Saturday, December 08, 2007

Choice - Transitive vs. Intransitive

This post is a continuation from the combox of this previous post (link).

Godismyjudge wrote: "I meant [by "diabling factor"] that which makes us unable to choose freely."
I answer: I was afraid of something like that. I think we are talking past each other.
When I speak about the ability to choose, I'm speaking about choosing transitively - that is to say, choosing an object, making a selection, reaching a decision. Same as when I talk about the ability to lift (e.g. 10 lbs.) or run (e.g. 50 ft.). A transitive ability is the ability to do something. That something is the object of action.

Now, because of the level of abstraction we have when discussing this matter philosophically, the object of choice is "A."

Thus, I contend that it is compatible to assert that:
1. Man freely chooses A; and
2. Man was determined to choose A,
3. Because determination and choice are compatible concepts.

Just as I contend that it is compatible to assert that:
1. Man lifts A; and
2. Man was determined to lift A,
3. Because determination and lifting are compatible concepts.

And in general, it is compatible to assert that:
1. Man does A; and
2. Man was determined to do A,
3. Because determination and action are compatible concepts.

Now, when we add the term "ability" we providing a further level of abstraction.

Having the ability to lift is a different concept from actually lifting.
Even as
Having the ability to choose is a different concept from actually choosing.
and in general
Having the ability to do is a different concept from actually doing.

Of course, conventionally we recognize that:
1. Actually lifting A is evidence of ability to lift A;
2. Actually choosing A is evidence of ability to choose A; and
3. Actually doing A is evidence of ability to do A.

Indeed, "evidence" is an understatement. We view it as proof.

But, contrariwise, we would not consider that:
1. Actually lifting A is evidence of ability to lift B;
2. Actually choosing A is evidence of ability to choose B; and
3. Actually doing A is evidence of ability to do B.

At least, not in the same sense as above, and depending on what "B" is. If "B" is somehow a subset of A, then of course we would grant that doing the whole is evidence of being able to do the part.

Where does determination come in?

Determination is consistent with action. That is to say, it is possible for man both to act and to be determined to act. The nature of the action (whether physical or mental) is not important to that definition. Thus, as one example of acting, freely choosing is consistent with being determined to freely choose.

That's certainly the case if we consider the choice transitively, as above. In other words, there's nothing contradictory about saying that man freely chooses A and that man was determined to freely choose A.

As noted above, however, going from freely choosing to the ability to freely choose is further level of abstraction. Actually freely choosing A necessarily implies the ability to freely choose A.

If we go back to the illustrations above, and we recall that:

In general, it is compatible to assert that:
1. Man does A; and
2. Man was determined to do A,
3. Because determination and action are compatible concepts.

And we apply the necessary inference of ability to do from the fact of doing, we see that it is compatible to assert that:
1. Man is able to do A; and
2. Man was determined to do A,
3. Because determination and action are compatible concepts, and transitive ability to act is (at least) a subset of action.

Likewise, we see that it is compatible to assert that:
1. Man is able to lift A; and
2. Man was determined to lift A,
3. Because determination and lifting are compatible concepts, and transitive ability to lift is (at least) a subset of lifting.

And so, coming to "freely choosing," we see that it is compatible to assert that:
1. Man is able to freely choose A; and
2. Man was determined to freely choose A,
3. Because determination and freely choosing are compatible concepts, and transitive ability to freely choose is (at least) a subset of freely choosing.

Now, of course, that's not particularly objectionable (except for one matter, that will be addressed below). The matter that is objectionable is about the ability to do B if man is determined to do A (and assuming that B is not simply a subset of A).

As we noted above, the inference of ability from action only works if we maintain the object (or a subset of the objection). To give a clear contrary example, the action of lifting 10 lbs. does not say anything about the ability to lift 100 lbs., although it does say something about the ability to lift the sub-set of 5 lbs. (why that is, would make an interesting paper in itself, but for now we will take it as intuitive).

So, we recognize that it would not necessarily (not a matter of logical deduction) be compatible to assert that:
1. Man is able to do A; and
2. Man was determined to do B,
3. Because although determination and action are compatible concepts, and the transitive ability to act inferrable from (2) points to an ability to do B, not A, whereas (1) is asserting an ability to do A.

In other words, the two abilities to act are not aligned. (1) points to an ability to do A, whereas (2) points to an ability to do (B).

Perhaps a question should be posed:
1. Ability to do A
compatible with
2. Ability to do B
where A&B are not identical to each other or in a subset relation?

The answer is that conventionally they are compatible. A man can be able both to walk to work and to carry his lunch. A man having more than one ability is not an incompatibility per se.

So then, where is the problem?

1. A first problem is that ability can be phrased uncertainly, indefinitely, or intransitively.
Thus, rather than addressing "the ability to freely choose A," an incompatibilist may wish to discuss "the ability to freely choose A OR B." That latter statement is hard to parse logically, because it is indefinite.

It's not saying that man either has the ability to freely choose A or the ability to freely choose B, which would seem to be one way to interpret it. Likewise, it is not saying that man has the ability to choose both A and B (at the same time and in the same way).

What it seems to be saying is that man has the ability to freely choose A and the ability to freely choose B, and that the man has both such abilities at the same time. As we noted above, that is not necessarily problematic, as man can be possessed of multiple abilities at the same time.

It also adds a twist, though. The two abilities are incompatible with simultaneity. In other, the advocate seems to be saying that man has the ability to freely choose A and the ability to freely choose B, and that the man has both such abilities at the same time, but that the abilities are interrelated such that if one ability is exercised, the other cannot be.

In other words, the man have two abilities, but (unlike our man who walks to work while carrying his lunch) the man is only able to exercise one of the two abilities at any given time.

This creates a sort of meta-ability. There is the underlying ability to transitively select A, the underlying ability to transitively select B, and a overlying ability to intransitively select only one option.

And frankly, this is the sort of perspective where the differences between compatibilism and incompatibilism can be more clearly seen.

If we divide out, for example, this restriction on simultaneity we can say that the man has the ability to do A and the man has the ability do B. But the restriction on simultaneity is a real restriction. When add it back in, we cannot unqualifiedly say that both the man has the ability to do A and the man has the ability do B. The restriction on simultaneity is a qualification, a restriction on ability, though - from the wording of the issue - it is an indefinite and uncertain restriction.

We can phrase the matter another way:
Something converts one of the abilities into a reality. If we ignore that something, we are speaking in a divided sense about ability. This is fairly normal.
On the other hand, if we consider the "something" and the restriction on simultaneity, it becomes quite odd to continue to assert an ability, the exercise of which would violate the restriction on simultaneity.
In other words, the restriction on simultaneity and the "something" that converts one of the two abilities to actuality have to be divided out in order to refer to the other of the two abilities as an ability.
That seems to follow fairly straightforwardly.

What objections can I immediately think of?

1. How about the ability to abstain? Some might suppose that actually doing A also implies an ability to abstain from doing A. The answer to that is to consider things that we know have the power to act (such as the Sun, to illumine the Earth) but which do not have he power of abstention from action. In fact, the ability to abstain relates to choice. Thus, humans and animals have the power of abstention from action. We understand this power of abstention to be in a divided sense, such that a dog cannot abstain from action A and do action A at the same time and in the same way.

2. But aren't determination and free choice definitionally opposed? The answer to this objection is that they are not within compatibilism. Of course, if you bring loaded definitions to the table, compatibilism will become incoherent.

Thus, within compatibilism, the restriction on simultaneity and the fact that "something" actualizes ability are recognized as compatible with free choice, because free choice is expressed with division to those things.

That there is restriction on simultaneity seems to be admitted by our LFW opponents, and that "something" actualizes ability seems to be uncontestable.

********* Continuing with the next chunk of dialog ****************

The present author had previously stated: "The ability to choose freely A in a divided sense, excluding the cause why A is not actually chosen, is compatible with there being a cause why A is not actually chosen. In a compound sense, including the determining cause, A will not be chosen."

Godismyjudge replied: "I notice you said “will not be chosen” rather than can not be chosen."
I answer: Yes. Let's see what significance you draw from that:

Godismyjudge continued: "Thus we are still able to do otherwise, despite the determining cause."
I answer: That does not seem to follow, unless one divides out the restriction on simultaneity, discussed above.

Godismyjudge continued: "I see no reason for a divided sense for being able to do otherwise."
I answer: Hopefully the above explanation helps. If not, is there really a restriction on simultaneity?

Godismyjudge continued: "It seems you providing the term in an absolute sense. I am not sure how dividing out or including in the determining cause alters the sense."
I answer: I'm not sure what you meant by that. Perhaps you could elaborate.

Godismyjudge continued: "Perhaps you intended (or implied) that A cannot be chosen, in the sense that we are unable to freely choose A?"
I answer: No, as noted above, I think that when we are talking ability to choose counterfactual options we are speaking in a divided sense, ignoring the "something" that actualizes the other ability and the restriction on simultaneity. Thus, to say that we are "unable to freely choose A" would be equivocal (within the discussion), because I would have moved from the divided sense of free choice (the ordinary sense) to a compound sense of free choice (an unusual sense, to say the least).


UPDATE: This recent article from Triablogue is close to the point being discussed here, but is from a little different perspective and part of a different dialog (link).
Further UPDATE: Steve Hays has now also provided a further post that goes into additional depth (while generalizing) on the subject (link).

This December, Consider Not Celebrating

This December, consider - to the Lord - not celebrating Christmas.

Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Colosians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Here's some sermon audio as to some reasons why it may be honoring to God to abstain from celebrating Christmas this year. (link)

But, if you are going to celebrate it, do so to the Lord, without (as the papists attempt) making it an obligation on your Christian brethren.

Romans 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.


P.S. Here's an interesting counterpoint to my position (link).
P.P.S. Here's a more interesting (in my opinion) counter to the counter-point (link).

Dave Armstrong Backs Down

Today, in his own combox, on his own blog, Dave stated that he is no longer interested in debating, although he apparently plans to continue to dishonestly assert that I refused to debate him. The sad thing is, I think he almost believes it! He fully expected me to refuse, and he's not quite sure what to do with the fact that I did not refuse. Oh well.

His clear statement that he is not interested in the debate puts an end to the "Is Catholicism Christian" debate to which Dave Armstrong challenged several folks. Presumably this will also put an end to Dave hounding Reformed apologists to debate him. We'll have to wait and see.

I'm moving on to other things.

The positive side of Dave Armstrong's backing out of the debate is that it frees up time in my schedule, which should let me get started with Godismyjudge sooner.


UPDATE: Dave has posted a response (he just can't get enough) on the combox of his own blog, in which he calls the present author a "fool" and brother Bridges an "ass" while asserting that various other Reformed bloggers are in "abject fear" of him. If you're going to be called names, it's nice to be in such noble company.
Further Update: Dave has now posted a criticism of the positions held by (at least) four Catholic bishops (link) - men who presumably have formal training and authority in Catholic doctrine. So, I guess my company is not quite as good as I hoped. At least it's good to know that this guy who thinks I'm a fool, also thinks the bishops of his own church are fools (though I doubt he'd have the guts to use that word to describe them).

Meanwhile, in more important news, Godismyjudge has backchannelled me to begin negotiating the details of the Romans 9 debate.

Truth In Advertising - Amyraldian Edition

In a previous post (link), this blog noted that there seems to be a propensity among certain modern Amyraldians to call themselves by another name that suggests affiliation with Calvin and Calvinism.

While I pointed out the dishonesty in this approach (since their doctrine has a recognized descriptive label that's not Calvinism), I may have overstated it a bit to suggest that they got the idea from Dr. Geisler. In fact, while he is the biggest name recently to try such a thing, the fact is that Amyraut himself (for whom the doctrine is named) attempted to assert that he was fully consistent with Dordt and Calvin.

I don't think ever called true Calvinists "ultra-Calvinists" or "hyper-Calvinists," nevertheless he (and his modern followers, particular open followers such as Dr. Alan C. Clifford) asserted that he had the true mantle of Calvin. More can be read about Amyraldianism in this thorough article written by Pastor Angus Stewart (link).

If the master did it, is it any surprise if the disciples do it?

Compare (link) Dr. Clifford's own page, or this list of 90 allegedly supporting passages from Calvin (link), apparently also produced by Dr. Clifford.

Finally for the reader that has awaited a critical examination of Amyraldianism, welcome to it (link).


Friday, December 07, 2007

Even in the PCUSA may an Amyraldian Properly Be Ordained?

This is a followup to the previous post regarding whether an Amyraldian could be properly ordained in the PCA (link).

The PCUSA has many confessions. I've tried to select the most germane portions of the confessions to the issue. That is to say, I've tried to select the portions to which it seems that Amyraldians cannot, in good faith, subscribe. Obviously, they could subscribe to many other portions of the various confessions, and to some of the confessional documents of the PCUSA in their entirety:
8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same;38 making intercession for them,39 and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation;40 effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit;41 overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.42

(Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter VIII [as presented by the PCUSA])

THE FRUIT OF CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION. Further by his passion and death and everything which he did and endured for our sake by his coming in the flesh, our Lord reconciled all the faithful to the heavenly Father, made expiation for sins, disarmed death, overcame damnation and hell, and by his resurrection from the dead brought again and restored life and immortality. For he is our righteousness, life and resurrection, in a word, the fulness and perfection of all the faithful, salvation and all sufficiency. For the apostle says: “In him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,” and, “You have come to fulness of life in him” (Col., chs. 1 and 2).

(Second Helvetic Confession Chapter XI [as presented by the PCUSA])

The same Jesus Christ is the judge of all men. His judgment discloses the ultimate seriousness of life and gives promise of God’s final victory over the power of sin and death. To receive life from the risen Lord is to have life eternal; to refuse life from him is to choose the death which is separation from God. All who put their trust in Christ face divine judgment without fear, for the judge is their redeemer.

(The Confession of 1967, Item 9.11 [as presented by the PCUSA, which may be the original version])

Finally, as with the PCA, the PCUSA does not require unflinching acceptance of everything in the "Book of Confessions." Nevertheless, they are to be taken seriously.

While all creeds and confessions, including those in The Book of Confessions, are subordinate standards, they are standards for the church and its ordered ministries. “[The confessions] are not lightly drawn up or subscribed to,” states the Book of Order, “nor may they be ignored or dismissed.”5 Thus, the church requires that ministers of the Word and Sacrament, elders, and deacons give affirmative answer to an ordination question that specifies the source and the function of confessional authority:
"Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture [teaches] us to believe and do, and will you be instructed . . . by those confessions as you lead the people of God?6"

(Taken from the PCA's "Book of Confessions")

Now, frankly, considering some of things I've seen preached from PCUSA pulpits (and by whom), Amyraldianism is really the least of their concerns. Nevertheless, if - by God's grace -a revival stirs the PCUSA, and a return to the Reformed faith follows, it seems there is more than adequate ground for refusing to ordain Amyraldians, on the basis of the doctrinal standards of the church.

I really wonder, though, whether these standards are taken seriously by the elders of the PCUSA? Ah well. That's not the point.


Good Suggestions on Blogging

Here are some good suggestions on blogging, from an experienced blogger, including some good moral advice about the process. (link)

The Coercive Nature of Evangelism

The Gospel itself (properly speaking) is good news. Evangelization, however, is more than simply presenting the good news itself. There is more to the message than that.

A simple evangelistic presentation is this:

1. There is a God.

2. God has a moral law.

3. You have broken the moral law, by failing to perfectly love God and your neighbor.

4. As things stand, you deserve the punishment God has appointed for those who break his moral law.

5. Death is not the end.

6. The punishment you face, as it stands, is essentially unending torture in the life to come.

7. If you die today, as it stands, you will receive the punishment you deserve, and - frankly - even if you feel fine you could die today.

8. God is Just. He cannot simply ignore the fact that you broke his law.

9. Take immediate measures to stop sinning. Repent of your sin. Do what you can to avoid breaking the moral law, and beg God for assistance.

10. Repentance is not enough, though, for you are still guilty of past sins.

11. God is also merciful. He has appointed a priest who has offered a sacrifice that satisfies God's justice. That priest and sacrifice is Christ Jesus.

12. You do not deserve to be one of those for whom Christ offers himself as a sacrifice to satisfy justice, even if you have repented.

13. Throw yourself on God's mercy, repentant from your sin. Call on Christ Jesus, asking him to be your priest. Go to God and ask Him to accept you on the basis of Christ's sacrifice.

14. If you do so, trusting in Christ, you will not be refused.

15. But you cannot throw yourself on God's mercy and continue to sin willfully - repentance means turning from your sin and serving God.

16. If you trust Him, Serve Him, Love Him, and Bow before Him.

17. If you love Him, do what he commands. Be baptized. Learn from the elders. Give to the poor.

18. Go on from these basics and grow.

(Compare this similar, and even - perhaps - more brief example [link])

This is an offer that can be cast in various lights. Give up the pleasures of sin, for the glory to come. Give up now for the future. Sell everything that you count precious today for the riches of heaven.

At its root, though, it is not just a nice offer of a "free benefit." It is a free gift, but that's not all it is.

It is fundamentally coercive, which is why it is powerful. To those who believe, whose eyes God has opened, how can they resist his commands to repent and believe? What choice do they have? The pleasures of this world are fleeting, and the torment that will follow is not. On the other hand, persecution in this world is fleeting, but the pleasure in the life to come in the presence of God is not.

It's like the old joke, where the man hears, "Your money or your life," and says "I'll take the money!" ... except that here that's really what's meant. There is both a carrot and a stick. If you repent and believe, you will live in the riches of heaven forever, but if you don't hell will be your place for eternity.

The offer is an offer you can't refuse - but it's not an attempt to rob you. You'd be a fool to turn down heaven for hell.

But people do, because they do not believe either the threats or the rewards. They cannot be coaxed or cajoled, because they are blind to the truth.

Dear Christian readers, be a light to them. Open their eyes to the truth. The law is written on their hearts. They know they sin and somewhere, perhaps buried deeply, they know they need a Savior. Show them the truth as best you can.


Ought an Amyraldian to be ordained in the PCA?

Amyraldianism (denial of the "L" in TULIP, while maintaining the other petals) is clearly out of accord with the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

The PCA's Confession of Faith (based on the WCF) states:
8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the word, the mysteries of salvation; effectively persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by his word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.

Since Amyraldians normally assert that Christ purchased redemption also for the reprobate (or deny that redemption is "purchased" at all), therefore I would submit that a man who teaches Amyraldianism would be unable to subscribe to the confession of faith of the PCA.

However, the PCA's BCO states (Chapter 21-4):
While our Constitution does not require the candidate’s affirmation of every statement and/or proposition of doctrine in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms, it is the right and responsibility of the Presbytery to determine if the candidate is out of accord with any of the fundamentals of these doctrinal standards and, as a consequence, may not be able in good faith sincerely to receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures (cf. BCO 21-5, Q.2; 24-6, Q.2).

Therefore, in examining a candidate for ordination, the Presbytery shall inquire not only into the candidate’s knowledge and views in the areas specified above, but also shall require the candidate to state the specific instances in which he may differ with the Confession of Faith and Catechisms in any of their statements and/or propositions. The court may grant an exception to any difference of doctrine only if in the court’s judgment the candidate’s declared difference is not out of accord with any fundamental of our system of doctrine because the difference is neither hostile to the system nor strikes at the vitals of religion.
This means that even though a candidate may be out of accord with the Confession of Faith, in the PCA such a candidate may still be ordained (this has interesting consequences for the Federal Vision controversy as well). The only remaining question, then, would be whether this difference is "hostile to the system" or "strikes at the vitals of religion."

I think "strikes at the vitals of religion," is certainly going too far. It is a serious error, and it does seem to be hostile to the system. Specifically, the doctrinal difference goes to the fundamental issue of Christ's priestly role.

Consequently, I answer the above question, "nay." I do not believe it would be proper for an open Amyraldian to be ordained as an officer of the PCA.


N.B. Note, I do not say on this blog whether I am personally a member of the PCA. I leave readers to draw their own conclusions from that disclaimer.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dr. White - Now in Farsi

If you are from Persia, where Farsi is spoken, or you just generally know Farsi, you may enjoy this brief discussion by Dr. White (link). I assume there is much more to come, but this is a taste.
The basic gist is a discussion about Scripture, their inspiration, and how they should be understood. Obviously the video is for the benefit of Christians, particularly those who hold to the document that Dr. White is discussing, [UPDATE: which is the 1978 Chicago Statement on Innerancy (link)].


UPDATE: Here is James White's own summary of the video, with a hotlink to it (link).

- Thanks to Dr. White for correcting me as to the document being discussed.

The Matthew Poole Project

May God give Pastor Dilday the strength to continue and complete this important project (link).

For those not familiar with what's going on, here's an article (link).


Words of Wisdom as to the Tongue

Someone (Puritan Covenanter) has provided words of wisdom arranged by the late Rev. Bahnsen regarding the tongue. (link) It's advice we can all (starting with the present author) use. It's even advice that Bahnsen could have used in his interaction with John Robbins.

May God give us greater wisdom in the restraint of our tongues (and fingertips),


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Comparative Views on the Atonement

Someone else wrote (but I generally agree):

1. All that we have hitherto said of Christ leads to this one result, that condemned, dead, and lost in ourselves, we must in him seek righteousness, deliverance, life and salvation, as we are taught by the celebrated words of Peter, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," (Acts 4: 12).

2. The name of Jesus was not given him at random, or fortuitously, or by the will of man, but was brought from heaven by an angel, as the herald of the supreme decree; the reason also being added, "for he shall save his people from their sins," (Mat 1: 21).

3. In these words attention should be paid to what we have elsewhere observed, that the office of Redeemer was assigned him in order that he might be our Saviour.

4. Still, however, redemption would be defective if it did not conduct us by an uninterrupted progression to the final goal of safety.

5. Therefore, the moment we turn aside from him in the minutest degree, salvation, which resides entirely in him, gradually disappears; so that all who do not rest in him voluntarily deprive themselves of all grace.

6. The observation of Bernard well deserves to be remembered: The name of Jesus is not only light but food also, yea, oil, without which all the food of the soul is dry; salt, without which as a condiment whatever is set before us is insipid; in fine, honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, joy in the heart, and, at the same time, medicine; every discourse where this name is not heard is absurd, (Bernard in Cantica., Serm. 15).

7. But here it is necessary diligently to consider in what way we obtain salvation from him, that we may not only be persuaded that he is the author of it, but having embraced whatever is sufficient as a sure foundation of our faith, may eschew all that might make us waver.

8. For seeing no man can descend into himself, and seriously consider what he is, without feeling that God is angry and at enmity with him, and therefore anxiously longing for the means of regaining his favour, (this cannot be without satisfaction), the certainty here required is of no ordinary description, - sinners, until freed from guilt, being always liable to the wrath and curse of God, who, as he is a just judge, cannot permit his law to be violated with impunity, but is armed for vengeance.


Compare (4) with this:

Prop. LIX Those that dare say, that Christ is an imperfect Redeemer if he do not procure Faith itself for every Man that he Dies for, (which is their Master Argument) may as well say, that God is an imperfect Creator, because he maketh not Worms to be Men; or that he is an imperfect Conservator because he preserved not man from Mortality, Damnation and Antecedent Calamities; especially from Sin: Or that he is imperfectly Merciful, because he permits Men to sin; and Condemns them: Or that Christ is an Imperfect Redeemer of the Elect, because he suffers them after his Redemption to Sin, Suffer and Die: Or, that the Holy Ghost is an imperfect Sanctifier and Caller, because many wicked Men are Sanctified and Believe imperfectly (so as will not suffice to Salvation) and because they resist and quench the Spirit, and fall from that Faith and Sanctification which they had. Or that the Spirit is an imperfect Comforter; because so many Saints Live and Die in such uncomformitable sadness: Or that Scripture is an imperfect means, because the Effect is so imperfect. In a word, they may as well say, that where God doth not overcome mens wicked dispositions, he is an imperfect God to them in regard of his
Mercies: All which beseem not the Tongue of a Christian.

Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ (London, 1694), pp. 65-66.

Obviously, I disagree with Baxter. So, I dare to say, did the person whose numbered sentences I quoted first. If you are tired of wondering what else the first writer wrote, here's the source (link).

Let's throw a few other writers into the mix:

On the side of the Father this part of the covenant has been fulfilled to countless myriads. God the Father and God the Spirit have not been behindhand in their divine contract. And mark you, this side shall be as fully and as completely finished and carried out as the other. Christ can say of what he promised to do. “It is finished!” and the like shall be said by all the glorious covenanters. All for whom Christ died shall be pardoned, all justified, all adopted. The Spirit shall quicken them all, shall give them all faith, shall bring them all to heaven, and they shall, every one of them, without let or hindrance, stand accepted in the beloved, in the day when the people shall be numbered, and Jesus shall be glorified.


Another passage of this apostle, which shows that all who are made partakers of the benefits of Christ’s redemption, are in their first state wicked, desperately wicked, is Rom. v. 6-10. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”—Here all for whom Christ died, and who are saved by him, are spoken of as being in their first state sinners, ungodly, enemies to God, exposed to divine wrath, and without strength, without ability to help themselves, or deliver their souls from this miserable state.


1f. The text in 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15 is sometimes brought as a proof of Christ’s dying for all men in an unlimited sense; “if one died for all, then were all dead”: now let it be observed, that in the supposition “if one died for all”, the word “men” is not used; it is not “all men”, but all, and may be supplied from other scriptures, “all” his “people”, whom Christ came to save; and “all the sheep”, he laid down his life for; all the members of the “church” for whom he gave himself; “all the sons” whom he rings to glory: and the conclusion, “then were all dead”, is not to be understood of their being dead “in” sin, which is no consequence of the death of Christ; but of their being dead to sin in virtue of it; and could it be understood in the first sense, it would only prove that all for whom Christ died are dead in sin, which is true of the elect of God as of others (Eph. 2:1), but it would not prove that Christ died for all those that are dead in sin, which is the case of every man; but the latter sense is best, for to be dead to sin is the fruit and effect of Christ’s death; Christ bore the sins of his people on the cross, that they being “dead to sin, should live unto righteousness”; through the death of Christ they become dead to the damning power of sin; and to the law, as a cursing law; that they might serve the Lord in newness of spirit: this puts them into a capacity of living to him, and affords the strongest argument, drawn from his love in dying for them, to such purposes; to influence and engage them to live to his glory; (see Rom. 6:2, 6; 7:4, 6). And let it be further observed; that the same persons Christ died for, for them he rose again; now as Christ was delivered for the offences of men unto death, he was raised again for their justification; and if he rose for the justification of all men, then all would be justified; whereas they are not, as before observed.


For whom did Christ die? Who were the ones He intended to redeem by His blood-shedding? Surely the Lord Jesus had some absolute determination before Him when He went to the Cross. If He had, then it necessarily follows that the extent of that purpose was limited, because an absolute determination of purpose must be effected. If the absolute determination of Christ included all mankind, then all
mankind would most certainly be saved. To escape this inevitable conclusion many have affirmed that there was not such absolute determination before Christ, that in His death a merely conditional provision of salvation has been made for all mankind. The refutation of this assertion is found in the promises made by the Father to His
Son before He went to the Cross, yea, before He became incarnate. The Old Testament Scriptures represent the Father as promising the Son a certain reward for His sufferings on behalf of sinners. At this stage we shall confine ourselves to one or two statements recorded in the well known Fifty-third of Isaiah. There we find God saying, "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed," that "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied," and that God's righteous Servant "should justify many" (vv. 10 and 11). But here we would pause and ask, How could it be certain that Christ should "see His seed," and "see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied," unless the salvation of certain members of the human race had been Divinely decreed, and therefore was sure? How could it be certain that Christ should "justify many," if no effectual provision was made that any should receive Him as their Lord and Saviour? On the other hand, to insist that the Lord Jesus did expressly purpose the salvation of all
mankind is to charge Him with that which no intelligent being should be guilty of, namely, to design that which by virtue of His omniscience He knew would never come to pass. Hence, the only alternative left us is that, so far as the pre-determined purpose of His death is concerned Christ died for the elect only. Summing up in a sentence, which we trust will be intelligible to every reader, we
would say, Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of all that the Father had given to Him. Christ died not simply to render sins pardonable, but "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). As to whose "sin" (i.e., guilt, as in 1 John 1:7, etc.) has
been "put away," Scripture leaves us in no doubt-it was that of the elect, the "world" (John 1:29) of God's people!


I'd exhort folks to consider the statements themselves, without spending a great deal of time on the personalities.

Praise be to our Perfect Redeemer!


McMahon on John 3:16

Pastor McMahon's article (here) provides a great starting place for understanding some of the key Reformed discussions on John 3:16.

Of particular interest to some of my readers I excerpt this paragraph from the linked article:

The Westminster Assembly also has some contentions concerning the idea of the word “world” due to the theological positions of the Amyraldians in their meetings (such as Davenant). Rutherford, Seaman, and Gillespie contended for the word “world” as meaning “the elect” and presented the idea to the Assembly and the Assembly accepted their proposition concerning God loving the “world” as God loving the “elect”. This was noted in detail in their Minutes.[37] The consensus of the Assembly was to abandon the Amyraldian notion that God loves all men generally[38] and moved forward with the meaning of John 3:16 as particular for the elect only.

Some Satire for EgoMakarios' Benefit

I thought one of my faithful readers, EgoMakarios, would benefit from reading this piece of satire (link). In case the two mentions above are not sufficient:

The linked piece is satire and so is every piece at Tom in the Box.


N.B. Satire Alert.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Amazing Providence!

Praise be to the Lord for his providential preservation of a shopkeeper, by means of his wife, via the mechanism of her giving him a ring, and him wearing it as an outward sign of his marital relationship to her.

In come the robbers;
"Bang!" goes the gun;
The bullet glances off the ring;
Reducing the harm done.


The man was wounded by the attack and the thieves did take money, but the man will live, and his wife is able to glorify God for this physical salvation of her husband.

Praise be to the Savior of all men, especially those who believe,


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Turretin on Imputation

Here's a link to a quotation from Turretin (the real one) on the Imputation (link), taken from his "Institutes." This may be helpful to those who are seeking understand the Adamic/Christic parallel.


Owen on Arminianism

Some of Owen's comments are out-dated, because "Arminianism" to a degree has become a moving target with various justifications. Still Owen's piece is still a good read, and much shorter than his "Death of Death and Death of Christ."

It is a book, not just an article, and it has something like 14 chapters.

Here's the link.


True Style over Substance: An Odd Defense of DW

There's a big caveat to be placed on this post. Doug Wilson does generally preach the gospel and doesn't back down from convincing folks of sin. He takes a lot of flak for that, including various forms of persecution, from opposition at the Moscow (Idaho) zoning board, to anonymous libel/mockery/attack sites on the net (that's far from an exhaustive list).

On the other hand, not every criticism of DW is because he stood up for something right.

In this post (link), a writer who seems to be a DW partisan (he seems that way from the post, but DW has indicated that the author of this post is not in the FV camp (here))attempts to defend DW against what the writer feels has been a slanderous attack on DW.

The essence of the alleged slander is: "DW is slandering the PCA (or its SJC)."

The essence of the alleged defense to this charge is that one can only slander individuals, not institutions.

Now, the writer may have an etymological and/or legal point. Let's suppose that it is true that only individual people (not groups of people or institutions) can be slandered.

The writer continues by arguing: "Even then, slander requires that the charge be knowingly false and defamatory. Gossip need not be knowingly false. Slander must be."

I hope you see the problem with this line of argument. If one were a lawyer arguing to get his client, the defendant, off from a charge of slander, those arguments could be handy. Maybe the technical elements of the crime/tort have not been met.

On the other hand, the clear point of those who say that Doug is slandering the PCA and its SJC, is that Doug is making false, negative statements about the PCA and its SJC. He is unjustly defaming them.

A real, positive defense of Doug would be say either:
1) that Doug's claims were correct (the truth defense); or
2) that Doug's claims were based on facts that Doug believed to be true at the time (the innocent mistake defense).

Of course, for (2) to work, DW would have to admit that he had made a mistake - something that I do think DW is man enough to admit, though it doesn't happen frequently. As far as I know, DW has not done so in this case - and anyhow the writer of the post does not make this defense.
Likewise, for (1) to work, the writer of the post would have to take DW's side on the substance of the matter. Yet, and this is why the post seems so odd, the writer never even says (much less proves) that DW's negative claims are true!

Why is all this a useful discussion, rather than just a tempest in a teapot?

Because we all need to be careful about getting involved in a debate at that lawyerly/technicality-driven level. We need to see the forest, not just the trees. We need to be willing to get past nuances and get to the meat. I doubt that the writer of the post is actually taking the position that Doug is unintentionally making false statements that harm the reputation of the PCA/SJC, and that is really the important issue, not whether those who criticized DW should have used one label or another.

A good apologist needs to hit the nuances - the technicalities - and move on to the substance.


UPDATE: Except that I'm sure they've never heard of my little blog, I'd think the Bayly brothers were trying to woo me by quoting from such a great source in their follow-up post (link).