Archive for March, 2011

March 28th, 2011

The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement

by Max Andrews

Motivated by a Bible study discussion last night, I decided to give an outline of the singular redemption view of the atonement.  This view (unlimited) was the view that was advocated by John Calvin.  This outline is certainly not meant to be exhaustive.  To list a few proponents of singular redemption:

  • John Calvin
  • Moise Amyraut (Calvinist, developed Amyrauldianism)
  • Richard Baxter (Calvinist)
  • Bruce Ware (Calvinist)
  • Millard Erickson (Calvinist)
  • Kenneth Keathley (Molinist)
  • Timothy George (Molinist)
  • Robert Picirilli (Arminian)
  • Matthew Pinson (Arminian)

A brief distinction in common views:

  • Universal Atonement:  Christ died for all and the atonement is applied to all (universal salvation).
  • General Atonement:  Christ obtained salvation for all but secured it for none.  It holds to a government view of the atonement.  Christ did not die for your sins he died for you.  It’s a general amnesty.  The penalty for sin is eternal perdition and no one could do that.  Christ suffered for everyone so the Father could forgive those who repent.  (Notice the problem with the government view of atonement 1 Cor. 15.3, Gal 3.13, 1 Jn. 2.2–it was a penal substitionary atonement).
  • Limited Atonement:  Christ secured salvation for the elect and only the elect.  Christ died for the particular person and because some die without Christ, Christ did not die for that person. (Substitionary)
  • Singular Redemption/Unlimited Atonement:  Christ provides salvation for all but the benefits of salvation are secured for those who believe. (Substitionary)

Common verses supporting universal/general atonement (corporately):

  • Jn. 1.29
  • Jn. 3.16-17
  • Jn. 4.42
  • 2 Cor. 4.14-15
  • 2 Cor. 5.19
  • 1 Tim. 4.10
  • Heb. 2.9
  • 2 Pt 2.1
  • 1 Jn. 2.2
  • 1 Jn. 4.14

Whoever:

  • Acts 2.21
  • Rom. 10.13
  • Rev. 22.17

Common verses supporting particular atonement:

  • Mt. 1.21
  • Jn. 10.3-4, 14-16, 25-27
  • Rom 5.8
  • Rom. 8.32-35
  • Eph. 5.25

Singular redemption presumes that God wills for every individual to be saved.  Antecedently, God wills all to be saved; consequently, because of the individual’s sin and rejection of the Gospel, God wills for that person to be damned.  There is a temporal distinction in when the elect becomes elect, an elect person temporally prior to their conversion is just as lost as an unelect person.  God does incorporate contingency in his sovereign plan (i.e. Ez. 3.17-18).  There is also a distinction between the extent of the atonement and the intent of the atonement.  The death of Christ is the basis for the salvation of all men, but Scripture does not call upon men to believe in a salvation they already have.  The gospel does not inform the elect that they are saved, it exhorts all to repent and believe so that they will be saved.

What does many and world refer to in these passages?

  • Calvin advocated that these may not be limited to the elect only, rather the whole human race.  He contrasts many to one.
  • World does not mean “the world of the elect.”  Calvin argued this point as well (arguing from Jn. 3.16).  He believed man is doubly-guilty for rejecting Christ.  Unbelievers who turn away from him and who deprive themselves of him by their malice are doubly culpable.

What about equating Christ’s intercession as Hight Priest and the atonement? (argument for LA)

  • The Bible does not equate the two in extent.
  • Intercession relates to the believers only after they exercise faith
  • Intercession illustrates that blessings of the atonement are experienced only by those who place their trust in God.

Does non-limited atonement lead to universalism?

  • No, but the objection works only if the biblical necessity of faith is ignored.
  • Faith is conditional for salvation.

Double-Jeopardy:  If Christ died for some who die lost, then their sins are paid for twice!

  • This assumes what it wishes to prove –that the death of Christ actually secures salvation for the elect and applies the benefits prior to the exercise of faith.
  • Until faith is exercised, an elect persons is just as lost as the non-elect.

Limited atonement is logically inconsistent with a well-meant offer of the gospel.

  • If an unelect is presented with the gospel, it really wasn’t meant for that person.
  • The claim, “God loves all of you and died for all of you” is a lie (David Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, 88 [a Calvinist himself]).
  • Does God love the world?  Would we attempt to restrict any other perfections of God to the elect only?

Limited atonement teaches that the non-elect are condemned for rejecting Christ when in fact he did not die for them.

  • Man cannot reject what doesn’t exist.
  • This falls in line with Calvin’s double-guilt argument from Jn. 3.16.

Again, this isn’t exhaustive and there may certainly be objections [and rebuttals] but this is a brief outline.  For more check out Ken Keathley’s book Salvation and Sovereignty (the source for this information).

March 22nd, 2011

Karl Barth on Studying Theology

by Max Andrews

As usual, I’m doing my studies late at night (it’s currently 1:26 AM).  I have an exam in my class on twentieth century theology this week and I was reading Karl Barth’s Evangelical Theology. I read on the role of theology, the task of theology, and the Word (which is quite the task).  I’ve felt quite convicted about not studying as much as I should and I’ve felt like a diluted academic.  Perhaps I’m off, but I have the desire to be studying for hours a day in the fields of science, philosophy, and theology.  For the most part, I’m not near where I want to be academically.  I look at these great intellectuals like Kant, Einstein, and Barth, and I look at where I am and I’m wondering how I’ll ever follow in those footsteps (granted, Kant didn’t publish until he was 57, but still…).

I skipped to Barth’s chapter on Study to get some perspective and motivation.  I certainly found what I was looking for. Barth’s words can be cross-discipline, it’s not only applicable to theology.  So, for students who want to take their academics seriously, heed these brief words.

…No one should study merely in order to pass an examination, to become a pastor, or in order to gain an academic degree.  When properly understood, an examination is a friendly conversation of older students of theology with younger ones, concerning certain themes in which they share a common interest.  The purpose of this conversation is to give younger participants an opportunity to exhibit whether and to what extent they have exerted themselves, and to what extent they appear to give promise of doing so in the future.  The real value of a doctorate, even when earned with the greatest distinction, is totally dependent on the degree to which its recipient has conducted and maintained himself as a learner.  Its worth depends, as well, entirely on the extent to which he further conducts and maintains himself as such.  Only by his qualification as a learner can he show himself qualified to become a teacher.  Whoever studies theology does so because to study it is (quite apart from any personal aims of the student) necessary, good, and beautiful in relationship to the service to which he has been called.  Theology must possess him so completely that he can be concerned with it only in a manner of a studiosus. Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963), 172.

 

March 20th, 2011

Young Earth Cosmology Just Doesn’t Cut It

by Max Andrews

I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been quite busy doing research papers on theological fatalism, J.M.E. McTaggart’s arguments against the reality of time, and Einstein’s theory of relativity’s impact on theology.  While researching for my Einstein paper I chose to do a piece on his influence in natural theology by discussing his epistemic method and big bang cosmology.  I discussed how Einstein, Lemaître, Friedman, and Hubble collectively overturned young earth cosmology (if anything they were the catalyst in the overthrow).  I gave young earth creationism a voice with Russell Humphrey’s book Starlight and Time, which is supposedly the best model of young earth cosmology (Russell holds a PhD in physics from Louisiana State University).  I soon discovered that Humphreys made a cluster of errors in relativity.

I found this rebuttal by Samuel R. Conner and Don N. Page (Page studied under Stephen Hawking and specializes in quantum cosmology and black holes).  The paper made an interesting read because both parties had respectable credentials.  Granted, it is a technical paper so it may be a tough read, (Starlight and Time is the Big Bang).  I don’t have any rights to the paper, it’s publicly available at:  http://www.trueorigin.org/rh_connpage1.pdf. The abstract is below.

The physics of Dr. Russell Humphreys’ new cosmological model presented in Starlight and Time is profoundly flawed and the conclusions drawn from this model are seriously mistaken.  An accurate treatment of the physics indicates that this model is actually a trivial variant of the standard Big Bang model, with its attendant implications for the age of the Universe and the Earth time required for light to travel from distant galaxies to the Earth.

I wanted to add a brief note about the speed of light and whether or not it changes [or has changed].  There are models consistent with a 13.7 billion year old universe that suggests a change in the speed of light.  Recent varying-speed-of-light (VSL) theories have been suggested as a possible alternative to cosmic inflation for solving the horizon problem, the problem of causality over long distances in initial inflation, suggesting that the speed of light was once much greater.  This is not a popular view since it is difficult to construct explicit models permitting such a suitable variation.  Other constants have been suggested to change (a theory of varying fundamental constants) in part due to superstring theory and eternal inflation.  Even so with these theories and cosmic models, there are still more-fundamental (in contrast to varying) constants in the parent universes (preceding universes in the multiverse models).  Even with a theory of varying fundamental constants Einstein’s equations [of STR] still stand in such models. (Andrew R. Liddle, and Jon Loveday, The Oxford Companion to Cosmology (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2009), 316.)  The speed of light is [approximately] 300,000 km/s.  Einstein’s E=mc2 states that energy is proportional to the mass of an object multiplied by the speed of light squared.  If c decays then that would imply that there has been a change in the quantity of energy in the universe.  This creates a problem for thermodynamics.  This would not be the only problem; many other constants would need to change as well to preserve the stability of a life-permitting cosmos such as Planck’s constant h.  Suddenly the objection is not only with c because that would in turn change all of physics. All of this would be done to circumvent an old universe suggested by a constant speed of light.

March 6th, 2011

The Philosophy Behind ‘The Adjustment Bureau’

by Max Andrews

George Nolfi and Phillip Dick’s recent movie ‘The Adjustment Bureau‘ is certainly a film that can get you thinking and asking the questions, “How?” and, “But why?”  I had no idea this movie was coming out until a friend Tweeted it to me a couple of days before the premiere, which made for a great date night.  Before I get into the details, my opinion of the film is that though it was entertaining and had an ‘indy-esque’ vibe to it, though it made me frustrated.

David (Matt Damon) falls in love with Elise (Emily Blunt) in the only-in-the-movies-could-it-ever-happen type moments.  They hit it off and we begin the story line.  David is heading to work a few months later after his mysterious run-in with Elise and Harry, a bureau case officer, is supposed to make David spill his coffee by 7:05 AM.  Well, it doesn’t happen and it becomes a problem because it has compromised “the plan.”  David sees Elise on that bus and they reunite.  Not good for the bureau.  Once David gets off the bus he walks into work and notices that his staff is being tampered with (for lack of a better word).  They are scanning their brains in the moment as time seems to have frozen.  Because David had not spilled his cup of coffee he witnesses what is going on.  David meets the bureau and finds out what they do and then we continue on with the plot.

Source: IMBD

Going into the movie I didn’t know what to expect as far as how they were going portray human freedom and the bureau’s providence.  There’s a clear and distinct correlation between the bureau’s chairman and God; and the case officers with angels.  The case officers are limited in their scope of abilities by the chairman, they report to the chairman, they are not perfect, and they do work for the chairman.  The chairman is the one who makes the plans.  The plans are referenced by the case workers in these books they carry around.  Here’s where I get frustrated because there seems to be an inconsistency.  Throughout the film you’ll come to understand that humans really do have free will.  In the scene when David enters his office and finds the case officers tampering with his colleagues brains, they are doing that in order to change their minds about something.  Here we have the classic illustration of soft-determinism/compatibilism.  Say there’s a scientist who plants electrodes in my brain.  I’m free to act according to my will as long as I do what the scientist wants.  Now, say I’m in a room with you.  I can either shoot you or I can walk away and we both live.  Now, I don’t want to kill you, but perhaps the scientist wants me to kill you.  Because I don’t want to do what the scientist wants me to do he activates the electrodes in my brain, which causes me to kill you.  Now back to the film.  We have David’s colleagues doing something that requires a strong-actualization, an introduction of direct causation into the states of affairs (directly causing the changes in the brains).  Now, we don’t know the efficacy of these changes, whether it’s merely an introduction of new information to be considered or if it’s something that necessarily brings about the change, we don’t know but it seems to be the case that it was actually changed.

Later on in the film you come to learn that every historical event happened to bring about the state of affairs David finds himself in.  The black plague existed to bring about this certain aspect in David’s life, the Enlightenment was brought about so that David will be reasonable, etc.  David seems to be a focus of a theodicy.  David’s not allowed to be with Elise because if he is with her then he will not be what the bureau needs him to be.  We now find ourselves with counterfactual knowledge.  If David does this, then this will happen.  If David does not do this, then this will happen (and this will not happen).  You also find the bureau using terms and phrases like “you would do this” or “you would have done that.”  So there seems to be an indication of a knowledge of counterfactual human freedom.  Okay, this makes sense.  If all these historical events were brought about so that a particular state of affairs would obtain that seems to be quite providential given that these humans have free will.  It sounds like good ‘ole Molinism! (But… it’s not).

Source: IMBD

I would not be surprised if we find this film being referenced as illustrations for openness theologians in the time to come.  It really is an excellent depiction of overall openness providence, since the climax and denouement will help shape how you interpret the earlier parts of film.  The two writers could have made a clearer distinction on how free will is portrayed and how it relates to the bureau’s providential plan.  The film is quite entertaining and you find yourself caught in the middle of David and Elise’s relationship.  One moment you want them to make it and the next you don’t because you’re too mad at David.  However, a word of caution to you philosophically minded folk, you may find yourself with the same frustration I had in trying to get a consistent depiction of human freedom and providence.

March 3rd, 2011

Watson Doesn’t Know He Won Jeopardy

by Max Andrews

UC Berkeley Professor of Philosophy John Searle chimed in on Jeopardy’s recent episode where a computer competed against the show’s two winningest contestants.  Searle illustrates his objection to AI claims with his famous Chinese Room thought experiment.  His insight is interesting and, I believe, true when it comes to artificial intelligence (never mind the lack of an immaterial mind, that’s beside the point).

See the Wall Street Journal Wednesday Feb. 23, 2011 article.