Friday, June 16, 2006

My Unedited E-Mail to Dr. Ergun Caner after his Sermon from the Thomas Road Baptist Church Why I am Predestined Not to be a Calvinist

Dear Dr. Caner,

Just recently I heard a sermon that you preached at Thomas Road Baptist Church. I would first of all like to say that I am not a Baptist, I am a Presbyterian, but I have many friends who are Baptists, and many friends who are Calvinistic Baptists. Now, I have not written to try to change your mind about Calvinism. Only God can do that. However, I think that, seeing as how we are both men who value academics highly, I would like to express my concerns for what I believe is an unfair presentation of Calvinism. I think that in light of our status as Christians, this topic needs to be done with sound biblical exegesis, sound logic, and careful examination of the views in question as well as gentleness and respect. I have written to express my concern in these areas.

First of all, can you provide any documentation that would substantiate the claim that a five point Calvinist is a “hyper-Calvinist?” Hyper-Calvinism has a specific meaning historically referring to one who denies that God has ordained the ends as well as the means. What is worse, is I know from your dialogue with James White that he has already corrected you on this. So, I think if you are going to continue to use that word for five point Calvinism, it is only fair to ask you, from scholar to scholar, to substantiate that claim or at very least give a defense as to why you are departing from the normal historic usage of terms.

Second, you really did a lot of begging the question. For instance, you said that you were not a Calvinist or an Arminian, but a Baptist. The problem is that this begs the question as to whether or not these are mutually exclusive categories. This is something merely asserted and not proven by you. The issue of Calvinism is something that has been debated by Baptists from the beginning. This grossly begs the question as not only could people from the history of the Baptist movement be quoted as Calvinists [Spurgeon and Boice to name two big ones], but there are several modern day Baptists that are presidents of seminaries such as Albert Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church, and [although he is independent] John MacArthur. The only way out of this dilemma is to say that they are not all really Baptists. However, that is still begging the question as you have to explain then what about them, apart from their belief in Calvinism, makes them non Baptists. If you cannot answer, then you have again begged the question as to whether these are mutually exclusive categories.

In other words, to say that you are not an Arminian or a Calvinist but a Baptist is like me saying that I am not a conservative Christian or a liberal Christian, I am a Presbyterian. Unless, you can show that these are mutually exclusive categories, you have begged the question.

The next example of begging the question is when you are talking about reprobation. You say that the possibility is “a lie from the pit of hell” that there is such a thing as reprobation. Well, all you have done is engage in name calling and begging of the question in the highest degree. What if I turn around and say “the idea of free will is a lie from the pit of hell.” Now we are at a stand off. Dr. Caner, I would say that this is not addressing an issue head on; this is running far from it. You also called Calvinism an infection [without explaining what you meant or arguing for it]. You have not proven anything with these statements. All you have done is begged the question and engaged in name calling.

In your quotation of John Gill, you said that he “redefined” all to mean “all kinds of men.” You said that was a lie. Again, you have given no argumentation whatsoever. I hope to show below that you would not even deal with the fact that if we were to take your meaning of “all men” and apply it across the board, it would make nonsense out of the Bible.

Another fallacy I am concerned about is half truths. For instance, you mentioned a preacher who believes it is a sin to give “invitations.” Why didn’t you mention that within the teaching of the regulative principle of worship, the controversy is over altar calls not inviting people to believe? The issue is whether we should call people forward to “accept Christ” since we do not believe salvation happens in that manner. Yes Calvinism plays an important role in that discussion, but there is also the idea that we are to worship God in the way he commanded us, and since he has not commanded us to do this, it is wrong to do it. So, there are really two other things which need to be said here. First, it is the invitation to come forward and “accept Christ,” within the context of worship is what is disputed and that the dispute also has to do with the regulative principle.

The next set of problems are exegetical in nature. You have stated that we must “dance around” the term “all.” Yet you know as well as I do since I am a Biblical languages major that quoting a passage out of context and just assuming its meaning is just as much dancing around a passage as is misinterpreting it. Why? Because then the true meaning of the text may be hidden away because the verses around it were not quoted nor were they accurately examined in their proper context.

A good example of this is Romans 9. I happen to have detailed information about this passage as I am doing my final paper in New Testament Exegesis on this passage. However, you only quoted the following part of the passage:

Romans 9:13-14 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!

However, you did not even quote the verses before it:

Romans 9:11-13 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." 13 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."

Notice that Paul says two things of significance here. That this idea of Jacob being loved and Esau being hated was before they were born or had done anything good or evil and it was not because of works. Therefore, it could have had nothing to do with “Esau did.” Not only that, but you also forgot to quote the next verse:

Romans 9:14-16 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Now, here is the big question. If you are right and the hatred of Esau is because of what Esau did, Paul has a ready made answer for his explanation. He can just say there is no injustice with God because God was merely reacting to what Esau did. However, he doesn’t say that. He said that it is his nature as God to have mercy on whomever he desires, and in verse 18 he adds that he also has the ability to harden whomever he desires. Notice how radically different Paul’s conclusion is from your conclusion. In verse 16 he says it does not depend upon human willing or effort but upon God who has mercy. Yet, in what you presented, it would be dependent upon what Esau did.

With regards to 2 Peter 3:9, you even misquoted the passage. Here is how you quoted it:

He is willing that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Now, here is what the text actually says. The objection completely disappears when it is quoted accurately:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

What a difference context makes. Now the “any” of which he does not want anyone to perish and the “all” of which he wants to come to repentance is the people to whom he was writing, that is, the “you.” One needs only to turn to 1 Peter 1:1 to find out who that is:

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,

In 1 Timothy 2:4 you just simply assumed that the phrase “all men” means all humanity without even giving any commentary. You even said John Gill was lying when he did not do that. I want to first of all point out that you turn the Bible into absolute chaos if you would apply this assumption across the board:

Acts 22:15 'For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.

Did Paul encounter every single man woman and child on the face of the planet, even the ones who lived before he was born?

2 Corinthians 3:2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;

So, did all of the people in the kingdoms of Africa and the people who lived long before Paul was born also know of the Church at Corinth?

Philippians 4:5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

Does that mean that we have to go to every man woman and child on the planet, take a time machine and go to every individual in the past, and future, and show them our gentle spirit? If that is the case, you had best get started. Here the text clearly refers to all kinds and classes of men. This is going to become an important definition as many of the cases you allege in the texts you post support universal redemption by this phrase can actually be contextually demonstrated to have the meaning "all classes of men."

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

So is Paul saying that he is going to present every man complete in Christ? Isn't that universalism?

1 Thessalonians 2:15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men

So, is Paul really saying that they are hostile to people who they have never met, hostile to people who lived before them and who will be born after they die?

Now to the text at hand. First of all, you mentioned that “all men” is used back in 1 Timothy 2:1. Let us see if your definition fits there:

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,

Now, let me ask you, does that mean you are to pray for Clyde who lived in the twelfth century? Does that mean you are to pray for people whom you will never know because they will live after you? Does this mean that you have to find a list for every person in the world and be offering prayers for every single person on the planet? Obviously such is ridiculous. In fact, there is strong parallelism here between verses one and two in the Greek as both the phrase “on behalf of” in verse 1 and “for” in verse 2 both use huper. Hence, there is some parallelism going on here. Hence, he is talking about a meaning similar to the meaning in Philippians 4:5. What is worse is that you quote the following passage as confirmation of your position, but it actually supports Gill’s position:

1 Timothy 2:7-8 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Notice that Paul here mentions another class of men, namely, the gentiles. Notice that he also says that this refers to men in every place. This is further confirmation that we are talking about all kinds of men as in Philippians 4:5.

So, I have to ask, why is it that your view assumes a certain meaning of “all men,” makes nonsense out of verse 1, misses the fact that all men has more than one meaning in the NT and ignores the rest of the text which clearly gives away what he is talking about by the phrase.

Also, you mentioned Romans 2:15 as establishing an age of accountability. Actually, the context is saying nothing of the sort. Notice the entirety of the context:

Romans 2:14-18 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. 17 But if you bear the name "Jew " and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law,

Paul is here proving that Jew and gentile are alike under sin [3:9]. What he is saying is that the gentile who does not have the law is condemned by his continence, and the Jew who does have the law is condemned because he knows the ordinances and still does not follow them. However, this says nothing about whether infants are still under condemnation for original sin. In fact, note what Paul says just a few verses later:

Romans 3:12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one."

Hence, I would say that even infants are included in this.

Along these same lines you also said, “God does not judge based on original sin. Original sin tells us our direction, but God will judge based on consciousness.” I really find it odd that you say you are not an Arminian, and yet you are rehashing the arguments of the Semi-Pelagians and the Arminians that say that original sin does not make a person guilty before God, that only ones “consciousness” does. But I suppose there is no incoherence with you rehashing those arguments. Anyway one wonders how one would get around the idea that original sin causes death:

Romans 5:16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

This text says that the judgment for Adam’s sin was condemnation. It says nothing about consciousness.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

Notice, the text says that all in Adam die, not, all those in consciousness die.

Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

How can the rest be children of wrath if some are infants and do not have continence?

Also, to say that original sin has nothing to do with God’s judgment means that it also has no function in theology. Within systematic theology our standing before God therefore has nothing to do with the fall. You see, once original sin’s severity is lowered to the level of a pointer it looses its entire function. That is why I, and even a Lutheran who heard your sermon said, this view functions the same way as a system that denies original sin.

I was also quite disturbed with the misrepresentations of Calvinism you present. Again, I have to wonder if you have read Hodge, Berkhoff, Reymond, or any Reformed Baptist systematic theologies such as Wayne Grudem. For instance, you said that since we say that everything is predestines, we have no problems saying God is the author of sin. However, the Westminster confession of faith says just the opposite:

WCF 3:1 God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:(1) yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,(2) nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.(3)

There is a distinction in Reformed theology between first and second causes. God decrees whatever comes to pass, and it is actualized in the author of sin which is second causal in nature. Whether you agree or disagree with that, why say that we believe something when Westminster contradicts it flat out?

Second, you also assumed we can know who the elect are. No Calvinist would every say we could know whether or not the person written in these people’s Bibles was reprobate or not. This is also why we can pray for people because God has ordained the ends [human salvation] as well as the means [our prayers]. God accomplishes his sovereign will through the means of his followers and the work he has created them unto [Ephesians 2:10].
The next misrepresentation is that you say that a Calvinist does not believe God is all loving if he reprobates people. This is simply a rehashing of the problem of evil. Your argument seems to go like this.

1. God is all loving.
2. God is sovereign over everything.
3. People will go to hell.

The problem is that this is only part of the truth. We need to only add one premise and the problem is gone:

4. God has a morally sufficient reason for the condemnation of the wicked in hell.

Now, there is no paradox at all. This completely escapes the problem altogether. Even an atheist philosopher such as Michael Martin recognizes that at this point the problem of evil is solved.
However, I don’t know if you have realized that the problem can be turned back on you:

1. God has exhaustive knowledge of future events.
2. Therefore, God knows what each man will do.
3. God is not obligated to create any human.
4. God is all loving.
5. There are people that are going to be in hell.

The problem is that now the incoherence comes in the question “If God knows when he creates person x that person x will reject him and end up in hell, then why does he then create person x?”

It is also a misrepresentation of Calvinism to say that we cannot evangelize. We can evangelize because of two things: Our human ignorance of who the elect are and the fact that God has both ordained the salvation of people and the means for their salvation. Consider a thunderstorm. We all believe that God is in control of nature. However, God uses the means of updrafts, warm fronts, cold fronts, evaporation, and condensation in order to cause a thunderstorm. In the same way, God has ordained that one of his means of bringing his yet unsaved elect people to salvation is through the proclamation of the word. The exciting thing about evangelism is that you never know if God may use what you say to regenerate one of his people. Since I do not know if the person I am witnessing to is one of God’s elect, I can preach the gospel with the exciting possibility that God will use my preaching to convert that person to Christ. You did not address this and instead decided to beat down a straw man.

I also wonder if you have considered the implications that a universal atonement would have on evangelism. In fact, most Calvinists I am aware of argue that I denial of particular atonement shatters evangelism. That is that particular redemption is the precondition for evangelism. Is not evangelism proclaiming the good news from God about personal salvation? Here is how Dr. Greg Bahnsen argued this very point:

First, it is the prerequisite for the proclaiming of the gospel. Notice the effect of the atonement:

Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Unless you would try to argue that Christ did not accomplish this mission, I think it would be fair to say that salvation was accomplished at the cross.

1 Timothy 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

Again, Christ saved when he came into the world.

Hebrews 10:10-14 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Notice, again, that the cross of Christ actually perfects those for whom it is made.

What does all of this mean? Well, it means that, since these verses say Christ actually saved those for whom he died, there would be no reason to proclaim the gospel, because even an unbeliever will be saved. If it is not necessary for people to become believers to be saved, then we can just forget about evangelism. However, the Bible teaches that only believers will be saved, and hence, particular redemption is the only thing that can make sense out of evangelism at this point.

Also, it is the prerequisite for proclaiming good news. Most Calvinists would maintain that universal atonement is bad news. This is because universal atonement states that Christ died for all men, but not all men will be saved. In other words, you do not bring a saving atonement. Faith then must become a basis for salvation rather than an instrument of salvation. The problem is that the Bible says man cannot do anything to believe. Notice what it says:

Genesis 8:21 And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

Jeremiah 13:23 "Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to doing evil.

John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Romans 8:7-8 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

So, if man’s soul is evil from its youth, unable to change, not able to come to God, unable to submit to God, unable to please him, and cannot accept and understand the things of God, then you can there have to be some action on their part for them to be saved? According to these verses it is impossible for anyone to do it. Hence, when you say that there will be people in heaven from every tribe tongue people and nation, I just simply reply that this is impossible since on your view man must add some “free will” action. These texts say he cannot do it. Therefore, no one will be saved. That is really bad news.

Second if this is the case then you cannot bring news of salvation at all. The best you can bring is a hope or moral advice. If Christ will ultimately not accomplish his work of salvation when he said he came to seek and to save what his lost, then it might also be possible that he will not save believers either.

Also, it is the prerequisite for proclaiming personal salvation. You see, universal atonement depersonalizes salvation. If Christ went to the cross for everyone in general, then he went there for no one imparticular. This kind of an atonement would be no more personal then the giveaway coupons at the grocery store. It is not a gift that is marked for me, but for just anyone who decides to pick it up. How does this fit with a shepherd who calls his sheep by name?

How then can a person who believes Christ died for everyone proclaim the good news from God about personal salvation? I would like to submit that he cannot. However, what if I now went and said what you said:

So if you don’t want to preach and teach and reach, then you got a choice: take your little doctrine of universal atonement and find you a tree, and reach others who believe in universal atonement for your little doctrine. But if you ain’t willing to preach and teach and reach, I’m gonna tell you right now don’t come to any reformed church, because we will infect you with a gospel fervor, and a heart and a desire to see souls saved, so that the day we come around that throne you are gonna look around and see every color, every stripe, every tongue, every nation, every people, and I’m gonna be the one standin on top of my hands, standin on top of my feet, standing on a stump, and crying out, “He accomplished his work, and did not fail so as to leave it up to man. God elected us, and called us by name, and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Do you honestly think that even in that instance that kind of language is necessary? I mean, Greg Bahnsen actually made a case for the fact that a consistent belief in universal atonement makes evangelism impossible, and I still think those statements are inappropriate. It is nothing but unfair rhetoric without substance. I hope in the future you will use much more Christlike ways to deal with an issue. Remember what Paul said to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:24 -25 The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Do your words and the way you said them sound gentle and patient? By any meaningful definition of the words I would say no. Yes, this is a hot button issue. However, we are called as Christians keep our gentleness and patience even on these issues. In fact, people in my own church such as J.Gresham Machen, Dr. Cornelius Van Til, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Michael Butler, John Frame all came or come from my denomination and are notorious for there proclamation of the gospel as these men have even done it in debates with people like Gordon Stein, Michael Martin, Dan Barker, Edward Tabash and George Smith. You have to have a whole lot more than a gospel fervor and a desire to see hearts saved to challenge the folks on that list. You have to have a belief that God can save anyone he wants to, even the most hard hearted atheist. It is therefore really odd for someone to challenge people on that list when they do not have a gospel fervor.

Let me put what I have said altogether. In one thirty minute sermon you have engaged in linguistic revisionism, begged the question, engaged in name calling, engaged in half truths, and did not consider any contextual matters nor any Calvinist responses to the texts you brought up. That is what I am concerned about. I think it is great that you want to have discussions about this issue, but I pray that you will please not engage in these things using these methods. I do pray that one day you will embrace the doctrines of grace. I just hope that you will dialogue with your Calvinistic Baptist brethren in a way which glorifies Christ by using sound exegesis, crystal clear logic, careful examination of the views in question, gentleness, and respect.

God Bless,
Ergun Caner Responds to a College Student
I look at this response to another blogger who is a college student, and I am simply amazed. If anyone has not read the first and second part correspondence with Dr. Caner on Dr. James White's website, I would encourage you to do so. I hope this will not sound mean, but Dr. Caner is really unfair when he talks about Calvinism. I really have to question Dr. Caner's backround in the topic if only for the fact that it seems like he presents all kinds of strawman and just leaves the other listeners in the dark. I will try to post my response to him in the form of a letter. I was not so much concerned to convince him that Calvinism was correct as I was to point out that he was being unfair in his argumentation.
Response to James Akin of Catholic Answers
In this article, I am going to be responding to an article found here. It is an article attempting to get around the idea that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that the scriptures are sufficient to function as the regula fide, the rule of faith for the church. Mr Akin's points are in blue, and my points are in black:
If the doctrine of sola scriptura is true then we must be able to prove all doctrines from Scripture alone. If that is true, then we must be able to prove sola scriptura from Scripture alone. If we canot do that then sola scriptura turns out to be self-refuting, an idea that cuts its own basis out from under itself, like the proposition "No generalizations are true."
Of course, the situation is just as problematic for the Roman Catholic. If one takes the historic Roman Catholic understanding of scripture, that is, that the scriptures are inspired and inerrant [i.e., there are some Roman Catholics like Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmayer who deny this], and scripture teaches sola scriptura, then the Catholic is caught on the heels of a delemma:
1. Everything scripture teaches is true.
2. Scripture teaches sola scriptura.
3. Therefore, Sola Scriptura is true.
Hence, the Roman Catholic must argue that the scriptures do not teach Sola Scriptura, because if the scriptures teach sola scriptura, the Catholic position is thereby refuted. Keep in mind that James Akin has just as much to loose in this discussion as any protestant does.
The idea that Jesus -- the living Word of God who came to bring us new revelation via his oral preaching and teaching -- would have believed and practiced the proposition that all doctrine must be proved only by the written word of God is absurd on its face, yet this does not stop the careless advocate of sola scriptura from appealing to instances where Jesus uses Scripture to prove an individual doctrine as if they were proof Scripture is able to validate all doctrines whatsoever.
Of course, James Akin is erecting a strawman of Sola Scriptura. No one believes that God's word was never in an oral form. What Sola Scriptura states is that the truths that are found in the Bible are sufficient to function as the rule of faith. In Matthew 15, Jesus tests a Jewish tradition [one that was supposed to have come down from Moses, and thereby having divine authority] by the teaching of the text of scripture. He, in this very instance, holds scripture as a higher authority than oral tradition. Since Jesus subjected this supposed divine tradition to the higher authority of scripture, should we not do the same? Of course, to do so would make scripture higher authority that oral tradition which would completely refute the Catholic understanding.
The one which has the best hope is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which states:
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (Revised Standard Version).
Some who appeal to this passage appeal to the first clause of it -- "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching" -- were sufficient to establish sola scriptura. Sometimes the appeal takes the form of an emotive appeal to the fact that the text says all Scripture is inspired by God -- better translated as "God-breathed" -- as if Catholics did not also believe that Scripture is written by the verbal inspiration of God.
Actually, one wonders if the Catholic Church has never said that tradition is thopneustos. The problem is that there is nothing other than scripture that is ever called this. If we are going to argue that tradition has the same authority as scripture does, then why is it never called thopneustos? Why does it never say that it has the authority of God speaking to us?
Ultimately, however, the appeal to the first clause is fruitless since it merely says that Scripture is profitable or useful (Greek, ophelimos) for teaching, not that it is mandatory for teaching every individual point of theology. A hammer is profitable or useful for driving nails, but that does not mean that nails can be driven only by hammers (as anyone can testify who is lucky enough to have a nail gun or unfortunate enough to have had to drive a nail with a random blunt object which was at hand)
While I agree with James Akin at this point, I do want to point out that we are talking about the rule of faith in this passage "teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness" are all examples of things that are part in partial of the rule of faith itself. Hence, here we have a context in which we are talking about a rule of faith. That is going to become important later.
One anti-Catholic I know built his case on the Greek words used in this passage for "complete" (artios) and "equipped" (exartizo), which he interpreted to mean "sufficient." He was able to cite one lexicon that listed "sufficient" as a possible translation of artios and one lexicon which listed "sufficient" as a possible translation of exartizo, but there are major problems with his argument.
It is not just the terms themselves, but the fact that this is in a hina clause. The purpose of the scriptures being profitable is to equip the man of God for every good work. In other words, the scriptures are profitable for a purpose. Let us examine each of his "problems" in succession and see if they have any merit:
The two lexicons that used the term "sufficient" listed it as a third or forth translation of the terms, not as the primary translation, and one cannot appeal to possible meanings of a term as proof that it does mean something in a given text, especially when they are third or fourth string possibilities for its meaning.
Well, in the fourth edition of Bauer Danker Arndt and Gingrich's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature [BDAG], that definition for artios is the only one listed as it says "pert. to being well fitted for some function, complete, capable, proficient=able to meet all demands." It then goes on to list 2 Timothy 3:17 as an example. As far as exartizw in BDAG, the first definition doesn't make any sense as it says "
1. to bring someth. to an end, finish, complete." Now, how can the man be brought to an end for every good work? This definition is referring to something ceasing because of completion. In fact, BDAG agrees with me at this point, and applies the meaning "2. to make ready for service, equip, furnish" to 2 Timothy 3:17. It would be really damaging to the Catholic position to say that the profitableness of scripture makes the man of god ready for service as the Catholic also believes we need tradition as well.
If you look at Louw and Nida's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains it will not get any better for the Catholic at this point. Louw and Nida lists as the first and only definition of artios: "pertaining to being qualified to perform some function - 'qualified, proficient.' " Of course, why do we need tradition if the word of God makes us qualified for every good work? It doesn't get any better when we look at the lexicon's information for exartizw. Like Louw and Nida, it too has two definitions. However, it's first definition would also make nonsense out of the passage "to cause a duration to come to an end - 'to bring to an end, to end.'" Apparently, that would mean that 2 Timothy 3:17 means that because scripture is profitable, man will be killed. However, if we don't take this absurdity, we are left with the only other definition Louw and Nida give us: "to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something - 'to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified, adequacy.'" This gives us an even stronger definition than BDAG did, and gives us the definition of "sufficient for something."
Worse than this information from BDAG and Louw and Nida, Thayer's lexicon lists the meaning of exartizw as "a. to furnish perfectly" before it lists the meaning "b. to finish, accomplish." Is Thayer somehow contradicting the other lexicons? No, of course not. The point is that lexicon writers assume that a person will exercise care when using a lexicon and make sure that the exegete chooses a definition that is consistent with the context.
All the published Protestant Bible versions (KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, etc.) agree that "sufficient" is not the correct translation of these terms in this instance. None of them render the passage "that the man of God may be sufficient, sufficient for every good work." In fact, none of them use "sufficient" as a translation of even one of the two terms.
Of course, the problem is that they also do not support the Catholic position any better:

2 Timothy 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. [KJV]
If the scriptures make us fully furnished, why do we need tradition?
2 Timothy 3:17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [NKJV]
So, if we are fully equipped for every good work because of scripture's profitableness, why do we need tradition?

2 Timothy 3:17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
If we are complete, because of scripture's profitableness, then why do we need tradition?
2 Timothy 3:17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
If we are proficient because of the scriptures, then why does the Catholic say we also need tradition as part of the regula fide?
2 Timothy 3:17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
If we are thoroughly equipped for every good work because of scripture's profitableness, then why do we need tradition?
Needless to say, these translations are just as clear as the lexicons are.
There is such a thing as hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point), and it is a common Hebrew idiom and a common feature of Paul's letters. For example, in Colossians 1:20 Paul states that God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself through Christ. But obviously he does not mean absolutely all things or he would have to say that God reconciles Satan and the damned to himself through Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19, Eph. 1:10). Thus Paul's statement that Scripture makes a minister one complete may be no more than a typical Hebraic hyperbole.
This is totally grasping at straws as the evidence against the Catholic position on scripture and tradition is mounting. Yes, it is true that there are hyperbolies in the Hebrew scriptures, however, the context always makes it plain that it is a hyperbole. There is, of course, nothing in the context that would force 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to be taken as a hyperbole. 2 Corinthians 5:19, for instance, uses the term kosmos in a way that must be interpreted in light of "not counting men's sins against them." Likewise, Ephesians 1:10 could not even be taken as a hyperbole, as it seems to be dealing more with authority and the fact that every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord at the end times since it specifically mentions "when the times will have reached their fulfillment" in the first half of the verse. Yet he mentions nothing in the context of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which would even begin to suggest that it is a hyperbole.
Worse than that, in verses 13-14 this is specifically given as warning and comfort to Timothy that after Paul passes on. Do you think that in this context Paul would not only make a hyperbole, but give no contextual evidence that he is? Surely this borders on being a purely artificial interpretation.
Absurdities result if we take the principle that he uses to interpret 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and apply it to other texts. The principle is: "If (X) makes you complete then you don't need anything other than (X)" (hence his reasoning, "If Scripture makes you complete then you need Scripture only"). If we apply this principle to James 1:4, which states, "And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." If we applied the principle to James 1:4 we would have to say that we do not need anything other than steadfastness, including Scripture!
(One might object that James 1:4 the Greek words are not artios or exartizo. This is certainly true; the words in that passage are teleios and holokleros, which are even stronger Greek terms. The objection would also commit a basic translation fallacy by assuming that a difference of term always means a difference of concept -- it doesn't -- and, in any event, nobody is going to be able to build much of a case for the meaning of either artios or exartizo based on New Testament study since the first term occurs only once in Scripture and the second only twice [the other occurrence being in Acts 21:5], making meaningful Scriptural comparative studies of the usage impossible).
Several errors must be called down here. First of all, James 1:4 is not in the context of the rule of faith, but in the context of the Christian life, and sanctification in that life. Hence, James is talking about perseverance in the faith and that this is sufficient to make us perfect and complete in terms of our sanctification. However, it must be stressed that nowhere in the context is "teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" or anything that has to do with the rule of faith. Teleios, for instance, is often used in contexts of moral sanctification. Hence, not only do the terms have different general connotations, the terms themselves are being used in different contexts to support their connotations.
Secondly, he says the Greek terms used in James 1:4 are "stronger." Actually, the problem is that artios and exartizw come from the exact same root. Hence, the terms are, in fact, strengthening one another. Not only that, while it is true that different words do not always have different meanings, it appears James Akin has not taken the time to look at the context and find that the words are much more suitible for the context in which they are being used.
It appears that Mr. Akin is also not aware of the current state of affairs in NT studies. He says that "in any event, nobody is going to be able to build much of a case for the meaning of either artios or exartizo based on New Testament study since the first term occurs only once in Scripture and the second only twice [the other occurrence being in Acts 21:5], making meaningful Scriptural comparative studies of the usage impossible)." This is totally erronious as we now have databases such as Thesaurus Linguae Graece which are able to search all of the literature from the time period in which it is used. In fact, BDAG cites Philo and Josephus as well as the papyri in order to define the terms. It appears that James Akin is either not aware of this, or he is still thinking that only the NT can be used to define terms when we have found through the discoveries of contemporanious literature that the NT was the common language of the period.
The two terms modify the man of God, not Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:17 says Scripture helps makes the man of God complete and equipped, not that Scripture itself is complete and equipped. In order to prove that Scripture is sufficient, the advocate of sola scriptura would have to argue backwards from the sufficiency of a man to the sufficiency of a collection of documents. This puts an extra layer in the argument and thus an extra layer of exegetical uncertainty.
Actually, it is in the context of a hina clause. That the purpose of scripture's profitableness is that the man of God is complete for every good work. For whatever reason, James Akin knows that this hina clause is there, and yet somehow doesn't address it. No protestant says that the two adjectives refer to the scriptures. However, what they say is that the purpose of scripture being profitable is that the man of God is fully equipped for every good work.
This layer of uncertainty is even more problematic for the advocate since to say something helps make a man complete and equipped can presuppose that he already has certain other pieces of equipment. For example, if a man is going on a hiking trip and he has all the equipment he needs except a canteen. He then goes into a sporting goods store and buys one. When he does, he says, "There. Now I am complete, equipped for all of my hiking adventures." This does not at all imply that the canteen alone was all the equipment he needed to be completely furnished. It was only the last piece of equipment. The statement that it made him complete presupposed that he had all the other equipment he needed. In the same way, the statement that Scripture works to complete the man of God can presuppose that the man of God already has certain other articles in his possession that pertain to doctrine (such as the oral teachings of the apostles).
Of course, James Akin does not realize that we have a purpose clause here. The purpose of the canteen's profitableness in his illustration is not to fully equip for hiking. Yet this text says that the purpose of scripture's profitableness is to fully equip the man of God for every good work. This is the complete opposite of James Akin's presentation. How can one reconcile the Catholic position with this? We are not told.
Even if a single source does give a person all the equipment he needs, this does not teach him how to use the equipment. He may need training in how to use his equiptment. Just because a person has all the tools he will need to survive in the woods on a hiking trip does not mean he knows how to use the tools. In the same way, even if Scripture gives one all the basic equipment one needs to do theology, it may be unclear to the point that one needs to use Apostolic Tradition to arrive at the correct interpretation of it.
In fact, this is a permissible position for Catholics to hold. The claim that Scripture contains or implies all the basis data for theology is known as the material sufficiency of Scripture, and it is a perfectly acceptable position for Catholic theologians to hold (cf. Yves Congar's work Tradition and Traditions), so long as one does not move to the position of claiming that Scripture is so clear that one does not need Apostolic Tradition or the Magisterium to interpret it -- a position known as the formal sufficiency of Scripture, which is identical with the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Thus a Catholic can say that Scripture gives one all the equiptment one needs for theology, just not the background one needs to use the equiptment.
Well, I am sure James Akin is making an important claim, but he is not. Once we are the man of God we are "adequate" and "fully equipped" [i.e. also having the knowledge of how to use scripture] because of the profitableness of scripture. One would not be adequate and fully furnished without knowledge of how to use the items one has. Therefore, it must be that the scriptures are self-interpreting.
However, what James Akin is getting at here is what is called the material sufficiency point of view. In other words, he, at least, is breaking down at this point and saying that the scriptures are sufficient. However, the problem is, as he sees it, that the scriptures are not clear enough to be interpreted, and hence we need some apostolic tradition to interpret them. I do want to take some time to refute this claim.
This view does not take very long to refute. First, it is unclear what James Akin means by "scripture." Does he mean individual passages of scripture? Or does he mean the overall message of scripture? I don't think anyone questions the fact that there are passages of scripture that are unclear. However, what, if any, of these passages have anything to do with the discussion at hand? I might agree only 95% of the time with other christians about the meaning of certain unclear passages, and we will still have 100% doctrinal unity. Hence, just because certain passages are unclear, does not mean that the entirity of scripture is unclear.
However, what about people that are way off base, and come up with something that makes you wonder if you are reading the same scripture? That can simply be answered by the problem of sin. Here is an illustration. I am a big fan of the Cottars for instance. Their music is occasionally played here in the US on radio. Now, let us say that I heard a lot of static terribly garbled sound coming out of my radio. Should I call the radio company and complain "Stop sending the Cottars' songs over the air all garbled like that." You might get the response, "Have you checked your radio recently?" People are sinful, and they do not want to believe what the scriptures have to say. Hence, they go around making the scriptures say what they want them to say rather than what they actually say. In other words, the scriptures are clear, but people don't want to believe what they read. So, they try to read something else into the text. Therefore, just because there are many interpretations of scripture does not mean all of those interpretations are valid.
Now, the Catholic might ask how we know which interpretations are valid? The answer is simple. We know by the rules of hermenutics. We can take the same rules of interpretation that we use when we interpret Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Augustine, and Shakesphere and apply them to the apostle Paul. No one thinks there is any doubt as to the message of any of these author's works. Yet the Roman Catholic would have us to believe that we need traditions passed down from the apostles to understand the Bible [which was written over a span of time around 100 times the length of time Plato, Aristotle, or Kant wrote] in order to understand what the Bible says.
Consider well what this means. If anyone were to claim this about any other writing from antiquity they would be institutionalized. Imagine if someone were to say "I don't think we can really interpret Aristotle without traditions which Aristotle passed down outside of his writings." Obviously, because of this, we can see that the Catholic Church really has an agenda at this point. They want to take something that you could not apply to any other document the length of the Bible from antiquity and yet apply it to the Bible. Why? Well, it is obvious. Because they want people to believe what they have to say rather than what the scriptures say. If they get to be the infallible interpreter, then whatever they say is correct. It is the same agenda that the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses have when they argue the same thing.
Worse than that, all of these arguments are self-refuting. Some Roman Catholics do not even believe that the scriptures are inerrant. Some Roman Catholics do not believe that the term "brother" is ever used in any sense other then "full brother" or "spiritual brother" in the NT. We have already noted some other differences already. The material sufficiency vs. Partim-Partim viewpoint is something that Catholics disagree on. There are differences on predestination and election. There are even Catholics who are pro-choice! Should we conclude from all of this that the Catholic magisterium and the papal authorities are just not clear enough in their proclaimation, and therefore we need some other authority to know how to properly use papal authority? No Catholic would ever accept that!
So even if one could show that the words artios or exartizo means "sufficient" in this passage, and even if he could show that it applies (directly or indirectly) to Scripture, all this would prove is the material sufficiency of Scripture, which a Catholic can be happy to admit. It does nothing to prove formal sufficiency (the sola scriptura theory).
Actually, no, at this point the man of God would not be fully equipped for every good work, because he would not have the knowledge necessary to equip him to do the work.
To begin with, in the opening clause of the passage, the phrase "All Scripture" is normally taken by Evangelicals to mean "All of Scripture" -- in other words, a reference to the whole of the canon of Scripture, which coextensive with what a Protestant wishes to make normative for theology. This is natural for a Protestant since he things of the term "scripture" in the singular as a reference to the entire Bible and nothing but the Bible. But that is not the way the term is used in the Bible itself.
The ability to refer to the Bible as a unified work is an invention of the age of moveable type. Prior to the existence of the printing press, Scripture was at best a set of individual, bound volumes. In the first century, when Paul was writing, it was a collection of several dozen scrolls. There was no way it was conceived of as a unified literary work, as it is today.
As a result, a study of the way the New Testament uses the term "scripture" reveals that whenever the term is used in the singular -- "scripture" -- it always refers to either a specific book of Scripture or a specific passage within a book. It never refers to the whole of the corpus of works we today refer to under the unified title of "Scripture." When the Bible wants to refer to the whole of the corpus, it always uses the term in the plural -- "the Scriptures," never "Scripture."
Knowing this, we should be clued in to the presence of a mistranslation in the opening clause of 2 Timothy 3:16. Since the singular term "Scripture" is always used for an individual book of passage of the Bible, the phrase "All Scripture" would mean either "All individual book of the Bible" or "All individual passage of the Bible" -- neither of which makes grammatical sense.
And when we turn to the Greek of 2 Timothy 3:16, we find that there is, indeed, a mistranslation. The phrase rendered "All Scripture" is pasa graphe, which means "Every Scripture" -- they key word being "every," not "all." This is an important distinction, and it makes grammatical sense of the phrase, given our knowledge of what the singular term "scripture" means (for "every individual book of Scripture" and "every individual passage of Scripture" certainly make grammatical sense).
Had Paul wanted to refer to the entire corpus of Scripture, he would have used a different Greek phrase -- something like hai pasai graphai ("the whole of the scriptures"), not pasa graphe, which means simply "every scripture" (a fact which even some of the biggest advocates of using 2 Timothy 3:16-17, such as anti-Catholic James White, have admitted).
This is important because it makes it totally impossible to use the passage to prove sola scriptura, because if one tries to use it in that way it will prove way too much.
Since the passage says "Every Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, etc.," if this proved the sufficiency of Scripture, it would actually prove the sufficiency of each passage of Scripture for theology or at least the sufficiency of each book of Scripture for theology. This would mean that not only would the Bible as a whole be enough to prove every point of theology, but each individual passage or book would be sufficient. So you could do theology not only by Scripture alone but by Matthew alone or by Mark alone or Luke alone or what have you. You could do theology sola Matthew, sola Mark, sola Luke, or, to go to the shortest books of the Bible, even sola Jude or sola 3 John if you wanted.
But that is clearly absurd. No single passage, and no single book, of Scripture contains all that we needs to know to do theology. As a result, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 cannot be used to prove sola scriptura. If it could, it would prove way more than sola scriptura. Paul is simply saying that each individual scripture contributes to the man of God being prepared for all of his ministerial tasks, not that each individual scripture is sufficient to do all of theology.
Of course, no one has said that it is. All it is saying is that the purpose of the profitableness of every scripture [including every scripture in the canon] is to fully equip the man of God for every good work. James Akin is simply knocking down a strawman. In fact, we will see that if he considers this purpose clause, all of his other objections go away.
Furthermore, the idea that these verses prove that we should look to Scripture alone clearly takes them out of context. Whenever Protestants quote 2 Timothy 3:16-17, they almost always leave the previous two verses out of their citation. This is unfortunate since if we read the passage with the two preceding verses we get:
"14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.16 Every scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
Paul tells Timothy to remain in what he has firmly believed and then cites two bases for that belief:
He knows from whom he has learned it. This was the oral teachings of the apostle Paul himself, so right here we have Timothy's beliefs being based on apostolic Tradition.
From childhood Timothy has been acquainted with the holy Scriptures. So this is the second basis for Timothy's beliefs.
Thus, right here in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, we have a double appeal to both apostolic Tradition and apostolic Scripture. So when Protestants come and quote verses 16 and 17, they are only quoting the back half of a double appeal to Tradition and Scripture, clearly something that does not prove sola scriptura.
Actually, it is really a horrible example of eisegesis to read into the text of verses 14-15 some idea of apostolic tradition. The text refers to two methods of *learning* not to two deposits of Revelation. What he is saying is that he has learned from Paul first hand, and he has learned from the scriptures since he was a child, and that these are firm foundations of his belief. What James Akin is assuming, and hence, must show is that the contents of what Paul taught Timothy were somehow different then what were found in the scriptures. Paul emphatically goes on to deny this very thing in verses 16-17. How can someone look at a text and assume that what Paul taught Timothy is different than what is found in the scriptures when that would make Paul utterly contradict himself?
Finally, all of the points we have listed, simply by virtue of their number, constitute a case against the advocate's basing sola scriptura on 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The reason is that the thing that differentiates sola scriptura from the Catholic material sufficiency option is that sola scriptura claims that not only does Scripture have all the basic data one needs for theology but that this data is also sufficiently perspicuous in Scripture -- that is, sufficiently clear -- that one does not need outside information, like that provided by apostolic Tradition or the Magisterium, in order to correctly interpret Scripture.
The fact that we have been able to name so many factors undermining the use of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 -- any one of which is fatal to attempts to use the passage -- shows that the passage is sufficiently unclear that sola scriptura cannot be proved from it. Even if one were not convinced by anything we have said, if even one of the considerations we have named is recognized as a valid interpretive option then the passage is not sufficiently clear to prove the doctrine and thus canot be used to do so.
Actually, I hoped to have refuted the material sufficiency viewpoint above and shown that it would absolutely shatter our study of any ancient text. How could scripture be "a lamp unto one's feet and a light unto one's path" if it is unclear? Even still, the number of objections Mr. Akin is bringing up might also suggest that he is just bringing up excuses because he doesn't like what the text teaches. All of the "interpretations" we have seen, when we examine them in context, we find that the objection disappears.
And since, as we noted at the outset, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the passage which has the best chance of being relevant to the issue of sola scriptura, the fact that it is not sufficiently perspicuous to show the doctrine shows that there aren't any passages in Scripture that are perspicuous enough to prove sola scriptura and thus that Scripture is not sufficiently perspicuous for sola scriptura to be true.
Actually, the problem is with the sin that has come over people who convert to Rome. They have to treat the word of God as if it cannot communicate any better than Aristotle or Plato. How can a Christian say such a thing? Here is a perfect example of a passage which screams Sola Scriptura, and we get out of this a person who thinks it is unclear. Do you think sin might play a factor in misinterpretations of scripture? Yup, it sure does, and James Akin's article is excellent proof of that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What a Great Movie!
I wanted to tell everyone about a great movie I just saw. It is called Because of Win Dixie. There is a great young nine year old actress in this film named AnnaSophia Robb who will just charm your heart to death. What is better is that the film is good for children to watch as well as adults, and will bring you to tears as well as make you laugh very hard. This film is also from one of the same companies that produced The Chronicles of Narina, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Walden Media.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

EPA Keeps Things Physically Clean...But Supports Moral Pollution
I heard the most bizzare thing today. The EPA has actually been a sponsor of something called "gay pride month" which is supposed to be in the month of June. Here is a notice I tracked down from 2002 which shows this bizzare fact. I can't figure out which is more bizzare. A government agency that is supposed to make sure the air and water are clean now dealing with social activism, or their support of physical and not moral purity. I wonder if the Christians can get the FBI to support a march on Washington in which we protest gay activism? Better yet, It would not be much of a suprise if the abortion rights group got the FBI to support a march on Washington for the so called "right to choose." Then you really would have a contradiction. An agency which is supposed to protect innocent people from getting killed promoting a rally for a social activist group that is supposed to kill innocent people.
An Example of Contradiction in Free Will Theism's Apologetic
I was thinking about free will theism today, and wondering about how they would answer the objection that if evil's existance is necessary because God game man free will, then why is it that God did not create a world in which there was free will, but people always choose to do good. This is a common objection in atheistic literature to free will theism, but I always wondered about the common response.
Most free will theists would respond by saying that by creating such a world, God would have, as a matter of fact, taken away free will because now man would not be able to choose evil. I think I understand why that response will not fly now.
I hope that the response given does not mean that unless every conceivable choice is an option for a human being, free will has been denied to that human being. This is not only absurd [what human being has the choice to lift the empire state building over his head], but also contradicted by the Bible, as Jesus says "he that is not with me is against me" [Matthew 12:30]. Jesus has effectively taken away the option for human beings to remain neutral with this one statement.
I think what is meant by the statement is that if God created foreknowing that all of his creatures were going to do only good then God caused his creatures to do only good. Here is where I believe the contradiction lies. Allow me to explain.
When arguing against free will theists, Calvinists will often point to the fact that if God foreknows that someone is going to do something in the future, then he does not have the free will to not do it. For instance, if God foreknew in 1905 that I would be sitting here typing this blog entry, then I am not free to not be sitting here typing this blog entry.
This is where I think free will theists make their major mistake. Most of them will argue that the fact that God foreknows that a man will do something does not mean that he caused the man to do it.. Of course, this misses the whole point of the argument as the argument was never intended to proove that it was God that caused the man to do it. It was only meant to argue that man doesn't have free will because man can never do contrary to what God already forknows he is going to do.
However, if we take the statement that if God foreknows someone is going to do something, it does not cause him to do it, we would assume that, by logical extension, if God foreknows that a person is going to do something evil, it does not mean that God caused that person to do something evil.
However, what was the response to the argument as to why God could not create a world in which men had free will, but never used it to choose evil? They say if God created foreknowing that all of his creatures were going to do only good then God caused his creatures to do only good. However, this argument falls apart now by the free will theist's own admission. He cannot now argue that if God created foreknowing that all of his creatures were going to do only good then God caused his creatures to do only good because he has just said that if God foreknows someone is going to do something, it does not cause him to do it. Here are the contradictory statements:
1. If God created foreknowing that all of his creatures were going to do only good then God caused his creatures to do only good.
2. If God foreknows someone is going to do something, it does not cause him to do it.
This is more technically known as a contrary. Here is the form of each of the premises:
1. (x)(Fx>Cx)
2. (x)(Fx>~Cx)
F=Foreknows that someone is going to do an action..
C=Causes that person to do that action..
The only difference is that in #1 of the verbal layout specific actions are mentioned, namely, only good actions. The problem is that these are Contraries, and contraries could both be false, but they cannot both be true. Therefore, when the free will theist tries to hold to both of these, he contradicts himself. This is because if we use "do only good" for the action of #2 we would get:
2' If God foreknows that men are going to only do good, then God doesn't cause man to do only good.
And if we apply #2 to #1 we would get:
1' If God foreknows that man is going to do an evil action, then God caused that evil action.
The only way out of this is for the free will theist to say that #2 should be reworded as "If God foreknows something is going to happen that doesn't necessarily mean he caused it." In other words, there may be times in which #2 could be false. The problem is in trying to define when it is true and when it is false. Why is it true for God intending to create a world in which he foreknows that creatures will use their free will to bring evil into the world, and it is not true for God intending to create a world in which people only do good? Why is one caused and the other is not when we have God performing the exact same actions [creating and foreknowing] in each instance? What you are reduced to saying is that God would cause his creatures to do good if he created creatures knowing that they were going to do good, but God would not cause his creatures to do evil if he created creatures knowing that they were going to do evil which is totally arbitrary and utter nonsense.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Laziness of Modern Pastors and Theology Students
I have just read an excellent blog article by Steve Camp, who is a strong supporter of the Reformed Baptist scholar James White. In this article, he expresses many of the concerns I have for modern ministers and theological students. Most of them are just getting purely lazy. It is more important to be doing what is "hip" in the world of pop Christianity than to be concerned for truth. There are even students who are studying to be pastors who have got caught cheating on exams. Some people would rather go to a party saturday night than take seriously the fact that they will be teaching and ministering the very word of almighty God. Because of this, when they finally do become ministers, it has already became so bad that they seem to never preach the word of God. So, kudos to Steve Camp for addressing that in such a great little article.
The Irrationality of the Left

Why is it that anymore the left side of the political agenda has been waging moral complaints against the right? I mean I have no problems with someone wanting to challenge someone on a moral level, but it seems like the accusations are constant from the left.

For instance, during the hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a leftist radio talk show host was hosting a talk program during a break in the questioning. He wanted to show how the right was all for Alito, so he brought on someone from the Pro-life movement. He said, "So, you are Pro-life. Do you support the death penalty? Do you support the war in Iraq?" He then, of course, asked if he supported Samuel Alito. Obviously, such an attempt was nothing more than to say, "This is an example of a stupid right wing person who supports Samuel Alito." However all of his questions were but straw men as no one believes that human life is to be preserved in every instance. Taking human life in self defense, for instance, has never been characterized as murder.

However, even more to the point, why have we seen this onslaught of moral attacks from the left? I am not saying that they may or may not be right as no President or system of government is infallible. However, even the singing group The Dixie Chicks were on Larry King Live a few nights ago, and I heard that they made comments against the President on a moral level.

The problem that I have with this is that the vast majority of the left has no foundation for morality at all. One example being that the majority of the left wants to teach evolution in school as they believe that it is scientific. However, that absolutely shatters any ability to say that the war in Iraq or what happened in New Orleans with hurricane Katrina was wrong. I mean, why should we care if balls of chemicals get blown up in Iraq or put underwater in hurricane Katrina? Chemicals have that happen to them every day in a Chemistry laboratory. You may say that it is because of survival of the fittest. One may say that we should work towards the happiness of humanity because we have all made it this far. However, why should we work for the happiness of humanity, and why should I care that we have made it this far? Why is it wrong for a serial killer to go around taking away the happiness of humanity? You might say "because that would make the world unlivable." My response is why should we make the world livable? It would seem that if survival of the fittest is true, then people such as George Bush have the right to kill people indiscriminately over in Iraq if they want to?

The problem is that you have to have ultimate authority in order to have ethics. The left can give us the moral code, but can they give us a reason as to why they should obey it. The problem is best illustrated in the differences between Plato and Sartre. Plato said that the gods had some moral code which even restrained them. However, Plato could not say what it was without being arbitrary. That is, after Plato presented the view, we would have to answer how it is that he knows that these are the laws to which even the gods are subject. Sartre had just the opposite problem. He could give us the moral code, but could not give us any reason why we are to follow it.

Hence, once you reject the fact that there is a sovereign, transcendent, immanent God who has revealed himself in his word the Bible, you have no foundation for ethics at all. If you try to take the view that God is so high that no words can describe him much like Islam does, then you are left with no way of having revelation. This, of course, is similar to Plato's problem. However, if you take a position that all is one and that all experience of distinction is maya much like Hinduism, then you are left with the problem of why we should be moral since morality and immorality are one.

In other words, the left contradicts itself when it tries to use moral standards against the right because it has no foundation upon which to say anything is wrong. Therefore, the left is borrowing from the fundamentalist Christian worldview in order to attack the right, but not wanting to admit it. I will probably study the war in Iraq, the situation in New Orleans, and other things the left points to now after this has all past in a few years. However, if I find the left was right about these things, I will have a foundation for saying it was wrong, because of the fact that I am a fundamentalist conservative Christian. The left will not and does not.
I have often times wondered why it is that whenever something evil happens in the world, Christians automatically resort to the free will defense. In fact, many refuse to accept anything other than the free will defense as an acceptable theodicy. The most general answer that people give is that most people would not be able to bear the pain in times of trial if they thought that God had purposed and intended what had happened.

I find that absolutely fascinating. The real problem here is that "free will" does not help people to bear the pain at all. If God gives people "free will," then wouldn't that mean that the evil events that happen in the world are pointless? Wouldn't that mean that the only thing God can do is come along and put a band aide on the event afterwards? I don't know how much comfort my past struggles would have been if I actually believed that my struggles were the result of purposeless events that men just happened to do because of their "free will."

I saw a blog recently of a friend of mine who I haven't seen or heard from in a long time. She just recently lost her infant only a month after she found out she was pregnant. Now, when I wrote here to send her my condolences, do you really think that I was going to tell her that the loss of her baby was pointless? No, because the only comfort that can come in times like these is the knowledge that an all good, all sovereign God is in control of the universe, and that the loss of this child was not in vain. I told her that what happened to her was a painful, terrible thing, but that God had a purpose so grand and so glorious in this that when we see it the things she is going through right now will seem like a minor inconvenience.

That is why it is essential to trust in God and his sovereignty during these hard times instead of running away from it either by retreating to free will, or by becoming an unbeliever. The Bible records many instances of evil events. Yet it does not shy back from a belief that God is totally sovereign over even the evil of this world:

Genesis 50:20 "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.

Daniel 4:35 "And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'

Acts 4:27-28 "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.

Ephesians 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

Worse than not believing what the Bible says, if we don't acknowledge it, then we run in to all kinds of contradictions. For instance, why is it we value human freedom above the non-existence of evil? In fact, if we truly believe in "free will" it may very well be that the whole world could be totally engulfed in evil. If you believe in the free will defense, then you must believe that having evil actions as the only events that occur in this world is preferable to not having free will and having only good. It also does not escape the problem of God's foreknowledge. If God knew when he created the world the way he did that these evil things were going to happen, then why did he create it that way? If God knew that Hitler was going to murder thousands of Jews, then why did God create Hitler? Why couldn't God have created the world in such a way that creatures had free will and yet always chose to do good?

So, then, how should we deal with evil that happens to us? John Piper said he knew of a woman who had a serious illness that bound her to a wheelchair. This woman could not deal with what happened to her until she was saved under the teaching of John 11: John 11:4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it."

How many of use believe that today about our problems? How many of us truly believe that even the most heinous and horrible disease will ultimately end in the glory of God? Yet, we are called to believe it. As Paul says in Romans 8:

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

We need to trust him that this good to which he is working is so great that "eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him" [1 Cor 2:9]. How great a promise it is that our struggles in this world are not in vain, but we have a good sovereign heavenly father working out his purposes in this world, and those purposes are so great that all of our tears will be wiped away! That, should send us on our knees to worship our God, even for the evil things which come our way, because of the beautiful plan he is working out. This is how we can give thanks to God, even in times of evil and testing.