Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thought-Provoking Questions for "Orthodox" Readers


Surely you are aware that the Orthodox church has a "one bishop, one city" rule that has been in place for centuries.

Do you think that this rule:

a) is only to prevent peer competition between bishops in a single city;

b) suggests that the flock in a single city has only a single (earthly) shepherd;

c) is irrelevant today; or

d) something else (please explain).

(You can pick more than one, if you like.)

If you agree with (b), doesn't that suggest that - for example - the Patriarch of Moscow does not have spiritual authority (or spiritual responsibility) for any Orthodox person outside the city of Moscow, although he may have some administrative authority. I've heard Orthodox folks who would say so.

If that is so, then is that also true of the "Ecumenical Patriarch" (namely that he has no spiritual authority outside of Constantinople) and the "pope" (namely that he has no spiritual authority outside of Rome).

Finally, given that other cities than Constinople and Rome have become dominant in the new order of things, shouldn't those other city's metropolitans/patriarchs be accorded greater administrative authority.


No, He Did Not

According to this article (link), a man followed every rule in the Bible for a year.

No. He did not.

Only Christ ever followed every rule in the Bible for a year. What the man in the article did is mock every rule in the Bible for a year.

While a few men have been scrupulous in their observence of the ceremonial law of the Old Testament (Saul of Tarsus being the prime example), ALL have sinned (including Christ's mother) and come short of the glory of God. Christ alone is sinlessly perfect.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Robot Theology / Puppet Theology

When one engages in Reformed Apologetics in the blogosphere (or in the Internet in general) one is bound to encounter the objection: Reformed Theology/Calvinism/Predestination/etc. "makes men into robots/puppets/etc."

These unoriginal (by now) objections have been rebutted many times. Nevertheless, this post will present a very brief rebuttal.

1) Rebuttal 1 - When the objection is just a saying: Where's the problem? (not a rhetorical question)

Suppose the claim is true. Why is that a bad thing? Most people who make the objection have no idea. They just heard someone else claim that about Calvinism, and it sounded catchy. If someone cannot explain why that's a bad thing, then they haven't stated an objection, they've used a catch-phrase or chanted a mantra.

If, perchance, some objector is able to explain why that is bad thing, at least the discussion has employed some reasoned, articulated explanation, as opposed to name-calling. Then, you can decide whether the "bad thing" really is a bad thing, whether "bad thing" really inheres to Calvinism/Reformed Theology/etc., or whether you need to rethink your theology.

Otherwise, it is the same as an objection that "Calvinism treats people as though they were pottery," to which the response is "because the Apostle Paul - speaking by inspiration - does."

2) Rebuttal 2 - When the explanation is that Calvinism denies free will/human responsibility/something similar: Perhaps the objector is simply unaware of Reformed doctrine.

Calvinism asserts that man has a (compatible - not libertarian) free will and that men are responsible for their deeds. Thus, either the objector is unfamiliar with Calvinism, is insisting on a particular kind of definition of free will, or is attempting to make an implicit objection to somethinig deeper.

3) Rebuttal 3 - When the explanation is that if God is in control, then implicitly man is lacking in any real free will, repsonsibility, etc.

This objection is more nuanced. If the objector has gotten to this point, he's presented a more detailed objection than 90% of what one finds on the web. That said, the objection is still not correct.

The rebuttal can proceed several ways:

Scripturally, one can point out that:
- God says all things work together for good to them that are the called. In order for everything to work together God has to be behind the scenes, and we see that He is in - for example - the Book of Esther. So, God really must be in control. Furthermore, Scripture clearly teaches that we make choices and that we are responsible for the things we do, including the choices we make. The Bible does not contradict itself, therefore God's totality of control must not be in contradiction to man's having a real will, and man's having moral responsibility.

Philosophical, one can point out that:
There is no logical contradiction between God being in control, and man having a will, more responsibility, and the like. Thus, there is no reason from philosophy to make the objection.

4) Rebuttal 4A - When the explanation is that in order for a will to be real, it must be "libertarian" or "autonomous" - Says who?

Ultimately the objections above - if they move from surface treatments to core objections, typically lead to claims as to what the will must be in order to be a will. At this point, one could simply hand the objector a copy of Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will; but perhaps there is a simpler solution. Simply ask them to justify their claim.

Who says that is the only kind of will that there can be? Scripture certainly does not state or imply any such thing. Where did they get that idea from? This author has yet to see a significant, meaningful answer to that question.

5) Rebuttal 4B - Same explanation as above - On the contrary, a real will must NOT be libertarian, and no created will can be autonomous.

There is no need to burden the objector with the rebuttal in 4A. Taking a page or two from Edwards, we can simply point out that a will that acts contingently (a "libertarian" will) cannot be a will that is determined. Yet, wills in Scripture are determined, as are choices. A will whose acts are not determined by the person whose will it is, is a monstrosity that would destroy our intuition of what is required for moral responsibility. Finally, we can see evidence in Sociology, Psychology, and the like that people's wills are determined. The advertising industry is built on the fact that people are largely predictable in their behavior. Scripture confirms that man's acts are determined - comparing man's acts to the fruit of a tree.

Furthermore, Scripture is clear that creation is dependent for everything - even its very existence - on the Creator. Accordingly, to assert that something could come to be without its ultimate source being God is contrary to Scripture. In Him we live and move and have our being, as even the pagans recognized.

So far, this author has not seen any further responses that address the combined rebuttals 4A and 4B - if some come up, this author will either provide further rebuttals, admit his mistake, or adopt some third position as-yet-unimagined.

To our Sovereign Lord be the glory,


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Word Use / Selective Quotation / Other Fun

In this recent post (link), lay Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armtrong spends a significant amount of time and space defending his action in labeling someone using a term that once meant "donkey" but has become mild vulgarity.

Rather than just say that "I meant "donkey," not the other thing," Dave devotes a post to providing literary examples of a non-vulgar use of the term as an insult.

1) Dave quoting Luther and Calvin when he thinks it is useful for him is exactly like Dave quoting Scripture when he thinks it is useful for him. This author respectfully submits that this particular posts illustrates how Dave quotes each of those sources: selectively.

2) Luther and Calvin obviously did not write in English. Thus, the corresponding vulgarity should not be read into their works.

3) Dickens wrote long before the term in question become a popular vulgarity.

4) Shakespeare's use of double entendre (including quite vulgar double-entendre) is well known to those who have actually studied the writings of Shakespeare. Thus, the selection by Dave of Shakespeare is deeply ironic: especially when one considers that comparing oneself to a literary great like Shakespeare is exactly what a pompous fellow would do (although, obviously, it is also what another person might do, if the shoe fit).

5) Bottom line (ha!) - enough time has been wasted pointing out that Dave insults people.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why I am not an Evidentialist/Romanist

Here's a great example of why I am not an Evidentialist, Quasi-Evidentialist, or - for that matter - Romanist:


The portion of the post of interest is the account of the people who were tricked into thinking that they had been legally married when, in fact, they had not.

Our senses are generally reliable, but they do not always provide true information.


Post Script - A special note to Roman Catholic readers:

While this "priest" apparently "eventually" told the people that they were not married, it is certainly at least conceivable that there is at least one psychopathic person out there impersonating a Roman Catholic priest or even bishop on a daily basis, with no plan to reveal the truth. That priest may even be the one who married (maybe I should put "married") you and your spouse, who hears your confessions, and who will perform last rites for you.

If it turns out that the priest is a fraud, then none of the bread you ate was the body of Christ (nor was the wine his body), you have lived in unconfessed and unrepetant adultery (in fact all of your sins are unconfessed), and you will have died (without intending to do so) in a state of final impenitance. There is, one supposes, even a real question about whether you were ever baptized, since baptism by a non-believer has not traditionally been considered a valid baptism. [One dear reader has noted some ambiguity here: to be clear, Rome has not traditionally considered baptisms by non-Christians to be valid baptisms. Most protestants do not concen themselves with the question of baptismal validity.]

The point is this, if you think that participation in the sacraments is a necessary part of salvation, and if you agree that sacraments performed by a faux priest are not valid, you can have only a tenuous assurance of salvation.

And that is not Christianity. Salvation does not depend on human merit, human activity, or the faithfulness of the men who administer sacraments. Salvation depends on the action of God alone.

Think about it. If you trust in Christ alone for salvation, you have only the risk that Christ is a fraud, and God has revealed to us that Christ is the Way, the Life, and most importantly (in this context) the Truth. Confess your sins to God, not to someone who claims to be his vicar, whose claim you can never be sure about. Of course, we still confess our faults to one another, but do not place your reliance for salvation on the faithfulness of any man except Christ the one who is both God and Man in two distinct natures and one person. Only He can save you from your sins, and confidence in Him alone is sure.


UPDATE: Chinese Catholics can breathe a sigh of relief that this bishop bears the Vatican seal of approval (link). Some folks, however, will focus on the fact that the mitre that the bishop is wearing has six boxes, six vertical line segments, and six horizontal line segments (depending on how you count them). Even if that were intended to mean what it most likely is not intended to mean, that would be a very minor point contrasted with trust folks have in the man that wears the mitre.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Martyrdom Follow-Up

Avid readers of the news may recall the kidnap of many, and martyrdom of a few, South Korean professing Christians. This news report (link) suggests that the primary criminal responsible must now come before the Father to answer for the deaths of his children. I would not want to be in his place, and I thank God that he has mercifully restrained me from committing such sin (for which restraint I can take no credit), and mercifully provided an Advocate against that day of judgment.

Yet there are many others who have killed Christians, and yet have been so-far spared by God who permits them still to live. If anyone reading falls in that category, you should be in fear of God's judgment in the life to come, for God's longsuffering in permitting you to live only adds to the seriousness of your rebellion if you do not humbly turn to Him.

Repent, and beg God for mercy while there is time, for He has promised that all kinds of sin will be forgiven, and the most famous Christian apostle, Paul, was himself the most notorious persecuter of Christians before God turned His heart. If God has made you recognize His sovereignty, turn from your persecution of His bride, His children, His church, and cast yourself on His bounteous mercy.

Worship Him with me in Fear and Trembling, for He is an Holy God,


William Lane Craig's Middle Knowledge

William Lane Craig's

"Middle Knowledge, Truth-Makers, and the 'Grounding Objection'"

A Reformed Critique

The present author is in the process of responding to William Lane Craig's (WLC's) book, "The Only Wise God." In the process, however, it seems as though it would be useful to focus on the topic of the final chapter of that book, Middle Knowledge, and particularly on another of WLC's writings on the subject, specifically his article, "Middle knowledge, Truth Makers, and the 'Grounding Objection.'" This topic is doubly timely due to the present author's on-going discussion in the comments section of a treatment of another of WLC's related articles, on Newcomb's Paradox, in which the topic of truth-makers came up.

Presently, a copy of WLC's article is available here (link).

WLC's article purports to address a critical problem for any theory of Middle Knowledge, which he phrases as there being no true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, because there is nothing to make them true, but which might more aptly be described as there being no way for God to have "free" knowledge (including knowledge based on the (actual or hypothetical) exercise of creaturely freedom) prior to the divine decree.

As WLC admits, the objection is not an undercutting, but a rebutting rejection of Molinism, because if God does not have "middle knowledge," there can be no Molinism, and one must accept either Thomism/Calvinism (which states that God has "free knowledge" posterior to the divine decree) or Open Theism (which denies that God has "free knowledge" at least with respect to creatures).

It is worthwhile to point out, before we begin a detailed analysis of WLC's article, what middle knowledge is alleged to be. It is alleged to be God's knowledge of what "would" happen if a free creature were in a particular circumstance. Thus, it is God's knowledge of what state of affairs "would" result from the exercise of man's (or other free creature's) "free will" in a particular circumstance. Accordingly, this knowledge is a special kind of "free" knowledge, namely knowledge that depends on the creature's exercise of "free will," as constrasted with what Molinists (and most philosophers) refer to as God's "free knowledge," namely the knowledge that God has as a result of the exercise of his own free will.

WLC begins by setting forth the alleged warrant for the Molinist assumption (WLC himself calls it an "assumption").

The first alleged warrant is that "we ourselves often appear to know such counterfactuals." This warrant, however, can be readily dismissed. Our knowledge of "counterfactuals" generally falls into one of two categories, neither of which is consistent with the Molinistic assumption. The first category are counterfactuals that are true by virtue of the law of the excluded middle (i.e. we know that it is true that if President Fox were held by terrorists, the US government either would or would not intervene. The second category are counterfactuals for which our ground is causal inference, which negates freedom. An example in this category would include your knowledge that if you showed up late for work for a week and then insulted your boss to his face, your boss would react by firing you. There is not some third category of counterfactuals that we know to be true by some other mechansim. Thus, this alleged warrant falls flat on its face.

The second alleged warrant is that "it is plausable that the Law of the Conditional Excluded Middle (LCEM) holds for counterfactuals of a certain special form." As noted above, however, this is simply an example of the first category of counterfactuals that are true because they are just restatements of the law of the excluded middle. They do not assist Molinism in any way, because they do not depend at all on the exercise of a free will, and do not correspond to anything more than the application of a logical rule to a hypothetical scenario. Thus, this alleged warrant is also insufficient.

The third alleged warrant is that Scriptures are "replete with counterfactual statements." Scriptures, however, do not identify any creaturely acts as "free" in the Molinist (Libertarian) sense, and Scriptures also include counterfactual statements describing God's own actions. Finally, all such Scriptural statements are made posterior to the divine decree. Thus, such statements cannot possibly be a warrant for the Molinist assumption.

WLC implicitly notes at least some of these objections and suggests that "anti-Molinists" retreat to asserting that counterfactuals have no ground prior to the divine decree. WLC's only two responses are that "there seems to be no more ground now for many counterfactuals about creaturely free acts than there is logically prior to God's decree," and if "it is God who decrees which counterfactuals about creaturely free acts are true" then this seems to "make God the author of sin and obliterate human freedom."

The former of these objections ignores the obvious: posterior to the divine decree we have reality - the world that exists and operates according to the laws of Ordinary Providence. Thus, counterfactuals become grounded in reality.

The latter of these objections is wrong for enough reasons to occupy a major treatise (and Jonathan Edwards has written one that fully rebuts it). To briefly summarize, God is not the "author" of sin because he does not do sin: he is not a voluntary agent that performs a sinful act. Furthermore, God is not the "author" of sin because no one who sins is coerced into sin contrary to their will by God. If WLC means something else by "author of sin" we can respond with Vincent Cheung that we will simply grant the objection, and ask why that should be a problem. Used outside the first two items listed above, it is simply pejorative rhetoric, not a meaningful objection. Additionally, it is "libertarian" (not compatible) freedom that obliterates human responsibility, because it necessarily denies that man determines what man does. Or, to take a hint from WLC, we could simply deny the charge of obliteration of human responsibility and ask WLC to provide evidence. Nevertheless, as noted above Jonathan Edwards' "Freedom of the Will," has already thoroughly disabused any serious reader of the truth of either of the charges above, though (of course) WLC neither recognizes nor responds to Edwards' detailed and famous rebuttals.

Although we have seen that the Molinist assumption is philosophically warrantless, let us proceed to see what kind of response WLC is able to provide to the grounding objection.

WLC begins by explaining an alleged relationship between the grounding objection and a theory of "truth-makers." Theory, in essence, states that in addition to truth bearers (sentences, thoughts, or propositions) there are entities by virtue of which the truth bearers are true. Someimtes these truth-makers are labelled as "facts" or "states of affairs."

WLC recognizes what is intuitively obvious that the term "truth maker" suggests a causal relationship between the truth-maker and the truth of the truth bearer. (This same problem for the Molinist position had been observed by Dan in the comments section of the post linked-to above.) WLC's response is bafflingly off-base:

First, WLC responds that the truth-maker is usually conceived to be "such abstract entities as facts or states of affairs" and asserts that consequently a causal relation is not at issue here. This objection is bizarre, to say the least. While the terms "facts" and "states of affairs" are abstract, "facts" and "states of affairs" are categories of things that (mostly) have (or had or will have) tangible existence. Individual facts are not "abstract."

Second, WLC attempts to show that "negative existential statements" do not have truth-makers. If this were not presented as an attempted rebuttal, we would assume it were a poor play on words, for "do not have" with respect to statements of "negative existence" is fully consistent with a theory of truth-makers. The fact is that negative existential statements can be rephrased quasi-positively. Thus, "Baal does not exist" can be rephrased as "Everything that exists is a non-Baal," or more simply "All gods are non-Baals," since it is alleged that Baal is a god. Negative existential statements, therefore, can be converted to quasi-positive statements, for which there is an obvious truth-maker.

WLC then asserts that the various phrasing of the grounding objection are "crude construal[s]" of the problem. We have demonstrated, however, that WLC does not have an answer to the question variously phrased, but which amounts to:
Counterfactuals are supposedly true but not caused to be true by God, who then causes them to be true?
(A similar general question remains unanswered in the discussion thread identified above.)
The result of WLC's failure to answer this question is that WLC cannot provide an explanation for the truth of counterfactuals, and consequently can provide only an incomplete epistonomy.

Instead of identifying a cause, WLC simply calls the call for a cause (the request for grounding) "inept" and states that the objector must set forth some kind of "very special causal theory of truth-makers" in order to counter the "customary truth-maker theories." As we noted above, however, WLC has failed properly to analyze the customary truth-maker theories. Furthermore, no special theory of causality is required: everything external to God cannot be self-existent, and therefore requires a cause. The truth of counterfactuals is alleged to be external to God. Therefore, the Molinist should identify the cause, or acknowledge that the truth of counterfactuals is simply special pleading for Molinists.

WLC then identifies seven proposition that allegedly do not have "truth-makers." These include:

1) No physical objects exist.
(Which is not true, but if it were true the truth maker would be readily seen from the fact that "all things that exist are non-phsical things" has the truth-maker "all things that exist."
2) Dinosaurs are exitinct today.
(Which may be true, and if it is true today then the truth maker is a combination of the dinosaurs that once were (as to the implication of previous non-extinct status for the class of dinosaurs) and the status of all things as being members of the class "not-dinosaurs."
3) All ravens are black.
(If this were true, the truth-maker would be the color of all ravens.)
4) Torturing a child is wrong.
(If this is true, then the truth-maker is the standard of wrong, the moral law.)
5) Napolean lost the battle of Waterloo.
(The truth maker here could variously be ascribed to historians, Napolean's blunder, British genius, or God's providence.)
6) The president of the U.S. in 2070 will be a woman.
(If this is true, the truth-maker is inter alia God's decree.)
7) If a rigid rod were placed in uniform motion through the aether, it would suffer a FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction.
(Which has as its truth-maker the definitions of certain theories of 19th century mechanics and/or causal inference therefrom.)

In short, WLC presents seven propositions that he believes there is no truth-maker to be found for, and implicitly asserts that consequently there is no problem if no truth-maker can be found for counterfactual statements. But WLC, fortunately, does not rest on that idea (which has been demonstrated wrong above by provision of relevant truthmakers).

Instead, WLC continues with a section entitled "Do Counterfactuals of Creaturely Freedom Need Truth-Makers?" Of course, if WLC can answer this question negatively, then the problem would appear to be solved - regardless of the merit of any of the seven examples identified above.

WLC's contention appears to revolve around first, asserting that truth-maker theory is a minority philosophical position; second, some truth-maker philosophers permit some true statements to lack a truth-maker; and third, WLC has not found an explanation as to why counterfactuals should not be permitted to be without a truth-maker. None of these, of course, provide an excuse for counterfactuals to avoid the need for a truth-maker.

WLC's next question is whether such counterfactuals have truth-makers. WLC notes that Fredodoso has attempted to provide a truth-maker, namely the state of affairs that the propisition will have a truth-maker or that the proposition would have a truth-maker under the relevant condition. WLC recognizes that this alleged truth-maker creates the obvious, immediate, and insoluable problem of infinite regress, but seems to think that it is not so. WLC asserts that facts do not have to have truth-makers. That assertion may be true generally, to wit that ordinarily facts do not require truth-makers. This particular alleged fact, however, makes reference to another truth-maker, and thus creates the self-referential problem.

The problem is that WLC is taking shelter in the use of a similar technique to that used by philosphers who deny present grounding of future tense statements. Thus, WLC takes comfort in the fact that some explanatiosn of the grounding of future tense statements also suffer from infinite regress. WLC, however, seems to have overlooked the fact that many future tense statements can have other forms of grounding.

For example, the statement "tomorrow will be another day" is grounded in causal inference from the succession of time (and/or the definition of the word "tomorrow"), and "tomorrow will be rainy or not" is grounded in the law of the excluded middle. Finally, with respect to human perspective future tense statements that are not based on laws of logic or causal inference, such statements very rarely have grounding, and consequently are not "true" if, for a statement to be true, it must have grounds of truth. Note that what is being implied (but not stated) is that the statement must have grounds of truth for the speaker. In other words, the speaker must have a basis for the statement. The statement "a woman will be president of the U.S. in 2070" may turn out to be a correct statement of the state of affairs that transpires in 2070, but an ordinary human cannot have grounds for that statement - and, thus, while we might label the statement "true" after the fact, at the time the statement was made it was simply a guess.

This is not so with respect to divine omniprescience. God knows the future with the positive grounding of the divine decree. Thus, God's beliefs about the future are not guesses, but instead have the ground of the divine decree. Furthermore, God's beliefs about the hypothetical future are most readily grounded in causal inference, just as are ours - but God knows all the factors and thus has perfect knowledge of all hypotheticals posterior to the divine decree.

In contrast, for the Molinist, there is nothing that could ground God's knowledge of "counterfactuals" prior to the divine decree. Thus, God could not "know" such counterfactuals, and if God could not know such counterfactuals, then Molinism is dead.

WLC suggests that the ground of truth for a conditional "if A were in C, A would do S" is the hypothetical state of affairs described in the statement. This is somewhat similar to the non-predestinarian alleged grounding of future tense statements. The problem with that assertion, however, is that the hypothetical state of affairs does not exist, and (if it is really a counterfactual) will never exist. In other words, unlike future tense statements, there will never have been a corresponding state of affairs in which A is in C and does S, and the fact there will never have been a corresponding state of affairs in which A is in C and does S would "falsify" the future tense statement. Thus, WLC is relying for truth grounding on the very thing that would falsify a future tense statement, and a conditional statement does not purport to convey negative, but positive, information. Accordingly, even under a non-predestinarian analysis, WLC's basis for grounding is all wet.

Elsewhere, such as in "The Only Wise God," WLC has proposed an alternative basis for grounding. That basis is the fact that God knows all true counterfactuals. The problem with this attempted grounding should be immediately obvious. First, there is no reason to suppose that God knows all true counterfactuals prior to the divine decree, and perhaps even more plainly, it itself cannot have adequate grounding, unless we are to suggest that it is in God's nature to know all true counterfactuals. But if so, then true counterfactuals are part of God's natural knowledge, which both creates a paradox with respect to God himself, imposes necessity on counterfactuals, and takes out the "middle" from "middle knowledge." In short, an assertion that God's natural knowledge encompasses counterfactuals as much destroys Molinism as an assertion that God's free knowledge encompasses counterfactuals. Both scenarios destroy Molinism utterly.

WLC recognizes that the way that we treat normal hypotheticals (if I fire a shotgun at a pane of ordinary glass from a distance of 5 feet, the glass will break) is by identifying the causal inference. WLC, however, does not want to apply this to creaturely free acts, because he recognizes that doing so would destroy their libertarian freedom.

WLC even goes so far as to state that asking the question, "Why is F a fact?" or "What makes F a fact?" is to deny libertarian freedom, if F is a libertarian free act. The result is that WLC is unable to provide an account for the existence of F, and WLC is unable to handle Scriptural assertions that there are reasons why F is a fact (for example, there is a reason why Thomas believed). In short, WLC's philosophy falls prey to all the objections raised at great length and depth by Jonathan Edwards centuries ago.

Thus, when we arrive at WLC's conclusion that "anti-Molinists have not even begun to do the necessary homework," we are left with precisely the opposite impression. Specifically, we left with the impression that there is no warrant for accepting the Molinist assumptions, we are left with the impression that Molinism's assumption ends up contradicting Molinism, and we are left with the impression that Molinism fails to provide a complete epistemology: Molinism asserts that there are true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom and that they were known by God prior to the divine decree, but cannot give any account of them.

Finally, we may simply point out that the primary criticism raised against the Reformed view is essentially transitive to the Molinist viewpoint (in debate terms it is a "non-unique" criticism). That is to say, that while Molinists may deny that God makes the true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom true, nevertheless, God's selection of a particular world from all possible worlds (in Molinism) makes God in essence as much the cause of the evil that will be, as does God's selection of a particular world from all possible worlds in Calvinism or Thomism, because God recognizes that the consequence "If A is in C, A will do S," attaches just as certainly to C whether the link between C and S is causal (Calvinism/Thomism) or mysterious/unexplainable/impenetrable (Molinism/Arminianism). Thus, either way, C => S, and God's selection of C implies God's selection of S. In short, it is only the obviously mistaken position of Open Theism that an escape the charge that WLC attempts to level.

Thus, we may safely conclude that WLC has been unable to withstand the grounding objection proposed against Molinism, and the reader has no reason to believe in such a philosophical position. Instead, the reader should believe in the God who knows all hypotheticals on the basis of His infinite wisdom in combination with the Divine decree.


Blasphemy Note

Here is what the Roman Catholic Church says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1864 "Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.

In contrast, here is what Scripture says:

Matthew 12:22-32
22Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? 27And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 30He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 31Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

And again:

Mark 3:14-30
14And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: 16And Simon he surnamed Peter; 17And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: 18And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house. 20And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. 22And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. 23And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 27No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. 28Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Luke 12:8-10
8Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: 9But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. 10And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

I ask the reader, is the CCC's interpretation even remotely plausible in the context of Jesus' discussion in Matthew and Mark, and especially in view of the explanation provided in Mark 3:30. In other words, perhaps the CCC's interpretation would not contradict Scripture if only Luke's testimony were given, but against the three-fold testimony of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, can it hold its ground?

Surely not.


Monday, September 17, 2007

TurretinFan Recommends - Sovereign Salvation

If you have been following along with the Monergism Debate (link) and would a like a pamphlet that provides a monergistic and Biblical perspective on salvation, please peruse this excellent work (link). In fact, the present author recommends the pamphlet regardless of whether one has been following that debate. It's a well-written, logical, Scriptural exposition.


Response to Doug Wilson

In a recent blog post (responding to Frank Turk), Doug Wilson wrote:
Scott Clark is in the URC. In that tradition, when do children who were baptized in infancy generally come to the Table? They generally come when they have been catechized, which is when they are done or mostly done with high school. Then, when they are on the threshold of going away from home, they are fully brought into their home church. But this means that if we understand covenant community as being a full participation in koinonia, this is a tradition that does not really have any experience with covenant children. They are technically on the roster (having been baptized), but they have no experience of body life while they are children at all.

This comment highlights several defects in Wilson's thinking:

1) In the Reformed Churches, participation at the table is for those who can "discern the Lord's body." This was taught both by those who drafted the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689:

8. All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion (m) with Christ; so are they unworthy of the Lords Table; and cannot without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, (n) or be admitted thereunto: yea whosoever shall receive unworthily are guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgement to themselves.

m 2 Cor: 6,14,15.

n 1 Cor. 11.29. Mat. 7.6.

And also by those who drafted the Westminster Confession of Faith:

VIII. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament, yet they receive not the thing signified thereby; but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with him, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table, and can not, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.

Thus, it can be seen that (on the topic of the sacraments) Doug Wilson does not have an historical connection to the Reformed churches, and to the extent that his comments reflect the general sentiments of the Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue Theology community, neither do they.

Now, of course, there are some who permit uncatechized (or only partially catechized) children to partake in the Lord's Supper. This would not automatically place a person outside of confessional subscription. Nevertheless, to have a policy of permitting all baptized members of the church to commune would be outside the bounds of Scripture and the historic Reformed doctrine.

Any pastor who does not fence the table to exclude ignorant adults and children is a bad shepherd, and his presbytery (or consistory) should consider whether such a man is fit to be a minister of the gospel. This is a matter sufficiently clear from Scripture that it has been adopted by both the Reformed Baptists and the Reformed Presbyterians.

To the extent that DW is advocating the idea that all baptized children and adults should participate in the Lord's Supper, his position is both clearly contrary to Scripture and (much less importantly) outside the Reformed community.

In other words, just so Frank Turk knows, (and, as best understood) DW does not represent us (Presbyterians, Reformed, and/or paedobaptists) - at least on the issue of the sacraments, and if DW has been understood correctly his fellow elders should take appropriate action to correct his doctrine.