Archive for April 26th, 2012

April 26th, 2012

Defining Omniscience

by Max Andrews

As advocated by St. Anselm, God is a maximally perfect being.  If ignorance is an imperfection, all things being equal [according to Ockham’s razor], then it is greater to be knowledgeable.  To prevent initial detractions from the classical definition of omniscience, omniscience should be understood as knowing all truths.

O.  For any agent x, x is omniscient= def. For every statement s, if s is true, then x knows that s and does not believe that not-s.[1]

If there are truths about future contingents, God, as an omniscient being must know these truths.  Since there are truths about the future, that is to say, since statements about future contingents are either true or false, and they are not all false, God must therefore know all truths about the future, which is to say He knows future-tense facts; He knows what will happen.[2]  One may try to avoid this reasoning by contending that future-tense statements are neither true nor false, so that there are no facts about the future.  Since the future does not exist, it is claimed that the respective future-tense statements cannot be true or false, simply without truth.[3] 

April 26th, 2012

What is Presuppositionalism?

by Max Andrews

Scripture urges us to behold heaven and earth, birds and flowers and lilies, in order that we may see and recognize God in them.  “Life up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these.” Is. 40.26. Scripture does not reason in the abstract.  It does not make God the conclusion of a syllogism, leaving it to us whether we think the argument holds or not.  But it speaks with authority.  Both theologically and religiously it proceeds from God as the starting point.

We receive the impression that belief in the existence of God is based entirely upon these proofs.  But indeed that would be “a wretched faith, which, before it invokes God, must first prove his existence.” The contrary, however, is the truth… Of the existence of self, of the world around us, of logical and moral laws, etc., we are so deeply convinced because of the indelible impressions which all these things make upon our consciousness that we need no arguments or demonstration.  Spontaneously,altogether involuntarily: without an constraint or coercion, we accept that existence.  

April 26th, 2012

How to Argue and Disagree Amicably

by Max Andrews

This is an inevitable aspect of life: people will always disagree with you.  What’s very important is how we ought to respond to someone when we disagree.  Here are few points I’d like to share from experience:

  1. Don’t get angry. We love to use ad hominem attacks but remember you’re discussing an argument or position, not the person.  Getting upset is a natural reaction.  When you let your upset disrupt the friendly atmosphere or affect your arguments, STOP.
  2. Stick to the arguments (following 1). Be reasonable and calm.
  3. Go to the person with him you disagree with first.  This is simply Matthew 18.  Don’t write open letters with defamatory comments and unnecessary attacks (a la Norman Geisler).
  4. Do your best to really have a robust understanding of the other position.  You often heard that you should know the other position just as well as you know yours if you want to criticize it. Well, that’s not true and it’s completely infeasible.  It surely helps but here why that phrase is a problem.  To offer criticisms you just need to contrast it with what you believe to be true.  This is simply conversion, contrapositions, obversions, contraries, and contradictions put into play. If you can do that then you don’t need exhaustive knowledge.  If that phrase is true then everyone will be shutting their mouths all day long.
  5. Let the other person speak and don’t interrupt.
  6. Don’t respond if you’ve been emotionally compromised.  Respond when you’re thinking clearly and calm.
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April 26th, 2012

A Biblical Case for Divine Foreknowledge

by Max Andrews

Scripture explicitly teaches that God has foreknowledge of future events, employing a specialist vocabulary to refer to such knowledge.  The New Testament introduces a whole family of words associated with God’s knowledge of the future, such as “foreknow” (προγινώσκω), “foreknowledge” (πρόγνωσις), “foresee” (προοράω), “foreordain” (προορίζω), and “foretell” (προμαρτύρομαι).[1]  The first underlying affirmation is the witness behind biblical history.

I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, “My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isa. 46.9-10).[2]

God testifies to his control of history, which He brings about, not by unknown happenstance, but by His accomplishment.  God does not view the course of natural and human history and then make his plans accordingly.  Paul speaks of “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,” “a plan for the fullness of time” according to “the eternal purpose which He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3.9; 1.10; 3.11; cf. 2 Tim. 1.9-10).[3] 

April 26th, 2012

The Historical Challenge to Miracles

by Max Andrews

Sociologist Ernst Troelstsch’s objection to miracles:  the principle of historical analogy.  In essence this principle states the historian has no right to accept as historical fact the account of a past event for which he has no analogy in the present.  For example, if one were to read of a great battle in ancient times in which one army massacres another without suffering a single casualty itself, one would be suspect of its authenticity.  To quote Troelstsch, “God never does miracles today, at least I’ve never seen one.  Therefore, I have no reason to believe that he did them in the past.”

April 26th, 2012

Theology Thursday: Rudolph Bultmann

by Max Andrews

Theologian: Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976)

General summary of his theology: Bultmann’s theology is quite faceted but for this Theology Thursday I’m just going to focus on his view on miracles. The early and mid 20th century theologian Rudolph Bultmann argued that “man’s knowledge and mastery of the world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world… the modern conception of human nature as a self-subsistent unity immune from the interference of supernatural powers must take its place.” According to Bultmann God is the Wholly Other, there are no points of contact between us and him.  God is, but we cannot know him objectively.  God is hidden and thus neither God nor his actions are open to verification.  This world is a closed system of cause and effect; we can never find God by empirical processes. There are no breaks in the links of causation; thus, there are no miracles. No event can ever be ascribed to God; all are natural causes.  There is an infinite qualitative difference between God and the world, which makes it impossible for God to objectively act in the world.  Paradoxically, the hidden God reaches down to finite humanity and reaches himself (via the kerygma).  Miracles would be intrusions of God into the natural realm.