Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ultimate Destination Isn't Only Purpose

Some people think that "God created the reprobate just to torture them in Hell for all eternity," is an accurate picture of one aspect of Calvinism. I've heard it used a number of times as an attempt to criticize Calvinism. What's a good answer when someone asks you if that's what you believe - or claims that it's what's implied by your belief.

1. The Short Answer - the Tulips

One short answer is that it's like saying you buy your wife flowers, just to throw them in the trash. That's where they end up, right? But isn't it absurd to suppose that their whole purpose is summed up by their destination? The real purpose of the tulips is to beautify the house for a short time. Yes, they are going to end up in the trash or compost heap, but that's not their primary purpose. It's equally as absurd to suppose that the primary purpose of the reprobate is their destination in the lake of fire. There is more to their lives than that, more to their existence than that, and God uses them in other ways than that.

2. The Longer Answer - Your Ancestors and the Tulip Revisisted

We don't know all the purposes of God, or all the reasons he has for doing the things he does. Many of your and my ancestors were reprobates, but God used them to give birth to people who gave birth to people who ... gave birth to us. Without them, we would not even exist. I don't think that's the only purpose God had for them, but it's a purpose. They played other vital roles too. You are not an island, and neither were your ancestors. You and many of them were protected, served, nurtured, and supported by people who were reprobates. So, the role of reprobates in your own life and very existence is enormous - probably beyond anything you can directly comprehend.

But let's go back to a tulip. If you look at an individual tulip cell under a microscope, it may be hard to see it's purpose. Maybe the particular one you see has a particular pigment to it, which helps to provide the beautiful color of the flower - but many of the cells don't have that pigment. There are a lot of cells in the stalk or the leaves. If you are looking at them under the microscope, you can miss the bigger picture of their role within the tulip plant as a whole. The same can be true of an individual human.

Each human is not the be-all and end-all of the universe of Creation. The individual is like a tile of a much larger mosaic. Unlike a mosaic, though, God has crafted each tile. The tile is not just found and put into place opportunistically, but is specially designed for the purposes it serves in the vast drama of history.

So, the question is wrong because it is both myopic and narcissistic.

-TurretinFan

Monday, July 28, 2014

David and His Son Use Similar Metaphor (or is it proto-transubstantiation?)

Roman Catholics tend to think it is highly significant that Jesus said that the cup (meaning its contents - they never seem to misunderstand that use of non-literal language) is "my blood."  Recall that Jesus said:
Matthew 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mark 14:24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
1 Corinthians 11:25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
Instead of understanding this according to its most obvious metaphorical meaning, Roman Catholics try to insist that we should interpret it in some kind of quasi-literal sense.  But Jesus, the Son of David, is using metaphor in much the same way that his father David used it:
2 Samuel 23:13-17And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim. And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem.
And David longed, and said, "Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!"
And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord.
And he said, "Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?" therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.
For David, the water represented the potential death of his men.  For the Son of David, who turned water into wine, the wine represented his own death, which we should remember, as often as we drink it.  Unless you think David was saying that the water was transubstantiated into blood --- but who would be so dull-witted as to think that?

-TurretinFan

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Never Thirst - Taking Jesus "Literally" can be Fatal

Roman Catholics like to try to claim that they are just taking Jesus "literally" when they interpret "this is my body" to mean that what was in Jesus' hands was not bread but his physical body [FN1]. Three passages in John help to illustrate the problem with that approach: John 4, John 6, and John 7.  In the first, Jesus refers metaphorically to living water, in the second Jesus refers to himself as food and drink, and in the third Jesus offers drink to those who thirst.

In John 4, Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.  He asks her for water, she objects because he's Jewish, and he responds that she should be asking him for water, because the water he offers is better than the water from Jacob's well. She misunderstands him as speaking physically, even after some further explanation.  She wants to stop the labor of drawing water and misunderstands Jesus' comments about "never thirst."
John 4:6-15
Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
In John 6, Jesus interacts with a number of "disciples" who want Jesus to repeat the miracle of the loaves that's reported at the beginning of the chapter.  Jesus explains that the person who believes on him will never thirst and whoever comes to him will never hunger, calling himself the "bread of life" that "came down from heaven." Jesus insists that the bread he offers is better than the manna that the people ate in the wilderness.  Jesus talks about them eating his flesh and drinking his blood, but they take him physically and go away in disgust.  Jesus explains that the words he speaks are spirit and life.  Jesus asks the twelve if they will go away too, but Peter (speaking for the group) says that they will stay with him because they believe and know that his words are the words of eternal life.
John 6:26-71
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve. 
In John 7, Jesus interacts with those at the temple for the feast.  Jesus offers the thirsty people water.  John explains to us that Jesus is speaking about the Spirit as the "rivers of flowing water."
John 7:37-39 
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
These passages illustrate Jesus' fondness for using food as a metaphor for trust in him.  We approach the Lord's table by faith, coming to Him as represented by the bread and cup.  We gain a benefit from this if we do so by faith, but not if we do so any other way.  It is not the physical elements that provide the benefit we receive, it is the Spirit.

Remember what Jesus said about clean/unclean foods:
Matthew 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
Unfortunately, it seems our Roman Catholic friends and relatives fail to understand this.  Christ is our spiritual food and drink, not our physical nourishment.
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
Psalm 105:41 He opened the rock, and the waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river.
Isaiah 48:21 And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.
Psalm 78:20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
1 Corinthians 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
The blessings we receive in Christ are primarily spiritual blessings.  We drink the spiritual drink from the spiritual Rock, and that Rock is Christ.  He is our Rock, we trust in Him.

To the glory of his grace!

TurretinFan

Footnote 1: I should add that the Roman Catholic position is particularly absurd in that it takes "this is my body" as implying that the bread ceases to be bread and becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.  Likewise, it is claimed that "this is ... my blood" implies exactly the same thing about the contents of the cup.  That's quite far from taking the words literally, in which the bread would just be the body, and the contents of the cup would just be the blood.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Is Open Theism Actually Theism?

The position (or perhaps group of positions) known as Open Theism represent a god that is rather different from the God of the Scriptures. Still, is their god even the kind of god that we could properly refer to as theistic?

Cosmological Argument
The god of Open Theism does not fully map to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Although the god of Open Theism may be viewed as the Creator of all Creation, the god of Open Theism comes to be in various states and consequently requires a prior explanation. Thus, the god of Open Theism does not provide a solution to the problem of infinite regression.

Ontological Argument
The god of Open Theism does not correspond to the ontological argument for the existence of God. The god of Open Theism is not the greatest conceivable being, since the god of Open Theism can change.

Teleological Argument
The god of Open Theism does not correspond well to the teleological argument for the existence of God. Although the god of Open Theism may have some purposes or intentions in things, those purposes or intentions do not extend to all things. In other words, many things exist that the god of Open Theism did not intend or have a purpose for.

Transcendental Argument
Naturally, the god of Open Theism cannot correspond to the transcendental argument for the existence of the Christian God - both because the god of Open Theism is not the Christian God, and because the god of Open Theism does not provide meaning to everything, as required by the argument.

There may be some other arguments for the existence of God that the god of Open Theism would fit (or to which its adherents would attempt to fit it), but it is interesting to note how many of the significant arguments cannot map to the god of Open Theism.

-TurretinFan

Thursday, June 26, 2014

One Particular Accomplishment in the Sye Ten Bruggencate v. Matt Dillahunty Debate

There were a number of highlights (and a few lowlights) in the Sye Ten Bruggencate v. Matt Dillahunty debate (link). One highlight was when an audience member asked Sye if there was anything Sye couldn't be wrong - and Sye pointed out the essentials. The follow up was "and what are those?" Sye did a great job of immediately presenting the gospel. It was a great opportunity, and Sye nailed it.

-TurretinFan

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Paradox of Atheism

The Psalms provide us with an interesting paradox about Atheism. On the one hand, God is not at all in their thoughts:
Psalm 10:4
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

Psalm 14:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
On the other hand, they actively deny God's existence:
Psalm 53:1
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.
A third branch to this remarkable paradox comes in Romans, together with the resolution:
Romans 1:21
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Although we all know God exists, we can become vain in our imaginations to the point of denying God's existence or even forgetting about God. How sad is the plight of atheists!

-TurretinFan

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Some Interesting Parts of the Ten Bruggencate/Dillahunty Debate

During the Sye Ten Bruggencate debate with Matt Dillahunty there were some interesting audience questions.

1) One gentleman asked why everyone isn't saved, if every one knows/believes that God exists. As Sye explained, the problem with the question was that it presumed that it is enough for salvation for people to know the truth of the gospel (i.e. understand the content), or enough for salvation for people to assent to the truth of gospel (i.e. acknowledge that it is true). Instead, salvation is about trusting in and relying Jesus Christ alone for salvation, which we could describe as viewing the truth as good and desiring it for oneself.

2) Another gentleman asked whether, if God exists, Matt Dillahunty thinks that God owes him anything. This question was good from the standpoint of providing one way of getting atheists to try to think. Sometimes atheists try to raise internal critiques of God's existence. Usually these critiques fail because they aren't dealing with the God of the Bible. For example, some atheists seem to think that if God exists, then there should be no human suffering, as though God's primary purpose would be to serve us and make us happy, instead of vice versa. Such a critique is obviously - at best - an external critique.

In this particular case, Matt stated that he said there would be some things that he would like - but that he did not believe that God would owe him anything. But then Matt took it a step farther and said that he felt that he would not owe God anything. On the contrary, if the God of the Bible exists, then Matt owes God obedience and repentance and faith when obedience falls short.

3) One lady raised an excellent question regarding how one gets from "there must be an absolute outside ourselves" to "the God of Scripture is true." Sye explained that rather the God of the Bible is a necessary starting point in order to make sense of any absolute. Thus, it is not "absolutes therefore God" but rather "God therefore absolutes."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Transubstantiation: Historical Development as Described by Garry Wills

Garry Wills (author of "Why I am a Catholic"), in "Why Priests," describes the development of Eucharistic theology in the Middle Ages (p. 43):
William of Ockham (c. 1288--c. 1346), also known as Occam, wrote a long treatise on the Sacrament of the Altar. There he admitted (because the dogma of the Resurrection demanded it) that the glorified body of Christ in heaven was material. But the sacramental body of Christ was non-material, therefore non-spatial, like that of an angel. It could be present in a punctum, a point. The Scholastic theologians are often derided for debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. That is not a thing they would ever discuss, since their angels are non-spatial and pins are spatial, so never the two could meet.
Wills explains that the position of Thomas Aquinas won out over views like that of Occam.  Thomas used an Aristotelean distinction between accidents and substance.  However, as Wills explains, Thomas took Aristotle in a way Aristotle never imagined (p. 45):
Though Aristotle distinguished substance from accident, he did not (could not) separate them. A dog cannot exist without accidents like size. And there cannot be "a large" or "a white" standing alone without a substance. It has to be a large or a white something. An accident "comes along with" (symbainei) the thing that is its essence. Thomas admitted this natural truth: "An accident assumes what it is from its substance" (ST 3.77 a1r). But for the Eucharist, he posited a miraculous disruption of the natural order. He took the radical step of claiming that a substance can exist without its proper accidents, and accidents can exist without their proper substance, though only by a special action performed by God every time the priest says the words of consecration.
Wills further explains that there was an opposition to the position that Aquinas inherited and adopted (p. 49):
Thomas was forced to go to such lengths in caring for damaged Hosts because alternatives to transubstantiation were condemned by the church. One such alternative was offered in the ninth century by Ratramnus of Corbie, who said that Jesus was present in the Eucharist only symbolically (in figura), not physically. Ratramnus was rebuked by his superior, Paschasius Radbertus, who insisted on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist--which made Ratramnus's student Gottschalk of Orbais claim Paschasius was advocating cannibalism. The view of Paschasius was the dominating one for the next two centuries.
But then, in the eleventh century, the charismatic and ascetical Berengar of Tours renewed in a more sophisticated way what Ratramnus had argued for, that the Eucharist is Christ in figura (in symbol). Relying on Augustine's philosophy of the sign, Berengar said that the sign does not stand alone. It has to have a signifier and recipient of the sign. The whole system cannot function without this transaction. For him, the Eucharist was a dynamic system, in which the riches of salvation were offered to those with the faith to receive it.
There was also a liturgical aspect to this development.  Wills explains (p. 51):
Even when the Host was not exposed in a monstrance, it was felt to be present within the altar tabernacle, its divinity signaled by a vigil lamp--not a sheltered matter of bread and wine but an abiding divine person to whom one "paid visits," worshiping, genuflecting, and praying to it. Alexander Nagel points out that, increasingly, from the fourteen to the sixteenth century, the tabernacle became larger and more central to churches.
In other words, the position adopted by Aquinas and calcified by Trent was a mutation, not an ancient tradition that was first disputed by the Reformers.

-TurretinFan

Friday, June 06, 2014

Misamplified Metaphors

People love metaphors - they are the salt of our linguistic cuisine, enhancing the flavor of our verbal diet. Still, they can be abused. I remember learning some time ago of mixed metaphors. I won't get into those now. Instead, let's talk about misamplified metaphors. These are cases where people are attempting to take an existing metaphor and amplify it. This can be done right. So, for example, "He wasn't just burning the candle at both ends, he had found a way to light in the middle too."

Misamplification can be seen when people say things like "he didn't just jump the shark, he jumped the beach, the lifeguard stand, and most of the cars in the parking lot." The reason this is a misamplification is that the metaphor is not about the height of the jump, it was an example of a purportedly low-quality episode of a popular TV program. You could say, "He didn't just jump the shark, he did it during sweeps week."

Misamplification can be applied to other metaphors as well: "He's not just circling the drain, he's circling the whole bathroom!" Instead, try "he's not just circling the drain, he's already half down it!"

Another misamplification example: "He's not a paper tiger, he's a rock, scissors and paper tiger!" A better option might be "He's not a paper tiger, he's more of a paper tiger's cub" or "he's not a paper tiger, he's a paper tabby cat."

Some misamplifications actually defeat the point: "He didn't just spit into the wind, he spat away from the wind as well!" Another: "It wasn't just coming up spades, but hearts, clubs, and diamonds too!"

I suppose there's also a special category of misamplifications. If someone tries to amplify "I am the door," into something more, it's likely going to end up just wrong. Same for "I am the vine." The Roman Catholics get a special award in this category when they amplify "this is my body" into "this is my body, blood, soul, and divinity," although perhaps they should be disqualified from receiving the award, since they mean it non-metaphorically. Thankfully for their teeth they don't make an identical error with "this cup" but instead refer those words to the contents of the cup.

Anyway, just something on my mind.

-TurretinFan


Oops, the original post included a simile, instead of a metaphor at one point:
So, for example, "that went over like a lead balloon" could be amplified as "that went over like a lead balloon filled with sand."
My apologies to the reader

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

On Silence of Christian Leaders

My brethren are getting frustrated with the fact that certain Christian leaders seem willing to talk boldly about things that all their hearers already agree with, while refusing to speak up about the more controversial in-house problems. Remember the words of Mordecai:
Esther 4:13-14
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
God does use men, like Esther, to advance his kingdom and cause. Nevertheless, God's purposes don't depend on Esther. Christian leaders who remain silent, thinking it is to their advantage, are not undermining our cause, but their own. We can entreat them to do what they seem called to do, but we should also recognize that God will deliver us, if not from that quarter, from some other.

-TurretinFan