Introduction and explanation. My mind is the only one that I have ever experienced! Obvious, huh. Well, yes, but my mind is also always associating, reasoning, connecting, analyzing, and concluding on an ongoing basis. A new connection, reason, or conclusion will come to me, as I read, meditate, engage in conversation, take a shower, or even while jogging. For a long time, I wrote these out in longhand, filling page after page. But then, I mused, what are computers for, if not to muse more concretely and extensively. And, then, what are webpages for, but to post such musings for others to see FWIW!
Now, this posting is profoundly both good and bad. It is good, if these musings, turn out to be true, meaningful, coherent, and useful. However, musings are just that, musings. So, I post these with some fear and trepidation. They may be wrong! But, likely they are not totally wrong. I may change my mind in the future! (Not likely, at least completely, as I usually have it mostly right the first time.) I may modify them in the future with better explanation or understanding. (I may never even look at them again.)
So, read the following in that light, even as I muse that Augustine said that we only discover what we already know, and it is Christ Himself who is the teacher. (See his De Magistro.) But, as is the goal of this site and all that I do, test everything with Scripture. If you do not test in this way, then you are guilty, also.
Musings differs from Ed’s Penseés in that the latter is (I hope) better thought out.
If you want to respond or want to know when these are posted, let me know.
Index of Musings
There is no epistemology (knowledge) without omniscience. February 22, 2011 (date is correct)
Solipism Is A Major Problem! April 3, 2010
Determinism: Is it self-refuting when stated by one who believes it?
God as unchanging and truth that varies from person to person (subjectively conditional)
Biblical authority … what analogy?
The idea of university started with the idea of di-versity
The idea of university found in the 66 books of the agreed-upon Bible
Exclusive beliefs vs. being simply irrational January 9, 2010
How can the universe be both lawful and irrational? January 9, 2010
Being and becoming… the not yet becoming the already. February 6, 2010
God’s Common Grace Masks the Complexity of Language. February 7, 2010
Does the success of philosophers have to do with the confusion of their work? February 7, 2010
Ad hominem arguments are “murder intended.” February 12, 2010
Authority and Epistemology March 13, 2010
Faith and Reason March 13, 2010
The “real” and the Creation Mandate April 9, 2010
Operationalism and functionalism as the method of The Creation Mandate April 21, 2010
Christ as Mediator … the Word as mediator. June 13, 2010
Only God can make communication possible. June 13, 2010
Eureka! Six Creation Days. June 15, 2010
Logic–the Syllogism and the Problem of Evil October 7, 2010
The debate is not about evolution! October 24, 2010
The only concern of philosophy is epistemology and theology. Date not recorded
All is one, and one is all—the necessity of a complete system from one term. Date not recorded
No “graven” image and the image of God in man. December 19, 2010
Regeneration: an ontological change in the soul? December 31, 2010
Logic and Unity? Arminian vs. Calvinist January 12, 2011
Mysticism and irrationalism pervades “Bible-believing” Christians January 25, 2011
The strength of those who are demon-possessed. January 25, 2011
The only concern of philosophy is ethics. January 28, 2011
We know nothing of “substance” in the material or immaterial realm… but we do know of Mind. February 17, 2011. Addenda: Substance of the “whole thing” – October 17, 2011
The superficiality of modern theology and “Christian philosophy.” February 20, 2011
Dualism of body and spirit (soul) should be a test of orthodoxy. February 21, 2011
Tacit knowledge (Michael Polayni) and a transcendental argument for God. March 11, 2011
Music: the beauty of holiness? March 31, 2011
What is progress? Success? A word for missions. April 1, 2011
Induction, deduction, faith, truth, operationalism, science… their interdependency. June 1, 2011
Destroy (natural) science, and you have destroyed atheism. June 1, 2011
“Progress” is understanding and applying the Reformed faith. June 2, 2011
The atheist has no alternative to certain of the Ten Commandments. June 5, 2011
David Hume refuted by his own reasoning—twice! June 24, 2011
Methodological naturalism binds man to his animal nature. September 5, 2011
“Man as the measure of all things” in modern evangelicalism. September 16, 2011
“There is one absolute.” September 21, 2012
An insight into infinity and omniscience in whole numbers. October 7, 2011
Why man understands his universe (science). November 24, 2011
Emergence and the Trinity January 16, 2012
Philosophers and possible worlds. January 16, 2012
God judges men by their own standards… and they are found wanting. January 29, 2012
“What is” is “what ought to be.” February 23, 2012
Emergence: the supernatural in plain sight! June 7, 2012
Note!! After a one and one-half year hiatus, I am continuing to “muse” here.
There is no epistemology (knowledge) without omniscience. Charles Peirce, Martin Heidegger, and other philosophers have noted that any proposition (claim to knowledge) is predicated on prior knowledge and that knowledge predicated on its prior knowledge ad infinitum and infinite regress. In natural science this process has come to be known as the Duhem-Quine thesis. Thus, any claim to knowledge requires omniscience—all prior knowledge. As Christians, we know Who is omniscient. Thus, only God has knowledge; that is, only God is epistemologically sound. But… we have His Special Revelation: The Holy Bible. Thus, any knowledge presented in the Bible is grounded in God’s omniscience. The only logical conclusion, then, is that the only knowledge (synonym of truth) available to humans is the Bible.
P.S. By the way knowledge is not an infinite regress. If it were, God could not know everything.
P.P.S. See “transcendental argument” below… more on knowledge and the necessity for God.
Solipsism Is A Major Problem for Philosophy. The difficulty of solipsism, the belief that only my mind exists, is one of the great problems in philosophy that seems virtually to be ignored. But without Special Revelation from a Mind that knows all other minds (and in fact, created them), how do we know that other minds exist? We don’t! I know of no other way to be certain that other minds exist, except by probability, and that way is fraught with landmines.
Determinism: Is it self-refuting when stated by one who believes it? (Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason, 53-54) That is, if I am determined or pre-determined to believe in determinism, then my stating that fact has no significance. I agree—if we leave God out. But in Biblical philosophy, God cannot be left out. It is clear from Scripture that God does predestine (pre-determine) all things; even the words that I choose here to refute the refutation of determinism. It is God that causes me to believe in determinism (predestination in Biblical language). He is the Determiner.
Now, what is the reason for me to try to convince you that I am right, or you to convince me that I am wrong? This process is also a part of God’s predestination. At this point the idea that I am a robot is usually brought up. Well, a robot is not self-conscious! Thus, while I may be predestined to think and act, I am conscious that God has predetermined everything. I am watching the Great Drama by the Greatest Producer and Director, and I am in the cast from birth to death. I do not know what is exactly my part, nor my speaking lines, but I will know as I get there. How exciting!
God as unchanging and truth that varies from person to person (subjectively conditional). If there is indeed a subjective-objective encounter, that is, a person with his own experience and learned knowledge, and that knowledge varies from person to person, then all knowledge of Scripture is therefore different. “David was King of Israel” is different in my understanding from that of another Christian, because what I know of David as King of Israel is different from that other Christian. There is the fact of David’s kingship as simply stated in that simple sentence—objectively it can convey all that God understands of his kingship, but I cannot know it as God knows it. The simple statement, “David was King of Israel,” is true for all those who believe it, but that statement in the whole of a person’s knowledge is different. God, however, knows everything about that statement immediately and necessarily. So, truth within a person can be only partial, and even change, but as he understands Scripture, what he knows about that statement is true.
This “truth” also seems relevant to the philosophical idea that finite truth is morally wrong in itself. In fact, we can never know truth the way that God does. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” declares that a regenerate person can know the truth. Thus, partial truth is truth, as it is consistent with Scripture. That is why the only truth that we can know is Scripture. Since Scripture was written by God, He knew the “whole truth,” as he wrote it (and still does). Thus, the only knowledge of which we can have certainty as truth is Scripture. I know that “David was King of Israel” because it stands in the omniscience of God’s knowledge. I can only know that Socrates was a man because it was stated by finite men. Even they cannot know the omniscience of that statement. Now, that knowledge (and all empirical knowledge) is certainly useful for one’s experience on earth, but it is conditional truth or practical truth, not God’s truth. Or, perhaps, we can use the philosophical language of “matters of fact,” “statements of fact,” or even “self-evident facts,” but they are not truth.
Biblical authority… what analogy? Looking through “the lens of Scripture” (Calvin and Belangia). As “an anchor,” Ed. Scripture must be the ultimate reference… authority. We must foremost determine what it says or does not say on a subject. Maybe there is no adequate analogy. “Hovering authority” … picturing the Book above the morass of human opinion? “Background reference?” “The filtering grid.” “The small gauge sieve” through which all which all opinion must be forced.” What about “the rock to which we are anchored?” We could not drift very far if we are moored to the Rock of Ages! What do readers suggest?
The idea of university in the Scholastics had one major flaw: they developed di-versity instead. Aquinas believed that the cosmological argument proved God’s existence, that some theology (natural theology) was possible without Revelation, and that the empirical method was valid. Thus, the unifying nature of knowledge never had a chance… it was di-vided from the beginning of modern scholarship and thinking. And, this di-versity continues to this day, even among Bible-believing, evangelical Christians with such phrases as “all truth is God’s truth” and How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It” (an address given by J. P. Moreland at the Evangelical Society Meeting in 2007).
In reality, only the Reformed community has the theology that would ground a true uni-versity of knowledge, but they have their own divisions in their battles over their own side issues. (See John Frame, Machens’ Warrior Children.) One of these battles is over the very approach that would make uni-versity possible—the central concepts of Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, and Gordon Clark—if their followers could ever put away their “majoring on minutia” and a prideful avoidance of trying to understand each other.
Bible-believing Christians have at least narrowed the search for a university to one source: the 66 books of the Bible. All non-Biblical philosophies and religions can do is point out the flaws in each other’s systems. Meanwhile, evangelical Christians have at least narrowed their source to the 66 books of the Bible. Whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, those who actually believe the Bible have agreed upon those 66 books. While they differ greatly in their interpretations of these books, nevertheless they are consulting the same source. This unity is cause for great celebration. If indeed the laws of logic are true, these 66 books are true, and the Holy Spirit is directing the inquiry, then an increasing unity in Christendom is inescapable.
What about the Quran for Muslims and the Old Testament for the Jews? The Quran is demonstrably a weak and false derivative of the Bible without coherence of text or its history. Its culture has proven the disastrous inferences from its falsehoods. The Old Testament is true enough, but incomplete without the Jews’ Messiah and the clarity that He would bring for them. Their own narrowness and blindness caused them to miss His coming.
On being narrowly exclusive in one’s beliefs vs. holding inconsistent positions. Critics of Biblical Christianity often say that it is narrowly exclusive. “Everyone ought to be more ‘inclusive’ or ‘pluralistic.’”* But Alvin Plantinga directs us to an unavoidable problem. Either we become narrowly exclusive or we accept beliefs that are incompatible, inconsistent, and incoherent. (“A Defense of Religious Exclusivism, in Thomas D. Senor [Ed.], The Rationality of Belief and the Plurality of Faith, 201-205) Which is preferable: to hold to beliefs that are coherent, a well-defined system, or to believe in incompatibilities and violations of the law of noncontradiction? The answers seem obvious.
Further, if one believes in everything (pluralism), then how can one be passionate about anything. The only consistent (coherent) attitude about pluralism is “ho-hum,” anything goes. Who could really want that kind of life? Practically, no one does because anyone will always get passionate about “some thing” that they believe!
*One wonders from where this “ought” comes.
How can the universe be both rational and irrational? How can the universe be “lawful” (that is, consist of inductive laws), and yet those laws not apply anywhere in the universe? How can the universe exist if it is now running down? How can imperfection begin in the first place? Does not the presence of imperfection require perfection? This conclusion was that of Descartes. No thing that a man creates is perfect, yet it is functional … highly functional. Eventually, it will wear out and break … be no longer functional. Functionality does not require perfection, only a state in which its imperfection will not destroy itself for some useful period of time.
Does an imperfect universe imply that at one time it was perfect? No, but the existence of the universe for 6000 to 14 billion years requires a degree of precision that is almost infinitely beyond the ability of humans. The Creator was incredibly precise … at the least.
Or, He created perfection which has since been altered in some way … the Fall. The Big Bang is not an option. The bigger the bang, the bigger the destruction. There is no way … no way … that a Big Bang could have created a zillion atoms and molecules, as well as one organized solar system. That possibility requires a faith that exceeds comprehension!
Being and becoming… the already and the not yet. How is it that a person “is,” and yet “not is” what he will be? I was once a little boy, trying to catch tadpoles in a muddy creek. Now I have completed a medical and writing career, but still have 10-20 years left, q.v. Who am I? We forget that God is not subject to time. For Him, all history is now. He sees us in our totality … our completed lives as a composite. We do not have this perspective. Then, in a real sense we are becoming what we are … as He sees us. So, actually the phrase “the already and the not yet” is backwards. It should be “the already is the becoming of the not yet.” “Already” cannot exist until we have drawn our last breath, and even then the “already” will include our eternal destinies. The real mystery is how does God keeps one mind separate from another, since the spiritual is the substratum of the physical, and we are able to make the transition from our earthly, bodily existence into our eternal existence with our minds intact and whole … He preserves that which has “become” now and forevermore!
God’s Common Grace in Language. Language seems simple. I talk to you, you understand me, and vice-versa. I talk to a group, and they mostly understand me. I write a book, and most people understand it. Communication in language works! (Most of the time … that is not to say that misunderstanding do not occur.) But the simple act of communication masks its extreme complexity. The differences in opinion over methods and grounding of epistemology define the complexity. Philosophy of language, philology, and analytic philosophy add further dimensions of complexity. Words are made of individual symbols (letters). Each word is a symbol of something simple, like dog or cat, or something much more complex, like logic and mathematics. Further, it is impossible fully to translate one language into another, e.g., Greek and Hebrew into English. (Thus, preachers go to seminar to learn these languages.) Formal logic is the most precise method of reasoning, but it depends upon words and definitions and copulas to make propositions.
How many have considered that the seeming simplicity of language and communication is one of the great, perhaps the greatest, manifestation of God’s common grace to all men. I say, “common grace,” because most communications between believer and unbeliever are effective, yet their worldviews (properly understood) are “light and darkness” and “truth and foolishness.” If God did not give the human race the innate structure and faculty to manipulate language, no communication would ever take place. One might be able to make the case that communication is more complex than cells, tissues, organs, and physical bodies! Yet, we take it for granted, and when misunderstandings occur, we wonder why. Let us praise God that He has given us the wonderful gift of language that allows one mind to communicate with other minds, and with His Great Mind.
Does the success of philosophers depend upon the confusion of their writings? It almost seems that those philosophers who have achieved fame and study for the past 400 years have been those who are most loquacious, vague, and even confused in their writings. Hegel dominated the 19th century and seemed to vary his definitions from context to context to the extent that his followers split into right and left groups after his death—how much more confused can that situation be? Kant will make your head spin, trying to following the difference between intuition, understanding, judgment, inference, and antinomy. Then, there is the early and later Wittgenstein—will the real one please grow up and be definite? And, on and on. Before you react, just consider whether there might be some truth to my view.
Ad hominem arguments are “murder intended.” Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22). When a person resorts to an ad hominem argument, he has essentially said, “I cannot answer your argument. Therefore, I will kill you!” “All who hate me, love death” (Proverbs 8:36). “The fool who has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” has already rejected the highest reason for morality. Why not kill all those with whom he disagrees!
Authority and epistemology. Epistemology is simply subjectivism—what an individual believes is true. Philosophers can discuss all the various pathways and pre-conditioned concepts that are possible for knowledge. They can give profound and detailed arguments why this or that approach is or is not “proper” or “rational.” But the individual himself has veto power by the simple statement, “I do not believe what you are saying.” The argument is over. Done! Complete! Ended! Authority of self—authority of one.
How can this be? How can a person, especially a simple lay person, reject my carefully reasoned arguments? They can do so simply because they are their own final authority to what they believe is true. This conclusion is unavoidable and inescapable. How else can the confirmed atheist reject God and His Word, as together, they form the most logical and evidential source of knowledge available to mankind. By comparison, all other philosophies are just facile attempts to provide meaning and direction for human lives.
God demonstrates this fact in his division of mankind into two, and only two, groups: the unregenerate and the regenerate. The unregenerate is his own authority, choosing some other “religion,” philosophy, or other “-ism” by which to live his life. And, the regenerate is his own authority. Do not Christians say among themselves, “I just do not believe what you are saying, or “Let us agree to disagree.” So, we have authority of the self for both the regenerate and the unregenerate.
The unregenerate can just go his own way and do his own thing. But this issue is more serious for the regenerate. He must constantly challenge his own authority with the authority of God’s Word. While he does still rest upon his own reasoning, he faces primarily the challenge of Scripture, the authority of his elders in the faith, and the Holy Spirit within. He must tread more cautiously than the unregenerate. And, here is the ultimate challenge. To the extent that he is “transformed by the renewing of his mind” (by the Scriptures), that is, by being consistent with the whole of the Bible, then he will “prove what is good, acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2), that is, mature in the faith. Thus, God’s authority must gradually replace his own authority.
Even the Christian retains his subjectivism—his self-authority—but to grow, he must give it over to the challenges of his elders in the faith, the Word of God written, and the witness of the Holy Spirit. May God change us all in that way.
Faith and reason. Language per se is highly developed reason. Johann Hamann stated, “Language is the perfect hypostatic union of the sensible and the intelligible.” Thus, just to formulate a proposition (simply, a declarative sentence) in order to have something to believe in is to have exercised reason to a considerable degree in the process. Even Kierkegaard’s “leap of faith” has a number of propositions in the background: God is, the person is, the leap is reasonable for the person, the leap is the highest purpose of man, etc. After the “leap,” then one must reason whether it was, after all, the good and right thing to do. Thus, reason and faith are inextricably intertwined. The long-standing conflict of faith and reason is simply false.
The “real” and the Creation Mandate. Philosophers have fretted over the “real” for millennia. Kant went so far as to say that we could not know the real “thing in itself” (TII). I suggest that we do not have to know the real, because God’s intention was not to “know” or “understand” the real (world); instead, He intended for us to “use” it. Modern science (that is, technology) has accomplished great ends: mass production of food, the internet, the computer, space travel and observation, open heart surgery, etc., etc. Because of these great accomplishments, we think that we know the TII, but we do not, re: quantum theory, chaos theory, space vs. matter, and rapidly changing sub-atomic theory. However, these great accomplishments do not require that we know the TII. And, this situation is exactly as God intended it in the Creation Mandate. We can learn the characteristics of a TII, but not the TII because ultimately God is behind the creation—God is not of the “gaps,” but of the whole and all of its parts. To know the TII is to know God.
The Creation Mandate is a functional mandate, not a mandate to understand. We have the Special Revelation of God to understand as much as He wanted us to understand. We accomplish this task by deduction. We learn the function of the world by induction. The former concerns truth; the latter concerns predictable behavior. Anything that has spirit (God, angels and demons, man, animals) must be understood by Special Revelation. Anything that is matter without spirit is understood by General Revelation. There is some overlap. The material world points clearly to the Creator (Romans 1:20). The spiritual world (Special Revelation) explains origin and maintenance of the material world.
A term to describe this functional system is “operationalism.” I prefer the term “functionalism.” But the most important concept here is not the term, but two systems of epistemology. One concerns truth; the other concerns function. To confuse the two, as has been done since philosophy began, is to roam in the mists of spiritual primevalism. With all of our technology, we cannot solve the problems of mankind because of this confusion. The situation is almost as bad among Christians, as non-Christians, especially in philosophy. But, if I am right, we can correct the situation by not confusing the epistemology of the two systems, and by developing the “science” of Biblical interpretation to the extent that we have developed technology.
Each epistemology has its own language. There is the language of Scripture written in its languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. There is the language of function written in the languages of sensory observation and modern science. As modern linguists are fond to demonstrate, one language cannot be fully translated into another. Thus, at the outset of any attempt to reconcile Scripture and science is a difficult impasse which is illustrated all too well in attempts to reconcile Genesis 1-11 with modern science. The Hebrew of those passages were written in a particular language within a cultural context over 3000 years ago. Modern science is written in a particular language within a cultural context. Interestingly, Genesis 1-11 will not change markedly, if at all. (There may be a few cultural and linguistic insights gained.) But the language of science will change markedly. So which is the more durable? Which is the more likely to communicate what we might call truth? The answer seems obvious.
Operationalism and functionalism as the method of The Creation Mandate. Functionalism* is my preferred term for technical or scientific pragmatism, that is, a technical or scientifically derived procedure that “works” or produces desired results. Operationalism is an approximate synonym. The tricky aspect of this definition is that “what works” does not have to be true, even when the desired results occur. For example, placebos in medicine can reduce blood pressure, significant pain, tense muscles, and more. But there is no possible correlation between the chemical ingredients of the placebos and the physiological effects.
This concept may be considerably broader than its application to science—it may be applicable to everything that concerns the physical world. For example, the understanding and theory of language is quite complex, but it works remarkably (not perfectly) well. Statistics have a certain usefulness, but their basis and interpretation are somewhat tentative. I would even propose that functionalism (or operationalism) is the mode by which The Creation Mandate is to be achieved in the physical world.
*Since I used this term here, I have discovered that “functionalism” is almost entirely limited to the philosophy of mind today. Too bad! Functionalism communicates better than operationalism, but its use has been too narrowed for general use.
Christ as Mediator … the Word as mediator. The role of Christ as Mediator between God and man is well understood and well articulated among Bible-believing Christians. But I propose that the Word is also a mediator in a different sense. As such, the Bible can be our only source of truth.
Virtually every Christian would agree that God’s knowledge exceeds, not only that of any individual person, but that of the entire human race combined. That is, His knowledge quantitatively is almost infinitely greater. No man can be omniscient.* Philosophically (and religiously), true and accurate knowledge is dependent upon knowing not only the object (which can be a material object or a mental object—an object of thought), but its relationship to every other object in the universe. In other words, unless one is omniscient, he cannot really know anything that is not relative. Leibniz understood this connectedness is his concept of monads that affected every other monad in the universe.
Taking this position does not mean that such relative knowledge is not useful. (1) Scientific knowledge or method (induction or empiricism) is quite useful. Just look at all the modern technology, including the internet, space travel, and atomic reactors. But modern science is not true. The scientific method by definition is not true because it does not and cannot examine every condition in the universe to establish its universality. One could say that science is an amalgam of Newton, Einstein, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and every other theory that comprises “modern science.” (2) All knowledge is based upon faith—basic beliefs, presuppositions, basic propositions, axioms, assumptions, foundational beliefs, first principles, and any of the other terms for one’s most basic starting point. (See elsewhere on this site.) Faith cannot be proven—believing without proof is the definition of faith.
All these introductory comments are necessary to the Word a mediator. Since only God can truly “know,” and man cannot know as God knows, then a mediator is necessary for God to communicate with man. This communicator is the Bible—the Word of God. The Bible gives a reference point—the only reference point to knowledge so that its relativity is fixed. (1) The Bible establishes language as a means to understanding. As God talked with Adam directly, He has spoken through the Bible as His objective Word or fixed reference point. If God, by this example, reveals (non-revelation) that communication is possible via language, then man can be assured that he can communicate back to God and to his fellow man. Without the Bible, one could not be sure that other minds exist (contra solipsism) or that they can understand us and vice-versa. (2) The Bible, as Special Revelation, is the only true knowledge (a redundant, but necessary term) that man can know. It grounds knowledge that can be understood; it grounds knowledge that “works,” that is, is functional;
We have hints in the Bible of this grounding and mediatorial relationship. In Genesis 1, “God said, Let there be light, and there was light,” and He continued to speak all creation into existence. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Christ the Mediator was Christ the Word, the mediator of communication between God and man. He is the “light” (understanding) of “every man” (John 1:9) and specially enlightens every regenerate person (Matthew 5:14). “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke (communicated by language) in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son… ” (Hebrews 1:1-2). In this role, Christ is God speaking to man as His voice piece, his mediatorial spokesmen, as the go-between God and the human race. Many, many other verses link the language of communication to Christ as a speaking as the speaking “go-between” God and man.
Some theologians and philosophers have written about Christ as Word-mediator (although they did not used that term—I just invented). Augustine of Hippo wrote of Christ the means by which man knows anything, especially in his De Magistro. One of central propositions of Gordon H. Clark, that is virtually absent from most other Christian philosophers, is that the Bible is mankind’s only source of truth. Vern Poythress does not mention Christ in this mediatorial role, but does link the Word as revelation to the Word as Christ in his In the Beginning Was the Word. (See next musing below.)
*Omniscience is not infinite. God knows everything. If knowledge were infinite, God could not know everything.
Only God can make communication possible. Based upon the above, I have come to the conclusion that communication through language, whether written or spoken, is not possible without the direct action of God (as Word or as the Holy Spirit) in both the speaker and hearer. The complexity of language is too great for man to achieve this end. How is it possible that all the deconstructors of language, even the most rabid, must use language to explain their theories? Why must they use the very tool that they want to destroy to attempt its deconstruction? Why is it impossible to completely translate one language to another? How is it possible for person to grasp all the nuances of language, especially the spoken word with its many-varied inflections and arrangement of words? By exchanging a few punctuations marks, a message can have opposite meanings. For examle, Wellington sent the message, “Napoleon defeated. Wellington.” What was received was, “Napoleon defeated Wellington.”
Of course, my conclusion is mostly conjecture. One has to investigate the intricacy and complexity of language to begin to understand my conclusion. And, God could have given to man the ability to communicate by language. But, the whole process seems to me to be too complex without an omniscient mind on each end of the communication. Certainly, this human ability is one of, if not the greatest, facet of man’s being created in the image of God.
Eureka! Six Creation Days. There have been a great many pages and words spoken on the length of the days of Creation Week, but there is a simple solution. Creation Week was a Miracle Week. When miracles occur, they are not subject to time as we know it. So any time measurement for that period is really irrelevant. In this debate, it is recognized that “day” can mean a normal calendar day or a longer period of time (“in the day that I was raised”). Well, I suggest adding another definition, “Creation Day.” This term has no definite time that can be ascribed to it except that each day was a period in which God created the very things that are listed in Genesis 1 on each day. No clock could have measured the “time” because time did not apply, as God is not subject to time in His Eternity. God created in six special, miracle days! This definition could clear up many conflicts between Young Earth and Old Earth Christians. However, Creation Days ended with the Sixth Day. All the genealogies of Genesis that record years have to be taken as actual years as we know them. There is no reason to think of them as anything else.
Logic–the Syllogism and the Problem of Evil. The classical problem for the presence of evil has been stated this way. How can the presence of evil be explained if God is both omnipotent and good? This problem has a simple answer in the most basic syllogism.
God is omnipotent.
God is good, as He defines it.
Only that good exists.
If God is omnipotent and good, then evil (non-good) cannot exist. Omnipotence is what it says—all power in the universe. Therefore, omnipotence will only allow the good. There is no evil that can overcome omnipotence—all power. To say that good does not exist is to equivocate by changing the definition of “good.” You see, good is relative to a standard. The syllogism states God’s definition of good is the standard. So, if evil (non-good) exists, then a standard other than God has been sneaked into the discussion. That standard is whatever the person presenting the argument chooses as his standard, usually himself. Changing definitions within an argument is a fallacy known as equivocation.
Reader, if you do not understand, keep going over it until you do. This presentation is important for two reasons. (1) You need to understand basic logic. If more people understood simple logic (really, the only true logic), then there would be fewer disagreements and issues would be simplified. (2) This syllogism is simple, but is a powerful, irrefutable argument against the classic presentation of theodicy—the problem as presented in the 2nd sentence of this segment. An opponent who will not accept the valid conclusion of a syllogism must argue with the truth of the first two premises, not the syllogism itself.
I am frankly stunned that in all my reading, I have never encountered anyone who has argued in this way. Sometimes, the simplest argument is the one that is most powerful and irrefutable!
The debate is not about evolution! Evolution (or not) is a secondary issue. Origins (cosmology, ontology, meta-physics, first principles, arché, etc.) are logically, and therefore categorically, prior in discussion. Simply, all discussions of reality begin with one’s concept of God or being. If God, which God? If not God, then only material objects. So, all the debate about the “facts” of evolution will, of course, be interpreted differently. The real debate is a Personal or impersonal universe. Then, once we agree on that prior issue, we can debate and agree about evolution (or not). Why debate evolution, then? Let us debate our concepts of origins, meta-physics, and cosmologies. Then, we all stand on individual beliefs and choose those which are most consistent with the universe and ethics—as we are able to interpret them.
The only concern of philosophy is epistemology and theology. Traditionally, the four categories of philosophy are metaphysics (ontology), epistemology, ethics (aesthetics and politics), and logic. Metaphysics is simple: there is the uncreated Being of God over against all that He created. The only study need here is natural science: the study of the characteristics of created things. Ethics is dependent upon epistemology: how does one know what is right and wrong? Logic is simply the tool of all thinking and rhetoric, both spoken and written. The only real study of philosophy, then, is epistemology: how can we know anything with certainty.
The answer is that the only way that we can know anything with certainty is by Special Revelation. Thus, epistemology is dependent upon that theology which is systematically Biblical. November 22, 2010
All is one, and one is all—the necessity of a complete system from one term. It is quite amazing that one can begin with virtually any subject in philosophy and and suddenly become aware that its thread is leading to every category and concept in philosophy! For example, today I began to muse on “transcendence.” Well, the word itself leads to transcendental, transcendental, and transcendentalism. Then, how can one talk about transcendence without monism, idealism, dualism, pantheism, etc.—the whole of metaphysics. Transcendence or the argument against is central to continental philosophy. And, we must include the whole theological enterprise. Plato talked of The Good and Ideas which transcended the world of shadows and imperfect forms. And, certainly in this pursuit we must know how we know (epistemology) and whether it is right and just (ethics) so to do. Finally, to build a coherent system the laws of logic must be applied.
Briefly here are two ideas. (1) To address any term in philosophy virtually necessitates a complete philosophical system. (2) The only complete and coherent philosophical system is that revealed by Holy Scripture—“the LORD our God is One.”
No “graven” image and the image of God in man. Certainly, the Second Commandment is a prohibition against making a physical image of God. But might it also be the prohibition of a deaf, dumb, and mute substitute for worship by the image of God in man! The highest worship of God is “to worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). The best definition of the image of God in man is his mind, reason, and ability to communicate (speak). The Greek logos is usually translated “Word” in John 1:1ff, but the concept of logos is deep and profound, variously rendered as reason, speech, understanding, account, etc. which reflects the image of God in man.
All commandments have a negative and positive pole. (See the Westminster Confession Larger and Shorter Catechisms on the Ten Commandments.) Thus, the powerful positive pole of the 2nd Commandment is for regenerate man to worship God with his mind in speaking back to God (that is, to glorify Him by the action of man’s soul or spirit) the truth that God has revealed about Himself in His Word—the Scripture and the Son as The Final Word (Hebrews 1:2).
Regeneration: an ontological change in the soul? No one whom I have read in the evangelical or Reformed churches has ever spoken of an ontological change that occurs in the soul/spirit at regeneration. Neither have I considered that possibility until the last week. I have studied regeneration seriously for about 30 years because it is a miracle that God still instantiates by the tens of thousands every year. However, I heard one theologian (about 25 years ago) say that regeneration is an ethical change. It was not metaphysical because there is no change in the body’s chemistry, and the body is ethically neutral—sin does not reside in the physical dimension of man nor does it cause one to sin.
But reviewing the historical study of “substance,” I have come to see that any substance is known by its properties and relationships, not its physicality or non-physicality. The substance of the soul/spirit is almost, if not entirely, in the function of the mind in thought and speech. While the soul/spirit is immaterial (non-physical), it is still substance* in this classical sense. The soul/spirit is responsible for sin—the sin nature (Greek sarx, often translated flesh which is not physical flesh). Thus, the ontology (substance) of the soul/spirit could undergo a metaphysical change. While I do not want to develop a lengthy case here, certain Bible verses indicate the possibility of this metaphysical change of the soul. Galatians 2:20 says “Christ lives in me.” If we are “born again” (John 3), what is this new life force, if it is not physical? Who (what) is the “I” (Greek, ego) of Romans 7 in which Paul deeply regrets his ongoing sin? Who is the “new creature in Christ” (II Corinthians 5:17). If the “old man” has died, who lives on (Romans 6:6). This change might be in the will or heart as both power (Greek dunamis) and personal value/love. The only other choice seems to be a duality of persons, “new” and “old,” but I cannot imagine any Biblical scholar positing that idea.
*Substance is predicated of Jesus Christ in formulations of the Trinity, e.g., “being of one substance with the Father” in the Nicene Creed. Since the Father has never been incarnated, as the Son has, this proposition cannot refer to the physical body of Christ.
Logic and Unity? Arminian vs. Calvinist
Here is a thought experiment that could make an interesting actual experiment. Bring together theologians of both Arminian and Calvinist persuasion. Have them take a brief, but thorough course in basic logic. Then, have them engage in debate about their different positions under the direction of an atheist logician. What would be the outcome? At the least, it would be interesting. At the best, it might lead to what are the logical gaps between the two camps.
Mysticism and irrationalism pervades “Bible-Believing” Christians. Mysticism is actively present from the most right wing evangelicals to left wing existentialists. For the latter, the “personal encounter” of Barth and other existentialists is well known. To their right are pentecostals whose mysticism and irrationality are well known, also. What may not be as well known is a corresponding concept among Bible-believing evangelicals (including the extreme right of theonomists). Among them we often hear that God does not use “mere human logic.” But, if the method of God’s logic is not the same as human logic (apart from the fact that He reasons perfectly and we do not), then we know nothing of God, His Son Jesus Christ, or what He has done in history. How else can we know the “truth and the truth make us free?” How else can we be “sanctified by His truth?” How else can we “worship Him in spirit and in truth?” If we are using a different logic, we are using a different language? How else can we know anything—anything at all?
The greatest need for true Christians is to study, know, and use the Bible thoroughly for all of life. This task cannot be achieved without logical, deductive inference—even with the indwelling Holy Spirit! Thus, the study of logic becomes necessary to this “greatest” need. To evaluate how well we are doing, we need only examine the curriculum of “Christian” high schools, colleges, and seminaries for their courses in logic. How greatly we fail this examination.
Let’s see now. The Holy Spirit uses one type of logic when He instructs our hearts and mind. God, the Father, (and the Son?) use a different type of logic in their discourse? How ridiculous! Yet, that is what these “Bible-believing” Christians think.
The strength of those who are demon-possessed. The strength of demoniacs is well known among Christians. But from where does this strength come? Perhaps it has to do with the mind-body relationship. Spirits do not have bodily form; therefore, they are pure mind (as best we can understand them). When they possess someone, they possess their minds. Through their minds, they may be able to manipulate the normal mechanisms for strength in extraordinary ways. I offer two demonstrations.
(1) Genesis 6:4 tells of the “sons of God” who came to the “daughters of men,” thus creating the Nephilim—giants of enormous size and strength. Again, there is pure spirit united with physical body to achieve powerful offspring. (2) It seems well-documented that in times of stress, both women and men can do extraordinary feats of strength—open wrecked car doors, lift cars off pinned people, fight animals with their bare hands, etc. In the past we have attributed these actions to some kind of enhanced physical prowess, but could it be a mind so intensely focused on a great need at hand?
I may have strayed the furthest yet in these Musings on this issue. However, I have now made it public for others to evaluate its Biblical and physiological possibilities.
The only concern of philosophy is ethics. In a prior musing (above) I posited that philosophy is really only concerned with theology in Biblical revelation. I want to suggest here that philosophy is only concerned with ethics (right and wrong). In a real sense, epistemology is impossible. To truly know anything, one must know everything. Every atom, molecule, and sub-atomic particle in the universe is related to every other. Every idea has been preceded by and is linked to every other idea. Per Plato’s Ideas, Aristotle’s Categories, Kant’s transcendental judgments, William James’ unity of subject and object in experience, and the Duhem-Quine theory, all knowledge is dependent and interdependent upon all other knowledge. To know anything, one must be omniscient, and only One is omniscient. (See The Epistemology of a Flea.)
So, if metaphysics is impossible (see prior post “The Only Concern…” above), and epistemology is impossible, then what is left for philosophy? Ethics: right and wrong behavior. To know right and wrong, one must have a standard, a “canon” or measuring stick by which to judge. “Canon” gives the clue to knowing right and wrong behavior: Biblical Revelation. Perhaps, this conclusion is the reason that all accounts of The Day of Judgment in the Bible concern right and wrong behavior, e.g., Matthew 25, II Corinthians 5.
Of course, going back to the first paragraph of this section, if the One Who is omniscient gives knowledge, then we can accept that knowledge as true without our having to be omniscient ourselves. Thus, the Bible is the only knowledge (truth) that we can know.
We know nothing of “substance” in the material or immaterial realm… but we do know of Mind. There are vigorous debates over the nature of the immaterial or spiritual realm. In Biblical and secular philosophical circles the term “substance dualism” is often posited. Substance? Substance? What is substance? I will not review the historical etymology of the word more than to say that ousia in Greek and essentia in Latin are considered equivalent. So both terms should be kept in mind.
We are familiar with “material” (physical) objects. So familiar that we overlook that we really do not know the ding and sich—the thing in itself. All the familiar objects to our everyday experience are composed of atoms which are composed of subatomic particles which are composed of ____ what? What are they? We can describe their behavior to a minimal extent, since Heisenberg observed that our very observation affects their behavior. Quantum theory tells us that we know even less, as movements of sub-atomic particles are unpredictable. If wee throw in chaos theory and black holes, what do we know? Very little, if anything.
Thus, we have the present concept of “substance” in the material world. Then, what can we possibly know of the spiritual world where sense data is impossible? What is “substance” spirituality, as in “substance dualism?” What is substance dualism, if we know so little of “substance materialism?” We know nothing of the spiritual world.
Unless… unless we have special knowledge of that world. And, we do… The Revelation of God in His Holy Scriptures. In fact, we know that the material world is predicated on the spiritual world (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1, Acts 17:28 , Hebrews 1:3, etc.). Further, we know that the “material” world was spoken into being by the Father and the Son (Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1). In John 1:1 speech (according to John Calvin and many other scholars) is logos—word.
Ah! The material universe is predicated on The Word… The Spoken Word. The spoken word comes from mind… The Mind of God. The material universe is predicated on mind or The Mind. The only illustration that comes to my “mind” is that of a non-fiction author (an idea that comes from C. S. Lewis). An author of fiction creates a world for his characters. In fact, he is omnipotent in this world. He could even defeat God, if he chose—fiction of course. There are many major differences. A human author cannot even begin to create the detail that God did. And, he is only a sub-creator of God who created him in the first place. Perhaps the greatest difference is that the characters of the novel do not have self-consciousness. (Or, do they?)
My points are these. (1) We think that we know so much of the “real” world of material objects when we really know so little or nothing of its “substance,” even though we function quite nicely in this universe. (2) No “substance” can be predicated of the spiritual world in any way that is sufficient to describe what it is. What it is is that which is created by the mind of God by thought and language. We live in a universe that is thought and mind and speech… that is “reality.” Our material world is that visible stage upon which we “strut and fret.” While our task is to “subdue” it and fill it with our offspring (Genesis 1:28), the real world is not one of “substance” but of Mind… The Mind of God.
Addendum October 17, 2011
I recently came across the idea of “wholes” as substance. This idea seems to make a lot of sense. For example, an individual tree, dog, car, chair, star, etc. is substance. Certainly, “wholes” as entirely different from the sums of their “parts” forms something (substance?) that is entirely different. I will have to ponder this idea for a while, but it seems to have substantial merit (pun intended!).
The superficiality of modern theology and “Christian philosophy.” The dependence of modern preachers and theologians on creeds of the past is an indictment of the superficiality of their theology and philosophical understanding. Here are some examples. (1) “Substance.” The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, and the Westminster Confession of Faith all use “substance.” Its use at the time that these were written is understandable, as the molecular, atomic, and sub-atomic nature of things had not been discovered. But with the modern understanding of physics, what is substance? The nature of the atom is that it is mostly “space” and “particles,” not “solid” objects. What then is the essential nature of an object? If we no longer know what constitutes the “substance” of things, how can substance be predicated of the Trinity who are spirits? Further, how can “substance” be predicated of each Person of the Trinity when they are spiritual beings without any correspondence to physical “substance?” While science cannot drive theology, if science demonstrates the emptiness of a word, it necessitates that theology re-define the word or find other words. Surely, an understanding of the most basic concept of Christianity demands such development.
(2) Person also appears in the Creeds to define the Trinity. Person comes from “persona,” “a Latin word signifying primarily a mask used by actors on the stage.” (Webster’s Dictionary of 1828) Surely, we need a word more substantial than this “mask” or at least a more substantial definition of “person.” And, then, there is the question whether “person” can be used of the Trinity in the same way that is used of a human being. Or, do we need two definitions of person—one for the Godhead and one for humans?
(3) Contradictions, mystery, analogy, and paradox. There seems to be an increasing avoidance of the hard work of defining terms, as substance and person above, by using these nebulous terms. In the place of this needed work, theologians and philosophers use what I am calling “avoidance” words, such as those listed here. Perhaps, with more Biblical study and logical application many of the supposed “avoidance” terms could be “avoided” themselves.
(4) Then, there is the pious sounding “God’s logic” vs. “mere human logic.” However , if the logic of man is not the same as the logic that God use, there is no chance that we can “know the truth” and have it make us “free.” Neither can we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16).
(5) What does God teach us other than “truths?” Perhaps the foremost Christian philosopher today, Alvin Plantinga, states”
(6) See dualism and orthodoxy below.
I don’t intend for a moment to suggest that teaching us truths is all that the Lord intends in Scripture: there is also raising affection, teaching us how to praise, how to pray, how to see the depth of our own sin, how marvelous the gift of salvation is, and a thousand other things. (Warranted Christian Belief, page 380fn)
Let’s see. By the law of noncontradiction, there are only truths and un-truths: two categories and two categories only. Does that mean that the remainder of “all that the Lord intends in Scripture” is un-truth? Now, I do not think that Plantinga means that, but what he said is most easily interpreted that way. The reader should consider that this “something other than truths” was stated by a trained and lifelong philosopher who claims to be a “Christian” philosopher.
These terms and statements are a small tip of the iceberg. What is most surprising is that reasoning in these and other areas is not that complicated. One just has to stated clearly defined terms and be consistent with them! Left to such reasoning, modern Biblical Christianity is in serious trouble. But, then, perhaps the Holy Spirit will not leave us there.
Dualism of body and spirit (soul) should be a test of orthodoxy. I have decided that dualism should be a test of orthodox (Biblical) Christianity. Simply and plainly, that is what the Scripture teaches. I favor idealism as an all-encompassing philosophy. I can build an evidential base for it, but it would be personal preference and speculation from Biblical evidence. God has posited the spirit world and the physical world. Man is both body and spirit. Jesus Christ was both—the Incarnation seals the necessity of both entities. There are many Christians today, especially those working in neurophysiology and evolutionary psychology who are positing physicalism of human beings. Not only are they wildly speculating about how the complexity of mind (consciousness, thought, will, meditation, etc.) can be an epiphenomenon, they are flying in the face of clear Biblical and derived theological teaching. Their orthodoxy should be challenged.
Tacit knowledge (Michael Polanyi) and a transcendental argument for God. Polanyi wrote:
The declared aim of modern science is to establish strictly detached, objective knowledge. Any falling short of this ideal is accepted as a temporary imperfection, which we must aim at eliminating. But suppose that tacit thought forms an indispensable part of all knowledge, then the ideal of eliminating all personal elements of knowledge would in effect aim at the destruction of all knowledge. The ideal of modern science would turn out to be a fundamentally misleading and possibly a source of devastating fallacies. (“Tacit Knowing,” The Tacit Dimension, [New York, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983], page 20—Ed’s emphasis)
Tacit knowledge is an almost entirely intuitive grasp of a subject matter or a skill. Some mathematicians, even as young children, can “figure” in their heads, but cannot tell you how they do it. Or, you can’t be a skillful carpenter by reading a book; you must get a “feel” for the tools, how to use them, and how to apply both to a situation. A transcendental argument is simply goes like this. For a concept A to exist, then B must exist. Concept A exists. Therefore, B exists. Kant was the first to call this argument “transcendental.”
Polanyi did not intend a transcendental argument. (It was reported that his own Christian commitment was “tacit.”) But if any knowledge at all requires a person, then there must have been a First Person. Thought does not exist in either organic or inorganic chemicals, as Polanyi the chemist, would tell you. But by his argument for thought to exist, then a person is necessary. Thought exists. Therefore, a person exists. Since humans did not make themselves, and thought from an evolutionary point of view is impossible, then an original Person exists.
A must read for any aspiring philosopher and/or scientist is Polanyi’s book, Personal Knowledge. He has destroyed forever any pretense that modern science has “objectivity.”
Music: the beauty of holiness? Perhaps, the most purely mathematical aesthetic. All musical notes are precise mathematical frequencies that are arranged in a harmony that is pleasing to human ears. Violation of these precise harmonics results in cacophony—like the screech of fingernails on a blackboard. Thus, music is a blend of the most objective of the sciences—mathematics—with the most subjective of disciplines—human art. We can only worship our Creator at this wonderful combination of law and beauty. Does this arrangement being to unpack an understanding of “the beauty of holiness?”
What is progress? Success? A word for missions. Is the aborigine of the Australian outback worse off than the millionaire in a penthouse in New York City? Worse off than the typical suburbanite of any American city with all their “modern” technologies? Who is happier? Who is more “successful?” Or, to phrase the question another way, “Is the modern man (choose whatever situation that you like) happier than any aborigine anywhere? One of the major goals of the Greek philosophers was eudaimonia, happiness. Is the modern man happier than any of the Greeks?
I propose that the native is better off—happier—than any modern man (with one exception to follow). All men die. All men have disease: in fact, modern man has created his own diseases of heart attacks, diabetes, arthritis, strokes, obesity, sedentary life, etc. All men face challenges. The reader can create his own comparisons and contrasts. The native has a well-defined worldview in which he lives. Modern man does not; he has “liberated” himself from superstitions and the spiritual world. The aborigine lives in a spiritual world. He has purpose, meaning, and a place in his cosmos. Modern man has no place; he lives in a cold, purposeless, random victim of chaos (theory). Modern man can kill by the millions with his atomic weapons; the native can only kill one person at a time.
There is one exception: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read the beatitudes—how man is blessed—if he has a certain attitude towards God (regeneration and justification) and right behavior (righteousness). In our Gospel missions we should know what we are doing. The only “better way of life” that we bring to the native is a true purpose to life; one that is spiritually true, not physical. I am not naive to think that we can take the Gospel without taking Western technology, but we should be vividly aware of what we are doing. We bring no “progress” to the native except the Gospel of Christ. We can make him live longer with public health measures and some of the measures of modern medicine, but he will still have diseases for which there are no cures, and he will eventually die. In that sense, we have only exchanged the diseases that he will experience and prolonged the inevitable—his own death. He will have different frustrations of life, but frustrations nevertheless.
Western “civilization” is not the Gospel. We must be careful that we do not equate the former with the latter. Further, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is far more than just “getting someone saved.” It is a total worldview that brings the greatest dimension of “peace on earth.” For more, see The New Missionary with a Complete Worldview.
Induction and faith: induction examines a limited number of similar situations, and makes predictions. Faith assumes certain things are “true” and makes plans based upon those assumptions. Experience is a form of induction in which every situation is compared to every other one, and conclusions (predictions) drawn. Faith is based to some extent on experience, but also on deduction from (what are thought to be) true premises. But induction also include other inductive (science) and experiential conclusions. Induction and deduction, then, are hopelessly interdependent. Faith is the ability to decide to act based upon less than absolute truth or certainty. This process is all carried out tacitly, although its operations are powerful and complex in the simplest person.
Destroy (natural) science, and you have destroyed atheism. Over the past month, I have focused on the philosophy of science. I never realized the powerful arguments that natural science is such a hodge-podge of assumptions, guesses, eliminated inconsistencies, arbitrary measurements, imprecise data, and more, as well as, a product of the zeitgeist and Gestalt of the time period in which its knowledge is developed. Using the insights of philosophy of science, of which Michael Polanyi may be the best, claims of natural science as truth can be destroyed easily and thoroughly. Christians have made a great mistake trying to pit “creation science” against “natural evolution.” They are simply debated their false system against another false system. Worse, they have assumed the opponent’s position in order to refute him. They have lost the argument before it was begun!
Progress is understanding and applying the Reformed faith. I have been searching for specifics about the nature of “progress.” I think that I have found it… progress in the purity of church and state government. The Reformed faith is growing… for sure and definitely. While the vast majority of currently Reformed only have a partial picture, they have the Westminster Confession of Faith which is the best systematic presentation of the Gospel. Other Reformed creeds are progressive (in the sense in which I am using it here), but not as coherent or philosophical as the WCF. Any other claim to “progress” fails for (1) “want of conformity or transgression of the law of God,” and (2) “glorifying God”—education, legislation, technology, science, etc. without its intended to be coherent with the laws of God and His worship fails in the Biblical notion of progress.
The atheist has no alternative to certain of the Ten Commandments. These commandments are “You shall not commit murder… adultery… steal… bear false witness to your neighbor.” Today in the United States, the Ten Commandments have been banished from the “public square,” and atheists rail against them. But, I contend they are caught in a inescapable bind. While they want (and do) countenance sexual immorality, but what alternative to they have to Commandments 6, 8, and 9? Do they want to advocate violence of students against teachers; violence in union strikes; rape of women; and violence against police? Do they want to advocate stealing; to cheating on school exams; to stealing from their employers; and to giving permission for politicians and bureaucrats to steal from the public. Do they want to advocate voiding of contracts; allowing politicians to lie about policies; lying of children to their parents; and deception about one’s actual intents in any situation?
It is apparent where denunciation of the Ten Commandments leads: anarchy in family, social, and civil situations. Few, other than Biblically oriented Christians are willing to show where an absence of these commandments leads: a total breakdown of society.
David Hume refuted by his own reasoning—twice! (1) David Hume stated that cause and effect are not necessarily linked. That a rock becomes heated in the sun does not necessarily mean that the sun caused it to heat up. Now, there is a certain plausibility to this argument. It is possible for these two events to occur simultaneously and independently. But this reasoning has necessitated two causes and coordination. No event happens without a cause—nothing moved without a mover. So, the heating of the rock and the presence of the sun must have their own causes. Then, something or someone must precisely coordinate the two events together. Now, in both philosophy and science, one fundamental tenet has been to simplify wherever possible. However, Hume has greatly, if not almost infinitely, made the problem complex: two causes instead of one and a precise coordination of the two events! Which is simpler and more certain?
(2) Hume denied miracles, yet he affirmed science. Oh? What is science but conclusions based upon observations—empiricism (induction). How are miracles testified—by the observations of eye witness—empiricism (induction). One might counter that miracles are not repeatable, but empiricism is. The world is always changing—no particular event is ever the same—recognized more than 2500 years ago by Heraclitus and many philosophers since. Thus, no empirical method is ever entirely the same. Both miracles and empiricism are empiric—both should be suspect and accepted only conditionally by faith—in self and senses or the word of God written.
Methodological naturalism. “Methodological naturalism,” by limiting investigation (i.e., any knowledge whatsoever) to the material realm misses, all transcendence. It is not only method bound, it binds the heart, soul, mind, and imagination of man to lower levels than he could otherwise reach. In essence, this method misses everything that makes man more than the animals and has no identity with being made imago Dei.
“Man as the measure of all things” in modern evangelicalism. In the 5th century B.C., Protagoras said that “man is the measure of all things.” This idea necessarily continued with subsequent Greek philosophers. The only “philosophy” that could counter it was Judaism, and it had not penetrated into the central thinking of the Greeks and Romans. With the establishment of the canon of Revelation and the Holy Spirit, God and His Word in the 66 books of the (almost) universally accepted Bible became the “measure of all things.”
However, 19th-21st century evangelicals have made themselves (man) the center of all things—again! They have come to see their salvation as the culmination of God’s Providence. Premillennialists believe that God’s only purpose in history is to save souls. Both premillennialists and some (many, most?) amillennialists believe that once the gospel has been preached to everyone on earth (falsely based upon Matthew 24:14), history will end and Christ will return. Perhaps, the phrase that best describes this salvation-of-souls’ centeredness is, “Why polish brass on a sinking ship”—the sinking ship of God’s plan in history.*
Everything that God has done has been in history. He began history “in the beginning…” The Garden, the Fall, the Flood, Abraham, Moses and the nation of Israel—all “pre-Christian” history. Then came the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ—in history! Acts and the Epistles were written in history. “Turning the Roman Empire upside down” and the conversion of Constantine was in history. Christendom of the Middle Ages was in history. The Reformation and founding of America—the greatest and most free nation on earth was in history.
And, God is going to just end history because all Christians have been saved? History will end without the earth being full of man’s fruitfulness. The “subduing of the earth” will be left unfiinished?
May I remind my brothers and sisters in Christ that The Creation Mandate preceded the Fall. It was part of God’s “very good” Creation. If history ends before those mandates are fulfilled, then man is a failure in history, in spite of many “being saved.” Infinitely worse, God fails in history. He fails in the purpose of man for His Creation.
I have been told that the most common quote of the Old Testament in the New Testament is, “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” If the premillennialists are right, and if the amillennialists are right, then this confession will take place outside of history. Such a conclusion is contradictory to all God’s work in history until the present.
The Creation Mandate preceded the Fall and has never been cancelled. Salvation in history is the means by which this Mandate will be fulfilled in history. The Great Commission then becomes the means by which the Creation Mandate will be fulfilled.
Otherwise, all of God’s work in history has been only “polished brass on a sinking ship.” This result would be anathema to God’s prior work and with His character. God, through the Holy Spirit, in His people will complete His work in history. Man’s salvation is not the center of all things. God’s Providence, as His work in history, and Himself is the center of all things. Only man, even Christian man, could so misconstrue God’s work.
*The church was always postmillennial until the 18th century.
There is one Absolute. A favorite phrase among postmoderns is, “There are no absolutes.” Well, in spite of their protestations, the law of noncontradiction is still in effect. Since “There are no absolutes” is an absolute, the contradictory must be true, “There is an absolute.” Now, among all possibilities there can only be one absolute: to be absolute is to be The Absolute. Of all claims to be absolute, only one can be the greatest—The Absolute. Thus, if one is serious about answers to this universe of great good and heinous evils, one looks among the claims of absoluteness. As far as I am familiar with such claims, there is only one. “In the beginning, God …” The one claim is the only claim and the Only Absolute.
An insight into infinity and omniscience in whole numbers. How can God know everything (“be omniscient”), if infinity means “limitless knowledge?” The latter phrase states that knowledge is “limitless,” that is, it has no boundaries. With no boundaries, how can “all” be known? Many persons might be content with just accepting the polarities, as mystery or paradox. And, they may be right. Yet, should we not probe as far as Scripture allows in expanding our minds after God (Deuteronomy 29:29)?
How many numbers are there? (I am considering only positive numbers. What do negative numbers count? I don’t know. What are “negative” things?) The answer is that there are as many numbers are there are numbers! But we know how many numbers there are. We know the progression: we simply add one number to the next—x+1, if you will. We know all the next numbers. But the numbers are infinite, also. Thus, we know all the numbers into infinity. There would never be any numbers that were not familiar to us. We would only be limited by “space and time” to be able to write them down. Yet, we do know them.
The Bible never says that God is “infinite.” It does say that He is eternal—above and beyond (if even those prepositions apply) space and time. “Before Abraham was, ‘I AM.'” We are created in God’s image—the greatest identity of that image is our minds. The Apostle Paul even said, “We have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). While God’s mind is certainly beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8), we glorify Him in attempts to expand our own minds. In “knowing” all the numbers, we know a little more of God—always to God’s glory and our good.
Why man understands his universe. God said, “Let there be ___ (light, land, plants, animals, persons, etc.). God spoke. “In the beginning was the Speech” (John Calvin’s interpretation of logos in John 1:1, whereas most translations use “word.”). And, God created man imago Dei, “image” likely having particular reference to man’s being able to speak and communicate with God and with each other.. Speech requires mind, so image of God is speech and mind. The universe is speech-mind created—man is speech-mind. Thus, man can naturally understand the universe.
Emergence and the Trinity. Emergence is the greater effect of a whole than the individual effects of its parts. An atom has characteristics that none of its subatomic particles has. Sodium chloride (table salt) is totally different from sodium and chloride as elements that are dangerous to life and health. Naturalism has no explanation for emergence. This phenomenon may only be understood according to God’s creative design, not from the physical properties of the “lower” level parts.
I speculate that the phenomenon of emergence reflects the effects of the unity of the Trinity. As unity, they are the totality of the functions of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father “begot” the Son (John 3:16). The Son created the cosmos (John 1:1). The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Nicene Creed). And so on. In the sense of function or roles, the Persons of the Trinity have characteristics peculiar to each one, but together their functions encompass all “live and moves and has being” in the universe.
Possible worlds: many philosophers, both Christian and pagan, like to speculate about possible conditions in other “possible worlds.” For a Christian, this approach is absurd. God necessarily created this cosmos, the universe that we know. Since God’s thought is intuitive, rather than discursive, what He thinks to create becomes or “is.” He has given us no hint of other worlds; thus, this cosmos is the only one that is. Gottfried was correct that this is the “best possible world” and the only world.
A logical problem of possible worlds is that it creates infinite possibilities because of infinite worlds. If philosophy cannot draw any consensus views after 2500 years, then possible worlds makes any possible progress virtually zero.
God judges men by their own standards… and they are found wanting. It has long seemed strange to me that God will judge both the regenerate (believers) and the unregenerate (unbelievers) on their works! We see this judgment in Matthew 25:34-46 concerning the sheep (regenerate) and the goats (unregenerate). Also, II Corinthians 5:10 we see a judgment of works in believers only.
The huge question is, “If God’s plan through all history has been to prepare and fulfill salvation in His Son, on judgment day, why is He not seeking the Evangelical Explosion answer to their first question, ‘Why should I let you into my Heaven?’” That answer is, “You should let me into heaven because Jesus Christ died in my place.” But nowhere is Scripture is eternal judgment based upon acceptance or rejection of Christ.
This morning the answer came, as I was pondering Romans 1:18ff where God says that the unregenerate are “without excuse” in not “honoring” and “thanking” God, in spite of the abundant evidence in the cosmos of His “eternal power and divine nature.” There, God is judging men for their failure to acknowledge what their own minds see. In the passages named here, God is judging men by their own moral standards and found eternally wanting—literally and figuratively. His fairness and equity—indeed his longsuffering—extends far beyond what men themselves would call “reasonable” in both cases.
“What is” is “what ought to be.” From the standpoint of total predestination, the consistent and logical position of those theologically Reformed (Calvinists, Presbyterians, Puritans, etc.), any object, event, or situation that “is” or “occurs” was planned by God from “eternity past.” Now, I am not presenting this proposition as a means to understand ethics. Biblical ethics is the norm that we are to pursue in society and civil law—it is the God-given standard by which we are to live. In that sense, the naturalistic fallacy applies, “What is” is not necessarily “what ought to be.” The “is” of America’s laws that allow abortion is not “what ought to be.”
However, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The conflated attributes of omnipotence and holiness (righteousness, good, goodness, justice) allow no evil (from God’s perspective) in the universe. “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (Isaiah 26:3). All that “is” is indeed how He has planned time and eternity.
There is one caveat. I strongly believe what I have just said, but my ability to live at peace within this scenario is beyond my ability. I am never at perfect peace, and I doubt that you are either. Soli Deo gloria.
Emergence: the greater effect of a whole than the individual effects of its parts. An atom has characteristics that none of its subatomic particles has. Sodium chloride (table salt) is totally different from sodium and chloride as elements that are dangerous to life and health. Naturalism has no explanation for emergence. This phenomenon may only be understood according to God’s creative design, not from the physical properties of the “lower” level parts. See supervenience.
The supernatural hidden in plain sight. Because emergence results in properties which are often considerably beyond those of constituent parts, what explanation is to be given except that the Creator has supernaturally, that is, exceeded naturalistic phenomena? Thus, the existence of “super-nature” is “hidden in plain sight,” in the functions of the universe!
Work. Emergence makes possible the situation that two people can finish a task in less time than one-half of the time that it takes them individually to accomplish the task.