The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 1

James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” [παρ ᾧ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα, par hō ouk eni parallagē ē tropēs aposkiasma]

During my younger days, I used to dabble in linguistic philosophy (obviously in an amateurish way) and German historical criticism of the Bible. However, the forays into these avant garde trends left me with a sense of spiritual desiccation. It was in the midst of theological ennui that I stumbled on Abraham Heschel’s seminal work, The Prophets. I was swept by the spiritual and fervent vitality that flows through Heschel’s powerful and passionate prose.

However, Heschel’s exposition of the prophet’s teaching of the pathos of God both excited and troubled me. It is exhilarating to realize that God has a stake in the human situation. This is a stunning contrast to the god of the Greeks. For example, Aristotle taught that God is entirely self-centred. “It would be out of question for men to attempt personal intercourse with Him…those are wrong who think that there can be a friendship towards God. For (a) God could not return our love, and (b) we could not in any case be said to love God…He does not know this world and no Divine plan is fulfilled in this world. [Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy. Vol.1 pt.2 Greece and Rome (Double Day Image Book, 1962), pp. 59-61]

In contrast, the pathos of the God of the biblical prophet assures us that God intimately and passionately cares about human welfare. This assurance will certainly generate hope for believers who find themselves feeling hopeless as they are psychologically crushed in the midst of dire situations. Continue reading “The Immutable God Who Cares. Part 1”

Holy Saturday and the Spirituality of Waiting

In general, the tradition of Holy Saturday (the day between Good Friday and Easter) is not observed among the independent churches. Yes, Good Friday ends in tragedy. But thank God, there is great rejoicing on Easter Sunday. But how is Good Friday connected to Easter Sunday if we have no idea about what is happening on the day between them? The unexplained hiatus creates a sense of awkwardness.

I strongly recommend Alan Lewis’ profound book, Between the Cros and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Eerdmans, 2001) which I found stimulating and helpful when I preached on Holy Saturday in a series of Easter sermons in 2014. Continue reading “Holy Saturday and the Spirituality of Waiting”

The Eternal Generation of the Son: Francis Turretin on the Trinity

TWENTY-NINTH QUESTION: THE ETERNAL GENERATION OF THE SON
Was the Son of God begotten of the Father from eternity? We affirm
I. The preceding question established the consubstantiality (homoousian) and essential identity of the Son with the Father. This question will demonstrate his personal distinction from him, his ineffable and eternal generation against the blasphemies of anti-Trinitarians.
Statement of the question.
II. The question is not whether Christ can be said to be begotten of God by the miraculous conception of the Holy Spirit; or whether he can be called the Son of God by a gracious communication of existence, power and divine glory (for this the adversaries readily grant and acknowledge no other cause of his filiation). But the question is whether he was begotten of God from eternity, and whether he may be called Son on account of the secret and ineffable generation from the Father. The Socinians blasphemously deny this; we affirm it. Continue reading “The Eternal Generation of the Son: Francis Turretin on the Trinity”

The Eternal General Generation of the Son: Louis Berkhof on the Trinity

[Recapitulation: On the Trinity]
a. There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence (ousia, essentia). God is one in His essential being or constitutional nature. Some of the early Church Fathers used the term “substantia” as synonymous with “essentia,” but later writers avoided this use of it in view of the fact that in the Latin Church “substantia” was used as a rendering of “hupostasis” as well as of “ousia,” and was therefore ambiguous. At present the two terms “substance” and “essence” are often used interchangeably. There is no objection to this, provided we bear in mind that they have slightly different connotations. Shedd distinguishes them as follows: “Essence is from esse, to be, and denotes energetic being (Augustine On the Trinity 5.2). Substance is from substare, and denotes the latent possibility of being.… The term essence describes God as a sum-total of infinite perfections; the term substance describes Him as the underlying ground of infinite activities. The first is, comparatively, an active word; the last, a passive. The first is, comparatively, a spiritual, the last a material term. We speak of material substance rather than of material essence.” /1/ Continue reading “The Eternal General Generation of the Son: Louis Berkhof on the Trinity”

The Coherence of the Trinity (Updated 2020)

The Coherence of the Trinity
We refer to the Athanasian Creed which gives us a useful starting point for our discussion: “We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son is another, and the Spirit is another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty equally eternally. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; yet there are not three gods but one God…And in this Trinity there is no before or after, no greater or lesser, but all three persons are equally eternal with each other and fully equal.”

We may break down the above statement into the following propositions:
(1) The Father is God.
(2) The Son is God.
(3) The Holy Spirit is God.
(4) The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.
(5) There is one and only one God. /1/

Critics have attacked the Trinity on two counts: Continue reading “The Coherence of the Trinity (Updated 2020)”

The Limited god of Open Theism is Not the Almighty God of the Bible

Open theism is the belief that God is not timelessly eternal. “God changes in some ways so as to respond appropriately to a changing creation…God’s foreknowledge is limited, because of the limitations he has placed upon himself in giving humans freewill.” /1/ The idea that God has limited foreknowledge was first formulated by the Polish Socinian movement in the late 16th century. It was recently revived by several Open Theists (Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice & John Sanders et al) when they jointly published the seminal work, The Openness of God (IVP, 1994). However, anyone who feels swayed by their sophisticated arguments should recall the old-time rebuttal, “Your argument is logical but your conclusion is unfounded because your premises are wrong.” Applying logic to wrong premises only leads to conclusions that do not correspond to reality. For the same reason, the logic of Open Theism results in a god who is in conflict with the God of Biblical-Classical theism because its premises or fundamental philosophical intuitions are questionable. Continue reading “The Limited god of Open Theism is Not the Almighty God of the Bible”

Two Philosophical Objections which make Molinism-Middle Knowledge Untenable

For readers who are not familiar with the term “truthmaker”, note the following clarifications:

Definition 1 – Truth bearers are those things that are made truth by truthmakers. A truth-bearer is an entity that is said to be either true or false and nothing else. Examples: Sentences, propositions, judgments, beliefs (propositional attitudes or opinion about the meaning of a sentence) etc

Definition 2 – Truthmakers are those things that make something true. A truthmaker for a truthbearer is that entity in virtue of which the truthbearer is true.

The idea of truthmaker is premised on the correspondence theory of truth. A sentence is true because of the way the world is, in contrast to the suggestion that the world is the way it is because of which sentences are true. For example, if a certain man exist, then a statement that the man exists is true, and vice versa. But there is a priority between these two states of affairs. It is the case that the statement is true because of the way the world rather than the case that the world is the way it is rather because the statement is true.

Timothy O’Connor provides two objections that make Molinism untenable.

Objection 1: Molinism posits truths without truthmakers Continue reading “Two Philosophical Objections which make Molinism-Middle Knowledge Untenable”

Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 2 by Francis Turretin

THIRTEENTH QUESTION: MIDDLE KNOWLEDGE

Discussion by Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. one (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), pp. 212-218.

Summary of Francis Turretin’s Argument Against Middle Knowledge.
Sect 1-4. Definitions

Natural Knowledge or knowledge of simple intelligence is indefinite. It is God’s knowledge of all things God could possibly do with his omnipotent power, irrespective of how God actually decides to exercise this power. Thus, God knows what he could do, if he so choses to do it.
Free Knowledge is God’s knowledge of future things (what God eventually and freely brings into being). It is definite as it refers to how God actually exercises of his omnipotent power by his decree.
Middle knowledge lies in between natural knowledge and free knowledge (the order is logical and not temporal). It is not based on God’s decree but on the autonomous free will of creatures.

Sect 5-8 What is the issue with middle knowledge? Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 2 by Francis Turretin”

Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Foreknowledge and Future Contingents

Definition: Contingent
Proposition – a contingent proposition can be true but does not have to be true.
Fact/Event – occurring without this necessarily being the case, i.e. it might not have occurred. A being is contingent if it is not logically necessary.

ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. By Francis Turretin (1623-1687).

QUESTION: Do all things fall under the knowledge of God, both singulars and future contingencies? We affirm against Socinus. [p. 206]

VIII. On the state of the question observe: (1) that a thing may be contingent in two ways—either with respect to the first cause (inasmuch as it can be produced or not produced by God, and so all creatures are contingent with respect to God because he might not have created any if he had so willed); or with respect to second causes (which can produce or not produce their effect and are thus distinguished from necessary causes). We here speak of future contingents in the latter and not in the former sense. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Foreknowledge and Future Contingents”

Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 1 by Petrus van Mastricht

It has been suggested by some bloggers that exegesis is on the side of the Calvinists while logic is on the side of the Arminians. This suggestion sounds plausible since the majority of Christian philosophers today are either Arminians or Open theists. The bloggers are correct in acknowledging that Calvinists offer robust exegesis to support their arguments which is evident in the works of Thomas Schreiner, John Piper, Sam Storms and James White. However, the suggestion is mystifying since historically Calvinists have been accused of imposing of a rigid logical system onto Scripture. We can only conclude that the bloggers who suggest that Calvinists lack rigor in logical analysis have never bothered to read Calvin and his successors like Francis Turretin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards or Dutch Reformed theologians like Wilhelmus Brakel and Petrus van Mastricht. A quick glance of Richard Muller’s 4-vol (2176 pages) work on Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics should immediately impress the reader of both the acuity and logical brilliance displayed by the Calvinists. It was precisely because the doctrinal disputations of the Reformed Scholastics were dominated by austere logic, where conciseness and clarity trumps readability that Calvinism has been accused on putting logic above Scripture. Continue reading “Reformed Critique of Middle Knowledge (Molinism/Arminianism). Part 1 by Petrus van Mastricht”