Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Made in the Image of God

God's nature flows from his being, as the cause of all, the cause of himself. Humans, in a sense, cause themselves, especially from the immanent viewpoint. Other creatures grow and develop, but I do not know of any others which do things like go to the gym, get a degree, etc, purely, as they see it, in order to make themselves a certain sort of person. In humans, we find people who see themselves and develop a desire to be different than they are. From the transcendent viewpoint, yes, those desires which develop are determined, but from the immanent perspective existentialism is right: existence precedes essence in a certain sort of way. Perhaps I start out with a certain essence, but it is a very small part of me, people can change to extraordinary degrees. Perhaps it would be ideal for people to go in what would be the "natural" way for them to develop, i.e., the way that their essential essence would naturally express itself, but that would still be the person choosing a certain one of various selves, which choice would involve no contradiction either way.

Thus, Adam, in a sense, created the human race as the sinful human race. In this act Adam also creates creation, not totally, but in a similar way to how God did. He looked at creation and caused it to be other than it was. Why? Chance, in the immanent view, at least in part, maybe something in Adam's nature; yet it is still Adam choosing what sort of Adam he would be. From the transcendent, it is necessary in order that God might execute his awesome plan of salvation of wretched sinners from sin. A tragedy, but, while bad now, it is a bit of an adventure. Maybe the falleness of the world is part of one of those things where we will look back, in this case after Christ's return, and tell the story of how God saved us. And that story is the most awesome story, more so with respect to how bad it is to go through than any of the similar stories we might tell in our current state. Like in Lord of the Rings, the really great stories are the ones where people fight for some good in this world against all odds, and God took the absolutely ruined world we live in, and he is making it all new. Total depravity means that God is fighting against the worst odds, except that he is God and there is no other, he wins. On the cross, Jesus of Nazareth crawls into our Mordor, with great suffering, in order that there might actually be good in this world. At the end of Lord of the Rings, are we asking why the greater power that is referred to in some places as working did not stop the rise of Sauron in the first place?

So we create ourselves in story, just as God creates himself as author of the story. We can decide what sort of person we are, in the immanent perspective. God creates the story and all the characters and all their interactions, in the transcendent perspective. There is also a sense where we author our respective stories, not in the sense of making the characters and their interactions, but in the sense that we tell stories about why things happen and then expect further things to follow in like manner. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How am I getting there? The answers to those questions is a sort of construction of the skeleton of one's story. Monkeys don't seem to have answers to these questions, and, even if they could speak, I expect these questions would be non-starters.

Because there is a sense in which we each cause our own existence, and because this is an essential characteristic of God, thus we, in having this characteristic to a degree, show the glory of God more than any that has that attribute to a lesser, or non-existent, extent. Our worship, because we can choose ourselves (not that we can choose contrary to our overall nature, but with regard to our narrower, more essential nature we can), is even more God glorifying because it comes from one who looks more like God. A picture of a forest shows us what forests are like more when it is on a piece of wood than when it is one rock because then we can say "and there is this texture and smell, too." In the same way, we are able to show what God is like better, and thus glorify him better, because we are more like him. And we are made king of the world, not sovereignly, but to a large extent. Thus we speak for creation. If we are not saved, then we say by our acts that God ought not be sovereign, but that we should be, and so the world mimics us apart from our mimicking God. We are fallen, thus the world mimics fallenness--we say by our acts that the fallen life is best, and our kingdom listens. If we rather are saved by God, and worship God, then, by our acts, we declare that all that we have ought to be devoted to God's glory, and thus creation obeys, in fullness when Christ returns, but in part even now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's Wrong?: Evil in a Determined Universe

Spinoza believed that "good" and "bad" were adjectives without any reality to them. He was a determinist who believed that everything was God, or Nature, and thus everything just is. How can we avoid that conclusion if we believe that God has ordained all events, all happenings?

From the transcendent viewpoint, all things are ordained by God and occur because he choose that they would. He ordained these things in order that he might be glorified, and thus does not sin in doing them. So can we say that anything that happens ought not to have happened? No, not from here.

From the immanent viewpoint, on the other hand, we can say that events ought not to have happened. When we look from the immanent perspective we are not considering that world in all of time and space, and God's ordaining deterministically occurs with a consideration of the whole of time and space. When we view things immanently, we are not considering the future and thus are not considering that when Christ shall return and redeem all things. At that time, which we look forward to, what occurred which was evil in its time shall be taken and untwisted by our Lord and Savior as he redeems the whole of creation. But until then, we can say that it was twisted, and it is twisted that certain things happen. Sin in the world takes the good and twists it into evil, but Christ shall take evil and untwist it into even greater good, because it will be good not only because God made it so, but also because, when it ceased to be good, God took it and did not throw it away, but made it good again. Yet, until that time, there are evils which ought not be, and to add to the evils is to take what God has made and tamper with his creation. It is meddling in the work of God, a claim that we can somehow make the world better than God could alone. We do not act with knowledge and ordination over all of time and space, so we should not act like we do, but like we serve the one who does.

Well, if we should not tamper with what God has made, should we just do nothing? No, even before the fall humans were instructed to tend the garden, be fruitful, and multiply. Now that the world has fallen, and the earth is twisted from how it was in the beginning, we ought to desire to make it as it was originally made to be, glorifying God in every way it can, just as God will finally and fully do when Christ returns.

Thus, destruction of life is an evil because God did not create the world in such a state that it should contain that, and when Christ returns we shall no longer suffer from it. In this time, we encounter it, and fight it, knowing that when it happens God has ordained it for good, but that we are to seek to put creation right, that is, more like the state it will be put in when Christ returns, for the same reason that we are to do good works: it is an overflow of our hearts toward God in worship, that we desire the world to show his glory to all people.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Axiom Zero

Let us suppose that we have various "axioms" that we hold to be bedrock, how-could-you-think-otherwise, truths, but we also want to have as few reasons as possible, perhaps due to Ockham's Razor. So, we may either take one of those axioms and try to derive all others from it, or we may posit a new axiom that ought to explain all other axioms, let this be Axiom Zero.

Well, what are the axioms we want to explain? There is the principle of non-contradiction, which says that something cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same way. Any number of things can be said to stand in some relationship to each other. These are just logical axioms, tons of math and logic can be reduced to this. "I exist" may also be held to be an axiom. There are other beliefs that we hold axiomatically, they just are not able to placed in the same way, and many of them can and have been questioned. Consider: The world exists, and is made up of sensible matter, our senses are reliable, if I have memory of sometime, and can say how I have moved from then to now, then that point in time existed. People have shown that these "axioms" need not be held as axioms, but they tend to be believed axiomatically.

So, what can we say about Axiom Zero? It must contain in it at least the ideas of consistency, relation, and existence. If it is to be the source of those axioms, then it must hold those ideas in itself as a coherent whole that is not merely the conjunction of the parts, and it cannot hold any of those ideas to a lesser extent than the derived axioms hold them, though perhaps less clearly.

In order that it might hold all possible axioms, it must therefore hold all truth implicit in itself. Thus it holds the truth that x and y stand in a relation R to each other, and similar truths. Because this axiom holds the idea of existence in itself in its rawest form, it must entail the existence of things, everything since it holds all possible axioms, not merely the necessary axioms, and thus if it were all that was, it would mean that something else, in fact everything that does in fact exist, also existed. Thus axiom zero cannot exist alone. Not only this, but it must contain as implicit in itself its own existence.

I do not think that one could find an axiom that does all of this. However, God does do all of this.

Causes at Two Levels, Chance, and Free Will

There are various places in Scripture where we can see God saying that he, himself, will do something. Divide the nation of Israel, or bring about what is now referred to as the diaspora, for example. At the same time, historians look at societal forces at that time, and see causes for those things happening. Does that mean that God did not do those things? What was the cause of Job's suffering? As readers, we see Satan making his requests, and there were the Sabeans and Chaldeans who actually killed his children and took his property, but Job himself says "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." and we are told in the very next verse that "In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." (Job 1:22).

Thus we say that God acts through means. He ordains what happens, but he also ordains how it is that what happens comes about. These are the two levels of cause, then: by the ordaining will of God, and by the societal and/or physical consequence of other things. The second could be divided again, but I do not find it necessary for this point.

Because God Said So

First, this is always a true answer to the question "Why?" but it is still often the wrong answer, and one should avoid giving it as an answer to a question asked out of curiosity in even the smallest degree (my attitude in this respect apparently makes me fun to troll). At the very least, we ought to indicate some aspect of the nature of God that leads us to believe that this is a helpful answer to the question. This answer is getting at the purpose, what is often called the final cause, of things. It is similar to answering a child's question about why their bedtime is so early by telling them "because I said so," or, which is ethical "because you need to get up at such-and-such a time tomorrow, so if you don't go to sleep now you'll be tired and cranky, and that won't be any fun for either of us"

Because Physics Says So

 This still tends to be a true answer to most questions, although, again, the answer ought to be what about physics makes it so. Where "Because God said so" gets at the purpose, "Because physics says so" gets at the causal sequence that led us to the thing to be explained, which is often called the efficient cause. "Why did the ball drop?" "Because I let go of it, gravity, etc." "But why did you let go of it?" At this point we do not have a story about how the physical interactions led to the person's dropping the ball, and, given Quantum dynamics, it may be by chance. In which case we could say that they were not determined to drop the ball.

Necessity/Possibility and Certainty/Uncertainty

In discussing this, let me make a distinction between what is necessary and what is certain, on the one hand, and what is possible and what is uncertain, on the other. What is necessary is that which would imply a contradiction if the reverse were true instead, and all else that we know, up to the time of the decision, were to remain the same. What is possible is what would not imply a contradiction if the reverse were true instead, and all else that we know, up to the time of the decision, were to remain the same. What is certain is what does happen, and what is uncertain is what may or might not happen. For examples: It is necessary that E=Mc^2, it is certain that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead, it is possible that I walk out of my room. I would argue that all events that happen are certain, and that there are therefore no uncertain things.

Free Will?

So, there is a sense in which one could say that we have Libertarian Free Will, the power to choose one way or the other, because it is not necessary, but merely certain, what we will choose. I hold that everything is certain because God made it as it is, and thus we are, theologically speaking, determined, but this does not remove the fact that we may have a form of libertarian indeterminism when we are looking purely at the temporal explanation for our actions. This libertarianism holds when we view ourselves from the immanent perspective of God, and is real, but it does not hold from the transcendent viewpoint of God.

God Made the World. Ergo, Theological Determinism

I would like, here, to return to why I believe that God made all of the world in all time as it is at each time.

First, God certainly made the world in its original state. Second, time is a created thing. Therefore, God created time from a transcendent point of view, and thus created all that happens in and through and to time in the moment that he made it. The world is in time, and thus God, in creating time, created all the acts that occur in time, and acted in time in all the ways that he does and has and will, in response to our prayers. That is to say, his act of creation, because it occurs, at least from one perspective, to be transcendent, causes the cause of the world's beginning of being to be indistinguishable in cause and type from its continuing to be, from that perspective.

Libertarian Free Will and Theological Determinism

Thus, it is accurate to say that we have libertarian free will, and are determined by God to do as we do, and this is no contradiction because we are libertarianly free in the immanent view, but not the transcendent one, and theologically determined in the transcendent view, but not the immanent one. In the immanent view, we are called to seek God, but look from the transcendent view and you will see that God is the one who causes himself to be found in the most glorious way, and so we also say that he seeks us, even when we do not want to be found. Immanently, we choose to act, even sometimes rejecting God, but transcendently God is weaving all our lives into a tapestry that shall glorify him forever, even if we do not know how. From here, I would like to explain the five points of calvinism in light of this, and how one's understanding of them may be altered by this combination of libertarianism and determinism.

Total depravity--our wills can only do what is evil apart from God, I have argued that this is by definition: What is good is to glorify God in thought, word, and deed; to do anything that glorifies any other in the slightest, without intending it to be, at the same time and even more, glory to God, is to sin. This remains in both immanent and transcendent views if one agrees with me about what sin is.

Unconditional grace--If, apart from worshiping God, we can do nothing good, then what good could we do to receive salvation? Salvation is what puts us in the place where our "worship" is no longer abhorrent to God, that is, our "worship" becomes Worship. God has already made certain all of our acts, so that even if we freely will to accept salvation, that was ordained by God, and why should he be kept from ordaining this because we have been sinning in various ways before then? So was everyone else! If he caused none who had been sinning constantly beforehand to be saved, then no one would be saved. Shall we say it was our act of faith? Yes, without faith we would not be saved, but that act is there because, and only because, God put it there for what is really no visible reason to us. There is a sense in which, from the immanent view, God's grace may be seen as conditional upon our acceptance, but our acceptance is worship, and we cannot worship unless God reveals himself to be glorified, and that is from God, not from any human. I may focus in a later post on the temporal order in salvation. This is the point that seems to me to necessitate viewing salvation through both an immanent and a transcendent view.

Limited atonement--really bad phrasing. The work of Christ on the cross and his resurrection are enough for all the world to be saved by, with more left over. However, given that God ordained long before the cross who would finally be covered by Christ's sacrifice, it is not false to say that his sacrifice is only ever going to be applied to some, that is, while any may accept the free gift, and it is offered to all, it is ordained that only some will accept it, and the purpose of Christ in dieing was not to save all, but only those ordained that he save. If his purpose had been to save all, then he failed in his purpose, but because his purpose was to save those whom the Father had given him, he succeeds. The limit is in who will have it applied to them, not how many or who it is enough for. This is in both views, since the Holy Spirit applies our salvation to us in both views, but because of how libertarianism affects Irresistible Grace, holding only an immanent view of salvation which includes this forces you to say that Christ has died for some, who knows how many, but maybe they will be saved, maybe not, and thus it makes more sense, since it reduces to the same thing, to just dispense with it when viewing things immanently.

Irresistible Grace--God's grace in salvation (and all else) is not only necessary, but sufficient, to cause people to be saved. No one, not even the person's own self, can avoid their own salvation when God says "You will be my treasured possession." This is how those who Christ died in order to save are saved, whether with much running, weeping, and fighting, or not. From the immanent view, however, we can say that God's grace is resistible, and many resist for a long time before being saved, and some resist their whole lives, but this is not for want of the power of God.

Perseverance of the Saints--Once God has someone, he has them for good. Any who are truly saved will not die apart from God, and anyone who dies apart from God was never truly saved, though "On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:22-23) By this we know that there are some who will die, and we will all think they believed until their death, but we shall see that they were deceiving themselves and us, and trying to deceive God. In an immanent view, this remains, but if we limit ourselves to judging by what people do, then we must not judge. Who are we to know? We cannot know the mind of a human, that is for God. a person's salvation is between that one and God. Yet we may decide that because of this that we ought to preach and teach as if most of those hearing were totally lost. What can we lose? It is impossible to overemphasize the gospel of Jesus Christ, which affects all of life. Only know that, if you are saved, then God holds you tightly, and you cannot be taken from him.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Calvinism and Arminianism: The Basic Difference

This is in reaction to this post by Dr. Roger Olson: it is excellent in showing how an Arminian can speak of Salvation by faith alone in very similar terms as Calvinists. I decided to respond to it because the amount of similarity in language makes it very clear where the actual disagreement is, which shows up in two places.

First, at the bottom of the third page he says "Free will is simply a God-given capacity for choosing the true freedom offered by God's grace, or else rejecting it through our own self-centered obstinacy." Second, on the fourth page after his analogy about the hose, he says "there can be grace blockers—wrong attitudes and habits, hidden resentments and selfish motives. My "job," as it were, is to find them—with the Spirit's help, of course—and work them out through a process of repentance and submission. Free will is a necessary precondition in that process, but not the end result." These two show how Arminians are different from Calvinists both in how they view salvation and in how they view sanctification. Both an Arminian and a Calvinist can say that if x is good, I choose x by the power of the Holy Spirit, whatever x is, but they mean different things by it, at least as regards salvation (and, I would argue, therefore sanctification). The Calvinist means that the Holy Spirit is both the necessary and sufficient cause of my choosing x. The Arminian means that the Holy Spirit is a necessary cause of my choosing x, but not sufficient, as is my own freely willing to choose x, and that only together are they a (the, since they are both necessary) sufficient cause of my choosing x.

The Arminian says that I freely choose salvation, I agree. I merely argue that I would never have chosen it apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Arminians agree. The part that I argue for that Arminians disagree with is that the Holy Spirit working in me for my salvation is what causes me to freely choose salvation. The problem being, so far as I can see, that an act necessitated solely by what is outside of me is not my free act. If it is mine, it is not free, and if it is free, then it is not mine. There is a sense in which I can agree with the objection, but not that it is a valid objection. I believe that the Holy Spirit causing me to choose salvation takes the form of the Holy Spirit causing me to desire salvation to the point that my desire for it, for God, overrules any objecting desires for earthly safety or happiness, and that I, because my desire for salvation is so strong, choose it based on my desire that has been caused by the Holy Spirit. I say that this act is free because it is an act caused--necessitated--by my will, which is to say, the strength of my desire for it being greater than the strength of my desire for not-it.

I claim that there is no causal path that cannot be traced back to God, but the Arminian seems to believe that some causal paths, while partially traceable to God, may be traced back to a different first cause, i.e., the will of a human. Not to say that the cause is not caused, but that the cause was not caused to be what it is, apart from, generally, a will. To make sense of this with respect to God, I argued that God must be in some sense atemporal, such that he might be the cause of his being how he is. This option is not open with regard to humans, yet the Arminians still seem to be arguing that we cause ourselves to have the sort of wills that we have. But what caused our will to cause itself to make itself the way that it now is? It must have had an original state, which must have been caused to be that way for some reason, and if there was the possibility for it to cause itself to change in some way other than it did, then it would seem it is still called upon to cause itself to be a certain kind of will, the kind that changes itself in this way or that way.

Thus it seems to me that the Arminians are forced to throw away the principal of sufficient reason, which says that for any state of affairs there must be a reason that it is this way and not some other. However, to do this is to throw away the basis of the cosmological argument for the existence of God, which seems to me to be the strongest argument we have. It also means we have no reason to ask why the world exists, or why the physical laws are as they are. Indeed we can no longer look at an action and be sure that there was a cause for it. A book falls, why must I look for gravity? Why can't I say "Books just do that, why should there be a cause?" Of course, Arminians may be able to say that the principle of sufficient reason applies wherever there are not free willed beings, but then why did we begin to study the social sciences with the perspective of science? Not that we cannot do so, necessarily, of we are free willed, but we have no reason to go looking for any tendencies. Perhaps, then, we are like quanta, very random at low levels, but when we get to a macro scale, it all evens out. But how is it that our actions being random is any better for calling our actions our own than determinism? I'm sorry, you rolled a 6 three times in a row, that is punishable with hell. What? Why? Is there no cause to expect consistency? Oh, each person starts out totally libertarianly free, but they lose that over time. Oh, so I roll the dice all at the start. Fine, at least we have consistency, but now I'm lost ahead of time again, why not from the very beginning? Besides, if it is random, then why does that not mean that God is in charge of it? He determines every outcome of the dice, why not all the other random things? But if the soul is random, then the soul is determined by God.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Missions: Social Development and Evangelism

At the college I am going to, the question was recently raised "in missions, is social development more important than evangelism?" That the question is worth asking is disturbing to me, but, given that it is being asked, it ought to be answered carefully and well. Social development is an important facet of missions, we ought not discard concerns that we may be under-emphasizing it without looking closely at what the place of social development in missions is.

First, I have previously argued that God, being the only necessary being and therefore creating all else, is therefore the most valuable that we might seek, and that we ought to seek him for that reason. In him we find total satisfaction, since he is our source. We have been created to worship God, thus we will be dissatisfied in anything but God, and this dissatisfaction is a grace to us that we might seek God and find him and therefore be satisfied in him.

Second, social development I take to mean the development of a society such that it might be more conducive to physical and moral human life. Digging wells in Africa, dealing with human trafficking, rebuilding (or building) community in the wake of longstanding war. All these are good things, we are called to do justice and love mercy.

However, since we are fully satisfied in Christ, all of those things we are dealing with in social development are secondary. They may be means to the end of evangelism, gaining trust from people, but they are not ends in and of themselves. That a person is suffering is something we should be concerned with, but the grace of God is sufficient for a person's sustenance even in that. Paul even rejoiced in his suffering.

At the same time, in regards to those sufferings that are caused by the sins of humans, the grace of God, entering those people's lives, is able to transform their lives such that they would turn from their wickedness to God. So evangelism is the most powerful implement in social development. This is not to say that we should treat the gospel as a means of social development, but that the gospel will change cultures just as it changes individual lives. If we seek first the glory of God, then all these things will be added. If we seek the glory of God secondarily, or not at all, then all our efforts in social development will be hampered by the sins of those we are trying to help.

Beyond all this, evangelism is more important than social development because the ultimate social development will occur when Christ returns in glory and totally renews the world and those who are in him will enter into his kingdom which will be developed and need no social development. If we do not seek to save the lost, that they might enter into that kingdom, then we are not seeking social development in the long term, but only in their present lives. In salvation, the saved is brought in the communion of saints, and will no longer have justification to fear humans, but only to fear the almighty God who has saved them from death to life. So that we can do the work of the ministry, do missions, because we know that God is working in us and through us, and has already accomplished his glorious purposes. Evangelism is eternal social development, any social development we do here will be but a shadow of the society we have in heaven. An image in which we may see God's glory, and therefore social development is a form of worship to God, but only a shadow, just as the songs we now sing are but a shadow of what we shall sing in heaven.

To do social development for any lesser purpose than God's glory is to do sin in doing a good act. If we desire to glorify God, then we will, in our worship, endeavor to create a picture of the kingdom of heaven on earth, and therefore, as worship to our God and king, enact social development.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Against Voluntarism

Voluntarism is the idea that all that exists, including abstract notions, rules of logic, mass, the speed of light, geometrical axioms, etc., are all caused by God and could therefore have been caused to be other than they are. This includes that God could have caused himself to be incapable of causing anything in any other way than he caused it, as well that he could have caused kangaroos to be both blue and pink in the same way at the same time with all the same conditions, i.e., he could have willed contradictions. This is believed to follow from his omnipotence. Thus a voluntarist's answer to the old question "Could God make a rock so big that he could not lift it?" is "Yes, of course."

Voluntarists are very difficult to argue with. If I suggest a line of reasoning, they are at full liberty to respond that God could very well have caused whatever logical principles I am employing to not hold in his own case. Thus, my argument is to use that very strength against them, since there are some things which we as humans tend to hold very tightly to.

Suppose God is as the Voluntarists, i.e., he is a voluntarist God, what appears to follow? Well, I have no reason to suppose any rule to work reliably, apart from God's grace. God could very well cause gravity to only work on those objects which have not chewed dental floss at midnight while balancing on a tightrope, and could cause this to be necessary given his character without altering his character. Now, then, if God is a voluntarist God, what becomes of science? If we say that God is good and therefore causes the physical laws to be consistent then I ask how we know that God has caused that to be good. We no longer have any way of getting anywhere by means of logic, and thus no way of knowing God. Not even the Bible avoids logic enough for us to simply read it and thereby know God, if he is a voluntarist God, since he could have caused the words to say false things and still be totally and completely inerrant. Thus a human has no basis on which to claim that they have come to some sort of truth, for any basis could have been caused, without it itself changing, to be a perfectly good reason to say that we had fallen into falsehood.

Thus, voluntarism makes it impossible to have any reasons for anything, including itself, and is thereby just as self-refuting as moral relativism.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sanctification IN CHRIST

In salvation, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ as our head (so we are in Christ) so that we die with him (thus he died for us, paying the penalty, the debt, for our sins as if he were us, since we are in him and so he does carry ourselves), are raised with him (thus we now live in Christ), and as he is our head, so he reigns over us, and it is no longer our own life, but his life in us, since he purchased our lives on the cross--that is what it means to say that we live in Christ. Because they are his lives, thus they ought to look like his life, and by the Spirit's uniting us to him, and by the Spirit's changing us, by showing us Christ, from one degree of glory to the next--from one degree of worship to God to the next--in that way our lives more closely resemble the lives which we in fact have as our own, though they are not our own, but Christ's, which we now live out by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, now, we have two lives: the life in Christ, the life of the Spirit, which is perfect and righteous and blameless; and the life of the flesh, the old man, which has already been killed and therefore has no power over us now, yet we return and live in that life, rather than in that life we have in Christ.

This struggle is the struggle of sanctification, yet it is not so different from salvation. Here, too, the Holy Spirit works to unite us all the more fully to Christ and therefore to live ever more fully in that life we have in Christ. Our motives will be pure when they are perfectly united to the motives of Christ, but until then we struggle with our own natures. These are not actions which we seek to do but sometimes fail, and thus say that we have failed to live in Christ, but rather it is our living in our identity in Christ, where there is no failure, since we have already been raised with Christ, and Christ's success is ours. The struggle is that our old man does not come along quietly, but we must put to death the things of the old man, and this we do by the power of the Spirit at work within us with irresistible grace to put to death the things of the old man and bring to life the things of the new man which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever, amen!

Behold, his yoke is easy and his burden light! Even what he asks, he provides the power to do, indeed he does it and on the cross it is done. All that stands for us to "do" is be changed--not that we ought to, by some power of will, change ourselves, but merely be still, let the Spirit who is in us and by whom we have been saved, if we are truly saved, change us by his power. We are transformed from those who love darkness to those who hate it and love the light, our whole outlook on life is redeemed by the grace of God, not because we have done anything, but because God has shown us grace that we might see his glory and love him and worship him with heart, mind, soul, strength; we become more really us and are better able to glorify God because we get to know him! And because we know him, because we get to see his glory--we become shaped into his likeness, and therefore become more holy, i.e. we live more rightly, and so glorify him more, which is to say that we love him more. Again: we love him, so we are changed into his image, and that is worship, which is to say adoration, of God--a circle: love, change, love, etc. And that love of God is why we are! We exist so we can love God, our getting God is our being fulfilled, we are meant, finally and ultimately, to be satisfied by and in and through God.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy, and Sanctification

If one comes to a conclusion and finds that it is in no way pleasing, either one is viewing it wrong or it is false. All truths are in God, who is the standard of beauty and goodness, and his word is Truth, which changes us. So there is no such thing as good ivory tower intellectualism. If it is good intellectualism, then it will change lives for the better.

Orthodoxy is what is right to believe. Orthopraxy is what is the right way to live. Orthodoxy leads necessarily to orthopraxy, in the same way, orthopraxy only comes from orthodoxy. Thus, Orthopraxy if and only if orthodoxy. If one is told to live a certain way, then one may ask "why?" the only way to consistently be able to answer all why's to all points of orthopraxy is to answer with orthodoxy. The aim, then, of philosophers and theologians, is to find as much as they may of the reasons behind why a thing is right, in order to have a deeper knowledge of how we ought to live and in order meditate on the rightness of it.

God, or the divine, has often been conceived as similar to a magnet, which, as we meditate upon, we are drawn in to be more like. Finding what is true, which is in God, is meditating on God in a sense, and ought to be more than "in a sense" for those of us who believe in a personal God who we are in relationship with. When a Christian believes that a thing is true, they are therefore believing that it in some way reflects or is a part of the character of God. For instance, if I claim that a certain view of ethics is fully true, then my claim must be not only that humans ought to abide by it, but also that in some way it is the way God views ethics. Thus, in meditating on a true ethical theory one ought to consider oneself at one and the same time meditating on God's righteousness, and by so doing we are transformed by the Spirit of God at work in us to be more like God--righteous as he is righteousness.

At the same time, as we are transformed by the Spirit, we will see more accurately what is true, since the transformation into the likeness of God and our being in Christ--the Word, in whom we see God in whom is all truth--are, while temporally differentiated, atemporally identical and therefore both done by the same power, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


"Order.—Men despise religion; they hate it, and fear it is true. To remedy this, we must begin by showing that religion is not contrary to reason; that it is venerable, to inspire respect for it; then we must make it lovable, to make good men hope it is true; finally, we must prove it is true.
Venerable, because it has perfect knowledge of man; lovable, because it promises the true good." --Pascal, Pensees 187
There are three parts to what is called "apologetics," which have a certain order which they ought to follow. The first is a defense of Christianity, which is what Christian apologetics has traditionally been. The second may be called aesthetic apologetics, showing that it would be a good thing if it were found that Christianity were true. The third is what I find comes to mind most quickly for me when I hear the word "apologetics," that is, proofs of Christianity.


Defenses of the Christian faith must come first. This is the attempts to bring down the barriers that a person may bring to listening to arguments for the truth of Christianity. The problem of evil is a common barrier that is often addressed by those who offer defenses, while others argue against arguments against the historicity of Christ, or people's issues with the possibility of miracles, or problems with a God who commands worship.

Defenses do not need to prove anything but that it is possible that the arguments brought against Christianity are not strong enough to invalidate belief. All I need to be able to do to have succeeded in a defense of Christianity is to show that there is no contradiction between what is seen in the world that we must believe and the truth of the Christian faith taken as a whole.


Aesthetic apologetics, as I have termed them, are those arguments that show that one ought to at least be disappointed if Christianity is false. Pascal's wager falls into this category. An aesthetic apologetic may raise eyebrows, and should when alone, because it looks a lot like a fallacy of the form
  1. It would be nice if A were true.
  2. Therefore, A is true.
Or of the form
  1. I wish that A
  2. Therefore A
Which look like incredibly stupid lines of reasoning, and indeed are unless there are certain metaphysical beliefs backing them up (some form of solipsism or existentialism, perhaps).

It is therefore important to note that aesthetic apologetics are between the defenses and the proofs. The defenses are intended to help the person become less forcefully biased against Christianity, and the aesthetic apologetics are intended to show the person why we believe ourselves blessed in holding our Faith.

As an example from within Christianity, I have believed in a form of determinism for about as long as I have thought about such questions, but in this semester I have pushed myself to try, first to find out how it is possible to hold a view of totally free will, and second to try to discover why people love this idea so much. I have done this, not because I want to believe in such totally free will, but because I do not think I can hold a view strongly without having attempted to delve into the other side and find their reasons for believing the opposite of what I believe.

Once a person has reached the point that they can see why others are not only not stupid, but are reasonable in being pleased to hold a view, then they can be curious in such a way that is open to being persuaded.


 It is only in the last part of apologetics that we ought to expect people to find themselves with sufficient reason to become Christians. Not that we can convince people of the truth of the Christian faith, but at this point we can show them what we see that gives us reasons to believe, and expect them to hear them without assuming them to be preposterous. If we were to offer proofs right off the bat, then we could only expect people, having already reached the conclusion that we are wrong, to come up with all sorts of problems with our proofs. A biased person cannot helpfully find errors on proofs, because they cannot hear the proofs from a point of view that says either "Yes" or "No," and then finds the reasons for these judgements.

Consider the cosmological argument: The world exists. Everything that exists must have been caused by something else. We cannot go back ad infinitum, therefore there is a first mover, i.e., God.
The nonbeliever may respond in various ways: "How do you know everything that exists must have been caused?" "Why can't you go back ad infinitum?" "What makes you so sure this god is the god you believe in?" But if the nonbeliever has been shown that there is no contradiction in holding the Christian faith, and once they have come to feel that it would really be nice if Christianity were true, then they can hold those questions, but not necessarily so strongly. Then they can look at the many proofs that have been offered by many people over the ages and weigh them. Then the evidence can be allowed to build up, rather than being shoved off once it starts getting uncomfortable, since the biased nonbeliever will be uncomfortable with anything that makes him think that he might be wrong, but the nonbeliever whose bias has been removed is not troubled by the evidence pushing him one way or the other.


I would like to emphasize that, if one wishes a work to be convincing to nonbelievers, one ought to include all three of these in this order. If I have not shown that Christianity is not contrary to reason, then any nonbeliever will hold me to be a fool who clings to his faith in order to make himself feel good, and to explain gaps in my understanding of the world. If I leave out the aesthetic arguments, then many may look and feel that I hold a faith that, even if true, is not of any good to the world, and then I must defend against the accusation that God has made his worshipers dull, and that he must not love them, since he leaves them working in fear. In a sense, aesthetic apologetics is a branch of defense, though it is largely concerned with the outworking of the grace of God in the lives of sinners. What of proofs? If I leave them out, then I have brought the person to the brink of the river, but denied them any assurance that the river will not destroy their soul. There is a leap to be made, and the river is dangerous, but it need not be of this sort. God has given us enough evidence to assure ourselves that he exists, and we must seek him. The proofs are not to remove the leap, but to show that leaping is the best choice.

If all I give is a defense, all well and good, perhaps they will find the rest elsewhere. If all I give is an aesthetic apologetic, and not identified it as such, hoping that it may save souls alone, woe is me, for I have asked rational beings to behave contrary to their nature as made in the image of God. Yet God may still use it, for a person may have before found other parts of the puzzle, and this book may allow them to see those pieces in a new light that allows them to accept the truth of Christianity. If all I give are proofs, very well, they are good for those who are saved to meditate on the nature of God, and perhaps some who are not Christians, having found the other pieces elsewhere, may be convinced by these proofs of the truth of Christianity.

Some will not be convinced even by a thorough, three part apologetic such as I have here advocated. Their hearts may be hardened too far, and thus their bias may never be overcome. Or they may not see what is desirable about the truth of Christianity, if their desires have become so far twisted, or they may not follow the lines of reasoning given in the proofs. We have all stood in these places, but God is able to overcome all of these, and so we ought to pray to him, that he would open hearts to his good news, and lead many from darkness into light.