Posts tagged ‘John Calvin’

August 27th, 2012

The Language of God

by Max Andrews

In our experience, intentions get actualized any number of ways[1]: A sculptor by chiseling at stone, musicians by writing notes, engineers by drawing up blueprints. In general, all actualizations of intentions can be realized in language. Precise enough sets of instructions in a natural language can tell the sculptor how to form the statue, musician how to record the notes, and engineer how to draw up blueprints.

Why should an act of speech be God’s mode of creation? Language is the universal medium for actualizing intentions. The language that proceeds from God’s mouth in the act of creation is the divine Logos (Jn. 1.1-5). In the act of creation God the Father speaks the divine Logos in the power of the Holy Spirit. The divine Logos is not just language in the ordinary sense (utterances that convey information), but the very ground and possibility of language. Words need power to accomplish their end and God’s Word has that power (Is. 55.11).

Given that we are made in God’s image, the Trinitarian structure of creation is reflected in human speech.

“The word [goes] out of the mouth of God in such a manner that it likewise ‘[goes] out of the mouth’ of men; for God does not speak openly from heaven, but employs men as his instruments, that by their agency he may make known his will.”[2]

July 4th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Interrogatio

by Max Andrews

Word of the WeekWord of the Week: Interrogatio

Definition: A mode of inquiry in which questions yield results that are entirely new, giving rise to knowledge that cannot be derived by an inferential process from what was already known.

More about the term: Lorenzo Valla (1406-1457) developed the interrogative (interrogatio) rather than the problematic (quaestio) form of inquiry.  This method was similar to the works of Stoic lawyers and educators like Cicero and Quintilian; that is, questioning witnesses, investigating documents and states of affairs without any prior conception of what the truth might be.  Valla transitioned from not only using this method for historical knowledge but also applied it as “logic for scientific discovery.”[1]

Valla’s logic for scientific discovery was the art of finding out things rather than merely the art of drawing distinctions and connecting them together.  He called for an active inquiry (activa inquisitio).  John Calvin (1509-1564) applied this method to the interpretation of Scripture and thus became the father of modern biblical exegesis and interpretation.[2]  Francis Bacon (1561-1626) applied it to the interpretation of the books of nature, as well as to the books of God, and became the father of modern empirical science.[3]

June 8th, 2012

The Molinism Directory

by Max Andrews

I’ve decided to gather all my posts on Molinism in one post for easy reference.

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. A Review of Salvation and Sovereignty (Journal Publication)
  3. Review Essay: Four Views on Divine Providence
  4. Defining Omniscience
  5. Q&A 9: Layering Divine Middle Knowledge
  6. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  7. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  8. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  9. The Incoherence of Theistic Determinism–Moral Responsibility
  10. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  11. The Pelagian Equivocation
  12. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  13. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  14. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
    read more »

May 1st, 2012

Molinism and the Grounding Objection

by Max Andrews

The grounding objection asks the question: By what means or grounds does God know what he knows (particularly middle knowledge)?

Suppose I have an argument similar to the grounding argument from the grounding objection claiming that contingent truths are not self-explanatory but must simply exist, from all eternity, as an ungrounded, metaphysical surd.  How would I, as a Molinist, respond?

This objection is merely the result of misunderstanding the means by which God knows what he does.  God’s knowledge is wholly intuitive and relies on no existent entity and is completely compatible with divine aseity.  According to Luis de Molina,

God does not get his knowledge from things, but knows all things in himself and from himself; therefore, the existence of things, whether in time or eternity, contributes nothing to God’s knowing with certainty what is going to be or not to be… For prior to any existence on the part of the objects, God has within himself the means whereby he knows all things fully and perfectly; and this is why the existence of created things contributes no perfection to the cognition he has of them and does not cause any change in that cognition… [And] God does not need the existence of those things in his eternity in order to know them with certainty.[1]

April 25th, 2012

Molinism in Modern Philosophical Discussion

by Max Andrews

The task of a Molinist perspective of middle knowledge is to remove the perceived dilemma between human freedom and divine foreknowledge.  There are a minority of philosophers and theologians who hold to this Molinist doctrine.  On a promising note, middle knowledge is in modern philosophical debate and works advocated by some of the most prominent philosophers such as Thomas Flint, William Lane Craig, Ken Keathley, Kirk MacGregor, and perhaps one of America’s greatest philosophers, Alvin Plantinga.  These leading Molinists serve in prominent societies such as the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, the American Philosophical Association, and the American Academy of Religion, who serve as witnesses to middle knowledge amongst leading Calvinists, Openness Theologians, atheists, and philosophers of other schools of thought.  Middle knowledge, when implemented into modern discussion, serves as a defense to the many forms of the problems of evil (most notably the soteriological problem of evil), a plausible solution with explanatory scope and power for issues such as predestination, the doctrine of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, and is compatible with every other orthodox doctrine.

April 16th, 2012

Karl Barth on Election and Double-Predestination

by Max Andrews

Predestination is prominent in Barth’s thought.  To Barth, “election” is the sum heart of the gospel.  Barth “responds” to John Calvin by turning Calvin’s pre-destination into salvation for “all” mankind.  This is not universal salvation.  For Barth, election is the greatest gift to the good news of the Gospel.  Calvin understands election and pre-destination as a mystery in God whereby some are elected to salvation and some are elected to damnation.  As Calvin puts this doctrine in the hiddeness of God, he works against his usual theological practice of placing doctrine on God’s revelation and God’s manifestation of His will in Jesus.  Here, Barth points out that we must only reflect on God in His revelation and not, what is not revealed.  Barth’s “double-predestination” has two parts.  As Jesus is the Revelation of God, He is the Choosing God and the Choosing Man.  He is actively choosing and passively chosen.  Secondly, we know who is “elect” because in Christ, man is Chosen for salvation and God in Christ Chooses Himself for damnation.

February 16th, 2012

Can You Lose Your Salvation? A Molinist’s Perspective

by Max Andrews

FOCUS:  Can a born-again believer lose his or her salvation while simultaneously affirming God’s sovereignty and human free will while being consistent with Scripture?[1]

An Examination of the Perseverance of the Saints Doctrine

Apostolic warnings against apostasy pose a difficulty for the classic doctrine of perseverance of the saints because either the warnings seem superfluous or else it seems possible for the believer to fall away after all.  The attempt to construe the warnings as the means by which God effects perseverance fails to distinguish the classical doctrine from a Molinist doctrine, according to which believers can fall away but in fact will not due to God’s extrinsically efficacious grace.  A Molinist perspective is coherent and, unlike the classical doctrine does not render superfluous the apostolic admonitions.[2]

The traditional doctrine of perseverance states that not only will the saints maintain grace and salvation, but literally cannot fall from grace.  (It is very important to approach these and understand these texts in light of appropriate exegesis.) However, this seems to ignore numerous Scriptures, which warn the danger of apostasy of those who deliberately fall from grace:

Rom. 11:17-24; I Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; Col. 1:23; I Thess. 3:5; I Tim. 1:19-20; II Tim. 2:17-18; Jas. 5:19-20; II Pet. 2:20-22; I Jn. 5:16

Perhaps the most prominent:

Therefore leaving the elementary teachings about the Christ, let us press on the maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the death and eternal judgment.  3And this we will do, if God permits.  4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.  7For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings for the vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed and it ends up being burned.  Heb. 6.1-8 (NASB)

February 13th, 2012

The Theological Advantages of Molinism

by Max Andrews

For a context of where I’m coming from concerning Molinism please see my previous posts:

  1. Middle Knowledge in a Nutshell
  2. Why I’m Not an Arminian
  3. Why I’m Not a Calvinist
  4. God Controls Everything–Good and Bad
  5. Overpower–Is God Ultimately Responsible for Everything?
  6. The Pelagian Equivocation
  7. The Singular Redemption View of the Atonement
  8. Does God Ever Literally Change His Mind?–Yes
  9. Is a Molinist Concept of Providence Discomforting?
  10. Word of the Week Wednesday: Supralapsarianism

Advantages

  1. Holds a high view of God’s sovereignty while holding to an equal and uncompromising view of human free will.
  2. Provides a better model for understanding how it is simultaneously true that God’s decree of election while His rejection of the unbeliever is conditional.
  3. Affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in His universal salvific will  (which is problematic for the Calvinist) claiming that God loved the whole world (John 3:16) yet, Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25).
  4. God control’s all things, but does not cause all things.
    read more »

February 9th, 2012

Theology Thursday: Karl Barth’s Theology

by Max Andrews

Theology Thursday is a new feature on the blog, which gives a brief introduction to a theological person of significance.

Theologian: Karl Barth (1886-1969)

General summary of his theology: Barth has made man contributions to Christian theology. In this post I’ll discuss general theological ideas in Barth’s thought.

If the word of God the task of theology then there is a problem:  of all disciplines theology alone is confronted with an unanswerable question [for us]–What is before birth and after death?.  The question that my finite self overcomes nihilism.  Theology, whether preaching or teaching, the theological task is impossible but necessary because the question must arise in we existing human beings; and so, theology as the human speaking the word of God as God’s own speaking cannot be done; therefore, No.  Yet, theology, in seeking to speak the word of God, to human finitude and human need must be done.  In recognizing that theology cannot be done and cannot answer the question while still pursuing and seeking after the answer is to do two things:  glorify God and may open the field (when God allows it) to the possibility that an answer may come from God to existing human beings.  No human being, though, can say or speak absolutely and unambiguously the word of God as God’s own speaking.  Therefore, any true word of God that comes through our human speech is again still NO and YES, YES and NO, because it both is and is not the word of God.

June 28th, 2011

Einstein’s Impact on the Epistemic Method

by Max Andrews

Lorenzo Valla (1406-1457) developed the interrogative (interrogatio) rather than the problematic (quaestio) form of inquiry.  Valla’s mode of inquiry was one in which questions yield results that are entirely new, giving rise to knowledge that cannot be derived by an inferential process from what was already known.  This method was similar to the works of Stoic lawyers and educators like Cicero and Quintilian; that is, questioning witnesses, investigating documents and states of affairs without any prior conception of what the truth might be.  Valla transitioned from not only using this method for historical knowledge but also applied it as “logic for scientific discovery.”[1]

Valla’s logic for scientific discovery was the art of finding out things rather than merely the art of drawing distinctions and connecting them together.  He called for an active inquiry (activa inquisitio).  John Calvin (1509-1564) applied this method to the interpretation of Scripture and thus became the father of modern biblical exegesis and interpretation.[2]  Francis Bacon (1561-1626) applied it to the interpretation of the books of nature, as well as to the books of God, and became the father of modern empirical science.[3]

This methodology created a split between subject and object, knowing and being, and gave rise to phenomenalism.  Newton claimed that he invented no hypotheses but deduced them from observations produced rationalistic positivism, which engulfed contemporary European science.  This split’s gulf was widened by David Hume’s (1711-1776) criticism of causality, depriving science of any valid foundation in necessary connections obtaining between actual events and of leaving it with nothing more reliable than habits of mind rooted in association.[4]  Hume weighed heavy in Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) philosophical development.  Given the Newtonian understanding of space and time, Kant transferred absolute space and time from the divine sensorium to the mind of man (the transfer of the inertial system), thus intellect does not draw its laws out of nature but imposes its laws upon nature.  According to Kant one cannot know the Ding an Sich (thing itself) by pure reason; one is therefore limited to the sensual and shaping mental categories of the mind.  That which comes through sensation the intuitions are shaped by the mind’s a priori categories.  It is in this sense that Kant played an essential part in the development of the idea that man is himself the creator of the scientific world.

Throughout Einstein’s work, the mechanistic universe proved unsatisfactory.  This was made evident after the discovery of the electromagnetic field and the failure of Newtonian physics to account for it in mechanistic concepts.  Then came the discovery of four-dimensional geometry and with it the realization that the geometrical structures of Newtonian physics could not be detached from changes in space and time with which field theory operated.  Einstein stepped back into stride with Newton and his cognitive instrument of free invention.  It was free in the sense that conclusions were not reached under logical control from fixed premises, and it was invented under the pressure of the nature of the universe upon the intuitive apprehension of it.  Einstein used Newton and Maxwell’s partial differential equations in field theory to develop a mode of rationality called mathematical invariance.  Mathematical invariance established a genuine ontology in which the subject grips with objective structures and intrinsic intelligibility of the universe.[5]

Einstein’s categories are not some form of Kantian a priori but conceptions that are freely invented and are to be judged by their usefulness, their ability to advance the intelligibility of the world, which is dependent of the observer.  As he sees it, the difference between his own thinking and Kant’s is on just this point:  Einstein understands the categories as free inventions rather than as unalterable (conditioned by the nature of the understanding).  Einstein asserts that the real in physics is to be taken as a type of program, to which one is not forced to cling a priori.[6]

Principles of method are closely related to empirical observations.  As Einstein put it, “the scientist has to worm these general principles out of nature by perceiving in comprehensive complexes of empirical facts certain general features which permit of precise formulation.”[7]  These principles, not “isolated general laws abstracted from experience” or “separate results from empirical research,” provide the basis of deductive reasoning.[8]

There is a long tradition within Christian theology of drawing on intellectual resources outside the Christian tradition as a means of developing a theological vision.  This approach is often referred to by the Latin phrase ancilla theologiae (a ‘handmaid of theology’).  The evolution of thought and method from Newton to Einstein vitalized scientific theology.  Scientific theology argues that the working methods and assumptions of the natural sciences represent the best—or the natural—dialogue partner for Christian theology.[9]

Here too logico-deductive argumentation from static concepts and mechanistic systems are rejected.  There is another reorientation of man’s knowledge leaving epistemic and cosmological dualism behind in operations that have to do with the unity of form and being.  Scientific theology is concerned with the discovery of appropriate modes of rationality or cognitive instruments with which to enter into the heart of religious experience, and therefore with the development of axiomatic concepts with which to allow interior principles to be disclosed, and in that light to understand the rational structure of the whole field of God’s interaction with man and the world.[10]

Scientific theology takes Einstein’s knowing and being and his understanding of reality as a whole and applies this method of theology in Christian theology.  If the world is indeed the creation of God, then there is an ontological ground for a theological engagement with the natural sciences.  It is not an arbitrary engagement, which regresses back to Newtonian engagement, but it is a natural dialogue, grounded in the fundamental belief that the God about whom Christian theology speaks is the same God who created the world that the natural sciences investigate.[11]


            [1] Thomas F. Torrance, “Einstein and Scientific Theology,” Religious Studies 8 no. 3 (1972):  236-237.

             [2] Valla served in conjunction with Andrea Alciati (1492-1550) as Calvin’s primary influence for his biblical interpretation.

            [3] Torrance, 237.

            [4] Ibid., 240.

            [5] Ibid., 241-242.

            [6] Donna Teevan, “Albert Einstein and Bernard Lonergan on Empirical Method,” Zygon 37 no. 4 (2002): 875-876.

            [7] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, Trans. and rev. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Three Rivers, 1982), 221.

            [8] Teevan, 877.

            [9] Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 18-19.  There are five distinct classes of things—time, space, matter, energy, and the things relating to conscious life—form with their combinations the known universe.  The fifth class must, like the previous, be permanent in quantity, variable in form, and cannot be destroyed.  This may be simply labeled as “spirit.”  In natural science dialogues, this element is often referred to as “God,” though it does not necessarily carry the theological meanings with it.  This, perhaps, is the sense in which Einstein meant the term “God.”  T. Proctor Hall, “Scientific Theology,” Monist 23 (1913): 95.

            [10] Torrance, 244.

            [11] Both the natural sciences and Christian theology are to engage with the nature of reality—not deciding this in advance, but exploring and establishing it through a process of discovery and encounter.  McGrath, The Science of God, 21-22.