Posts tagged ‘doctrine’

May 17th, 2013

The Argument that Jesus Came Too Late in Human History

by Max Andrews

I just saw one of the comments by Jim in a previous post (Face the Facts–There are Gaps in Biblical Genealogies) and I thought I’d briefly add some thought to it.

Max. Thank you. Excellent post as usual. Hitchens also used the 250,000 number frequently in his debates so as to make the point “look at your horrendous God – willing to allow all those generations to perish before he sent a savior…” He had no idea that Scripture clearly affirms a retroactive efficaciousness to the Atonement.

I’ve seen this objection made against Christianity several times and it’s a rather horrendous objection (bolded). I’ve never researched the numbers on how many people have existed before the coming of Jesus and I don’t know how many people have existed since Jesus. I don’t think the numbers really matter that much, to be honest.

I don’t understand why anyone thinks this is such a horrendous concept. Obviously, this is an internal issue particular to Christianity. Christian doctrine never makes the claim that salvation was impossible prior to the resurrection of Jesus. I think it’s quite clear that the New Testament (well, OT too!) teaches that the atonement applied to those who came before Christ as well as those succeeding Christ. So what’s the problem?

May 17th, 2013

Why this Life First? Why not Heaven?

by Max Andrews

This is a legitimate question. The claim that God could have created us in the state of heaven avoiding all this evil and suffering in the world is a nuanced version of the problem of evil.  If we are going to heaven and our telos, our purpose and end, is to worship God and enjoy him forever in heaven then why didn’t God skip this earthly step?  Surely, one may think that there’s a possible world in which we all exist in heaven.  It’s my contention that the instantiation of heaven alone is not a possible world.

Aside from other theodicies and defenses such as soul-making, perhaps the most relevant to this question, I think it’s critical to understand that heaven isn’t some lone possible state of affairs by itself.  Heaven is, necessarily, a contingent state of affairs.  It’s a consequent, if and only if, there are prior antecedent conditions or states of affairs.  Heaven is a result of our choices during this life.  In other words, this earthly life is a necessary condition for heaven to be brought about (aside from the salvific will of the Father and saving power of Christ, I’m merely stating that this life must precede heaven.

May 14th, 2013

The Doctrine of Adoption

by Max Andrews

Adoption is God’s choosing of individuals to be adopted into the spiritual family to receive future riches and glory.  What must be defined about the doctrine is what it means for a believer to be in the “spiritual family.”[1]  Thomas Schreiner places the value of adoption on those who are not slaves to the power of sin.[2]  Those who did not have the Spirit of Christ were subject to the slavery of sin; they were in subjection to the power of sin [cf. Gal. 4.7].  The Spirit that is given to believers is a Spirit that liberates from the power of sin, and thus a new obedience is generated in the heart of believers.[3]

The passage from Romans 8.16 confirms that we are God’s children by bearing witness with our spirit.[4] The critical issue for adoption is that there is cooperation with the human spirit and the Holy Spirit.[5]  “Our spirit” cannot be identified as the Holy Spirit.[6] Verse 17 reinforces inheritance (κληρονομία, kleronomia) of future glory with God.

April 22nd, 2013

Q&A 19: Calvinism and Free Will

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hey! My name is Josh. I’m a young college student by day (and christian apologist by night, jokes). But in my personal life, apologetics is important to me.Aside from that, I have a question I think you could help me with. I’m a Calvinist (hold the tomatoes) because I think, Biblically, it’s the most accurate putting together of scriptural truth (basically the best systematic theology). My problem is this:
Total Inability and free will. How are we morally responsible if we cannot choose otherwise? And since no one seeks God (Romans) and no one can come to Christ unless the Father brings them (John 6), how is it that we can really talk about free will? How would this be the best possible world where most free creatures choose Christ, when they cannot choose Him unless He first removes their inability? It seems that it doesn’t matter what world God created becaue technically speaking, He could remove the inability from all people, resulting in everyone freely choosing Christ. I hope my questions make sense. I’m eager to hear your response.Keep up the good work. I love your website!God Bless :)

Answer:

Josh,

Thanks for your question. Since I’m not a Calvinist my answer will probably be a little different from what you were anticipating. First, I’ll respond to you question from within the Calvinist system (as best as I can). Then I’ll give you  my response and thoughts on the issue as a Molinist.

February 5th, 2013

The Thomistic Doctrine of Creatio Continuans

by Max Andrews

Traditionally, there are two models for how God preserves the existence of the universe.  The first is creatio originans (originating creation), which suggests that there has been one initial act of creation and God conserves that reality through a temporal duration.  Consider the following definition.

D1. God conserves e if and only if God acts upon e to bring about e’s enduring from t until some t* > t through every subinterval of the interval t –> t*.[1]

Thomas Aquinas de-temporalizes creatio ex nihilo.[2]  Thus, Thomas is not very concerned with divine conservation as described above since he does not offer a tensed version of creation nor does he differentiate between conservation and creation.[3]  Thomas’ model of creatio continuans (continual creation) can therefore be depicted as:

D2. God continuously creates x = def. x is a persistent thing, and, for all t, if x exists at t, then at t God creates x.[4]

Thomas certainly seems to make a commitment to creatio continuans given his doctrine of simplicity (since timeless follows).  However, Thomas tries to have the best of both doctrines by suggesting that God acts within creation and creation was within time yet, in turn, adopt a model of timelessness.  Thomas argues that the creation of things was in the beginning of time.  For Genesis 1 to include, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth” suggests that beginning connotes time.[5]

December 14th, 2012

Overcoming the Inauthentic Self

by Max Andrews

Rudolf Bultmann and the authentic self came out of response to Martin Heidegger. Heidegger thought that one must choose to become authentic–human nature is inauthentic. You’re split from your own self-hood, but the self calls the self back to itself and to wholeness and integration.  Hence, there are two “me’s.” We can heed that call through philosophical analysis and become authentically whole. Bultmann says,  “No you can’t, because we are in sin.” Bultmann connects Heidegger’s view of human being with the biblical view of humanity and the human situation. Sin is not inauthenticity itself but the choice (entscheidung, decision) not to heed the call to freedom and selfhood. In contrast to Heidegger, the I of the human being, which has fallen into inauthentic they cannot get itself back no matter how hard it tries. 

September 20th, 2012

Hellbound? A New Movie Challenges the Doctrine of Hell

by Max Andrews

This photo provided by Kevin Miller XI Productions Inc. shows exorcist Bob Larson, left, at work in a scene from the film “Hellbound?”. The documentary, which premiered last week in Nashville and opens Friday in New York, digs deeper into the modern Christian theological debate over hell and who’s going there. (AP Photo/Kevin Miller XI Productions Inc., via Huffington Post)

Here’s an excerpt from Travis Loller at the Huffington Post.

How can a loving God send people, even bad people, to a place of eternal torment? A new documentary struggles with questions of punishment and redemption and how culture affects and shapes Christian beliefs about God and the Bible.

Coming in the wake of controversy over Rob Bell’s 2011 hell-questioning book “Love Wins,” which put hell on the cover of Time magazine, and treading some of the same ground, filmmaker Kevin Miller believes the debate about the nature of hell is not academic.

In an interview after a Nashville screening of “Hellbound?” Miller said he believes our ideas about hell have a real-world effect on the way we live our lives and the way we relate to others.

Perhaps popular theologian Brian McLaren best expresses that thought in the movie when he says, “If I believe that a small percentage of human beings were created to enjoy bliss eternally and another group of beings were created to experience eternal conscious torment, then I look at human beings differently than if I say, `Every human being was made in the image of God. Every human being is beloved by God. God is at work to save every human being.’”

September 15th, 2012

Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes–Oh My!

by Max Andrews

Below is just a brief abridged outline of the key distinctions among the four early Jewish groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and the Essenes.

  • The Pharisees are the most often mentioned group in the NT. 100 BC to AD. The name means to separate (from the Hasmoneans? From ritually unclean?). They were very emphatic about the need to be clean (i.e. not touching a dead body). They were strict on tithe laws, the Sabbath, and divorce laws. It was voluntary participation to become a Pharisee. They were all over Israel. They wore distinct clothing and were as many as 6,000. They were Am-Haaretz (people of the land). Some were scribes and some were not. They were mentioned 100 times in the NT and were heavily criticized by the NT, rabbis after AD 70 and Qumran.
    • Pharisees were strict legalists. They were less into politics and more into religion. They focused on externals and not the heart.
    • Pharisaic doctrine
      • Immortality of the soul
      • Judgment based on works
      • Hell
      • Resurrection
      • Strong Messianic hope
        read more »

September 13th, 2012

The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity

by Max Andrews

The doctrine that God is absolutely simple derives from the metaphysical considerations that God is a being whose existence is self-explanatory, absolutely perfect, and pure actuality.  Prior to Thomas, the doctrine has its most influential formulations in Augustine and Anselm.[1]

According to Thomas, God is his essence and his existence.[2]  If the existence of a thing differs from its essence, this existence must be caused either by some exterior agent or by its essential properties.[3]  The latter seems to be impossible; for nothing, if caused to exist, can be the sufficient and efficient cause of its own existence.  Nothing can be self-caused and thus the latter option is insufficient. Therefore, if existence differs from essence then another being must cause existence.  This option is also an insufficient explanation for God’s essence and existence because another being cannot cause God because he is the first efficient cause—the uncaused cause.

There are three important claims Thomas commits to concerning the doctrine of divine simplicity.[4]

(1) It is impossible that God have any spatial or temporal parts that could be distinguished from one another as here rather than there or as now rather than then, and so God cannot be a physical entity.

(2) It is impossible that God have any accidental properties.

(3) All of God’s intrinsic properties must be essential to him, it must be acknowledge that whatever can be intrinsically attributed to God must in reality just be the unity that is his essence.

August 1st, 2012

The Origin of Sin

by Max Andrews

Where did the original sin come from? It may be a little easier to understand how it is that Adam could have sinned being that he was tempted by another agent, Satan.  However, it may be more difficult to understand why it is that Satan chose sin.  Satan was not tempted by anything or anyone else.  Some find it problematic and an argument against free will, that is, that there is no reason why Satan would choose sin from the beginning.  Satan had to have been determined to sin.  I can understand that it is problematic, or unresting, in understanding the first sin, but I would rather understand the first sin as having its origin from the created being.  One of the tenets of soft-libertarianism is that all choices are not causally determined but are internally originated from the agent.  Causal relations may influence the soft-libertarian agent, but it does not cause him to do anything.  I would rather have the trouble explaining/speculating as to why a sinless free agent chose to sin rather than explain/speculate how a holy and perfect being can cause sin.  This is just a thought that came up in discussion earlier.