Monday, December 31, 2012

Trinitarian plumbing

What does it mean to profess the Nicene creed? As a logical and logistical matter, it isn’t even possible to profess the Nicene creed, for there’s no one Nicene creed to profess. Rather, you have to make an initial choice between two different versions of the Nicene creed: the Eastern and the Western.

The Western edition contains the famous or infamous (depending on your viewpoint) filioque clause, whereas the Eastern edition, which represents the “original” version, does not.

The filioque is generally dated to Toledo III in 589, although there’s a text-critical question regarding our extant MSS. Did the original canon include the Filioque?

However, the theology underwriting the filioque antedates Toledo. It has antecedents in Hilary of Poitiers (4C) and Marius Victorinus (4C). It especially reflects the Triadology of Augustine.  

The Western edition is the default edition for Protestants and Roman Catholics. I believe that’s the edition which is customarily recited in Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

If you’re a high churchman (e.g. Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy), your authoritarian ecclesiology commits you to a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards the Nicene creed. If, on the other hand, you’re a low churchman, you’re at liberty to affirm as much as you think is correct.

From what I’ve read, the Eastern orthodox object to the filioque on two basic grounds:

i) They raise an ecclesiastical objection. They don’t think the Western church had the authority to unilaterally amend the Nicene creed. The Nicene creed was promulgated by Constantinople 1, and only another ecumenical council has the authority to revise the Nicene creed.

Of course, that objection shifts the question to whose church has the authority to revise the Nicene creed. Obviously Roman Catholics do think their church has that prerogative.

ii) They also raise a theological objection. They think double procession is ditheistic, for it introduces a second originating principle into the Trinity.

Whether that’s true is a matter of interpretation. For instance, I believe that Augustine still regarded the Father as the primary and ultimate source of the Son and the Spirit alike. So it may be a difference of emphasis.

Conversely, the filioque may have been added to close the door on Arianism, by giving the Son a constitutive role in the intratrinitarian existence.

To some degree the Eastern and Western versions of the Nicene creed reflect different models of the Trinity. To somewhat oversimplify the difference, the Eastern begins with the Father as the source of the (other) persons whereas the Western begins with the divine nature as the source of the persons.

The whole debate is like Trinitarian plumbing. Is the Father the faucet that channels the Son and Spirit through two separate pipes, or does the Father channel the Son through one pipe, while the Son diverts the stream through another pipe to channel the Spirit?

In my opinion, both models of the Trinity trade on implicitly mechanical metaphors which are unsuited to a timeless, spaceless God.

In any event, we need to ground our doctrine of God in his biblical self-revelation, rightly interpreted.

Wittgenstein's Vienna

This post is actually not about Wittgenstein, but I’m using that to illustrate a point. Wittgenstein was a famous philosophy prof. at Cambridge. Years ago, commentators on Wittgenstein used to discuss him as if he was a British philosopher, like J. L. Austin. But, of course, he wasn’t. That treatment changed when this book was published:

Allan Janik & Stephen Toulmin: Wittgenstein’s Vienna

For more, see:

The point the authors were making is that you couldn’t really interpret Wittgenstein in a cultural vacuum. To understand him, you had to understand his formative influences.

The book also benefited from the fact that Toulmin was one of Wittgenstein’s star students. So he had firsthand knowledge of Wittgenstein.

If you want to understand Wittgenstein, it’s not enough to read Wittgenstein. You also need to study the life and times of Wittgenstein. It also helps to read expositions of his philosophy by distinguished students of his, who had the opportunity to question him, viz. Elizabeth Anscombe, Norman Malcolm, Stephen Toulmin.

Now, I say all that to say this. I’m struck by how often evangelical converts to Rome imagine that they can jump feet first into the church fathers without any basic background information. They imagine that if they just read the church fathers in some English translation, they understand what they are reading. Yet that’s terribly naïve.

Wittgenstein is far closer to our own time and civilization than the church fathers. Yet you can’t expect to understand his philosophy by simply reading his works.

To understand the church fathers, you have to do some serious reading in the secondary literature. You have to know things about their parents, education, social class. About the political and socioeconomic circumstances that conditioned their outlook. About their philosophical mentors and foils.

Some Clarkian Scripturalits like Drake Shelton also suffer from Catholic convert syndrome when it comes to the church fathers.

The argument from reason

A friend asked me what I thought of Victor Reppert’s argument from reason. Here’s my response:


I just finished reading his version of the argument in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Here are my off-the-cuff impressions:

i) I think it’s a good argument. I think it can be popularized.

ii) In popularizing theistic proofs, I think we need to clarify the value and limitations of popularized theistic proofs. I think we should classify popularized theistic proofs under defensive apologetics rather than offensive apologetics. I think they can be useful in giving Christians supporting arguments for their faith. They can give Christians some intellectual confidence or assurance.

However, I think it would often be a mistake for a Christian to imagine that this equips him to go on the offensive and pick fights or do battle with unbelievers.

In debate, a specialist usually has an advantage over a nonspecialist. He can argue circles around the nonspecialist. Even though the specialist may be dead wrong, he can do a snow job on the nonspecialist.

An atheist who’s a clever young philosophy major has a lot of strategies at his disposal to deflect a popularized version of the AFR. If Joe Six-pack Christian gets into an argument with an unbeliever like that, he may well lose the argument, not because he’s wrong, but because he lacks the sophistication to field the counterarguments.

And that experience could disillusion him. That might shake his faith. Leave him worse off than before. So we need to make sure the nonspecialist has reasonable expectations about what a popularized theistic proof can accomplish.

iii) There’s also the question of how to interpret the AFR.

a) Is it one argument, or a bundle of distinct arguments?

Reppert divides the argument into six subarguments, but are these six distinct arguments from reason, or are these six supporting arguments for the same basic argument?

b) For instance, is dualism essential to the AFR? Take an idealistic version of atheism like McTaggart’s idealism. Everything would be mental.

Yet that would still be vulnerable to the AFR. Mentality is not interchangeable with rationality. Take the clinically insane.

c) Likewise, some people I’ve read think this is about the determinism/indeterminism debate. That if our beliefs are determined, then our beliefs are arbitrary. But I think that objection misses the point of argument.

Seems to me the AFR isn’t targeting the general principle of determinate beliefs, but beliefs determined by a mindless process.

By the same token, the AFT would also target accidental beliefs. Beliefs which result from a stochastic process.

iv) In popularizing a theistic proof, the key is to find and exploit good illustrations. For instance, Reppert uses the hypothetical example of someone who throws dice to decide what to believe. You could expand on that example.

a) We’d say that’s an irrational way to choose beliefs, because there’s no essential correlation between the selection process and the truth of the corresponding belief. And that’s because it’s just a matter of chance what combination the dice will yield on any particular throw.

Mind you, there’s a sense in which the randomness is determined by physical conditions and mathematical constraints, which is why we can calculate the odds. Only so many combinations are mathematically possible.

But there’s no internal relation between the dice and the beliefs. The same throw could select a different belief, or a different throw could select the same belief. It all depends on how the dice are positioned in the fist, the angle of the throw, the amount of force behind the throw, &c.

b) One might compare this to loaded dice. The dice are loaded with the intention of yielding a particular result, for a purpose. To win by cheating.

v) Scrabble would be another example.

a) In one respect, that’s a physical state which can represent something else. The arrangement of letters can refer.

But lettered sequences aren’t inherently meaningful. Rather, that’s based on language, alphabets, and spelling systems. That’s a code which we use to assign meaning to inanimate objects. An arbitrary convention. The significance is contingent on an agreed-upon set of rules. Mutual understanding.

b) Likewise, we distinguish between words which are fortuitously formed by shaking the box, then emptying the contents onto the table, and words which are intentionally formed by a player selecting Scrabble pieces from a pile and arranging or rearranging them to spell a word or sentence.

If a girlfriend and boyfriend were playing Scrabble, and she saw her boyfriend shake the box, resulting in the pieces randomly spelling “Will you marry me?”, she wouldn’t treat that as a marriage proposal (unless she was deluded). But if she saw him take pieces on the table and arrange them to spell “Will you marry me?”, she’d rightly interpreted that as a marriage proposal.

These are ways of illustrating the difference between beliefs produced by a reliable process and beliefs produced by an unreliable process.

vi) Finally, one stock objection to the AFR is that the evolution of reason is trustworthy, for if it wasn’t trustworthy, we wouldn’t still be around.

I haven’t kept up with all the current literature on that debate, but I think that appeal is flawed on multiple grounds:

a) It’s an a posteriori counterargument to an a priori argument. The AFT is an argument in principle. An empirical argument really can’t disprove an argument in principle. It isn’t that kind of argument.

b) Reasoning back from the outcome doesn’t yield that premise. Even if we grant macroevolution, even if we grant that our survival retroactively validates the fact that evolution selects for reliable beliefs, that’s not an argument for naturalistic evolution. At best, that would be an argument for theistic evolution. For guided evolution.

If, for instance, we keep rolling sixes, we don’t conclude that we’re lucky. For there quickly comes a point where that’s too lucky to be sheer luck. Rather, we conclude that the dice are loaded.

c) If brainpower confers a survival advantage, how did our less cerebrally endowed precursors survive to evolve bigger brains?

d) Insects survive and thrive without brainpower or true beliefs. So where’s the connection?

e) According to evolutionary history, the vast percentage of biological organisms became extinct.

f) The appeal is circular. You can only cite the success of evolution in producing advantageous beliefs on the prior assumption that your brain can be trusted to evaluate the evidence. But that’s the very issue in dispute.

Crime stats

One issue which crops up in the gun control debate is the oft-cited claim that according to FBI crime stats, rates of homicide have been steadily declining for the past 40 years. And this, in turn, is attributed to tighter gun control laws.

However, I’ve read various sources which indicate the reported decline in murder rates is due to better trauma care, which enables more gunshot victims to survive.  By definition, the victim has to die for that to be classified and counted as a homicide. So what percentages have changed–gunshot victims or gunshot fatalities?

George Will, Philosopher/Journalist, on the American Political Philosophy

What do Dwight Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Fleming West, James Madison, Oxford University, Princeton University, William F. Buckley, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, William Jennings Bryan, William Howard Taft, Niccolò Machiavelli, Immanual Kant, Martin Luther, and Rene Descartes all have in common?

Answer: They all appear (with correct citations) in the following George Will speech, December 4, at Washington University in St. Louis:

I'd encourage you to watch the whole speech. It runs about an hour and a half [There is a Q/A session afterward]. Here is a .pdf text of the speech.

If you don't have time, here's a selection:

‘What is the church?’ Ask first ‘What does God intend for man?’

What is God’s intention with respect to man? That’s a key component in answering the question “what is the church?”

While keeping the Reformed confessions in mind, G.K. Beale, in his A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic ©2011) says this:

My thesis is that the major theological ideas of the [New Testament] flow out of the following New Testament storyline, of which the new-creational kingdom and its expansion are the central element leading to God’s glory: Jesus’s life, trials, death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-not yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the triune God’s glory [emphasis is Beale’s, pg 23].

Beale swoops out and takes a look at the grand sweep of Scripture. He stresses that “the resurrected Christ is ‘the foundation-stone of the New Creation [that] has come into position.” But elsewhere, he notes that the resurrected Christ has a “back story” that extends back through the Old Testament to Adam. He stresses that Paul’s contention in Romans 5, for example, is not a brand new thought of Paul’s, but rather, it is the result of a lifetime of the Apostle’s reflection on the Old Testament message:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stockholm syndrome

As most of you know, Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition in which captives or abductees come to form emotional bonds with their captors. I believe it’s more common among women. Atheism is the theological version of Stockholm syndrome.

In the gulag of our fallen world, you have two types of prisoners. On the one hand, you have the assimilators and collaborators who’ve made peace with life in the death camp. They are content to stay in the death camp. To sicken, starve, age, and die in the death camp.

Having resigned themselves to their lot, they make a virtue of their self-imposed necessity. They come to love the death camp. Embrace the death camp. They come to love the commandant. They come to love the prison guards.

They festoon the razor wire with wildflowers. They take pride in painting their rat-infested barracks. They take pride in scrubbing the floors. They take joy in farming the sweltering malarial swamps. They compose patriotic work songs in honor of the commandant. As one of them put it:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous gulag, fragrant with open sewers, bountiful with snakes, scorpions, and mosquitoes. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the gulag and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked–as I am surprisingly often–why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the death camp and rejoicing to be a part of it?

On the other hand, you have the malcontents and irreconcilables. They never feel at home in the death camp. They are constantly plotting how to escape. They are always on the lookout for chinks in the security system. They nurse the unquenchable hope for something greater beyond the barbed wire. As one of them put it:

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.

They don’t simply want it for themselves. They try to befriend prison guards, so that some of the guards can also make a better life for themselves. Find happiness outside the death camp.

The captives who love the death camp don’t simply disagree with the captives who hate the death camp. They resent them. They can’t stand the fact that some prisoners don’t share their wistful view of the death camp. They try to shame them into loving the death camp.

When they discover an underground tunnel, they sabotage it. When they find a hole in the fence, they repair it. When they find out a prison guard is collaborating with the escapees, they rat him out to the commandant.

A Noteworthy but Flawed Systematic Theology

Humanism and human worth

According to naturalistic evolution, this is all humans amount to:

Individuals are not stable things, they are fleeting. Chromosomes too are shuffled into oblivion, like hands of cards soon after they are dealt. But the cards themselves survive the shuffling. The cards are the genes. The genes are not destroyed by crossing-over, they merely change partners and march on. Of course they march on. That is their business. They are the replicators and we are their survival machines. When we have served our purpose we are cast aside. But genes are denizens of geological time: genes are forever.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford University Press, USA; 30th Anniversary edition, 2006), 35.

Ask yourself if that's adequate go ground human hope, human worth, human rights.

The Devil's Chaplain

At the John Radcliffe Hospital, a physician tells Richard Dawkins that his son was stillborn. A hospital chaplain talks Richard into secretly adopting an orphaned newborn whose mother died in childbirth. Out of concern for his wife’s mental health, Richard agrees. He and his wife Marian name the child Damien.

Shortly thereafter, Richard’s mentor, Nikolaas Tinbergen, is killed in a freak accident when a gas main explodes under his car. As a result, Richard is appointed to replace Tinbergen as the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science

Five years later, Damien’s original nanny is bitten to death by a black mamba. This is puzzling because there are no black mambas in Oxfordshire. Richard assumes the snake must have escaped from a private collector. 

A few days later, a new nanny, Mrs. Baylock, arrives out of nowhere to replace her–claiming the agency sent her after reading the obituary. Richard hires her on condition that she never read fairy tales to Damien: “I have sometimes worried about the educational effects of fairy tales. Could they be pernicious, leading children down pathways of gullibility towards anti-scientific superstition and religion? I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality. Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong. I’ve always been scrupulously careful to avoid the smallest suggestion of infant indoctrination, which I think is ultimately responsible for much of the evil in the world. I want Damien to make up his own mind freely when he becomes old enough to do so. I would encourage him to think for himself–as long as he thinks like me.”

One night, when Marian goes into Damien’s bedroom, she’s confronted by a menacing Rottweiler with glowing red eyes. She runs from the room and tells Richard. “It’s like some hellbound with eyes that glow in the dark!”

Richard assures her that the dog’s eyeshine is simply the natural effect of tapetum lucidum reflecting the nightlight in Damien’s bedroom. The next day, Richard asks the nanny about the strange dog. Mrs. Baylock tells him it’s a guard dog that the agency sent to protect the boy. Damien has become very attached to the new dog.

One day, when Damien is playing with another boy, his playmate accidentally breaks Damien’s toy train. Damien glares at the boy, mutters a Sumerian curse, and the boy bursts into flames. The burning boy runs screaming from the room, and dies moments later.

The police are mystified, but Richard assures them that there must be a perfectly natural explanation for what happened. “Just because science so far has failed to explain something, such as spontaneous combustion, to say it follows that the facile, pathetic explanations which religion has produced somehow by default must win the argument is really quite ridiculous.”

Another time, Marian walks into Damien’s bedroom when Damien playing with toy soldiers. The toy soldiers are floating in midair.

Marian tells Richard. “It’s as if he was moving them with his mind.”

He assures her that there must be a scientific explanation for levitation–if that’s what it was. Probably an optical illusion, or anomalous atmospheric conditions. Must have something to do with electromagnetic fields. “If ever there was a slamming of the door in the face of constructive investigation, it is the word miracle. To a medieval peasant, a radio would have seemed like a miracle. Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.”

On Damien’s sixth birthday party, Marian hires a magician to perform tricks for the children who came to celebrate Damien’s birthday. The magician pulls a rabbit out of the hat. Marian sees Damien touch the rabbit. It turns into a cobra. The magician is horrified. The children scream and run away. All except for Damien.

When Marian tells Richard what she saw, he brushes off the incident as slight-of-hand. “It really comes down to parsimony, economy of explanation,” He says. “It is possible that your car engine is driven by psychokinetic energy, but if it looks like a petrol engine, smells like a petrol engine and performs exactly as well as a petrol engine, the sensible working hypothesis is that it is a petrol engine. Telepathy and possession by the spirits of the dead are not ruled out as a matter of principle. There is certainly nothing impossible about abduction by aliens in UFOs. One day it may be happen. But on grounds of probability it should be kept as an explanation of last resort. It is unparsimonious, demanding more than routinely weak evidence before we should believe it. If you hear hooves clip-clopping down a London street, it could be a zebra or even a unicorn, but, before we assume that it’s anything other than a horse, we should demand a certain minimal standard of evidence.”

One day Marian takes Damien to the zoo. When they go to the herpetarium, all the snakes press themselves against the glass, as if they were doing obeisance to Damien.

Fr. Brennan, an Anglican priest, visits Richard’s office at Oxford to warn him that his adopted son is possessed. Damien is the long-predicted Antichrist, he says.  He urges Richard to have Damien baptized and exorcised. Read him the Bible every day.

Richard is scornful: “Don’t ever be lazy enough, defeatist enough, cowardly enough to say ‘I don’t understand it so it must be a miracle–it must be supernatural–it must be the occult–God did it–the Devil did it.’ Say instead, that it’s a puzzle, it’s strange, it’s a challenge that we should rise to. Whether we rise to the challenge by questioning the truth of the observation, or by expanding our science in new and exciting directions–the proper and brave response to any such challenge is to tackle it head-on. And until we’ve found a proper answer to the mystery, it’s perfectly ok simply to say ‘this is something we don’t yet understand–but we’re working on it’. It’s the only honest thing to do. Miracles, magic and myths, they can be fun. Everybody likes a good story. Myths are fun, as long as you don’t confuse them with the truth.”

“But that’s precisely why the dark side entrusted the child to your care,” Fr. Brennan interjects. “They knew you’d provide the perfect cover. The Devil’s dupe. You’d be the very last person to suspect Damien’s true identity–until it’s too late!”

Richard orders the priest to leave. After he goes outside, Fr. Brennan is struck dead by a lightning bolt, even though there’s not a cloud in the sky.

Marian starts having nightmares about Damien. She begins to question whether Damien could really be her own child. As she’s driving to his office to share her concerns, she’s swallowed alive by a sinkhole, which suddenly appears right under her car. 

Was reading Hans Küng a preventative, innoculating RC Seminarians from becoming sexual predators?

I know, correlation doesn’t mean causation. But I was surprised to find that explanation among these comments, ostensibly from priests, or at least, former Roman Catholic seminarians, in response to this recent article about Hans Küng:

Vincent of Valley Forge • 3 days ago
Hans Kung and certain other loyal critics of the modern papacy were on our favorite, unauthorized reading list "a few years back" at St Charles Seminary here in the Philadelphia area. Funny thing: none of us who secretly met and read Kung in St Charles were among those others who later became predators of children. [emphasis added] Yes, a few of us left the seminary or later, left the priesthood. But those of us who left became professionals, in one field or another, and some are still Catholic. Those of us who have stayed and been ordained (some of us go back decades to remember our secret reading of Kung at St Charles) try to be good pastors and give the sermons our people need. And we keep our heads down. We love being priests. We pray for the conversion of the Vatican [emphasis added].

Now with Archbishop Chaput we have more reason than ever to keep our heads down. He probably thinks we are being reverend. But the right word is cautious.

And this:

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Vatican on gun control

That was then:

This is now:

An ant's view of intelligent design theory


Drone1: Who do you think designed this bicycle?

Drone2: No one!

Drone1: No one?

Drone2: Bicycology is the study of complicated vehicles that give the appearance of having been designed for transportation. Yet all appearances to the contrary, the only bicycle maker in nature are the blind forces of physics.

Drone1: I find that hard to believe.

Drone2: It is almost as if the ant brain were specifically designed to misunderstand bicycology, and to find it hard to believe.

Drone1: I still think a human must have made this bicycle.

Drone2: That’s a science-stopper. That’s the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.

If you don’t understand how a bicycle came into being, never mind: just give up and say human did it. Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to man. Man-did-it teaches you to be satisfied with nonanswers. It’s a sort of crime against anthood.

Drone1: What’s your alternative?

Drone2: The world is divided into things that look designed (like birds and bicycles) and things that don’t (rocks and mountains). Things that look designed are divided into those that really are designed (anthills) and those that aren’t (bicycles).

Drone1: But isn’t a bicycle maker a simpler explanation than a fortuitous, self-organizing bicycle?

Drone2: The notion of a human bicycle maker belittles the elegant reality of the anthill.

Creeping unitarianism

On the one hand:


On the other hand:

Joh 10:30 I and my Father are One (“(H)EN”).

We later worked through the context and it appears to be referring to their unity according to their wills in salvation – that Christ is the Good Shepherd who wills to save, and that God His Father, who is greater than all, also wills for their salvation (surprisingly, offering an even deeper comfort). Looking again at the errata, Samuel Clarke makes the same argument – that they are not ‘(H)eis – One Person’ but that they are ‘(H)en – one and the same thing as to the exercise of Power.’ (ie. they are of one “(H)en” accord in the matter of salvation).

Anyone who’s familiar with unitarian literature will recognize that Drake’s interpretation of Jn 10:30 (unity of wills) is the classic unitarian gloss on this passage. 

BTW, the alternative to one in will is not one in person

"The greatest"

The Father is greater than I (Jn 14:28).

i) This is a popular anti-Trinitarian prooftext. According to unitarians, this means the Father is God, and Jesus is not.

According to Nicene subordinationists, this means that even though Jesus is still God, Jesus is eternally and ontologically subordinate to Father.

A basic problem with this approach is that it isolates the statement from its surrounding context. “...for the Father is greater than I” isn’t even a complete sentence. And it’s just a small part of a very extended discourse. In order to gauge the force of this statement, we need to compare it with other statements in this discourse.

ii) Jn 14:28 comes on the heels of Jesus saying:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? (v10a).

The mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son involves a symmetrical relationship. While it’s understandable how the greater could include the lesser, it’s less understandable how the lesser could include the greater. To play on the spatial metaphor, you can put something smaller in something bigger, but not vice versa.

If, on the other hand, the Father and the Son are coequals, then it’s more understandable how each could contain the other.

Of course, it’s possible for the preposition (“in”) to carry different connotations, depending on who or what is referred to. But here identical language is used for both parties, in mirror symmetry.

iii) There’s an obvious parallel between 14:12 and 14:28:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (v12).

You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I (v28).

Both involve comparative greatness, and in both, the comparative greatness is indexed to the Son returning to the Father.

Given the proximity and similarity of these verses, where v28 rounds out v12, forming a kind of inclusio, we’d expect there to be an analogy between the greatness of the Father and the greatness of the works. But it doesn’t make much sense to say the works are ontologically greater. What would that even mean?

Commentators puzzle over the precise identity of the “greater works” since Jesus doesn’t specify what they are. However, they seem to have reference to answered prayers, where v12 leads into v13.

Jesus may have in mind something like this:

35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor (Jn 4:35-38).

There’s only so much Jesus could do at a particular time and place. Ministering in Palestine for three years.

Collectively speaking, generations of Christians can do “greater works.” The expansion of the Gospel has a global impact. That’s a major force in shaping the course of world history.

iv) It’s also striking that Jesus says:

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it (Jn 14:13-14).

On a unitarian or Nicene subordinationist reading of 14:28, that’s not what we’d expect him to say. Rather, we’d expect him to say:

Whatever you ask in the Father’s name, he will do it, for the Father is greater than all.

But Jesus instead invites the disciples to address their prayers to him. And he tells them that he will answer their prayers.

v) Likewise, in 16:7, Jesus says:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

But if the sender is greater than the sent, does that mean the Son is greater than the Spirit? To my knowledge, that’s not how Nicene subordinationists argue.

vi) Now, a unitarian or Nicene subordinationist might object that elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel, the Father sends the Spirit. Prayer is addressed to the Father. The Father answers prayer.

That’s true. I’m not suggesting that these are exclusive to Jesus. But that very alternation is problematic for unitarianism and Nicene subordination.

How do we harmonize statements which indicate the Son’s equality with the Father with statements which indicate the Son’s inequality with the Father? I don’t think that’s difficult.

For instance, someone with greater ability can perform a job requiring less ability, but someone with less ability can’t perform a job requiring greater ability. It’s easy to see how equals can assume unequal roles. How a superior can accept a self-demotion.

Indeed, this is the case throughout Bible history. Because we can’t come up to God’s level, God comes down to our level. This is also the case in the Fourth Gospel. The earthly ministry of Christ is clearly a comedown from his natural status. That’s how it’s portrayed. A greater temporarily assuming a lesser standing.

vii) I think 14:28 involves the same principle as 17:4-5:

4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The Father is “greater” in the sense that the heavenly realm is greater than the earthly realm. By returning to heaven, Jesus is leaving behind the limitations of his earthly ministry. He can do more from heaven, for that mode of existence isn’t subject to our spacetime limitations. Of course, his earthly ministry lays the groundwork for his heavenly ministry. The ascended Son can empower the disciples to do greater works because heaven affords a greater field of action.

In 14:28, I think the “Father” functions as a metonymy or synecdoche for God’s exclusive domain, in contrast to the world. A greater place.

That identification accounts for the emphasis on changing places (heaven>earth, earth>heaven), with the attendant abilities.  

This is similar to how the Gospels alternate between “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven,” where “heaven” is a synonym for “God,” and vice versa. 

Joel Richardson, Tim Warner, and "The Time of the End"

Tim Warner of the Pristine Faith Restoration Society is the most recent date-setter. Warner has written the recent book The Time of the End, which is a Christian version of the Mayan prophecy. He concludes,
[My] new book The Time of the End provides a complete standard biblical chronology of the entire Bible based on these two calendars, showing that we are only about 2 decades away from the time of Great Tribulation.
Joel Richardson has enthusiastically endorsed Warner's date-setting book. I have responded to both here and here and here. Richardson did not like my criticism to another date-setting book with him deflecting away from the issue saying that I am unloving (as if Jesus and Paul did not have the freedom to be pointed with those who misled God's people). And Warner has responded to me—as predictably as any date-setter has in the past–with, "Read my book!" So according to Warner and Richardson we cannot discourage people away from date-setters until we have read their books. Wow. This is absurd. The fact that date-setting is discouraged by the biblical writers is good enough reason to reject it. Oh sure, Mr. Warner may claim, “I am not really a date-setter because (fill in the excuse).” But that is a shame that individuals feel justified to skirt around this biblical prohibition.

History and chronology

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The earth shall not be moved

One of the stock objections to the Bible is the allegation that it teaches a stationary earth. Passages about “the earth shall not be moved” are quoted to prooftext this assertion.

i) As I’ve noted before, one problem with this allegation is that it simply misinterprets the verses. These aren’t referring to the immobility of the earth in relation to the sun, moon, and stars, but to the seismic stability of the earth. Not about planet earth, but the surface of the earth, where humans live. About the presence or absence of catastrophic earthquakes which destroy human life and disrupt human livelihood.

ii) But there’s another issue. Even ancient earthbound observers, without our modern scientific apparatus, were quite able to imagine, and argue for, the axial rotation of the earth:

Jesus walked on H2O

Drake is having conniption fits:

It has become abundantly clear that Steve Hays thinks he can appeal to completely unverifiable and undefinable concepts in a debate over Theology Proper. When I accuse him of worshiping three gods, he simply appeals to anthropomorphic tri-theism and thus over-rules any inquiry into his view by falling back on the unverifiability and undefinability of his words.

i) That’s a very telling accusation. I didn’t appeal to anthropomorphic tritheism in response to Drake Shelton. Rather, I made that appeal in response to Dale Tuggy. Nice to see Drake’s inadvertent admission that he and Tuggy see eye-to-eye.

ii) Unitarians have always accused Trinitarians of tritheism. It’s not incumbent on Christians to justify the tritheistic appearance of Trinitarianism. For Biblical theism has a tritheistic appearance. God reveals himself in ways that look tritheistic.

It’s not particular formulations of the Trinity that generates that appearance. Rather, it’s the primary data of Scripture that generates that appearance.

In Scripture, God is apparently tritheistic. That, in turn, is counterbalanced by the fact Scripture also discloses a monotheistic conception of God.

Christians shouldn’t be made to feel defensive about the apparent tritheism of the Trinity, for that is based on God’s self-revelation. That’s normative–as far as it goes.

Now we know from the monotheistic passages that the Trinity is just apparently tritheistic, not really and truly tritheistic. But it’s not as if the monotheistic passages take precedence over the “tritheistic” passages. It’s all inspired. It’s all revelatory.

Moreover, even the monotheistic passages were more contextually qualified than unitarians make them out to be.

He claims that eternal generation cannot be true because it is a metaphor.

One wonders if Drake is actually that simple-minded. Was that my claim? No.

I never said–or even suggested–that eternal generation cannot be true because it’s a metaphor. Rather, I said that because the sonship of Christ is a metaphor, you must make allowance for the disanalogies as well as the analogies.

A metaphor both compares and contrasts one thing with another. You’re not entitled to arbitrarily pick-and-choose what you think carries over from the metaphor to the analogue.

 I ask him what he means by metaphor and he simply cops out by saying that the Bible does not define metaphor. 

That’s an amusing complaint from a Scripturalist. Well, the Bible doesn’t define metaphor, so why is a Scripturalist requiring an extrascriptural definition of metaphor?

Of course, it’s easy to define a metaphor. But that’s really not the point. Drake acts as though you have to provide a full-blown theory of analogical predication before you can recognize a metaphor or draw any distinctions reasonable between the analogous and disanalogous features of the metaphor.

But the Bible itself clearly makes no such assumption. It doesn’t demand that from its readers. They were expected to exercise common sense.

Take the sheepish metaphor, where the Bible uses sheep to symbolize Jews and Christians. You don’t have to have a theory of analogy to intuitively grasp the limitations of that comparison. You can tacitly appreciate both the similarities and dissimilarities between men and sheep when the Bible draws that comparison.

Drake is acting like Christians couldn’t know what it means for Jesus to walk on water unless they could define water as a chemical compound consisting of one oxygen molecule to two hydrogen molecules connected by covalent bonds.  But you don’t have to be Linus Pauling to understand the account of Jesus walking on water.

Likewise, take the sonship of Christ. You don’t have to begin with a general theory analogical predication. Rather, you can just study what the Bible says about the sonship of Christ. What’s the significance of that metaphor in various scriptures? How does that function in the argument or the narrative of a particular Bible writer? That’s how you determine the parameters of the metaphor. 

Loftus’ faulty argument for atheism gets an F double minus

The beginning of the end

Creative measures in crime-fighting

God as author analogy

Of course, I think the analogy breaks down. If a human author somehow gained the magical ability to bring her characters to life so that they do actually commit horrific acts of murder (for example), we would hold the author responsible (as well as the now alive characters). The only reason we don’t hold authors responsible for murders committed by their characters in novels is because the characters and the murders are imaginary, not real.

Actually, I think creative writers are responsible for the characters they create. They are responsible for whether their stories glamorize evil or expose evil for what it is. Are they using the villain as a foil, to promote good by way of contrast? Or does the writer make the villain the anti-hero?

I’ve already talked with numerous Calvinists about that and other points related to God’s sovereignty and, for the most part, our conversations have ended in what I would consider impasses.

To my knowledge, the only Calvinist whom Olson has publicly debated is Michael Horton. But Horton is basically a popularizer. 

Olson hasn’t tested his position against the toughest Reformed competition. He hasn’t debated Reformed philosophers like James Anderson, Jeremy Pierce, Greg Welty, or Paul Helm (to name a few). He hasn’t debated Reformed exegetes like Tom Schreiner, Gregory Beale, Don Carson, or Vern Poythress (to name a few). So he’s made things easy on himself.

Likewise, he censors Calvinist commenters at his blog. Now that’s his prerogative. But it’s duplicitous to shield your position from astute criticism, then complain that you never heard a good response to your objections. Olson himself avoids engaging the most able opponents of his position.

That’s not always deliberate, although there’s some of that in his moderation policy. I think it’s more due to the fact that because he hates Calvinism, he simply lumps all Calvinists together. He doesn’t distinguish popularizers from scholars, philosophers, &c.

IF God foreordained and rendered certain a particular event…

“Foreordained and rendered certain” has become one of Olson’s stock phrases. What does he mean by “foreordained” and “rendered certain”? Is he using them synonymously? If not, how do they go together?

Would it be okay for God to foreordain a particular event, but not ensure it? Would it be okay for God to ensure a certain event without foreordaining it? What exactly does Olson find objectionable? The combination? Each considered separately? How does he define his terms? How does he think they’re interrelated?

Does he think foreordination entails the certainty of the outcome? If so, isn’t it somewhat redundant to use both expressions?

For instance, an outcome needn’t be foreordained to be a sure thing. Causation, determinism, or causal determinism doesn’t require premeditation. Chemical reactions are deterministic without the catalyst foreintending a particular outcome.

Does Olson think about what he’s saying, or has it just become mechanical. This phrase rolls off his tongue without consideration.

IF God foreordained and rendered certain a particular event for a greater good (as you assert), why, as a Christian, embrace feelings of abhorrence about them? Shouldn’t you at least TRY not to feel abhorrence about them? After all, they are actually good from a higher perspective–the one you claim to have that sees them as necessary events brought about by God for the greater good.

Before addressing his objection directly, notice that it would be trivially easy to recast the alleged problem in Arminian terms:

If God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing tragedies, then why, as an Arminian, do you react with abhorrence? After all, God had a good reason for permitting it. If you react with moral abhorrence, aren’t you implicitly judging God’s wisdom and goodness by allowing this to transpire? If you express moral abhorrence at a tragedy which God allowed, aren’t you implicitly expressing moral abhorrence at God’s permission?

By Olson’s own admission, there are many situations in which God can and does override human freewill. Therefore, God doesn’t permit it because he has to:

rogereolson says:
June 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past. No Arminian I know denies that God ever interferes with free will. The Bible is full of it. The point is that in matters pertaining to salvation God does not decide for people. If he did, he’d save everyone. The issue is personal relationship. God cannot and will not override a person’s free will when what is at stake is his or her personal relationship with God of love. But God certainly can and does knock people off their horses (as with Saul). I think you are over interpreting Arminianism’s view of freewill. Free will, as I have often said, is not the central issue. The central issue (and only reason we believe in free will) is the character of God including the nature of responsible relationality.

rogereolson says:
June 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    The difference lies in the character of God. I don’t have a problem with God manipulating people’s wills so long as it doesn’t coerce them to do evil or force them to enter into a relationship with him. If God causes a person to turn one way at a corner rather than the other way, so that the person sees a sign that brings attention to his or her need of God, I don’t have any problem with that. You seem to be laboring under the misconception that Arminians believe in free will above everything. We don’t. That’s never been the point of Arminian theology as I have shown in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.

So Olson has conceded that God, consistent with Arminian principles, could prevent many of these tragedies. Therefore, Olson can’t say it would be wrong to feel moral repugnance at God’s permission because God’s hands were tied. For Olson has granted God’s vast latitude to meddle in human affairs. Since the Arminian God was in a position to stop child murders, why, by Olson’s logic, shouldn’t our moral repugnance at the tragedy transfer to moral repugnance at God’s inaction?

Perhaps you’ll say that such feelings are simply irresistible. But my question is whether you think they are right. What justifies them rationally? Even if they are irresistible, why not ALSO celebrate such horrific events since you know, however you feel, that they are ordained and rendered certain by God FOR THE GREATER GOOD?

Again, IF I held your perspective about God’s sovereignty I would do my best to push aside feelings of moral repugnance in the face of, for example, child murders, and view them stoically if not as causes for celebration. Why not?

i) For one thing, it doesn’t occur to Olson that the Calvinist God uses our moral repugnance to accomplish his will. Our moral repugnance isn’t contrary to God’s will. Rather, giving us a sense of moral repugnance is one of the ways in which God moves historical events. Moral repugnance is a deterrent against certain crimes. So moral repugnance is a part of historical causation. World history would unfold very differently absence moral repugnance. Moral repugnance is a factor in what does or doesn’t happen. That’s consistent with God’s plan for history. Human psychology has an impact on history.

ii) In addition, moral repugnance, like the evil which elicits moral repugnance, reinforces the contrast between God and evil. Makes us more appreciative of God.

rogereolson says:
December 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm

But what I am asking is why Calvinists such as the author of the essay in question do NOT celebrate dead soldiers and children. That would seem to be a logical response to their deaths IF those deaths are willed, planned and rendered certain by God for the greater good. Now let me be clear, I’m not claiming that “celebrating” them would mean having no normal human sorrow or feelings of loss. Rather, those normal feelings could remain even as a divine determinist praised and thanked God for the deaths. And by “celebrate” I don’t mean publicly. That would rightly be avoided in order not to cause hurt to those who lost loved ones. By “celebrate” I mean only interiorily–within one’s own mind. That’s what I’m asking of the author of the essay. Does he or doesn’t he celebrate in his own mind horrors such as mass murders of children? If not, why not?

i) This is one of Olson’s persistent mental blocks. He’s unable to keep two ideas in his head at a time. The same event can be evil in itself, but also contribute to something good. These are both true. One doesn’t negate the other. Something can really be evil it its own right, but serve a good purpose in spite of its evil character.

ii) We don’t have God’s perspective. We can’t see for ourselves how all things working together for the good of those who whom God has chosen (Rom 8:28).

That’s something we take on faith. And there are partial illustrations of that principle in Scripture.

But in most situations, we’re completely in the blind. We don’t see the future. As a rule, we’re in no position to perceive the trajectory by which God brings good out of evil. Our knowledge of the past is fragmentary. Compartmentalized. Our knowledge of the present is fragmentary. Compartmentalized. And our knowledge of the future is guesswork.

We only see what we can see. That’s what we’re reacting to. The sample of reality that’s available to us. The tiny sample that we can inspect.

Faith in science

Some Christians feel intimidated by science, while many more Christians are told that they ought to feel intimidated by science. We’re told that Christianity is unscientific. That we should either abandon the faith wholesale or at least perform radical surgery.

In light of that, here’s something I found revealing. You might suppose that physics majors are the cream of the crop. The brainiacs. Not only would you expect them to be in the top percentile of the student body generally, but among the best and brightest science majors. We associate physicists with brainpower. Daunting I.Q.

So it’s striking to see the vast intellectual gap between these physics majors and a distinguished physicist:

And although Don Page may be near the top of his field, I don’t think he’s quite up there with Roger Penrose or Edward Witten. So the gap would be even wider in their case.

It makes you wonder how much even the average science major actually understands about his chosen field. How deep his understanding goes. How much he’s qualified to evaluate. How much he’s taking on faith. How little he can prove on his own. How many science majors must simply take the word of a few geniuses at the very top of the pyramid.

Now you might say that’s unfair. These aren’t graduates, much less post-doc students at Harvard, Princeton, Caltech, MIT, or Cambridge. But, of course, that’s a winnowing process. An elite few. So it reinforces my point. What minuscule fraction of the population knows the intricacies of science well enough to even assess scientific claims against the Bible? How much is just bravado? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Help a child

Outside the camp

12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Heb 13:12-14).

This is a continuation of my [lightly edited] email exchange with David Baggett. He coauthored Good God with Jerry Walls.

It’s a sequel to this post:

    Your brother in Christ,

Nice sign-off. I appreciate the sentiment. However, when you say that, I can’t help comparing it to something else you and Jerry said. Permit me to begin with a hypothetical story.

Suppose I have a best friend in high school. Let’s call him Spencer. We’ve known each other since first grade. He lives two houses down from me.

Over the years, Spencer has been a better friend to me than I’ve been to him. He’s been a better friend to me that I’ve been to myself. He’s been strong for me when I was weak.

One time, Spencer and I were competing for the same scholarship. When he found out, he withdrew from the competition. He didn’t want to win the scholarship if that meant my losing the scholarship.

One time, when we were at a 7/11, an armed robber came into the store and pointed a gun at me. Spencer stepped between me and the gun to shield me.

My family and his family are both into breeding racehorses. That’s the family business. Spencer and I have always tried to keep the family business separate from our friendship.

One time my family was almost broke. We really needed to win the purse to stay in business. Spencer overheard his dad telling someone on the phone to throw the race by threatening our jockey.

If we lost, we would have lost everything. But Spencer tipped me off. When his dad found out, his dad threw Spencer out of the house. Cut him off.

That’s the kind of friend Spencer has been to me.

One day I was talking to a new student at school. Let’s call him Scott. He’d only been there a few weeks. I was trying to help him fit into his new surroundings. We were sitting on the bleachers, watching a football practice. I was pointing out the students to Scott, so that he knew their names.

When I pointed to Spencer, Scott grimaced. I asked him why.

He told me that he couldn’t stand Spencer. He told me Spencer was probably the kind of guy who tore the wings of flies as a little boy. If there were dismembered cats in the neighborhood, Spencer would be the prime suspect.

Needless to say, Scott’s reaction to my best friend made a tremendous first impression. At that moment I said to myself, “Scott and I can’t be real friends. I can still be a friend to him. I can help him out if he gets in a bind. But he can never be a friend to me. Not as long as that’s how he feels that way about Spencer. Given his contempt for my best friend, there’s no rapport between us.”

Now let’s compare that to a real story. My story. God awakened me when I was a teenager. Now I’m 53. God not only saved me when I was a teenager, but he’s kept me all these years. He’s guarded me and guided me. Protected me and provided for me. He’s been more faithful to me that I’ve ever been to him. This is the God I live for. I owe him everything. He’s done far more for me than the idealized friend in my hypothetical story.

Then I read a book by Jerry Walls and David Baggett which says my God could command people to torture little children for the fun of it.

When I read that, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. It doesn’t offend me. But it does alienate me. It instantly dissolves any sense of spiritual rapport between me and Jerry or David. A chasm opens up between us. They can’t talk that way about my God, and still expect to be friends. That’s too compartmentalized. Too horizontal–at the expense of the vertical.

Now, you might respond, “Oh, we’re not talking about God. We’re just talking about your idea of God. Your Calvinist conception of God.”

Except that if I’m right, then my idea of God maps onto the one true God–just as you think your Arminian concept of God maps onto the one true God.

    Steve, you have your convictions and I have to respect that. We have deep disagreements but I would hope our agreements trump. I do not deny you are a Christian. I would hope you would not deny that we are.

Thanks. My point is not to stifle your freedom of expression, but to point out that when you make certain statements, these have consequences. This isn’t just theoretical. It isn’t just debating ideas for the sake of ideas.

It’s too facile to put respective theological convictions in airtight containers that have no impact on Christian fellowship. That reduces Christian faith to sociology. I’d be dishonoring God if what you said about God–as I understand him–had no impact on what I thought of you. I’d be acting as if God isn’t the most important person in my life. What you think about God, what I think about God, and what I think about you are intertwined.

I haven’t said anything about your Christian bona fides or Jerry’s. I was discussing a different issue. If, however, you’re actually asking how I’d respond to that question, I’d say the following:

i) Do I think Arminians can be genuine Christians? Sure. Conversely, some Calvinists are nominal Christians. Some Arminians are heavenbound while some Calvinists are hellbound.

ii) There are different types or levels of disagreement. At one level, there’s the purely exegetical debate. For instance, I. H. Marshall interprets John, Romans, and Ephesians differently than Tom Schreiner, Greg Beale, or Vern Poythress. That’s simply a disagreement over what the Bible teaches. That, of it, shouldn’t distance us from one another. At that level it’s not fundamentally different from film criticism, where we offer competing interpretations of a particular film.

iii) However, you, Jerry, and some other Arminians (e.g. Roger Olson) have upped the ante. If you say (and this is a stock example which you and Jerry use throughout your book) that the Calvinist God could command people to torture little children for fun, then that’s not like debating the best interpretation of ancient texts.

And your position generates something of a dilemma. For you think a Calvinist should cut you more slack than your own position allows for.

We don’t worship God directly. Rather, mental worship is mediated through our concept of God. Our worshipful attitude is directed at what we believe God to be like.

If you say the Calvinist God could command people to torture little children for fun, and if it turns out that the Calvinist God is real, then were you and Jerry worshiping the one true God?

Notice that I’m not judging your Christian profession from a Calvinist perspective. Rather, I’m judging your Christian profession on your own terms, given how you yourself chose to frame the issue.

Haven’t you burned your bridges? Is the Calvinist God still a viable fallback option for you, given what you’ve said about him?

iii) Finally, one of my basic beefs with freewill theism is how often the freewill theist’s conception of God reduces to a purely theoretical (and ultimately fictitious) intellectual construct. Their starting-point is philosophical anthropology. Specifically: human libertarian freedom. That’s their axiomatic postulate.

They then retroengineer their model of God and providence from that starting-point. They constantly tweak their model of God, adding an attribute here, subtracting an attribute there. Their concept of God is a concept they’ve created through various ad hoc adjustments to make it consistent with philosophical anthropology. Make it all balance out.

Their idea of God is hardly an object of faith or worship. The whole exercise has an air of unreality. A made-up idea of God–like a boy who builds a castle out of LEGO bricks.

I think freewill theists of that variety lack genuine piety or reverence.

Your position is an instance of Ockhamism, in my estimation.

You and Jerry simply redefined Ockhamism in ad hoc fashion. There’s nothing Occamist about saying God doesnt love every sinner. You can try to attack reprobation/limited atonement on other grounds (exegetical, philosophical), but don’t take a historic theological position with an established meaning, unilaterally redefine it, then use it as a term of abuse. That’s simply unethical.

    I meant to say I do not think the God you worship is different from the God I worship.

Sorry to be a pest, but isn’t that ambiguous?

Are you saying Arminians and Calvinists subjectively worship the same God or objectively worship the same God?

For instance, are you saying Calvinists subjectively worship the God of Reformed theism, even though the real God is the God of Arminian theism, and the Arminian God accepts their confused worship as if they were intentionally worshiping the Arminian God?

Since you don’t think the God of Reformed theism actually exists, he can’t be objectively worshiped. There is nothing real that directly corresponds to that idea of God. And when a Calvinist worships God, the mental or psychological object of his worship is his Calvinist concept of God, in distinction to the extramental reality. So how does your position sort out?

I think a function of our being Christians is that, though we can’t both be right about every aspect of soteriology, we worship the same God. Else we wouldn’t both be Christians. None of us has it all figured out, but we needn’t to in order to be reconciled to God. What we agree on is enough for that purpose.

And if you came to the conclusion that the God of Reformed theism was real, what would your reaction be?

I would be sad. :) If God reveals this, I would have no choice to submit to the truth.

I appreciate your charitable spirit, but ultimately I don't want Arminians to treat me more charitably than they treat my God. We should be in solidarity with our God, out of sheer, immeasurable gratitude.

If, say, someone mistreated my mother, I’d rather share her mistreatment than be treated better than my mother. Indeed, it would be unconscionable for me to accept better treatment for myself, but worse treatment for her. If she is mistreated, I’d rather be mistreated with her, than be well-treated.

And it’s far more important to treat God as he deserves. I can’t divvy things up the way you do. That’s too abstract. Christian faith is ultimately about devotion to God. I can’t bifurcate how Arminians regard my God from how they regard me. I don’t wish to. I’d be slapping God in the face to accept that dichotomy. If anything, they should obviously think far less of me than they do of my God.