Monday, January 24, 2022

Robert Reymond on the identification of God's attributes with God's being

On the other hand, it is equally necessary, when we declare that God's being is identical with his attributes, to resist the error of some meddieval nominalists, who held that God's atttributes are nothing more than words (Lat. nomina), so that the distinctioons which they suggest are not really present in the one divine essence. For surely God's eternality is no more identical with his knowledge, his knowledge no more identical with his power, his power no more identical with his omnipresence, and his omnipresence no more identical with his holiness than is our knowledge identical with our power or our goodness identical with our finite extension in space. God's attributes are real, distinguishable characteristics of his divine being. (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd. Ed., p. 163)

Sunday, January 09, 2022

The dehumanization angle concerning the COVID vaccine mandate

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, many countries are now lining up to promote their version of a vaccine mandate, whereby those who are deemed "unvaccinated," an ever evolving category, are to be disciminated against. Such policies are spun positively as "protecting the unvaccinated," but all that is facade for more nefarious goals. Perhaps one place we can see the mask slip is the interview with French president Emmanuel Macron who, in an interview, dehumanizes, mocks and ridicules the unvacccinated as "non-citizens" whom he wants to "piss off." Note that for France, the "unvaccinated" includes all those who are vaccinated but did not receive the booster. In other words, those who are adequately protected against the COVID19 virus, but do not get the enhanced protection of a booster shot, are to be mocked and ridiculed as being "unvaccinated."

There are many angles that one can address this farce of the vaccine mandate, but the main point I want to focus on here is how dehumanizing ALL vaccine mandates are. I say that as someone who has received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and am not necessarily against taking a booster. But Macron's interview clearly show that for many people, the vaccine mandate is all about implementing vaccine apartheid and giving certain people the "moral high ground" to openly mock, ridicule, and trash those who do not agree with them concerning the COVID vaccine, all whiile feeling righteous and thinking that they are on the "right side of history." The correct way of dealing with human beings is one, to treat them as humans. It does not matter what the issue is: If you think that one is justified in dehumanizing the opposition, then your supposedly "moral" side is in the wrong. Vaccine mandates of any kind are licenses to discriminate, mock, and ridicule anyone who does not get the vaccine or the booster. It DOES not matter whether you think someone should or shouldn't get the vaccine. Once you think that you are free to dehumanize the "unvaccinated," to treat them as sub-human scum, you are positively evil.

Part of the dehumanizing aspect of vaccine passports is the idea that living as a human being is not a human right, therefore a government or governments can take away those "rights" in order to "protect the unvaccinated." So governments think that restricting speech on the vaccine, restructing freedom of assembly, blocking the unvaccinated from going to work, is somehow morally justified because of the pandemic. In the name of "protecting the unvaccinated," or other such inane platitudes, the "unvaccinated" (which evidently now include the non-boosted vaccinated, and next time it might include anyone not taking the 5th or 6th or 20th booster shot), the "unvaccinated" are persecuted, blocked from working leading to loss of income, blocked from participating in society, and so on.

Marcon's coarse and dehumanizing speech reflects perfectly well the misanthropy behind all vaccine mandates. Whilee the COVID19 pandemic is a serious health issue, there is another pandemic at play here, and it is worse because it is not treated as a pandemic: the pandemic of dehumanizing totalitarianism (but I am repeating mysef). From Macron's insult of his fellow citizens to Australia's fascist policies, the virus of totalitarianism is on the rise, and there remains no effective vaccine for this pandemic, for now.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Book Review of Craig Carter's book Contemplating God with the Great Tradition

Baptist theologian Jordan Steffaniak has written a book review of Craig Carter's book Contemplating God with the Great Tradition, which you can read here. I had read Steffaniak's review prior but thought it best to post it here only after I have read the book myself, with myself pointing out certain major issues that I have with how Carter deals with history as I was reading the book. Steffaniak wrote about how Carter misrepresents his opponents. For me, since Carter posts broad denunciations at the start, it does not seem to me that Carter actually engages anyone. Up to the last page of his book, I was still waiting for Carter to actually begin showing us why those who reject what he calls "Trinitarian Classical Theism "(TCT) are wrong, and yet nothing was offered to justify Carter's stance.

I am obviously not in the "Classical Theist" camp. Reading this book, as well as Matthew Barrett's book, has emotionally validated my rejection of Classical Theism. After all, if Classical Theism is so true, why are its proponents totally unable to actually engage the issues properly, and why are they only interested in the burning of strawmen and committing logical fallacies?

Once more on General Revelation and Natural Theology

Thesis 5: God's existence is evident to reason, even though fallen human beings, because of sin, either deny God's eixstence or refuse to be grateful to him and worshp him (Rom. 1:20)

Thesis 21: The created order bears the imprint of the divine Logos, and humans are created in the image of God, which mans that the human mind can apprehend the order and structure in the creation, which is the basis of natural theology, natural moral law, and scientific laws.

(Craig Carter, Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism, 307-8)

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. (Ps. 19:1-2)

General Revelation is the revelation God has given to all creatures, showing them that there is a God, and that they have violated His Law (c.f. Rom. 2:15). Since it is given to all, it cannot be given to only the elites. It must be perspicuous to all, not to the intellectuals only. Therefore, as we see in Psalms 19, it is given without words, without reason. It is *just* there, intuitively grasped by all humans. That is the only way General Revelation can be truly general, not to a specified group of philosophers only.

In contrast to this, the ressourcement interpretation of Romans 1:20 reads Natural Theology into the text. For these new Thomists, General Revelation is Natural Theology, or at the very least Natural Theology is a major part of General Revelation. But where is this found in the biblical text? Where do we see in Scripture that one can derive from pagan thought true things about God? What then does it tell us when our new Thomists in their intellectual loftiness ignore the simple primitive tribes? Are we going to say that these jungle tribesmen do not have the true General Revelation at all, since none of them have even heard of the ontological argument or things to that effect?

General Revelation is General Revelation. Natural theology is natural theology, and the two are not each other. Most certainly, there can be overlap between the two (depending on one's definition of "natural theology"), but they are not the same thing. It is a travesty that in their zeal to "recover orthodoxy," our new Thomists are destroying the basis for reaching out to non-intellectuals and primitive societies.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

On the sweeping denigration of "modernism"

Throughout this book, I have argued that modern theology has lost its grip on Nicene orthodoxy becaus it has failed to challenge modern metaphysics at a fundamental level. Instead, many modern theologians have been preoccupied with trying to squeeze orthodox doctrines onto the Procrustean bed of modernist metaphysics. For them, the key question is "How much of the Bible can we fit into a philosophical naturalist framework?" (Craig A. Carter, Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism, 237)

Part of the ressourcement movement has been a wholesale rejection of modernity. In some sense, a critical examination of modernity and post-modernity (modernity version 2.0) is understandable, even laudable. That said, modernity is not one monolithic movement, just as the Enlightenment is not monolithic. The same Enlightenment that gave us Schleiermacher, Bauer, Rauschenbusch, and Bultmann also gave us Old Princeton and the Doleantie. (I intentionally omit Evangelicalism since "Evangelicalism" has become a derogatory term in much of American Refomed Christianity). History is complex, and demonizing entire epochs of history is just as errant whether it be the Enlightenment or the Medieval period.

We see in Carter's attack on "modern metaphysics" something more reminiscent of the Vatican I Roman Catholic attack upon modernity. According to Carter, modern metaphysics is essentially a "philosophical naturalist framework," and this naturalism is a "temporary phase between the fall of Christendom and the rise of neopaganism" (Carter, 237). No argument or evidence is given to support such strong assertions. Most certainly, we can trace the progression of worldviews in the Western world from one based upon some version of Christendom to a "philosophical naturalist" view and now towards a neopagan worldview. But, and this is a big but, that does not implicate all things that is found in the modern era or even the post-modern era. Charles Hodge of Old Princeton wrote with a presupposition of Common Sense Realism, not philosophical naturalism. Even outside of Evangelicalism, Karl Barth (from a Idealist position) rejected philosophical naturalism with a "Nein" against German liberalism. To assert that there is something called THE "modern metaphysic" which is tied to the zeitgeist is not an argument that has shown that it has actually wrestled with the complexity of real history.

Should there be concerns over "philosophical naturalism"? Sure. Is it possible that "modern theologians" (whoever they are) have beeen "preoccupied with trying to squeeze orthodox doctrine onto the Procrustean bed of" philosophical naturalism? Maybe. But such overly broad denunciation is extremely unhelpful and serves more to poison the well than actually deal with the issues raised by "modern theologians," whoever they are.

Instead of broad sweeping denunciations of "modernism," engagement with "modern theologians" is preferable. This kind of polemic is extremely unhelpful. After all, it wasn't a long time ago that theologians were denigrating the Medieval period. So if Carter does not like the denigration of the Church Father or the Medieval period, perhaps he shouldn't be doing the same to "modern theologians."

The Hellenization thesis and the over-reaction to it

So let us hear no more nonsense about the supposed imposition of Greek metaphysics on the Bible by the fourth-century fathers! (Craig A. Carter, Contemplating God with the Great Tradition: Recovering Trinitarian Classical Theism, 216)

The Hellenization thesis is the theory that periods of church history, be it the Church Fathers or even up to the Reformation era, have been so influenced by Greek philosophy that we need to recover the "true biblical truths" that have been distorted by those "Hellenizers" in church history. Be it those who reject the Church Fathers and attempt to read the Bible by oneself, or those who pit John Calvin against the Calvinists and those "dead" Reformed Scholastics, the Hellenization thesis has wrecked havoc on the Church's ability to be the one catholic and apostolic church, the Church of all ages. The demolishing of the Helleization thesis has been a welcome development in academia and in the Church broadly speaking. Unfortunately, the pendulum seems to be swinging to the opposite extreme, as can be seen in the recent "retreival" of classical theism, spearheaded by those who are trying to retreive the "Great Tradition," something that any Reformed Christian who holds to Sola Scriptura ought to be skeptical of.

The Hellenization thesis asserts that certain periods of Church History have seen great distortion of biblical truths by Greek philosophy. In opposition to this, the modern ressourcement movement asserts the total opposite: that the church has always been fully biblical and that there was never any compromise of biblical truth due to the use of Greek philosophy. In the eyes of the leaders in this ressourcement, the Church Fathers took Greek philosophical concepts, hammered them "on the anvil of Scripture" (Carter, p. 216), and "reforg[ed] them in the flame of truth until they were bent into a usable shape for proclaiming the gospel" (pp. 216-7). There was never any "Greek captivity," but rather everything that comes out of the Church Fathers is biblical and not tainted by Greek philosophy at all, not even an iota!

As it can be seen, the two are mirror images and exact opposites of each other. The Hellenization thesis asserts the full captivity of the Church to Greek philosophy, while the modern ressourcement asserts the full "captivity" of Greek philosophy to true theology in the Church. The reality is that both are wrong. The Church Fathers indeed are trying to be biblical, and their use of Greek philosophy is not unreflective and Greek philosophical thought has been altered and pressed into service of the Church's theology. At the same time, Greek philosophy has influenced the Church Fathers in ways thot are not always in line with biblical truth. The clearest example of such an unbiblical influence is in the Medieval Church's embrace of realism unto the denial of forensic justification, seeing justification as something that must be actually true for a believer before God can proclaim the believer just, a teaching that continues on as the Roman Catholic teaching on justification. If Greek philosophical thought as mediated through the Medival Church is wrong, why must we think that the supposed "Great Tradition" is neigh infallible in its use and modification of Greek philosophy?

The Hellenization thesis is wrong. But so is the glorification and unreflective adoption of the "Great Tradition." The current ressourcement project is moving in a dangerous direction. If not careful, it would lead to the wholesale rejection of the Reformation. After all, why stop at one's doctrine of God? Why not adopt Aquinas' doctrine of justification, merit, and the saints, as part of the teaching of the "Great Tradition"?