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!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Complementarian Issues & Biblical Integrity - A Rallying Cry

I'm no expert on complementarianism and egalitarianism, but I'm having a little fun commenting over here:

The argument of Ephesians 5 is simply unassailable. It can't be disposed of without dismantling the fundamentals of gender, the Gospel, or both. The best attempt so far has been to pit Ephesians 5:21 (mutual submission of all Christians) against 5:22-33 (submission of wives to husbands). As all THEOparadox readers know, Scripture vs. Scripture is always an invalid argument. The Bible interprets and balances itself, but it never invalidates its own testimony.

What has become of the Evangelical view of Scripture, when such thoughts are entertained? Over and over we see attempts to turn the Bible against itself. Whether it's the false dichotomy of Old Testament vs. New Testament, the imagined discrepancy between Jesus' message and the Gospel of Paul, or notions of "contradiction" in the themes and accounts of the four Gospels, there is no end to the ingenuity of unbelief. But what is most alarming is that Evangelicals are standing side by side with liberal scholars in launching the attacks.

In response to all of this, Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching Christians will continue to affirm that the Word of God is entirely true. Inerrancy is defensible. Scripture stands forever.

We will look to the Word of God as the authoritative and error-free guide in all matters of life and godliness. We will always stand firm with Luther and Calvin, shouting "Sola Scriptura!" And we will do so lovingly, yet without compromise.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Famous "Shell Fish" Argument Refuted

There is an excellent article by Jeremy Pierce (a.k.a. Parable Man) refuting the famous "Shell Fish" argument - an argument which President Obama has notably repeated in defense of his pro-homosexuality policies (which just goes to show that a law degree from Harvard doesn't necessarily preserve one from presenting obviously fallacious arguments against clear Scriptural teachings).

If you've ever read the Pentateuch and wondered why homosexuality is still wrong, but eating shell fish is now okay - yet both are called an abomination in the Old Testament - you'll want to check out Jeremy's short but sweet article. He adds the missing element to the discussion: viewing the shell fish issue in its original historical context rather than from our 21st century cultural point-of-view. I added a little note in the comments.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Complementarianism: A Gospel Issue?

Yep, it sure is. Below is my response to a recent post at "Jesus Creed," which seems to be a gathering place for less conservative Christians (some of them quite militant). Scot McKnight has blasted the "slippery slope" argument made by complementarians, so I gave him one that is derived purely from exegesis of Ephesians 5. It's not even deep exegesis - just obvious.

Ironically, some of the commenters at "Jesus Creed" have gone all the way down the slippery slope even as they vehemently deny the existence of such a slope. No argument needed, the proof's in the pudding. Anyway, here's my response, which is comment #152 in the thread:

1. Ephesians 5 prescribes gender-related roles to men and women in marriage.
2. Ephesians 5 compares these gender-related marriage roles to Christ and the Church (i.e. the Gospel)
3. Ephesians 5 specifically attaches the man’s role to Christ’s work (especially his death & self-denial) and the woman’s role to the salvation/sanctification/glorification experience of Church.
4. Ephesians 5 says gender-related roles in marriage are directly linked to the Gospel.

The Gospel is to be directly applied to marriage, but in different ways for men and women.

This is the foundation of complementarianism: gender-related roles based on the Gospel.

Now, let each one step back and preach the Gospel to himself (or herself). Does Christ initiate love toward the Church? Or does the Church initiate? Does Christ lead the Church? Or does the Church lead Him? Does Christ have authority over the Church? Or is the Church equal in authority with Christ? Who dies for whom? Who leads whom? Who carries the greater weight?

No slippery slope here. It’s just simple exegesis of Scripture that can’t be denied by anyone who accepts the Word as it is written.

An Egalitarian can certainly believe the Gospel, but he (or she) will be in defiance of Ephesians 5, and will have to explain away several other passages that link gender roles to the Biblical facts of creation and the fall.

Now, here IS a slippery slope I’m observing: Deny inerrancy . . . call the creation and fall in Genesis “figurative” or a myth . . . do away with the NT gender roles that are built on the creation & fall you don’t believe actually happened. The Gospel is tied to all of this, and can’t be separated by the sincerest idealism. Seems like some here are proving the slipperiness of the slope they don’t think exists. But keep in mind – this is not my argument, just an observation. My argument is that Ephesians 5 proves that the Gospel and complementarianism are indispensably linked. Any group or person that wants to be defined by Gospel-centeredness will necessarily follow Ephesians 5 into some form (even a mild form) of complementarianism.

We can applaud the Gospel Coalition and T4G for taking this unpopular but thoroughly Biblical stance.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our Redeemer

Isaiah 47:4 Our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, is the Holy One of Israel.

A Redeemer is one who saves others at his own expense.

Thus this word implies and pre-figures the Gospel, wherein God saves us and brings us into covenant relationship with Himself, by paying the greatest price. He is almighty enough to do it - yet He had to become weak (and even die) to accomplish it. He is our very own God, our Holy One, and we are His very own people. Blessed be the name of our great Redeemer.
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Christianity is so ... Aporetic

Paul Manata has been posting some wonderful articles at a new blog called Aporetic Christianity. With a philosophical flourish, he lays out the basic values that drive THEOparadox: God's infinite greatness, man's fallenness and finitude - and the pure, holy bafflement which sometimes results when they meet. If I can find a picture of him somewhere, Manata will surely be wearing one of our famous t-shirts soon.

Check out his article about the meaning of "Aporetic" and you will quickly see why.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Enjoying God's Creation

None of this evolved or came about by chance. God made this great playground!

Here are the kids going through the Great Stone Door yesterday, and enjoying a hike and a swim today. We re-enacted The Pilgrim's Progress while walking down the trails.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Vacation & Convocation

Tennessee is a beautiful place. The kids are enjoying swimming, exploring, catching critters, climbing up hills (we almost don't have those in Florida), sitting by the campfire, and spending time with Pa-poo (the prison chaplain) and Grandma (the world traveller).

I have been enjoying some extra time with family, family devotions, using rocks and trees and bugs as teaching illustrations, visiting a backwoods Fundamentalist church (very loud preaching), reading the Heidelburg Catechism, watching "Amazing Grace" (the movie about William Wilberforce), taking walks in the forest, reading a new blog called "Aporetic Christianity" (which Tony Hayling kindly pointed me to) and shopping at an expensive grocery store called Piggly Wiggly. We're staying in a little cabin in the middle of nowhere. It's bliss!
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Testing 1, 2

This is a test to see if I can really post from my new Android phone. If it works, I might just write a note or two while I'm on vacation next week. Just for fun, here are a couple of pics of the kids.
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Breaking News

Stephen Hawking finally declares his underlying presupposition of "godless creation."

Should we be surprised if he presents his mere opinion (his best guess) as if it was a verifiable scientific fact? Scientists (so called) have been doing this for so long that the world has lost its ability to distinguish what is truly factual (via observability, objectivity, repeatability & falsifiability) from what is obviously baseless conjecture.

Hawking has apparently been backed into a corner by the undeniable fact that the universe was created . . . somehow or other. Rather than acknowledge the God who made it (and him), he has opted to believe that the universe created itself - spontaneously. With all the scientific authority he can muster, Hawking invites us to accept this amazingly senseless, magical explanation. I just don't have enough faith to follow him down that path.

In response to this "new" development in the scientific world, our friends at the BioLogos Foundation may be forced to come up with a Christianized version of atheism for "conservative Evangelicals" who want to be accepted by the world's self-appointed intellectual elite. Or has that already been done?

Ironically, the "conservative Evangelicals" at BioLogos are closer to Hawking's godless viewpoint than that presented in the Scriptures. If this is what Evangelicalism has become, it's time to change labels. What can conservative, non-postmodern, actual Bible-believing Christians call themselves nowadays? It seems liberals have stolen all of the good labels.

In other breaking news: a group of atheists and agnostics have banded together to form the A-Theo-Creation Society in Brisbane, Australia. The group is dedicated to advancing the acceptance of Biblical creationism among non-theists. They claim that non-believers must embrace creation because Christians will never accept the message of non-theism until the origins hurdle is overcome. Ricky Docking, who founded the society after engaging in countless debates with staunch believers, told reporters that "accepting creationism is our best chance at maintaining credibility with Bible believing Christians. We want a fair hearing with them, and evolution just seems to get in the way of them accepting our more important beliefs, such as the non-existence of the soul and the basic denial of anything supernatural. We're hoping that once Christians see we accept their creationism, they will respect our views on the more life changing matters."

[That last paragraph was a joke]

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Square Circle of Compatibilism

In the previous post, I proposed that "square circles" actually exist in the form of the classic 3-dimensional cylinder. Building on this illustration, I'd like to examine some further implications of compatibilism.

Compatibilism affirms God's deterministic sovereignty and human freedom/responsibility. It says the two are not incompatible, but entirely reconcilable - though perhaps in ways not yet revealed.

One could argue that a cylinder of equal height and width is not a square at all, but a "stack" of circles that appears square under certain conditions. In other words, the squareness of the cylinder is a byproduct of the arrangement of the circles. Yet at certain angles, this inherently circular object gives the distinct appearance of being a square. Though it is made up of circles, it is not a "circular circle," for that would be a sphere. A cylinder is a uniquely "square" circle.

Compatibilism likewise argues that real human freedom and real divine deterministic sovereignty relate to one another in a specific way. Just as the square aspect of a cylinder depends on the circularity, so human freedom depends on divine sovereignty. Just as a cylindrical arrangement of circles creates a genuine square, God's total sovereignty creates genuine human freedom. The two are inseparable, but one is nonetheless dependent on the other.

Here are a few "object" lessons to augment this discussion . . .
(Remember: circles represent God's sovereignty and squares represent man's freedom)

Pelagianism - A perfect cube with no curvature of any kind. Effectively, no sovereignty of God, and all is dependent upon man's freedom. I add open theism to this category because it makes God subject to time. As I see it, a God who is not sovereign over time or human will can't be called "sovereign" in any true sense. Open theists will vehemently deny that they deny any essential, orthodox doctrine, but so far their writings convince me otherwise.

Arminian Free Will Theology - An element of circularity (divine sovereignty) is introduced only as squareness (human freedom) is removed. Arminians see exhaustive, meticulous sovereignty as excluding human freedom. This view is neither truly square (libertarian freedom) nor truly round (exhaustive sovereignty). It tries to be a bit of both, with a clear emphasis on squareness.

Compatibilism - As noted above, a cylinder's squareness is built from a particular arrangement of consistently diametrical circularity. Both aspects are truly present, but the squareness is totally dependent on the size and "height" of the circles. The greatest difficulty with this view is that no one can explain the details of how it works. It is formed by affirming a paradox, or (at the very least) a great deal of mystery. But what's wrong with that, if we are faithful to Scripture? As I see it, this is the most Biblical of all the possibilities represented. Put all your cards here, my friends.

Moderate Determinism - A certain amount of squareness (human freedom) is allowed, but only at the expense of circularity (divine sovereignty). The object is neither truly circular nor truly square from any angle. This view is the exact opposite the Arminian approach, and counters the Arminian denial of exhaustive sovereignty by proposing a greater limitation of human freedom. Some historical Calvinists - and probably Calvin himself - are represented here. Their views were closer to comatibilism than the Arminian view is, because they recognized human freedom as entirely subject to divine sovereignty. But a little grain of rationalism hurts this position.

Hard Determinism - A perfect circle from every perspective. Divine sovereignty is emphasized to the complete exclusion of human freedom. It's very attractive, but if any person held this position consistently, he would do absolutely nothing and then die under the delusion of fatalistic stoicism.

And the winner is . . . Calvinistic Compatibilism. In my opinion, it's the only one that fires on all cylinders.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

You Already Believe in Square Circles

Inevitably, the classic geometrical argument against Biblical and theological paradox comes up in conversation.

The incredulous questioner scrunches up his face and says, "Are you trying to get me to believe in square circles?"

Sometimes the tone of the question imparts a sense of rationalistic condescension. I've even seen the "square circle" invoked as the penultimate refutation of any and all paradoxical thinking. It's a philosophical, "So there!"

In spite of its perceived force and intended effect, the argument is completely bogus. We will see why in a moment. In the process, we shall demonstrate that it serves as an effective illustration of the very concept it tries to destroy. In other words, the "square circle" completely backfires as an attempt to dismantle the arguments validating theological paradox. A simple lesson in geometry turns it on its head. I answer it this way:

"Why yes, I am saying there are square circles. You already believe in them, and Geometry proves they exist." (So there!)

Squares and circles are, by definition, 2-dimensional objects. As such, they cannot exist in 1 dimension, but can exist in 2 and 3 dimensions. It is true that within a two dimensional field a shape cannot possibly be both square and circle at the same time, because squares and circles are (by any logic) mutually exclusive. However, on a three dimensional field things change radically. We can have square triangles (pyramids), circular triangles (cones), and - YES - square circles (cylinders)! View any of these objects from certain angles, and some of their shape characteristics disappear. From some angles, a cylinder with equal height and width looks just like a square. From other angles, the same cylinder appears to be a perfect circle. This doesn't make the cylinder self-contradictory - though it may appear that way when viewed two-dimensionally.

When we translate dual-shaped 3-dimensional objects onto two dimensional fields, we are forced to eliminate some of the dimensionality and thereby reduce the object to one of three possible shape types. Let's illustrate using the cylinder:

1. We can eliminate the axis that reveals circularity, and reduce it to a mere square.
2. We can eliminate the axis that reveals squareness, and reduce it to a mere circle.
3. We can retain aspects of all three axes, and reduce it to a shape which is properly neither a square nor a circle, but contains aspects of both.

Let's say divine sovereignty and human responsibility are circle and square, respectively. Some portions of Scripture only reveal God's sovereignty (perfect circles). Other portions of Scripture only reveal human responsibility (perfect squares). And some portions of Scripture mention both divine sovereignty and human responsibility in varying degrees (odd shapes made of squared angles and curves). Because we cannot see all three dimensions at once, God shows us the same issue from various angles. In our minds, they sometimes appear to contradict, but this is only a result of our limited vantage point.

The "square circle" argument against theological paradox overlooks the fact that one additional dimension makes the seemingly impossible possible. That extra dimension makes the apparently contradictory totally tenable. We must come to grips with the fact that God's logic - God's Truth, God's thinking, God's knowledge - exists on a higher plane than ours. He has infinite dimensions. So it is really amazing that we do not find more paradoxes in the eternal realities He has revealed. He has finely tuned His Word to be rationally intelligible to our wee little human brains - yet its revelations point to realities that are beyond our grasp and super-rationally True.

Compatibilism proposes that God plainly declares His absolute sovereignty because He wants us to hold it firmly, and He sometimes reveals human freedom without qualification because He wants us to hold it firmly. He reveals both together because He wants us to recognize that they interact in ways not fully discernible from our human point of view. Compatibilism says when we see squares and circles in the same place we can rationally believe there is a cylinder there (a 3D square circle).

In the Bible, God is not describing 2-dimensional concepts to 3-dimensional creatures. He is describing multi-dimensional concepts to comparatively 2-dimensional creatures living in a comparatively 2-dimensional world, with nothing but 2-dimensional logic to work with - and broken brains to boot. Our attempts to grasp His self-revelation ought to melt us down to the most humble confession: "I am insignificant! God is GREAT! I am a blockhead! God is WISE! I am limited! God is INFINITE! I am of the dust! God is ETERNAL!"

So, the next time someone asks you about square circles, just hand him the nearest cylindrical object and walk away without saying a word.