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On Cross-Culture Disputes

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Critiquing another worldview is not as simple as most people seem to believe. By way of example, let’s take Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism since the two have engaged on Tumblr at times. An Eastern Orthodox critique of specific Protestant practices, framed as an Eastern Orthodox critique, is going to fall on deaf ears to one who is consistently Protestant. So will the Protestant critique qua Protestant against a particular Eastern Orthodox practice, whether of hermeneutics, doctrine, etc.

Why is this so? I’ll discuss one reason. If Lucretius were to critique Aristotle’s ethics according to his own Epicureanism, Aristotle could easily dismiss the critique as not comporting with reality. Why? Because the data are interpreted and emphasized differently depending on which system you are working in. Whereas Lucretius’s first principle would be the maximization of pleasure (forgive the broad stroke), Aristotle’s first principle (of ethics, at least) would be the inner (and outworked) virtue of the individual (again, broad stroke). Because any particular manifestation of Lucretius’s first principle would, in most circumstances, violate some aspect of Aristotle’s, Aristotle can simply dismiss it as groundless.

In like manner, a Protestant dismisses the Eastern Orthodox because the Eastern Orthodox’s claim, although logical within their own system, do not translate into the Protestant system. Why? Because of different sources of knowledge and authority (epistemology), doctrinal traditions, assumptions, presuppositions, etc. The Eastern Orthodox does the same. Both (and all) groups are guilty of confirmation bias; which authorities are heeded is determined, in part by what system you reason from (also, in part, by how consistently you reason from that system). And so, while a particular Protestant zinger against theosis may ring true for Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox may stare befuddled. And the Eastern Orthodox quotation of a Patristic may settle the matter for them, a Protestant will wonder why that settled anything.

So, what are we to do? If you are going to confront those with competing weltanschauung, you have to evangelize. By this I mean that you must translate what you mean into terms and concepts familiar to your audience. It is not enough to speak German to a Chinaman. The German ought to learn Chinese; and the Chinaman must be willing to grant some freedom of error in such a translation, as well as be willing to learn some German.

The 10 Principles of a Reformed Apologetic

January 2, 2014 2 comments
  1. The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who, as God, condescends to create and to redeem.
  2. God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what is is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic, will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
  3. It is the truth of God’s revelation, together with the work of the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
  4. Man (male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
  5. All people know the triune God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
  6. Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see that truth for what it is.
  7. There is an absolute, covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
  8. Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute Thus, every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true Christian context.
  9. The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God’s universal mercy, allows for persuasion in apologetics.
  10. Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God.

Taken from Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 47-55.

Chapter 9: Of Free Will (I)

I. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good or evil.(a)

(a) Matthew 17:12; James 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:19

How Crazy is too Crazy to Execute?

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

How Crazy is too Crazy to Execute?

For those of you who do not know, I oppose a fairly strict abolition of capital punishment. I would prefer to see this enacted as a federal mandate, thereby banning it across all states immediately. Common arguments that support capital punishment, such as the deterrent nature of it, are rarely effective reasoning except to those who already support the death penalty. The example above—how the death penalty deters future criminals—has been demonstrated to be nothing more than a myth. The evidence points to no relationship between the existence of capital punishment and the rate of crimes committed that could result in it.

Regardless, as one who opposes capital punishment outright, I believe I stand in firm fellowship with many of you who may support it in this:  the demonstrably mentally ill should never be executed. Those who are in such a degree of separation or disconnection between their minds and reality cannot reasonably be held responsible for their crimes to such a degree as to face death for committing them. It seems absurd that we should even have to argue for this. It should be a presupposed aspect of our justice system in the United States that the mentally ill, those whose perceptions of reality are so distorted by faulty synapses, abusive childhoods, and psychosis, cannot be held, in good conscience, to death for crimes which they committed in those states of mental duress.

Andre Thomas is a diagnosed paranoid, delusional schizophrenic who has multiple times (before the commission of the crime, and following incarceration) attempted suicide; who has believed to have heard from God for years; and who believed that his wife was Jezebel, his son the anti-Christ, and his daughter and evil spirit. Following his arrest, he gouged at his right eye, because from there is the fountain of righteousness in him. After being placed on death row, he gouged out his left eye. His crime was murdering his wife, his son, and his daughter, each of whose hearts he removed in order to save their lives from possession by evil spirits. Despite being found insane during the trial, court doctors determined that his insanity bore no relation to the trial at hand and had him declared fit for trial, where he was condemned to be executed.

Tell me: Is this just?

Divine Impassibility with Dr. James Dolezal

December 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Bernard Mandeville on academic charity

December 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I shall leave this subject with what is not common among divines of different opinions, a bright example of moderation and humanity, which it is the interest of every country, all clergy men should follow. Melanchton was the head of the Synergists, a sect of German divines in the sixteenth century, who thinking, that Luther’s hypothesis about free-will was too hard, taught, that men are not converted by God’s grace, without the concourse of their will. Every body knows how absolute a predestinarian Calvin was, and what clamors were raised against him on this head, that he was represented as having broached the most monstrous doctrine, and made God the author of sin in the most execrable manner.

Yet Melanchton had a sincere value and friendship for Calvin, and wrote in defense of him on several occasions. He knew, that that great man abhorred the impieties that were laid to his charge, and that in none of his works he had ever ascribed any thing to God, but what was just and holy; but well, that he had taught, that the conduct of God surpassing finite capacities, was not too narrowly pried into; that his judgments are a mysterious abyss we ought not to meddle with, and that his ways are incomprehensible. This Melanchton demonstrated to the other’s enemies, always extolling the piety and good intention of Calvin, notwithstanding the disagreement of their opinions.

Calvin believed, that the supreme Empire of God, and the rights of a providence worthy of the infinite being, required an absolute predestination. Melanchton believed that the goodness, holiness and justice of the supreme being required we should be free in our actions. These were their principles. Both aimed at the same thing, the greatest glory of God. The candid Melanchton being convinced of this, as well as the difficulty and the inexplicableness of the matter they differed about, was always ready to do Calvin justice, admired his vast parts and erudition, and owned him for his fellow laborer in the ministry of the gospel.

Bernard Mandeville, Free Thoughts on Religion, the Church, and National Happiness

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

John Warwick Montgomery on Presuppositionalism as Epistemology

September 22, 2012 Leave a comment

 

2.18: All arguments begin with presuppositions; thus, we are told by influential orthodox Protestant theologians, Christians have every right to start from the presupposition that God has revealed himself in Holy Scripture.
2.1801: Advocates of “orthodox presuppositionalism” go on to affirm that any attempt to justify the Christian world-view makes the presuppositions of one’s epistemology more fundamental than one Christian’s beliefs, thus idolatrously demeaning God.
2.181: Kant’s demonstrations that all arguments begin with presuppositions is eminently sound; but from this it does not follow that I can sensibly begin to construct a world-view from any presupposition whatever.
2.1811: If the latter were the case, then, as readily as one man took to his bosom an unjustified Christian presupposition, I could take to mine the aprioristic belief in a cheese0impregnated Deity with whom communion is possible through the medium of the toasted-cheese sandwich.
2.182: Religious presuppositions must be tested for truth-value from without; otherwise one claim has as much right to acceptance as a claim mutually incompatible with it.
2.1821: But as soon as one begins to test religious “presuppositions” for truth-value, these religious tenets lose absolute presuppositional value.
2.18211: It is nonetheless legitimate to speak of “the presuppositions of one’s systematic theology” (meaning the starting-points for one’s doctrinal system) as long as one recognizes that these “presuppositions” still require justification over against other possible starting-points for theologizing.
2.183: The truth-testing of religious first-principles does not lower their value or depreciate the Deity on whom they center.
2.1831: To use a road map to ensure that one reaches the king’s palace instead of a garbage dump does not give the king a status below the road map.
2.1832: What would doubtless offend the monarch is an attitude of indifference in the quest: a lack of concern to distinguish his palace from the garbage dump.
2.1833: It is a simple “category mistake” (in Ryle’s sense) to make invidious comparisons of value between substantive beliefs and the epistemological means by which those beliefs are verified; truth-tests and religious tenets have different functions; and the use of the former, instead of diminishing the value of the latter, actually enhances them.
2.1834: Care must be taken, therefore, not to confuse one’s starting-point for systematic theology (e.g., the God who reveals himself in Scripture) with one’s epistemological means of verifying that starting-point (e.g., Carnell’s employment of Brightman’s systematic consistency motif).

 

Joel Feinberg on happiness

September 9, 2012 1 comment

 

An exclusive desire for happiness is the surest way to prevent happiness from coming into being. Happiness has a way of “sneaking up” on persons when they are preoccupied with other things; but when persons deliberately and single-mindedly set off in pursuit of happiness, it vanishes utterly from sight and cannot be captured. This is the famous “paradox of hedonism”: the single-minded pursuit of happiness is necessarily self-defeating, for the way to get happiness is to forget it; then perhaps it will come to you. If you aim exclusively at pleasure itself, with no concern for the things that bring pleasure, then pleasure will never come. To derive satisfaction, one must ordinarily first desire something other than satisfaction, and then find the means to get what one desires.

Joel Feinberg, “Psychological Egoism”

 

Francis Schaeffer on Ethics and Christianity

Christianity gives a moral solution on the basis of the fact that God exists and has a character which is the law of the universe. There is therefore an absolute in regard to morals. It is not that there is a moral law in the back of God that binds both God and man, but that God himself has a character and this character is reflected in the moral law of the universe. Thus when a person realizes his inadequacy before God and feels guilty, he has a basis not simply for the feeling but for the reality of guilt. Man’s dilemma is not just that he is finite and God is infinite, but that he is a sinner and guilty before a holy God. But then he recognizes that God has given him a solution to this in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Man is fallen and flawed, but he is redeemable on the basis of Christ’s work. This is beautiful. This is optimism. And this optimism has a sufficient basis.

Francis Schaeffer, from his essay “Some Perspectives on Art” found in Art and the Bible

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