Saturday, February 28, 2015

Continuationism and Presuppositions

Whenever I doubt the truth of presuppositional apologetics, I read discussions where TRs doubt that God’s power gifts continue today.  Now, I have no problem with someone coming up with a logical argument that the Spirit’s power isn’t active today.  Fair enough.  I just think a lot of the conversations are funny.

A note on prophesy:  this is one of the most debated terms in the Bible. The problem is that the NT really doesn’t give a neat usage of the term.  Older Puritan writers often equated it with Preaching, in which case the gift obviously continues today.   Most people, cessationist or otherwise, see that usage won’t stand up to five minutes of Scrutiny.  Even worse, some say it is the Spirit applying the truths (timeless, of course; not messy historical contingencies) to day-to-day situations.  In that case, everyone of God’s children should prophesy.  But that seems inadequate and ignores almost all of the NT texts.

A quick rejoinder:  But prophesy doesn’t always mean telling the future.  Sure.  But that did happen.

But God’s word meant the death penalty if your prophesy didn’t come true.   Okay, I’ll grant that for the moment (though I think you can find examples in the OT where godly men were less than 100% accurate and they didn’t die).  But even with that terrifying injunction, you really don’t see NT believers afraid to prophesy.  That’s just the plain truth of the matter.  In fact–and it’s funny that the most rabid anti-theonomists become theonomists on this point–Paul urges all to prophesy.   I doubt the conversation went like this:

Paul:  Pursue all gifts, especially that you may prophesy, but be careful because if you are less than 100% accurate I am going to kill you.

Anyway, to the conversation.

Cessationist:  Show me one example of a Reformed Christian believing continuation of gifts continue.

Continuationist:  (insert example of Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill prophesying/speaking the truth)

Cessationist:  Yeah, well that doesn’t count.

Translation:  you have your facts and I have my theory.  Too bad for your facts.

Why continue the conversation?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A rebuttal to the Macarthurites

These are observations about claims Mac and Co. make.   They are not intended as a point-by-point analysis of Strange Fire.  That will come in due time, Lord willing.  My goal here is to protect John MacArthur’s admitted hero Martyn Lloyd-Jones from John Macarthur.
In chapters 3 and 4 JM relies on Edwards’ analysis of revival, and I think it is a good–if incomplete–analysis of any “spiritual” movement.
  1. Does the work exalt the true Christ?
  2. Does it oppose worldliness?
  3. Does it point people to the Scriptures?
  4. Does it elevate the truth?
  5. Does it produce love for God and others?
It is a good list.  However, I would say with the apostle Paul, “I would that you all prophesy.”  But back to the points above.  The logical danger with rhetorical questions is that if the opposition can bite the bullet and the position is logically unchanged, your entire argument, such that it is, evaporates.

Case study:  Wayne Grudem.

No one can accuse Wayne Grudem of not exalting Christ.  I don’t know him personally, though we did exchange friendly emails some months ago, but I highly doubt he is worldly.  Does he point people to the Scriptures?  Seriously?  As an inerrantist, I am certain Grudem can affirm 3 and 4.  5 is a given.

How would a Word-Faither do?  That’s a fair question, but if you lump Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms in the same camp with Copeland and Hinn, you are sinning against your brothers and violating the 9th commandment.  Only a party spirit can remain untouched by such a rebuke.

The Missing Case of Martyn Lloyd-Jones
A search engine on Strange Fire lists only seven appearances of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
p.44 lists MLJ saying that the Spirit exalts Christ.  Presumably this is a slam against much of charismatic worship.  Fair enough.  (I do wonder if the Spirit wants us to worship like Dutch-American amillennialists).
p.261 has MLJ saying the office of prophet has ceased.  Okay, he said that.  He also said other things, and in any case I don’t think that exegesis stands up to Grudem’s scholarship.

p.117-118 say basically the same thing.
p.312 lists MLJ’s Christian Unity.
p.319 is the index.
p.281 is an endnote for Great Doctrines of the Bible.

And that’s it for MLJ.  So what’s the big deal?  Well, here is what Macarthur has to say about Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
He influenced countless preachers (myself included), and he stood steadfastly against the superficial, entertainment-oriented approach to preaching that seemed to dominate the evangelical world then as it does now. Lloyd-Jones still desperately needs to be heard today.
Again, you might ask, “What’s the big deal?  Anybody should say that about MLJ.”Macarthur elsewhere says,
There is a stream of sound teaching, sound doctrine, sound theology that runs all the way back to the apostles.  It runs through Athanasius and Augustine…and runs through the pathway of Charles Spurgeon, and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and it keeps running.
Real quick side note: I wish quasi-Reformed people would stop referencing Augustine.  Let's be honest. You don't know what he teaches.  He isn't an easy writer and his work isn't systematic.  You have to spend about half a decade working through different treatises to get an idea of what he is saying.  And to make matters worse, he believed that miracles happen today.   Read City of God, Book 22, chapter 8.  This is embarrassing.  

Well, here is the problem.  Macarthur does not allow (de facto) the distinction between continuationism (myself) and charismaticism (insert favorite bad guy).  He notes
Number seven, by asserting the gift of healing has continued to be present, the continuationist position affirms the same basic premise that undergirds the fraudulent ministry of charismatic faith healers.  If you say the gift of healing is still around, and you say it whimsically, there’s no evidence it’s around, either experimentally or biblically, but if you say it’s still around, then you have just validated healers.
Who would want to do that?  Are they not the lowest of the low?  Are they not the worst of the worst?  They don’t go to hospitals.  They prey on the most desperate, the most severely ill, the most hopeless, the most destitute, very often the poorest, telling them lies and getting rich.  Who would want to do anything to aid and abet them?

Said another way:
Premise 1: If continuationists assert “the miraculous,” then they validate faith healers.
Premise 2: They assert the miraculous.
(3)Conclusion: They validate faith healers (Modus Ponens)
Prem. (4): Faith healers are the lowest of the low (agreed)
Prem. (5): If anyone validates them, they, too are the lowest of the low [4, 1]
(6) If person A asserts the miraculous, then he, too, validates faith healers [2, 5]
Of course, I challenge premises 1 and 3.  Someone could still say, “Yeah, so.  You are the lowest of the low because you believe in the miraculous.”  Fair enough.  I will now lower the boom.

Lloyd-Jones states,
Those people who say that [baptism with the Holy Spirit] happens to everybody at regeneration seem to me not only to be denying the New Testament but to be definitely quenching the Spirit” (Joy Unspeakable, p. 141).

“If the apostles were incapable of being true witnesses without unusual power, who are we to claim that we can be witnesses without such power?” (The Sovereign Spirit, p. 46.)

I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say that all these gifts ended with the apostles or the Apostolic Era. I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then (Joy Unspeakable, p. 246.)

Was it only meant to be true of the early church? … The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! There is no such statement anywhere (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31-32.)
“To hold such a view,” he says, “is simply to quench the Spirit” (The Sovereign Spirit, p. 46)
Premise (7) Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserts the miraculous.
Now the Strange Fire Brigade faces a painful difficulty:  reject (1)–(6) or accept Premise (8)
(8) Martyn Lloyd-Jones validates faith-healers.  [6, 7 MP]


Someone could still respond, “Well, MLJ is not God. He isn’t right on everything.”  No he isn’t.  He is an amillennialist, for one.  But let’s go back to Macarthur’s claim: “anyone holding these views gives credence to faith healers and is the lowest of the low.”  He must apply that to MLJ.  The logic is impeccable (up to a point, anyway).

In analytic philosophy we call this a “defeater.”  It shows his position is either counter to the evidence or it cannot be held simultaneously with the evidence. Either his view of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is wrong and it has to be abandoned (as the evidence makes abundantly clear), or he must give the defeater to his claim that continuationists validate faith healers.
He will do neither.
His position collapses

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Outline of Moreland's Kingdom Triangle

  1. Recover the Christian Mind
    1. Naturalism as intellectual stronghold
    2. Thick and thin worlds
      1. “possible world”  : philosophical jargon for the way things could have been.
      2. Thin and thick possible worlds
        1. Thin world:  world with no objective value.
          1. Nothing is as important enough to rise above custom.
          2. If there is no objective meaning and value, then there is no drama.
        2. Thick worlds
        3. Tearing down intellectual strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
        4. Naturalism defined
          1. view of knowledge:  whatever exists should be knowable by third-person scientific means.  Only scientific related knowledge counts
          2. In the beginning was the particles
        5. Problems for naturalism
          1. Consciousness: if you start with matter and simply rearrange it, you will only come up with more complex arrangements of brute matter.
          2. Secondary qualities” naturalism can account for primary qualities, but not secondary ones like color, taste, texture.
          3. Normative properties: naturalism can only tell us what, not should or ought.
          4. The human will:  the will is immaterial and responsible for actions.  Why are alcoholics not responsible for their actions but pedophiles are?  A naturalist cannot answer that.
          5. Intrinsic value:  
    3. Postmodernism:
      1. Scientism has eroded the ability to make transcendent judgments.
      2. Identifies pomo as a form of cultural relativism about reality, truth, reason (77; possibility problematic).
        1. Knowledge is a social construction.
      3. Postmodern tenets
        1. denial of objective knowledge and reason.
          1. psychological objectivity not the same as rational objectivity.
        2. Denial of correspondence theory of truth
          1. CTT holds to a correspondence relation between truth-bearer (propositions) and truth maker (facts).
          2. Those who reject CTT hold to it in order to reject it.
        3. Confusion between metaphysical and epistemic notions of truth.
          1. metaphysical (correct): absolute truth is same as objective. People discover truth, not create it.  Conforms to laws of logic
          2. Postmodernists think absolute truth grounded in Cartesian anxiety.   However, a claim to truth says nothing about my inner, psychological state.
        4. Problems for postmodernism
    4. From Drama to Deadness
      1. Shift from Knowledge to Fideism
      2. From human flourishing to satisfaction and desire
        1. The ancient “good” life was constituted by intellectual and moral virtue.
        2. presupposes the availability of real, nonempircal knowledge.
      3. From Duty and Virtue to Minimalist ethics (m.e.)
        1. m.e. = do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others
        2. severs the connection between rationality and moral truth.
      4. From Classic Freedom to Contemporary Freedom
        1. Classical freedom meant the power to do what one ought to do. Presupposes availability of relevant knowledge.
        2. Contemporary freedom
      5. Classic Tolerance to Contemporary Tolerance
  2. Recovery of Knowledge
    1. Overview of knowledge: ability to represent things as they are.
      1. Knowledge by acquaintance (direct intuition)
      2. propositional knowledge (Moreland calls this justified true belief)
      3. Know-how (wisdom, skill)
    2. Certainty, Confidence, and Simple Knowing
      1. Knowledge does not require certainty (and this moves the discussion closer to Plantinga)
        1. One’s degree of knowledge can grow over time
      2. You can know something without knowing how you know it.
        1. problem of the criterion: if we don’t know how we know things, how can we know anything at all?
          1. skepticism: bites the bullet.  No knowledge
          2. Methodism: starts with a criterion that does not itself count as knowledge.  But this leads to an infinite regress.
          3. Particularism: we just know many things without knowing how we know them.  It can respond to skepticism by asking the skeptic for a reasonfor his skepticism.
    3. Three Kinds of Knowledge
      1. knowledge by acquaintance.  rational awareness.  Humans have the ability to be aware of stuff that aren’t empirically verifiable.
      2. Propositional knowledge: I must believe something is true and have adequate grounds for it.
      3. Know How
  3. Renovation of the Soul (virtue ethics)
    1. False self: the self we present to others in order to make the world safe for us (141).
      1. Individualistic
      2. Infantile
      3. Narcissistic
      4. The empty self is passive
    2. Growing in Christian art of self-denial
      1. Classical happiness as virtue-life “Christianized” as eternal life.
        1. Less dependent on external circumstances like “pleasure-seeking.”
        2. Allows one to become an increasingly unified person.
    3. Fostering Spiritual Disciplines
      1. Habit, Character, Body, Flesh (Romans 12:1-3)
      2. Warning and Dangers.  Moreland recommends some good writers (Dallas Willard) and some dangerous ones (Richard Foster), though to be fair he does offer his own warning (157).
  4. Restore the Kingdom’s Power
    1. Chapter is mainly anecdotal.  
    2. The gospel of the kingdom: the reign and rule of God available in Jesus Christ
      1. God has power over demons, darkness, and disease.
    3. Jesus’s ministry of the Holy Spirit
      1. Dependant on the Spirit’s Power (Luke 4:14)
      2. Moreland doesn’t mention it, but this is the Reformed doctrine of the unionis theologia.
    4. Abandonment of Cessationism

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ePistemologian's Progress

All of this should be read in the context of Colossians 2:8ff.  Therefore, Christian philosophy.   While these aren’t all of the books on the subject I’ve read, nor would I agree with all of the authors now, but this can be seen roughly chronologically.  Obviously, this isn’t every piece of philosophy I have read.  I am leaving out most of the Christian philosophical works (Van Til, Rushdoony, etc).  I know I have read more, but I can’t remember.

Zacharias, Ravi.  Lots of his stuff.  I suppose it’s valuable, though I would rather listen to Ravi than read him. (2002).

Augustine.  Confessions.  Most important Christian piece of philosophy ever written.  Especially the sections on Time.  (2003)

Kierkegaard, Soren.  Works of Love.  I had to read it for a liberal philosophy of religion class.  I wasn’t mature enough at the time to really understand what he was saying.  (2003).

Moreland, J P.  Love your God with all your mind.   Easily the best book on discipleship (though not necessarily Moreland’s intention).  Some of it could be naive culture warriorship, and it is by no means an apologetical answerbook, but still it is a lot of fun. (2003)

Russell, Betrand.  A History of Western Philosophy.  Admittedly, he is  a depraved pagan, but he can write. (2005).

Tarnas, Richard.  The Passion of the Western Mind.  Mostly good survey.  Torpedoes at the end when he gets all hippy-psychosis-womb theory.  (2005).

Wolterstorff, Nicholas.  Reason within the Limits of Religion.  One of the first forays against evidentialism.  Very accessible.  (2006).

Clark, Kelly James.  Return to Reason.  Best introduction to “Reformed Epistemology” (2007).

Wood, Jay.  Epistemology.  Great intro to modern discussions.  Shows how problematic evidentialism is and points to some Reidian-Plantingian alternatives.  (2007).

Plato.  Dialogues.  Most important book written in Western philosophy.  Very crucial for epistemology.  Very bad suggestions for ethics and politics.  (2008)

Boethius.  Consolation of Philosophy.  I think more people hold to his view of God-Time than they realize. I do not.  (2008).
Marx, Karl.  Communist Manifesto.  I read this the same time Obama was running for office.  Coincidence?  (2008).

Moreland, JP and Craig, William Lane.  Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview.  Super hard read.  Took me about ten years to work through it.  I hope your Boolean logic is up to speed.  On the positive, I can’t imagine any book that treats such a wide range of very difficult issues in so succinct a manner.

Heidegger, Martin.  Basic Writings.  Sometimes insightful, often incoherent.  If you begin with being in general instead of the Triune God, you cannot escape Heidegger’s critique (2011).

Zizek, Slavoj. Living in the End Times.  A critical update from a neo-Marxist atheist.  Some brilliant insights on liberal democracy.  However, I did feel a dark presence in the room when I was reading it.  God used Thomas Reid to rescue me from this Hegelianism.  (2011).

Guenon, Rene. Metaphysical Principles, Traditional Doctrines.  Actually very valuable, if for dark and negative reasons.  I commend the desire for traditional society, but Guenon interprets it in chain-of-being/Platonic models.  Unwittingly shows how evil and dangerous the Philosophia Perennis is.  (2012).

Hegel.  Philosophy of Right and Philosophy of History.  I read this during  a tough time in my life.  I eventually had to say no to Hegel because he is basically hermetic darkness. (2012).

Plato. Timeaus.  I liked The Republic better.  Of course, it’s important to know about the Demiurge, who is the same figure in Arian Christology and Masonic Luciferianism.  (2012)
Plantinga, Alvin.  Does God Have a Nature?  I agree with his criticisms of Thomist simplicity.  I fear Plantinga overshoots his target.  (2012).

Reid, Thomas.  Essays and Inquiry.  A refreshing walk through the Scottish moors.  Dispelled the darkness of Hegel and powerfully showed, contra Anchoretic solipsism today, that God did create me in a way that I can read and understand texts.  (2012).

Rand, Ayn. Anthem.  Probably the most articulate fictional account of Satanism ever penned.  (2012).

Pannenberg, Wolfhart.  Metaphysik und Gottesgedank.  Showed how metaphysics is inescapable, but that doesn’t commit us to substance ontologies.  (2013).

Wolterstorff, Nicholas.  Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology.  Not much on epistemology’s story and the selections on Reid were odd.   Still, a valuable work.  (2013).

Nietzsche, Fr.  Basic Writings.  Sometimes brilliant; often insane.  (2014).

———–.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  Proving gnostics cannot write good stories. (2014).
Descartes, Rene. Meditations.  I understand why it is important, but I didn’t like it.  (2014).

Plantinga, Alvin.  Warranted Christian Belief.  A fun and informative read.  Occasionally loses one in the symbolic logic, but excellent on what he covers. (2014).

Wolterstorff, Nicholas.  Divine Discourse.  Speech-act theory.  Some good sections.  (2014).

Plantinga, Alvin.  Warrant and Proper Function and Warrant the Current Debate.  (2015).  Great intro to modern epistemology debates.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Van Til, Evangelicals, and Barth

Below are my initial musings on Karl Barth and American Evangelicalism.

Karl Barth and American Evangelicalism

George Harinck gives a fascinating essay on how Dutch and American Neo-Calvinism reacted to Barth. In doing so, he gives new light on Van Til’s own career.

DG Hart has a fun essay on Evangelicalism’s reading of Van Til’s reading of Barth.  Van Til’s attack on Barth, at least the later ones, was a confessional Presbyterian attack.  As such, it was also an attack on Princeton’s modernism.   This put neo-Evangelicalism in a tough position.  For them, if Van Til offered a good critique of Barth and a defense of inerrancy, fine.  If Van Til seemed to be arguing for Presbyterian Confessionalism, then he can take his quarrel elsewhere.  My own concerns with this essay is that I don’t think neo-Evangelicalism was truly enamored with Barth.  Certainly not when Carl Henry led the movement.  Later neo-evangelicals might have been, but by that time the PCUSA (or what would later  become of it post-1967) had already apostasized.  Simply tagging them as “Barthians” isn’t entirely accurate.

Bruce McCormack responds to Van Til’s reading of Barth.  McCormack said Van Til misread Barth’s use of Kant. For Kant, the a priori forms organize our knowledge; they do not determine it (and so it is not true, per Van Til, that a Kantian couldn’t tell the difference from a snowball and an orange).  In fact, Kant held to an empiricism as to the phenomenal world.

The one strength in Van Til’s reading, however, is that Barth did admit that Hans urs von Balthasar’s position was similar to his own.  If this is true, then it is fatal to Barth’s position. Complicating the matter is that Barth seems to say von Balthasar is correct.  I think, however, that Bruce McCormack’s own reading of the two authors (Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology) shows that von Balthasar was wrong, despite Barth’s own views of his own readings.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Jesus's feeding me is special enough

Peter Leithart wrote an article pointing out that high church liturgies seem "magic" and out of touch with the simplicity of what we see in the gospels.  I don't know why Anchorites got upset.  Even if you believe your tradition is the truth, and even if you believe in an ethereal "tradition" (which you admit you can't point to or verify without asserting the consequent), the gospels simply don't have an elaborate service.

I'm not here to defend Leithart.  He's done enough damage to Protestantism, but he has a point.  At the supper Jesus promises to feed me and eat with me.  Why do I need to "spruce it up" with an elaborate ontology?  Is Jesus's Word and Spirit good enough, or not?

Someone could respond, "We worship in an unbroken way for thousands of years."  Perhaps, but that's not how Jesus did the worship service at the Passover.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

OB on justification, a response

They don't like me commenting over there, and I don't want to seem like a bully.  I will interact with a recent article.  

OB writes,

 Justification is accomplished at baptism and maintained through a life of obedience to God and confession of sins.

I disagree, but it is interesting that this is precisely Trent's view--baptism is the instrumental cause of justification.  He then glosses sanctification, adoption, and glorification.  I don't have any real material objections, so moving on. 

Per "works" he notes,

(Paul) the “works of the Torah” such as circumcision, kosher regulations, and the myriad of other ordinances of the Law of Moses

Here is the problem with that statement.  When Paul mentions works of Torah in Galatians 3:10 he references Deuteronomy 27.26.  When we go read Dt 27.26 Moses mentions all kinds of sins, mainly "moral" ones and not so much ceremonial ones.

Per theosis he notes,

 attaining to the fulness of the divine nature and conformity to the image of Christ

But I can prove that when you get them to really qualify this statement, they don't mean that.  Surely they don't mean a 1:1 identity with the divine nature?

As to the claim that justification is accomplished at baptism, we have no proof.  Further, what we don't see in this post is any understanding that Scripture uses justification in "law-court" language.

Dt 25:1. Judge pronounces a judgment. He does not effect a character change. Condemnation is the opposite of justify. A sentence of condemnation does not effect an evil character change. Thus, if sentence of condemnation is judicial act, so is justification