Monday, October 26, 2015

Hodge: In what sense is Christ present in the Lord's Supper

It [the body and blood of Christ] is present to the mind, not to our bodies. It is perceived and received by faith and not otherwise. He is not present to unbelievers. By presence is meant not local nearness, but intellectual cognition and apprehension, believing appropriation, and spiritual operation. The body and blood are present to us when they fill our thoughts, are apprehended by faith as broken and shed for our salvation, and exert upon us their proper effect. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3:642)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

R Scott Clark on conditions in the covenants and the topic of sanctification

Dr. R Scott Clark discussed the topic of sanctification with his pastor Chris Gordon of Escondido URC in his latest Heidecast, number 98, here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Musings: Do RCs believe in faith as mere assent?

One issue which I find puzzling is that many Reformed theologians claim that in Roman Catholicism, faith is defined as knowledge and assent, while Protestantism defines faith as including knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus) and trust (fiducia). Now that might be in interaction with Counter-Reformation apologist Robert Bellarmine, who is certainly a valid opponent and a premier scholar against the Reformation. But supposing that Bellarmine did in fact teach faith as consisting of mere assent, it only proves that at least a number of RC theologians taught thus. In practice, it does not seem to me that such is the case even in Tridentine Catholicism.

Consider the issue of implicit faith (fides implicita). In implicit faith, the parishioner is not required to have any knowledge whatsoever, but wholly assents and trusts that whatever the church says or teaches is true. We note here that there is indeed trust, but such is blind trust in the veracity of Rome, thus fiducia in ecclesia (trust in the church) and Sola Ecclesia (the Church alone). Furthermore, it is not as if Roman Catholics are called to merely trust the Roman Church, but rather they are called to trust in Christ, through the mediation of the Roman Church. Statement 154 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Catholics are to be "trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed," thus showing forth that the assertion that Roman Catholicism denies fiducia is rather doubtful.

It seems therefore that in Roman Catholicism, faith is defined as assent and trust, with knowledge being optional. Now of course the claim can be made that what Protestant theologians mean by fiducia is different from what Rome means by trust, but that is really besides the point. The point is that Rome does in fact believe in fiducia- that one should place one's trust in God. That such trust is to be worked out through the mediation of Rome shows the difference between theirs and our understanding of trust, but it cannot be denied that they do embrace some version of the necessity of trusting in God.

In conclusion, it is best to not say that Roman Catholicism believes in faith as mere assent, but rather as blind assent. They do "trust" in God, but it is a God who is essentially unknown and made known only through Rome's mediation. Faith therefore in the Roman scheme has two parts: blind assent, and blind trust, and not mere intellectual assent.

Hodge on Faith and Reason

A fifth question is, Whether the objects of faith may be above, and yet not contrary to reason? The answer to this question is to be in the affirmative, for the distinction implied is sound and almost universally admitted. What is above reason is simply incomprehensible. What is against reason is impossible. It is contrary to reason that contradictions should be true; that a part should be greater than the whole; that a thing should be and not be at the same time; that right should be wrong and wrong right. It is incomprehensible how matter attracts matter; how the mind acts on the body, and the body on the mind. … The great body of Christian theologians have ever taken the ground that the doctrines of the Bible are not contrary to reason, although above it. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3:81)

While, therefore, the objects of faith as revealed in the Bible are not truths of the reason, i.e., which the human reason can discover, or comprehend, or demonstrate, they are, nevertheless, perfectly consistent with reason. They involve no contradictions or absurdities; nothing impossible, nothing inconsistent with the intuitions either of the intellect or of the conscience; nothing inconsistent with any well established truth, whether of the external world or of the world of mind. On the contrary, the contents of the Bible, so far as they relate to things within the legitimate domain of human knowledge, are found to be consistent, and must be consistent, with all we certainly know from other sources than a divine revelation. … (3:82)

For Hodge, theological truths can be above reason, but never against reason, and he uses examples of logical contradictions as examples of what constitutes being "against reason."

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Charles Hodge and the republication in the Mosaic covenant

Besides this evangelical character which unquestionably belongs to the Mosaic covenant, it is presented in two other aspects in the Word of God. First, it was a national covenant with the Hebrew people. In this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic Law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it was a legal covenant. It said, “Do this and live.” Secondly, it contained, as does also the New Testament, a renewed proclamation of the original covenant of works. It is as true now as in the days of Adam, it always has been and always must be true, that rational creatures who perfectly obey the law of God are blessed in the enjoyment of his favour; and that those who sin are subject to his wrath and curse. Our Lord assured the young man who came to Him for instruction that if he kept the commandments he should live. And Paul says (Rom. ii.6) that God will render to every man according to his deeds; tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil; but glory, honour, and peace to every man who worketh good. This arises from the relation of intelligent creatures to God. It is in fact nothing but a declaration of the eternal and immutable principles of justice. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:375)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Supralapsarianism, and Charles Hodge's objections to it

The debate between Intralapsarianism and Suprelapsarianism concerns the logical order of God's decrees. God as the sovereign Ruler plans for everything, and thus the various decrees of God are God's directives to cause various and diverse things to happen in space-time. Thus, there is the decree of creation, which results in the creation of this universe, and the decree of the incarnation, where the Son willingly came down and was born of a woman into this world, which is part of the overall decree of redemption. Since in eternity (past) time doesn't really exist, the order of the decrees must be logical, not temporal. In other words, what is the best way we can understand how God's decrees relate to each other?

In the Supralapsarian scheme, the decree of election and reprobation comes before (thus "supra-") the decree of the Fall. Thus, the order is (1) the decree of election and reprobation, (2) the decree to cause the Fall, and (3) the decree to create. Whereas, in the Infralapsarian scheme, the decree of election and reprobation comes after (thus "infra-") the decree of the Fall. Thus, the order would be (1) the decree to create, (2) the decree to cause the Fall, (3) the decree of election and reprobation. It is to be noted that the logical order of the decree is just that: logical. It therefore does not concern the execution of the decrees in space-time, one thing which we need to take note when we look at the Reformed Confessions none of which have dealt specifically with anything other than the execution of the decrees.

Charles Hodge in pages 318-319 of volume 2 of his Systematic Theology lists down his objections to Surpralapsarianism. I think them singularly unconvincing and would like to provide a response to his objections.

Hodge's first objection is that Supralapsarianism involves a contradiction because the objects of the decree of election and reprobation need to exist, for nothing can be determined of a non-entity. This objection however is to confuse the idea of a logical order with the execution of that order in space-time. Individuals can be thought of before they have existed, in fact they must be for after that this is how any piece of fiction is made: One conceives of the plot and the characters before writing them down. One does not (at least in a good plot) introduce a character without any idea of what that character would be doing in the story, so how much more are individual humans before the Creator God, the Author of the greatest story ever told?

The second objection argues from the principle that "where there is no sin there is no condemnation" to show that foreordination unto death must contemplate its objects as being already sinful. But this fails to distinguish between the aspects of preterition (passing-by) and condemnation. Reprobation in the orthodox scheme is never equivalent to election. Election is God's active work to save sinners, while reprobation is God's passive work in leaving sinners in their sin. [Note: the use of the word "sinners" here is the language of the execution of those decrees]. The decree of reprobation therefore includes their preterition, and then only after that, their subsequent condemnation. No reprobate is ever condemned apart from consideration of his sins, and thus, while we agree that where there is no sin there is no condemnation, we disagree that this has anything to say about the decree of reprobation, which is primarily about preterition, which does lead to damnation but is not damnation per se.

Hodge's third objection is that the language of Romans 9:9-21 is that the "'mass' out of which some are chosen and others left, is the mass of fallen men" (2:318). But this again confuses the logical order of the decree with the execution of that order, which, as the scholar Robert Reymond has pointed out, is always the inverse of the logical order of the decree. His fourth objection is that creation in the Bible is never represented as a means to execute the purposes of election and reprobation, but that to me is a strawman. Creation has its own penultimate telos, but we are talking about how these decrees relate to each other logically, not whether these decrees have legitimate penultimate purposes different from each other. The decrees of God are not just towards one goal only, but many goals, all of which are non-exclusive. After all, the desire to glorify the Son is not mutually exclusive to the desire to save some sinners to eternal life in Christ. Similarly, the desire to manifest His glory in Creation is not mutually exclusive from the desire to glorify Himself through redemption.

The final objection given is that Supralapsarianism is inconsistent with the portrayal of God as a God of mercy and justice, since in Supralapsarianism individuals are condemned to "misery and eternal death" as "innocents." First of all, this confuses preterition and condemnation. Secondly, since in the Infralapsarian scheme, God permitted or passively caused the Fall which affects all subsequent "innocents," the Infralapsarian scheme is not superior to the Supralapsarian scheme in dealing with the topic of theodicy ("Why evil exists").

Hodge of course supports the Infralapsarian position. But if that is treated as the logical order of God's decrees, then it seems that election and reprobation only come about because of sin, and therefore they are contingent upon sin occurring. In the Supralapsarian scheme, the allowance of sin serves the purposes of election and reprobation, whereas in the infralapsarian scheme, election and reprobation are reactions to sin. This seems to me troubling because of what that implies for our understanding of God's desire to save us. To put it practically and somewhat simplistically for simple believers, are we saved because God has always desired to save us (Supralapsarianism), or that God desires to save us only when it appears we are falling away (Infralapsarianism)?

I mentioned that we need to decide on the best way we are to understand God's decrees as they relate to each other. The best way to relate them is to look for the ultimate purpose of God, which is His own glory, and then locate each decree in the order towards the promotion of God's glory. After all, God desires to glorify Himself, and therefore the best way to relate them is to put them in an order towards that same goal. Before time began, God who works all things for His own glory will plan for that to happen, thus we perceive the logical order of God's decrees accordingly. God of course will execute these decrees in "time," and thus in the execution we see the election and reprobation of sinners after they have sinned in Adam. Thus, we understand a logical order, and an order of execution. All of these intellectual exercises are for us to be consistent in our theology, and thus make us understand that God has always desired to save us, which did not begin only after Adam and Eve fall.

Charles Hodge against Occasionalism

A third form of necessity includes all those theories which supersede the efficiency of second causes, by referring all events to the immediate agency of the first cause. This of course is done by Pantheism in all its forms, ... According to all these views, God is the only agent; all activity is but different modes in which the activity of God manifests itself.

The theory of occasional causes leads to the same results. According to this doctrine, all efficiency is in God. Second causes are only the occasions on which that efficiency is exerted. Although this system allows a real existence to matter and mind, and admits that they are endowed with certain qualities and attributes, yet these are nothing more than susceptibilities, or receptivities for the manifestation of the divine efficiency. They furnish the occasions for the exercise of the all-pervading power of God. Matter and mind are alike passive: all the changes in the one, and all of the appearance of activity in the other, are due to God’s immediate operation. (Charles Hodge, Systematc Theology, 2:281-2)