writer of Proverbs states that “the eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”[9] In addition, those who hold to the authoritative and benevolent viewpoints understand that God is very close to the actions of the world. Yet, they may lose the majesty of God’s transcendence and the importance that God places on individuals to take responsibility for their lives. As Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”[10] Jesus placed an emphasis on a person’s responsibility to the Father and Him. Also, the advocate of the critical and distant views may have a correct interpretation on God’s majesty and power. Yet, they may fail to see that God is nearer to the actions of the world than they may fathom. For Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”[11]

Thus, it is important for each individual to evaluate their own theology. Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he said that each Christian should “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”[12] Each Christian needs to evaluate his or her beliefs. Are their beliefs driven by the objective revelation of God? Or, are their beliefs driven by personal persuasions and wishes? In the end, it should be the goal of every believer to focus their attention on God and not themselves…especially when it comes to theology. For “theology” is a study (logos) of God (theos).

Notes:

Note #1: The following was a journal entry posted by the author of this site for credit at his university. Therefore, any information used in this article must be correctly documented for class projects or the user may be found guilty of plagiarism at his or her respected school.

Note #2: For the next eight weeks, I will be engaged in an upper-level theology course called “The Doctrine of God.” Therefore, the following eight posts, including this post, will provide information that has been learned through the process of study.

Chart is not original to Pastor Brian. All rights belong to credited author.
This chart is not original to Pastor Brian. All rights belong to credited author.

 Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Bray, Gerald. The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology. Downers Grove: InterVarity Press, 1993.

Froese, Paul, and Christopher Bader. America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God–& What That Says About Us. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Scripture noted as “NKJV” comes from the New King James Version. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1982.

Wright, N. T. “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” In Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives. Edited by Bruce L. McCormack. Grand Rapids, Scotland: Baker, Rutherford House, 2008.

——————————————————-

[1] N. T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Question of God,” in Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives, Bruce L. McCormack, ed (Grand Rapids, Scotland: Baker, Rutherford House, 2008), 23.

[2] Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God–& What That Says About Us (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 24.

[3] Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarity Press, 1993), 18.

[4] Ibid, 109.

[5] Romans 1:20.

[6] Psalm 97:6.

[7] Froese and Bader, 24.

[8] 1 John 4:7-8, NKJV.

[9] Proverbs 15:3.

[10] John 15:10, NKJV.

[11] Matthew 28:20, NKJV.

[12] Philippians 2:12.

 

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Was God a Bad Parent?

In this day and age, it seems that the more vulgar a cartoon or program is, the more popular it becomes. With this being the case, a vulgar atheist cartoon is making its rounds online and on social media. One of the many growing offensive anti-religion sites is called “The Atheist Pig.” The comic is a vulgar, rancid display of the juvenile, invasive, ad hominem style that marks many atheist online communities. While the site claims to attack all religious beliefs, Christianity is clearly the primary target. One particular strip addressed God’s morality as a parent. The strip indicated that God was a bad parent since God killed His Son. However, does this accurately identify the New Testament’s teaching on the doctrine of atonement? This article will address the question, “Was God a bad parent for allowing His Son to be killed?” Four fundamental truths must be understood in order to answer this question.

 Jesus picture

Jesus Was God

Advocates of the “God is a Bad Parent” motif clearly do not understand Christian theology. Therefore, Christian theology should be clarified for the believer and adversary alike. Perhaps this view is stemmed from a misunderstanding of John 3:16 which states that “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life(John 3:16, NLT). Perhaps the skeptic thinks that God forcefully handed over His Son and negligently allowed Him to be killed. The view is flawed in that the advocate fails to understand that Jesus (the Son) is understood to be God. Yes, Jesus (the Son), Yahweh (the Father), and the Holy Spirit are three distinct personas, but they are part of the same Godhead. Jesus understood Himself to be divine. Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). In fact, Jesus would get in trouble with the Jewish authorities over such claims. But not only did Jesus understand Himself to be God, the disciples understood the same thing about Jesus. John clarifies all doubt when he writes of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Also, God Himself claimed Jesus as His Son as on several occasions a voice from heaven was heard saying “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17, NLT). So, the picture of God negligently handing over His Son is a misconception. It was God Himself that took on the sacrifice for the good of humanity.

Gethsemane

Jesus Died Willingly…He was Not Forced

As previously noted, God Himself took on the problem of sin. In addition, it should be noted that God was not forced to cure the problem of sin (which will be addressed in the final section of this article). Jesus died willingly for the good of humanity. In fact Jesus said, “This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father” (John 10:17-18). Did the Father only love the Son because of the sacrifice? No. Remember, the Father and Son are one. Perhaps Jesus is talking about the work being done. It had the Father’s approval because God knew the end result. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this article, it should be remembered that Jesus gave Himself freely because of His love for humanity.

 cain and abel

The Sacrifice Saved Humanity from Their Own Destruction

Along with the misconception of bad parenthood, Christian adversaries purport that God sent Himself to save humanity from Himself. However, this does not adequately present the full picture of the atonement. The sacrifice of Christ is better understood as God coming to save humanity from itself. When a person evaluates the growing depravity of our culture and the coinciding lack of faith by the populace, a clear parallel is found. Humans do not have a good track record when living according to their own whims and fancies. That is where humanism leads. However, when one understands the great virtues found in the sacrifice of Christ and His selflessness, one can appreciate how such virtues can transform societies for good. Societies are much better when individuals live selfless lives instead of selfish lives. Only Christianity can provide a clear view of such selflessness.

sin graph

Holiness and Sin Are Irreconcilable and Must Be Dealt With Accordingly

Why was the sacrifice necessary? Could God not just look the other way? No, because of a logical inconsistency. Holiness and sin are just as opposed as light and darkness. Holiness is “in relation to God refers climactically to his moral perfection. His holiness is manifest in total righteousness and purity” (Williams 2001, EDOT, 562). Holiness knows no sin. In contrast, sin cannot be holy. One sin demerits holiness. No one can be holy as long as one has sin. Sin is the lack of moral perfection. Therefore, holiness and sin cannot coexist. So, how does God handle the sin problem? God has two options.

Holiness Can Destroy, or Isolate, Sin

Unatoned sin cannot stand before a holy God. This is why a place called hell exists. Hell was never intended for human beings. Jesus said that hell was “prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)! Thus, when a souls reject the atoning, loving work of Christ performed for them, only one alternative exists: the soul must be separated from God’s holiness; not for God’s protection, but because sin cannot coexist in God’s presence. But thankfully, another option exists.

            Holiness Can Atone Sin

God can also atone sin. Because of God’s justice, God cannot simply pretend that the sin does not exist. However by the love of God, God can pay the penalty for the sin. That is essentially the definition of atonement. As L. L. Morris states, “Christ has taken our place, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Our part is simply to respond in repentance, faith, and selfless living” (Morris 2001, EDOT, 114). Faith is dependence upon God and the acceptance of the work done at the cross. Thus, a person’s sins are atoned and the person is able to live eternally in the presence of God with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, and faithfulness.

the atonement synopsis

Conclusion

Is God the Father a bad parent for allowing His Son to be sacrificed? Absolutely not! God knew the end result. God knew that His Son would be raised back to life. God knew the transformation that would come in the lives of many. God knew the hope that many would have. God knew the bliss and joy that would come from this sacrifice to countless individuals. God did not just send His Son to save us. When the person of Christ is understood, one will find that God Himself visited humanity and saved us from ourselves.

praying

 If you have not experienced the salvation offered through Christ, why not do so now? Repent of your sins and pray a prayer similar to this one:

“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life.”

 

Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009.

Morris, L. L. “Atonement.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Scripture marked “NLT” comes from the New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2007.

Williams, J. R. “Holiness.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

 

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

33 Logical Fallacies Everyone Should Know

Logic is a proper way of thinking. Norman Geisler writes that “Logic deals with the methods of valid thinking” (Geisler 1999, 427). Logical fallacies, then, are errors in the way one thinks or presents an argument. Logic and logical fallacies are important for everyone to know, but it is especially important for Christians to know since they are called to promote truth. Paul writes that the Christian should be in the practice of “laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25, NASB). So, the Christian should know how to speak the truth and to avoid any fallacy of thinking. Unfortunately, many sites devoted to logic promote an atheist agenda. One might think that the atheist has a stranglehold on logic, but nothing further could be the case. Therefore, this article will provide 33 logical fallacies that every Christian, in fact every person, should know.

philosopher-socrates

Ad Hominem:  This fallacy means literally “against the man.” This is a classic debate tactic. Instead of attacking an argument’s validity, the debater will instead attack one’s opponent. For example: some atheists have attacked the character of William Lane Craig instead of dealing with Craig’s cosmological arguments. This is an ad hominem fallacy.

Ambiguity:       The fallacy of ambiguity is used when the debater uses vague language that could be taken in a variety of ways. This is also known as someone speaking “out of both sides of one’s mouth.” Politicians are normally the worst culprits of this fallacy. When posed with a particular problem, the politician may claim that he or she may not have known about the issue when it is clear that the politician did. Or, it could be demonstrated by a politician presenting a bill without directly expressing the contents of the bill.

Anecdotal:       The anecdotal fallacy is found when one uses one’s experience instead of a sound argument when making a case. For instance, one could argue that one person benefited from taking a particular medicine; therefore everyone should take that medicine. It could be that not everyone would benefit from that kind of medicine due to the differences in each person’s body. It is for this reason that the Christian should not only rely upon their experience with Christ when making a case for Christianity, but provide the evidence for Christianity in addition to providing one with their experience. If one relies only on their experience, one could be found guilty of committing the anecdotal fallacy.

Appeal to Authority:    This fallacy is often used in the atheist community, but is often used in the theist community, as well. The appeal to authority fallacy is committed when one uses the beliefs of one in authority (scientist, archaeologist, theologian, philosopher, etc.) instead of dealing with the argument itself. It may be that the authority in question is correct. However, just because one is in authority does not make the authority figure correct. Consider the fact that at one time; most scientists and theologians believed that the world was flat. Thus, an appeal to authority would have been flawed in those days.

Appeal to Consequences:        In this fallacy, one uses consequences without providing any real evidence that a consequence would follow the antecedent. Mothers forgive me. But this is normally used by mothers when they tell their children that if they do not eat their Brussel sprouts they will not grow up big and strong. It may be that the children will grow up big and strong without eating Brussel sprouts. The mother has not provided a clear link between the consumption of Brussel sprouts and growing up big and strong. (Note to children: I would not use this against your mothers or you may find yourself the victim of the appeal to force.)

crying_baby-1680x1050

Appeal to Emotion:     This fallacy is found in the classic “guilt trip.” In this fallacy, the debater will manipulate an emotional response from the listener without providing any clear evidence for the debater’s claim. For instance, atheists will appeal to the atrocities performed by Christians as an argument against the resurrection of Christ. It could be that Christ has risen and that Christians have performed atrocious acts, but the atrocities do not deny the validity of Christ’s resurrection. Grandparents are good at the “appeal to emotion.” For instance, a grandmother may claim, “You never come see me. You must not love me anymore.” In fact, it could be that the grandchild loves the grandparent very much, but is not able to see the grandparent as they wish they could. Nonetheless, this is an appeal to emotion.

Appeal to Force:         The appeal to force is also known by its Latin name argumentum ad baculum. This fallacy is found when a person, or institution, forces their beliefs upon another by issuing threats. The person or institution has not proven its case but forces others to believe by force. For instance: in certain regimes of the past, if one did not become an atheist and adhere to the government’s new system of control, the person could lose his/her occupation, could be ostracized, or could be executed.

Appeal to Nature:        This fallacy claims that just because something is “natural” it must be good. For instance, some will argue that men are drawn to have multiple relationships with other many other women, so infidelity must be okay. One can find the falsehood in such a claim. Just because something comes “natural” does not make it right. Unfortunately, this fallacy is made by many trying to cover up their misdeeds.

Appeal to Novelty:       This fallacy assumes that just because something is new that the thing, or idea, must be better. For instance, many believed that Windows Vista was going to be better than Windows XP because it was newer. It was later found that Windows XP was far better since Vista had many programming flaws. Therefore, just because something is new does not make it better unless it is demonstrated to be better.

Appeal to Poverty:      This fallacy occurs when one assumes that just because a view is held by the poor that it must be true. This is the opposite of the appeal to wealth fallacy. It may be that most poor people believe that the government is oppressing them. The view may or may not be true. However, such a view cannot be accepted on the merits that the poor hold it without any other evidence.

Appeal to Tradition:    This fallacy is the opposite of the appeal to novelty fallacy. In this fallacy, one holds that just because a viewpoint is old that it must be true. For instance, some Calvinists will hold that their view is true because it correlates with the view held by Augustine. It could be that the view is true. However, one cannot claim the accuracy of the view by its antiquity alone.

Appeal to Wealth:        This fallacy is opposite of the appeal to poverty fallacy. In this fallacy, one holds a view as true because its adherents are wealthy. For instance, one might claim that Al Gore is correct about global warming because Gore is wealthy. The merits of global warming have nothing to do with the wealth of one of its advocates: Al Gore.

Bandwagon-Lesson-1

Bandwagon Fallacy:   This fallacy is based upon an appeal to popularity. One claims that something is good based only on the fact that everyone else thinks that it is good. For instance a young lady may ask her parents if she can have her tongue pierced because all of her friends are piercing their tongues. The problem is that a view can be popular and be incorrect. Therefore, the bandwagon fallacy should be avoided.

20070926_circularBig

Begging the Question/Circular Reasoning:    Circular reasoning is performed when the conclusion is presented in the argument. For instance, a Christian may be asked, “How do you know that the Bible is true?” The Christian responds, “I know the Bible is true because the Bible says that it is true.” This is providing absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Such a form of defense should be wholeheartedly rejected.

Black or White:           This fallacy is committed when only two options are presented when more options may be available. For instance, some claim that one can only have faith or reason. However, it can be that one can hold faith and reason.

Burden of Proof:         This fallacy is committed when one assumes that they do not have to provide evidence for their claim and that the burden is upon the one trying to prove them wrong. For example, the atheist may desire to have 100% certainty that God exists in order to believe. Therefore, the atheist will declare that the Christian must provide this level of evidence or the Christian’s view is wrong, or vice versa. Therefore, it could be said that a person that desires more evidence than is necessary to believe/disbelieve.

Composition/Division:            The composition fallacy assumes that what is true of a part is true of the whole. The division fallacy assumes that what is true of the whole is true of the parts. Someone might claim that since North Carolina has islands offshore and is one of the states of the United States of America, that all states in the United States of America must have islands offshore. This is impossible since many states are not aligned along an ocean. Therefore, this is the composition fallacy. Someone could also claim that since the United States is one nation, all the states of the nation must experience the same weather. This would be considered the division fallacy.

False Cause:               This fallacy occurs when someone finds a correlation and assumes a cause. For instance, one may view a chart to find that the crime rate in a particular community is rising while the immigration rate in the community is also rising. One may assume that the immigration rise was causing the rise in crime. There may be other causes afoot than just the rise in immigration.

Gambler’s Fallacy:     This fallacy has ties to Las Vegas. This fallacy occurs when one attributes a run of events to independent events. For instance, a gambler may claim to have a “run” on the roulette wheel. In fact, there is no run but a series of independent events. For instance, assuming that since 9 red cards have been consistently taken from a card deck that a black card will be drawn next is committing the gambler’s fallacy.

Genetic95

Genetic Fallacy:          This fallacy is committed when one’s argument is considered good or bad only based upon the advocate’s ancestry. For instance, a theologian from Nigeria may not have his arguments taken seriously because he is dark-skinned and comes from a third world nation. The guilty party would have committed the genetic fallacy. Or, a Christian scientist may not have her experiment considered because she is a Christian. This is also a genetic fallacy.

Loaded Question:        This fallacy is committed when one asks a question with a presumption built into it. This is performed in order to side-track the particular person in question. For instance, one may ask a Christian apologist, “Since a belief in God is primitive and superstitious, wouldn’t that make your arguments primitive and superstitious?” Or if one were to ask another, “Do you need help with your drug problem” when there is no evidence of a drug problem; this would be an example of a loaded question.

Middle Ground Fallacy:         This fallacy assumes that a “middle ground” between two extremes is always true. Or, this fallacy can be conducted when assuming that a middle ground exists when it does not. For instance, some may try to find a middle ground in the debate on the existence of God. However, there are only two options: God exists or God does not exist. No middle ground can exist in such a case.

Moralistic Fallacy:      This fallacy is the opposite of the appeal to nature fallacy. In this fallacy, one assumes that because something should be a certain way, something is that way. For instance, one may claim that all parents will take care of their children because all parents should take care of their children. Unfortunately, not all parents do take care of their children.

RobRoyLiamNeeson_6135

No True Scotsman:     This fallacy is somewhat difficult to describe. To simplify, this fallacy avoids criticism by changing the dynamic of the argument so present the case unfalsifiable. The tenets are changed to avoid scrutiny. On http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com, a good example of this is presented, “Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge, to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman sugars his porridge” (https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/no-true-scotsman).

Personal Incredulity:   This fallacy is committed when one passes off difficult concepts as inherently false because one does not understand the concept. For instance, Jimmy does not think that Thomism is a valid theological system because he does not understand the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Or, Betty does not believe in the distance of light-years because she cannot understand how light can travel at 186,000 miles per second. Therefore, a light-year must not exist.

Post Hoc Fallacy:       This fallacy is committed when one assumes that things happen after an unrelated experience. For instance, athletes participate in certain rituals before they take the field. They believe these rituals will help them perform in the game. In reality, there is no correlation. Note: some sites have claimed that the efficacy of prayer is a post hoc fallacy. However, this claim is committing several fallacies including the anecdotal and black-or-white fallacy. The author who claims that prayer is superstitious is abiding by their own preconceived notions that God does not exist. If God does exist, then it is entirely logical to expect an answer to one’s prayer. It is just as logical as expecting a person on the other end of the telephone line to respond to one’s question. Beware of sites that promote a genetic fallacy in designating that people of faith are automatically wrong because they believe in the power of God.

red-herring

Red Herring:   The red herring fallacy came from fox hunters who sent out their dogs to chase foxes only to find that their dogs were distracted by red herrings (perhaps purposely placed by opposing hunters) which led them off the trail of the fox. This is a tactic used to get a person off their point. For instance: a Christian apologist is addressing the evidence for God’s existence. Someone then asks, “What about the crusades? Don’t the evil acts performed by the Crusaders in the name of God negate God’s existence?” Obviously, the Crusades have nothing to do with the plausibility of God’s existence.

slippery slope

Slippery Slope:            This fallacy assumes that just because a person does one thing that the person will eventually do something else. For instance, some would claim that if one listens to rock music then one will become a delinquent. Or others assume if one reads any other translation other than the King James Version, one will become a flaming liberal. Obviously, the consequents do not proceed from the antecedents with the slippery slope fallacy.

Special Pleading:        This fallacy is similar to the No True Scotsman fallacy. In this fallacy, one refuses to accept that one is wrong by inventing ways in which to hold to old notions. For instance, it has been demonstrated that the Alexandrian codex is a better than the Byzantium codex for use in translating the Bible. However, for those who desire to hold to the Byzantium texts, one will claim that the Alexandrian texts were modified by cults when there is no evidence to back up such a claim. If science demonstrates something to be true, one will claim that science is faulty. These are cases of special pleading.

Straw man newspaper

Strawman:       Strawman fallacies are among one of the more popular fallacies that are employed. This fallacy misrepresents someone’s argument to make the argument easier to attack. Unfortuately, this happens far more than this writer would like to imagine. For instance, Bill might claim that Sally is a tree-hugger because she believes in global warming. Or, Brent makes Hugh out to be a Darwinist because Hugh believes in an old-earth interpretation of Genesis. These are examples of the strawman fallacy.

The Fallacy Fallacy:   This fallacy accuses a claim to be false because it is poorly argued or another fallacy has been committed. In other words, the claim is not evaluated on its own merits but by the way it was presented. Since Susan presented a poor presentation on the nutritional value of blueberries, Barbara believes that blueberries should never be eaten. Barbara has committed the fallacy fallacy.

texas-sharpshooter-by-mahbsol

The Texas Sharpshooter:        This fallacy gets its name from a sharpshooter who shoots holes in a barn and then paints a bullseye around the majority of bullet holes (Richardson 2012, http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com). The person committing this fallacy will choose data that only suits his argument or presumption. For instance, a drug company may only choose positive data that supports a drug that they are promoting without considering the negative data. Or, Zane, a statistician, evaluates the educational systems of various states. He only chooses the best schools to evaluate in his state, while choosing the worst schools in other states, in order to demonstrate that his state’s educational system is better than any other system. Zane has committed the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.

tu-quoque

Tu Quoque:     Pronounced (too-kwoo-kee), this person committing this fallacy turns criticism back upon the critic instead of dealing with the criticism itself. It’s also called “passing the buck.” For instance, Christine’s theory is challenged by Cassandra because of a mathematical error. Christine retorted, “Oh yeah, well your last theory had two mathematical errors in it and you didn’t hear me say anything about it.” In this case, Christine was guilty of the tu quoque fallacy because she did not deal with the criticism but instead dealt with the criticism by offering criticism.

Conclusion

One may find that they have engaged in these fallacies more than on one occasion. While these logical fallacies are certainly not the unpardonable sin, they should be avoided by the one promoting truth. The Christian’s faith is built upon fact and reality. The Christian has nothing to hide. Therefore, these fallacies should be avoided as much as possible. Remember the words of Paul, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).

 

Bibliography

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Richardson, Jesse. (2012). http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com. Accessed July 28, 2014.

Scripture marked (NASB) comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Scripture marked (NIV) comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011.

Some information taken from www.logicalfallacies.info. Accessed July 28, 2014.

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Being Skeptical of Hyper-Skepticism

A healthy dose of skepticism is a good trait to possess. This helps us to discern fact from fiction and keeps us from being someone’s pawn. The Bible shows that discernment is necessary. John writes that one should “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, ESV). Therefore, one should not trust everything that comes along life’s way. However, when one becomes overly skeptical, it is easy for one to become just as easily duped. In fact, it may be said that extreme skepticism (henceforth termed “hyper-skepticism”) can lead one to a point that nothing can be accepted.

Hyper-skepticism is a growing problem. In fact, I recently conversed with an individual on the issue of hyper-skepticism. Throughout our conversation, I discovered three enormous problems with hyper skepticism.

 skepticism_question everything

Problem 1.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of trust in experience.

The first problem that comes from hyper-skepticism is a lack of trust in experience. In fact, the conversation I held with the individual began in this realm. The antagonist did not believe that one could believe in religious experiences. However, I provided data that corresponds not just with one person’s experience, but the experience of countless others. For example, one cannot deny the incredible testimonies of Muslims who have had experiences with Christ which have led them to convert to Christianity despite the threat of execution. This was not good enough for the skeptic. This led me to ask how one could trust their experience in anything. Surprisingly, the antagonist agreed. This leads to further problems which will be dealt with in a moment.

When skepticism gets to the point that one’s experiences cannot be trusted, then how can one learn anything about life and reality? The experiences of life mold one to become a better person. I would argue that one of God’s greatest teachers in life is that of experience. Solomon wisely writes that “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1, NASB). Life provides such reproof, or correction. Solomon rightly states “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (Proverbs 26:11, NIV). This is the problem with hyper-skepticism. If one’s experiences cannot be trusted, then how does one ever learn? Furthermore, it would seem that the lack of trust in religious experiences stems more from an anti-theological bias rather than intellectualism. How intellectual would it for the skeptic to resist God’s extension of grace towards the skeptic? In such a case, hyper-skepticism has little to do with intellectualism and more to do with a heart of rebellion.

 skepticism-sm

Problem 2.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of trust in empirical data.

The second problem of hyper-skepticism emerges from the first. If experiences cannot be trusted, then how can empirical data be trusted? Wait Pastor Brian!!! Empirical data is outside of one’s senses, isn’t it? Then how does this relate to one’s sensual experiences? Consider this: one must use their senses to evaluate empirical data. As you are reading this article, you are evoking at least one of your senses: sight. Therefore, you are reading the empirical data (the words) by your sensual experience (sight). The same is true for the scientific method. When a scientist evaluates a claim, she may write down particular formulae. This uses sight and touch. She will then test her theory. The testing may include a wide variety of senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, and perhaps tasting). Therefore, if one cannot trust one’s experiences (sensual data), then empirical data is out of reach. The scientific method collapses from hyper-skepticism.

The apostle Thomas has been dubbed with the title “Doubting Thomas.” This is due to Thomas’ claim that he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he saw the risen Christ for himself. Jesus appeared to Thomas and said to him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it into my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27, ESV). Thomas responded by proclaiming “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)! Thomas believed the data that was in front of him. In fact, Thomas was no longer a skeptic. Thomas was a believer. Thomas’ belief in the risen Jesus led him to eventually suffer martyrdom in Madras, India as identified by ancient testimony (see the article “Embarrassing Details Concerning the First Easter” here at pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com for more information concerning Thomas’ martyrdom at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/top-5-embarrassing-details-concerning-the-first-easter/). What if Thomas had not believed his experience? Thomas certainly would not have suffered martyrdom. Thomas would have said to have been foolish in such a case.

The skeptic I debated conceded the point that nothing could be known with hyper-skepticism and made the claim that certain experiences can be trusted. But this opens up the gate to all experiences. If someone is sick, would they deny their symptoms and pretend like they were not sick? How foolish! The sick person would seek medical treatment due to the experiences they were having. Should one pick and choose what experiences in their daily life is valid and which ones are not? No one lives life like this unless one is on some form of hallucinogenic drug. But religious experiences are not based on hallucinogens as argued by the debater. Why deny religious experiences if there are good reasons for believing their authenticity? It is true that some who have claimed to have religious experiences had other motives behind their claim. Some skepticism is healthy; however, for the skeptic to devalue all religious experiences when those experiences are held by those who certainly do not meet the standard of schizophrenia, or subject to hallucinations, due to an anti-theological bias is absurd. It leads towards the hyper-skepticism that has been evaluated in this article.

 conviction

Problem 3.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of knowledge in existence.

Finally, if one cannot trust one’s experiences or empirical data, then nothing is knowable. Even Rene Descartes “cognito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am) collapses with hyper-skepticism. How then can one even trust one’s existence? If nothing can be trusted, then not even one’s own existence is safe. Perhaps the person is just a delusion. Perhaps all existence is a delusion. Again, this leads to absurdity. Descartes’ point is that one can know one’s existence and that person’s existence lends itself to the ultimate existence of a Creator. However, with hyper-skepticism, such cannot be said. In fact, hyper-skepticism lends itself to nothingness. Yet, the conscious, thinking, observer clearly knows that “nothing” is “no-thing.” We do not live in a world of “no-things,” we live in a world of existent realities. Therefore, hyper-skepticism should be devalued and rejected wholeheartedly by any truth-seeker.

Certainty-in-Marketing

Conclusion

Luckily, things are knowable. Some certainties do exist. Norman Geisler in his book The Big Book of Christian Apologetics lists five certainties:

“Logical Certainty. Logical certainty is found largely in mathematics and pure logic…

Metaphysical Certainty. …For example, I know for certain that I exist. This is undeniably so, since I cannot deny my existence without existing to make the denial…

Moral Certainty. Moral certainty exists where the evidence is so great that the mind lacks any reason to veto the will to believe it is so…In legal terms, this is what is meant by ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’…

Practical Certainty (High Probability). Practical certainty is not as strong as moral certainty. Persons claim to be ‘certain’ about things they believe have a high probability of truth…

Spiritual (Supernatural) Certainty. If we grant a theistic God’s existence, he could give supernatural assurance that something is true. Likewise, if God speaks directly to a person…, then that person could have a spiritual certainty that transcends other kinds of certainty, because it comes directly from God…” (Geisler 2012, 74).

There are indeed things that can be known with a great deal of certainty. Religious experiences allow for a certainty that God not only exists, but is actively involved in creation and in the lives of human beings. Unfortunately, the hyper-skeptic may never be able to experience such a certainty, or any certainty for that matter, while they hold to their unjustified hyper-skepticism.

 

Bibliography

All Scripture marked (ESV) comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

All Scripture marked (NASB) comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

All Scripture marked (NIV) comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011.

Geisler, Norman. The Big Book of Christian Apologetics: An A to Z Guide. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.

 

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Evaluation of John Calvin’s Beliefs Concerning Election

Dislaimer: The following is a paper submitted by Pastor Brian Chilton to Liberty University. This paper has been scanned and admitted through “Safe Assign” and will be detected by any and all accredited universities and colleges if a person attempts to use the following paper as their own. No part of this paper may be copied and pasted into another paper without giving credit to the author. Failure to do so may, and most likely will, result in charges of plagiarism by the student’s respected school. Charges of plagiarism can result in academic probation and/or expulsion.

 

Thesis Statement

The purpose of this paper will be to evaluate the beliefs of John Calvin concerning election.

John Calvin
John Calvin

 

Introduction

 Calvinism is one of the most controversial theological systems that have entered Christendom. Do modern individuals truly understand Calvin’s beliefs on election? This paper will seek to evaluate the essence of John Calvin’s beliefs pertaining to election. In order to accomplish this evaluation, the paper will first define election from a theological standpoint. Then, the paper will provide an evaluation of Calvin’s view of God in relation to election. The paper will then provide an evaluation of Calvin’s views of humanity as it pertains to election. Finally, the paper will provide an evaluation of Calvin’s understanding of human free will.

 

Defining Election and John Calvin

In this portion of the paper, the man behind Calvinism will be examined. Also, the definition of election will be presented and shown how it relates to the viewpoints of John Calvin. John Calvin is best known for his viewpoints concerning election. In fact, election is Calvin’s imprint upon theology. Calvin was in fact the “systematizer of the Reformation…”[1] Galli and Olsen state that “To this day, Calvin’s name is associated, for good and for ill, with the city of Geneva. And Calvin’s belief in God’s election is his theological legacy to the church.”[2] For this reason, it is important that one understands the man behind the doctrine as one undertakes a study on Calvin’s view of election.

John Calvin was born in “Noyon, Picardie. His father was a notary who served the bishop of Noyon, and as a result Calvin, still while a child, received a canonry in the cathedral that would pay for his education.”[3] Therefore, Calvin benefited from an active involvement in ecclesiastical and academic life from an early age. Eventually Calvin would run into problems with French royalty due to his involvement in the Protestant movement. At this time, “The Anabaptist takeover of Münster…made Francis I regard anyone interested in reform of the church as potentially seditious.”[4] Although Calvin was known as a pastor and reformer, Calvin is perhaps best known for his writings. The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which will be referenced in this paper concerning Calvin’s theology, became a manual for those who adhered to the Reformed branch of Protestantism. Calvin, in fact, had two reasons for writing this manual. Steinmetz indicates that the Institutes were “…designed not only to ‘transmit certain rudiments by which those who are touched with any zeal for religion might be shaped to true godliness’ but also to explain the theological views of Protestants to the French king…”[5] Therefore, one must wonder how much of Calvin’s Institutes were influenced by his desire to promote what would be seen as a peaceful version of Protestantism…if at all.

When one speaks of the issue of election, that which has already been identified as Calvin’s imprint upon theology, it is a multi-faceted affair. Election involves one’s views of God, humanity, and human free-will. However, a simple definition of election would be rendered in six statements as given by Klooster:

1. Election is a sovereign, eternal decree of God…2. The presupposition of God’s eternal decree of election is that the human race is fallen; election involves God’s rescue plan…3. Election is ‘election in Christ’…4. Election involves both the elect’s salvation and the means to that end…5. Election (as well as reprobation) is individual, personal, specific, particular…6. Finally, the ultimate goal of election is the glory and praise of God.[6]

All orthodox Christians[7] hold to some version of election. However, Calvin and his followers would view election differently than those who were not of the Reformed tradition. Election involves how one views God, humanity, and a person’s ability, or lack of ability, to respond to the grace of God. In the next section, the paper will address Calvin’s view of God in relation to his view of election.

institutes

Evaluation of Calvin’s View of God Concerning Election

In this portion of the paper, Calvin’s viewpoints concerning God as it relates to his theology of election will be presented. How does Calvin view God? John Calvin has an incredibly high view of God. In fact, Calvin believes that God is so great that it may be impossible for humanity to fathom the greatness of God. Calvin writes that,

 Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.[8]

Therefore, human knowledge of God is limited at best in the Calvinist theological theme. While Calvin would accept that humans can have natural knowledge about God, that knowledge would not equate to saving faith. For instance, Calvin does not deny that natural knowledge of God[9] is possible. Rather, saving faith cannot be known without special revelation and that revelation comes from God. Calvin writes,

For although no man will now, in the present ruin of the human race, perceive God to be either a father, or the author of salvation, or propitious in any respect, until Christ interpose to make our peace; still it is one thing to perceive that God our Maker supports us by his power, rules us by his providence, fosters us by his goodness, and visits us with all kinds of blessings, and another thing to embrace the grace of reconciliation offered to us in Christ. Since, then, the Lord first appears, as well in the creation of the world as in the general doctrine of Scripture, simply as a Creator, and afterwards as a Redeemer in Christ,—a twofold knowledge of him hence arises: of these the former is now to be considered, the latter will afterwards follow in its order.[10]

Therefore, Calvin would tend to believe that God is known by all individuals in a general sense as Creator, but the personal relationship offered to a human being is not known unless God reveals Himself as Redeemer.

Such a view is also apparent in Calvin’s commentary on Romans 1:20. Paul writes that “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.”[11] Concerning this passage, Calvin states that Paul “does not mention all the particulars which may be thought to belong to God; but he states, that we can arrive at the knowledge of his eternal power and divinity; for he who is the framer of all things, must necessarily be without beginning and from himself.”[12] One can almost find hints of Thomas Aquinas in Calvin’s theology; for it was Aquinas that said that “it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.”[13] God is eternal and beyond the scope of the universe. Therefore when it comes to all things including salvation, God is the first mover. God finds man and not vice versa. Helm writes that “Calvin makes it clear in the Institutes that he is committed to the view that God is simple (‘a simple, single essence’). But he not only adheres to a version of the idea of divine simplicity, he is an eternalist; that is, he holds that God exists beyond or outside time.”[14]Calvin’s theology is based upon a high view of God.

How much can humanity know about God outside the scope of special revelation?  Surprisingly, Calvin believed that humans could know some of the attributes of God pertaining to God’s existence. Calvin wrote that “though experience testifies that a seed of religion is divinely sown in all, scarcely one in a hundred is found who cherishes it in his heart, and not one in whom it grows to maturity so far is it from yielding fruit in its season.”[15] For Calvin, an element of divine knowledge is known by all because of the necessity of God’s existence, but this did not indicate that Calvin believed that humanity could make a necessary response to God unless moved because God is the prime mover as will be noted in the next section.

Before moving on, one must note the great emphasis that Calvin places on God’s sovereignty. It is this emphasis that sets Calvinism apart from other theological systems. Norman Geisler describes the term sovereignty as “‘what a sovereign has,’ namely control over his kingdom. God’s sovereignty—the idea that God is in control of the whole universe…”[16] Perhaps no other passage of Scripture relays the sovereignty of God better than Romans chapter 9. It is perhaps in Calvin’s commentary that one catches the full glimpse of Calvin’s view of God. Calvin is not persuaded that the love of God is the moving force behind God’s salvation of humanity. Calvin writes that he did “consent not to the opinion of those who think that Paul spoke these words from regard to God only, and not to men; nor do I agree with others, who say, that without any thought of God, he was influenced only by love to men: but I connect the love of men with a zeal for God’s glory.”[17] Therefore for Calvin, God’s primary choice to save was based on God’s sovereign zeal for God’s own glory. Calvin would say that God has no obligation to save anyone since God relies upon no one or nothing. So, God’s choice of saving souls is entirely God’s sovereign choice. Calvin would make this clear as he wrote that

But that no one may imagine, that Pharaoh was moved from above by some kind of common and indiscriminate impulse, to rush headlong into that madness the special cause, or end, is mentioned; as though it had been said,—that God not only knew what Pharaoh would do, but also designedly ordained him for this purpose. It hence follows, that it is in vain to contend with him, as though he were bound to give a reason; for he of himself comes forth before us, and anticipates the objection, by declaring, that the reprobate, through whom he designs his name to be made known, proceed from the hidden fountain of his providence.[18]

In one sense, it would seem that Calvin viewed foreknowledge as part of God’s general knowledge. That foreknowledge, or prescience, was not a prerequisite for a person’s salvation as the decision to save originated with God. When one examines Calvin’s statements closely, one will find that all things were appointed by God; being that some humans were chosen by the sovereignty of God for heaven and others were chosen for damnation for the purpose of God’s glory. It is here that one must pause and contemplate whether Calvin does an injustice to the character of God. Arminius would certainly believe so.

Jacob Arminius held that Calvin’s interpretation of election was “repugnant to the nature of God, especially with regard to those attributes by which he performs and manages all things: his wisdom, justice, and goodness.”[19] Arminius would hold that, from God’s perspective, individuals are chosen by “which God decreed to save and to damn certain particular persons. This decree has its foundation in divine foreknowledge, through which God has known from all eternity those individuals who the established means of his prevenient grace would come to faith and believe.”[20] For Geisler, salvation is not an either/or situation but a both/and concerning election and foreknowledge. Geisler writes that “Election is not based on or dependent on foreknowledge. Rather, election is in accord with it.”[21] Geisler would not see foreknowledge as the prerequisite for salvation nor would he find foreknowledge of ill effect on the purpose of election. For this reason, Geisler would not belong completely in the Arminian camp and he would not completely belong in the Calvinist camp either.[22] While this writer would agree with Geisler’s interpretation, one should expect to find such difficulties when seeking to understand the infinite, sovereign God and God’s relationship with humanity. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Calvin’s main emphasis on God’s decision-making is less in tune with God’s loving nature but rather on God’s glory. The reverse is true for Arminius’ theology. How one view’s God’s nature impacts one’s views concerning the human capacity to respond to God’s grace. This will be the issue in the next section.

 

Evaluation of Calvin’s View of Humanity Concerning Election

In this portion of the paper, Calvin’s viewpoints concerning the nature and depravity of humanity will be given. Does a person have knowledge enough of God to respond to God’s grace? It must be noted that Arminius, contrary to popular belief, did not hold that one could consciously respond to the grace of God without first having one’s eyes opened to the gift of salvation by the grace of God. Arminius states that he “would go so far as to assert that the creature, although regenerated, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any temptation, apart from this preventing and awakening, this continuing and cooperative grace.”[23] The issue of the free will of humanity will be examined in the next section. However, the nature of human depravity is oddly shared by both Calvin and Arminius. The question is what is the extent of this depravity?

For Calvin, human depravity is complete and extends to every faculty. Calvin defines original sin as “a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh.”[24] Calvin would view humanity as completely depraved and totally incapable of responding in any way to the goodness of God. But what about the love of God regarding lost souls?

When considering the lost, one must remember that Calvin focuses on the glory of God over the love of God. The apostle Paul asked, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?”[25] Calvin views this verse as follows,

If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth;—what is there worthy of being reprehended in this dispensation? [26]

Non-Calvinists and moderate Calvinists may view this verse differently. Geisler would view Romans 9:22 as indicating that the vessels of wrath are “objects of wrath because they refuse to repent.”[27] Calvin would respond that individuals are completely at the mercy of God’s sovereign will. The Calvinist view of God and humanity culminate to the view of human free will. Do humans have the capacity to respond to God’s grace?

 

John Calvin
John Calvin

Evaluation of Calvin’s View of Free Will Concerning Election

In this portion of the paper, Calvin’s views concerning the extent of freedom in the human will be explored. Does Calvin reject any human involvement in the process of salvation? Asked differently, do human beings have enough freedom to respond to the grace of God? This issue is another distinction that separates Calvin’s views from others. Arminius suggests that “There is not a single doctrine that the Papists, Anabaptists, and Lutherans oppose with greater intensity”[28] than that of Calvin’s views of predestination and the absence of human free will. So what is it that Calvin believes concerning human freedom? Calvin sees humanity as helpless and completely enslaved in sin. For Calvin, it is erroneous to think that humanity can respond to God’s grace. Calvin writes that “Some make man a fellow-worker with God in such a sense, that man’s suffrage ratifies election, so that, according to them, the will of man is superior to the counsel of God.”[29] In regards of human freedom, Calvin sees it impossible for one to choose good because one is so indelibly enslaved to sin. Calvin asks “How few are there who, when they hear free will attributed to man, do not immediately imagine that he is the master of his mind and will in such a sense, that he can of himself incline himself either to good or evil?”[30] Therefore, nothing good could be known and no salvation experienced without the working of the Holy Spirit of God. Bolt writes that “There are good classic theological connections between general revelation and pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), and an emphasis on the cosmic or universal work of the Holy Spirit is a significant development in contemporary theology, especially in ecclesiology or the doctrine of the church.”[31] These beliefs gave rise to what is classical called irresistible grace.

Irresistible grace is understood as man’s inability to resist the will of God. This is in stark contrast to Arminius who states that “Scripture teaches that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace offered.”[32] In fact, Arminius sees Calvin’s views as problematic in the realm of prayer as “Prayers cannot be offered with suitable faith and confidence that they will be profitable to all the hearers of the Word when among the hearers there are those whom God is willing to save, but also those whom, by his absolute, eternal, and immutable will (antecedent to all things and all causes), it is his pleasure and will to damn.”[33]Geisler would agree as he writes of Romans 9:15 that “God has mercy on whom He will have mercy. But both here and everywhere else in Scripture, God (in accordance with His unchangeably loving nature) wills to have mercy on everyone who truly repents.”[34]It would be difficult for one to disagree with Arminius and Geisler in light of Scriptures such as 2 Peter 3:9 where the apostle writes that “The Lord is…patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”[35]Some might claim that the apostle was speaking only of the elect. However, such an interpretation does not fit the context as Peter addresses the judgment of God in 2 Peter 3:3-7. Yet, Arminius and Geisler would agree with Calvin that the grace of God is necessary in order for one to even have the chance to respond to God’s salvation. Perhaps the hinge of difference between Calvin’s viewpoints and those of moderate and non-Calvinists is based upon human ability, or inability, to respond to the grace of God. It is agreed with Velde in that “Behind the discussion on election and reprobation is the question as to the cause by which we receive salvation.”[36] In Calvin’s view, nothing is superior to God’s sovereignty, not even human freedom. All revolves around the glory of God in Calvin’s theology.

 

Conclusion

 This paper has evaluated the beliefs of John Calvin concerning election. First, it was demonstrated that Calvin held a high view of God believing that God was superior to all things and that God was above human comprehension, even though natural revelation was a possibility for all people.  Next, it was shown that God held a low view of humanity. Calvin did not think it was possible for humans to know much about God other than that which could be known by the course of efficient causality through natural revelation. Finally, flowing from the first two tenets, Calvin did not believe that human beings could respond to the grace of God.

All theological systems have problems to some degree. While the impact and writings of John Calvin are greatly appreciated, this writer cannot fully support all of Calvin’s conclusions. Perhaps the best description of this writer’s theological perspective is found in what Millard J. Erickson termed “(congruism) that gives primary place to God’s sovereignty, while seeking to relate it in a positive way to human freedom and individuality.”[37] In reality, this system is closely akin to a version of Molinism put forth by the theologian Luis de Molina.

Regardless of where one finds themselves in the election debate, one cannot help but appreciate the contributions of John Calvin. Calvin is loved by his supporters at the Synod of Dort and resented by those of the Remonstrant movement. Calvin’s viewpoints were controversial in his day and continue even at the time of this writing. While the issues of election are unlikely to be solved on this side of eternity, Calvin’s contributions can be appreciated by his admirers and despisers alike.

  

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologicae. In Summa of the Summa. Edited by Peter Kreeft. Translated by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990.

Arminius, Jacob. “Declaration of Sentiments.” In Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments. Edited and translated by W. Stephen Gunter. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012.

Bolt, John. “Getting the ‘two books’ straight: with a little help from Herman Bavinck and John Calvin.” Calvin Theological Journal 46.2 (November 1, 2011): 315-332. ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials, EBSCOhost. (Accessed May 30, 2014).

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge, Esquire. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997.

Calvin, John and John Owen. Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Edited and Translated by John Owen. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Galli, Mark and Ted Olsen. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Geisler, Norman. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will, 3rd Edition. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010.

Helm, Paul. “John Calvin on ‘before all ages’.” Tyndale Bulletin 53.1 (January 1, 2002): 143-148. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost. (Accessed May 30, 2014).

Klooster, F. H. “Elect, Election.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.

McGrath, Alister. Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution-A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First. New York: HarperOne, 2007.

Reid, W. S. “Calvin, John.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.

­­Steinmetz, David Curtis. Calvin in Context, 2nd Edition. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Velde, Roelf Theodoorte. “Soberly and skillfully’: John Calvin and Jerome Zanchi (1516-1590) as proponents of Reformed doctrine.” Church History and Religious Culture 91.1-2 (January 1, 2011): 59-71. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost. (Accessed May 30, 2014).

 

Footnotes

[1] W. S. Reid, “Calvin, John,” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, Walter A. Elwell, ed (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 201.

 

[2] Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, “Introduction,” 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 38.

 

[3] Reid, 201.

 

[4] Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First (New York: HarperOne, 2007), 89.

 

[5] David Curtis Steinmetz, Calvin in Context, 2nd Edition (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 10.

 

[6] F. H. Klooster, “Elect, Election,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, Walter A. Elwell, ed (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 370-371.

 

[7] “Orthodox” here referring to those who hold to the fundamental truths of the Christian faith and not those of the Greek or Russian Orthodox Church.

 

[8] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Henry Beveridge, Esquire, trans (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997), I.1.1.

 

[9]Natural knowledge meaning that knowledge known from creation and not by special revelation.

 

[10] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.ii.2.

 

[11] Romans 1:20.

 

[12] John Calvin and John Owen, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 70.

 

[13]Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologicae, I.2.3., in Summa of the Summa, Peter Kreeft ed, The Fathers of the English Dominican Province, trans (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 67.

 

[14] Paul Helm, “John Calvin on ‘before all ages’,” Tyndale Bulletin 53.1 (January 1, 2002): 144.

[15] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.4.1.

 

[16] Norman L. Geisler, Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will, 3rd Ed (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2010), 13.

 

[17] Calvin and Owen, 337.

 

[18] Calvin and Owen, 361.

 

[19]Jacob Arminius, Declaration of Sentiments, in Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation with Introduction and Theological Commentary, W. Stephen Gunter, ed and trans (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2002), 113.

 

[20]Ibid, 135.

 

[21] Geisler, 67.

 

[22]Geisler titles his position “Moderate Calvinism,” see Geisler, 19.

[23] Arminius, 141.

 

[24] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.1.8.

 

[25] Romans 9:22.

 

[26] Calvin and Owen, 368.

 

[27] Geisler, 100.

 

[28] Arminius, 129.

 

[29] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.24.3.

[30] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.2.7.

 

[31] John Bolt, “Getting the ‘two books’ straight: with a little help from Herman Bavinck and John Calvin,” Calvin Theological Journal 46.2 (November 1, 2011): 329.

[32] Arminius, 141.

 

[33] Ibid, 123.

 

[34] Geisler, 96.

 

[35]2 Peter 3:9.

 

[36] Roelf Theodoorte Velde, “Soberly and skillfully’: John Calvin and Jerome Zanchi (1516-1590) as proponents of Reformed doctrine,” Church History and Religious Culture 91.1-2 (January 1, 2011): 63.

[37] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 448.

(c) Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Laying the Smackdown to Austin’s Worldview

stone cold

If anyone has ever watched professional wrestling, then the name ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin has probably been heard more than on one occasion. Steve Williams, who later legally changed his name to his stage-name Steve Austin, has launched a podcast called the Stone Cold Steve Austin Show-Unleashed! Austin made waves recently when he expressed his opinion on same-sex marriage. Austin is reported as saying,

“I’m for same-sex marriage. I believe that any human being in America, any human being in the world, that wants to be married…if it’s the same-sex, more power to them…What also chaps my ***, some of these churches, have the high horse that they get on and say ‘we as a church do not believe in that.’ Which one of these ************* talked to God and God said that same-sex marriage was a no can do? Can you verify? Can you give me some background on that 411?” (Ranter X 2014, RantSports.com)

Austin goes on to say that he disagreed with the idea of Christian forgiveness. He said that he did not see how someone could do something horrible, say a prayer, and all be counted good with God. Despite his vulgarities, Austin actually brings to light some common misunderstandings that individuals hold concerning the Christian faith. This article will not discuss the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Lord knows that there is plenty of information out there on both sides concerning the topic. This article will, however, handle the three deep problems that Austin possesses in his worldview and argumentation outside the scope of the more controversial same-sex issue. The first problem will address a flaw in Austin’s argument. The second two problems will deal with misunderstandings that Austin holds with the Christian worldview. So to keep with the pro-wrestling theme, let’s lay the theological and philosophical smackdown!!! Are you ready to rumble?

  

Problem of Self-Refutation

When one enters the philosophical “squared-circle” (yes I know that a squared-circle is an impossibility), a person should evaluate any claim by its’ own standards. For instance, if a person says, “I can’t speak a word of English,” one can know that the statement is false as the person is speaking in English. Or if one says, “WordPress does not allow Pastor Brian Chilton to post articles,” one could easily know that such a statement is false as the reader is reading this article by Pastor Brian on WordPress. Austin claims that he is “chapped” over churches being on their “high horse” and claiming that “we as a church do not believe in that.” But, hold on! Isn’t Austin doing the same thing? Isn’t he saying that individuals can do a particular thing which he deems appropriate? What does it mean to be on one’s “high horse” anyway? Well, the phrase is normally used of someone who possesses “a haughty attitude or temper; a contemptuous manner” (Dictionary.com). “Haughty” means that one is “arrogant” or “proud” (Dictionary.com). Well now wait a minute! Isn’t Austin acting somewhat haughty in his approach to the traditional Christian? So, in a sense, isn’t Austin acting like he is on his own proverbial “high horse”? As the old saying goes, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” So Austin’s claim concerning Christians actually backfires as he is guilty of the same thing! So while this backfire does not disprove his claim, it weakens the claim quite a bit. It could be that some churches get on their “high horse.” Quite frankly, some of them do (e.g. Westboro Baptist Church). But, the problem is that Austin’s claims are employing the same tactic, so philosophically speaking, it doesn’t appear that the accuser would have as much a problem as was presented.

Austin is also guilty of employing an “ad hominem” attack. An “ad hominem” attack is when one uses personal assaults in order to argue for a particular point. It may be good in its entertainment value, but does very little in regard to the presentation of the facts on a particular issue. Everyone needs to get to the point where we stop yelling and accusing one another and start discussing the issues at hand. Austin’s comment shows just how heated certain issues become in the arena of ideas. Regardless of where one stands on an issue, there needs to be a level of decency. But, decency is a lost art in a culture full of hate and bitterness.

  

Problem of Revelation

Austin asks for some “411” on how Christians know that God gave particular “dos” and “don’ts”. Well, as Jesus would say, “ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7). How do Christians know that God gave a set of standards? We know because of particular events throughout history when God made Himself known. This is what is termed revelation. There are two forms of revelation: general and special. General revelation is described by Norman Geisler as,

“God’s revelation in nature as opposed to his revelation in Scripture…More specifically, general revelation is manifest in physical nature, human nature, and history. In each case God has disclosed something specific about himself and his relation to his creation. General revelation is important to Christian apologetics, since it is the data with which the theist constructs arguments from the existence of God…Without it there would be no basis for apologetics (Geisler 1999, 670).

In other words, everyone has insight to God’s existence. No one would accept that something can come from absolute nothingness except when it comes to the most complex system ever known…the universe and everything in it. Whether individuals realize it or not, every person can know that God exists if they use a little common sense. But at the center of the problem is a heart of rebellion over an intellectual issue when it comes to knowing God. But, another form of revelation exists known as special revelation. Geisler describes special revelation as,

God’s revelation in his Word (Scripture), as opposed to God’s revelation in his world…Special revelation may have originally been given orally or some other way (cf. Heb. 1:1) but has subsequently been written down and is now found only in God’s written Word, the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

God’s special revelation has been confirmed by miracles…This is how the canon of Scripture was determined (Geisler 1999, 674).

 In other words, special revelation occurs when God Himself DOES appear to humanity and gives them the 411 on how they should live. Ultimately, the greatest form of special revelation came through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus performed miracles in the first-century and still does today. In fact, Jesus has healed many people through the two millennium of Christendom by simply calling upon His name. Lazarus is a good example in the first-century. Lazarus had died, but Jesus raised him back to life (John 11). Today, there are instances where individuals have been healed by the name of Jesus. Now, I am not referring to fake healers, but true miracles. I witnessed a miracle many years ago while in Bible college. A woman was playing in her yard with her kids. She reached down to pick up a baseball when she snagged her eye on a stick. The stick went deep into her eye. The doctors said that it had ripped her optic nerve and that she would never be able to see again. I joined many others who began to pray for this woman. Her husband was in chapel a few days after the event. He said with tears in his eyes,

“Everyone. My wife was not able to see after the accident. The doctors said that she would never see again. However the other night, she called me and said, ‘I am beginning to see black and white images.’ Yesterday, she began to see things in color out of her eye. We went back to the doctor and he said that somehow her eye had been completely restored. I am here to tell you that she can see better now than she did before the accident.” (Student at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, circa 1997).

The fact that miracles still take place in Jesus’ name demonstrates the power of God. It also demonstrates the fact that God has made Himself known. Many may find characteristics of love and kindness as weak. But, meekness is NOT weakness. In fact, it takes more strength and courage to love one’s enemies than it does to speak spitefully about them. Hopefully, this article does not come across as spiteful. If so, I would be counted out. This brings us to our final problem with Austin’s statements…problems with reconciliation.

 

Problem of Reconciliation

Austin later indicates that he has issues with forgiveness. Does any person deserve forgiveness? No, the person does not. But here is the problem, when one evaluates God’s standards that person will find that NO ONE would ever be able to live up to that standards that are required for one to get to heaven. Not only does a God exist who gives “dos” and “don’ts,” a God exists whose standards are so high that it would be impossible for anyone to earn a status in heaven. That is why God devised a plan to demonstrate mercy. This mercy is undeserved but given because of God’s love. The Apostle Paul writes “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). He goes on to say that “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant” (Romans 5:20). The great hope is found in that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10). But unfortunately, “not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, ‘LORD, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:16-17).

This does not indicate that someone can be forgiven and continue to live a life of sin. In such a case, no repentance has occurred. One who is transformed by the power of Christ has repented of their sins (turned from their old life) and trusted in Christ who brings forth a new life. As Paul says to the one who has been transformed by Christ, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2). So, in this case, one will find themselves pinned as no one is worthy of God’s grace and mercy.

 

Conclusion

Austin probably came to his conclusions by the political jargon of the day. As mentioned earlier, this article is not intended to defend or attack same-sex marriage; for there is something larger than the issue of same-sex marriage going on in our culture. The greatest problematic issue, in this writer’s opinion, is the assault upon religious freedoms. One might say, “Well Austin simply was presenting his opinions.” Yes, he was. However, ideas have consequences. If all of society begins turning on a particular group of individuals for their beliefs, history demonstrates that bad things eventually occur. Look at the ideology of Hitler who saw the beliefs and ancestry of Judeans as a thing to be cast aside. Or look at Pol Pot who had no use for those who disagreed with his agenda. Do we need to mention the Stalins or Mussolines? Wherever one finds themselves on the issues, let us not lower ourselves to ad hominem assaults and group-hating. Let us explore the issues with intellect and compassion. And yes…this goes for the Christian as much, if not more, than those who are opposed to our cause. In fact, many Christians have been guilty of standing upon their high-horses without concerning themselves for others. We may not agree with others, but let us not see anyone regardless of their religion, gender, race, or sexuality as an enemy. We may not agree with that person on the issues (let it be known that this writer accepts the Bible’s standards for morality), but remember that Paul indicates that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Stand for the truth! But, let us remember the words of our Lord, “love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44)! May we all pray that Austin’s eyes, and all those who hold an anti-Christian view, will be open to the truths of the Gospel message. For “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

With all due respect to Mr. Austin…that’s the bottom line….because Jesus said so!!!

 

Bibliography

 All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New Living Translation, 3rd Edition. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007.

Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/. (Accessed June 1, 2014).

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Ranter X. “Steve Austin Supports Gay Marriage and That’s the Bottom Line.” RantSports.com. (August 23, 2014). http://www.rantsports.com/pro-wrestling/2014/04/23/steve-austin-supports-gay-marriage-and-thats-the-bottom-line/#C7HXBFHa0DC8YBXf.99 (Accessed May 28, 2014).

Austin’s podcast can be heard at http://podcastone.com/Steve-Austin-Show. Be warned: it is explicit in nature.

Does Paul Condemn Philosophy?

apostle paul in blue

Philosophy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life… a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology” (Merriam-Webster). Some have taken a negative outlook on philosophy. It has been noted that even some secular universities are dumping their classic philosophy programs (see the show “Why are Secular Universities Closing Philosophical Programs?” on Redeeming Truth Radio found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2014/05/12/why-are-secular-universities-closing-philosophical-programs-w-j-andrew-payne). However, one’s claim that “philosophy is meaningless” is in itself a philosophical claim. But what about Christians? Some Christians have criticized the use of philosophy due to Paul’s statement against philosophy in Colossians 2:8. Yet, Christianity teaches is knowledgeable, is based on truth, defines the nature and meaning of life, holds great logic, teaches aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Paul himself gives lessons in most of the previously mentioned systems. So, does Paul refute himself? Or is there a problem with the way many interpret Colossians 2:8? So, the question must be asked: does Paul really criticize the use of philosophy? In this article, Paul’s statement in Colossians 2:8 will be exegetically examined and in its proper context and the article will answer whether Paul really condemns philosophy after all.

 

The Statement

Paul writes, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Already from the text, philosophy in and of itself is not the problem. To understand the teaching, one must examine the entire context. Paul was dealing with some problems in the church of Colossae.

 

Problem: Lack of Focus on Truth

Back in Colossians 1:28-29, Paul writes that his goal in the letter was to “tell others about Christ, warning everyone with all the wisdom God has given us” (Colossians 1:28). Paul was himself presenting a philosophy to the people of Colossae. Paul was proclaiming the truth of Christ and the truth (or philosophy) that comes pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is why, Paul writes, that he “work(s) and struggle(s) so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me” (Colossians 1:29). Therefore, Paul points the Colossians back to the historical Jesus of history and reminds them of His reality and the truth that is based upon Christ.

 

Problem: False Teachers

Paul’s main issue was to strengthen believers so that they would know the truth and, therefore, would not be taken by falsehood. Paul was using apologetics to show them the truth. Paul reminded them of what they knew to be true and warned them against individuals who would try to “deceive” them by using “well-crafted arguments” (Colossians 2:4). Here is the point: Paul was warning the Christians of Colossae not to be fooled and taken away by clever arguments and falsehoods. But in order to do so, they must “continue to follow him” (Colossians 2:6) and must “Let your roots grow down into him, and let you lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7). Again, they must be grounded in what is real. They must be grounded in reality. Therefore, they must be grounded in truth.

 

Putting it All Together

When one understands the problem of false teachers and that many Christians were being led away by falsehood, one can clearly find that Paul does NOT condemn philosophy. Paul condemns bad philosophy. There are several principles that can be extracted from this passage of Scripture, but we’ll focus on just three.

First, it is necessary for the Christian to be grounded in the truth of God. This is why this writer is such an advocate for apologetics. Paul was using historical apologetics to a degree to demonstrate why the Colossian Christians had become Christians…followers of Christ…from the beginning. If Christ cannot be defended and shown to be worthy of praise and if His resurrection cannot be shown to be based upon a real, historical event; then, as Paul said, “all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:14). But if Christ has been risen, then “He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That means that there really is a heaven, there really is a hell, there really is a resurrection, and there really is a time when Christ will return.

Second, it is necessary for the Christian to demonstrate the falsehoods of untruthful claims. Again, Paul uses a form of philosophical apologetics to demonstrate that empty arguments and bad philosophy does not represent the truth. If one places his or her faith in any system that leads one away from the truth, that person will slowly erode into a system of erroneous trust and hedonistic living. That is not to say that one may not have elements of truth, but holding elements of truth does not necessitate that one holds full truth. A little bit of error can lead down a pathway of huge problems.

Lastly, it is necessary to build a theological/philosophical construct on the Bible more than particular theologian/philosopher. For instance, some hold to hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinists do not represent true Calvinism. In fact, they are more Calvinistic than John Calvin himself. Hyper-Calvinists believe that God is responsible for every human action and therefore they do not take credit for their good or bad behavior. Hyper-Calvinism leads one to a life of irresponsibility. Why? Because, the person believes that God is responsible for every action and therefore is responsible for their bad decision-making. The person will not hold responsibility for his/her actions and will become much like Adam who blamed God for Adam’s own sin. Likewise, there are hyper-Arminians. Hyper-Arminians may be more in line with Pelagians than necessarily Arminius. Nonetheless, hyper-Arminians hold that a person is completely responsible for his/her choice to find God and trust God. The problem is; God is out of the picture in such a paradigm. When one holds to hyper-Arminianism, the person lessens God’s involvement and completely trusts in human decision-making. This may lead one down a path of complete human trust in his/her own decision-making and will not involve God in their plans. Likewise, such a one will not be likely to find their place in God’s sovereign plan and may not seek to depend upon the sovereign will of God. Obviously, these two examples do not represent the normal Calvinism or the normal Arminian, but you can see the point.

In the end, Paul’s teaching can be summed up in this statement: Philosophy is not bad, only bad philosophy is bad.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.

The Biblical Balance between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

touching-god

Several issues in theology become heated, but none like the issues between Calvinism and Arminian models. As my studies in theology have progressed, I have noticed an inconvenient truth. The Bible addresses both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. One cannot choose to accept one without the other and maintain biblical soundness in their theology. Apologist Ravi Zacharias even stated that “any system that does not hold to divine sovereignty is unbiblical. If any system does not hold to human responsibility, it is unbiblical” (Zacharias, podcast, 2014). The Bible teaches both. Some passages of Scripture provide evidence for this within the text itself. For the purposes of this article, four passages of Scripture will be given that indicate both divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

 

Philippians 2:12-13

Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Paul indicated that a person must work out their own salvation. Richard R. Melick writes in his commentary about the meaning of “working out one’s salvation,”

The Philippians were to make salvation work in their lives…Salvation was central to Paul’s theology. Normally the word has its full soteriological sense of spiritual deliverance from sin and the world. Paul described salvation as a past event (Eph 2:8–9) and as a future consummation (Rom 13:11). Here he spoke of working out salvation…Personal salvation brings with it responsibilities which Paul related to Christians’ obedience. The responsibility was to live in accord with their salvation, letting the implications of their relationship with Christ transform their social relationships. Paul really meant, in the first place, that they were to act like Christians (Melick 1991, 109-110).

Nonetheless, the process of “working out one’s salvation” depicts human responsibility. However, Paul goes on to state that the one working out one’s salvation is being worked in by God to do His good pleasure. In other words, Paul is expressing divine sovereignty in the process. Thus, one evaluates sovereignty and responsibility in the text.

 

Romans 8:28

Paul wrote

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).

In this popular text, Paul addresses the fact that individuals love God. The act of “loving” demonstrates human responsibility. For those who love God, Paul states that God will work all things for good. In addition, Paul states that the individuals who love God were called, foreknown, predestined, and would be glorified; all of which demonstrates the sovereignty of Almighty God. Were individuals held responsible for loving God? Yes. But did God work sovereignly to bring them to that love? Yes. In some sense, both the sovereignty of God and human responsibility worked together.

 

Matthew 18:7

Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:7)! Jesus first indicated that “offenses must come.” Why must offenses come? We are not told. However, the fact that offenses must come indicates the sovereignty of God. God uses the offenses (the bad) for His glory and the glory of His saints (the good). Nonetheless, sovereignty is presented. Then, Jesus flips the lesson back on the one bringing the offense demonstrating the responsibility of the person bringing the offense. Therefore, Jesus presents a lesson on sovereignty and human responsibility.

 

Matthew 16:13-17

Matthew writes that,

  When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 16:13-17).

In this passage, the faith of Peter is praised. For Peter willingly proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. Thus, the human response was demonstrated resulting in human responsibility. However, Jesus indicates that Peter could not have known this unless God the Father revealed this truth to Peter. Hence, divine sovereignty is clearly indicated. Therefore, both sovereignty and human responsibility are demonstrated in this passage.

mind in universe

The Theological Move: Moderate Calvinism

So which system fits this combination the best? It must be admitted that this writer’s perspective has changed in recent days, primarily by an exposure to different systems. Also, I can say that I did know that so many variations of systems existed until now. Norman Geisler states that there are four primary systems concerning the blend of sovereignty and human responsibility: “Of course, there are other shades and variations of views, but Pelagianism, Arminianism (Wesleyanism), moderate Calvinism, and strong Calvinism are the four main perspectives” (Geisler 2011, 786). In Geisler’s view, “the biblical, theological, and historical evidence favors the moderate Calvinist view” (Geisler 2011, 786). What is moderate Calvinism? Millard J. Erickson writes that moderate Calvinism is…

“what B. B. Warfield regarded as the mildest form of Calvinism (there are, in fact, some Calvinists who would deny that it deserves to be called Calvinistic at all). Warfield termed the position ‘congruism,’ for it holds that God works congruously with the will of the individual; that is, God works in such a suasive way with the will of the individual that the person freely makes the choice that God intends (from B.B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, 90-91)…” (Erickson 1998, 385).

The system is balanced between divine sovereign election and human freedom to respond…something that the Bible teaches. The system does not allow such strict determinism as do strong Calvinists that human freedom is eliminated. Neither does the system negate divine involvement in the salvific process as does Pelagianism. In fact, moderate Calvinism can be likened to what is called Semiaugustinianism. Everett Ferguson writes that “the final phase of the conflict over human nature and salvation aw the triumph of what may be called ‘Semiaugustinianism,’ as expressed by Caesarius, bishop of Arles (502-42)…Although Caesarius and the Council of Orange were largely Augustinian, their views allowed for predestination to grace, but not for predestination to glory (the absolute gift of perseverance)…” (Ferguson 2005, 301). Naturally, there are differences between the Semiaugustinianism of the sixth century and the moderate Calvinism being promoted by Geisler and Erickson. As I have studied theology, my theological base has moved slightly from Remonstrant theology to the congruism, or moderate Calvinism, promoted by Erickson and Geisler. Some strong Calvinists would still see the system as a form of Arminianism. Geisler and Erickson would not agree. Nonetheless, whatever system one finds as the best fit, I feel it is demonstrated that a middle system (one that is not inclined to either extreme) best fits the teachings of Scripture. For in the end, the sole authority of the doctrines for the Christian faith do not come from Calvin, Arminius, Augustine, Geisler, Erickson, or even me; it must come from the Bible itself.

 

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.

Ferguson, Everett. Church History: Volume One—From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Bloomington: Bethany House, 2011.

Melick, Richard R. Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991.

Zacharias, Ravi. “He Saw, He Left, He Conquered.” Podcast. Just Thinking Broadcasts. (April 14, 2014).

 

Why Does the Church Resist Apologetics?

paul-mars-hill

Christian apologetics is defined by William Lane Craig as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith” (Craig 2008, 15).Because of the nature of apologetics defending and promoting the Christian faith, it is understandable that the practice would come under scrutiny. However, one of the greatest adversaries of Christian apologetics stems from an unlikely foe. For the secularist is not the greatest adversary to the apologetic movement and neither is the skeptic. The greatest adversary to the Christian apologetic movement is often the Christian church itself! The very church that apologists defend is the one that seems to, at least in many locations, provide the greatest resistance. But why? There are four excuses that are often given by the apologetic antagonist. In this article, we will examine these reasons and offer some suggestions as to how the budding apologist could enlighten the antagonist as to the need for apologetics IN the modern church. These responses greatly resemble Tim LaHaye’s spiritual temperaments. It could be that these responses stem from those with the temperaments listed by LaHaye.

sparky sanguine

Fear of Offense: “But, you might hurt someone’s feelings!” (Sanguine Temperamental Answer)

Tim LaHaye writes that the extroverted sanguine temperament is “warm, buoyant, lively, and fun-loving…He is receptive by nature, and external impressions easily find their way to his heart, where they readily cause an outburst of response. Feelings rather than reflective thoughts predominate to form his decisions” (LaHaye 1992, 13). When a church member holds a sanguine temperament and knows little about apologetics, her resistance may stem from fear that others will be hurt by the apologetic endeavor. Sanguines do not want to hurt anyone.

The problem is: truth supersedes feelings. When a person is sick, it matters not whether one wants to be sick or not. It matters that the sickness is diagnosed and treated. The apologist will want to approach such a critic in two ways: show the nature of truth and the importance that people know the truth. First, sanguine church members need to know that truth is not based upon feelings. Norm Geisler writes, “Truth is found in correspondence. Truth is what corresponds to its object (referent), whether this object is abstract or concrete. As applied to the world, truth is the way things really are. Truth is ‘telling it like it is'” (Geisler 2011, 84). This description would fit the definition of the biblical term “aletheia” which means “that which is accordance with reality.” “Aletheia” is translated as “truth.” Secondly, sanguine members need to know that if Jesus really is the Son of God and the pathway to heaven (John 14:6), then the most saddening thing that could happen to anyone is that the person is held from the truth…especially seeing that the truth sets one free (John 8:32). Being set free by the truth will cause greater happiness than anything on earth. Truth is far better than patronage.

Rocky Choleric

Fear of Control: “We’ve never done that before. My grandfather didn’t. Why should we?” (Choleric Temperamental Answer)

Another extroverted temperament is the choleric temperament. LaHaye describes those who hold the choleric temperament as “hot, quick, active, practical, and strong-willed…often self-sufficient and very independent…decisive and opinionated, finding it easy to make decisions for himself as well as for others” (LaHaye 1992, 16). Because of the choleric’s active tendencies, you will “rarely…find a predominant Choleric as a surgeon, dentist, philosopher, inventor, or watchmaker…they usually enjoy construction work…” (LaHaye 1992, 19). When it comes to the church, the choleric temperamental person may not see the practicality of defending the faith. He might say, “This church has been in operation for the past 100 years.” Yep, here it comes…”We’ve never done that before. Why should we now?” (Many of you in church work have probably heard that line many times before with different issues.)

When it comes to the choleric temperament, the apologist may have a more difficult time reaching him since he is so independent. A note of caution must be given concerning one with a choleric temperament. It may be that if a choleric is in leadership (which is likely since the choleric is a natural born leader), the apologist will want to ensure the choleric leader that the apologetics in no way threatens his leadership.

Also, the apologist will want to demonstrate the changes in culture. Approaches that worked in the 1950s no longer apply in the 21st century. As Paul wrote, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). By demonstrating the need, the choleric will most likely hop on board with the program. The really cagey apologist will want to make the choleric think that adding apologetics was his own idea. In such a case, the ministry would be sure to succeed.

Another note needs to be added: some entire congregations hold a choleric temperament. These churches have often become so entrenched with a particular culture that it may be impossible to infiltrate. This is true of those in ultra-fundamentalist and ultra-liberal circles. In such cases, a particular culture is promoted over the Bible. I have heard stories where church members were shown that certain church practices were unbiblical. The members responded, “We don’t care what the Bible says. This is the way we’re going to do things around here.” In such cases, the apologist would be wise to leave such a place to begin an apologetic ministry elsewhere. Unfortunately, such churches will not be able to survive outside their culture.

Martin Melancholy

Fear of Scholarship: “Reason is not necessary. Only faith is required.” (Melancholy Temperamental Answer)

The introverted melancholy temperament is one who is the “richest of all temperaments, for he is analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionist type, with a very sensitive emotional nature” (LaHaye 1992, 22). To make matters more difficult with a melancholy apologetic antagonist is that “most of the world’s greatest composers, artists, musicians, inventors, philosophers, theoreticians, theologians, scientists, and dedicated educators have been predominantly Melancholies” (LaHaye 1992, 24). For this reason, I would dare say that most Christian melancholies would be on board with apologetics. In fact, I would not be surprised if most of those engaged in apologetics would fit the melancholic temperament. However, since melancholies tend to be perfectionists with a high-end for research, it may be that the melancholy that is antagonistic to apologetics may hold a distrust for science, philosophy, and reason itself.

The apologist would need to set forth a program showing that reason and faith are partners and not enemies. Millard Erickson provides three models concerning the relationship of faith and reason:

1. Christology from above is basically fideistic…it draws heavily upon the thought of Soren Kirkegaard. According to this position, our knowledge of Jesus’ deity is not grounded in any historically provable facts about his earthly life. It is a faith based upon the faith of the apostles as enunciated in the kerygma.

2. Conversely, Christology from below is primarily Thomistic. It attempts to demonstrate the supernatural character of Christ from historical evidences. Hence, the deity of Christ is not a presupposition but a conclusion of the process…

3. There is another possible model, namely, the Augustinian. In this model, faith precedes but does not remain permanently independent of reason. Faith provides the perspective or starting point from which reason may function, enabling one to understand what otherwise could not be understood (Erickson 1998, 690).

 

While I do not know that I agree that Thomism is a reason alone system (maybe more Aristotelian), Erickson shows that faith and reason in the Augustinian model can be partners in one’s exploration of truth. The apologist will want to share the compatability of reason and faith. In addition, the apologist will need to enlighten the melancholic antagonist to the wealth of evidence that exists for the Christian faith.

Phil Phlegmatic 

Fear of Unknown: “We already know all we need to know. No use upsetting the apple-cart.” (Phlegmatic Temperamental Answer)

Finally, there is the other introverted temperament known as the phlegmatic. The phlegmatic is one that is “calm, cool, slow, easy-going, well-balanced” (LaHaye 1992, 26). The phlegmatic is “annoyed by—and often confront—the aimless, restless enthusiasm of the Sanguine…ridicule—the gloomy moods of the Melancholy…delight in throwing ice water on the bubbling plans and ambitions of the Choleric…” (LaHaye 1992, 27). The phlegmatic antagonist is likely to say, “We already know what God wants us to know.” Or, “If people don’t want to be a Christian, you’re not going to make them one.” In other words, the phlegmatic antagonist doesn’t want to be bothered. At the root of these excuses may be a sincere problem of insecurity. Perhaps the antagonist fears that she does not possess the necessary qualifications to learn apologetics. Let’s be honest. Apologist: not everyone can go as deep in apologetics as you might be able to travel. For a person who only holds a high-school education…or one who may have even quit high-school…reading books by individuals who hold multiple doctorates like William Lane Craig and Oxford professor John Lennox would be intimidating to say the least.

The apologist would need to assure the phlegmatic that the apologist will be with them every step of the way. The apologist will be there to help them understand the difficulties that come. It may not be that everyone will be an elite apologetic Special Forces soldier. However, assure them that they at least need to be in the Christian apologetic army.

Conclusion

This article has offered four excuses that are often given by church members who are antagonistic to Christian apologetics. More excuses may be offered than just the four given. The apologist needs to understand that people in the church come from various backgrounds. Some may have faced some things that have rocked their faith. It could be that their faith is holding only by a thread. Others may have such a distrust of society that it may be difficult for them to open up to any form of scholarship. It is important for the Christian apologist to maintain patience with such individuals. Whether they know it or not…they need you. In fact…the modern church desperately needs you. That is why God called you to be a Christian apologist.

tl_why you act the way you do

Temperament pictures belong to Tim LaHaye from his book Why You Act the Way You Do. All rights reserved.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

LaHaye, Tim. Spirit-Controlled Temperament. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 1992.

Big Bang Confirmed: Does This Hold Any Implications for the Christian Worldview?

BICEP2-B-mode-signal  On March 17th, 2014, scientists confirmed hard evidence that suggested that the universe came about from what is called a “Big Bang,” or as it is preferable called “cosmic inflation.” Cornell University cosmologist Rachel Bean states, “It’s a really profound discovery for cosmology. It’s a phenomenal announcement” (Watson 2014, USA Today). The announcement came from the BICEP2 experiments conducted at the South Pole. The BICEP2 is a large telescope in Antarctica used to peer into deep space. Christian astro-physicist Jeff Zweerink states that this is done in the South Pole because the moisture from other parts of the planet skews the data (Zweerink 2014, RTB). The farther one peers into deep space the farther back in time one is able to examine. What was discovered were effects or twists in particles which would come from strong gravitational forces at play in the early universe. Vergano writes, “The discovery team relied on microwave-detecting telescopes in Antarctica, where clear skies and dry air allowed unparalleled views of the cosmic microwave background. The South Pole measurements came over three seasons of observation from 2010 to 2012, in areas of the sky two to ten times as wide as the full moon. These wide views allowed telescopes to look for gravitational wave patterns in the cosmic microwave background. Inflation theory held that these light particles, seen as microwaves today, should be preferentially twisted in their orientation, an effect similar to the light blocking of polarized sunglasses” (Vergano 2014, National Geographic). So what are the implications of this finding?

The Universe is Finite: Big Bang Apologetic Arguments are Valid

This provides clear cut evidence that the universe came into existence at a particular point in time. This confirms the main content of arguments used by William Lane Craig such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument and others that use the Big Bang as part of their argumentation. Note that this does not necessarily prove all the tenets of arguments used pertaining to creation, but only the validity that this universe is finite. Apologetic arguments that rely on the Big Bang hold tight. Intelligent design (ID) concepts are also verified by this finding. While this finding does not prove ID, it supports many of the conclusions that ID advocates promote. Science may eventually find a point of limitation eventually when it comes to reality. As agnostic Robert Jastrow (former Director of the Goddard Institute of Astrophysics) in regards to studies on the Big Bang claims that the study of cosmology leads to a belief in a Creator. Jastrow writes: “A sound explanation may exist for the explosive birth of our Universe; but if it does, science cannot find out what the explanation is. The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation. This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth… At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been there for centuries” (Jastrow 1992, 107). Therefore, there may be found great apologetic force in the BICEP2 findings as it relates to Christian cosmology. Agnostic Paul Davies writes, “On the face of it, the universe does look like it is has been designed by an intelligent creator expressly for the purpose of spawning intelligent beings. Like the porridge in the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, the universe seems to be ‘just right’ for life, in many intriguing ways. No scientific explanation for the universe can be deemed complete unless it accounts for this appearance of judicious design” (Davies 2006, 3). Everything is just right because life was intended. Even the Higgs Boson, popularly called the “God Particle,” developed at the right time to provide mass to elements in order to support life. This is even more remarkable considering that everything we know that came into being developed from a finite point in what we know to be time.

A Multiverse is a Possibility

While scientists are not allowed to speak on what may have been before our universe at this time, some are proclaiming that the doors have been open to the possibility of a multiverse (Vergano 2014, “Big Bang Opens Door to a ‘Multiverse’, National Geographic). The multiverse is a possibility due to the inflation principles which seem to be supported by the BICEP2 findings. A multiverse is a “mother universe,” so to speak, which could produce other universes. In theory, multiple universes could potentially exist. Our universe would be one of the many. This does necessarily dodge the problems of design because the multiverse, if it exists, would have to operate by certain laws as well. Christian astro-physicists such as Jeff Zweerink feel that God may have used a multiverse to bring our universe into existence (Zweerink 2014, RTB). The BVG Theorem shows that even if a multiverse does exist, it too would need a beginning, or starting point. Regardless of one’s feelings of a multiverse, Christian apologists need to begin considering the possibility that God could have used a multiverse in the creation of this universe. Also, this could show us that we are part of a much larger system than ever imagined.

Some Creation Models are Supported While Others are Threatened

The findings of BICEP2 holds no threat to the theistic or Christian worldview. However, certain interpretations of the Bible may be in trouble. Old Earth Creation (OEC) models are verified by this finding. The same cannot be said for Young Earth interpretations. While it is possible that there are flaws in the dating of the universe, it seems unlikely given the recent findings. 

Note: It may be that YEC advocates can demonstrate problems with the dating of the universe. If so, then YEC interpretations are not as endangered as once thought. There need not be divisions between advocates of the OEC and YEC interpretations as both seek to defend the authenticity of the Christian faith and the authority of the Bible. However, both sides need to be prepared to analyze and deal with data as it is presented. In this sense, advocates of OEC have had better overall success. This article does not seek to endorse either side of the debate, but rather to present and analyze information as it comes available.

bicep2

Conclusion:

The BICEP2 findings are interesting and can be appreciated by Christians and non-Christians alike. These findings are exciting because they allow us to understand how God brought the universe into existence. One must ask whether there exists a point where science is halted; this due to the fact that scientists seem to be reaching a point where things beyond our universe cannot be observed (at least not with modern technology). The findings of BICEP2 do not pose a threat to Christian belief. In fact, as it has been argued before, no scientific finding can pose a threat to belief in God. When the person understands that God is not an explanation for what is unknown but the explanation for the whole show, no finding can ever threaten one’s trust in the eternal, conscious, benevolent, and powerful Creator of all that exists. This finding only demonstrates that the universe had an ultimate beginning and may demonstrate that God’s creation may be much larger than ever imagined.

Bibliography:

Davies, Paul. The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? New York: First Mariner, 2006. Special thanks to Chris Lee for directing this writer to this source.

Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomer, 2nd Edition. Toronto: Reader’s Library, 1992. Special thanks to Chris Lee for directing this writer to this source.

Vergano, Dan. “Big Bang’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Confirms Early Universe’s Exponential Growth.” National Geographic. (March 17, 2014). http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/14/140317-big-bang-gravitational-waves-inflation-science-space/#.Uym2mfldWa8. (Accessed March 19, 2014).

Vergano, Dan. “Big Bang Discover Opens Door to ‘Multiverse’.” National Geographic. (March 18, 2014). http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140318-multiverse-inflation-big-bang-science-space/?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=20131016_rw_membership_r1p_us_se_w#. (Accessed March 19, 2014).

Watson, Traci. “Gravitational waves offer new insight into Big Bang.” USAToday. (March 19, 2014). http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/03/17/big-bang-gravitational-waves/6520537/. (Accessed March 19, 2014).

Zweerink, Jeff. “Big Bang ‘Smoking Gun’ Discovered.” Podcast. Reasons.org. (March 19, 2014). http://www.reasons.org/podcasts/science-news-flash/big-bang-smoking-gun-discovered. (Accessed March 19, 2014).

Copyright 2014. Brian Chilton.

Essential Doctrines (Part 9): The Kingdom of God

KingdomOfGod_Title_web   The ninth installment in the series “Essential Doctrines” may be unfamiliar to some. For this article, the doctrine of the kingdom of God will be examined. What is the doctrine pertaining to the kingdom of God? Why should it be believed? Why is it essential? These questions will be answered in this article.

 

What is the doctrine?

The kingdom of God comes from the Greek phrase basileian tou theou, literally “kingdom of God” (e.g. Matthew 19:24) or the “kingdom of heaven.” It refers to the rule of God. George E. Ladd writes, “The key to an understanding of the kingdom of God is that the basic meaning of the Greek word basileia, as of the Hebrew malkūt, is rule, reign, dominion” (Ladd 1988, 1269). The doctrine essentially holds that God is the supreme ruler of all. God is ruler over creation (Psalm 94). God is shown to be ruler over all nations (Psalm 22:28; 47:2, 7-8). God is shown to provide covenants, or contracts between God and humanity. Garden writes,

“Many of the prophets looked for the ‘day’ when God would not only restore the fortunes of his people Israel and Judah but also establish an everlasting era of peace, justice, and mercy. Then, Israel and Judah would again become one kingdom (Jer. 30:3; Ezek. 37:15-22), ruled, perhaps, by a descendant of David (Isa. 9:7; Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 37:24-26). There would be a new covenant between God and his people (Hos. 2:16-20; Jer. 31:31-34), and peace would obtain not only among all nations (Isa. 2:2-4; 19:19-25) but throughout the whole creation, among all living things (Hos. 2:18; Isa. 11:6-9; 65:17-25). Such hopes, however, were not fulfilled during the biblical period” (Garden 1985, 527-528).

God is a God of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33), is a God of love (1 John 4:8), and is a God of holiness (Revelation 4:8). So, why is there so much war, hatred, and corruption? This goes back to the problem of sin. However, sin did not originate with humanity. Sin originated with the father of sin…the very first to introduce sin to creation…Satan (John 8:44). Satan (Satanos, literally “Adversary”) was cast out of heaven (Luke 10:18) and engineered the fall of humanity (Genesis 3:1). Satan twists God’s truth (Matthew 4:6, Psalm 91:11, 12) and opposes the work of God (Zechariah 3:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:18). Obviously, God allowed this to occur because God allows for the freedom of the will (2 Chronicles 12:14)…to what extent is debated by theologians. Nonetheless, it can be seen that there is a battle between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. This battle is known as spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing. Every person is affected by this battle. But the end result of the battle has already been decided.

Jesus-Teaching-His-Disciples  The main thrust of Jesus’ message, especially as presented in the Synoptic Gospels, is the kingdom of God. Garden writes, The great majority of references to the Kingdom of God in the nt are in the first three Gospels. Here, the basic message of Jesus (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15) and his disciples (Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:9, 11) was that the Kingdom of God had come near” (Garden 1985, 528). Jesus proclaimed that God’s kingdom had come and had already won (Mark 14:25). While the effects of Satan’s attacks are evident, it will not always be so. Jesus said,

 “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4-8, NKJV).

 Jesus states further in the passage,

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31, NKJV).

 The kingdom was ushered in through the work of Jesus. As Wright states,

“What I miss, right across the Western tradition, at least the way it has come through to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is the devastating and challenging message I find in the four gospels: God really has become king—in and through Jesus! A new state of affairs has been brought into existence. A door has been opened that nobody can shut. Jesus is now the world’s rightful Lord, and all other lords are to fall at his feet” (Wright 2011, 37).

Thus, when a person enters the kingdom of God through Jesus, one has joined a victorious kingdom. But one must remember the warnings of McDowell, “When we live out Jesus’ kingdom worldview, we are engaging in a mighty spiritual conflict to overthrow Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of this world, and establish Christ’s kingdom in its place” (McDowell and McDowell 2010, 350). It is a warning because if the kingdom of God has come in Jesus, then one has an instant enemy by accepting Christ: the enemy is Satan.

One further detail must be set in place regarding these kingdoms; both kingdoms are eternal. God’s kingdom is, and will be, found in heaven, God’s abode (Matthew 6:9), which is an eternal place (2 Corinthians 5:1), an incalculable place (Jeremiah 31:37), a place of reward (1 Peter 1:4), a place of unending happiness (Revelation 7:16-17), a place for angels (Matthew 18:10), a place of rest (Hebrews 4:9), and a place prepared for the saints (Luke 10:20, John 14:1-5). Satan’s kingdom will be found in a place called hell. Hell is described as a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46), prepared for the Devil (Matthew 25:41), prepared for false prophets (Revelation 19:20), and a place of devouring fire (Isaiah 33:14). The saints of God are told to endeavor to keep others from going to hell (Jude 1:23). The powers of hell cannot overcome nor prevail against the kingdom of God (Matthew 16:18). These two kingdoms will be separated by God. In fact, the kingdom of Satan will be quarantined and removed from God’s kingdom. Which kingdom will the reader choose?

Why should the doctrine be believed?

Several reasons exist as to why the kingdom of God should be believed. The evidences concerning the afterlife will be dealt with in the final article given in the series on the return of Christ. However, in order to accept the kingdom of God as a reality, one needs to accept certain tenets. Evidences have been presented for many of factors involving the belief in the kingdom of God.

The Existence of God

Obviously, before one could accept the kingdom of God as a reality, the existence of God would need to be demonstrated. See the article “Essential Doctrines (Part 1): The Doctrine of God’s Existence” found at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/essential-doctrines-part-1-the-doctrine-of-gods-existence/.

The Person of Jesus

Jesus’ divine nature would need to be shown as valid. For evidence concerning the person of Jesus, see the article “Essential Doctrines (Part 3) The Incarnation of Jesus Christ” found at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/essential-doctrines-part-3-the-incarnation-of-jesus-christ/.

The Resurrection of Jesus

 The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that the kingdom of God is victorious. For evidence concerning the resurrection, see the article “Essential Doctrines (Part 6) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” found at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/essential-doctrines-part-6-resurrection-of-jesus-christ/.

The Positive Change Made By Christ

 The kingdom of God’s impact can be seen in the positive change made in the lives of individuals who have received Christ in their lives. As a pastor, I have seen families mended and lives transformed by the power of Christ. William Booth is a great example of a man who experienced the power of Christ and was led to eventually begin a great organization in the Salvation Army that is one of “the largest social aid providers in the world, helping more than 32 million people in the U.S. alone. The Christlike compassion of one couple over 140 years ago has been translated into a force of 4.5 million volunteers aiding those in need” (McDowell and McDowell 2010, 358). Multiple examples are found in every generation since the time of Christ. Christ has transformed lives. The Christian worldview has led to the establishment of science and great freedoms to societies in which its principles are enforced.

Why is the doctrine essential?

The kingdom of God is essential because Jesus made it essential. The phrase “basileian tou theon” is listed no less than fifty times in the gospels alone. Because Jesus stressed the importance of the kingdom of God, the doctrine is essential. Since God is eternal, it should not be a great stretch for one to believe that God’s kingdom is also eternal. Seeing as how God is the ultimate creator of all things, it should not be difficult to find that God will be victorious over Satan and his opposition.

Kingdom_of_God

Conclusion

When the kingdom of God is understood, the Christian can experience great joy and comfort since God has ensured victory. Death loses its sting as heaven is understood as a reality. The problems of this world become part of the grand story climaxed by the return of Christ. In essence, our worries should be lessened by the grand assurance of God’s ultimate deliverance from suffering and sin. That deliverance is found by becoming part of the kingdom of God…a kingdom that has no end.

Bibliography

Garden, R. H. H. “Kingdom of God.” Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Edited by Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. 527–528.

Ladd, George E. “Kingdom of God (Heaven).” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Edited by Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988. 1269.

McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. The Unshakable Truth: How You Can Experience the 12 Essentials of a Relevant Faith. Eugene: Harvest House, 2010.

Particular Scripture references were found by the work, Torrey, R. A. The New Topical Text Book: A Scriptural Text Book for the Use of Ministers, Teachers, and All Christian Workers. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.

 Scriptures, unless otherwise mentioned, comes from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Wright, N. T. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: Harper One, 2011.