Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Monday, July 27, 2009

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

While I'm recovering from my recent moving adventure (see below), you may receive edification from this beautiful song and video about the cross. This is one of the many songs inspired by the words of Isaiah 53.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming . . .

I don't know if I keep much of a schedule here, but if I do it's been blasted to smithereens this week. I'm in the middle of MOVING (which means my home is in a state of temporary chaos). Oh, and did I mention my in-laws are in town? I'm a little distracted at the moment, so I won't be able to write blog posts for a few days. I'll be back soon.


I wish things looked this organized at my house right now!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Isaiah 52:14 - The Astonishing Sacrifice

"Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men. "

There are some intense thoughts here for the interested reader. Please consider these points as seeds for deeper meditation on the cross of Christ. God's Word REVEALS God's character - and His work on the cross reveals mysterious wonders that are satisfying food for our hungry, sin-sick souls. This is where we find the greatest encouragements, and the deepest change. We begin with an examination of the Hebrew word for "astonished." I pray that you and I and all mankind will fall down in utter awe before the Beautiful One Who died for lost, disgusting sinners like us. (Had I said "wretched," you wouldn't have tripped over that sentence. But the two words are synonymous - do you believe it? Until we believe it, won't be astonished by the cross.)

Astonished = Heb. SHAMEM, שמם - "To be desolate, be appalled, stun, stupefy ... to be desolated, be deflowered, be deserted ... be awestruck." (Brown-Driver-Briggs). "Basic to the root is the desolation caused by some great disaster, usually as a result of divine judgment.... the sense of 'horror' and 'shock' brought about by the vision of desolation. It is the inner response to the outward scene." (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament), "Awestruck or astonished." (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

The Cross is an Astonishing Thing
Gazing upon the cross of Christ will leave us blessedly desolate, as we are finally freed from ourselves, and liberated from the destructiveness of sin, and rightly made nothing in our own eyes. The cross properly deflowers us from the self-wrought veneer of our own glory. As worms looking up to the cross, we see what we are in what He became for us. As puffed up, self-inflatable gods looking down upon the cross, we see the means by which we may be made worms again. God knows we need to be astonished by some things. We need to be shaken out of the stupor of sin.

The Astonishment of the Cross Comes from the Marring of Christ's Appearance and Form.
Marred = Heb. MISHCHATH, משחת - "disfigurement (of face), corruption" (Brown-Driver-Briggs). Note that this is not an adjective, but an adjectival noun - representing disfigurement as personified and epitomized. The word is only used twice in the Old Testament. The other occurrence is in Leviticus 22:25, where it refers to an animal that has been bruised, crushed, torn, or cut, and is therefore unacceptable as a sacrifice. These terms fit well as a description of crucifixion, and the unacceptability of the animal may relate to Christ's work as the sin-bearing sacrifice, the One who became sin for us, and also became a curse for us. He bore our marred image, and shared with us in the destructive effects of sin - but for Him it was taken even further, so that He was marred by sin to a greater extent than we were.

This marring of the Son of God is designed to astonish us on many fronts . . .

The Cross Gives an Astonishing Revelation of the Depth of Man's Sin
On the surface of it, in the garden of Eden a piece of fruit was eaten. Today, fruit is eaten innocently on a regular basis. So what's the difference? In short, the difference is a matter of will. Adam and Eve ate the fruit contrary to God's command. In that act, for the first time, human beings defied the divine authority. We chose a course of action that was opposed to the revealed will of God. Our choice in the garden demonstrated extreme distrust for God, accusing Truth Personified of being a liar.

We dared to base the destiny of our race on the notion that Goodness Himself is somehow less than good. Our actions declared that God, Who IS LOVE, is unloving. We concluded that God was unreliable, imperfect, and unloving, and opted to build our future on the shaky sands of self-reliance, pride, and human wisdom. And by the way, we can still sin by eating fruit - if we don't eat it in faith, and to the glory of God.

Our choice in Adam opened the door to all sorts of calamity. It forfeited a perfect world for an existence fraught with tragedy. It separated us from God, ostensibly for eternity and without hope of repair or remedy. Adam had no hint that God would later move heaven and earth to undo the damage caused by humanity's rebellion.

The Cross is an Astonishing Revelation of God's Righteous Hatred for Sin, and His Just Judgment Against Sin
God's hatred for sin is not a mere preference. It is a deadly serious abhorrence of that which deserves to be abhorred. If Christ's experience on the cross shows us God's attitude toward sin, then in God's eyes there can be nothing more heinous than sin. Sinners who are not redeemed are ultimately abandoned by God. Bearing our sin, Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" The final result of sin is complete separation from God. He will have nothing to do with sin, for it is utterly and eternally odious to Him.

To further discern the awfulness of God's judgment against sin, consider that Christ's wounds were not merely physical. He appears even in heaven as "a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain." God's judgment against sin, meted out vicariously against His Own beloved Son, was much deeper than bodily death. What Christ suffered in His body was an illustration of His greater afflictions.

Just look at some of the internal aspects of Christ's sufferings:

Isaiah 53:6 ... the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
Isaiah 53:10 But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.
Isaiah 53:11 As a result of the anguish of His soul ...
Isaiah 53:11 ... He will bear their iniquities.
Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted within me.

Even in Gethsemane, our Lord spoke these words:

Matthew 26:38 "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death ..."

The Cross is an Astonishing Revelation of Christ's Willingness to Suffer
Our Lord's suffering was greater than any other man's suffering ever was. At particular times, each of us has carried the objective and subjective guilt of his own sins. To an enlightened conscience, the weight of this is unbearable. Yet our knowledge of personal guilt is spread out across a lifetime, and we often succeed in distracting ourselves from it. When we believe the Gospel, we find a salve which brings comfort to our bedraggled hearts and cleanses our consciences continually. But Christ carried the sins of the many, all at one time, and without benefit of distraction or comfort. He suffered the fully concentrated blast of sin's horrendous condemnation, and the unbridled wrath of the Father. It would take an eternity in hell to justly execute God's wrath against our sin upon us. Christ received that eternity's worth of wrath, multiplied by millions or more, all in the space of a few hours at most. It's no wonder there was darkness, and there were earthquakes. In light of this, it's remarkable that the earth itself did not burst into shards of cosmic debris, and that the sun did not implode at the sight of God enduring the agony of man's sin.

When Adam's fallen sons receive the wrath of God in any measure, they can at least realize that they are receiving exactly what they deserve, and what their deeds have warranted. But Christ's suffering was magnified by His divinity and sinlessness. He never deserved an ounce of divine wrath, but He received all the infinite fury of it.

"Because Christ was infinite in dignity, glory, and power, he had to descend an infinite distance to save us." (William P. Farley, Outrageous Mercy, p. 93)

Christ's sufferings were unimaginably heavy, yet He did not suffer under compulsion. He gave Himself willingly and without a trace of malice. Typically, when we human beings suffer even slightly, we rise up with cursings of hellish anger and hatred. But the Man Christ Jesus, suffering fathomless horrors, offered forgiveness to His murderers.

The Cross is an Astonishing Revelation of God's Humble Omnipotence

There are wonders here! Absolute wonders!

Implicit in the Gospel is Christ's amazing ability to become something MORE (or at least "other") without losing (or changing) what He essentially IS in His perfect divinity. He existed eternally as God, but became a man. He lived sinlessly on earth, but became sin for us on the cross. He is forever blessed, yet He "became a curse for us." (Galatians 3:13). He was, and is, and always will be divinely perfect - yet He "took the form of a bondservant" (Philippians 2:7) "became obedient" (Phillippians 2:8), "learned obedience" (Hebrews 5:8) and "was made perfect" (Hebrews 5:9). Nevertheless, He is "the SAME yesterday, and today, and forever." All of this is consistent with His astounding humility and grace, not to mention His abundantly and overwhelmingly great and indescribably magnificent LOVE. God can do things that we can't even begin to imagine, because He is moved by "the great love with which He loved us." (Eph. 2:4).

Note: This is not an acquiescence to the heresy known as "process theology." Process theology teaches that some aspects of God are changeable by nature. Contrary to this, Scripture teaches that Christ took on human characteristics in time, without any change in His eternal deity. There is mystery here, to be sure, but the mystery should never lead us to a denial of God's sovereignty and immutability, for those are Biblical facts which must never be denied. Link:

The Cross is an astonishing Revelation of God's Infinite Love for Human Beings
Why did God the Father send His Son? Why did God the Son consent to suffer death in our place? Why did God the Holy Spirit actively participate in this divine conspiracy which involved the crushing and alienation of one member of the Holy Trinity? Surely the collective heart of the entire Godhead was broken in Christ's passion! And we ask again, WHY?

The New Testament offers up a disarmingly simple answer to this complicated question:

Titus 3:4-5 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy ...
Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) ...
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

At the cross, inexorable justice meets fathomless love. And there is sufficient sacrifice here to save a world that has abandoned it's Creator.

The person who looks upon the cross with faith sees this: his own sins have caused the suffering, shed the blood, and taken the life of the Perfect Man who is the Son of God. By this fact we are ever crushed. But God has used the cross to wipe out the debt of our sins and bring us back into fellowship with Himself. By this fact we are ever renewed and made joyous again.

So, first we are astonished at our wretchedness. But as we continue to consider the cross, we become even more amazed at God's stupefying grace.

Dear friend, are you astonished yet? If not (or if not enough), keep setting your gaze upon the cross. There you will find that God gives you everything you need, and all that He requires.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some Clarifications on Faith, Works, Justification and Sanctification

EDITOR'S NOTE: Recently I posted a video of John Gerstner teaching about justification. Afterwards, I had a long conversation with Tony Hayling about the pros and cons of Gerstner's choice of words. Tony eventually sent me the following treatise, which was a wonderful gift. It is an exposition of justification and sanctification by faith alone, the like of which I have rarely seen. I don't think Gerstner would disagree with what's written here, but Tony makes some important points that the video leaves out. Frankly, I rank this on a par with Luther's famous treatise on Justification by Faith. I doubt I am overstating the case. Like Luther, Hayling takes us to the Gospel, and Christ, and grace, and a sovereign God for EVERYTHING related to our salvation. Unlike Luther, Hayling believes the book of James is canonical.

Justification and Sanctification by Faith
By Tony Hayling

Justification is about what Jesus has done. Sanctification is about abiding in what Jesus has done. IF one is truly justified then one HAS BEEN sanctified in the sense of being set aside for holy use (like the vessels in the temple were sanctified).

The frequent misapplication of the complementarian idea that we have a "duty faith" to PRODUCE good works IF we are justified (by which some mean "saved") is actually a Roman Catholic heresy. It's where Tetzel made his living. It's where Luther stood in the breach and refused to budge. The Catholics never had a problem with salvation by grace through faith - their problem was the tiny, tiny word "alone."

Either we are saved (meaning the whole ball of wax from justification to glorification) by grace alone through faith alone or we are saved by a grace which gets us started, but cannot finish the job. We know from Philippians 1:6 that such a statement is heresy.

So I go surprisingly far down the road with those other heretics, the Grace Evangelical Society. But there is a significant difference. They believe that a confession of faith, once made, secures a person's salvation; a person is saved by WHAT THEY DO (even though they can flatly deny it later); and they are saved even if they later deny the faith. True Christians do not believe these things. They do not believe they are saved BY faith, but THROUGH it. It is something GOD does - but it is something that God DOES (in other words, there is evidence of God's activity, namely by the obedience of faith).

Not only is entire salvation something that God did in Christ on the cross for those He came to save, but it is something He upholds by keeping those whom He justified. In fact, He clearly stated that not one of those He died for can be lost (or snatched out of His hand). The problem arises when people start talking in terms of OUR part, as if our not doing that part could have any effect upon what God has done once for all in Christ. The very gates of hell cannot deflect or prevent what God purposed to do from eternity in creating, saving and glorifying His church in Jesus Christ.

The doctrine of justification tells us HOW God saves. It does not save of itself. Faith is the means by which God saves, but faith itself does not save. Our faith is not in our faith. Our faith is always in what God HAS DONE. He has justified His elect and nobody can undo that.

The question arises as to what difference this makes in sanctification. You've heard the truism "We are justified (or saved) through faith alone, but a faith that saves is never alone". I think people mean by this that a truly saved person WILL produce fruit. But they so often misrepresent it by implying that a person MUST produce fruit - thereby driving a poor struggling saint right back to the LAW, when they thought they were saved by an act of grace while they were yet sinners. Who changed the rules?

We will NEVER - NEVER - produce godly works by fear or guilt. That was the whole idea of the law - to show us our spiritual impotency. Godly works are the fruit of abiding in the finished work of Christ. "There is forgiveness with Thee, THAT thou mayest be feared."

I cannot overemphasize the need to get this
exactly right. Works are not really what we DO so much as what God manifests through and in us because we are looking at what He did in Jesus Christ. It's sort of like walking a tightrope over Niagara falls. We keep looking straight ahead (at the risen, glorified Christ) and we're fine. We look down at our own feet and we start to fall.

The warning and admonishment passages, apart from Christ, can only kill the soul. They are law.
They say "do this or else". But that is not the gospel. The gospel says, "Jesus Christ did this for you - believe in Him". As Paul rightly said, there is nothing wrong with the law. It is good and perfect and not one jot or tittle will pass away. But it lacks the power to save. It can condemn and it can kill. In fact, that is its purpose in the drama of redemption AND sanctification.

Why begin in the spirit and finish in the flesh? The commands to do and to act righteously exist as pedagogues to bring us to Christ. Even in the gospel age. Especially in the gospel age. We cannot maintain or keep our salvation by deeds of righteousness. We "maintain" and "keep" it in exactly the same way that we first received it - by believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work. That abiding is what produces fruit in the true believer.

There might be some confusion about the means by which fruit is manifested. It is manifested through the exercise of our faith - God will neither believe nor repent FOR us. We are means. We are vessels. For a good deed to be done it must be manifested in our words and through our actions. But we step into heresy when we attribute those deeds to our own stick-to-it-iveness. We have forgotten already Who it is that is in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. We are not admonished to work, but to work OUT our own salvation. The difference is huge. Working OUT our salvation is simply being in constant remembrance of what God has done for us. If we truly do this, then fruit is INEVITABLE. But I would never in a million years employ the term NECESSARY. It's too misleading - especially today, in a Christian environment in which people already believe that they are helping God out by choosing to believe Him. The seed of Arminianism has rotted the truth from the root. And it has grown to full blown Pelagianism in many places because people have bought the lie that God does His part and we must do ours.

Jonah 2:9 is clear. Salvation (all of it) is of the Lord. Jonah's saga is proof positive that those whom He justifies, He sanctifies. It is proof that God produces willingness in His people. He does it by revealing Himself to them and in them. He does NOT do it by commanding them to do something and leaving it up to them. That is death. Augustine pleaded with God to command what He would, but to grant that which He commanded. He knew that the command could only
condemn him in his own mind (even in the gospel age) but that God could use the command, through Jesus Christ, to produce fruit in him.

This whole concept is a hill I will die on. It disturbs me that there is a Christianity out there in which people see themselves as saved by the power of God and kept by something that they themselves do - or MUST do. Law has no place except to bring us to Christ. If there is anything we MUST do it is to believe in the One Whom He has sent - period. End of story. But that is not enough for those who would get some trace of human work in by the back door. I'll say it one more time - we are not justified by what we do, neither are we sanctified by what we do. We are justified and sanctified by what Jesus Christ did once for all in His life, death and resurrection. Our job is to walk in it by looking to those facts and believing with the faith that God works in us.

This fundamental truth is so easily perverted because fertile ground exists for the heresy of human contribution even in professing believers. It is taught from many pulpits - even evangelical pulpits. Are men like Gerstner technically right when they use the word "necessary" in the way they do. Well, yes. But what help is it to be "right" by dotting the "i"s when the whole sense is perverted because the listeners have no idea of the nuances involved. 16th Century terms for technical aspects of doctrine play well in Seminary or Reformed blogdom, but will they play in Peoria?

Will we BELIEVE God - that He will produce the fruit if we abide in Christ - or will we go down to Egypt for horses and chariots because we want back-up in case God fails? Are we our own insurance policy? Or is God perfectly able to do what he says He will do?

The truth about law and gospel I discovered without the aid of any modern church - indeed quite in spite of them. And once discovered, it is a truth I shall never relinquish - that it is only by looking to Christ that any good is borne in and through us at all. It is never on account of what we do, nor what we imagine needs to be done that we are either justified or sanctified. Ours is all response in faith to what God has done to make us fit for His kingdom.

I give you below an extract from a rare and out of print work by Luther called "God's Word and God's Work":

The most acceptable service we can do and show to God, and which alone He desires of us, is that He be praised of us; but He is not praised unless He first be loved; He is not loved unless He first be bountiful and does well; He does well when He is gracious; gracious when He forgives sins. Now who are those that love Him? They are that small flock of the faithful who acknowledge such graces and know that through Christ they have forgiveness of their sins.

I see that it is in the seeing, and holding to, and believing of Who Christ is and what He alone has done that the flower of good works blossoms. It is BECAUSE we believe that we HAVE BEEN SAVED (justified and set apart) that we produce fruit. The production of fruit is not to the fruit's credit, nor is it truly within the fruit's power to grow, but that of the vine or the tree.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Speaking of Birthdays . . .

Some Calvinist I am! I was just reading this post over at Green Baggins - and suddenly I realized that while I was talking about the first birthday of this blog yesterday, I had entirely forgotten to note that it was John Calvin's 500th birthday.

It's funny that I started a blog on Calvin's 499th birthday. That was completely coincidental.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday THEOparadox!

It's been one year since THEOparadox first launched with the post, "What is THEOparadox?" Since that time, there have been almost 120 posts added. Here are some of the highlights from the year:

The Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart (2 Parts)
The Relationship Between Divine and Human Goodness (4 Parts)
Repentance and Amazing Grace in Psalm 32 (15 Parts)
The Impossible Sayings of Jesus (10 Parts)
You Must Be Born Again (3 Parts)
..... The Rich Young Ruler (3 Parts)
..... (I'll finish it at some point, but I'm a slow reader, so please be patient)
We followed (and participated in) some controversies about theological paradox
We articulated a theology and philosophy of paradox
We distanced ourselves from false forms of theological paradox
We defined our terms
We offered up 8 "PARADOX FILES" as examples of the basic thesis behind the blog
We formed a team of 4 like-hearted (if not always like-minded) members.

And we had a little Reformed fun, too . . .

I want to extend a hearty thanks to the following people, each of whom has significantly contributed to this blog in some way . . .

My Precious Wife (the AMAZING woman!) - for putting up with late-night study sessions when I just can't let go of those tricky theological questions, and for helping me stay focused and God-centered. And for her forgiveness. LOTS and LOTS of forgiveness.
Dr. Chris DeVidal (who is not a "real" doctor and who no longer blogs, unfortunately) - because he's one of my best friends, a godly example, a good thinker, and a challenging "hold-you-accountable" kind of brother in Christ. And he loves his wife. (his blog is still available for viewing, and the old articles are still really good).
Pastor Craig Bowen of Lakeside Community Church - for being a true disciple-maker, a fearless preacher of the Word, a faithful example and a brother in Christ.
Tony Hayling of "Agonizomai"- for his friendship and lots of great discussions (when you suggested I write a blog, did you ever think it would come to this? Me, either).
Barry Wallace of "Who Am I?" - for his friendship and TONS of encouragement.
Dr. John Piper - for loads of great sermons that help me remember how wondrously great God is!
Dr. Curt Daniel - for helping me to understand historic Calvinism in its beautiful balance (his 75 lectures are super and well worth your time - trust me on that).
David Ponter of "Calvin & Calvinism" - for helping me better understand the strengths of the moderate wing in Reformed theology.
Dr. James Anderson - for brilliantly laying out the historical and philosophical case for theological paradox (you may want to check out his blog).
Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs - for a brief, but very helpful, conversation about theological paradox. And a pride-bashing, grace-empowered sermon. I'm still chewing on that!
My Dear Daughter (a.k.a. GirlWhomGODloves) - for her excellent and insightful guest articles.

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who has linked to this site, re-published THEOparadox articles, commented on the posts, faithfully followed the progress of this blog, or simply stopped by on occasion. I pray the God of all grace will meet you powerfully in His boundless love and mercy through what you have found here - and that His glorious truth may always renew our minds so that we are conformed to the image of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

For God and the Gospel!

Grace & peace,
Derek Ashton

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Crossed Sabres!

I was minding my own business and trying to avoid controversy for awhile, but another paradox duel has broken out ... so let's talk about it. Here we will learn some important things about paradox and the law of non-contradiction.

This time it's James Anderson vs. Turretin Fan (links to their posts are at the bottom). Since the two of them crossed swords a few weeks ago, TF has been mulling over the subject of theological paradox and trying put together an argument. He follows a very typical pattern that I have seen over and over from those who refuse to accept the idea of Biblical paradoxes. Essentially, he reduces the paradox concept to this obviously false proposition: "A can be both A and non-A, at the same time and in the same sense."

No, No, No! Belief in paradox is not a rejection of the law of non-contradiction (at least not for me, and certainly not for James Anderson). In the Neo-Orthodox concept of paradox, the laws of logic may be suspended or denied, but paradoxes in Reformed theology don't work that way. The reference to the law of non-contradiction is nothing more than a straw man.

Despite his aversion to paradox, I appreciate Turretin Fan for the way he upholds the core truths of Reformation theology and defends the faith against heresy. But I don't appreciate the way he moderates comments on his site. In the past he has been unwilling to publish comments from me, no matter how constructively or graciously they are presented. Below are the comments I sent to Turretin Fan in response to his argument against paradox. I'll take his refusal to publish this as an admission of defeat. (UPDATE: TF has published my comment, and responded here as well. I think the discussion has taken a step in the right direction. FURTHER UPDATE: TF has even invited me to comment on a particular post on his site. I guess it just took some time for him to warm up to me.)
TF, I think the point is being missed here.

Let's take the classic example of divine sovereignty and human responsibility (indeed, this is Packer's famous "antinomy"). It's clearly not a case of "A is both A and non-A." It's more like this: A implies non-B, and B implies non-A. Yet both A and B are Biblical propositions (and therefore true).

A. God is completely sovereign. (this IMPLIES that created beings are not responsible)
B. Man is fully responsible for his choices. (this IMPLIES that God is not completely sovereign)

The two propositions do not directly contradict one another. They only appear to contradict on the basis of what they imply. Yet the implications are natural and reasonable (some might even say they're necessary, but I wouldn't).

Since Scripture does not give us the resolution for this, we have just grounds to affirm that there is an area of mystery between these two Biblically TRUE propositions. The paradox arises when human beings try to understand HOW the two propositions relate to one another, and as our minds interpret their implications. There is no ACTUAL CONTRADICTION, but in our minds there appears to be one (apparent contradiction = paradox).

If it was simply a matter of "A cannot be both A and non-A," the whole matter would be simple. But it's more complicated than that.

If Scripture sets forth two propositions with apparently contradictory implications, but it remains silent on how the implications can be reconciled, then we are left with unresolved paradoxes. Our various attempts to explain them are mere man-made theories which may or may not be true.

In the end, don't we have to say Scripture is more weighty than human reason? Only by elevating human reason to the level of Scripture can one affirm categorically that all Biblical paradoxes are resolvable.

Stated formally, my argument looks like this:

P1) A and B are Biblically warranted propositions
P2) A implies that B cannot be true
P3) B implies that A cannot be true
Conclusion 1 (based on P1 alone) Both A and B are true
Conclusion 2 (based on P2 & P3) The relationship between A and B is an unrevealed mystery, and the implications of A and B form an unresolved paradox.

As long as the information which is needed to resolve the paradox is unrevealed (or if, as some would argue, we are incapable of receiving it), the mysterious relationship and the paradoxical implications remain.

This has nothing at all to do with "A cannot be both A and non-A." For me, belief in that rule is what leads to an affirmation the existence of humanly unresolvable paradoxes. I wonder if the real reason so many people chafe at this is that our proud hearts simply can't tolerate not knowing - and not being able to know - the divine secrets. Wasn't that part of the motivation that led to the fall of our race?

Grace & peace,
Derek Ashton

Turretin Fan against Paradox:
James Anderson for Paradox:

TF has added this:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Meet Dr. James Anderson - Author, Professor, Philosopher, and Proponent of Paradox

Here's a video about Dr. James Anderson, author of Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status. So far, I've reviewed the first two chapters of the book, and I'll be adding more soon.

Anderson has accomplished a great feat in setting forth a philosophically grounded case for theological paradox. Prior to this, theological paradox was widely acknowledged - and even assumed in many circles - but no one had built a logical case for it from a philosophical standpoint. As such, Anderson has made a monumental contribution to theology, hermeneutics, and apologetics. Most importantly, he has helped us define the boundaries between apparent contradiction and actual falsehood, logical paradox and irrationality, genuine mystery and baseless mysticism. Even as Anderson was penning his book, God was opening my heart to the possibilities of Biblical paradox. Reading the book, I find the Lord is expanding my mind to a greater appreciation of the nature of His Truth.

The video is partly a bio of Anderson, and partly a promo for Reformed Theological Seminary, where Anderson teaches. Enjoy!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Isaiah 52:13 - The Servant is Exalted, Even in His Sufferings

"He will be high, and lifted up, and greatly exalted."

Here it appears we have a pile-up of synonyms. But do we?

Although it is true that the Hebrews were fond of using synonymous terms for emphasis, I do not believe the Spirit's intent in this passage was merely to emphasize how exalted Christ is. I propose that this verse does not simply tell us that He is exalted; rather, it tells us why and how He is exalted. The three terms - high, lifted up, greatly exalted - may speak of three distinct phases in the existence of the Son of God: His pre-incarnate glory, His crucifixion, and His exaltation at the Father's right hand following the resurrection. The main reason for this is the phrase, "He will be ... lifted up," which is consistently used in John's Gospel as a reference to the cross.

Jesus Christ was
Highly Honored from all eternity

Heb. RUWM, רום = " to rise, rise up, be high, be lofty, be exalted ... to be set on high ... to be raised, be uplifted, be exalted ... to be lifted ..." (Brown-Driver-Briggs) It is noteworthy that on numerous occasions this Hebrew word is translated "to offer," in the context of ritual sacrifices. Perhaps there is a hint here of the covenant of redemption.

Where was Jesus before the incarnation? Did He exist prior to the virgin birth? Scripture makes it clear that He not only existed eternally as God, but He existed in a state of glory with the Father. Consider this prayer in John 17 . . .

John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."

And look at the claim He makes in a dispute with the Pharisees:

John 8:57-58 “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

The last sentence was correctly interpreted by the Jewish leaders as a claim to deity, for they immediately picked up stones and attempted to kill Him.

Jesus Christ was Lifted Up on the Cross

Heb. NASA, נשא = the common Heb. word for lifting or carrying, occurring 654 times in the OT. It means "to lift, bear up, carry, take ... to be lifted up, be exalted ... to be borne, be carried ... to be taken away, be carried off, be swept away" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)

The term "lifted up" can be taken as a technical reference to crucifixion. Note that the voice is passive (in Heb. it is the Niphal stem), while the terms before and after are in the active voice (Qal stem in Heb.). Someone is lifting Him. While this might refer to Christ's exaltation by the Father, there is no reason to suppose it does not rather indicate the cross. Note these passages from the book of John:

John 3:14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."

John 8:28
So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.

John 12:32-34 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. The crowd then answered Him, "We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"

It is not by accident that the cross is placed between "high" and "greatly exalted" in Isaiah's account. Our Lord was indeed "lifted up" on the cross . . . but this was not the end.

Jesus Christ is Now Greatly Exalted

Heb. MEOD, מאד = "exceedingly, much" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)
Heb. GABAHH, גבה = "to be high, be exalted ... to be lofty" (Brown-Driver-Briggs)

He has been glorified exceedingly in His resurrection, ascension, and heavenly reign.

Ephesians 1:20-22 ... [God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church ...

Philippians 2:8-11 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It was through the humble obedience of being "lifted up" on the cross that our Lord was most highly exalted. Beloved, our path is to follow this same trajectory. The way of humble obedience leads to the highest glory.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Meet Barry Wallace

Editor's Note: We're taking a quick break from the current series to post the following article from Barry Wallace. Barry owns the "Who Am I" blog, where I also write occasionally. I'm thrilled to have Barry as a THEOparadox team member, but if you've been reading this blog, you already knew that. -Derek

Since Derek and I recently agreed to team up on our respective blogs, I thought it might be good for me to briefly introduce myself. For some time now, I've been a regular reader of Derek's blog, and an occasional commenter. In fact, our paths first crossed, I think, when I providentially stumbled onto Dereks' blog and commented on this post. I subsequently found Derek to be thoughtful, gracious, and Christ-like, both in his writing and in his interaction with others.

The other thing I discovered about Derek, as I continued to read his blog, was his relentless desire to be Christ centered, or gospel centered. Like a moth drawn to the flame, Derek's heart and mind constantly seemed to be returning to, and circling around, the precious, spotless Lamb of God. That's been evident to me in the past, and it's evident once again in Derek's current series.

For those reasons, and more, I was honored and grateful when Derek approached me about becoming a member of his blog team. I'm also humbled, and feel that I stand to benefit more than anyone else from this partnership.

That said, here are a few things you might like to know about me. I'd be happy to answer any other questions you might have in the comments.

  • I would probably be considered a moderate Calvinist. By "Calvinist" I mean that I love to attribute all glory and honor and power, in everything, to God and God alone. By "moderate" I mean that I place more emphasis on the universal aspect of God's love, and the unlimited aspect of Christ's atonement, than some of my fellow Calvinists.
  • I believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts, meaning I'm not a cessationist.
  • I'm as intrigued (though not as articulate or well read) as Derek is with the paradoxes of Scripture.
  • I live in Sikeston, MO, a relatively small town in the southeastern corner of the state.
  • I'm 53, divorced and remarried, with two children out on their own, another one in college, and two still at home (that's 1 wife and 5 kids--oh, and the best little dog in the world).
  • I was converted about 34 years ago. My spiritual progress since then has at times been steady (chalk that up to God's grace), and at times wretched (chalk that up to me).
  • I'm a deacon in my small Southern Baptist church.
My contribution to this blog will be mostly unseen,. My aim is to support Derek behind the scenes and pray for him, as he aims to honor Christ with this blog and with his life. In that, I would love for you to join me.