Monday, September 15, 2014

Good Quote from Van Til

[T]he argument for Christianity must therefore be that of presupposition. With Augustine it must be maintained that God's revelation is the sun from which all other light derives. The best, the only, the absolutely certain proof of the truth of Christianity is that unless its truth be presupposed there is no proof of anything. Christianity is proved as being the very foundation of the idea of proof itself.
(The Defense of the Faith, p. 298, emphasis added)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Thoughts: Calvin on Simplicity

Moreover, those phantoms which Servetus substitutes for the hypostases he so transforms as to make new changes in God. But the most execrable heresy of all is his confounding both the Son and the Spirit promiscuously with all the creatures. For he distinctly asserts, that there are parts and partitions in the essence of God, and that every such portion is God.
Please excuse me for lacking page numbers or chapter divisions, the Kindle version of the Institutes I am using has none. This passage comes in Calvin's first chapter on the Trinity. Calvin is discussing the errors of the rationalist Servetus in this passage. Calvin points out three heresies that Servetus is guilty of:

1)  He substitutes the hypostatic understanding of the Son and Spirit, and calls them merely ideas. Neither the Son or the Spirit are not divine like the Father for Servetus.

2) Servetus says that the divine nature can be divided. In other words he thinks there are metaphysical parts in God.

3) Finally, Servetus thinks that all of creation partakes of divinity.

Now (1) and (3) are not problematic for most evangelicals. We all believe that the Son and Spirit are hypostases of the Trinity, and that all three persons of the Godhead are coeternal and coequal, save the distinctions in the economy of Salvation.

It is (2) I would like to camp out on. Calvin points out that anyone who is willing to divide the divine essence is a heretic. Because for Calvin, like most of the classical tradition, holds that for there to be parts in God is to diminish God's divinity. The reason for this is because Theists typically hold that God is a se, which is the doctrine that God is not dependent on anything. But if God has parts then, he is dependent on those parts for his existence. The parts, then, would be more fundamental than God himself this flies in the face of what it means to be God in a classical sense. So, if Calvin were alive today he would condemn a great number of "orthodox" theologians.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Some Thoughts on Prayer

Back in 2009 the Maverick Philosopher had some interesting things to say about prayer Maverick Philosopher on Prayer .  I read it back then and did not think anything of it, but since then there have been some serious changes in my personal life and the depth of my faith.  When I first read his thoughts on prayer I was something of a deist.  I had been going through some pretty serious doubts about my faith, but since then my intellectual problems with the faith have been answered, and I also had a real conversion.  For the first time in my life I know what the inner witness of the Holy Spirit it is, and what this certainty that comes from the Spirit actually is.  Thus, when I stumbled across his post on prayer reading a few of his posts on Alexander Supertramp (the Pseudonym of the young man from the book Into the Wild) I felt the need to work through Bill's thoughts on the matter.

Now first, Bill evaluates differing forms of prayer.  He gives six.  First, is petitionary prayer which he views as the lowest and most childish form (Sorry, Jesus.)  Second, is petitionary prayer for spiritual needs though this is only a slightly less childish form of prayer.  Third, is prayers of thanksgiving. Fourth, would be prayers of aspiration the desire to transcend one's infirmities and finitude.  Bill says this type of prayer is "leaving oneself behind".  How a person can leave himself and still be himself is a head-scratcher, but more on that later.  Fifth, is what Bill calls mental silence.  Now this seems to be the emptying oneself of all desire, want, need, and even striving.  Sixth, Bill includes Simone Weil's idea of praying as if God does not exist.

Now, I am not sure what Bill's criterion is of evaluating prayer, but it seems arbitrary to me. 

Why would it be a bad thing to realize that the earth and all there is in existence comes from God's hand? That I petition God because the God-man commanded that we ask for things from God? Aren't Christians supposed to come to God as children? Now in a sense coming to God with the trust of a child is not childish, but prudent for the Christian who believes that God has acted in time and space. I just cannot follow Bill in his multiple levels of abstraction. The God of Christianity revealed himself in a specific time and a specific place to redeem that which he assumed (human nature). He cried out to God and asked that his cup of suffering would be taken from him. That is petition, and if Jesus did it then a Christians can do it. So much the worse for Bill's views on prayer.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Creator-Creation Distinction and the True, the Good, and the Beautiful or A Problematic Passage in "Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology"

In Michael Horton's fine work Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology I came across this passage that leaves me scratching my head.

Among the practical benefits of this doctrine is the realization that the good, the true, and the beautiful do not have to be justified in terms of their ontological participation in spirituality or divinity, but as divine creations that bear a divine benediction.  There is a real sense in which they are good in themselves, and not just to the extent that they participate in eternal forms, even if that form should be "God".

(Michael S. Horton, Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005 pg. 78)

Now much of what Horton has said in this work is commendable.  He affirms aseity, simplicity, timelessness, and most of the classical package of Christian Theism.  In this respect he is much better than many theologians who would like to revise our concepts of God to fit a "dynamic", "changing" being. Though in this passage he seems to go off the rails.

What does it mean for truth, goodness, and beauty to be divine creations?

Can Truth be created?  If Truth was created would it be "true" that before truth was created that it didn't exist? These questions are absurd, and it should show that there is no way that truth could be a divine creation.  Rather, truth is part of the nature of God, and the "forms" that Horton refers to are God's thoughts.  To use the reformed distinction between ectypal and archetypal ideas, the forms would be the archetypal ideas that God has in his "mind". Truth, goodness, and beauty seem to me to be part of the divine essence.  Jesus said he was the way the truth and the life, and God is described as glorious, and good.  It isn't that God is dependent on these things because he is simple and they are all distinctions not divisions in the divine nature.  

This passage seems to be a package of confusions. Do I misunderstand Dr. Horton?

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Biblical Origin of the Concept of Divine Omnipotence

"Some of the traditional attributes fall clearly into neither of the categories which have been distinguished- neither the biblical-personal nor the philosophical-metaphysical- and either appear to belong to both, or are assumed to belong to a class other than that to which they actually do belong.  An example of the latter class is omnipotence, which we shall meet again and again.  On the face of it, this appears to be an essentially metaphysical attribute, for it figures in the list of words beginning with "omni-" or 'all-' which appear to be metaphysical in character.  Yet the first systematic development of the concept was that of Irenaeus, a theologian whose theology was oriented rather to scripture than to philosophy, and the he achieved it on biblical grounds.  No Greek philosopher would attribute omnipotence to God, for all held that at least some aspects of the world were eternal, and therefore represented an eternal limit on what God- at least, any god conceived to be in some way distinct from the world- could both be a do.  Yet in the early Christian tradition it came to be one of the defining attributes of God."
Gunton, Colin E. Act and Being: Toward a Theology of the Divine Attributes, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 25-26.