Philosophy and Theology Reading 3/3

Theology Uses Philosophy on its own Terms

[157] Though Christian dogma cannot be explained in terms of Greek philosophy, it also did not come into being apart from it. There is as yet no dogma and theology, strictly speaking, in Scripture. As long as revelation itself was still in progress, it could not become the object of scientific reflection. Inspiration had to be complete before reflection could begin…

Gradually a need arose to think through the ideas of revelation, to link it with other knowledge and to defend it against various forms of attack. For this purpose people needed philosophy. Scientific theology was born with its help. This did not, however, happen accidentally. The church was not the victim of deception. In the formation and development of the dogmas, the church fathers made generous use of philosophy. They did that, however, in the full awareness of and with clear insight into the dangers connected with that enterprise; they were conscious of the grounds on which they did it, and they did it with express recognition of the word of the apostles as the only rule of faith and conduct. For that reason also they did not utilize the whole of Greek philosophy but made a choice; they only utilized the philosophy that was most suited to help them think through and defend the truth of God. They went to work eclectically and did not take over any single philosophical system, be it either from Plato or from Aristotle, but with the aid of Greek philosophy produced a Christian philosophy of their own. Furthermore, they only used that philosophy as a means… Continue reading “Philosophy and Theology Reading 3/3”

Finding God’s Peace in Times of Afflictive Providence (Covid-19 Crisis)

The doctrine of the providence of God assures believers that the Lord is sovereign over the circumstances of their lives. Indeed, “The Church is His special care and charge. He rules the world for its good, as a head consulting the welfare of the body.” (John Flavel)

Meditation on God’s providence will foster both gratitude and fortitude in believers. Flavel in his classic book, The Mystery of Providence demonstrates how the Reformed doctrine of providence provides practical advice on how believers may grow in sanctification and enjoy the peace of God through times of affliction (excerpts given below).

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APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE

How may a Christian discover the will of God and his own duty under dark and doubtful providences?
In order to answer this question we must consider what is meant by the will of God and what by those doubtful providences that make the discovery of His will difficult and what rules are to be observed for ascertaining God’s will for us under such difficult and puzzling providences.

How may a Christian be supported in waiting upon God, while Providence delays the performance of the mercies to him for which he has long prayed and waited?
It is supposed in this case that Providence may linger and delay the performance of those mercies to us that we have long waited and prayed for, and that during that delay and suspense our hearts and hopes may be very low and ready to fail. Continue reading “Finding God’s Peace in Times of Afflictive Providence (Covid-19 Crisis)”

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”

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”

Why not be Calminian (Three grains of Calvinism and two of Arminianism)?

Received this question from a good Christian brother and friend –
Question:
So we should be a “Calminian” 😊!
Sorry, not trying to be flippant Bro Kam Weng. If we cannot fully understand it due to our finite minds trying to grapple with a divine mystery, I think it is ok agree to disagree and not let it divide us and certainly it should not be one side saying to the other “the gospel you preach is defective”.

Response: I fully agree with you that we must always bear in mind our limitations in the face of divine mystery. Humility is in order. Spurgeon notes that some Arminians display holiness that ought to put to shame Calvinists who turn out to be spiritually cold & legalistic. More importantly, both Calvinists & Arminians who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be heaven & their rewards will be based on far more wider considerations than just doctrinal precision. Continue reading “Why not be Calminian (Three grains of Calvinism and two of Arminianism)?”

Charles Spurgeon’s Theological Grit and Grace in Acrimonious Calvinist-Arminian Dispute

[Autonomous, Libertarian] Free-will doctrine—what does it? It magnifies man into God; it declares God’s purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent upon human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice it holds God to be a debtor to sinners, so that if he gives grace to one he is bound to do so to all. It teaches that the blood of Christ was shed equally for all men and since some are lost, this doctrine ascribes the difference to man’s own will, thus making the atonement itself a powerless thing until the will of man gives it efficacy.  Spurgeon “A Jealous God” Sermon 502 (1863)

It is a strange phenomenon that Calvinism, despite its distinguished pedigree in the Reformation, is subject more hostile criticism in the social media than doctrinal deviant cults like Jehovah Witnesses and Mormonism. Continue reading “Charles Spurgeon’s Theological Grit and Grace in Acrimonious Calvinist-Arminian Dispute”

The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 3 – The Case for Individual Election in Ephesians 1 & Romans 9

 

Historically, the church has upheld the doctrine that God from eternity past, before the creation of the world, has predestined individuals to receive salvation. These individuals are elected “in Christ”. However, Arminians, beginning from the 17th century, have argued that election is corporate rather than individual. Arminians object to individual election since it appears to them that God is arbitrary and unjust when he chooses and saves some individuals, but bypasses other individuals. But, by the same token, the same objection also applies to corporate election if God chooses to save a group of people and bypasses other groups. More importantly, the hermeneutics of the Arminian view of corporate election becomes evidently inadequate when it is tested with a close reading of two crucial biblical passages found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9.

Ephesians 1
Arminianism reduces God’s election to a generic, group election, in contrast to Paul’s teaching of election of specific individuals in Christ:
(1) Arminians assert that God’s election described in Eph.1:4 is based on a generic criterion, that is, foreseen faith. However, the focus of the text is on God’s act of choosing some individuals rather than on some individuals’ act of choosing Christ. It says nothing about foreseen faith. Elsewhere, Paul argues in Rom. 9:11 that faith is the result for been chosen. It is not the reason for being chosen. Evidently, Arminians have smuggled the idea of foreseen faith into the text. As a result they have reversed Paul’s understanding of the relationship between election and faith Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 3 – The Case for Individual Election in Ephesians 1 & Romans 9”

The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 2 – What Election in Christ Means. Ephesians 1: 3-6

Definition of Terms Predestination refers to how God foreordains (determines in advance) all events and circumstances to accomplish his eternal plan to manifest his glory and bless his people. Election refers to “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a … Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 2 – What Election in Christ Means. Ephesians 1: 3-6”

Definition of Terms
Predestination refers to how God foreordains (determines in advance) all events and circumstances to accomplish his eternal plan to manifest his glory and bless his people.
Election refers to “that eternal act of God whereby He, in His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation. /1/

Election in Ephesians 1
First, election is an act of supreme love. Election is not some impersonal plans executed by a cold and remote Creator. In election, the heavenly Father chooses his people “in love” (v. 4) for “the adoption of children” into his family. The heavenly Father is not a grudging God, for he has generously blessed the elect “in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” (v. 3, 5). In short, election as “glorious grace” is the magnificent fountain of “all spiritual blessings” (v. 6) listed throughout this epistle. Continue reading “The Unbreakable Chain of Salvation Part 2 – What Election in Christ Means. Ephesians 1: 3-6”