« Jesus Specifically Said, “I Am God” | Main | Challenge Response: It's Just Your Interpretation that Jesus Is the Only Way »

March 13, 2013

Comments

Nicely done. Thank you for writing, Amy K. Hall.

I often think of these same things and always come up with the same conclusion--He ALONE is holy, He ALONE is worthy of ALL praise, ALL glory, ALL honor. ALL. For a little word, it packs a wallop. The self-centered little person inside each of us, determines to believe that "It's all about ME!" The sobering reality is that it's ALL about HIM. ALL.

Thanks for your timely reminder, Amy!

Nice commentary - devotionally done!

Those terrible atheists!

Christianity must be true.

This is why I have always had trouble reconciling evidential apologetics and Calvinism. The one says that Christianity is reasonable and rational, and the other says that it takes a supernatural intervention to get anybody to believe any of it!

Phillip, I do think that Christianity is reasonable and rational, I just don't think people are when they don't want to be. And remember, it's the Bible that says we need supernatural intervention (see above), not just Calvinism. People interpret what the Bible says about this in different ways, but I don't know of any Christians who deny that God must work, including Arminians.

The way I reconcile the two is this: It's my job to explain to people that the gospel is true--God is real, Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, etc. This honors God and respects the humanity and rational nature (i.e., the ability to think, which we have as creatures made in the image of God) of the person asking the question. When I do this, the Holy Spirit will either choose to work or not. I don't know when He will, but it's not my job to know when He will, it's only my job to be faithful and honor God by speaking the truth.

And I should note, too, that I think it's possible for a person to believe most of Christianity is true without supernatural intervention. (For example, I've read a book by a rabbi who's been convinced by the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.) What I don't think can happen without supernatural intervention is that a person can love God and want to submit his life to Him. And that's really the point of the post.

Amy,

How many of these do you believe?

As a non-believer, I am not reasonable and rational about Christianity.

I don't want to be reasonable and rational about Christianity.

God prevents me - he made this way and makes me this way.

I can't advance toward saving belief by anything you convince me of.

Nor can any failing of yours delay (let alone prevent) my saving belief.

Heap apologetics on the scale - the scale never moves.

Only He can move the scale - never me, whatever you say to me or don't.

Nevertheless, you must try.

And, trying is not pointless - even if the point is only obedience.

I believe none.

I am reasonable and rational about Christianity.
There is, for me, only the faintest shadow of a doubt about that.

The lines above account for more of the gulf between us than the virtues of any character in the Bible.
Their character is not a big issue.

Non-believers cannot win the moral monster argument.
Jesus could do things that seem bad and, yet, turn out to be perfectly good.
Things are often not what they seem.
Sometimes, they are not at all what they seem.

Non-believers cannot lose the moral monster argument either.
It requires an awful lot of things really not being what they seem.

The moral monster argument seems something like a draw.
I hear things, like "Let God be God", that make it seem like y'all think so to.

Maybe, J.M. Green and 'atheists like him' think this is a slam dunk for them.
I don't and I think there are other's like me.


RonH

Amy, have you read Van Til's "Why I Believe in God?" It's a pretty short essay, and available for free online. Essentially, he argues that believers (like you) trying to persuade unbelievers (like me) using such things as evidence and rationality rests upon a false assumption; namely, that what are involved are two rational minds in dialogue upon an equal footing. If Christianity is foolishness to the unregenerate mind, it's foolishness to the unregenerate mind. Knowledge, wisdom, and character are of no avail. You could even intentionally make bitter the cup, like Westboro does, and it would have the same effect, i.e. none apart from God's grace.

And that brings me to the second paragraph of your reply to me, which I don't quite understand. I have just shown, I hope, that your use of reasoned apologetic argument can be of no use in making a Christian out of me. So why do you do it? Is it just a token of respect for me as a person? Is it in order to honor an intelligent, rational God, rather than to persuade me? Is it required that I be brought to the brink before "irresistible grace" carries me the final two yards? Or is it for some other reason?

"No matter how absurd these things may appear to the carnal mind, they must be preached and they must be believed. If they were reasonable, there would be no virtue in believing. Even the publicans and sinners believe reasonable things."
-Robert Ingersoll, Mistakes of Moses

1 Peter 3:15
New International Version (NIV)
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

Van Til did not believe that it was useless to argue with the unregenerate. He only disagreed with the method. He was a presuppositionalist.

squallybimbadine,

Did Van Til believe presuppositional apologetics would make things of the Spirit of God something other than incomprehensible foolishness to to me?

RonH

RonH,

I think people who claim they are 99% convinced a particular myth is false and yet devote so much power, energy and time to the discussion of the endeavor need to do some more thinking about their claim. Just an observation.

John W

It think you can only attribute each interpretation to the condition of the heart. The heart controls the minds thinking. One interpretation is influenced by the Holy Spirit, and the other it seems the heart condition is jaded. I suspect the Holy Spirit has not been allowed even a toe in the door of the heart of Mr. Green.
I think it is important to understand when engaging anyone in conversation that lead to apologetics, some hearts are open and some are not. Sometimes it may be best to end the conversation or not engage it at all. Holy Spirit wisdom should always be saught after.
Mike.

"Perhaps Jesus had some remorse over his heartless actions, but personally, I’m not buying the whole thing about him being deeply moved and troubled. Looks suspiciously like alligator tears. Remember, this is the guy who in a very calculated manner used Lazarus as a pawn in his exercise in self-promotion. This Jesus character in the gospel stories could easily have arrived in time to prevent the death of his friend. There would have been no need for Lazarus to have experienced the agony of dying. No reason for his sisters to suffer the grief of losing their brother."

Green completely misses the point and is erroneous in his statement. Jesus waits two days before going to Bethany(v.6), but, when he arrives, Lazarus has been in the grave for four days. Even if He had left immediately, from wherever he was, he could not have reached Bethany before Lazarus' death.
Why wait? Because the rabbinate taught that a body could not be resuscitated on the third day or after. Arriving on the fourth day, after the ceremonial spicing of the body could not avail to mask the stench, was to make a point. Because Bethany is so close on Jerusalem, the news would spread rapidly. But the purpose was to make a statement. Further, the two additional days of grieving is far outweighed by the effect of the resurection had on the rest of their lives.
As the psalmist puts it: "You have turned my mourning in to dancing, you have put off my mourning clothing and dressed me in gladness; to the end that my celebration may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will sing thanks unto you forever."

Amy,

As I read and study the Bible and various historical interpretations of it, I am becoming more and more convinced of the truth of at least part of the traditional Calvinist TULIP.

Which part of the TULIP do you hold to and why?

I am struggling with the idea of double predestination. i.e. How does it glorify God enact eternal punishment on those who by their nature cannot avoid sinning and cannot turn to God (without his working within them)?

If you would prefer to interact via e-mail, Melinda has my e-mail address.

Thanks,
Eric Hammel

Thanks for your input Don, you've made some very good points.

"Did Van Til believe presuppositional apologetics would make things of the Spirit of God something other than incomprehensible foolishness to to me?"
Hi RonH, hopefully squallybimbadine wont mind me responding also. Van Til's use of presuppositional apologetics doesn't attempt to make the things of the spirit comprehensible to an unregenerate mind, his starting point is that your starting point will not allow you to logically come to the conclusion or end point that Christian doctrine demands.

Presuppositionalism has been used with/towards you for years...everytime someone asks you to justify you worldview...account for morals, logic, etc...it exposes the unstable foundation your worldview cannot provide--not logically anyway. Since you cant logically account for a foundational starting point, your worldview can't give you any comfort and rather than not feeling comfort, you find reason to be comforted by convincing yourself that you dont need foundations. "The world works just fine without justifying prior commitments", the typical unregenerate credo echos in the head that is buried in sand to avoid seeing Light.

Presuppositionalism lets God's word speak for itself as an authority, not requiring substantiation by fallible emperical proofs being mishandled by minds predisposed to hide from the light.
John 1:

"The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
John 3:
""This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
Jhn 3:20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Jhn 3:21 "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

Hi Eric, what do you mean by double predestination? IOW, I mean to ask how do you understand the term?

John W,

My time is not justified by the claims per se.

It's justified by two other things. First: the promotion of critical thinking in general. Second: the things believers do in light of these particular claims.

RonH

Brad B,

his starting point is that your starting point will not allow you to logically come to the conclusion or end point that Christian doctrine demands.

How does he ground foundationalism?

Even assuming foundationalism, how does he know that my particular starting point, even if wrong, will not allow me to arrive at the correct view?

Lot's of mathematical proofs begin with an assumption known to be false.

Many hardware and software debugging sessions begin with false assumptions. Yet, the false assumption is exposed in the end.

So assumptions are not a problem.

It looks like methods are more important to reasoning than 'presuppositions'.

So, what method?

For starters, don't call them presuppositions; call them prior probabilities. Then proceed in a Bayesian way.

RonH


Brad B.,

Thanks for your feedback and your question. I understand double predestination to mean that God has predestined two outcomes 1)His elect will be saved through His irresistable grace and 2)The non-elect, lacking God's irresistable grace, are pre-destined to eternal torment in Hell.

I am not certain, but I take this (double predestination) to be the outcome of T - Total depravity and U - Unconditional election.

Am I misunderstanding traditional Calvinism on this subject?

Thanks for your feedback,
Eric

Eric, I'll send you an email.

I have just shown, I hope, that your use of reasoned apologetic argument can be of no use in making a Christian out of me. So why do you do it?

Because God uses a specific means by which to draw people to Himself, and that means is the telling of people about the truth of Him and the gospel. God doesn't save people apart from the truth about Him.

And in addition, the means we use to tell the gospel also speaks to others about Him. For this reason, apologetics, in addition to telling people the gospel, honors God by speaking truths about God and man (i.e., that we're rational, orderly, truthful, treating the lost with respect, etc.). Now, a person who tells others the gospel while caring for the poor speaks other God-honoring truths about God and man (humility, service, kindness, etc.). There are many different gifts within Christianity, which is why we look at different Christians with their different gifts as being parts of a body. We all are to tell people about the gospel, and the ways in which we do this honor and glorify different aspects of God, according to our gifts.

And again, I do think a person can be convinced Christianity is true intellectually, but not desire to be a Christian because He doesn't see God as beautiful. I've heard atheists say that if they knew the Christian God was real they would still oppose Him. It's the fact that, in the end, we're in opposition to God, no matter what truth we know to be true about Him, that must be changed by the Holy Spirit. But since the Holy Spirit does this in connection with people telling the truth about the gospel and not just randomly here and there, we are participating in what God is doing by speaking the truth.

I've heard atheists say that if they knew the Christian God was real they would still oppose Him.

Frank Turek told a version of this story recently.

Don't make too much of it.

The problem you perceive to be in the answer may actually lie in the question.

The question should be rephrased along these lines: Suppose you find out that

1) The Christian god is real AND
2) The Christian god is as good as Christians say (though you may not think that now).
Will you then oppose the Christian god?

My guess is you won't get so many Yes answers if you ask this way. This is not to say that the real or apparent moral failings of the Christian god are the only reasons to reject Christianity. The lack of evidence is the main problem.

Another reason not to make too much of the atheist's answer: People sometimes blurt things out. Once they have, they sometimes have difficulty taking them back. Do you claim Christians are any less prone to it?

On the other hand, there are reasons to take this particular atheist's answer seriously. Maybe it makes you feel confident. Maybe you can tell the story and make other Christians feel confident. In other words, maybe taking this answer seriously has apologetic value.

RonH

Hi Eric, I think R.C.Sproul can say it better than I, I hope Does God Create Unbelief is the Renewing Your Mind broadcast where he covers this issue. If not, let me know and I'll search it out a little more.

In short, double predestination in the extreme sense, contra Calvinsim, has God actively damning man with the same or similar effort as He does in the act of salvation. I think you might find that it is impossible to separate God from creating men/women that He knows will be reprobate, but it is not biblical to say that He actively caused their unbelief or their acts that oppose His word. Even in the debate over infra vs supra-lapsarianism, there is a wall between God and evil in a direct causal relationship. Though supralapsarianism posits that God logically decreed the fall prior to decreeing Christ's work of redemption. Anyway I would recommend you check out the Westminster Confession of Faith, specifically chapter V to see what Calvinism [aka Reformed Protestantism] admits to believing regarding this.

"Even assuming foundationalism, how does he know that my particular starting point, even if wrong, will not allow me to arrive at the correct view?"

Hi RonH, if you do assume foundationalism [btw, I dont know if definitional challenges are going to arise with use of this term], how can you not see that if the proposition God Is is your ultimate proposition, that you will not come to the same conclusion on anything if your ultimate proposition is that God is not?

Also, we show this to be true when debating moral issues. You disregard the necessity to ground moral absolutes because your worldview cannot justifiably claim universal unchangable moral oughts that bind all men and the Cristian worldview can.

The Christian worldviw is a logically coherent worldview and presuppositional apologetics is meant to show that if one only examines it assuming that God Is as the starting point, this claim is proved.

how can you not see that if the proposition God Is is your ultimate proposition
Seem like you need at least one proposition prior to God is. Like maybe...
Existence is a predicate.

Brad,

Thanks, I will check out the resources you recommended.

Eric

Hi RonH, you've misread my comment. Said another way: 1)assume God Is [you know, like He is revealed to be in the biblical revelation]. Now, consider any particular human experience, like moral absolutes. If God Is, you know He created everything, defined good and evil, and did it perfectly and you owe Him obedience.

2)assume God isn't[like typical atheistic view]. Now consider any particular human experience, like moral absolutes. If God isn't, you offer an account that doesn't include any reference to God. Of course you aren't compelled to owe obedience to anything but your unsubstantiated personal view [multiplied by millions of personal views].

What is so hard to see that your starting point will necessarily lead you to a different conclusion?

If God Is, as the biblical revelation says, everything that is revealed is true since the Authority Who knows perfectly has made it known to ones who cannot know it otherwise in an ultimate [justified] sense. Any competing accounting is necessarily false.

The Christian worldveiw enjoys ultimate justification in explaining the human experience in a comprehensive way. Atheistic worldviews not so much.

RonH,

You misread my question. Reference is made to YOUR claim...where you state that you are 99% convinced Christianity is not true.

In light of your time and effort in disproving this endeavor, I think you should rethink that claim.

If I'm wrong, can you point me to the blog about Santa Clause and the tooth fairy you also visit?

"Existence is a predicate"

Ron leaves us with a heavily implied premise and conclusion. The premise is that, of course...as everyone knows, existence is not a predicate. The conclusion is that this then serves as a reductio on what Brad had to say.

Now, of course, Brad had his own reply to Ron that did not involve directly challenging Ron's attempted reductio. And Ron certainly did nothing to show that "existence is a predicate" was pre-supposed by Brad.

Still, the implicit reference to the formula was an impressive thing.

But I think it is also worth pointing out that "existence is not a predicate" is another one of those atheist slogans that gets bantered about, largely without understanding, as if obvious. We are supposed to simply accept the slogan, and defeat, without comment.

This is in spite of the fact that the slogan is actually quite false.

Existence is a perfectly good predicate. Add the word "exists" to a name, or any subject, and you have a perfectly intelligible sentence that is either true or false. For example, "Ron exists" is a perfectly good sentence. "Ron" is the subject, "exists" is the predicate. The sentence "Ron exists" also happens to be true. The sentence "Dumbledore exists" is also a perfectly good sentence. The subject is "Dumbledore" and the predicate is "exists". The sentence "Dumbledore exists" also happens to be false.

Now there is a lot more that can be said about the slogan "Existence is not a predicate". Kant, who was no atheist, and who invented the phrase while criticizing the Ontological argument for the existence of God, was not actually saying something quite so straightforwardly false. A better way to put what he was trying to say is that adding the concept of existence to the concept of a thing doesn't add anything to that concept because existence was part of the concept all along. This is more plausible, though not quite an obvious truth that everyone knows. (And, need I add, it is even less obviously relevant to Brad's remarks in this thread.)

As a final footnote, I add that Kant was not saying something that was entirely relevant to the Ontological argument in general. At best he really only succeeds in defeating Descartes' Meditation Five and Anselm's Proslogium II formulations of the argument. It does not get at Leibniz (his real target) or most contemporary formulations of the argument (or Anselm's Proslogion III formulation for that matter).

Look at the brain on WisdomLover! ;)

WisdomLover,

I find your comments insightful and well-reasoned. Evidently, so did Son of Adam, since he decided to resort to sarcasm instead of a substantive post.

Thanks,
Eric

I don't think he meant it badly Eric.

(Though, don't look at my brain, that would be liable to hurt and it might get infected :-)

Thanks for your kind words to both of you, BTW.

Praise God for this post. I often think of my life before I truly surrendered to Christ and realize that there was absolutely no indication that it would happen. I was no different or less worldly than anyone else. There are many people who may have been morally better than me, that are still in rebellion against God. Stated simply, I did not deserve the Joy of the Lord that I now experience. I credit such reflections and posts such as this one with helping me to stay humble in the presence of atheists, anti-theists and non-believers. Thank you Amy.

The comments to this entry are closed.