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Archive for January, 2009

Can A True Christian Lose Their Salvation?

Posted by Scott on January 31, 2009

1. Classic Arminianism

  One must persevere in faith to be saved.

  True believers can lose their faith.

  Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.

“The believer who loses his faith is damned.”


 

2. Antinomianism

  One need not persevere in faith to be saved.

  True believers can lose their faith.

  Those who lose their faith are saved, since they once believed.

“The believer who loses his faith is saved.”

 

3. Classic Calvinism

  One must persevere in faith to be saved.

  True believers cannot lose their faith, since it’s God’s gift.

  Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.

  Those who “lose” their faith never had it to begin with.

  God will preserve true believers and they will be saved.


“The ‘believer’ who loses his faith never really had it—or at least it wasn’t in Jesus.”

 

 

 

                Proponents of the first two approaches quote biblical references, but each must strain to explain away the other group’s biblical data.  How can an Arminian read Romans 8, then tell true believers that they may screw up and go to hell???  Then again, how can Charles Stanley read Hebrews 6 and 10 and tell unbelievers who once professed faith not to worry, that they will be saved???  Any true biblical teaching must “fit” with ALL the biblical data, without pitting one text against another and without having to explain away a single “jot or tittle” of God’s inerrant Word.  I believe that only the classical Calvinist model takes into account all of the biblical data.

                Arminians are right when they say the Bible teaches that only those who persevere will be saved, and they’re right in accusing Antinomians of easy-believism and cheap grace.  Antinomians (they wouldn’t use the term) are right in telling committed believers that they are secure in Christ and “once saved, always saved.”  But both of these views are wrong is assuming that a true believer can lose his faith and fall away from Christ.  Faith is “a gift of God—not by works, lest any man boast.”  Paul was confident that, since Christ had begun a good work in believers, He would continue that work until completion (Phil. 1).  John said that those who fell away were never really true Christians, since true believers don’t leave the faith (1 John 2:19).

 

                Scripture teaches that believers must persevere until the end, but also that believers will persevere until the end by God’s grace.  As the Westminster Assembly concluded, Christians might temporarily yield to Satan’s temptations, even to excess, but like Peter when he denied Christ three times, God will still restore and preserve the faith of the Christian, a faith which God gave in the first place!  Peter went on to be chief among the apostles!  Two biblical principles must be held side-by-side:

 

 

 

1.  You Must Persevere until the End:  God’s Requirement of His People

God does not merely command us to begin to believe for a time, and then fall away.  He requires us to continue to believe until the end, living lives of repentance and covenant faithfulness.  Granted, He does not ask for a perfect faith, but He does ask for a real faith, one that produces real, lasting change.

  Colossians 1:21-23

  1 John 1:5-10; 3:3-6

  Hebrews 10:26-31

  Hebrews 12:1

 

2.  You Will Persevere Until the End:  God’s Preservation of His People

We will persevere because God preserves us.  God will keep us from falling—not one will be lost of all those who belong to the Son.  True believers are not able to leave Christ, for Christ is at work within them.


  John 6:38-40

  John 10:28-29

  Romans 8:28-39

  Philippians 1:4-6

  Philippians 2:12-13

  1 John 2:19


 

 

 

                This first set of texts cannot be used to refute the second (Arminianism); nor can the second set of texts be used to refute the first (cheap grace).  The point that makes the two compatible is the biblical teaching that faith (while commanded of everyone) is a gift from God to His elect.  If faith is simply a human action of a free will, then it can be lost.  But if saving faith is God’s gift, then it cannot be lost.  Can professing Christians fall away?  Yes, and they will perish.  Can true Christians fall away?  No, for they are kept by the invincible power of God in Christ. The Bible teaches us that professing Christians who leave the faith were never truly believers (1 John 2:19; and notice the qualification even in Hebrews 10:39).

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The Impossible: You Must Be Born Again…Part 1!

Posted by Scott on January 31, 2009

IMPOSSIBLE – You Must Be Born Again, Part 1

visit http://theoparadox.blogspot.com/ for more from Derek!

This is the first post in a new series called “THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE: Rediscovering the Words of Jesus” In this series, we will examine commands of Jesus that are impossible for fallen man to obey, and impossible for man to accomplish apart from God’s grace. Let’s start things off with a look at the famous conversation that took place between Jesus and Nicodemus under the cover of darkness . . .

John 3:1-3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Notice how our Lord uses the language of impossibility. Cannot. He does not say it is very difficult, or that it will take a long time if you really try hard. He does not say, “You can do anything you set your mind to,” or, “Just visualize the kingdom of God, and it will be yours.” He does not even imply that because God commands something, we are able to do it. In fact, He states the opposite. He says we “cannot.”

Jesus is answering Nicodemus’ assertion that “no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.” Jesus says, in essence, “You can see the signs well enough, but it will require a miracle of God for you to see His kingdom.”
With this answer, Jesus points to the basic blindness of our fallen human nature. We are naturally blind to the things of God. We use our physical eyes all day long, looking at books, billboards, cars, trees, people, websites, nature, art, this blog. Some put their eyes up to microscopes and look at the tiny, hidden world of microorganisms. Others put their eyes up to telescopes and view the vastness of space with its quietly whirling fire-balls and stony, barren planets. We delight in our seeing, as we use our eyes to discover, to perceive, to examine, to scrutinize, to KNOW what is around us. Our eyes aid us in navigation, interpreting language, making judgments and even sinning. They are an entry way to our hearts. We use them like spiritual doors to take in the objects and images of worship that are most passionately cherished within. We are natural idolaters. Sometimes our eyes fill with tears as we witness the tragedies of a sin-saturated world. Sometimes they are wide with wonder as we watch someone perform an amazing stunt. But apart from the new birth, our eyes cannot perceive the kingdom of God. We’re not just shortsighted, we’re not merely in need of enlightenment, we’re not even simply blind. We lack the faculties needed to see it. We have physical eyes, but no spiritual eyes.
Jesus uses His flaming eyes of judgment and compassion to look directly at us. He tells us the truth: “You cannot see the kingdom of God.” With omniscient realism, He tells us what we can’t do, but He offers us the ONE HOPE that enlivens the hearts of His chosen ones. He says the beautiful little word, “unless.” Unless one is born again. Unless a second birth happens. Unless GOD intervenes for us.

We need something, but what we need is out of our reach. How does a person who can’t even SEE cause himself to be born? Causing one’s own birth is physically impossible the first time, and spiritually impossible the second time. Only the Sprit gives birth to spirit, and fallen man does not have the Spirit. Yet Jesus’ earthly mission was intended to bring about a second birth in some of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam.

John 1:11-13 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

One cannot be born again by the will of the flesh, and one cannot be born again by the will of man. The point is emphatic. It is God alone Who can accomplish this.

Jesus calls us to the new birth, but it is a call which He alone can accomplish in us. Is this humbling? It’s meant to be.

Cannot do what? The person who has not been born again cannot SEE something. See what? The kingdom of God. Someone could be standing right in the middle of it, surrounded by its greatness and majesty, but still he would not be able to SEE it – let alone enter into it. Why? He CANNOT.

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Part 2 on The Balance in Doctrine of John Calvin!

Posted by Scott on January 31, 2009

Behold John Calvin’s beautifully balanced doctrine! Part 2 by Chris de Vidal @ deVidal.Blogspot.com

I think that Scripture says that God is perfectly, completely sovereign (in control) of every event in life. And that man is completely responsible for everything that he does. People either tend to favor one over the other, but we MUST hold BOTH with EQUAL tension.

Arminianistic Christians tend to favor man’s responsibility at the expense of God’s soveriegn control. “What if I mess up this gospel presentation?? Someone is going to hell because of me!”

Hyper-Calvinistic Christians tend to favor God’s sovereign control at the expense of man’s responsibility. “Sit down, young man. When God decides to save the heathen in India, He will do it without your help.”

In my experience, classical Calvinism gets as close to the center as I have ever seen, which is one reason I love it so much. In theory (though unfortunately due to our sin not always in practice), in theory both are fully stressed.

Let’s examine classical Calvinism’s explanation of TULIP to see if this is true.

But before I begin, you MUST know that these things are a mystery to me, just like the doctrine of the Trinity! I see them reflected all over Scripture and yet I can’t reconcile them together. I just trust that, like the doctrine of the Trinity, if the Bible says so, I believe it!

Total depravity Mankind is unable to respond to the gospel unless God frees them from chains (sovereignty) and yet God will hold all mankind responsible for their depravity (responsibility) and lack of willingness to obey the call of the gospel (responsibility).

Unconditional election God chooses men based upon zero good deeds (sovereignty), and yet mankind MUST choose Christ to be saved (responsibility)

Limited atonement God applied the blood of Christ (sovereignty) to anyone who would believe (responsibility). The blood of Christ is indeed sufficient for everyone and anyone who would believe. God wants EVERYONE to repent (responsibility) and yet not all repent, or even hear the gospel (sovereignty).

Irresistible grace God calls people in such a way (sovereignty) that they will only and always freely choose Christ (responsibility).

Perseverance of the saints You WILL persevere to the end (sovereignty). You MUST persevere to the end (responsibility).

I’m not asking you to tell me that any of these make sense in your finite mind (they don’t all make sense to this finite mind), I’m just asking you to consider that the old reformers were about as close to walking down the middle as you can get.

As for you, dear Christian, if you stress man’s responsibility, don’t forget that God is fully and completely in control of all of history. With His feet up, OK?!?!?

If you stress God’s sovereignty, don’t neglect that man is fully and completely responsible for his actions. “Repent and believe the gospel!”

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A Balanced Doctrine Evidenced by John Calvin!

Posted by Scott on January 31, 2009

Behold John Calvin’s beautifully balanced doctrine! written by Chris de Vidal

You can read more from Chris @ deVidal.Blogspot.com

Behold the beautiful balance of doctrine that John Calvin handed down to us!
Arminian view: You must persevere in faith until the end to be saved.
Calvin’s view:  You will persevere in faith until the end and thus be saved.

You must choose Christ of your own free will.
You will choose Christ because your will has been freed.

You must bear fruit when converted.
You will bear fruit when converted.

Christ died to make forgiveness possible for anyone who would believe. His blood is sufficient for all.
Christ died to forgive those who would believe. His blood, sufficient for all, was applied directly to us.

God loves everybody!
God loves everybody but also, in ways unfathomable to us, hates the sinner in addition to loving him.

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked!
God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and yet, in ways unfathomable to us, takes pleasure in all that He does!

God wants no one to perish!
God wants no one to perish, and yet people perish. He must have a higher desire than His desire that no one perish.

Mankind is fully responsible!
God is fully sovereign!

I love how Arminian arguments are enveloped and supported and agreed upon by classic Calvinistic teaching! There are very few points in which we Calvinistic Christians actually cannot agree with Arminians. There are very few things that an Arminian says, in the positive, that I cannot agree with.

I think the only doctrine Arminians say in the positive that I disagree with is this: God would not command something that mankind was not able to obey, that in order to have responsibility you must have ability. In other words, “If I ought, I can.” That doctrine is NOT FOUND ANYWHERE IN SCRIPTURE.* It is a philosophical presupposition that has always existed in mankind but is not found in Scripture.

And I’m talking about the things they say in the positive, not the things they deny (things they say in the negative). They deny many things that are fully Biblical. We cannot agree there. But the things they say in the positive I can agree upon. Therefore I can appreciate for example John Wesley’s messages and the holiness that the Nazarene church celebrates.

Therefore I share wholeheartedly in the doctrines that Arminians know to be fully Biblical and wholeheartedly reject the doctrines that Arminians forget are not Biblical.

Therefore I think that classic Calvinistic doctrines are the most wholly Biblical. Hyper-Calvinistic doctrines slant too far in one direction and Arminian doctrines too far in the other. Classic Calvinistic doctrines that Calvin and Spurgeon and St. Augustine and Edwards and Piper and MacArthur and Sproul and Moeller and Dever and Mahaney et. al. teach are based off the entire Bible, not just selected proof texts. I love what Calvin found!!

* “But Chris, what about all of those commands to obey or repent, don’t they imply that mankind is able?”

No. That is circular logic. See this article.

“But Chris, what about 1 Corinthians 10:13?”

I know, I’ve looked at it dozens of times myself, trying to be completely honest with the Scriptures. I don’t believe that it addresses anyone but believers.

“But Chris, doesn’t that therefore mean that God would allow the lost to be tempted beyond what they are able?

I would have to come to that conclusion, yes.

“How could God judge these people?”

That is a good question.

It sounds wrong, but I simply believe that there must be another way in which neither of us see how this works together with God’s justice. There are simply no other texts to support your doctrine, therefore I must come to the conclusion that there’s another way to figure it out that neither of us have discovered yet.

I plan on writing on that verse at some point in the future. It’s a good verse for thinking about, but that verse alone doesn’t sway my opinion that “If I ought, I can” is NOT TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE.

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A “Shift” in the Wrong Direction…The Shift…a critique!

Posted by Scott on January 21, 2009

The Shift is a book on a supposedly new awareness, a new reality, etc.  This shift as the book tells us that everything we see and experience is from a higher “Infinite Being is the all-encompassing consciousness from which the universe was created.”  I don’t mean to rain on The Shift parade, but it is all man-made “hog-wash”.  The only Infinite Being is the sovereign God, creator of this universe and beyond.  This Infinite Being was not thought up in human minds under some new consciousness, but God has always been from eternity past, still is, and always will be in eternities future.  The God Almighty is the only infinite being that is immeasurably awesome, inconceivably great, inexhaustible, endless, and greater than any preassigned finite value no matter how large.
The Shift tells us that it is the spiritual and creative awakening of humanity. This trans-formative movement has gained momentum in recent years to the point where, today, more than one in four adults (25%) have moved forward towards this new stage of cultural awareness. 2 John 1:5 “I am not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning.  I ask that we love one another (believers), and this is love, that we walk in obedience to His commands.”  2 John 1: 9 “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teachings of Christ does not have God.”  So, there is no new stage or new awareness.  The things we have been taught from the beginning about Christ is to be carried forward to the end, not the new awareness or The Shift. 

 

New Reality consciousness means to experience new vistas of awareness and new levels of creativity. It means following your heart to express your inner joy through making your own meaningful contribution towards the betterment of the world.   Colossians 2:8 tells us this, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”  -John Piper  Also, what does God tell us about our hearts in Psalm 64:6b “…we have devised a perfect plan!  Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.”  We cannot trust the heart.  Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God!'”  Our hearts need to be examined often by God in order to remain pure at heart…Psalm 26:2 “Test me, O Lord and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” 

 

 

In “The Shift: The Revolution in Human Consciousness,” Owen Waters has woven together leading-edge cultural studies with his own discoveries about the human energy system in order to demonstrate that we are in the midst of the biggest cultural shift of all times.

 

 

This book demonstrates that the future of mankind is not just bright… it is brilliant!  Read Revelation and we will know that the future of mankind is anything but bright or brilliant.  The future for God’s people is very bright to perfect, but for unbelievers, the future is nothing but death, torment, and eternal damnation.  This is the reality of what is to come.  This tormenting future may be closer than all of us want to believe.  In Daniel we see that in the prophecy chapter 12 that the many dead will awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  He further talks about the people that would go here and there seeking out to increase their knowledge.  The implications are as we have it today, people are meandering around all over seeking a new awareness, The Shift. 

Who should we ask for knowledge?  Ask our Lord, “Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in your commands.” Psalm 119:66  It is not that we look within for great knowledge or awareness, but go to our Creator, our heavenly Father…He will give us knowledge and wisdom for each day.  Proverbs 1:7 “ The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
       but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” 

So, I will conclude that knowledge and wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord.  If we want knowledge we need to ask of our great Lord and He will supply us with all knowledge we can handle.  We do not need to make a mindless shift anywhere…stay with what is true from the old teachings.  God’s Word is never changing, always fresh today as it was yesterday.  I leave you with a reminder directly from God’s Word:

“Don’t be deceived , my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  -James 1:17

If you are looking for answers, looking for peace, looking for something far beyond what you have ever experienced, I encourage you to consider your life now.  As most people do not think they need a savior and certainly do not want anyone or anything being a lord over their life, however, the Bible tells us we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  A sinful act does not just have to be something that we have actually done, if we think it, Jesus tells us, we have committed a sin against God.  Any sin, even just one sin is punishable by death…our God is a “just” God.  However, Jesus came to this earth as God and as a man.  He voluntarily died a punishing death to atone for the sins of the saints.  This death gives us a way to God the Father forever.  The call is for each of us to fall on our knees in admittance of sin before a holy and pure God.  Ask for forgiveness of all your sins today admitting that you have been an enemy of God.  Tell Jesus you are not worthy of the salvation He offers, but you want it by His gracious will.  Ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life once and for all.   Receive by the power of the Holy Spirit a new life in Christ.  This life is not a posh easy life, but it is the greatest life.  This new life is one of hardships, sacrifices and obedience before our heavenly Father.  I warn you now that a life lived for Christ could cost you your physical life, it could cost you some of your friends, could cost you your job.  Are you willing to pay the price?  Are you willing to accept the cost of the only true life to live which is found in Christ Jesus?  I beg you to think on this hard today and if you sense a pricking in your soul, that could be the Holy Spirit drawing you in…do not resist this drawing of the Spirit, just obey and follow Him.

Scott Bailey 2009

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The New Testament Manuscript Evidence is Reliability Superior!

Posted by Scott on January 18, 2009

 

     The New Testament is constantly under attack and its reliability and accuracy are often contested by critics.  But, if the critics want to disregard the New Testament, then they must also disregard other ancient writings by Plato, Aristotle, and Homer.  This is because the New Testament documents are better preserved and more numerous than any other ancient writing.  Because the copies are so numerous, they can be cross checked for accuracy.  This process has determined that the biblical documents are extremely consistent and accurate.
   There are presently 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament.
1  If we were to compare the number of New Testament manuscripts to other ancient writings, we find that the New Testament manuscripts far outweigh the others in quantity.  

Author2 Date
Written
Earliest Copy Approximate Time Span between  original & copy

Number of Copies

Accuracy of Copies
 Lucretius died 55 or 53 B.C.   1100 yrs 2 —-
 Pliny 61-113 A.D. 850 A.D. 750 yrs 7 —-
 Plato 427-347 B.C. 900 A.D. 1200 yrs 7 —-
 Demosthenes 4th Cent. B.C. 1100 A.D. 800 yrs 8 —-
 Herodotus 480-425 B.C. 900 A.D. 1300 yrs 8 —-
 Suetonius 75-160 A.D. 950 A.D. 800 yrs 8 —-
 Thucydides 460-400 B.C. 900 A.D. 1300 yrs 8 —-
 Euripides 480-406 B.C. 1100 A.D. 1300 yrs 9 —-
 Aristophanes 450-385 B.C. 900 A.D. 1200 10 —-
 Caesar 100-44 B.C. 900 A.D. 1000 10 —-
 Livy 59 BC-AD 17 —- ??? 20 —-
 Tacitus circa 100 A.D. 1100 A.D. 1000 yrs 20 —-
 Aristotle 384-322 B.C. 1100 A.D. 1400 49 —-
 Sophocles 496-406 B.C. 1000 A.D. 1400 yrs 193 —-
 Homer (Iliad) 900 B.C. 400 B.C. 500 yrs 643 95%
 New
 Testament
1st Cent. A.D. (50-100 A.D. 2nd Cent. A.D.
 (c. 130 A.D. f.)
less than 100 years 5600 99.5%

      As you can see, there are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing.  The internal consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure.  That is an amazing accuracy.  In addition there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages.  The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000.  
      Almost all biblical scholars agree that the New Testament documents were all written before the close of the first century.  If Jesus was crucified in 30 A.D., then that means that the entire New Testament was completed within 70 years.  This is important because it means there were plenty of people around when the New Testament documents were penned who could have contested the writings.  In other words, those who wrote the documents knew that if they were inaccurate, plenty of people would have pointed it out.  But, we have absolutely no ancient documents contemporary with the first century that contest the New Testament texts.
     Furthermore, another important aspect of this discussion is the fact that we have a fragment of the gospel of John that dates back to around 29 years from the original writing.  This is extremely close to the original writing date. This is simply unheard of in any other ancient writing and it demonstrates that the Gospel of John is a first century document. 
     Below is a chart with some of the oldest extant New Testament manuscripts compared to when they were originally penned.  Compare these time spans with the next closest which is Homer’s Iliad where the closest copy from the original is 500 years later.  Undoubtedly, that period of time allows for more textual corruption in its transmission.  How much less so for the New Testament documents?

Important
Manuscript
Papyri
Contents

Date
Original Written

MSS
Date
Approx.
Time Span
Location
p52
(John Rylands
Fragment)3
John 18:31-33,37-38 circa
96 A.D.
circa
125
A.D.
29 yrs John Rylands Library, Manchester, England
P46 
(Chester Beatty Papyrus)
Rom. 5:176:3,5-14; 8:15-25, 27-35, 379:32; 10:1-11, 22, 24-33, 3514:8,915:9, 11-33; 16:1-23, 25-27; Heb.; 1 & 2 Cor., Eph., Gal., Phil., Col.; 1 Thess. 1:1,9-10; 2:1-3; 5:5-9, 23-28 50’s-70’s circa
200
A.D.
Approx.
150 yrs
Chester Beatty Museum, Dublin & Ann Arbor, Michigan, University of Michigan library
P66 
(Bodmer Papyrus)
John 1:16:11,3514:26; fragment of 14:29-21:9

70’s

circa
200
A.D.
Approx.
130 yrs
Cologne, Geneva
P67  Matt. 3:9,15; 5:20-22, 25-28   circa
200
A.D.
Approx.
130 yrs
Barcelona, Fundacion San Lucas Evangelista, P. Barc.1

     If the critics of the Bible dismiss the New Testament as reliable information, then they must also dismiss the reliability of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, Homer, and the other authors mentioned in the chart at the beginning of the paper.  On the other hand, if the critics acknowledge the historicity and writings of those other individuals, then they must also retain the historicity and writings of the New Testament authors; after all, the evidence for the New Testament’s reliability is far greater than the others.  The Christian has substantially superior criteria for affirming the New Testament documents than he does for any other ancient writing.  It is good evidence on which to base the trust in the reliability of the New Testament.

 

*I did not check the math on each of these, but the point is the NT 
manuscript accuracy is so great that no arugment should be taken 
against its accuracy.

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Coming Presidential Inaugural Makes Christ a Minister of Condemnation!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2009

How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation

 

(Author: John Piper)

At Barack Obama‘s request, tomorrow in the Lincoln Memorial, Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church, will deliver the invocation for the inauguration kick-off.

This is tragic not mainly because Obama is willing to hold up the legitimacy of homosexual intercourse, but because he is willing to get behind the church endorsement of sexual intercourse between men.

It is one thing to say: Two men may legally have sex. It is another to say: The Christian church acted acceptably in blessing Robinson’s sex with men.

The implications of this are serious.

It means that Barack Obama is willing, not just to tolerate, but to feature a person and a viewpoint that makes the church a minister of damnation. Again, the tragedy here is not that many people in public life hold views (like atheism) that lead to damnation, but that Obama is making the church the minister of damnation.

The apostle Paul says,

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves , nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

What is Paul saying about things like adultery, greed, stealing, and homosexual practice? As J. I. Packer puts it, “They are ways of sin that, if not repented of and forsaken, will keep people out of God’s kingdom of salvation.” (Christianity Today, January 2003, p. 48).

In other words, to bless people in these sins, instead of offering them forgiveness and deliverance from them, is to minister damnation to them, not salvation.

The gospel, with its forgiveness and deliverance from homosexual practice, offers salvation. Gene Robinson, with his blessing and approval of homosexual practice, offers damnation. And he does it in the name of Christ.

It is as though Obama sought out a church which blessed stealing and adultery, and then chose its most well-known thief and adulterer, and asked him to pray.

One more time: The issue here is not that presidents may need to tolerate things they don’t approve of. The issue is this: In linking the Christian ministry to the approval of homosexual activity, Christ is made a minister of condemnation.

By John Piper

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The Pantheistic World View!

Posted by Scott on January 17, 2009

The Pantheistic World View
by David Clark

 

 

Pantheists’ views of reality have several common threads. Seven of these can be identified.

1. Oneness of reality. All pantheists agree that reality is one. This, of course, distinguishes them as pantheists. Though many modify this oneness in one way or another, in the final analysis, each panthe­ist believes that God (by whatever name he or it is called) is all that exists. (Perhaps the best example is Plotinus, who actually uses the word One to designate this unified ultimate reality. In this respect pantheism shares with naturalism the distinction of believing in only one form of reality. Naturalism, which says that Nature alone is real, affirms only one kind of reality, namely, the natural world described by scientific laws. Although many pantheists deny the reality of mat­ter, with naturalists they affirm the oneness of all things.)

A corollary to this central point is of great importance. Since God is the All, it follows that whatever is real will be found within his being. Therefore, and quite significantly, opposites like good and evil coalesce in God. Or, as pantheists more commonly put it, God is beyond good and evil. Additionally, it is asserted that God is beyond personality/impersonality, being/becoming, and finitude/infinitude. What it means to say God is “beyond” these concepts is an issue we shall raise again. For now, it is enough to recognize that affirming God as the All involves pantheists in saying that God swallows up every pair of conceptual opposites.

2. The independence of God. Pantheists generally assert that the highest reality is in no way dependent. Everything else depends on God; God depends on nothing. Typical of this point of view is Sarvepali Radhakrishnan’s claim that even if the world should pass away, God would remain unaffected. Further, God is in no way limit­ed by the world. The world and its creatures cannot force God’s hand in any way. In general terms, pantheism sides with theism in empha­sizing that God is impervious to outside influence. Both of these views reject various positions (such as Alfred North Whitehead’s pro­cess philosophy) that affirm a finite God who is dependent on cre­ation. In Christian theism, although God loves persons and chooses to answer their prayers, God’s creatures cannot dictate their will to God or force God to be other than he is. God can listen to his crea­tures and willingly act on their behalf, but he is clearly not dependent on the world he has created.

An important result of this stress on God’s independence surfaces in pantheists’ descriptions of God. Precisely because God is so magnificent, pantheists wish to avoid ascribing any characteristics to him. To define is to “finitize,” to make finite, to delimit. Even if we compliment God by ascribing to him what many take to be positive qualities like personhood or goodness, our concepts limit him. We have used our thinking and our logic to force God to be this way and not that way. But God cannot be so limited. He explodes all our puny concepts. Thus, pantheists typically avoid such descriptions altogeth­er, preferring rather to leave him or it nameless. This method of emphasizing God’s greatness and independence will become especial­ly relevant in later discussion.

3. God as impersonal. Although theists may agree with pantheists on God’s independence, the two positions differ significantly on the personhood of God. Is God personal or impersonal? Theists, of course, conceive God in personal terms. God is ultimately and maximally personal; humans are personal only in a derivative, finite, and trun­cated manner. Thus, God is far more than humanly personal; he is not merely personal as we experience personhood. Pantheists, howev­er, generally argue that personhood is simply another of those delim­iting concepts that reduce God to the level of our thought.

Additionally, personhood entails twoness, for to be personal is to be in relation to another person. (You cannot live personally by your­self, which is why solitary confinement is such a debilitating punish­ment.) Since pantheism militates against any form of duality, God must rise above personality into the impersonal. Many pantheists will use personal metaphors like Father to speak of God, and some will even allow for the worship of a personal God among unlearned people. But in the final analysis, the concept of personhood does not appropriately describe God.

4. Necessary creation. While pantheists and theists both speak of creation, they mean quite different things by that concept. When the­ists speak of creation, they mean that a personal God chose to bring other beings, his creatures, into existence. But pantheists view cre­ation as a necessary event that occurs because it is God’s very nature to do it. Creation is not freely chosen; it occurs by necessity. Indeed, if only persons can choose freely and God is not personal, then God could not freely choose to create. Remember Spinoza’s statement that God “exists from the necessity of its own nature alone and is deter­mined to action by itself alone.”( Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, ed. James Gutmann, based on the White-Sterling edi­tion, The Hafner Library of Classics (New York: Hafner, 1963), pt. 1, def. 7.) This Spinoza calls freedom, but he cannot mean the sort of freedom in which an intelligent being chooses among several options. God acts “freely” only in that cre­ation is not caused by something other than God. In reality, creation is necessary.

5. Creation out of God. In contrast to theists, who believe in cre­ation out of nothing (ex nihilo}, pantheists hold that creation is out of God (ex Deo). The universe (nature) is of the same substance as God. In fact, it is God. Whether it is spoken of as an emanation, a manifes­tation, or a dimension of God, the real world is not simply like God;

it is God.

6. The divinity of humans. Pantheists naturally argue that every aspect of finite existence is an expression or extension of the divine. As part of this finite reality, humans are manifestations of God. This idea finds its classic statement in the Hindu doctrine, tat tvam asi (“that art thou”). Commenting on this theme, Shankara notes that union with God is not something to be sought. It only needs to be realized since it is already true—it is “self-established.”( Shankara, The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana with the Commentary by Sankara, trans. George Thibaut, 2 parts (New York: Dover, 1962), 2.1.14; 1.1.)   Each person contains the spark of the divine.

7. The world as a lower level of reality. Though critics sometimes contend that pantheism claims the world does not exist, this does not apply to all pantheists. Some explicitly reject this conclusion. In some cases they state rather emphatically that the world is real. Generally, pantheists try to ascribe to the world at least a rudimenta­ry form of reality. For example, Radhakrishnan says that we must not infer the non-existence of the many from the higher existence of the One. At the same time, pantheists do affirm that the kind of reality they are talking about in reference to this world is at a lower level of being than the ultimate.

If the world has some sort of reality and it depends upon God, how does this differ from theism? Theists also assert that this world is dependent and yet real. The difference is that theists hold the world to be really different from God while pantheists do not. Though the­ists believe that creation is dependent, and in that sense a lower form of reality, they also affirm that the world is distinct from its creator. (The other possible position is held by deists, who, in contrast to both theists and pantheists, declare that the world is both distinct from and independent of its creator.) Pantheists believe that the world is neither independent of nor distinct from God.

8. Levels of reality as perceptual ignorance. Though pantheists often protest that this world is not completely denied, they also com­monly affirm that it is real only from a certain point of view. Spinoza tells us that the solution to Descartes’s perplexing mind-body prob­lem is that mind and body are the same reality viewed under different attributes. Idealistic Buddhists will say that the objects of this world are simply states of consciousness. Initially, Hindus like Shankara will not accept this interpretation. The world is real from a certain, lower point of view. One should not say the world is like the horns on a toad, entirely non-existent. Yet at the same time, Shankara tells us, the lower point of view is the perspective of ignorance.

We may summarize Shankara’s claims in this way: (1) reality is one beyond the multiplicity of everyday life, (2) yet empirical reality is not nothing, (3) empirical reality is real from a certain point of view, and yet (4) that point of view is ignorance compared to the greater truth of the union achieved through mystical insight. Despite protests, the effect of this set of beliefs appears to be that the world we live in each day is not, as such, real.

We turn now to relate these historic pantheistic themes to the claims made in the current manifestations of pantheism in the New Age movement. In what ways do New Agers promote these meta­physical ideas? Teaching about the unity and independence of God is omnipresent in New Age circles. The impersonal nature of the ulti­mate is emphasized by the Force of Star Wars. The little guru, Yoda, teaches us that the Force is within each of us, just as The Karate Kid informs us that ki is within. The divinity of each person is reinforced repeatedly. For example, Jack Underbill of Life Times magazine says, “You are God. Honest. I know your driver’s license says differently, but what does the DMV know?”( Quoted in Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age (Waco: Word, 1988), p. 29.)

Since each of us is God, our innate human potential can solve world problems and holistic health can yield a higher degree of well-ness than ever before. Because of the connection with the divine, New Agers promote human potential for stress reduction, increased productivity, and personal transformation at weekend seminars and in corporate executive suites. The various elements of a “New Medicine” that taps inner energy sources are taught in several leading nursing and medical schools. The claim is that these can achieve a level of healing unavailable through traditional medical care.( See Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986), pp. 57-91.) Both soul (through the human potential movement) and body (through the holistic health movement) can achieve impressive new heights of wellness through the recognition of the organic nature of reality. Clearly, the pantheistic world view lies behind many New Age claims.

The Knowledge of Mystical Consciousness

Most pantheisms depend on mystical experience as the primary mode of consciousness. Mystic insight provides access to the divine in a way qualitatively different from sensuous experience. Seven com­mon themes can be identified in this mystical mode of knowing.

1. The abandonment of the senses. Pantheism tends to turn away from knowledge that depends on the observations of the senses. Instead, pantheists often use a mystical epistemology. But even when they use a more rational way, pantheists warn that naive dependence on the senses can be misleading. Typical of mystical pantheists’ claims would be Shankara’s statement that since ignorance is due to dependence on the senses, Brahman is empirically unknowable. Those who write in modern times, Radhakrishnan particularly, do incorporate the validity of science, which obviously depends on sen­suous observation. At the same time, they believe that knowledge is inadequate if it is based only on the senses. Even though he believes that perception has a legitimate role, Radhakrishnan places it at a lower level than intuition.

2. Two levels of knowledge. In most pantheists the minimizing of sensuous knowledge leads to some sort of two-truth theory. This view affirms the correctness (at least initially) of two different modes of knowing, even though those two modes may ultimately lead to vastly different conclusions about the nature of reality. Very com­monly, pantheists will acknowledge a rudimentary adequacy of every­day knowledge and language. But intuitive knowledge must transcend this level. Generally the intuitive is described metaphorically as high­er knowledge; one rises above sensuous and logical knowledge to the heights of truth.

The higher levels of knowledge perform several functions. In gener­al, all the pantheists believe that the higher knowledge corrects the distortions of the lower. More specifically, Shankara uses the two-lev-els-of-truth idea to resolve apparent problems in the Hindu scriptures: difficulties arise when we suppose that contradictory statements in scripture operate at the same level, but in fact they do not. Radha­krishnan uses the two-truth theory to support his pluralism: all reli­gious doctrines, despite greater or lesser adequacy, point to the same God.

3. Knowledge by direct apprehension. Pantheists in general depend on a direct, first-hand grasp of reality. The lower levels of knowledge, which depend on the senses, give at best a knowledge based on logical steps. Since this knowledge must use logic to move from a sense experience to knowledge of the object of experience, it will always be indirect. But this lower knowledge gives way to a higher knowledge based on an immediate, direct, and intuitive experience. Even the rationalist Spinoza considers intuition the highest knowledge. Intuition depends on reason, but is “more potent” for it gives a knowledge that is clear, distinct, and perfect.( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium; props. 25, 28.) A claim more typical of mystical pantheists is one by Plotinus, that we may achieve a kind of knowing where knower and known are one. Here one knows the One by becoming the One.

4. The self-certifying nature of mystical intuition. Since some experiences mislead us, many philosophers are interested in whether we have warrant for accepting certain experiences as genuine. For example, we might check our own experiences against those of others to minimize the chance that we might be misled by an unknown illu­sion. But mystics do not accept any factors external to their experi­ences that could certify the genuineness of their intuitions. They believe the mystical intuition carries its own stamp of authenticity. To someone who has experienced the mystical union, external verifi­cation procedures are no more necessary than fins on a cat. As D. T. Suzuki says, a mystic who has experienced the highest knowledge can say with assurance, “I am the Ultimate Reality itself” and “I am absolute knower.”( D. T. Suzuki, “Zen: A Reply to Dr. Hu Shih,” in D. T. Suzuki, Studies in Zen (New York: Delta, 1955), p. 147)

5. The inadequacy of logic. Pantheistic epistemologies of various types typically give logic a preliminary validity at best. Logic always involves a division between A and not-A. But the unifying thrust of pantheism seeks to overcome this distinction at the ultimate level. Shankara surprises us by his admission that logic plays a vital role in knowledge. In fact, he argues that to insist on an absolute distinction between self and Brahman opposes true logic. At the same time, Brahman is clearly beyond logical distinctions. Plotinus says the same of the One. And Suzuki, in his desire to achieve shock effect, provides the most extreme example of this tendency when he says that Zen can “serenely go its own way without at all heeding . . . criticism” about logical contradictions.( D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1957), p. 49.)

6. The inadequacy of language. Pantheists generally agree that the self-certifying knowledge of direct union cannot be expressed in words. Language necessarily depends on the either/or of logic. Without A/non-A, language would not communicate content. If A = non-A, if black equals white and cat equals dog, what would The cat is black communicate? To accept the essential correctness of linguis­tic description is to acknowledge that the law of noncontradiction relates to reality. This they believe suggests that reality is made up of more than one thing, of A and non-A. This conclusion the pantheist cannot accept. So language is universally thought by mystical panthe­ists to be a distortion. Speaking of the holistic knowledge of the One, Plotinus reminds us, “we are forced to apply to the Supreme terms which strictly are ruled out.”( Plotinus, The Six Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna and B. S. Page, 6 vols. (Chicago and London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952), 6.9 [3, 10, 11]; 5.3 [13].)

7. The ineffability of mystical objects and intuition. The inadequa­cy of language leads to an important corollary, ineffability. Ineffability means that since linguistic description must break things into logical opposites, things that cannot be so broken must be indescribable. As Radhakrishnan explains, “God is too great for words to explain. He is like light, making things luminous but himself invisible.”( Sarvepali Radhakrishnan, An Idealist View of Life (London: Alien and Unwin, 1932), p. 97. ) When mystics, whether Western or Eastern, do use language, they often limit themselves to negative language. That is, though they will not say what God is, they may try to say what he is not.

To what degree are these themes reflected in New Age affirma­tions? New Age advocates commonly denigrate logical, conceptual, and empirical ways of knowing. Instead, they practically deify mysti­cal and intuitive knowledge. For example, Shirley MacLaine places the hero of a novel in an acupuncture session where the “doctor” says, “Now relax. . . . Let your mind go. Don’t evaluate and don’t let the left brain judge what you are thinking. Give your right brain more space. As a matter of fact, don’t think.” (Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light (Toronto: Bantam, 1985), p. 312.) Ironically, as this quote sug­gests, New Age proponents are fixated on the right brain/left brain research. The irony lies in the fact that the distination depends on the rational, left-brain methods of science. New Agers use the rational, left-brain distinction between left and right brains primarily to pro­mote holistic, immediate/ intuitive right-brain thought to the exclu­sion of dichotomistic left-brain thought.

Many New Agers also defend the self-certifying and ineffable char­acter of the higher consciousness. The author of The Aquarian Conspiracy, Marilyn Ferguson, says that you reach genuine knowl­edge “only when you get yourself out of the way. You have to be will­ing to have experiences and not have words for them.”( Interview with Chandler, Understanding, p. 38) When we shut down the analytical left brain, reach beyond the logic-chopping words inherent in all conceptuality, and open ourselves to Mind-at-Large, then the Higher Consciousness breaks in. For those who hope to apprehend true knowledge, this is the New Age party line.

The Religious Dimensions of Pantheistic Mysticism

The pantheists’ views of religious experience and of salvation fol­low closely their epistemology. The mystical experience that pantheists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.

1. Knowledge is salvation. In the classic question of faith and rea­son, several positions have been proposed. For most theists, faith (that is, our trust in and relation to God) and reason (that is, our cognitive knowledge about God) are different. Some have said that faith and reasoning about God are mutually exclusive. Seren Kierkegaard and Karl Barth have taken this position. But many theists believe that they are mutually supportive. Pantheists generally hold that the two are the same; there is no substantive difference between faith (salva­tion) and reason (experiential knowledge). Salvation is knowledge, though this knowledge is intuitive, not rational. To be enlightened through mystical intuition or higher consciousness about the true reality of our oneness with God is in itself to be saved from our false experience of pain in the world.

2. Ignorance as the source of evil. If knowledge is salvation, the cause of the problems from which we are saved is our own ignorance. We languish far from our heavenly home because we do not realize our true identity. Oriental writers tie their view of reincarnation to this problem of ignorance. If we fail to realize our oneness with God, we suffer through the debilitating series of lives full of pain and sor­row. Enlightenment enables us to begin walking the path toward God. Through this ascent we can overcome the evil caused by ignorance. Similarly, Spinoza tells us that viewing God as a mysterious person who controls things by an omnipotent will leaves unexplained all the absurd and evil things that happen to us. This false view of God leads to spiritual blindness.

3. Salvation through human effort. Pantheists affirm various tech­niques for arriving at true knowledge, the mystical experience of enlightenment that is salvation. Generally, however, achieving higher consciousness involves human effort and discipline. Although Spinoza is unique among the pantheists we have discussed in his use of geometry to achieve knowledge, favorites in the East are yoga and other forms of meditation. Suzuki’s Zen Buddhism leaves nothing either to chance or to the will of a capricious personal God. Through the use of koan (those maddening mental puzzles that bring reason to a standstill) and zazen (sitting meditation) the Zen novice begins the journey toward enlightenment. The Vedanta Hindus usually permit the three avenues to salvation: meditation leading to intuitive con­sciousness, good works of service, and devotion to a personal God. But the latter two are given legitimate status only grudgingly; the real path to Brahman is mystical union. Here most emphatically can we theists depend on to show that God is the all is the same experience that provides liberation from our most basic human dilemmas. In general, we can specify six common ideas about religious experience and sal­vation that pantheists share.  Only through experience is that indescribable sweetness by which we rise above this world of pain and find union with God.

4. The mystical ascent. Pantheists often describe the path to salva­tion as an ascent. We have “fallen,” metaphorically speaking, and we need to rise again to our true oneness with God. Although this fall is sometimes given moral overtones, the pantheists’ use of the metaphor is not identical to the Judeo-Christian idea of a fall into sin. Instead of holding to a moral fall, pantheists teach a fall into igno­rance. Salvation reverses this fall, and for this reason the concept of an ascent into something higher (both a higher point of view episte-mologically and a higher reality metaphysically) dominates panthe­ists’ descriptions of salvation. In Plotinus the language of ascent is prominent, for he speaks most directly about the descent from God in his idea of emanation. Matter and this world are things that weigh us down. Through mystical devotion and ethical living we cast off this excess baggage like sailors throwing weight off their ship during a storm. Thus lightened, we move back up the ladder to Mind and finally to the One, our home.

This aspect of Plotinus finds parallels not only in the other panthe­ists who speak often of the higher and lower points of view, but also in many medieval Christian writers. We should note, however, that in the majority of cases, Christians speak of ascending to a personal union with God. The culminating stage of the Christian’s climb is the two-in-one union of personal love, not the absolute oneness of imper­sonal identity.

5. The peace of salvation. As with any religious philosophy, pan­theism claims to give a solution to life’s problems. This solution includes a sense of peace, tranquility, and repose. Although it is sometimes heavily philosophical, the whole point of pantheism is not philosophical in the traditional sense in that pantheists do not seek rational truth for its own sake. Pantheism’s goal is the religious sense of assurance, peace, and contact with God that religions seek.

Put another way, pantheists do not seek primarily to explain our experiences of the world and of evil; they seek instead to resolve our problems with evil. Consequently, each pantheist in this study ends his chain of thinking by promising a sense of peace and release from tension and worry. Even the rationalist Spinoza believed that knowl­edge brought the tranquility we need for living; he argued for a blessedness that he described as “constant and eternal love toward God.”( Spinoza, Ethics, pt. 5, prop. 36, scholium.) Similarly, each pantheist, no matter how philosophically ori­ented, finds the purpose of his philosophy fulfilled in this religious goal.

6. Pluralism of beliefs. The pantheistic emphasis on experiential knowledge leads very naturally to religious pluralism, a perspective that has gained a firm foothold in this century. Because pantheists deem our experience to be so important, they imply that the concepts we use to describe God, ourselves, and the world are correspondingly less important. Historically, Western pantheists have not generally followed this logic; they affirmed instead that differences in religious beliefs are important. Certainly Spinoza, at least, thought that certain concepts about God (say, the idea of miracles) were both philosophi­cally false and religiously dangerous. But Oriental pantheists do com­monly hold that differing religious beliefs can all be “true.” Suzuki’s Buddhism does not really accept any doctrine. Actually, he affirms that no religious doctrines are ultimately true. This is within the spir­it of the original Buddhist teaching.

Hinduism, however, most emphatically states that contradictory theoretical conceptions can be accepted as true. This all-embracing religious pluralism of Hinduism is at home in a modern world where the mood is characterized by the statement, “Your faith is good for you; mine is good for me.” The willingness within Hindu faith to accept alternative conceptions means that Hinduism includes pan­theism, polytheism, and even theism. In fact, scholars generally concede that Buddhism no longer survives in India, the land of its origin, because Hinduism’s inclusive nature simply swallowed up Buddhism’s distinctive teachings. Radhakrishnan, the modern Hindu, explicitly affirms this pluralism in his belief that various religions are all acceptable paths toward the religious goal of happiness and good­ness. Even though Westerners historically have been more exclusive, this aspect of Hinduism is increasingly becoming part of the domi­nant religious perspective of our time.

How does the New Age movement today display these ideas? Salvation from the suffering of reincarnation and the pain caused by ignorance are common pantheistic themes. These find expression in the writings of typical New Age proponents. That ignorance causes pain and requires a change in consciousness is a primary theme of the many seminars that promote the new awareness necessary for enlightenment. Famous examples include the est training sessions of Werner Erhard (he now has a new group called Forum) and the Esalen Institute in California. The Esalen Institute has attracted a number of famous psychologists, including Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and Abraham Maslow. These seminars preach the same message: you are ignorant of your true divinity, so gain a new perception through (insert one of a number of techniques here) and experience a trans­formed personal consciousness.

 

 

Pantheism’s Self-Defeating Character

Pantheism’s analysis of our individual experience of the world brings up a final point: pantheism is unaffirmable and self-defeating. The principle of self-defeat comes into play whenever a statement does something that it affirms cannot be done. Though it can be uttered or said, such a statement cannot be affirmed meaningfully because of its self-destructive character. The statement is philosophi­cally suspect, for it tries to do something that it says cannot be done. If the sentence were meaningful, it would destroy itself. Therefore, it is unaffirmable.

A well-known example of this problem is found in our own centu­ry. Philosophers known as logical positivists developed what they called the Verification Principle. This axiom of positivist thinking stated that only two kinds of statements could count as meaningful:

definitions and facts, with facts defined as statements that are empiri­cally verifiable. On this criterion, logical positivism considered state­ments about theological, ethical, or esthetic realities meaningless because they were neither definitional nor factually verifiable. But here is the catch: the Verification Principle is self-defeating for it is neither a definition nor a fact. If the Verification Principle were some­how correct, it would be meaningless on its own criterion. The his­toric collapse of the positivists’ agenda shows the power of this prin­ciple of self-defeat.

This principle makes it difficult to affirm pantheism meaningfully. A pantheist usually claims that he was once blind, lost in ignorance due to the dominance of the logical, empirical view of things. But now he has regained his sight, the ability to see the truth that only God exists and that the finite perspective of sensuous observation is essentially misleading. He is saying, in effect, “I came to realize that I don’t exist. I came to see that I was always God.” This raises an appropriate question: Who is talking? What does I refer to in these sentences?

Several possibilities confront us. Perhaps I in this statement refers to a finite individual. The pantheist is speaking from a limited per­spective as an individual person. But in this case, his statement is self-defeating. He is saying, “I am telling you that I don’t exist.” What sense can we make of that? If someone exists to tell us this, the state­ment must be false. If the statement is true, there could be no speaker to utter it. If I means a finite individual, then the pantheist’s affirma­tion declares that he does not exist as such, and in this way he pulls that rug out from under his statement.

To evade this glaring problem, he could claim that I in this state­ment is God. He is speaking from the ultimate point of view. But although this alternative solves the problem of self-defeat, it raises two more pressing questions. First, why is he trying to express this to me? Presumably, I do not exist either. But he is treating me as a real entity by recognizing my presence and responding to my questions. Second, how is it that the infinite mind of God was once deceived and has now come to see the truth? This implies both that God’s understanding was once wrong and that it changes through time. If / denotes the ultimate being God, then the pantheists’ statement implies that God is a limited being, not infinite, as pantheists claim.

The rational pressure these problems create puts stress on panthe­ism’s view of the reality of the finite individual’s perspective. For example, Shankara says that the lower perspective of the sensuous realm is true. In that perspective, my individual existence is real and God is personal. But from the higher perspective, my individual exis­tence is not real, and God is beyond personhood. Both viewpoints, he says, are true. Yet from the higher perspective, the lower point of view confuses a coiled rope with a snake. In other words, we assume, the lower perspective is not really true. Yet here is the pantheist, writing as a finite individual to convince us in our finite perspectives that finite egos are part of that coiled-rope point of view.

So which is it? Do pantheists speak from the finite, individual per­spective of empirical egos or not? If they do, it appears that the state­ments they utter concerning the unreality of their own finite exis­tence self-destruct. If they do not and if they claim instead to speak from God’s ultimate perspective, it seems that they are introducing into God hefty doses of fallibility and mutability. Shankara paints himself into a corner. Mutism, the refusal to say anything, would be better. But that, too, has problems, as we shall see in chapter 8. In a word, the noble desire to compliment God as the All negates the very reality of the one who compliments. God therefore cannot get com­plimented at all. This dilemma, it appears, is a powerful challenge to the coherence of the pantheistic philosophy.

Personal existence may have some reality in modified forms of pantheism. As our descriptive survey revealed, not all pantheists call the world absolute nothingness. They have various means for ascrib­ing some sort of limited reality to individual persons. One would run roughshod over the pantheists’ actual beliefs by considering only the extreme illusionist view of the world. But we can state the objection in another way to incorporate this fact: to the degree that the perspec­tive of the experiencing/thinking person as an individual is claimed to be part of an illusion, pantheism is self-defeating. If the finite point of view is admitted, then the self-defeat is mitigated. However, to the degree that the pantheist admits the reality of the individual experi­encing/thinking person he abandons his fundamental pantheistic premises and moderates in a theistic direction.

As a response, a pantheist might try to maintain his own existence just long enough to assert that he does not exist. But if he does this, we can only think that it is somehow ad hoc and unfair to exempt that one statement from the broader premises of his philosophy. This reminds us of the psychological determinists, who exempt their own rational choices that lead them to accept their deterministic theory from the general principles of that theory. The ad hoc nature of these self-licensed exceptions to the rule reveals basic conceptual flaws that, in our view, can be corrected only by major structural changes. In pantheism’s case, this means the affirmation of the real existence of the person who affirms a world view. It means a modification in the direction of theism.

Conclusion

Discussion of pantheistic metaphysics has revolved around the pantheists’ persistent resistance to the predication of concepts to God. Pantheists have claimed that using concepts to describe God both divides what is unified and limits what is infinite. Concepts are always defined in terms of opposites. We know black because it is the opposite of white and good because it is the opposite of evil. So using concepts for description always divides unity and entails that what is so described is limited to only one of the two concepts. Therefore, if God is personal, then he is not impersonal, and there is something that he is not.

This fundamental pantheistic urge arises from noble motives. But it also entails certain consequences that cannot be ignored. Some of these create problems internally in that they run up against the tests of consistency and coherence. If we cannot describe God at all, then the word God loses any intelligible meaning. If we cannot describe God as personal, then creation is necessary, and he must create.

Other consequences concern external problems in that they run into the criteria of comprehensiveness and congruence. If God alone exists, how do we explain the vast wealth of experience had by every person alive that apparently leads us to believe that selves, others, and the real world actually exist? And if God alone exists, how could we ever affirm his existence from our individual, presumably nonreal point of view? Judgment then, says that these rational tensions make pantheistic metaphysics, despite its positive contributions and noble motivations, a poor choice if we are seeking the world view that best explains the total experience of our lives.

 

See his book, “Apologetics in the New Age.”

Email Dr. C. Matthew McMahon (Curriculum Vitae and Bio):  © A Puritan’s Mind, All Rights Reserved, 1998-2008

Scott Bailey 2009

 

 

 

 
 

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Disturbing Words From Christian’s!

Posted by Scott on January 13, 2009

I was just wondering a few things as I have read over the past few days Christians, Pastors, and others using certain words a great deal that I wonder if they have the same meaning or really if the onces using them even understands the meanings?  I read a status from a pastor the other day and I quote:  “He…is so lucky to be alive and serving a freaking great God”  I am not trying to be legalistic, trust me in that, but I expect this kind of word use or terminology from people in the casual congregation or new believers that have not been around the Word of God much…for baby Christian’s this would be a normal thing and over time God will purge from them that which takes away His holiness from their mouths…He is still purging my mouth and most likely will until He takes me on to be with Him, but I am learning.  Now,  for a pastor who is speaking to 4000 to 7000 people each week, come on.  Let’s take a look at these two words…we could look at many words and people will argue I am being legalistic, but really on the scheme of things words are serious…God made sure His Words were accurate in the Bible…we should make sure ours are right too.  This is all taken in consideration of each of us making a mistake now and then…that is a given, but for it to be the daily norm…we have no excuses.

1. Lucky: is this equal to “blessed
2. Freaking: is this equal to “awesome

Lucky means happening by chance. Does a Christian’s life operate by chance or providence?
Blessed means bringing great pleasure or contentment to, held in favor by God, held in reverence for…  Are we as Believers blessed by God…does He give us pleasures, contentment, does He favor His own, and expect our reverence for Him in this?  I think so.  So, let’s say so!

freaking “you need to google this for yourself…I cannot repeat here the meaning…it is another “F***” word used as a very negative cuss word…also negatively used as “frigging” which is the same meaning as the “F***” word.   Use the Mariam-Webster dictionary online and put in “freaking”. This word certainly should not be used in context with a holy God….pick a better word with a positive meaning when in context with describing our God.  I don’t even allow my kids to say this once I figured out the true meaning behind it.
awesome means inspiring, tribute to, terrific, extraordinary.  Is our God an awesome, extraodinary, terrific, inspiring God? I do believe the word “awesome” is far better fit here.

I just found these two words in context with Christian’s conversations interesting and then the amount of their use in the Christian conversations over time became disturbing to me. So, I wanted to check it out and if we put the words meanings into context with a holy God is it really was a good fit? My conclusion is they don’t work at all. As Believers, the lost world listens to what we say just as much as what we do…contrary to many’s belief. They do listen and will put this back in our faces when times get tough not to mention the dishonor it brings to our God. I am not innocent in this either and have had to constrain my use of certain words and I am still working on a few as well…hard for a hard-headed man to correct sometimes.  So, we need to make sure we as Believers raise the bar on our vocabulary and how we talk to our audience.  Let’s help those we are ministering to raise the level of their vocabulary and words…help them to understand the meaning of bigger and/or better words.  Don’t move down to a lower level just so you can communicate with them in other words using “gutter talk” in order to communicate, raise them up in love to a higher level…bring their language up higher than the world’s standard.   This is not easy, but God will honor your efforts to do so.  Honor God in words and deeds today.

Later, I will post a 3 part series on a further disturbing trend within many Evangelicals dialogue in churches that consider themselves evangelical today.  Stay tuned.

Pressin on in Christ,
Scott

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Our Sovereign God is exceedingly and abundantly powerful!

Posted by Scott on January 12, 2009

Ephesians 3:20-21 is a doxology Paul places in this letter to the Ephesians.  A doxology you might ask is a praise or glory given to Almighty God.  Every prayer should have a doxology if not entire prayers most of the time.  Think about our prayers for a minute.  How much time do we honestly spend in praise and glorifying our God compared to the amount of time we spend asking for something.  It is absolutely amazing the time spent in “asking”.

Of course, God wants us to come to Him and ask.  He already knows what we will ask for, but He still wants that open line of communication with us to ask for anything in accordance with His will.  As true Believers we should have in mind that which God wants not really what we want in the flesh.  In taking a closer look at this doxology at the end of chapter 3 from Paul to the Ephesians we find out much more than we might imgaine.

When we ask or confirm something of God, in accordance with what we believe He wants for us, it would be good to do so with this mindset: 

1. God has the power to do whatever He wants to do…He is our Sovereign Lord.

2. God can produce, make, or fashion in us whatever He desires…He is our Sovereign Lord.

3. God can go far beyond in delivering what we have ask or begged for.  He can go exceedingly, unthinkably far beyond anything we can even dream up or think in our minds.  Think of asking in these terms:  desiring, craving, begging, calling out for that which God has placed on our hearts to ask for…He is our Sovereign Lord.

4. God does this in accordance with His power, His unending ability that He has put on display within our lives..He is our Sovereign Lord.

5. God’s exceeding abundance is a great reflection of His inexhaustible fullness of mercy and grace.  The “well” can never be overdrawn.  The “well” of God’s grace and mercy will never go dry.  We are always welcome at this “well”.  Remember Psalm 81:10 “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it with good things.” (NLT)  He is our Sovereign Lord.

6. God’s power is all-sufficient and almightly powerful that He has saved each of us as Believers.  This same power (awesome ability) is the power that was able to take a spiritually dead bag of bones like me and bring it to Himself in salvation.  No one has this kind of power except God…no one!  He is our Sovereign Lord.

7. God is looking for excellencies and praises  to be ascribed towards Him in our prayers…He is our Sovereign Lord.

8. God provided us with a mediator in Jesus Christ His Son…He is our Sovereign Lord.

9. All of the praises and glories that we garble towards God goes through the hand of Jesus Christ our great mediator (high priest)…He is our Sovereign Lord. 

10. All of graces, mercies, and gifts that come to us from our heavenly Father comes through that same hand of Jesus Christ our Lord…He is our Sovereign Lord. 

So, this is how I offer up this doxology personally for me this morning:

“Finally, O Sovereign God, who has the awesome ability to produce unthinkably far beyond what I have desired or begged for or can even fathom in my small mind to ask for, according to Your great power that is constantly on display in my life daily, it is to You, my Almighty God that all the honors and glory and praises through my perfect Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up and may they be lifted up from every generation for ever and ever! AMEN.”

Just remember while praying to give God the praise and glory for your life today…He is our Sovereign Lord.

Scott Bailey (c) 2009

References: 

-Matthew Henry Commentaries

-Logos Strong’s Lexicon Greek guide

-NIV Bible, NLT Bible, KJV Bible, & NASB Bible

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