Saturday, February 10, 2018

Review and Analysis of Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique

Just last year, a book came out on the topic of theistic evolution. Coming in at almost a thousand pages, this book aims to be a comprehensive rebuttal of theistic evolution, at least as taught by Biologos. I have read the book, and decided to do a review and analysis of the book, which can be read here. Here is an excerpt of my 18-page review and analysis:

How does Christianity interact with science, especially in the contested areas of cosmic and especially human origins? Some scientists, especially those linked to the organization known as Biologos, have claimed compatibility between Christianity and the findings of science, or specifically the theory of evolution. Their brand of theistic evolution is the result of their particular synthesis of what they believe to be the indisputable findings of evolutionary science, and what they believe the Bible teaches. This particular version of theistic evolution can be defined as:

God created matter and after that did not guide or intervene or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural processes.1

In an effort to refute such teaching, a group of scientists and theologians have come together to write a book to that effect, entitled Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical and Theological Critique. ...


Saturday, February 03, 2018

The myth of the Medieval Flat earth belief

The myth that a flat earth was part of Christian doctrine in the Middle Ages appears to have originated with Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who wrongly claimed that geographers had been put on trial for impiety after asserting the contrary. There were a few authentic flatearthers in late antiquity, but none among the scholars of the Middle Ages proper. [James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2011), 28]

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The error of Vincent Cheung, explicated

Vincent Cheung is a heretic, because he holds that God is the author of sin. But first, what is the meaning of the phrase "author of sin," and what does Cheung mean when he say that God is the "author of sin"?

The traditional meaning of the term "author of sin" is understood in relation to its use in the Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1, which states:

God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3.1)

Therefore, the phrase has historically meant that if God is the "author of sin," then God makes a person sins directly, either through violating the will of the creature, or by taking away the liberty and contingency of second causes.

In understanding the historical definition of the phrase "author of sin.," we can see that Cheung redefines the phrase, while he actually holds to its historic meaning. Cheung therefore does not formally hold to God being the "author of sin," while he holds to God being the "author of sin" materially, since he affirms the essence of the traditional meaning of the phrase "author of sin," as I have stated here.

Why is Cheung holding materially to the phrase "author of sin" wrong? It is wrong because it makes God into a schizopreniac, a monster, or an untrustworthy being. I had mentioned this in some way in a previous post: Vincent Cheung and the Author of Sin, but I would like to explicate it further to nail down the argument and make it as clear as possible.

Here is the argument for why God being the "author of sin" is wrong (P = Premise, C = Conclusion):

P1: If God is the author of sin, he directly causes people to sin.
P2: God is the Author of sin (Cheung's assertion)
(From P1 and P2) C1: God does actions that directly makes people sin.

P3: Directly making people sin is an evil action.
(From C1 and P3) C2: God does evil actions.

P4: God is by nature good.
(From C2 and P4) C3: God who is by nature good does evil actions.
(from C3) C4: God by nature does something contrary to His nature.

(From C4) Possible conclusion 5a: That is impossible, thus one of the previous premises must be wrong. P1 and P3 are true by definition, so P4 must be false, and God actually is evil and thus a monster.

(From C4) Possible conclusion 5b: God can will to do something contrary to his nature.
(from C5b) C6: God's actions and God's nature are not necessarily linked.

(from C6) C7: If God's actions and nature are not necessarily linked, then God can promise one thing and do another. God's faithfulness is undermined.
(from C7) C8: God is therefore untrustworthy, a schizopreniac, or both.

P5: The biblical God is faithful and trustworthy and good and not schizopreniac
(from P1, P5, C5a and C8) C9: The God who is the "author of sin" is not the biblical God, and this teaching that he is the "author of sin" attacks the character of God.

This argument about the gross error, even heresy, of holding that God is the "author of sin" deals with ontology, not ethics or epistemology. Thus, it deals with the being, the attributes of God. That is why the irrational nominalism of Cheungians is a next to useless counter argument. If the logical implications for God being the "author of sin" is an assault on the character of God, then to repeat over and over again that "God is by definition good" (which is an ethical argument), is useless.

Finally, Cheung's assault against compatibilistic free will and soft determinism, which props up his argument that God is the "author of sin," is baseless, as I have shown in my article "God, the Author of Sin and Metaphysical Distanciation: A Rebuttal to Vincent Cheung's Theodicy." Cheung's position is spiritual poison, and it has many practical implications for life, the main ones which I have pointed out in another article here, entitled "Some Practical Problems with Cheung's heresies."

Lastly,Cheung's determinism is not the same as Gordon Clark's determinism. Gordon Clark held that God is not the "author of sin" and that secondary causes are real causes so that the contingency and liberty of second causes are established, as the WCF 3.1 states. Clark was a presbyterian, and he would definitely reject Cheung's heretical teaching of God being "the author of sin."

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Summer White Jaeger: Why Feminism Can't Save You

Last year, Summer White Jaeger, the daughter of apologist Dr. James White, gave a talk on the topic of Feminism with mention of Critical Race Theory as it affects the church. It is an interesting talk which can be heard here.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

WHI, racist "anti-racism" and practical Christianity

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live yon all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, (Acts 17:26)

In light of the recent racist post by White Horse Inn under the Core Christianity brand, I thought it would be good to put more thought into the issue of how to deal with issues of race. Now, in Singapore, color-blindness is institutionalized in our national creed, where we confess to being "one united people, regardless of race, language, or religion," and it is seen in the social engineering that our governing party (for many decades) has done in basically forcing everyone to mix and live in harmony. This does not mean that the methods of the social engineering process is good, or bad. But the engineering has been done, and the results are that Singapore has survived as a multi-ethnic nation where people by and large live harmoniously in peace, without the formation of ethnic ghettos. That does NOT of course imply that everything in society is perfect, for as long as sin remains in the hearts of men and women, no social program implemented by anyone can totally eradicate all manner of racism and racial discrimination. But if we make perfection the enemy of imperfection, then we run the risk of jettisoning a good workable theory and practice for something that destroys society in pursuit of the mirage of utopia. That is why Marxism fails at its core, not because equality is a terrible thing, but rather that the methods of pursuing a utopia of equality has led to misery and death, and yet inequality has not ultimately been eradicated, as we can see in the history of the USSR.

As Christians, how we ought to deal with issues of race is to look to Scripture, not to social science. If we believe in Sola Scriptura, then Scripture Alone has to be our ultimate authority. Scripture of course is not a social science textbook, or science textbook, or any textbook on any subject. But rather Sola Scriptura implies that Scripture is the foremost and ultimate authority. Theology is to be the queen of the "sciences" (in its historic meaning of "knowledge"; Regina Scientiae), which means that, while social sciences are not to be rejected, whatever Scripture says must trump whatever the social science say. Social sciences can only aid as a servant in discussion on topics Scripture teaches, not to over-ride Scripture on anything. Unfortunately, those like Mika Edmonson and Timothy Cho (Operations Manager(?) of WHI) do not abide by this principle of Sola Scriptura in their dealings on issues of race, but rather take their cue from culture and society, as they embrace Critical Race Theory, a theory taught nowhere in Scripture.

How does Scripture deal with issues of race? Scripture of course does not directly speaks about "race," but rather it deals with different people groups, of which the foremost division lies between Jews and Greeks. We know that the focus of passages like in Galatians 3:28 is to focus on the eradication of differences between Jews and Greeks as pertaining to the ceremonial distinctions between Jews and Greeks. In that sense, Galatians 3:28 is not a good passage to talk about issues of race, because the thrust is more on removing the wall of Jewish ceremonial distinctions, and only secondarily about race. A better passage where we see the issue of ethnicity dealt more explicitly lies in Paul's speech to the Athenians in Acts 17.

The Greeks of that time, especially the Athenians, were cultural supremacists. They believed that Greeks were superior above all other races, and Greek culture superior to every other culture. There were the Greeks, and there were the uncivilized barbarians. This superiority was ethnic and cultural in nature, not religious, as opposed to the differences between Jews and Greeks.

How then did Paul addressed the Athenians at the Aeropagus? If we were to follow Edmonson and WHI, Paul ought to have told the Athenians they should respect the different distinctions among different cultures. After all, isn't that how Edmonson and WHI think racism ought to be combated? But what did Paul actually do? Paul addressed the racism and cultural supremacy of the Athenians by pointing them to creation and the fact that God had made all men from one man, Adam. Paul referred the Athenians to the common humanity they share with other men (Acts 17:26), including those they scorn as barbarians, especially the Scythians (Col. 3:11). Since all men are derived from Adam as our common forefather, there ought to be no room for hatred, for racism, or for any form of supremacy over another man. The biblical method of dealing with racism is to focus on our common humanity, not to focus on tribal distinctions. In this, we can easily see that Paul embraces the idea of color-blindness (anachronistically speaking), since he advocates treating all men (and women) as equals, not to distinguish and divide men into different groups and social constructs each to be treated differently.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, racism is defined roughly as follows:

Racism, also called racialism, any action, practice, or belief that reflects the racial worldview—the ideology that humans may be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races”; that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural and behavioral features; and that some races are innately superior to others. ... (Source)

Racism is theoretical, but racist actions is racism put into practice. Thus, racism in act does not necessarily need to have the ideological component of some races being superior to others, but rather racism in act is the action of treating races differently because of something inherent in the races. According to basic definition therefore, those who advocate for treating people differently because of their immutable ontological characteristic of race are promoting racism. The intention does not matter, for being racist out of what is perceived of as a good intention is still being a racist. That is why those promoting Critical Race Theory are racists, even though they promote it out of a sincere desire to combat racism. But since when is combating racism an excuse for using racism to fight racism? As long as one promotes treating people differently because of race, by focusing on racial distinctions, one is essentially promoting racism.

But, it is protested, what about distinctions between people and ethnicities? As I have said, human beings are not ethnic, religious, or class social constructs. We are individuals, each one of us unique in his or her way. That is the problem with much of social sciences, because they reduce individuals to social constructs they can study and make generalizations and control. But the fact of the matter is that each of us is different, even within the same ethnic group. Distinctions are to be dealt with in everyday life, as we deal with people, even people of the same "race." Distinctions have nothing to do with race per se, but of people. Those who claim that color blindness eradicate distinctions have a rather strange view of distinctions. Perhaps they only stay in a particular intellectual ghetto where all their peers think like them and have the same values as them? But for those of us who actually interact with people and do not stay in social "safe spaces," we realize that people are not the same, even within the same "race." The balkanization in American politics (which has unfortunately seeped into WHI) is such that all those who think differently are delegitimized and considered "evil," "deplorables," and "Nazis," all done so as to deny that actual distinctions exist within the same "race," such that Critical Race Theory with its idea of racial distinctions among racial construct entities is legitimized as THE ONLY way one should think about distinctions. Critical Race Theory, at least in the popular leftist version, cannot exist in a universe whereby distinctions are acknowledged as legitimate within "races," or "classes" or whatever construct they slot people into. That is why American Liberals demand that all women must vote for Hilary Clinton, for example, since women must all conform to the "woman" social construct they have created, and all those who refuse to conform to their social construction are considered "traitors" to their gender as women.

Does this mean that there cannot be talk about racial differences and discussion about inequality among people of different races per se? No, it does not. But rather, any such discussion must proceed upon the foundation or axiom of the ontological equality of the various ethnicities or color-blindness. Color-blindness must be presupposed as the basis and the uniting force against racism. Without this foundation, any discussion about distinctions between individuals and groups of individuals of different races will surely result in tribalism and racial antagonism at best, and racial warfare at worst. Even from a pragmatic viewpoint, what good is it to combat "racism" if the consequence of one's tactics in combating racism is tribalism and antagonism among the races?

Back to White Horse Inn and Mika Edmonson, it is supremely ironic that, while they talk a big talk about celebrating "distinctions," I do not see them actually recognize the actual distinctions that exist within the races. In all their talk about "racial reconciliation," where is the part about celebrating the differences they have with, e.g. Trump supporters? After all, aren't they supposed to be big about "diversity"? I do not see them celebrating ideological distinctions with people who reject Critical Race Theory. I do not see them recognizing the arguments posed by people who are different from them ideologically, and interacting with them intelligently. Rather, they just parrot the Liberals in their social theories of race, and refuse to acknowledge or interact with their detractors. What "diversity" is there and what celebration of "distinctions" are there for Edmonson and the folks at WHI?

Last but not least, the main problem with WHI is that they are taking a political position in what is supposed to be a push for theological reformation. But, they claim, it is not political to be against racism. True, it is not political to be against racism, provided you are not taking up a political position while attacking racism. But that is what they have done, in siding with the (post-) liberal left! The whole premise of "Core Christianity" and the Campaign for Core Christianity was to promote a return to biblical Christianity and a rejection of American "Christianity." That was what I had supported and why I had followed them in Twitter and Facebook. But now, with the publishing of that article, the call to biblical reformation has been muddied by a partisan political piece, in a false association of biblical reformation with siding with the political left. There is nothing wrong of course with having a personal conviction that the left is right, but one should not mix one's politics with one's Christianity in such a manner. Instead of the "Campaign for Core Christianity" being about a return to biblical Christianity, now it has degenerated into a "return to biblical Christianity and an embrace of Critical Race Theory." Is Dr. Horton agreeable that Critical Race Theory be seen as an integral part of his idea of a "return to biblical Christianity?" Is Justin Holcomb fine with the conflation of politics and religion in this manner? What is "Core Christianity" now, since the waters have been muddied? We must remember that the Campaign for Core Christianity is meant to be non-political but to be focused purely on Scripture, not to be the platform for a few people's social justice activism based upon their social and political views, or at least that was what it was supposed to be. But I guess it has gone to waste now. The Campaign for Core Christianity has now become partisan, and can no longer be seen to be promoting Core Christianity in the same way as Jim Wallis does not promote Core Christianity either.

As for the people who deign it right to write and publish such unbiblical nonsense, it is my hope that they will repent of falsely claiming the support of Scripture for their position. As a social theory, they are free to hold to it (even though I think it is trash), but to promote it as biblical is a violation of the third commandment. I would hope they will keep their socio-political nonsense out of the equation, but at the very least stop claiming biblical support where none exists.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why Critical Race adherents cannot be trusted

In the current day and age, Critical Race Theory has been put to use to supposedly correct "white privilege" and advocate for minorities. But in the quest to correct what they had perceived as a problem, half of which are legitimate and the other half an internalization of Marxism, they pushed for "affirmative" action and constant attacks against who they perceive as the "privileged" class. For now, the devil is the straight, white man, so presumably non-whites can rest easy, or can't they?

The problem with race and class warfare is that it is unjust to judge people according to their race and class, as if they ARE (ontologically) their race and class. But even if we ignore the injustice of it all, as a practical concern, nobody should be supportive of Critical Race Theory and trust their advocates. After all, today it might be the straight, white man's turn to be treated as scum. Tomorrow, who will be the next target? A system that attacks people based upon their supposed "privilege" can turn on anyone and everyone on an instant. For those who remember history, remember that the Reign of Terror followed upon the French Revolution, and the previous supporters of the revolution became the new target of the secular inquisition. So, even if Critical Race Theory benefits you as a minority, what makes you so sure that the wheel will not one day turn and you will suddenly become the target for scorn and derision because of your "privilege"?

That is why those promoting Critical Race Theory as fact cannot be trusted. It does not matter even if you are of the race and class they are currently promoting. Once a system is in place for some measure of racial discrimination (call it whatever name you want: "affirmative action," "social justice," "racial justice," "Black Lives Matter"), there is an erosion of a belief in our common humanity and the fact that all humans regardless of race is actually one human race. Tribalism will start to set in and society will begin to balkanize. It does not matter how nice Critical Race adherents may be in person, because by their words they promote poison. It does not matter how much they say they are against racism, because they combat racism with (the "correct" kind of) racism. And therefore, they cannot be trusted to treat you with respect as a human being. They are treating you as an ethnic, gender, social class construct, not an individual. Today, it is the white man's turn to be mocked and ridiculed. Tomorrow, it might be the Chinese's turn. And the next day, it might be the Africans. After all, in America, "Asians" are routinely ignored already, so the mere fact that Asians tend to work high and consistently churn out good academic results might result in the next "new thing" being complaints about "Asian privilege," if it hasn't happened already.

The right way, and the Christian way, is to stress our common humanity, and to not judge people based upon the skin of their color or ethnicity. This is however mocked and ridiculed by Critical Race adherents, and that is why none of them cannot be trusted. I personally will not trust anyone who holds to Critical Race Theory, because I know they can turn on me and discriminate against me in a flash. After all, "Chinese privilege," right?

The immoral assault on color-blindness

[This is a write-up in defence of my claim that this article is essentially racist.]

What is color-blindness? Well, what does it mean to say that justice is blind? It means that all men should be treated equally before the law, regardless of status, wealth, race, religion or any other factor. Color-blindness therefore is the theory that one should treat everyone equally regardless of the amount of melanin in their skin. As a theory that rejects racial segregation and racial discrimination, color-blindness is a theory about fairness. It is a theory about equal treatment, but it is not a theory about rendering everyone equal. Treating everyone equally has to do with fairness, while expecting everyone to be equal is Marxist. The former has to do with actions, the latter being. Under Marxism, any inequality of result of any kind is considered inequality and injustice. Thus, racial Marxism is the idea that all races or ethnicities must be equal, and that any inequality, even if there is no inequality of treatment, IS "injustice."

Racial Marxism is solidly entrenched in today's "social sciences," in the form of Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theorists decry inequality among the races, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, part of Critical Race Theory is their insistence on "systemic racism," and the "proof" for "systemic racism" is found in inequality among the races. Note here however the Marxist slant, whereby any form of inequality is necessarily evil. But is there proof of actual acts of racism, i.e. the older (and truer) ideas of what constituted racism? Well, in America, besides pointing to the pathetically small minority of true white supremacists, and pouncing on the (truly deplorable) racist rhetoric found among the Alt-right and current president Donald Trump, which is a lot of bark but no bite, what proof do they have for actual racism (the real racism, not the Marxist redefinition of the term)?

Color-blindness is a theory of non-discrimination. It focuses on the ACT of treating people fairly, without having double standards towards others of other races. Color-blindness is NOT an exhaustive theory of how one should interact with anyone. The very idea that color-blindness MUST mean that one interacts with a person as a "generic human" is a caricature that no one who embraces color-blindness holds to. In fact, this caricature betrays a Marxist mindset, because in Marxism, the individual is reduced to the collective, and thus all theories must be reduced to speaking about people in collective terms.

It is at this point that we will see what is wrong with Edmonson's article. We note immediately the caricaturing and misrepresentation of Color-blindness, which should alert us to a possible SJW viewpoint. The Marxist slant is cemented when we start to read this sentence:

Race, class, and gender are the fault lines of sinful disparity and division that pass from the world right into the church.

The focus of the article then deals a lot with classes of people in the form of distinctions. But, as I have pointed out in another post, we deal with people as individuals, not races. We are not our race, but ethnicity constitute a part (not the whole) of us. The association of personal distinctions with sociological categories like race points us to a collective view of humanity and racial groups. After all, the only reason why race must be mentioned as "distinction" is because race is definitional of all persons of that ethnicity, or at least it should be, and this distinction trumps all distinctions within people of the same ethnicity (assuming of course the same gender and same social class, because... intersectionality!). You are, in essence, your race, AND gender, AND class. Any talk of distinction is focused only on your race, gender, and class. And since there is, in the contemporary social sciences, as many genders as one can conceive of, the art of perceiving distinctions has just gotten much much harder, but I digress.

If Edmonson were just to mention distinctions of race, gender and class, and the need for us to acknowledge them, then we can say that there is a strong Marxist slant but still since these distinctions are indeed present in people, we cannot say with certainty that it is necessarily Marxist. But Edmonson is unambiguously clear in his racial Marxism when he attacks Color-blindness. In his attack on color-blindness, he repeats the misrepresentation pushed by the Critical Race Theorists. Through the attack on Color-blindness, he makes his racial tribalistic view of society very clear. To the extent that his article promotes a Critical Race Theorist viewpoint on dealing with distinctions, to that extent it is racist, because Critical Race Theory is a racist theory.

How should we deal with distinctions? How do you deal with differences you have with your biological brother or sister? Or, how would you deal with differences you have with your friend of the same ethnicity? Likewise, so you ought to deal with distinctions with others, in getting to know them personally, and not as a racial entity. Ethnicity is just one of many things that constitute an individual. When one plays identity politics and tribalism, beware lest you get burned. For if you promote better treatment for your "race" on the basis of Marxist inequality, you stir up tribalism from other groups as well. The stage is then set for balkanization and ethnic strife, even possible total warfare of entire ethnicities against each other. So this error is not merely a theoretical one, but it has ghastly practical consequences, as we have seen in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. But even if we couldn't care less about society, is it biblical to treat people differently according to their ethnic group, since we need to "preserve" distinctions? Or rather, should we treat people according to who they are individually, of which their ethnicity is merely one facet of their persons? I would suggest that the Christian way is to NOT treat people differently just because they are of different ethnic group. And just for the record, racism in action IS treating people differently because of their ethnic distinction. The only difference it seems between Edmonson's view of distinction and a traditional racist's view of distinction is that Edmonson affirms distinctions (positive discrimination) while a traditional racist denigrates distinctions (negative discrimination). The problem however with this is that if someone is positively discriminated for, then the rest who are not of that tribe is by definition discriminated against.

Color-blindness IS the Christian ideal, for we are to treat everyone equally as human beings NOT as tribal groups. The assault on color-blindness by Edmonson is therefore unbiblical, and socially immoral, given what we know of how such theories when put into practice results in the sundering of societies at best, and genocide at worst. While this is most certainly not what Edmonson wants, or what he explicitly teaches, yet his article is dangerous precisely because the Critical Race Theory hidden in it could cause major damage to the practice of the faith, and to the social fabric of entire societies and countries. As such, while I do not believe Edmonson is a racist, his article is racist, in essence.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

On Postcolonial theories and (liberal) indigenous theologies

The quote below is specifically focused on Third World or Indigenous Theologies and hermeneutics, but I do think the principle here is generally applicable to many "Postcolonial" theories in any discipline.

Accordingly they are unafraid to criticize global South Christians for “making the same Bible an uncaring, mean-spirited and cruel book by using it uncritically,” while simultaneously asserting that “the imposition of one’s culture on others is plainly unacceptable.” Yet others can ask of the postcolonialists, Is not their Western form of religious pluralism as institutionalized in academic culture an imposition upon those who do not wish to see the Bible “as an entertaining narrative devoid of its ecclesiastical and dogmatic functions”? Postcolonial theory is therefore in a blind: useful in helping Christians to recognize human finitude and fallenness in our theological understanding, but tending to assume the normative absence of divine revelation—ironically a sort of intellectual colonialism. (Daniel J. Treier, “Scripture and Hermeneutics,” in Kelly M. Kapic and Bruce L. McCormack, eds., Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic and Historical Introduction (Grand Rapid, MI: Baker, 2012), 90

Monday, January 01, 2018

Contra Scott Price on Arminianism

Scott Price, who runs a blog and FB page promoting supralapsarianism, recently posted on his wall, and re-posted a note in the FB group "I am a Supralapsarian" that seems to run in a certain errant direction. Now, I have not been following the controversy over the supposed "free will debate" between Sonny Hernandez and Theodore Zachariades on the one side, and Leighton Flowers and Jonathan Pritchett on the other side, and I didn't even hear in full the two hour dissection Dr. James White did on his Dividing Line show. Generally, I have little interest in interactions where the side I am supposedly on holds to false teaching concerning the Gospel and is selective in their understanding of church history. This post by Scott Price follows at least a similar line of reasoning as Hernandez and Zachariades. Whether or not Price holds the same view as Hernandez and Zachariades on the topic, the similarities are just too common and disturbing, and I have decided to respond to the issue here.

The most disturbing section from the note is seen in these two paragraphs:

Those who are well-read, well-studied, with lettered credentials behind their name are who I blame for the most toxic spread of fake gospel-news by their endorsement of the false gospel of Arminianism. It is simple and very clear how this is done. They call Arminians their brothers. They imply it is merely error or inconsistency on the Arminian’s part, but we know that adding conditions or works to grace perverts the gospel of grace (Rom 11:6).

The Arminian, Semi-Pelegian and Pelegian preachers are guilty of preaching and teaching the false gospel for the hearers to believe it in the first place. That is bad enough, but those who should know better are the educated ones who claim to believe the free and sovereign grace who snuggle up to the false gospel and legitimize it by calling the Arminain their brother. They are the ones who spread the Fake News of Conditionalism being a legitimate gospel used to convert in God’s salvation. Arminianism is BAD NEWS, which conditions salvation on the sinner and displays a failed, false christ. This means the compromising Sovereign Grace, Calvinist, Reformed are promoting the same false gospel in the very spirit of anti-Christ.

Now, I have no wish to defend anyone and everyone who calls himself "Sovereign Grace, Calvinist, Reformed." In fact, I probably have no wish to defend more than 60% (an arbitrary estimated figure) of those who self-identify as such. My standpoint is as one from the creedal and confessional Presbyterian and Reformed tradition. That is my stance, and that is the ground upon which I will begin my interaction with the problematic views being promoted here.

Historical Theological critique

My first point of critique is the ahistorical and arbitrary manner of how Price determines what is or isn't heresy, coupled with a simplistic view of church history. It is rather insufficient to cite the Canons of Dordt, because citing Dordt without understanding or contextualizing what is happening at Dordt is to do to church history what eisegesis does to the biblical text in the disciplines of exegetical and biblical theology, i.e. proof-texting out of context. Yes, Dordt proclaimed Ariminianism as heresy. In fact, in Canons of Dordt (CD) 2 Rejection of Errors 3, the divines at Dordt charge the Arminians as those that "summon back from hell the Pelagian error." But what does this mean in the CONTEXT of early 17th century Dutch religious life and to what extent it applies today? It is not as simple as just to say, "Dordt claims Arminianism is heresy. Here in the 21st century we find some Arminians. Therefore they are heretics." Whoever argues this way shows they have not even begun to think correctly about historical issues and judgments, and whether on the "right" or "left" (whatever they mean when taken out of their normal political context), such mishandling of history is reprehensible.

The Arminians at Dordt were a scholarly group of theologians who knowingly and willfully rejected the Reformed faith. Quite a number of these classical Arminians turned "liberal" in their theology, with Conrad Vorstius rejecting the Trinity and dying a Socinian, while Hugo Grotius gave us the moral governmental theory of the atonement. And within a generation or two, Philip Limborch expressed the total apostasy of Remonstrant Arminianism by turning them into a rationalist movement, a fact which even the modern-day Arminian Roger Olsen acknowledges even as he tries to rehabilitate the original Remonstrants [Roger E. Olsen, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 23]. Thus, historically, the Remonstrants were not some hillbillies pratting about things they do not know. Rather, they were evil men knowingly promoting error that leads to greater apostasy in due time from the truth.

Much of modern Arminianism especially in the English-speaking world comes to us from the line of John Wesley, and his version is what is called "Evangelical Arminianism." As I have written in an article, Evangelical Arminianism is not the same as Classical Arminianism. And it is not just that Evangelical Arminianism affirms Total Depravity whereas Classical Arminianism obfuscates on total depravity, but rather that Evangelical Arminianism inconsistently couples an idea of prevenient grace sufficient for Man to respond to God with the idea that Man cannot respond to God's grace apart from God working in Man. In other words, Evangelical Arminianism is self-contradictory, and that actually saves it from being heretical like Classical Arminianism. This Evangelical Arminianism in its various permutations and reduction in intellectual sophistication for a popular audience is what we see in modern-day 21st century popular evangelical Arminianism.

Therefore, in light of the facts of church history, it is an error today for anyone including Scott Price to claim that the Arminianism that was judged as heretical at Dordt is necessarily the same as the many ArminianismS that populate the modern day Evangelical churches. This of course is not to say that no version of Arminianism is heretical, but it is to make the perfectly legitimate statement that not everything that terms itself as "Arminian" or "Arminianism" is heretical. There must be actual examination of the person's beliefs instead of mere sloganeering, and most definitely no blanket statement condemning ALL Arminians as necessarily heretics, which brings me to my next point.

Confusion of the Gospel

What is the Gospel? And how is anyone saved at all? According to Scripture, we are saved purely by faith in Jesus Christ (e.g. Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 10:9-10), and the key description of faith is "trust." Salvation comes about when people repent of their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. When they do that, they are truly saved.

The reason why heresies are called "heresies" is that their teachings in some way impedes a person from believing the Gospel unto salvation. For example, the heresy of Modalism when believed causes a person to believe in a false god, which means that he cannot put his trust in Jesus Christ, for his "Jesus" is not the true Jesus the Son of God. Likewise, the heresy of Pelagianism when believed cause a person to not put his trust in Christ, but rather trust himself to be holy. The heresy of Classical Arminianism likewise causes a person to not put his trust in Christ, but rather to look at his faith, as what saves is his faith justifying him before God.

Therefore, heresies are heresies because they prevent a person from believing the Gospel. Otherwise, false doctrines which do not prevent a person from believing the Gospel is just that, a false doctrine which a believer might hold to. Belief in false doctrines is a sin, but it is hardly damning. For just as one is not perfect in holiness of life while on this earth, how can one expect any and all believers to be perfect in holiness of doctrine while on this earth? Sanctification is a process, and perfectionism is a false teaching that causes harm to all who hold to it. Thus, belief in false doctrines is not cause for utilizing the "heresy" label, unless one is a perfectionist, an error which I may add is taught by the Evangelical Arminian John Wesley AND the Pelagian Charles Finney. If one claims to be a "very pure" Calvinist, surely the mere association with the likes of Wesley and Finney would be detested!

In his attacks on Arminianism, Price asserts that Arminians themselves are not saved and therefore cannot be called "brother." What Price is doing therefore is elevating Arminianism into a heresy. But, as we have mentioned, the reason why any heresy damns is because it prevents a person from repenting of their sins and putting their trust in Jesus Christ. But what impediment to this action of repentance and faith do modern-day popular evangelical Arminianism pose? Price suggests that Arminianism denies Sola Gratia (Grace alone) and thus make salvation dependent on faith and work (using the idiosyncratic term "conditionalism" to that end). While that is the logical conclusion of Arminianism, this is not the teaching of Wesley's Evangelical Arminianism and most devolved strains of popular ArminianismS. Upon what basis are we to say that a person cannot be inconsistent? Price seems to suggest that we are to judge a person based on the logical conclusion of his (incoherent and contradictory) beliefs. But is it possible for anyone to be inconsistent? Again, are we perfectionists? Yes, a person OUGHT to be consistent. Yes, a person OUGHT to be fully biblical. But OUGHT is not IS. Just because something OUGHT to be does not make it the case.

Thus Price errs in claiming that Arminians are "adding conditions and works to grace." Most of them do not do so, and just because they logical OUGHT to do so if they are consistent does not imply they have done so. Again, one should discover what any self-professed Arminian actually believes before consigning them to hell, and disowning them as brothers, and one should not be hasty in doing either! Likewise, Price errs in claiming that those who are willing to call an Arminian a brother is saying that the "false gospel of conditionalism" is a "legitimate gospel." First, there is no such term as "conditionalism," neither is there a need for that term, so stop making things up. Second, the Gospel is not primarily about right doctrine. Right doctrine protects and informs the Gospel, while false doctrine diminishes the Gospel and heresies impedes the Gospel. There is no such thing as a "Gospel of Calvinism" neither is there a "false gospel of conditionalism." Third, nobody is saying that Arminianism in any variety is true, so such statements made by Price is a straw man, and I really really detest straw men!


As I have said, I have no wish to defend anyone or everyone who self-identifies as "Calvinist, Reformed etc." But I do not believe that Price is telling the truth in charging that many Calvinists are endorsing a false gospel. Again, what is the Gospel? It seems that for Price, either he believes that the Gospel is belief in Calvinism (therefore non-Calvinists are damned), or that he holds to perfectionism in doctrine, so that one is NOT allowed to be inconsistent and still be saved. Either option is wrong. The former is the error of Hyper-Calvinism, and the latter perfectionism. But Arminanism is heresy, you say. Well, Classical Arminianism is heresy, but Evangelical Arminianism is not. And just because a teaching is heresy does not mean that those who identify as such are consistent. Due to these reasons, most Calvinists have always held that we can call Arminians "brother," save those that hold to Classical Arminianism. And due to these reasons too, Price is in error in his attack against those of us who disagree, and in error against his brothers who are not Calvinists but yet have put their full trust in Jesus for their salvation.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

On Survival blogs

[Note: This is a random thought and the closest link to anything is here]

"Survival blogs" is the informal name given to blogs (or whatever other more contemporary social media platform) in which someone who has suffered some measure of abuse or neglect, spiritually, emotionally or otherwise, within the context of any particular movement or institution (e.g. church), decided to vent out the hurt and frustration he or she has suffered on that media platform. The whole idea of "survival blog" is to air one's grievances and hopefully able to form an online community of fellow sufferers, such that there will be catharsis in the sharing of one's grievances and a feeling of community and solidarity with "fellow sufferers." Such communities by their very nature exists around their common grievance, to the extent that such is their raison d'etre. Remove the grievance, and the community as such ceases to exist.

As we can see in the description, "survival blogs" exists for nurturing grievances against those who are perceived, rightly or wrongly, to wrong them. Emotions tend to run high since the abuse (if there is) is taken very personally. Objectivity tend to fly out of the window in "survival blogs," regardless of how objective the participants attempt to be. For how can anything positive be said about the object of such anger? With the removal of objectivity comes the demonization of anything related to the object of contempt. If the abuser defends X, X must therefore be wrong. If the abuser attacks Y, Y is probably correct. If the abuser promotes a speaker Z, Z must be evil in like manner as the abuser, and so on and so forth.

Now, "survival" communities might claim that they are examining the errors of those that critiqued. And certainly we cannot commit the genetic fallacy and claim that their critiques are always wrong. Even more than that, we cannot claim that criticism itself is wrong, for polemics (rightly done) is merely contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). To make the situation even more complicated, just because someone has been abused and wronged does not imply that the person function as part of the "survival" community, for not everyone who is hurt is out to focus on one's grievance leading to bitterness. How then does one discern who is a "survivalist" as opposed to someone just engaging in biblical apologetics and discernment, since none of us are privy to the hearts of Man?

One way of discerning between the two lies in the focus of their respective writings. A "survivalist" focuses on airing one's grievances. Thus, a central preoccupation lies in their personal grievances and against those who are seen to have abused them. In solidarity with other "survival blogs," they might pick up the grievances of others and vicariously take offence against these other abusers. The tone of their writings is overwhelmingly negative and bitter. Those which stoop to ad-hominem arguments immediately manifest themselves as "survival blogs," but even those that do not stoop to that level are not any better. Christian "survival blogs" are not truly interested in wrestling with the theological issues involved in theological topics (e.g. ESS, Gender issues), but rather in a classic tale of the tail wagging the dog, the theology of those who practice what they deem to be abusive behavior (real or imagined) is definitely wrong, and whoever puts forward as much as a semi-coherent critique gets their immediate support. Plus points for accusations of heresy against the "bad guys."

Therefore, if a blog is (1) overwhelmingly negative in tone, (2) focused on only a few issues which correlates to the issue held by the main persons the participants have negative feelings towards, (3) possibly manifested in ad-homenem arguments, or (4) putting forward shallow argumentations, coupled with (5) a refusal to wrestle with the actual theological topics, then one has just found a "survival blog." Of course, one should not fall into the genetic fallacy and discount them outright, yet knowing that such blogs and persons are of the "survival" type, one should be extremely cautious of anything they say, as there is a very high chance they are wrong in whatever they are writing about. This is of course not to mention that these people are sinning in their actions. Even if their grievances are legitimate, they are supposed to deal with it biblically, and not give in to anger and bitterness, much less trashing around and wounding other sheep in the process.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

One clarification concerning Vincent Cheung

[Note:This post was written in response to someone with whom I am having a conversation. I have no wish to deal with Vincent Cheung any more than I already have. Those who have no idea who Vincent Cheung is, you are strongly encouraged to not read this].

My criticism of Vincent Cheung and his (essentially) hyper-Calvinism can be read in the following articles:

God, the Author of Sin and Metaphysical Distanciation: A Brief Rebuttal of Vincent Cheung's Theodicy

Vincent Cheung and 18th Century Hyper-Calvinism

Some practical problems with Cheung's heresies

These initial criticisms of Cheung have mainly dealt with the substance of Cheung's teaching, but I have realized that there is a need to deal with the form of Cheung's teaching as well, on this topic, so I would like to take this opportunity to be as clear as I possibly can in my criticism of Cheung's hereises.

The first deals with the issue of form. Many people have pointed out that Cheung defines "author" differently from traditional Reformed definitions. According to Cheungians, Cheung's definition of "author" is merely a claim that God is the ultimate cause behind everything. God is the "author" of sin in the same way as a writer "authors" a novel. Just as an "author" decides everything in the novel, including wicked acts by the antagonists while not endorsing the wicked acts, so likewise God is the "author" of sin in that he controls how sin works in the world. Therefore, it is argued, since Cheung defines "author" differently, God can indeed be the said to be the "author of sin." To deny that to God is to claim that sin is outside the sovereignty of God altogether.

To this, my response is the following: (1) Yes, such a definition of "author" is orthodox, but (2) Cheung has no right to redefine a technical term "author," for otherwise anyone can redefine "sin" to actually mean "righteousness" for example, and more importantly, (3) Cheung is teaching more than "God is the ultimate cause of sin." Thus, in form, Cheung is not actually heretical but rather subversive of established terminology, which he has no right to redefine as he wishes. With that hopefully out of the way, we can go on to the actual content, and not be waylaid by the refrain "But, but... Cheung defines 'author' differently." Yes, I do know that, and I am here putting this objection to bed! Cheung's redefinition of "author" is divisive, but it is not what makes him a heretic.

When Cheung calls God "the author of sin," he is claiming more than God is the ultimate cause of sin. Rather, Cheung is claiming that God is the only real cause of every thing that happens. As I have shown in the first article critiquing his idea of "metaphysical distanciation," for Cheung any agency or second causes is under the direct control of God. Cheung does not deny the existence of second causes, which is another statement people seem to think that I have made. No, Cheung affirms the existence of second causes BUT he denies their actual agency as second causes. For Cheung, "second causes" are mere instruments. As an analogy, let us assume that there is an android which I have programmed to think in a certain way, utilizing a complex code for it to function almost like a human being. In this scenario, the coder is like God, the android is like Man, and the program God's sovereign control. When the android (Man) does something, it does so because the coder (God) has told it to do so, even though the coder (after coding) has no direct control over the android. Cheung's view of "secondary causes" is like this scenario, whereby Cheung's god codes sin into the programming, but because the coder (God) does not actually commit the sin, he should not be said to be evil.

For anyone looking into the scenario, it is rather obvious that the coder is in fact evil, because the program causes the android to do evil. The android has no agency of any kind, and cannot do otherwise on any level. One will seek in futility for any reason why the coder should be exonerated from any crimes committed by the android, when the android does commit a crime.

The orthodox teaching of Scripture is that Man has real moral agency. Man makes real decision and real choices, which God did not make neither did He make through Man as instrument. Man is not some automaton controlled by a puppet master after all! Rather, Man has real creaturely freedom, wherein he is constantly exhorted to choose God, to choose life, and to reject sin. Thus, I maintain that Cheung does affirm "second causes," but not as to their function as "second causes." It is almost like how Cheung redefines "author," so likewise he redefines "second causes" and rob them of their agency.

Therefore, materially, in the content of what Cheung teaches, Cheung actually teaches the error rejected by the Reformed orthodox that God is the "author of sin." While formally, he redefines the term in a way that seem orthodox, materially he teaches the exact error that the Reformed orthodox rejected. This is why Cheung is a heretic, and it is not because he adopts the term (formally), but because he teaches materially the error the Reformed orthodox rejected.

The Reformed orthodox teaching is that there is real creaturely freedom and real moral agency of human beings. But God's sovereignty super-intends everything, so that all things will come about as God has decreed (c.f. Gen. 50:20 among others). How is that possible? We are told from Scripture that this is the case, and the task of theologians is to attempt to comprehend that. The way that is traditionally done is through appeal to "mystery," which is good as far as it goes but it makes no progress on the topic at hand. The way that I have done this is through the analogy of appealing to multiple dimensions, as I had done in my article dealing with metaphysical distanciation. Creaturely freedom and human freedom are not fighting each other in a tug-of-war. But rather, they operate on different planes. If you ask me if this solution is "biblical" (i.e. proof-texted from Scripture), then you are missing the entire point of this exercise, which is to help make sense of what God has already revealed in Scripture. We can see in Scripture that God's ways are different from ours (Is. 55:9), and thus to use them to springboard into a theory of different planes of working is helpful for us to understand how both divine freedom and human freedom can both be true, yet God is fully and absolutely sovereign. With the position of different planes or dimension of operation, we can make a beginning in understanding how God is the ultimate cause of every thing but yet not the Author of Sin, something which the Scriptures teach.

Thus, in conclusion, Cheung is a heretic for teaching the material error that God is the "Author of Sin," not for formally claiming that God is the "Author" of sin. This point needs to be made clear, because it seems that for some Cheungians, the mere fact that Cheung redefines "Author" means saying God is the "Author of Sin" is right and proper. EVEN IF there was no material heresy in Cheung's teaching, it is not right to redefines terms and use them in (essentially) an equivocal fashion, sowing confusion and dissension among fellow believers.

Dealing with the problem of improper judging

In my sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, I had mentioned the problem of improper judging which the Corinthian believers were engaging in. The solution to the problem of improper judging, of which suing other believer in court over trivial matters is one such manifestation (not the only manifestation) is to deal with conflicts within the church, with formal church courts being the final means of mediation and arbitration of conflicts. The first step of dealing with conflicts is to engage in the procedure laid out by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17, which states:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

The first step is to approach the person who has offended you, personally, one on one. The next step is to take two or three other believers to arbitrate the conflict (not to gang up on the offender). Only if that fails then formal church proceedings can take place ("tell it to the church"). That is the process which Jesus set up, and which we should rightly follow.

Now, I confess that I am not faultless in violating this process. It is very easy when you have something against your brother (or sister) to gossip behind their backs. And it is very easy to desire to have the offender punished then to be reconciled to your brother. So I am most certainly not saying this because I have already arrived. In fact, far from it. But this is what God's Word teaches, and I myself have to endeavor to submit to it. Where I have fallen, I must repent.

The sad reality is that improper judging, much more frequently than wrong doctrine, causes much conflict within the church. While we must correct wrong doctrine, it is also imperative on us who name the name of Christ to also strive to deal with our interpersonal issues in a way that glorifies our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Is anyone of us faultless in this? I doubt it. But speaking as one who has failed in this many times, let us not be comfortable with our failures but to strive to do better. Because the fact of the matter is that we are already saved. We are already washed with the waters of regeneration in baptism, we are already set apart by God to be holy, and we are already justified and stand guiltless before God (1 Cor. 6:11). Therefore, we can and must work on our walk with God and with each other in the community of faith, in the constant struggle of seeking holiness before God.

Sermon: The Judgment of the Church (1 Cor. 6:1-11)

The sermon I had preached on December 3, 2017, entitled "The Judgment of the Church" and based on 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, can be heard here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Resurrection and Union

and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 1:4)

τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν (Rom 1:4 BGT)

Union with Christ is the description of the reality that believers are united with Christ and share in all his benefits. It is not a step in the Ordo Salutis, the logical ordering of the steps by which God accomplishes and applies the benefits of Christ to us who believe, and which can be seen in part in a passage like Romans 8:28-30. Rather, Union with Christ describes the entire reality of Christ's work for the believer, from election to glorification. It is a descriptive term, not a procedural or action term. For as an example, we are united with Christ, in his burial and resurrection, in baptism (Col. 2:12), a glorious truth that describes what happens during our baptisms, with the action word being "baptism," not "union."

With that said, the descriptive truth of Union with Christ is the thing that bridges what God has done in Christ, with what we ourselves benefit from Christ. The whole of Scripture is about Christ (Lk. 24:26), not us. Therefore, how does the Scripture aid us? It aids us through the fact of union, because then in union with Christ all of what Christ does is done and given for us and our benefit.

How does Christ's resurrection, Christ's kingship, benefit us? One way of answering this question is to speak about how the atoning work of Christ merited salvation for the elect, through our justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification. Another way to speak about it is the biblical-theological manner of union. In Romans 1:4, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power ... by his resurrection from the dead. Christ's resurrection is not just done because a person who is God cannot actually die (which is true). But Christ's resurrection also is the declaration of His Kingship over the world. Romans 1:4 is not after all talking about God becoming the Son of God in power after his resurrection, because Jesus was already God the Son and the Son of God prior to his death and resurrection. Rather, in Romans 1:4, Jesus is now becoming the "Son of God" in a new sense, as King of the cosmos by merit (rather than by right as God). As the God-Man, he now sits enthroned as King over all, both as Creator and now also as representative of creation.

As the representative of creation, Jesus in His humanity is king. Being united with him now, we also partake of the benefits He has merited for us. In the King's victory, we are victorious. In the King's glory and riches, we share in that especially at the end of the ages. And through this union, we partake of all of Christ's benefits as we submit to our King.

Most of the time, we focus only on Christ's death on the cross, which is important. But Christ's resurrection is also important, in its own way. He is resurrected, for us, and thus as we look and meditate upon this truth, we can be assured that Jesus is our King who merits all good things for our good. Amen.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sermon: The Triumph of the King, for us

This is the video of a sermon on Psalm 21 that I had preached last Sunday, Dec 10, 2017: