Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Diary - A Challenge to FreeGrace and Godismyjudge

The Diary

Imagine with me that God, in his perfect omniscience were to write down on the 8th day of the world, a diary that stated for each day of all of time (from creation until the destruction of this world at the end of time, or whatever the end of this age is from your particular eschatalogical view), the events of the day. Presumably, if we accept the Roman Catholic tradition, the December 25, 4 B.C. entry would read: Jesus Christ was born. There would be an entry for September 11, 2001, that says that such-and-such a number of people were killed. And so on, and so forth.

The diary concept is simple. Hopefully it is intelligible. Every day has an entry, and the entry describes the events of the day in the past tense. Got it?

Now, let's suppose that God, being omnipotent and omniscient not only wrote an entry for every day, but included every event down to the last detail in this diary and completed the diary on the 8th day. Then, God took the diary and hid it somewhere we cannot find it. Still following?

Let's just, for the sake of the argument, assume that God wrote the diary based on his knowledge of what will happen. Let's not discuss HOW God had knowledge of what will happen. Hopefully that is not a tall order. It should be simple to grant that God had knowledge of what was going to happen, what is happening now (as you read this), and what will happen after you finish reading this.

For the sake of the argument, you are to suppose that God, for His own reasons, wrote down all of those events by carving diary entries into granite slabs that God specially created for this purpose.

Hopefully this scenario is clear up to this point in the post. If it is not, please feel free to explain why.

Now, imagine that there is a slab for April 10, 2010, and that slabs entry reads (in part): "Roe vs. Wade was overturned by a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court."

Here is the challenge:

Given the hypothetical scenario described above (which is not reality - in reality God has not written a granite diary of all of time),

  1. Is there anything that anyone (including the nine supreme court justices) can do that will produce a different court outcome on April 10, 2010?
  2. Is there anything that anyone can do to prevent the outcome carved in granite from happening?
  3. Is there any chance whatsoever that the outcome carved in granite will NOT happen?
  4. Must the event described in granite occur on the corresponding day?
  5. Is it necessary that the event occur on the corresponding day?

I boldly assert that, if you accept the presupposition that God is omniscient, you have to answer each of the five questions as follows:

1) No. Such an outcome would conflict with the granite slab. Such a conflict would properly be considered an error. An error on the granite slab would imply an error in God's knowledge of the future on day 8, since the granite slab was carved then.

2) No, for essentially the same reasons as (1).

3) No, again, for the same reasons as (1) and (2).

4) Yes, because if it does not, then the granite slab will contain an error, and it is impossible for such a state to exist.

5) Yes, without any positive information about HOW the event will come to be, we can say that it is necessary.


The application, of course, is that the future is no less certain simply because God has not written it all down. Exactly the number of people will be saved whose names would be written in that granite diary as being saved, and not one more person, and no effort on your part can alter that number.

This does not say anything positive about HOW that number will come to Christ - just that a certain, fixed number will come, and not one more.

However, this reality conflicts with your explanation of HOW that number will come to Christ. You seem to suppose that they will come in a manner that permits ALL to be saved. However, as we have shown above, nothing can permit ALL to be saved, because the granite slabs are as good as written.

Thus, the hypothetical granite diary proves your theory of causality to be wrong, without proving any other theory of causality to be right. It is no defense of your position here to say "but your theory of causality ...." My theory of causality is not in any way compromised by the hypothetical granite diary. As to this challenge, I have an explanation of HOW that does not contradict the reality demonstrated by the hypothetical granite diary. You, brother, do not.

Thus, FreeGrace, I challenge you to reconsider your view of causality in light of the reality of the certainty of the future. The idea that the salvation of all is possible is contradiction with the reality of a single future that is known to God in which less than all are saved.


The granite diary provides an excellent test case for your Temporal Becoming argument from your paper.

You see, the granite diary phrases its descriptions of the events of each day in the past tense: 33 men were killed by a Korean Student - the Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial birth abortions, a 1944 Miss America thwarted an intruder with her revolver, a sparrow fell to the ground, Roe vs. Wade was overturned, and so on.

Viewing the statements through the lens proposed in your article, I would look at the statement Roe vs. Wade is overturned, and - using your analysis - I would say that this statement is false. That's not a normal way of speaking, because normally one would recognize that the date at the top of the slab enlightens the reader as to the sense of the proposition. Nevertheless, given your definitions, it would be correct to say that this statement is false, and will be false until April 10, 2010. Then the statement will be true for the remainder of time.

The question is this: does anyone have the power to prevent that statement from becoming true on April 10, 2010?

The answer, if you are going to accept the innerrancy of the granite slabs, is "no." It is impossible that a world could exist in which, on April 11, 2010, the granite slab entry for April 10, 2010, was false.

Furthermore, no one has (has = present tense) the ability to change what was written (was written = past tense), nor will anyone ever have (will have = future tense) the ability to change what was written (was written = past tense).

Accordingly, if the granite slab says Roe vs. Wade was overturned on April 10, 2010, then no force, power, or ability - sub-human, human, angelic, or divine - has the power (has = present tense) to arrange things otherwise.

And, as noted above, it is sufficient that the granite slab could, hypothetically have been written. It is not necessary that God actually write the slab, because the relation between the slab being written and the certainty of the future event is not causal relationship. In other words, there is no need for the slab to exist in order for the future to be certain and fixed.

You may (and probably would) claim that there is a reverse causal link (that the future must occur in order for the slab to be written). This violates the first rule of causality (that the effect follows the cause). Nevertheless, let us leave this important flaw aside for the moment.

There is a second related flaw: by what mechanism does the event cause the carving? The response is that God is the link. The event acts on God's knowledge, and then God carves the event. This makes God a second cause, not a first cause. This violates the divinity of God as being the uncaused cause.

The third, and most important flaw, however, is that it does not address the reality of the matter. The reality of the matter is that no matter whether God is a second cause or whether the future can cause the past, the future is fixed, certain, and unalterable.

The day of Roe v. Wade's overturn is written in granite, and that date will not be changed. If the granite says April 10, 2010, then that is absolutely 100% certain to be true.

There is (present tense) no way to prevent that.

And that is not consistent with typical LFW explanations of freedom of the will.

My challenge to you, Godismyjudge: set aside your view of LFW in favor of the simple, Scriptural Calvinistic view of man's will. Then, your view of man's will be consistent with the hypothetical granite diary.



Godismyjudge has curiously responded:

1) Yes

2) Yes

3) No

4) No

5) No

The answers are almost all curious, because they defy common sense. Common sense says that if that the future is written in stone, the future cannot be otherwise. Yet, Godismyjudge repeatedly insists that it can be otherwise.

The only curiously inconsistent answer is the "No" to number 3. Here, Godismyjudge seems to acknowledge that the future will occur exactly as written, without any discrepency.

But this conflicts with many of Godismyjudge's other answers, particularly 4 and 5. For if it can be otherwise, and if otherwise means that an outcome written can not-happen, than God's omniscience can (in whatever sense Godismyjudge means "can") be violated.

Likewise, although most people would think that God's omniscience must not be violated, and that, therefore, the carved events must happen as carved, Godismyjudge claims that it can be otherwise.

Furthermore, Godismyjudge apparently overlooks the test of his time-passage argument. Accordingly, I invite him to revisit that point.

Finally, Godismyjudge's admission that the following statement does not limit free will is one reason that I say that Godismyjudge has yet to recognize that he is a Calvinist: "The third, and most important flaw, however, is that it does not address the reality of the matter. The reality of the matter is that no matter whether God is a second cause or whether the future can cause the past, the future is fixed, certain, and unalterable."

The idea that the future is fixed, certain, and unalterable and that man is free in the relevant sense is Calvinism contrasted with Arminianism.


Godismyjudge has responded, and a discussion of his response follows.

TF had written: But this conflicts with many of Godismyjudge's other answers, particularly 4 and 5. For if it can be otherwise, and if otherwise means that an outcome written can not-happen, than God's omniscience can (in whatever sense Godismyjudge means "can") be violated.

GIMJ replies: That conclusion does not follow. As I said, the events written will happen. This alone is sufficient to preserve God’s omniscience.

I respond: GIMJ seems to have missed the force of the argument. The thrust is not that "the events will happen" conflicts with God's omniscience, but that "the events can happen otherwise" (i.e. contrary to what God has seen before) conflicts with God's omniscience. In fact, of course, to insist dogmatically that they will happen as written and to simultaneously assert that they can happen otherwise is itself self-contradictory, and that is the point. If it will happen only way, and that way is so certain and fixed that it could as well be written in stone, then to say that the future "can" be otherwise is simply to speak in some hypothetical sense - it is not to speak of the reality of the matter.

TF had written: Furthermore, Godismyjudge apparently overlooks the test of his time-passage argument.

GIMJ replied: I am not sure what argument I overlooked. I suspect there are semantic differences on this point. But to check let me ask this. Do you agree that if I were to write “today is the day I die” on a piece of paper and seal it in a safe, it will be false every day but one (assuming the Lord does not return during my life)? If so, is suspect our differences are semantic.

I respond: The argument was asking you to apply the test you just mention about the paper, to the April 10, 2010, entry of the granite diary. As to your question, under your definitions the answer is as you say, but your definitions are contrary to the normal use of language.

TF had written: The idea that the future is fixed, certain, and unalterable and that man is free in the relevant sense is Calvinism contrasted with Arminianism.

GIMJ replied: The difference may be in what sense the future “is”. But clearly, Arminian divines affirm that God infallibly knows the future, and yet they were not accepted by Calvinists.

I respond: I don't think the real difference is a difference of words, but of logical consistency. If the future is so certain from God's pov, that it could have been writtten down in stone on day 8, then it cannot be otherwise, unless you simply mean to suggest that hypothetically it could be otherwise, if we suppose things that are contrary to fact.

Allow me to suggest that we continue this discussion by turning our attention to Necessity, in the post provided here (link to post).


Friday, April 20, 2007

Dean John William Burgon vs. Alan Kurschner

Where are the Manuscripts?

In a recent article, Mr. Kurschner challenged Dean Burgon's view of the manuscript ancestry of the so-called Byzantine text. Mr. Kurschner's article appears simply to adopt modern methodologies and claims of the mainstream textual critical movement, and does not significantly interact with Dean Burgon's position.

Mr. Kurschner justifies this lack of substantial interaction by descibing Dean Burgon's views as not having been significantly advanced by "KJVO advocates." This author notes that the world is not divided into KJVO advocates and those who uncritically accept the tenets of modern textual criticism. Others, like the present author, believe that modern textual criticism is fundamentally flawed in certain respects at a presuppositional level, and thus reject many of the claims of modern textual critics.

Mr. Kurschner notes one argument that is advanced to explain why copies of Byzantine text-type manuscripts are not available prior to the earliest known Byzantine text-type manuscript (which is at least a couple of centuries separated from the autographs). The argument that Mr. Kurschner notes is the "worn out" argument.

The "worn out" argument has the following rational basis. It supposes that most scribes would have been able to identify high quality manuscripts and would have selected those manuscripts from which to make copies. The frequent use of these manuscripts would have led to their deterioration, decay, and eventually destruction. Hence, this argument reasons, one would not expect to find very old, very high quality manuscripts - but would instead expect to find mostly old, unused manuscripts.

Mr. Kurschner, doubting this explanation, refers to such manuscripts as "phantom manuscripts." This author will refer to those manuscripts as "valued second generation manuscripts" (VSGM).

Mr. Kurschner raises several questions:

1) Why didn't the church father's quote from the VSGM?

2) How could it be that ALL of the VSGM could perish?

3) If the VSGM wore out through use made by copying, where are all the copies?

Mr. Kurshner supposes that these questions settle the matter contrary to the KJVO position, and, accordingly, concludes that KJVO advocates are forced to retreat to the use of prooftexts to support their position.

Before continuing, this author wishes to make clear that what is being advocated by Thoughts of Francis Turretin is not a KJVO position. Furthermore, this author notes that the issues raised above would pose no obstacle for a presuppositional KVO-ist. If one presupposes that the KJV is uniquely inspired, then one does not need evidentiary support and one will not be swayed by arguments that purport to be evidentiary in nature.

Mr. Kurschner's analysis of the alleged proof texts would be far more value to the Reformed community than the three issues that Mr. Kurshner raised in the article above. The reason why is simple: the issues raised by Mr. Kurschner have reasonable, logical answers.

0) There is more than one explanation for the absence of VSGM. In addition to overuse, climate is one explanation and another is persecution.

1) Mr. Kurshner's argument states that the early Christian writers did not quote from the Byzantine text-type. There are several problems with this assertion.

First, it is hard enough to determine "text-type" from a fragment. It is harder still to determine text-type from reading an epistle or even commentary that may quote Scripture without rigid punctuation rules, or may paraphrase Scripture.

Second, of course, the patristics are not autographs and have their own textual critical associated issues. Determining whether certain patristic writings are authentic is sometimes a prerequisite to determine whether they are accurate, which - in turn - would be a prerequisite to determining the effect of their testimony as to the correct reading.

Third, it's puzzling why Mr. Kurshner emphasizes text-type but overlooks readings. While there may not be Byzantine text-type documents, there are certainly many areas of agreement as to the Byzantine readings.

Fourth, it is unclear whether Mr. Kurshner is asserting that the patristic writers were simply all over the place, or whether Mr. Kurshner supposes that the patristic writers had access to truly superior Greek manuscripts, and quoted from them.

Fifth, viewed narrowly as to the "worn-out" claim, those would be the manuscripts possessed by expert, professional scribes, not bishops who happened to be persuasive writers.

2) As to how all the VGSM could perish: well, very few manuscripts at all have survived from before 5th century. Generally those that do are those that are not documents kept in daily constant use but are documents stored in a relatively arid climate, such as the Nag Hammadi collection or the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3) The third argument is the strongest argument, but the answer is that they are represented in the Byzantine text-form. The argument is not that the copies were all made before the 5th century.


We have reason to believe that at least a modicum of textual criticism was practiced among the ancients. We can also reasonably suppose that the Byzantine church had manuscripts that have been lost over time. Those manuscripts may be those from which many Byzantine copies were made, and they may have been selected as models for copying based on their quality in that day.

IF that is so, there is no reason to downplay a fifth century Byzantine text, simply because it is younger than Vaticanus.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Murder Update

Major press outlets are reporting that the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the constitutionality of a law that prohibits the murder of infants by their mothers (with the assistance of doctors) using a particularly gruesome technique (or techniques... the news articles' description of the actual law that was upheld is a bit fuzzy).

Pre-birth maternal infanticide is, however, still legal and widely practiced.

The gnat of exceptional cruelty has been successfully strained, while the camel of murder continues to be consumed.

Oh the hypocrisy of it all.

Which hypocrisy is only made more glaring by the enormous media coverage accorded a spree killer in Blacksburg, Virginia, while serially infanticidal mothers and doctors all over the nation are passed over in silence. Their victims, executed for profit or convenience, far outnumber the several dozen slain in passion and, perhaps, insanity by the lone gunman of Virginia Tech.

May God spare America from the consequences of the great and continuing sin of infanticide.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

John 6 - Christ's Spiritual Nourishment - to Lurker

An internet poster inappropriately handled "Lurker" provided a typical RCC view of John 6.
In the following I respond.
Lurker wrote:
I fail to see how one can take it as symbolic considering the reaction of his disciples in John 6.

I respond:
Jesus comment was that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament manna:
John 6:31-33
31Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32Then 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. 33For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

That the manna was a symbol of Christ is beyond reasonable question.

The main initial objection by the Jews was: "you're not from heaven, you're from your father, Joseph, and your mother, Mary."

John 6:41-42
41The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42And 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' response was to say that if they knew His Father, they would know Him.

But Jesus continued to repeat His claim to be the fulfillment of the manna:

John 6:47-51
47Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48I am that bread of life. 49Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51I 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.

Jesus' point is that he gives life through faith. The fathers ate manna and died, but if someone eats Jesus' flesh and blood they will live and not die.

Now, very few Christians - if any - would be so vain in their imagination as to think that Jesus was saying that the life that he gives is physical life. Instead, it is spiritual life - eternal life. Jesus is the spiritual fulfillment of the physical Old Testament symbol.

If we take "life" spiritually we ought also to take the consumption of his body and blood spiritually. It is by faith in Him that we are nourished by Him.

But the disciples were again confused, and did not recognize the the spiritual sense of Jesus' words.

So Jesus again compared his work to that of the physical manna:
John 6:52-58
52The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53Then 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. 54Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58This 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.

Jesus even explains (in verse 57) that the way in which we "eat" him is the same way in which He lives by the Father. All who realize that His Father is not Joseph, should realize that Father does not have a body. The way that the Father nourishes Jesus is through spiritual union. Even so, we are nourished through spiritual union with (by faith in) Jesus Christ.

Those who are nourished by spiritual union with Christ will have spiritual and eternal life. They will still physically die. We should recognize that Christ is not speaking of literal, physical life.
Nevertheless, some of His disciples were offended by what Jesus said, for we read:

John 6:60-66
60Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64But 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. 65And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

Notice that Jesus addresses the main source of their offense first: his deity. Jesus asks them whether they will believe if they see Him ascend to the place from whence He descended. In other words, Jesus identifies that objection (the first one the Jews raised) as the primary objection and did not back down from it.

As for the issues regarding His flesh comments, Jesus also clarified, in verse 63, that He is comparing spiritual nourishment (the nourishment he provides) with fleshly nourishment (manna), and says that the fleshly profits nothing.

Indeed, Jesus points them back to the words that He speaks (the words we now have recorded in Scripture) and says that they are spirit and life.

Nevertheless, Jesus points out there were some of the disciples who did not believe His words - as noted above, they were offended by His claim of divinity. Jesus explains that the reason they do not all believe is because God the Father did not give all of them to Him. This failure to recant His claim turned away many disciples.

Lurker continued:
They were literally aghast at the implication.

I respond:
They were primarily aghast at the claim of divinity. They mocked with a literal interpretation his claim to provide his flesh and blood.

Lurker continued:
IN fact, many of them left him over the claims they'd have to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

I respond:
As noted above, they left because He claimed to be God and claimed they didn't believe Him because they didn't know His Father and His Father did not give them to Him. They were offended and left.

Lurker continued:
Note also how they disputed among themselves saying "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

I respond:
Notice how "the Jews" were the ones who made that inquiry, as distinguished from His disciples. Notice how verse 59 divides the account into the public comments of Jesus (before verse 59) and the private comments of Jesus (after verse 59).

Lurker continued:
But Our Lord, rather than explaining it as figurative, like He did when they didn't understand some other teachings of His, instead re-emphasizes things! "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him"

I respond:
Actually, as noted above, Jesus did emphasize the spirituality of His nourishment, both in his private discourse to the disciples and by comparing it the nourishment He receives from His Father.

Lurker continued:
If you look at this in aramaic, you'll find the language here is quite carnal and forceful, as if He was deliberately emphasizing the literalness of His statements.

I respond:
A) Of course, John was written in Greek, not Aramaic. The Peshitta is a translation of the Greek original. That said, the idea that the language is "carnal and forceful" is contradicted by verse 63, which says that the words He speaks are spirit.

B) I have no doubt that this "carnal and forceful" is the spin placed on this text by some (probably contemporary) Roman Catholic (or possibly Eastern Orthodox) commentator. The reason for that view of the text is clear (without getting entangled in arguments over the "tone" of an ancient language): the author is seeking to support by tone what cannot be supported by exegesis.

Lurker continued:
He then warns them not to think with just their human minds, but to open it up to the Holy Spirit to give them understanding and help them believe when He says, "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life"

I respond:
No, that is not a warning not to think with their human minds (or "just their human minds"). It is distinguishing a fleshly, literal interpretation of his description of his nourishment from a spiritual and correct interpretation of his nourishing provision for His people.

Lurker contineud:
The plain reading of the scripture seems to leave the burden of proof on those who insist it to be symbolic.

I respond:
Actually, the plain reading of the Scripture is that Christ was speaking of spiritual nourishment, not physical nourishment.Indeed, this is confirmed by Peter's explanation as to WHY he and the other disciples (in general, Judas had other reasons) stayed:

John 6:68-69
68Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Peter confessed that they believed the words of Christ and His claim to deity.

Lurker continued:
The reaction of the crowd, Jesus re-emphasizing the literalness instead of explaining it as otherwise, His warnings that it cannot be understood without the Spirit, and the fact that many disciples left after this seem to be quite clear that He said something that made no sense to them. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

I respond:
No, it is not just that it cannot be understood without the spirit: it is that the nourishment that Christ gives is better than manna for it is spiritual nourishment, not fleshly nourishment. It gives spiritual life that never dies - whereas manna gave only mortal life for a season.

Lurker continued:
How? Because He is Lord. If Jesus wanted to, He can make stones into bread. How can I doubt Him when He says that the bread IS His body?

I respond:
And - of course - the response is that we are not to doubt Him, but rather to understand Him. We are not to impose a foolish physical interpretation on His words, like that unbelieving Jews, but to understand that the Lord's Supper, like manna, is a physical symbol of Christ.It is the one proper icon of Christ.

May our Manna be praised!