On August 6, 2016, we’ll set sail from Seattle, Washington for seven days aboard Holland America’s ms Westerdam. We’re planning a voyage you will never forget. It is specifically designed for those who care to represent Christ to a world looking for answers to life’s toughest questions.
Our plan is to challenge you with stimulating presentations, answer your questions in “open forum” discussions and enrich you through interaction and fellowship with expert speakers and fellow passengers. Add to that the stunning splendor of the Alaskan coastline and a seven-day itinerary that includes Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, B.C.
Come join Stand to Reason and our excellent line-up for a memorable spiritual adventure. You’ll enjoy plenty of fun and relaxation, along with ample opportunity to meet our speakers, ask questions, and enjoy each other’s company. If studying Christian subjects with some of the sharpest minds on the planet in the fellowship of other believers of kindred spirit aboard a beautiful ship sailing the Alaskan coastline sounds like your idea of a perfect vacation, this is the trip for you.
You don’t need any prior understanding of the subject matter. Simply bring a desire to learn and an expectation to relax. Everything about this trip is being planned with your enjoyment and enrichment in mind.
Learn more and book online via our cruise information page, or simply contact Inspiration Cruises and Tours at (800) 247-1899. We’re looking forward to seeing you on board!
Sometimes things that confound us have a simple side to them. In a certain sense, this is true with the Trinity. The mystery may be confounding, but the biblical facts on the matter are really not that hard. The only thing required is a clear definition, then a little Bible “kitchen work.” That’s what I’ve provided for you in this month’s Solid Ground.
In part one of The Trinity: A Solution, Not a Problem, I discussed the significance of the Trinity, the problem of the Trinity, the definition of the Trinity, and the alleged contradiction of the Trinity. In this second part, I resolve the question of the deity of Christ (and therefore strengthen the case for the Trinity) by going back to the text, letting God’s Word speak for itself:
My method is simple: provide clear scriptural support for each element that is essential to the definition of the Trinity as it applies to the person of Christ. There are three components. One, there is only one God. Two, Jesus is a distinct person from the Father. Three, Jesus is fully God. We know this because Jesus is called God, He possesses divine attributes, and He exercises divine privileges.
In keeping with my own philosophy that Christians should first major in the majors before nitpicking on secondary issues, I have decided to tackle the question “Who was Jesus?”—along with the larger issue of the Trinity—in the next two issues of Solid Ground.
My broad goal is to make a clear, scriptural case for the Triune nature of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with a particular focus on the deity of Jesus Christ. And also show why the doctrine is critical to a sound understanding of the Lord we serve and of His work in our salvation.
In this first installment, I aim to accomplish four things. First, I want you to understand the significance of the Trinity. Next, I want to look briefly at the alleged problem of the Trinity. Third, I want to offer a clear, concise, coherent definition of the Trinity. Finally, I want to address the alleged contradiction of the Trinity and silence that objection once and for all.
For many, the Trinity seems to be a mysterious, intractable difficulty. I think they’re mistaken. I’m convinced the Trinity is not a problem, but a magnificent solution to a host of other problems. Most importantly, only the Trinity is consistent with God’s own self-revelation in both Testaments:
Only the Trinity can make sense of the love of God as an intrinsic moral excellence, a holy affection continuously given and received from eternity past among the divine persons. Only the Trinity can turn Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross into a testament of God’s love for the world, since it was God’s blood, shed by Christ, that purchased Christ’s church (Acts 20:28). And only with the Trinity can a man suffer a finite amount of time, yet cover an eternal debt for a countless multitude, since the man was Himself the God of infinite grace.
Feser’s concern, I think, is partly the result of taking general remarks made in a video blog about Romans 1 and asking of it the kind of precision not generally possible in that format. In a brief verbal summary of an issue there is little opportunity for nuance regarding the kinds of concerns brought up in Feser’s thoughtful 2,500 word blog, which may account for my own remarks appearing “glib.”
Maybe a few brief comments (versus a full-throated response) will add more clarity, though it probably will not alleviate all the disagreement. No worries. I can live with opposing views, even from people I respect (I thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve read of Feser’s The Last Superstition).
Feser faulted me for lack of argument, yet my purpose was not to make a case, but rather merely to articulate what I take to be Paul’s assessment of man’s condition.
As to the comment, “‘The Bible says so’ is, of course, not a good argument to give someone who doesn’t accept the authority of the Bible in the first place,” I agree wholeheartedly, as those familiar with my work know. My comments in the video blog, however, were directed to believers (just as Paul’s were), not atheists, so a straightforward appeal to the text seems legitimate.
As to whether or not my take on Romans 1 is an “extreme interpretation,” I can only commend you to Paul’s wording itself. I don’t think it is the least bit vague, ambiguous, or moderate. He says that certain of God’s attributes have been “clearly seen” and “understood” (1:20), and certain particulars about God are “known,” being “evident within them,” since “God made it evident to them” (1:19). Yet men still “suppress” (katecho, “to hold down, repress,” Wuest) these truths “in unrighteousness.” It’s difficult to see how a more moderate (vs. my “extreme”) understanding of the passage could actually be faithful to Paul’s words.
Further, if our knowledge of God is merely “general and confused” (Aquinas), it’s hard to see how God can hold us accountable for it (“without excuse” 1:20), making us properly subject to his “wrath” (orge, 1:18).
Even after reading Feser’s critique (et al.), it still strikes me that, regarding man’s innate knowledge of God, Paul is saying something quite a bit stronger than that man has “a natural inclination of the weaker and inchoate sort.” Thus, his unbelief is properly culpable.
For the record, I take this knowledge to be dispositional (known even if not currently or consciously aware of), not occurent (in mind and currently aware of) for the reasons that Feser (and others) pointed out. So man’s state of awareness of God, and his heart’s disposition towards rebellion against God are both sub-conscious.
Thus, though many atheists are not consciously aware of their rebellion (some are, of course) and may feel they have intellectual integrity in their atheism (some demonstrate a measure of integrity in their reasoned rejection of God), still, when all the cards are on the table in the final judgment, when men’s deepest and truest motives are fully revealed (Lk. 12:2), rebellion will be at the core. This rebellion-at-the-core, I think, is what Paul had in mind in Rom. 1—a fairly ordinary, run of the mill biblical point, it seems.
Regarding beleaguered Emil (see Feser’s post), I am inclined to agree with Feser: “A religious believer is not like someone trying to hold a beach ball underwater; rather, he is like someone trying to get a submerged beach ball with a leak in it to come back up to the surface.” Nicely put.
Remember, Paul’s point is that fallen humans are in rebellion and unbelief. But regeneration changes that, does it not? Those who have come to Christ (e.g., “Emil”) are not the subject of his concern. Doubt may still crop up, but for completely different reasons, I think. So the alleged reductio simply does not apply here since the scope of Paul’s comments (along with my reflections on them) is limited to man in rebellion, not to believers who have laid down their arms.
However, even deeply distressed Emil (and atheists with his same complaint) must account for the objective morality that was violated by the massacre, and no subjectivist account (biological or social) is going to be adequate. Ultimately, even man’s ubiquitous complaint about real Evil in the world (a complaint I share), ultimately and irrevocably (I think) points back to the God who alone grounds the Goodness necessary to make the problem of evil intelligible to begin with.
So, it seems to me that my general remarks about Romans 1 and atheists are defensible given the video’s intended audience and scope, and given the specific language of Romans 1. In the future when I address this issue, I will try to remember the “dispositional knowledge” qualification that might alleviate some confusion.
One final thought. Though I do not think it helpful to bandy this phrase about in the public dialogue, the statement, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God,” is not mine, but God’s.