Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Thought About Coffee and Determinism

I am quite sure there is "nothing new under the sun" and no really new or original ideas, but a thought came to me regarding determinism that I  have not heard expressed by others.   

Naturalistic determinism would have us believe that every effect has a prior cause and that everything that occurs is the result of a prior cause, including our thoughts and actions.   Taken to its logical conclusion, we don't have free will.  When we act we are only acting in a way that we were predetermined to act by a multitude of prior causes.  

Here's the problem that I see.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Further Thoughts on Romans 9 and Predestination

Predestination is generally an in-house debate Christians have amongst themselves and as such should not be a major discussion beyond the church doors.  But for me there is always a larger issue.   If Christianity is seen as a worldview, a "way of seeing" then the implications of a theistic determinism extend well beyond theological squabbles.   It cuts to the very heart of who we are as human beings and the meaning of the events of history.  It cuts to the very character of God.

I have long argued that one of the key proof texts for Calvinists who believe that God is sovereign in meticulously planning every event, Romans 9, is a misunderstanding of that passage based on failing to fully appreciate the context.  And one of the key proof texts for divine determinism actually proves the opposite point when connected to its Old Testament roots.

The primary question of the book of Romans, particularly chapters 9-11, is whether God is breaking a promise to Israel in granting grace to the Gentiles.   Why should anyone object to grace?  He states it is "not a matter of man's willing or running" - it is not the of the law.  

In this context of mercy Paul does mention Pharaoh and a "hardening" of his heart.    Specifically in vs 18, Paul notes "He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires"  (NASB)

Context matters.  The idea of "Hardening" should be considered in light of Romans 1, where in reference to the entire race, Paul says God "gave them over" to depraved mind, a consequence of not acknowledging God.  It should also take into account Romans 11 where the blindness of the Jews serves a purpose in reaching the gentiles but the state of national Israel's unbelief is not irreversible.

But the key passage is next in v19-25:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I Think, Therefore ...

At Discovery Institute, Michael Egnor takes note of the inherent self contradictions in materialism in the article Descarte's Blunder.  We are all aware of Descarte's famous "I think therefore I am" phrase.  The idea being one has to exist to think.  Egnor flips the script, or more accurately, points it back a step.  

"Notice that we cannot conclude that we exist unless we can conclude. That is, we must first know the principle of non-contradiction — that being is not non-being — before we can conclude that “I think therefore I am.”

The idea that "A" cannot be "non-A" is a necessary axiom for any knowledge.   If we can't distinguish between this and that, we simply can't think.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

More of the Same

Over at Jesus Creed, the evangelizing for Darwinian Christianity continues.   This time a reprint, calling on quotations from respected Physicist and Anglican Priest John Polkinghorne.  While the article attempts to show a way to reconcile the worlds of science and faith, it demonstrates a few ways in which the TE crowd still just doesn't understand why other theists refuse to go where they are leading.

Blogger RJS comments:
Competition occurs when science is taken as competent and sufficient to answer metaphysical questions … or when theology is taken as required to answer mechanistic questions about the nature of the universe, from supernovas, to the diversity of life, to the progression of seasons and development of storms, to the reason why the Mississippi flows from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico rather than vice versa."

TE has often misunderstood the very heart of the theological viewpoints that stand in opposition to Theistic Evolution.  Who really argues that theology answers "mechanistic" questions about the universe?   Who argues that the Bible directly addresses the question of the direction of the Mississippi river?  While some may ask the question "how might a narrative relate to the physical universe" and speculate on the implications,  there is no real suggestion that the Bible itself speaks as a science book.  The primary issue is not that the bible answers "mechanistic" questions, but whether it is true when it touches on historical ones.

If the  events in the New Testament or the Old Testament including early chapters of Genesis did not happen, that changes the Biblical narrative itself, and thus changes the meaning of the text, changes the theology.  That is the central question, and TE tends to put that question in a box and hide it safely away.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The "Narrative" of Genesis 1-11

I've long been fascinated by the use of the term "narrative" in progressive theological circles.

Usually, the word is used in one of two contexts, either to bash more conservative theological perspectives as "too focused on literalism" or "missing the scope of the narrative".

What fascinates me about it is that most who make a big deal about the narrative of God's redemptive history are also those who insist that Genesis 1-11 has little or no basis in actual history.  Adam, the Garden of Eden and the creation account were written for pre-scientific cultures as a way of explaining that the Hebrew God was better than all the other gods, and the accounts have no bearing on the central focus of the New Testament on Christ inaugurating a New Kingdom.

Why is this fascinating?

Because what they have done is completely altered the narrative.  Those who insist we only focus on the narrative have altered its very meaning.

An analogy is in order.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

OK - Never Trump, Never say Never

Not so long ago I indicated I was a "never-Trumper".   I thought then (and still think) the tactics of his campaign were unconscionable and destructive.  It went beyond political "hardball" and veered into ridicule and character assassination.   And I was not convinced his policy points, vague as they were, would be the best for the country compared to the other candidates.  I had no reason to trust that his presidency would lean conservative.

Today, I still wince at every tweet and wish he would stop the outbursts.   That does not mean I think he should be soft on those who have unfairly attacked him - only more articulate, specific and less personal. 

But when it comes right down to it, in spite of a congress stocked with Republicans who once again have betrayed their own campaign promises on immigration, tax reform and health care, Trump has quietly done a number of things that any conservative should be cheering.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Problem of Unity - Part 4

So here is my attempt at an answer. Once we have categorized those things which the majority of Christians agree are true essentials and not denominational distinctives, I would propose something like this.

1. Focus on what has historical consensus. That is, lead with those things that are NOT controversial. Make the focal point the three ecumenical creeds and the canon of scripture. I trust most do attempt something of this sort.

2. Seek mediating positions on matters in dispute since the Reformation. This means nothing less than to acknowlege that not everything has been settled. Our denominational positions on this topic or that may have a lot of thougt behind them, but that does not give them universal status. There has to be dialogue on those items not etched into the fabric of history in the creeds. Rather than merely trumpeting a particular view as settled, listen to the other side and state your perspective with humilty.

3. Avoid topics that are of recent contoversy or of lesser importance. I rarely think much of dispensational views of end times prophecy any more. It may be fun but it is not of central importance.

But once again, this is not what I feel we tend to do most often, and this is why we fail to find unity. Instead we push particular denominational distinctives to the top of the list, we use those distinctives to separate ourselves from other groups and as a result the essentials fade into the background.