Puritan Gems

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A False Dichotomy

A friend recently put up a short post on Facebook in which he dichotomises faith and science:

'There are 2 ways of looking at the World: faith & superstition, or the rigours of logic, observation & finally evidence. Reason & a respect for evidence are the only sources of human progress, they also provide a safeguard against fundamentalists & those who profit from obscuring the truth.'

It is the standard stuff we see from atheists, the usual quasi-scientific piety that collapses upon inspection. The quote is worth reproducing here since this view (in some or other variation) is so common among atheists and accepted as being self-evidently true.

'There are 2 ways of looking at the World: faith & superstition, or the rigours of logic, observation & finally evidence.'

1. As is all too common, the dichotomy is set up. Faith and superstition on one side, logic, observation and evidence on the other, with no sense of compulsion to argue for such a dichotomy. It is an unquestioned assumption and it is extremely simplistic and problematic.

2. Faith and superstition are put side by side with the negative connotation that they are necessarily in the same backward category, while science, of course, is free from all and any type of faith.

3. 'Faith' is thrown out with the intention of being derogatory, with no thought given to the term and how it can hold different levels of meaning in different contexts.

4. Biblical faith is multifaceted, and is very much an evidence-based faith, and not blind faith on a level with superstition, as the quote wants to suggest.

5. The quote fails to understand that certain scientific theories must be taken by faith. Take the standard and widely accepted Darwinian 'theory' of origins. The hypothesis of common descent and transformation is a hypothesis which has not been derived from the observational sciences, and is therefore a hypothesis that must largely be accepted on faith.

6. The atheist presupposes that the origin of the universe and all of life arose by purely naturalistic means. This is not a scientific position but rather a philosophical position, and it is a position that requires, one might say, an astonishing level of faith.

7. Atheism itself, from which these grandiose statements find their basis and confidence, is a belief which ultimately requires faith. Atheism is not some default position that is true unless proven otherwise; atheism shoulders a tremendous burden of responsibility, yet it is taken as a given by a vast number of its adherents.

'Reason & a respect for evidence are the only sources of human progress...'

1. Again, this sounds very grand, very noble. Trouble is, it is fundamentally flawed as, again, it presupposes reason and evidence are opposed to and separate from faith.

2. On a naturalistic scheme of things, how can one be sure that one's reasoning faculties are accurately corresponding with the world around them? If one believes that one's sense organs developed from blind, physical, non-purposeful natural forces, then how can one be sure that these sense organs provide accurate information about the world beyond themselves rather than simply inferred from them? The atheist must take by faith that their reasoning faculties are giving them accurate information about the world beyond those reasoning faculties.

3. Moreover, how can the atheist justify the validity of their reasoning faculties without appealing to their reasoning faculties, thus engaging in viciously circular argumentation? Again, the atheist must take by faith the validity of their reasoning faculties.

4. On atheism, what is human progress? To propagate one's genes, perhaps? But given evolutionary assumptions, whence lies the imperative to propagate one's genes? Why ought the human species keep on moving?

5. On Christianity, human progress can encompass a number of meaningful aspects, for example by cultivating right and wrong and moral and ethical norms in ourselves and in our young; by bringing ourselves and our young closer to the creator by studying His word and keeping His precepts; by loving our neighbour and impressing upon them that we are all image bearers of God with intrinsic value, purpose and significance to our lives; by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and aiming for the ultimate in human progress by means of the Spirit bringing the unbeliever out of bondage and into eternal salvation. It is the Christian who can rightly and without contradiction speak of human progress.

'...they also provide a safeguard against fundamentalists & those who profit from obscuring the truth.'

1. Again, this is a mere rhetorical device that doesn't really mean anything.

2. Are there 'fundamentalists' (typically, 'fundamentalists' here is being applied to all believers, with a complete misunderstanding of, and thus narrow, derogatory use of, the term) who wish to profit from their output, no matter how accurate that output? Sure. Richard Dawkins, I believe, in his The God Delusion, would qualify as one such wild-eyed, unthinking fundamentalist (properly applying the derogatory usage here). So what? Are all atheists unthinking, swivel-eyed, humanist manifesto-thumping fundamentalists?

3. Traditionally, of course, a Christian fundamentalist would be one who holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, the term has taken on a life of its own, with many an atheist showing no willingness to apply the term – and thus represent the Christian – accurately

Interestingly, we must conclude that the claim,

'There are 2 ways of looking at the World: faith & superstition, or the rigours of logic, observation & finally evidence. Reason & a respect for evidence are the only sources of human progress...'

is itself a claim that cannot withstand the scrutiny of logic and reason.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Euthyphro Dilemma

Put simply, the modern version of the Euthyphro Dilemma is usually presented something like this:

Are morally good acts good by virtue of their own nature, or are morally good acts good because God says they are good?

The first horn of the 'dilemma' implies that the good is external to, and thus independent of, God. The second horn implies God's commands would, therefore, be arbitrary.

There are multiple problems with this. We'll list a few.

1. The Euthyphro Dilemma assumes a very low view of God. It assumes a non-specific God who hands down to a disconnected creation laws which He is either subject to by virtue of their already existing outside of Himself, or to which He is loosely related through His arbitrarily revealing them to the creation.

It is important to point out that God's commands, or divine laws, flow from His very nature, which is essentially good. Being the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God is beholden to no-one and nothing outside of Himself. As necessary Being, we can say, No God, no good!

2. The God of Christianity is Triune. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate to one another necessarily and eternally. This interrelationship provides the very foundation of morality. The Persons of the Trinity are not beholden to any external law, nor are they subject to the arbitrary commands of one or the other. Rather, they are in co-relation out of perfect and uniform love for one another. God's commands, or laws, are a reflection of His very character and nature, not the result of whimsical arbitrariness or impulsiveness, nor are they the result of laws external to God to which He is beholden.

Once we take this into account, along with some of the essential attributes of God, like the supremacy of God, the sovereignty of God, the immutability, or unchanging nature of God, the self-sufficiency of God, and the goodness of God, we begin to understand that God's character and nature is the very standard of all that is good, and the objections posed by the Euthyphro Dilemma vanish. God loves morally good acts because He is good, and therefore His commands reflect His essential goodness. God is entirely self-sufficient, and is in need of nothing outside of Himself.

3. In some sense it is true that God loves morally good acts because they are morally good, and in another sense it is true that morally good acts are that which God commands. But this is a mere tautology. A necessary truth. It does not entail that there is a standard outside of God, nor that God's standard is arbitrary, and to argue such is to offer an incomplete analysis.

We have an innate awareness of God's divine commands, or laws. (Romans 2:15), thus moral obligations are divine laws. There is a necessary relationship between God's moral law and our moral obligations. Duty-related properties depend on God's commands, but evaluative properties, such as goodness, do not.

It is true that an action is morally obligatory since God has commanded it, but the goodness of an action does not depend on God's commanding it; the goodness itself flows from God's essentially good nature.

The proponent of the Euthyphro Dilemma usually fails to take into account this distinction.

Now, a standard objection will look like this (or some variation thereof):

'So God could have commanded that rape is good?'

No. God's very character and nature would prevent Him from doing so. See the non-arbitrariness of God's commands above.

1. To repeat, this simply ignores the rational and valid explanation given by the Christian, and is a rather transparent attempt to save the dilemma. God's very character and nature would prevent Him from declaring rape a morally good act. (see above.)

2. The objection shows that the objector is aware that rape is in fact not a morally good act. The contrast is clear. The objector attempts to communicate that God 'could' have commanded something bad to be good, hence the objector, in the very objection, demonstrates that they have an innate knowledge of what is good and bad. The objection demonstrates they are acutely aware of the absurdity of declaring rape to be a morally good act. And if they are aware of this, how much more God?

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another Gospel

How are we commanded to preach the gospel? What do we tell the unbeliever? For much of modern evangelism, preaching the way of salvation involves telling the unbeliever that 'Jesus died for your sins,' or 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.'

There is no Scripture that says Jesus died for your sins; no one can have assurance of this until they have been saved. The biblical command is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour (Ac. 26:20; Lk 24:47). Suddenly aware of our sinful state, our complete and utter helplessness, we throw ourselves upon His mercy.

You may have heard the catchy call to 'Decide for Christ,' and perhaps the encouragement to 'Go and tell somebody what you have done here today.' Not what God has done, but what you have done. Having attended both a Pentecostal and a High Anglican church, I regularly witnessed this kind of talk. But is it the case that the unregenerate can just 'decide' to come to Christ, practically on a whim, or impulse? Do these promptings in any way resemble the apostolic proclamation we find in the Bible? But it gets worse. Not only do we have preachers giving this supposed 'gospel message' to unbelievers, but they also fail to convict the unbelievers of their sinful nature and their standing before a holy and righteous God. Where's the conviction of men's hearts before God? Sure, we might, if we're lucky, hear the preacher refer to his audience (and himself) as sinners, and we may hear of repentance, and 'choosing' Christ. We will even hear him speak of the need for Christ... There is only so much of the message you can actually leave out. But these limp-wristed 'acknowledgements' are hardly worthy of the name. The message is so stripped of its punch as to be practically unrecognisable to the one true gospel.

This modern message carries with it some faulty presuppositions. To name but two:

1. The unregenerate are capable of repenting and believing
2. The proclamation that Christ died for your sins, i.e., the sins of every man head for head

Re: 1. Repentance is a moral act since it requires one to change one's mind and hate one's sin. Metanoia means a total change of heart. One must be regenerated in order to have this change of heart. The truly penitent cannot be unregenerate.

8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him (Romans 8:8-9 ESV)

Since repentance is a moral act which is pleasing to God, then it follows that one cannot repent unless one has the Spirit of God.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)

It is crystal clear from sacred Scripture that those without the Spirit of God cannot understand the things of God, and therefore cannot do that which is pleasing to Him.

3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:3-6 ESV)

Unregenerate man must be born again before he can repent and believe. Until then, he can do nothing to please God.

Until then he is dead in his sins:

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)

The inspired apostle Paul contrasts the old life with the new, how we once carried out the desires of the body and mind, living by the passions of the flesh. This is precisely the state of the unregenerate. But God made us alive. The Greek here for dead - nekros - means 'deceased', 'lifeless'. Spiritually speaking, when we preach to the unregenerate we are preaching to corpses. There is nothing in man that can move him spiritually apart from the work of God. We must tell the unbeliever of his standing as a rebel in relation to God, his wholesale rebellion and the need for the grace of God and for His granting of repentance.

Re: 2. The presupposition that Christ died for the sins of all men everywhere who ever lived simply cannot be supported from Scripture.

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep...24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:14-15, 24-27 ESV)

Jesus is talking about His sheep. Those whom the Father has given Him. Christ plainly tells the hostile Jews the reason they do not believe is because they are not of His flock. To those Christians blind to their own (or others') traditions, this sounds too radical! They want to change the meaning of Jesus' words to something like, "...but you are not of my flock because you do not (yet) believe." But this is to turn Christ's words on their head!

42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (John 8:42-47 ESV)

Again, as with so many places in Scripture, we see particularity in our Saviour's very own words. The unbelieving Jews are deaf to Jesus' words. Why? Because they are not of God. They are of their father the devil, and they are content that way.

35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I have said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (John 6:35-37 ESV)

Christ is making clear that those who have seen Him and do not believe cannot have been given Him by the Father. Right after telling these unbelievers that they have seen and yet do not believe, Christ tells them that those whom the Father gives Him will come to Him, will believe!

Modern evangelism needs to rid itself of the unbiblical message, 'Christ died for you', and return to something resembling the urgency of the apostolic message. Are we living in less urgent times? Is the gospel less important today than it was in the day of the apostles? We are to convict the rebel of his standing before a righteous and holy God. Nothing less will do. We are to preach the gospel. The rest is up to God.

We end with a glorious truth:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 ESV)

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Amputees and God

Following a debate with unbelievers, a 'drive-by' left this link:

It seems the crusaders at this site are still under the impression they have a knockout blow to Christianity on their hands. Navigating the forums, it becomes quite clear that the 'importance' of this question has more to do with confirming their unbelief than God intervening on behalf of amputees. One gets a sense that this is the 'feather in the cap' for these rebels. There is no real desire to seek God, just a poor attempt at one-upmanship.

I'm going to take their two fundamental claims and show them to be fallacious, and therefore the 'question' incoherent. This will not be exhaustive, so feel free to chime in with any additional criticisms.

'Clearly, if God is real, limbs should regenerate through prayer. In reality, they do not.'

1. There is an assumption that, if God exists, He must heal amputees. This is an unargued assumption, and it is a patently false assumption.

2. There is an assumption that, if God exists, His purpose and plan must involve healing amputees. Again this is a false assumption.

3. There is an assumption that, if God exists, He must heal amputees, regardless of His purpose and plan, in order to appease sinners, thus elevating the 'plans of men' above His own plan in creation. False assumption.

4. There is an assumption that, if God exists, He does not heal amputees; yet without possessing knowledge of all amputees everywhere, past and present, they are relying on an inductive process in order to make the general claim (embedded in the assertion and main question) that God does not (and will not) heal amputees. Thus the question, 'Why won't God heal amputees?', is completely fallacious, and at best incoherent! Technically, we could dismiss the whole thing out of hand based on this alone!

5. There is a presupposition that the healing of amputees would be good; but whose standard of good are they applying here? Their own? What if their standard of good differs from mine? Without a consistent, objective standard of good, the 'objection' carries no significance whatsoever.

Christians have the ultimate standard of good, a just and righteous God. This does not make us any 'better' than unbelievers; we all deserve hell according to God's standard of good.

'The bible clearly promises that God answers prayers.'

It's always amusing watching unbelievers trying to 'exegete' the Scripture... I'd like to see just one rebel let the Scriptures speak for themselves...

While the Bible says that God will answer prayers, these prayers are to be in accordance with His will, that is to say, in accordance with God's purpose and plan in creation:

14 And this is the confidence that we have towards him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
(1 John 5:14-15 ESV)

This is what Jesus means when He says,

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.
(John 14:13-14 ESV)

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.
(John 16:23 ESV)

Jesus is not giving us carte blanche to just ask for any old thing in His name.

We are to ask in faith:

6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
(James 1:6-8 ESV)

3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
(James 4:3 ESV)

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
(Romans 8:26 ESV)

Is 'testing' God demonstrating faith? Can we truly pray apart from the Spirit?

And God works all things for the good of His people:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Romans 8:26-28 ESV)

So to sum up, yet again we see the unbelievers' 'knock-down' arguments for what they are, having more holes than a second-hand dart board. Rational thought seems to just fly out of the window with these guys (if it was ever there in the first place). And yet again we witness a lackadaisical attempt at Biblical exegesis that would make a Sunday school child shudder.

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, April 01, 2013

2013 Walk For Life

My monthly solicitation For Comfortcare: Please consider a tax deductible contribution to Anika's Walk For Life Page. She has reached her personal goal, but more contributions are always needed. The walk is just over a month away. It does make a difference:

Sobering Statistics:

205 - the number of abortions performed on residents of our service area in 2011

43 - the number of babies at risk of abortion given life through ComfortCare services in 2012

378 - the number of fetal development brochures given out to ComfortCare patients in 2012
 Please visit the link below and consider a tax deductible contribution of any amount.

Anika's Walk For Life Page