Monday, January 18, 2021

Letham, God, Essence and Energies

I am using the following terms thus: essence refers to who God is ..., and nature to what God is like. When we think of the divine attributes, we are working with this latter category. This very roughly corresponds to the Eastern distinction between essence and energies or powers. (Robert Letham, Systematic Theology, 157)

While not being an expert on how Eastern Orthodoxy exactly uses the term "energy" as opposed to "essence," I somehow doubt that Letham is correct in his understanding of what "energies" are. Do "energies" really correlate with the nature of God? Since in Eastern Orthodoxy, the focus is on theosis which is a union with the "energies" of God, a correlation of "energies" with "nature" seem to imply that Man actually become like God by nature, so we come to have a divine nature? What does that even mean?

Thursday, December 31, 2020

God, Justice and Mercy

What if God were just but not merciful? Would He still be good? No. [Scott David Allen, Why Social Justice is not Biblical Justice (Gradn Rapids, MI: Credo House Publishers, 2020), 28]

What shall we say then? wIs there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Rom. 9:14-6)

The relation between God, justice and mercy is a touchy topic, in that it affects each of us personally. Most people read Scripture in a way that favors their particular concepts of justice and mercy, in a way favorable to them. Yet, God is not mocked. We can ignore what He Himself has said, but His Word remains there, immutable and true.

Would God be just even if He was not merciful? For mercy to be mercy, it must be undeserved and not obligatory. An "obligatory mercy" implies that God owes it to the creation or creature to show mercy. Even if it is said that God owes himself, that makes "mercy" something that the creature can demand of God, just that the ground of demand is shifted to the being of God. But nobody can demand mercy of God, so therefore it can never be obligatory of God.

If mercy is not obligatory, then by definition it cannot be said that God must be merciful. Therefore, the goodness of God exist independently of whether God has mercy. That is the point of Romans 9:14-16. It is ultimately God's choice whom He will have mercy. God does not have to have mercy on anyone in order to be good, contrary to the assertion of Scott David Allen. In fact, God can choose to not have mercy on anyone and yet He would still be good and just. That is why sinners saved by grace owe gratitude to God, because God does not have to save us at all.

The grace of God is the basis of God's mercy. It is the grounding of Christian mercy, which likewise is not owed to anyone. That is why it is called "mercy" and not "entitlement." By definition, something that is of "mercy ministries" cannot be demanded. By definition, when something that cannot be demanded is withdrawn, that is not cruelty, because the recipient is not entitled to it. It does not matter how needy the person is; he still is not entitled to mercy.

That is precisely the problem here with many "mercy ministries" today, because they fail to understand what "mercy" is. Just because someone is in need does not imply that anyone, neither society nor any individual save for their family members, is entitled to any help whatsoever. The problem with many "mercy ministries" is that they should rename themselves to "entitlement ministries," because that is how they think as they go about working for "social justice." They are of course free to spend their money however they want, but they are not entitled to call themselves "mercy ministries" and so falsely advertize themselves.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review of The Son who Learned Obedience, by D. Glen Butner Jr.

I have completed my review of the book The Son who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case against the Eternal Submission of the Son by D. Glen Butner Jr., and it can be read here. While I disagree with him, I respect the fact that he actually does not trade in strawmen and more or less accurately represents the opposing side, unlike people like Carl Trueman, Rachel Miller, and Aimee Byrd, ranked in decreasing amount of truth-telling. While disaagreeing with Butner's central thesis, I can say that I am enriched by the book, and it would be good for both proponents and critics of ESS (Eternal Submission of the Son) to read the book and engage with it. An excerpt:

2016 is a year of infamy for the American Evangelical and Reformed churches, as a controversy erupted over the doctrine of the eternal submission of the Son (ESS). The ensuring firestorm produced more heat than light, with the veil being removed from the squabbling of the theologians, seen to be no different from the frequently demonized “online discernment ministries” when it comes to insults, rancor, and sowing discord among the brethren ...

As someone who has seen many misrepresentations of ESS over the years, it is refreshing to read Butner’s book, a book which actually listens to what ESS proponents are actually saying and attempts to engage them. The shift in focus to the issue of the will of God is a welcome advance in what could be a more constructive dialogue on the issue.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Glen Butner concerning EFS

I am currently working on a book review of Glen Butner's book on the topic of ESS. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the book which is well apprreciated by me:

Opponents of EFS have often accused those who support eternal submission of Arianism, and for this reason EFS theologians are accused of offering an inadequate theology. The accusation of Arianism is inaccurate. EFS theologians are quite clear that they are speaking of the divine persons when they speak of eternal submission, so it simply is not the case that they necessarily abandon the homoousios when speaking of the Son’s submission to the Father. This objection would only work if EFS advocates used categories like ousia, nature, person, and hypostatis with an identical meaning to pro-Nicene thought. They do not. Therefore, EFS should be seen as one of a number of modern efforts to explain the Trinity in a different manner than the pro-Nicene tradition. In this manner, EFS is more akin to social trinitarianism, for example, than Arianism. [D. Glenn Butner Jr., The Son who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case against the Eternal Submission of the Son (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publishing, 2018), 194]

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Some questions regarding Jason Lisle's ASC model of light-speed

In his book The Physics of Einstein, scientist Jason Lisle describes the theories and implications of Special and, to a lesser extent, General Relativity. Towards the end of his book, he wrote about the issue of measuring the one-way speed of light, stating correctly that all measurements of the speed of light so far has been the two-way speed of light. The model Lisle is promoting is the anisotropic synchrony convention (ASC) whereby the speed of light is different in one direction than it is in its return trip. Specifically, light could be infinite in speed in one direction, while having half c when it returns. Besides changing the reference plane, the choice between the conventional view and Lisle's ASC cannot be decided based upon current empirical evidence. So which one of them is correct?

While versions of ASC exists that might be plausible, I think that Lisle's version with an infinite one-way speed is problematic. Let us start with the first problem with such a view of light:

c = fλ

where c is speed of light, f is frequency, and λ is wavelength

Now, the different waves of the electromagnetic spectrum follow this equation, as they travel at the speed of light. The different types of waves are distinguished by their wavelengths, where radio waves have long wavelengths while X-rays have very short wavelengths. The question for an infinite speed of light is simple: If light has infinite speed, how can the different types of radiation function? For speed to be infinite implies an infinite frequency, but if both speed and frequency are infinite, then the wavelength does not make any sense, does it?

The second problem with Lisle's ASC comes from this:

E = hf

where E is energy, h is Planck's constant, and f is frequency

If light has infinite speed, then it must have infinite frequency. But if light has infinite frequency, then does it not have infinite energy? Given that in Lisle's model, the one-way speed of light from the stars to earth imply that everything we see in the night sky is actually happening now (since light speed is infinite one way), then shouldn't the light from these stars have infinite energy and destroy Earth by now? Now, Lisle could rescue his scenario by making Planck's constant variable (not a constant), or assert that the energy of a photon depends on the two-way speed despite its one-way speed, an assertion that makes no sense since the photon that reaches earth from the stars do not return to those stars but are absorbed (and maybe partially reflected) by the Earth.

Lastly, the question of direction is to be raised. What makes light move at innfinite speed in a certain direction? The reason why the speed of light is seen be to equal in both directons is that we have no reason to think otherise. Expansion of space does not help because that means that the one-way speed of light varies according to direction, whereas light coming to earth is from many different directions.

Due to these problems, I do not think Lisle's version of ASC is acceptable. Since the speed of light is fundamental to many different equations and the nature of reality, I think it takes more to postulate ASC than it is to hold to the conventional view. While ASC is not necesssarily wrong, the burden of proof is on those who hold to such theories to justify them as superior to the conventional view, not just as a possible alternate view.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Book Review: Cynical Theories, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay

What is "critical theory(ies)"? The most recent book by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, entitled Cynical Theories, is an attempt by the two academics to describe critical theories and their evolution from a secular liberal ("old left") perspective. I have read it and here is my review of the book. An excerpt:

Cynical Theories, a play on “critical theory,” is a book that addresses the issue of critical theories, from a critical, liberal perspective. The authors Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay identify as liberals, and support what they believe to be LGBT equality (p. 19), but are against critical theories and thus the addition of “Q” to the gender alphabet group acronym. In their view, critical theories have hijacked the liberal project and are destructive of both it and society. Of concern to them is the fact that critical theories are provoking the rise of an equally identitarian right (p. 259), and the attack of the two extremes on society will eviscerate liberal society as it currently stands.


Of their solution to Critical Theories with a return to secular liberalism, let me offer these two sentences from the review:

Secular liberalism therefore fails to be the proper solution to Critical Theory as it cannot justify itself against other systems. It cannot justify any of its preferences, and as such, is unable to stop the emergence and progression of Critical Theories, which all happened under the watch of the liberal intelligentsia.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Aimee Byrd, and on differences in interacting with men and women

In response to my review of Aimee Byrd's book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Tim Fall decided to fault me on one particular sentence in my introduction, whereby I clearly state that I am reviewing Byrd's book "as if she were a man." That phrase seems to be riling up some feathers, which was rather surprising since I do not buy into radical egalitarianism. But somehow I guess what used to be common sense and biblical good manners need to be defended in this current age. So here goes.

It is generally assumed in a civilized society that one treats women with more gentleness and kinder words, as compared to how one treats men. Call that treating women as a "weaker vessel" if you will, but a civilized society will want to protect women and children, and this (protect women and children) is NOT up for discussion. Part of such protection as it pertains to words is to not use strong words to a woman. One would rather play down the issue or verbally concede when interacting with women. Such actions may sometimes appear disingenous, and perhaps there are better ways society can mange such interactions. However, the notion that one should not speak strongly with women is a good general principle.

In the case of Aimee Byrd, what she has been doing in her rejection of biblical manhood and wommanhood, and the drama that comes along when she reacts to critics, is extremely off-putting. Her teachings are pernicious, but what makes it even worse is that she takes upon herself authority to publicly rebuke men and even pastors. Her aggression is like that of a man, and this is why I am treating her as if she were one. She is not teacheable, aggressive, uncharitable, and less than honest.

How does doing a review for a male author differ from for a female author? While I am not always consistent, here are some examples:

Typical reviewing of a male author

Typical reviewing of a female author

This reviewer suspects a greater fidelity to this hermeneutic due to Byrd’s unrepentant misrepresentation of her opponents.

This reviewer suggest a tendency towards this hermeneutic due to Byrd’s continual misrepresentation of her opponents.

After all, if the response to a critical review alleging misrepresentation is to double-down on those charges, then either Byrd is dishonest, or she embraces a reader-response hermeneutic wherein she gets to decide what a text really mean.

This suspicion comes about because Byrd fails to perceive her misrepresentations even after they had been pointed out to her. Since the charge of misrepresentation was clear, the only option possible is for her to embrace some version of reader-response hermeneutic where she decides the meaning of any text she reads.

One wonders just how bad is Byrd’s capability at comprehension, that she cannot even understand what Piper is plainly saying

Byrd is therefore misrepresenting Piper in what he is plainly saying.

For a book that claims to be a rejection of biblical manhood and womanhood, and a “recovery” from it, Byrd surprisingly misrepresents biblical manhood and womanhood throughout her entire book

While portraying itself as a biblical rejection and “recovery” away from biblical manhood and womanhood, Byrd sadly misrepresents it throughout her book.

Naselli in his review mentioned that Byrd has misinterpreted ESS, but she refuses to listen. Again, either she is a dishonest woman, or she embraces a reader-response hermeneutic. I leave it up to the readers to judge for themselves.

Naselli in his review mentioned that Byrd has misrepresented ESS, but she has not corrected her mistake. Supposing that she comprehends his word, the most charitable interpretation is that she is embracing a reader-response hermeneutic in her interpretation.

In conclusion, while Byrd does have a few legitimate grievances over some practices in the wider church, her book is soaked through with an unbiblical hermeneutic and unbiblical interpretations of the biblical texts.

In conclusion, while Byrd does have a few legitimate grievances over some practices in the wider church, her book is filled with an unbiblical hermeneutic and unbiblical interpretations of the biblical texts.

She is less than honest about her opponents, constantly misrepresenting them and doubling down on her misrepresentations when confronted about it.

She continues to misrepresent her opponents even after being corrected over it.

When I asked if one should be rough with women the same way one can be rough with men, Tim Fall decided that 2 Timothy 2:24-25 is appropriate here, to which I raised Galatians 5:12. But to flesh out my response, somehow "gentleness" as defined by the modern world is the gold standard. But the same apostle who wrote 2 Timothy 2:24-25 also wrote Galatians 5:12. The same gentle Jesus who would not break a bruised reed pronounced severe woes on the Pharisees. The fact is that biblical gentleness IS compatible with being rough if the occasion demands it. In the apostle Paul's case, it was against the false teachers in Galatia, the Judaizers. Thus, we see that when it comes to error, there is a place for strong words, in order to warn people and turn people away from falsehood. It is surely illuminating that all the "gentleness" in the American churches has allowed borderline heresy to thrive under the banner of Revoice, with very few being "man enough" to rebuke them and file charges against those involved.

When error is promoted by women, in line with the view that women should be generally protected from strong words, the tendency should be to suspect failure of understanding rather than failure of character, even when the evidence is clear it is the latter. Again, this may look disingenous, but this is the best practice so far. Generally, strong words should not be used on women, whereas men should be able to take it. Not being able to take and give strong words in a man is in my opinion a sign of effeminacy.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book Review: Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd

The book review that many may dread has arrived. I have finally managed to read and review the book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd, and it can be found here. Byrd wants equality as a woman, and thus she is given fair treatment in my review, with no holds barred, as if she were a man. It should be obvious that I am not a fan of her conduct, and most definitely not of her social egalitarianism. But I am fair in my review. An excerpt:

2016 marked the year of the ESS (Eternal submission of the Son) controversy. For various reasons, ESS is somehow linked to CBMW. Certain people within the Reformed camp who were chafing at what they had decided were foreign to the Bible broke away from complementarianism altogether, including Rachel Green Miller and Aimee Byrd. Miller had written a book earlier entitled Beyond Authority and Submission, and Byrd now entitled hers Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The not so subtle dig at CBMW notwithstanding, what the title intends to convey is that Byrd sees the teaching of biblical manhood and womanhood as a false teaching which she has once held and is now “recovering” from it.

In this light, Byrd’s book acts as an attack against the teaching of biblical manhood and womanhood, and the recovery of what she believes to the better approach to the topic of not just gender roles but also church relations. The use of the word “recovery” links her to the ressourcement movement in parts of Evangelicalism, with all the connotation that it has.


Saturday, September 05, 2020

Just thinking podcast on Black Lives Matter

Over at the Just Thinking podcast, hosts Virgil Walker and Darrel Harrison, both black men, have recently addressed the issue of Black Lives Matter here. Please do listen to their highly informative and biblically-minded discussion there.

Book Review: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

The book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo is one of the books that supposed is working towards "racial justice." I have reviewed the book, and the review can be found here. An excerpt:

In this book, DiAngelo sets about describing a phenomenon which she terms “white fragility,” a phenomenon that she claims to have observed in whites, which impedes her work in addressing racism in America. Accordingly, DiAngelo sees white fragility as a big problem, and thus this whole book is written to deal with it. ... [more]

While most books have something interesting to add to the discussion even where I reject what it says, I must say that there is nothing positive in DiAngelo's work. My convictions of the extreme dangers of critical race racism has not abated after reading DiAngelo's book, and I will continue to warn against the dangers of this movement.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Shelby Steele on race

To see humanity across racial lines one must see frankly how people of other races live as human beings, not as members of a race. [Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites together Destroyed the promise of the civil rights era (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2006), 129]

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tim Keller's view of justice

Tim Keller has written an article that supposedly critiques secular views of justice and states that his view of justice is "none of those." This article seems to prove that Tim Keller is unaffected by critical theory and secular view of justice, and thus his "biblical justice" is indeed biblical. But is it?

Examining Keller's view of justice can be indeed helpful, and articles like this have done so. What irks me however is Keller's incessant desire to put forwards his view as transcending all other views ("mine is none of the above"). Whether it is saying that the Gospel is neither "religion" nor "irreligion," Keller's rhetoric is in my opinion unhelpful. The fact of the matter is that many Christians have thought about issues of the Gospel, or issues of justice (in this case) for centuries. Are those people trying to be unbiblical? Are they not proposing their views as what they believe (truly or falsely) to be biblical? Keller seems to think that he is the first one who is thinking about issues of justice with a desire to be only following Scripture and nothing else, as if no one before him has done so before.

In this light, I have prepared this chart. Keller's "spectrum of justice" is only a line, which strikes me as being simplistic. Thus, I have decided a coordinate system of two ideas about justice would do more justice (pun intended) to the spectrum of justice theories. When mapped this way, Keller's view can be placed onto the spectrum, instead of being "none of those."

Now that Keller's view of justice is mapped, it can be examined. It is not "none of those" - a term of false advertising that give the false impression that Keller is indeed above the fray.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Book Review: Trinity without Hierarchy

In 2016, a big online controversy erupted when a bunch of Reformed notables decided to attack a doctrine held by some evangelicals to be heresy. The ensuing firestorm produced lots of heat and very little light. Fast forward to 2019 and a book was written aginst this doctrine (ESS - Eternal submission of the Son). As someone who holds to ESS, this piqued my interest. I have thus read the book, entitled Trinity without Hierarchy: Reclaiminig Nicene Orthodoxy in Evangelical Theology, and did a book review on it, here. An excerpt:

I will review this book along the lines of an enquiry, instead of a normal thematic book review. The first question is: What is ESS, and did the contributors rightly understand ESS? The subsequent question then is: What do I think of their evaluation of ESS? Note that for the subsequent question I will only address those that I consider to have some understanding of ESS, or who deal with the supposed implications of ESS


Since I hold to ESS, it is almost guaranteed that I reject the allegations of this book. But do read further for my reasoning which states clearly why I reject this supposed "retreival of orthodoxy" project.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

COVID-19 and the Necessity of the Church

In light of the issue facing churches around the world concerning the pandemic and the suspension or opening up of churches for worship, here is my small contribution in an attempt to bring light to the issue at hand, in my article COVID-19 and the Necessity of the Church. An excerpt:

In late 2019, what was initially thought to be a small viral outbreak began in the vicinity of Wuhan, China. By February 2020 however, this outbreak had metastasized into an epidemic in Wuhan and soon spread across the world. Initially called the Wuhan virus, what is now known as COVID-19 (the SARS-CoV2 virus) has caused a pandemic creating chaos and death across the world, stretching the capabilities of healthcare systems to the breaking point. South Korea, Northern Italy, and New York City in the United States became the next epicenters of this virulent disease. 6 months later, this plague continues to spread without a clear indication of subsiding. Governments around the world have implemented drastic and even draconian measures in an effort to manage or halt the spread of the disease, measures that have yielded varying degrees of success.


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Truth, (Mis)representation, and John MacArthur's stance concerning the opening of churches

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. (Prov. 23:23)

Recently, Pastor John MacArthur posted an article entitled "Christ, not Caesar, is Head of the Church." The article caused a firestorm from accusations that MacArthur is endangering people, that he is trivializing the pandemic, and that he is violating Christian liberty by forcing people to stake a stand on whether to disregard all safety measure and not wear masks or practice social distancing. With all the accusations, one really wonders whether anyone has actually READ the article instead of reading what they think is present in the article.

What does the GCC (Grace Community Church) article actually say?

The article by John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church asserts the following major propositions:

  1. Christ is the only head of the church
  2. Christ therefore determines how Christians ought to worship.
  3. Physical corporate worship is essential and commanded by God ("A non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms")
  4. Civil authorities are to be obeyed in matters not pertaining to the worship of God
  5. Each of the three God-ordained human institutions (family, church, government) has its own distinct sphere of authority.
  6. Civil authorities have no right to dictate how God is to be worshiped, as "God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church" (Italics original)
  7. When one institution has exceeded its authority, "it is the duty of the other institutions to curtial that overreach."
  8. Government intrusion into Christian worship is a form of persecution and should be rejected.

The minor propositions (in the addendum) state thus:

  1. GCC obeyed the initial lockdown due to love for neighbor
  2. The elders of GCC in their personal opinion believed that the pandemic is not so severe that it necessitates the continual closure of the church.

What the article does NOT say

Before we address a few misunderstandings, we can see from Phil Johnson's (an elder at GCC) tweets what the article does not say. First, it does not say that ALL Christians and all churches must reopen church in the exact same way as GCC.

Second, it does not say anything about masks or social distancing. These words are not found in the entire article. Third, it does not say that one must agree with GCC's assessment of the pandemic. That is why it was in the Addendum and not the main article. That it was in the Addendun under the beginning words "The elders of Grace Church considered..." indicate that this was the elders' particular application of the principle of Christ being the head of the church to the situation of GCC.

The article and its critics

From these, it can be see that many of the critiques of GCC have little to do with the article. Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks in his response totally misunderstood the purpose of the article's clause asking people to sign on the statement, a fact he later learned.

Sadly, misrepresentations continue. Taking offence at one of MacArthur's remarks, Gary Ortlund asserts that MacArthur is saying that churches that do not reopen like GCC are not really churches and thus in sin. But that is NOT what MacArthur has said. Mark Lauterbach repeated Leeman's misunderstanding and also Ortlund's misunderstanding. On top of that, Lauterbach has apparently read into the article that GCC is equating their situation to full-scaled persecution. But that is NOT what the article has said. It merely asserts that government intrusion into the worship of God is a form of persecution, NOT that it is persecution like that suffered by the persecuted church around the world! Lastly, Lauterbach fails to recognize the major statements from GCC's particular application of her beliefs to her situation, which is sittuational, as Mike Riccardi has publicly stated!

The problem in American Christianity today, as seen in the blatant misrepresentations by Leeman (initially), Ortlund, and Lauterbach, is a disregard for the truth. What MacArthur and GCC has actually stated does not matter. What matters alone is what they THINK MacArthur and GCC are saying. Except for Leeman, Ortlund and Lauterbach have not retracted their blog posts and corrected their errors, although I can surely hope they do so. The problem of truth is not limited to the Liberals but also the Conservatives, both "Big Eva" and "Big Reformed." Besides the Covid-19 virus, the aversion to truth is truly endemic throughout American Christianity. How else can we explain why misrepresentations are seldom retracted, lies about people or ideas or things refuse to die, and there are absolutely no consequences or at the very least penitance from those who have engaged in violations of the 9th Commandment, both American Evangelical and Reformed pastors and theologians alike? The Genevan Commons fiasco is one such example where the 9th Commandment is routinely violated by Reformed pastors, for example. The churches in America have become just like the world, believing her own lies when it suits her!

Apart from God, there is no hope for the churches of America. She has imbibed the culture's aversion to truth, and refuses to repent of her craven idolatry, pastors and parishioners alike. Lord, have mercy!