Saturday, July 15, 2017

Turretin: Christianity is not fatalism, and God is not the author of sin

V. … For since they [Stoics –DHC] are said commonly to place a necessity out of God in the perpetual and eternal connection of things, we place it in God himself and his eternal decree. They subject God to necessity, we subject necessity to God. … [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.6.II.5]

XVII. The predetermination of God in evil acts is not repugnant to his permission because they are not occupied about the same things. The former regards the substance of the act, the latter, however, its wickedness; the former reaches the material (effecting it), but the latter the formality (leaving it to the free will of man, which alone is the deficient moral cause). For as in an evil act, there is, as it were, a twofold formal relation (one having the relation of effect, the other having the relation of defect), God can move and predetermine to that which has the relation of effect, but can only permit the other which has the relation of defect. [Ibid., 1.6.VI.18]

Friday, July 14, 2017

Turretin: God does not will to save those He will not save

XIX. Third, if God has a universal will to save all, it is either absolute or conditional. If absolute, all will actually be saved; if conditional, he wills either to effect the condition necessary to salvation in men or only to exact it. If only to exact it, he does not will and intend the salvation of such by exacting from them an act which he knew to be impossible to man. Again, that condition will certainly be about to come to pass or certainly not about to come to pass. If the former, each and every man will certainly be saved; if the latter, God would be made to will vehemently that which he nevertheless well knew would never take place (as depending upon a condition such that it never would come to pass in this respect because he himself, who alone can, does not will to effect it). Now if it does not belong to a wise man to will anything under a condition which he knows to be impossible, how much less can this be attributed to the most wise God? [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.4.XVII.19]

Turretin: Election not based on foreseen faith

XXII. Third, if election is from foreseen faith, God must have foreseen it in us: either as an act of nature proceeding from us, or as an act of grace depending on God, or as a common act, arising conjointly from both (partly from God, partly from man). If as an act of God, he foresaw is therefore as his own gift (i.e. decreed by him from election) Thus it would follow, not precede election. IT as an act of nature we therefore elected ourselves (contrary to Paul, 1 Cor. 4:7), Pelagius gains the victory. If as a common act, either the act of God takes its form from the act of man (and so man would be the architect of his own salvation and could sacrifice to his own net, since he would bring to his own salvation the principal part) or the act of man takes its form from the act of God (and so election will be the case of faith, not the contrary). We must either ascend with the Scriptures to God discriminating among men by his own gift, or descend with Pelagius to man discriminating himself by his own free will (for there can be no middle way). [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.4.XI.22]

Monday, July 10, 2017

What is reprobation?

XVII. The election of some being supposed, the preterition of others follows. By this he [God] not only was unwilling to confirm them in good, but decreed to permit their sin. The fall taking place, he decreed to leave them in and condemn them on account of their sin. Their reprobation to this is referred. It is also contained in two acts: one negative (dereliction in the fall); the other affirmative (damnation to eternal punishment). ... [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology. 1.4.8.17]

What is reprobation? Reprobation is God's active decree to pass by some (all those whom He did not elect unto salvation) and decree them to eternal damnation. Reprobation, like election, is unconditional. As it condemns people to hell even before they were created in time, it seems to imply injustice in God. That is why Paul had to write Romans 9:14-24, as reprobation seems to be unjust. After all, how can God punish someone before they have even done good or bad?

When one looks more closely at the doctrine of reprobation however, it can be seen that at least some of the concern is misplaced. Reprobation is made up of two parts: Pretertion and Damnation. In preterition, God passed over those whom He did not elect. In damnation, God condemns to hell reprobate sinners because of their sin. Thus reprobation is not conditioned upon the sinner, but at the same time, sinners will never be condemned to hell apart from their sins. It is hypothetically possible for a creature to be passed over (preterition) but not condemned if that creature did not sin, and thus not be sent to hell. It is however not actually possible for any human to only be passed over without being damned, because all Man have fallen in Adam and thus all Man would have and will sin. Thus, God's decree of reprobation will have worked out in preterition and damnation for all of the reprobate, all without exception, and yet there would certainly be no injustice with God.

There is no such thing as a conditional decree of God

VIII. It is one thing to maintain that God has not decreed to save anyone except through legitimate means; another that the decree to save these or those persons through legitimate means is conditional and of uncertain event (which the adversaries feign). ...

IX. It is one thing for the thing decreed to be conditional; another for the decree itself. The former we grant, but not the latter. There can be granted an antecedent cause or condition of the thing willed, but not immediately of the volition itself. Thus God wills salvation to have the annexed condition of faith and repentance in the execution, but faith and repentance are not the condition or cause of the act of willing in God, nor of the decree to save in the intention.

[Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology. 1.4.3. 9-10]

Is the Gospel conditional or is it not? Is salvation conditional? The answers given by many people nowadays are incoherent, because they have lost the clarity of thought that characterized Reformed Scholasticism. Those like the PRCA (Protestant Reformed Churches of America) in their attack against the "conditional covenant" showed forth their theological incoherence as they simultaneously attacked the idea that there are conditions in the Covenant of Grace, yet will defend that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation (which would make "faith in Jesus Christ" a condition). Others like the Federal Vision will state openly that faith is necessary and thus a condition in the Covenant of Grace, then like Norman Shepherd assert that conditionality implies humans are to fulfill those conditions, thus undermining the "faith not works" principle of the Gospel and the Covenant of Grace. In both of these examples, failure to think clearly and logically result in theological error and incoherence, with further implications for the lives of believers as they are worked out (either in Legalism or Antinomianism).

In contrast to such confusion in the modern broadly Reformed sphere, Turretin's clarify shines forth. There is no such thing as a "conditional decree" or a "conditional covenant," but there are conditions within God's decree and covenant. Faith is a condition, but faith is conditioned as absolutely decreed, not as a decree that is conditioned upon Man having faith. This is the clarity we need to reject the errors in our time in the Reformed sphere of churches, and keep to the narrow path of orthodoxy.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Who is the Spiritual Man? - 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Here is last week's sermon on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, dealing with the topic of who is the spiritual man, as opposed to the "carnal" or "worldly" man.

Language and the problem of discourse

1) These Terms Are Ideologically Loaded

They’re not ‘value-neutral’.

When words like ‘patriarchal’, ‘privilege’, and ‘gender-inequality’ are used, they don’t merely describe a state of affairs: they also evaluate it.

...

What’s more, when you introduce ideologically loaded jargon, the evaluation is already assumed – it’s smuggled in, as it were, underneath our worldview radar. For example, what secular ideology means by ‘oppression’, is often different to what the Bible means by ‘oppression’. It is of concern that when this language is used, we rarely see any corresponding discussion of particular Biblical passages, arguing whether such evaluations are true to the Bible. (And when these Scriptural discussions do happen, they tend to be secondary rather than primary.) Importing this type of jargon into our discussions with each other means that, if we’re not careful, we can uncritically swallow the non-Biblical worldview.

[Akos Balogh and Dani Treweek, "Christian Discusson and Feminism: Here's What We're Getting Wrong," TGC Australia Blog (30th June 2017), here]

"When did you stop beating your wife?" For an ordinary couple, there is no right answer to that question, because the husband did not even begin to beat his wife in the first place. Questions like these are loaded questions, complete with many assumptions that attempt to sway the direction of discourse, in that particular case, into a presumption of guilt of wife-beating on the part of the one questioned.

Likewise, terms and phrases are not necessary value-neutral. Utilizing terms such as "patriarchal," "privilege" and all other "social justice" terms are likewise not value-neutral. These terms have assumptions built into them that will direct the framing of discourse concerning these topics, even for those who might disagree with them. Utilizing these terms predisposes the users towards the theories in which these terms originate, and thus it should not be too surprising for example that people who utilize the terms "social justice" and "racial inequality" tend to veer left and socialist, while those who use the terms "welfare" and "charity" tend to veer right. None of these terms are value-neutral: "social justice" has the connotation that one is righting a social wrong in pursuing it (which should also be or become illegal), while "charity" has the connotation that what one is doing is done out of love and grace and the recipient totally does not deserve the charitable action, not even if coming from the State. As is clearly seen in this example, although these terms are used to refer to approximately the same thing (from the center), adopting either of these terms clearly slant the manner of discourse concerning the subject matter.

It is therefore very important not just to believe in truth, but also to know how to believe in truth. That is also why, while doctrine is propositional, it cannot be reduced to propositions only. It is why we have to watch over the manner of our discourse, and refuse to utilize loaded words from the world without scrutinizing these terms according to the Scriptures.

Just to take one more example, the word "privilege" when applied to social situations has the connotation that the difference between those who have "privilege" and those who do not have "privilege" is a matter of social injustice that must be corrected by the use of the law. It doesn't matter even if one were to attempt to take the term out of the context of Critical Race Theory, for as long as it is used to refer to the same sociological phenomenon, it retains that connotation. The only way it could lose that connotation is to take the position that "privilege" is natural and to be celebrated, something no social justice warrior on the left would ever conceive of, and a position that defeats the entire choice of adopting the word "privilege" in the first place!

On the theological front, language is even more important, if that were possible. The classic case of the need for theological precision is the Nicene distinction between "same essence" (ὁμοουσιαν) and "like essence" (ὁμοιουσιαν), where the difference between orthodoxy and heresy is the presence or absence of a single iota. But beyond the need for precision is establishing the language of discourse about how we are to talk about God and about Christ. Without the final framework of the meaning of "essence" (οὐσια), "hypostasis" (ὑποστασις), and "person" (πρωσοπον), thus establishing a proper manner of discourse concerning the doctrine of God and of Christ, Nicene and Chalcedonian orthodoxy would be unable to be established.

Our manner of discourse can never be a value-neutral thing. This is not to suggest absolute postmodern relativism concerning words and their meaning, but rather to have a more chastened realism concerning the nature of language. As we deal with social, philosophical, theological and even scientific discourse, we should realize the value-imbued meaning of various words, and then decide whether these are suitable words to be used in the context of Christian discourse.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

On Critical Race Theory

What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Over at the Harvard Law Record, a student-run newspaper, Bill Barlow has written a succinct description of what Critical Race Theory is, here. As it can be seen, Critical Race Theory is just racism (of the "minority" against the "majority"), or "reverse racism" (discrimination against real and perceived racism). It is something that nobody who is actually interested in equality should be promoting. Yet we know that CRT is being promoted by Progressives, and even worse, by organizations such as RAAN (Reformed African-American Network).

One of the many problems with those pushing such nonsense is that they treat people as their "race" not as individuals. They do not care to actually get to know individuals first, but rather they see everything through the lens of "race" before anything else. After "race" of course comes ideology. Thus, whites have to "confess" their "privilege" all the time, and be an "ally," before they can be accepted by blacks for example. Those who refuse to buy into such nonsense are by default "racists" and "bigots," without any regard for how they actually treat those who are different from them.

Among many reasons, this is a reason why Christians ought not to buy into CRT in any form. The solution to discrimination (real or perceived) is not more discrimination. The solution to racism is not more racism, in the opposite direction. An eye for an eye, and the whole world becomes blind! The solution is have true equality, color-blindness, which does NOT imply that minority cultures are unimportant but that all (both majority and minority) are to be treated equally before others and before the law.

Even to utilize their language is problematic, because the language itself partake of the racial tones of CRT. To use the word "white privilege" or even "Chinese privilege" is already to state something in racial tones, which is racist. There is no redemption of CRT terms possible, just as there can be no redemption of terms such as "Racial Hygiene."