Friday, June 08, 2018

Response: On Emergentism and Consciousness

On Creation.com, Paul Price wrote an article arguing that consciousness cannot be a property that emerges from matter. According to Price, consciousness has the property of freedom of choice, while emergent properties are solely derived from laws of nature, and therefore do not have real freedom. Therefore, consciousness cannot emerged out of nature. Since that is the case, the more sophisticated atheism that utilizes emergentism is left without an explanation for human consciousness. But is this actually an argument that we should use, and is it sound?

With the failure of Neo-Darwinian materialism to account for higher level immaterial things like the mind, as demonstrated by Thomas Nagel in Mind and Cosmos, emergentism is the current theory in vogue. In Nagel's emergentism, matter itself has inbuilt mental properties which, when constituted in for example a human being, will give rise to consciousness. This does not mean that everything has consciousness, for the whole point of Nagel's emergentism is not that all matter has consciousness, but that all matter has the potential when properly constituted to produce consciousness.

If we assume Nagel's theory of panpsychism to be correct (for the sake of argument), would Price's argument actually hold true? I would suggest not. If matter in itself has mental properties, then it would stand to reason that the emerging consciousness would have true freedom of choice. Yes, things that emerge emerge in a manner consistent with laws, but that does not mean that the thing that emerged is therefore constrained by laws. [Otherwise we would commit the logical fallacy of composition.] Since Nagel would presumably hold that one of the metal properties [of matter] is the freedom of choice, therefore the individual consciousness that emerged will also have and will express freedom of choice. The beauty of emergentism is that matter itself, since it has not been properly constituted, does not express mental properties since consciousness has not emerged, and it is therefore for all intents and purposes without consciousness or cognition, but it can [sortof] explain how an individual person can come to possess consciousness, cognition and value.

Now, one may disagree with Nagel's emergentism, which I do. But it cannot be denied that Nagel's emergentism has produced answers that are somewhat plausible to account for many immaterial things from an atheistic point of view. The problem with Nagel's emergentism is that his emergentism is actually a form of pantheism more than atheism, with all its attendant problems. But as an explanation of consciousness, I think Nagel has done a decent job of explaining it while remaining (nominally) an atheist. It is for this reason that I think that Price's argument fails, because his argument is formulated against pure materialism, which is not what emergentist philosophers like Nagel actually hold to and believe.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

On Reformed Piety: Defining Evangelicalism (Part 2)

Defining Evangelicalism [cont'd]

The second pillar of the Bebbington Quadrilateral, Activism, seems to be something that does not actually distinguish Evangelicalism as a separate movement, but rather it is meant to emphasize one major focus of Evangelicalism. In that sense, it seems that Evangelicals of any kind are merely obeying the command of Scripture, which calls us to do good works (Eph. 2:10), at it states that "faith without works is dead" (c.f. Jas. 2:20). Also, Evangelicals note the Great Commission given for sharing of the Gospel in Acts 1:8, where we are all called to be a witness for Christ wherever we are, spreading the message of salvation to all and sundry. Thus, this pillar of the Bebbington Quadrilateral does not seem to be a particular distinctive of Evangelicalism, or does it?

We would all certainly agree that the Scriptures teach that good works are necessary for Christian living (not for salvation), and that a "faith" that works wickedness is not really faith. But in the translation of good intentions to its application to society, to what extent should the church be actively taking a stand on various social ills? Here we see how activism has shifted every so slightly the focus concerning good works. Historically, the teaching of good works and its application to society has always been rather specific. No doubt the largely agrarian nature of much of medieval and early modern European societies aided the direct application of Israel's civil laws to the context of their times. With the advent of the Industrial Age however, the rapid changes in society have made Israel's civil laws less applicable. As Evangelicalism began with the First Great Awakening, along with the revival came a renewed interest in dealing with the problems of society. Unfortunately, there is no obvious blueprint in Scripture for how that is to be done in a modern context. Christians were left with a text that seemed dated, and many did not really wrestle with how to derive sound general principles that are both biblical and applicable to their times. Instead, Christianity intellectual thought became focused on the "spiritual," while Enlightenment philosophy permeates all other fields.

Evangelical Activism thus become tied with expressing the biblical command to do good and to witness for the Gospel. (We will discuss the Gospel witness as we discuss the fourth pillar). And in this command to do good, the failure to adequately wrestle with all that is to be translated to the modern context has resulted in an Activism that is very much informed by the world and her ideas (Zeitgeist). Therefore, in the modern era, Evangelical Activism has been typically split into left-wing and right-wing movements, depending on which movement is currently in vogue among Evangelicals. In a politicized era like 21st century America, that means that Evangelical Activism becomes highly political, either on the right or on the left, as opposed to a faith that will only speak where the Scriptures speak and keep silent where the Scriptures are silent. Therefore, we have both the "Moral Majority" in late 20th century America (right), and the "Evangelical Left" of which Jim Wallies of Sojourners was one such prominent figures, both of them Evangelicals. And in the early 21st century, we have the nationalist Trump supporters on the "right" and the Social Justice Warriors and Critical Race Theorists on the Left.

Bebbington's pillar of Activism, in light of the social history of Evangelicalism, therefore needs to be modified. Bebbington had defined it as "a commitment to participate with God in his saving mission in the world." But in light of Evangelicalism's history, activism should be modified to be "a commitment to participate with God in doing good according to the world's current social notions of doing good, and to witness for God in a way that focuses on the spiritual alone." The latter point we will pick up again as we discuss the last 2 pillars of the Bebbington Quadrilateral, which are where the most obvious differences between Evangelicalism and the Reformed Church are.

[to be continued]

Saturday, May 26, 2018

"Woke Christianity," and the "intersection" of theology and sociology

In the beginning, before all the "woke" activism began in the ostensibly orthodox Reformed circles, there was some measure of unity within the American Reformed churches. Sure, it cannot be denied that racism was present here and there, an evil lurking in the shadows ready to erupt when the right conditions were to manifest themselves. But the solution was to call people to the unity of the one human race, that all Man whether white or black, "Asian" or Hispanic, were all one in Adam by virtue of creation, and are remade one in Christ by virtue of regeneration. The solution to racism was to promote "color-blindness," the theory that all should be treated alike without discrimination due to skin color. But all that has changed in recent times, and appalling filth under the guise of "social justice" and "racial justice" has infiltrated the church, promoting dissension and division within her ranks. Everywhere the new "woke" gospel went, it has provoked outrage, [actual] racism, animosity and schism. The apostles of this new "Christianity" strenuously insist that they are merely bringing the true Gospel to bear on the sin of racism, never realizing that they have imbibed of the zeitgiest, and have swallowed the redefinitions of the world hook, line, and sinker.

When I had first protested against the mission creep of the Core Christianity team, one of the responses was to claim that I was bringing politics into the picture. The accusation implicitly claims the moral high ground that they were upholding Scripture, while I was bringing in politics. More specifically, I was bringing in right-wing politics! Despite the fact that I wasn't an American, neither was I part of any "Moral Majority," nevertheless the same tarring was used against me in my initial protests. Therein lies one of the major problems with "woke Christianity": It assumes that what it holds to be true are mere unbiased and dispassionate scientific truth. It assumes that the concepts of "privilege," "justice," "equality," and so on and so forth are facts, on the same practical level as the fact that the world is round. Critical Race Theory is taken to be like Newton's Laws of Motion, and one must be a moron or a malicious racist to actually dispute these "facts."

But when one actually gets out of the liberal echo chamber and assume an attitude of objectivity, one can discern that both sides are "political," in the sense that both sides are analyzing the issues using different frames of view. The "woke Christian" is no less political than his opponent. What he claims to be axiomatic are not really axiomatic but heavily disputed interpretations.

If one therefore truly desires to be absolutely apolitical, then by all means stick purely to the Bible. But that means that one cannot apply what the Bible says specifically to one's situation, because in application one must have an understanding of the social environment where the biblical truths are to be applied. But the rot extends back even further to the hermeneutics of the Left as they distort the Bible's teaching about Israel's social polity. Ancient Israel of course was no modern socialist state, but that does not stop liberals from reading their socialist fantasies into the biblical text, with the Jubilee being one such example. I have previously did a short exegesis on the event of the Jubilee, but suffice it is to say here that the Jubilee was neither a capitalist nor a socialist institution. Reading ancient Israel as a capitalist society would be just an egregious an error as reading ancient Israel as a socialist country, but only the latter extreme has been attempted (to my knowledge) in church history.

In light of all this, the "intersection" of theology and sociology requires careful navigation of Scripture and the application of Scripture. Since politics will be involved in any specific application to society, the Church ought to make the application purely general and in Scriptural terms, which is that racism is to be rejected through focusing on teaching the unity of all Man as equal in Adam, and of the new Man in Christ. Once one thinks that bringing in other concepts such as "privilege," "equality," "equity" etc. are helpful to the discussion, one has immediately taken a political stand, not a biblical stand, and in my opinion a wrong one at that. The "Core Christianity" team therefore is supremely political, and therefore they have not been honest about what they stand for, which was supposed to be CORE Christianity. Once they have brought politics into the discussion, then they have no moral high ground for attacking others as being "political."

"Woke Christianity" thus at best is one of the many political applications of the Gospel. At worst, it is a subversion of the biblical Gospel, since it claims to make a certain sociological viewpoint part of the Gospel. Therefore, even if one were to reject right-wing ideas, one should not embrace woke "Christianity" as anything but poison to the health and well-being of the Church.

On "privilege" and the new gospel of woke activism

Here are two interesting articles on the topic:

No, I Won't Check My Privilege: The Left's Latest Pejorative is racist, sexist, and stifling of honest debate
Atonement as Activism: The Great Awokening

[RT: R Scott Clark on the Heidelblog]

Sermon: Charity and Liberty (1 Cor. 8)

Here is the sermon I had preached on May 6 2018 at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, continuing my series on the book of 1 Corinthians, entitled "Charity and Liberty."

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sermon: Waiting on God (Psalm 130-131)

Here is the sermon I had preached this morning at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, from Psalm 130-131, entitled Waiting on God.

"Evangelical" racial SJWs and their deception

In light of the so-called MLK50 Conference, heavily promoted by the New Calvinists, and which claimed to be all about "racial reconciliation" but seemingly ended up causing a whole lot of confusion and division within the church, Dr. James White had posted a response to one strongly worded article by TGC council member Thabiti Anyabwile. In response, Anyabwile posted an article stating that "there can be no reconciliation where there is no truth-telling first," to which Dr. White responded in his Dividing Line podcast here. Essentially, Dr. White's first response argued that in Scripture, all our creaturely distinctions are eclipsed by the Cross of Christ, and there is where we should go to find Christian unity. Anyabwile's response to that is to state that truth-telling is the prerequisite for reconciliation, while Dr. White's second response is to show how Anyabwile has not really dealt with the biblical text (namely the book of Colossians and especially Colossians 3-4). Anyabwile's final response thus far is to claim that his critics have been committing an "Evangelical Gnosticism," which focuses on the spiritual while neglecting the creational distinctions still present while we live as embodied human beings on earth.

Now, I happen to think that both sides are right in their criticisms, mainly because the two sides are not really talking to each other but at each other. This goes for Dr. R Scott Clark's articles on racism as well (here, here, and here), which, while true, does not really deal with what seem to me to be the main SJW argument. On the one hand, the SJW racialists, Anyabwile included, have not really done their exegesis neither have they thought about what biblical reconciliation before the Cross implies for all within the church. They have not, to my knowledge, actually answered any actual arguments their critics have put forward to them except to advance their own arguments in return. On the other hand, Anyabwile's main argument does not seem to be addressed. We are indeed ensouled bodies, truth-telling is indeed necessary before we can talk about reconciliation, and putting forward an argument from Colossians 3-4 on Christian unity, while not addressing his arguments, is in my opinion not a very helpful thing, from an apologetic viewpoint.

The foundation of Anyabwile's arguments, and that of the SJW left, is their flawed idea of justice and their refusal to accept any narrative that does not line up with what they know, a priori, to be "the truth." Facts are sadly not important for the SJW. Now, I have no idea what is the truth regarding the supposed police shootings of black people, although I have read both sides. But first, the facts are disputable and it seems a strong case could be made that they are not actually evidences of police brutality and discrimination against blacks, as is argued in for example here (written by someone who is leaving The Village Church over Matt Chandler's racialism). But secondly, the SJW left is totally incapable of knowing the difference between equality, equity and fairness. They are NOT the same. In my interactions with certain left-leaning people, before all this racialism became such a big thing, none of them could discern the difference between these three concepts, probably even if their lives depended on it! Equality of outcome (Equity) was seen to be evidence of systemic discrimination! That, is classic Marxism! On a macro scale, such confusion of equality and equity will lead one to claim injustice and systemic racism anywhere so-called "people of color" (which almost always excludes Asians) are not doing as well in society as whites in America.

Thus, Anyabwile is right that, if there is any real racism and injustice, calling for unity while ignoring such sins is to put the cart before the horse. That is why I think that we need to address Anyabwile's Marxism first. Yes, there is no reconciliation without truth-telling. But what, Thabiti, is the truth? You think you know the truth, but you don't. You have been fed lies, and you promote lies, the lies of Critical Race Theory (Racial Marxism). That IS the problem which must be dealt with, for without dealing with the sea of lies the "evangelical" SJWs are soaked in, both deceived and deceiving others, there can be no getting through to them. They have a different paradigm, an anti-biblical paradigm, which they are using to interpret the Scriptures and the world. They know a priori what "justice" is, absent from the Scriptures, for the world with its distorted ideas of justice have polluted their thoughts.

The key dividing issue is not what constitutes "reconciliation" or "Christian unity," but rather, what constitutes "justice." And the sooner we start to realize that justice is not about fairness, the quicker we can start to address what biblical justice actually means.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Jubilee and justice

“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.

“In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property. And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 25:8-17)

“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. (Lev. 25:23-4)

“If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. (Lev. 25:29-32)

What is justice? The current notion in vogue, "social justice," has been used in the sense of restorative justice, which is the notion that justice is all about restoring the offender to right relation to society. Whatever the merits of understanding justice in a restorative sense, the key point we want to notice is that such is not the biblical notion of justice. "Justice" in the biblical sense is God-ward in nature. The only "restorative" element is to restore a person's relationship to God. In a horizontal sense, "justice" in the Bible is about punishing evildoers because they violate God's law and God's commands, His statutes and decrees. Those who do good will have life, while those who do evil will face justice (c.f. Deut. 28, 6:1-3). "Justice" in Old Testament Israel encompasses both what we would call "civil" as well as "religious" aspects, and those those who violate Israel's ceremonial code were to be severely punished as well (c.f. Lev. 18:5, 19:7-8). The law as given to Israel did not differentiate between civil and religious infractions (as we understand them), and therefore those who wish to claim biblical support for supposed welfare programs should do well to note that, as if one could adopt unquestionably the supposed welfare programs of ancient Israel without simultaneously adopting Israel's religious laws as well.

Understanding Israel's law as a single whole in the context of ancient Israel should inform us of how we are to make sense of its supposed welfare aspects. To put it bluntly, to claim that Israel had elements of a modern welfare state is anachronistic. Ancient Israel was not just a nation but a theocratic nation, a fusion of Church and State. As such, laws concerning the taking care of the least in society were made in the context of Israel as the Old Testament church, where people were to take care of the disadvantaged in the Church.

As a Church-State, Israel's religious laws were also civil laws. Thus, the mere establishing of such laws for that entire nation tells us nothing about whether any other country ought to implement such or similar laws. But once this law of Israel was established, any infraction of that law is injustice in the sense of a violation of what God had commanded, and therefore any punishment is retributive in nature, not "restorative."

But just as the nature of the law (positive religious) has nothing to do with the civil enforcement of that law (retributive), so likewise those who would claim the mantle of "social justice" fail to adequately understand what this law is and what it is not. The law concerning Jubilee (a religious not civil concept) is not a law calling for the redistribution of wealth. It is rather a law given to protect people from becoming destitute. But just as it prevents a person from becoming destitute by calling for the return of ancestral land to its original owners at the next Jubilee, likewise it prohibits those desperate for money to fully leverage on what they own. In verses 15-16, we note that the price of the land to be sold is to be pegged to the number of years remaining until the next Jubilee. Thus, what is actually being sold is a leasehold, not freehold. The owner of that ancestral land is prohibited by law from selling his entire right to his ancestral land, but is only to sell a leasehold to that land. Therefore, if there is only one year left until the Jubilee, the seller is NOT to ask for a high price for a one-year leasehold to that land.

Likewise, the Jubilee does not prevent anyone from becoming rich and owning lots of properties. In verses 29-30, we see that properties that are not ancestral plots of land, but are within cities, will be permanently transferred to the buyer if the seller does not redeem the property within a year of sale. Thus, any property that is not an ancestral plot of land could be permanently sold and the buyer could become very wealthy, without any "reset" of society after every 50 years. The Jubilee is therefore not a blueprint for a socialist redistribution program, but rather a law regulating the sale of property, both protecting and limiting the extent to which property can be sold and bought. If the potential seller is desperate for cash, he is prohibited by law from selling away the right to his ancestral home, just as the buyer is prohibited by law from buying that right to that ancestral home.

The point of looking at the Jubilee in the context of discussion of "justice" is to note that any appeal to the Old Testament for calls for a more "holistic" idea of "justice" is sorely mistaken. As stated, the Jubilee does not teach wealth distribution or even debt forgiveness, but rather it is a law regulating the sale of property. Therefore, arguing from the major to the minor, any Old Testament laws concerning the call to justice has nothing to do with what many today would put under the umbrella of "social justice." Biblical justice is concerned with retribution for wrongs done, not restoration. Restoration in the Bible is a matter of grace, not law, and thus restoration comes through Israel's sacrificial system, not Israel's courts.

The Jubilee in its civil implementation is legal, and regulates the sale of properties. The Jubilee in its place in Israel's religion however is gracious, and it points towards the forgiveness of debts that Christ brings to us. But we know that it is only in Christ that forgiveness comes, not through the law. And therefore, using the Jubilee as an example for "social justice" is to confuse Law and Gospel. The lesson for Christians today from the Jubilee is to point out to us the grace of Christ in forgiving our sins, as portrayed in the return of the ancestral land to its original owner. That is the goal of the Jubilee for us who believe, and may we never misuse this great religious event in Old Testament Israel in any other way as support for the world's misguided social programs.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sermon: Kingdom Contentment

Here is the sermon I had preached on March 11th 2018, on 1 Corinthians 7:17-40, entitled Kingdom Contentment.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On Reformed Piety: Defining Evangelicalism (part 1)

As we move towards comparing and contrasting Reformed piety with Evangelical piety, we must first define these two sides. After all, both the terms "Reformed" and "Evangelical" have been used and understood in many different ways by many different people. Some have used the term "Reformed" to refer to the followers of Karl Barth, but for those who are actually Reformed, such an association with the founder of Neo-Orthdoxy is extremely repugnant, to say the least. And others have used the term "Evangelical" to refer to those who anyone who claim that their faith is very important in their lives. Or, in a very misleading and offensive move, it is used to refer to the subset of white Christian Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 US elections. Suffice is it to show that if these two sides are not clearly defined, comparing and contrasting their respective pieties is next to impossible.

Defining Evangelicalism

What is an "Evangelical," and thus what is "Evangelicalism"? Historically, a claim can be made that "evangelical" refers to all Protestant Christians who believe, like Luther, that justification is by faith alone (Sola Fide), since Lutherans were first called "evangelicals" (German evangelische) as they focus on the Gospel of free grace. However, words and the connotation of words change over time. At least in the English-speaking world, Lutherans are called "Lutherans." The term "evangelical" in English parlance came to denote a trans-denominational movement that begun during the time of the 18th century First Great Awakening. Prior to the First Great Awakening, each denomination and church body does its own thing and they do not generally work together. During and after the First Great Awakening, many Christians who believe in the Gospel had decided that denominational differences were not worth fighting over to the point of non-cooperation in ministry, and therefore there is a need to join together to proclaim the Gospel. We must recognize that, prior to the First Great Awakening, the state of Protestant Christianity lies in its various confessional traditions (e.g. Presbyterian, Anglican, Congregationalist, Dutch Reformed, Swiss Reformed, Lutheran etc.), with each tradition proclaiming itself to be the visible representation of the true church in its particularly locality, and all other local churches are to join her or be guilty of schism.

Evangelicalism therefore must be seen as both a creature and a creation of the First Great Awakening. Evangelicalism must likewise partake of some elements of the trans-denominational perspective of the leaders of the First Great Awakening, and all subsequent evangelical revivals. Evangelicalism therefore cannot be reduced to merely a doctrinal standpoint, but it is rather a social and religious phenomenon. It is not enough to ask what are the doctrines all Evangelicals hold to, but rather to ask what are the practices also of the leaders of historical Evangelicalism.

In this light, British historian David W. Bebbington, in his seminal work Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London, UK: Unwin Hyman, 1989) gave us four points to describe Evangelicalism (both Old and New). Known as the "Bebbington Quadrilateral," these four points are: Conversionism (a focus on the necessity of each person to individually turn to Christ in faith for salvation), Activism (a commitment to participate with God in his saving mission in the world), Biblicism (a devotion to the Bible as the Word of God written for all of faith), and Crucicentrism (a focus on Jesus Christ and the substitutionary atonement of Christ for sins) [Bebbington, 5-17]. Academia by and large has agreed with Bebbington's four pillars of Evangelicalism, even though Bebbington's insights have for the most part yet to filter down to the churches.

The Bebbington Quadrilateral however has to be modified in light of the differences between the churches before and after the First Great Awakening. The first pillar, Conversionism, has to be modified to "a focus on the necessity of each person to individually turn to Christ in faith for salvation, with the necessity of a recollection of a personal conscious experience in doing so." The reason for this modification is that Evangelicalism has always rejected the notion of regenerate covenant children being raised in the faith, but who have not felt a single day apart from Christ, and whose lives are not filled with great spiritual experiences. That was why the congregationalists in Puritan New England had trouble with the spiritual lives of the second and third generation puritans to the extent that Solomon Stoddard (Jonathan Edwards' grandfather) instituted the Halfway Covenant. The New England Puritans had developed an imbalanced experimental Christianity whereby believers are to recount some spiritual experience whereby they have trusted Christ for their salvation. Now, this was not yet the emotional decisionism of Charles Finney and his part in the Second Great Awakening, for believers were not asked to produce a specific conversion experience. However, evidence of spiritual life was to be sought in having some form of crisis resulting in spiritual conversion to God. The half-way covenant came about because so many second and third generation Puritans did not possess that crisis-faith experience and therefore were not admitted into church membership and the Lord's Supper, despite how orthodox they were in their profession of faith. What happens when these non-communicant members desire to present their children for baptism? The half-way covenant was Stoddard's way of promoting a "half-way" whereby these second and third generation Puritans could be admitted to the Lord's Supper and have their children baptized if they were orthodox in doctrine and not scandalous in behavior, even though they were not considered full members of the church (officially non-communicant members who partake of Holy Communion!)

Jonathan Edwards, as one of the major leaders of the First Great Awakening, ultimately chose to reject the Halfway covenant which his grandfather had instituted. Edwards rejected the Halfway Covenant not by accepting that covenant children might not have a radical faith experience, but rather by biting the bullet and insisting that covenant children without a faith experience should be regarded as unbelievers. Thus, one can be orthodox in doctrine and godly in life, but if a conversion experience cannot be shown, he is to be regarded as a heathen! It is only a matter of time before the conversion experience become a conversion decision experience, which Charles Finney popularized in his anxious bench, and Billy Graham with his altar call.

The first pillar of Evangelicalism, Conversionism, is thus to be modified to a necessity of a conversion experience. The Old Evangelicalism, the Evangelicalism of the First Great Awakening, only insisted on some intense spiritual experience sometime in one's life, and is therefore more orthodox than the experience called for in Finney's anxious bench and Graham's alter call. Yet for both Old and New Evangelicalism, conversion experience, and spiritual experiences in general are considered vital for a genuine Christian life, apart from which a person no matter how orthodox and godly is considered dead.

[to be continued]

Sunday, March 18, 2018

On Reformed Piety

What is Reformed piety? Or is there such a thing as Reformed piety, as distinct from Evangelical piety? For those of us who do not identify as "Evangelicals," and that even before the term has become politicized during and after the election of US President Donald Trump, we do see a difference between Reformed piety and Evangelical piety. We do this, not out of a blind following of tradition, but because of what we see as being taught in Scripture and in light of the implications of Scripture.

It might be charged that such a statement in itself is schismatic in nature. In response, it must be said that we do not seek to break fellowship, but rather we seek to be truthful, and not pretend that there is fellowship and unity where none actually exist. Is it truthful to claim unity when in reality unity of praxis does not exist? Are we to be like the crowd marveling at the Emperor's (non-existent) new clothes? So likewise, the charge of division and schism presupposes what I explicitly deny, and thus the charge is vacuous.

Where then do I see Reformed piety as being distinct from Evangelical piety? I see Reformed piety as distinct from Evangelical piety in the following areas:

  1. The priority aspects in Christianity
  2. Views on Bible and Tradition
  3. Views on the Means of Grace
  4. Views on the Church
  5. Views on the Moral Law and especially the Fourth Commandment
  6. Views on worship

In subsequent posts, as I have the free time to do so, I will elaborate on these points and compare and contrast Reformed piety to Evangelical piety on these matters.

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. ...

[more]

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.

[Source]