Friday, July 28, 2017

Turretin on Natural Law

VI. But the orthodox speak far differently. They affirm that there is a natural law, not arising from a voluntary contract or law of society, but from a divine obligation being impressed by God upon the conscience of man in his very creation, on which the difference between right and wrong is founded and which contains the practical principles of immovable truth (such as: “God should be worshiped,” “parents honored,” “we should live virtuously,” “injure no one,” “do to others what we would wish them to do to us” and the like). Also that so many remains and evidences of this law are still left in our nature (although it has been in different ways corrupted and obscured by sin) that there is no mortal who cannot feel its force either more or less. Now they wish this law to be called natural, not because it has its origin from bare nature (since it depends upon God the supreme lawgiver), but because it becomes known from the aspect of creatures and the relation of man to God, and the knowledge of it is impressed upon the mind by nature, not acquired by tradition or instruction. [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2.11.I.7]

VIII. Thus the origin and foundation of this law ought not to be sought (as the Jews falsely seek it) from “the seven precepts” which they maintain were given to Adam and Noah …

IX. But it must be drawn from the right of nature itself, founded both on the nature of God, the Creator (who by his holiness must prescribe to his creatures the duties founded upon that right), and on the condition of rational creatures themselves (who, on account of their necessary dependence upon God in the genus of morals, no less than in the genus of being, are bound to perform or avoid those things which sound reason and the dictates of conscience enjoin upon them to do or avoid)

X. The right of nature … strictly and properly for that which has reference only to rational creatures. The lawyers include this under the laws of nations. It is rightly described by common practical notions, or the light and dictation of conscience ..[Ibid., 2.11.I.8-10]

XXII. If it is asked how this natural law agrees with or differs from the moral law, the answer is easy. It agrees as to substance and with regard to principles, but differs as to accidents and with regard to conclusions. … [Ibid., 2.11.I.22]

Looks like Turretin is far from a Neo-Kuyperian on the issue of natural law.

Turretin on the will of God in relation to moral acts

VII. God is not under any moral duty outwardly because he is a debtor to no one, and there is no cause out of him which can place him under obligation. Yet he can be under obligation inwardly because he is a debtor to himself and cannot deny himself. As the Son, in divine thins, is obliged to work by the Father, and the Father is obliged to love the Son, so in external acts (supposing the creature to be produced), God cannot but command him and give him just and holy precepts. [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.3.XVIII.7]

God is "ex lex" (outside the law), externally. But God is not some arbitrary person, but God has/ is His own nature. Therefore, while God is externally not under obligation, yet internally He cannot but will according to His own nature.

Therefore, heretics like Vincent Cheung are in error because, in calling God the "author of sin," one of his errors is in divorcing God's will from his nature. Cheung is an extreme nominalist, and that is why his god can be the author of sin and yet totally exonerated from the guilt of sinning.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Actual vs hypothetical possibilities

What makes something possible? Is there a difference among differing possibilities? Is it possible for a lawyer to have taken a different path in the past and become a doctor instead? Or is it possible for someone to born a girl instead of a boy? Or perhaps is it possible for the world to have a different value of the speed of light? Or, what about whether it is possible for the elect to lose their salvation? As it can be seen, all these are "possibilities" in the sense of what can be conceived in the mind, but they are different types of possibilities. The possibility of a different career path depends on decisions made by the person in the past. The second possibility depends on the genotype of the sperm fertilizing the egg (X instead of Y). The third possibility is a variation of the "possible worlds" or "multiverse" hypothesis (a concept which need not really and physically exist except conceptually) The fourth possibility however does not seem to possible, but it is something that can be conceived in the mind, so is it a real possibility?

For those who believe in Scripture and the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, the reason why the fourth possibility does not seem to be a possibility is due to the biblical teaching that God will certainly preserve those whom He calls and saves. John 6:44 states, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." The God who calls a person to salvation will raise him up on the last day. Therefore, how can it be said that the elect have a possibility that they can lose their salvation?

So let us just look at this one particular example here. Is there any sense in which losing salvation is a possibility? And here we must say that, in any actual sense, there is no possibility of the losing of salvation. But yet, according to nature, the elect have no infallible principle placed into them that will make perseverance certain. The elect are not suddenly changed to become like the holy angels, never thinking of not sinning or running away from God. In other words, while God's promise of perseverance is present, everything else in nature and the world seem to indicate otherwise. Professing believers apostatize from the faith, even those that at one time were fervent for the Lord. Others suffer with great doubt over their faith, while on the other spectrum yet others claim to have infallible assurance of their salvation while living like the Devil. The world, this real world, does not seem to make everything so nicely cut and dry, does it?

So is losing one's salvation a possibility? According to God's word, it is not. Looking with the eyes of faith even at the brokenness of this world, we can also say not, since what we see is seldom the heart of the person who claims faith. But from the perspective of nature and the realities of this world, we can say that losing one's salvation is a possibility in this sense: that if it were not for God's promise and God's Spirit, the elect could really lose their salvation. As Mark 13:22 states concerning the false wonders of the false messiahs, these were done to, "lead astray, if possible, the elect." In other words, the elect losing their salvation is a real possibility were it not for the fact of God's promise and the Spirit preserving the elect. Thus, the elect losing their salvation is a possibility, not a real possibility, but what I would call a "hypothetical possibility."

A real possibility refers to something that might happen if something else were or were not the case. It regards things that are variables that could be otherwise in other possible worlds. A hypothetical possibility however refers to something that is possible provided some other principle were to be suspended. In the case of the perseverance of the saints, the principle to be suspended is the intention of God to fulfill His promise, and this principle is necessary in all possible worlds. Hypothetical possibilities are therefore truly hypothetical, in the sense that there is no possible world where they can be realized. Hypothetical possibilities are however different from logical contradictions, like "square circles" or "God creating a stone so heavy He cannot lift it." Hypothetical possibilities are possibilities as they can be conceived, and can be actualized if the principles holding them back (as it were) were suspended.

Thus, in the discussion concerning reprobation, I made the observation that it is a hypothetical possibility that a creature that is reprobated would not be condemned if he did not sin. This is a hypothetical possibility because it is natural and necessary for any fallen creature to sin. But having this hypothetical possibility is meant to show anyone who is interested that God does not just dump innocents into hell, or that He sends people to hell before they have sinned. In the attack against Suprelapsarianism for example, the charge is made that Suprelapsarianism makes God send people on the path of hell even before they are considered sinners. But this charge ignores the two-step process of reprobation, and the hypothetical possibility of the non-damnation of the reprobate, and therefore does not stick. Yes, Supralapsaranism has God electing and reprobating prior to the decree to permit the Fall, but in the decree, reprobation is made to be fully executed only after the Fall (after fallen men sin). The decrees have built-in "clocks" as it were, to be implemented in execution when the conditions within the decree are fulfilled.

This distinction between actual and hypothetical possibility therefore has great hermeneutical potential. Instead of just thinking of things actual and things possible, we should perhaps think of things actual, things actually possible, and things hypothetical possible. Using such categories would aid us greatly in understand concepts like warning against apostasy as something addressing a possibility for the elect (hypothetical possibility), without making such warnings about questioning the salvation of the elect (Arminianism), or stating that they are simply hot air and worrying over nothing, since the elect can never actually fall away (simplistic reasoning by some Calvinists).

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Turretin: Christianity is not fatalism, and God is not the author of sin

V. … For since they [Stoics –DHC] are said commonly to place a necessity out of God in the perpetual and eternal connection of things, we place it in God himself and his eternal decree. They subject God to necessity, we subject necessity to God. … [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.6.II.5]

XVII. The predetermination of God in evil acts is not repugnant to his permission because they are not occupied about the same things. The former regards the substance of the act, the latter, however, its wickedness; the former reaches the material (effecting it), but the latter the formality (leaving it to the free will of man, which alone is the deficient moral cause). For as in an evil act, there is, as it were, a twofold formal relation (one having the relation of effect, the other having the relation of defect), God can move and predetermine to that which has the relation of effect, but can only permit the other which has the relation of defect. [Ibid., 1.6.VI.18]

Friday, July 14, 2017

Turretin: God does not will to save those He will not save

XIX. Third, if God has a universal will to save all, it is either absolute or conditional. If absolute, all will actually be saved; if conditional, he wills either to effect the condition necessary to salvation in men or only to exact it. If only to exact it, he does not will and intend the salvation of such by exacting from them an act which he knew to be impossible to man. Again, that condition will certainly be about to come to pass or certainly not about to come to pass. If the former, each and every man will certainly be saved; if the latter, God would be made to will vehemently that which he nevertheless well knew would never take place (as depending upon a condition such that it never would come to pass in this respect because he himself, who alone can, does not will to effect it). Now if it does not belong to a wise man to will anything under a condition which he knows to be impossible, how much less can this be attributed to the most wise God? [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.4.XVII.19]

Turretin: Election not based on foreseen faith

XXII. Third, if election is from foreseen faith, God must have foreseen it in us: either as an act of nature proceeding from us, or as an act of grace depending on God, or as a common act, arising conjointly from both (partly from God, partly from man). If as an act of God, he foresaw is therefore as his own gift (i.e. decreed by him from election) Thus it would follow, not precede election. IT as an act of nature we therefore elected ourselves (contrary to Paul, 1 Cor. 4:7), Pelagius gains the victory. If as a common act, either the act of God takes its form from the act of man (and so man would be the architect of his own salvation and could sacrifice to his own net, since he would bring to his own salvation the principal part) or the act of man takes its form from the act of God (and so election will be the case of faith, not the contrary). We must either ascend with the Scriptures to God discriminating among men by his own gift, or descend with Pelagius to man discriminating himself by his own free will (for there can be no middle way). [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 1.4.XI.22]

Monday, July 10, 2017

What is reprobation?

XVII. The election of some being supposed, the preterition of others follows. By this he [God] not only was unwilling to confirm them in good, but decreed to permit their sin. The fall taking place, he decreed to leave them in and condemn them on account of their sin. Their reprobation to this is referred. It is also contained in two acts: one negative (dereliction in the fall); the other affirmative (damnation to eternal punishment). ... [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology. 1.4.8.17]

What is reprobation? Reprobation is God's active decree to pass by some (all those whom He did not elect unto salvation) and decree them to eternal damnation. Reprobation, like election, is unconditional. As it condemns people to hell even before they were created in time, it seems to imply injustice in God. That is why Paul had to write Romans 9:14-24, as reprobation seems to be unjust. After all, how can God punish someone before they have even done good or bad?

When one looks more closely at the doctrine of reprobation however, it can be seen that at least some of the concern is misplaced. Reprobation is made up of two parts: Pretertion and Damnation. In preterition, God passed over those whom He did not elect. In damnation, God condemns to hell reprobate sinners because of their sin. Thus reprobation is not conditioned upon the sinner, but at the same time, sinners will never be condemned to hell apart from their sins. It is hypothetically possible for a creature to be passed over (preterition) but not condemned if that creature did not sin, and thus not be sent to hell. It is however not actually possible for any human to only be passed over without being damned, because all Man have fallen in Adam and thus all Man would have and will sin. Thus, God's decree of reprobation will have worked out in preterition and damnation for all of the reprobate, all without exception, and yet there would certainly be no injustice with God.

There is no such thing as a conditional decree of God

VIII. It is one thing to maintain that God has not decreed to save anyone except through legitimate means; another that the decree to save these or those persons through legitimate means is conditional and of uncertain event (which the adversaries feign). ...

IX. It is one thing for the thing decreed to be conditional; another for the decree itself. The former we grant, but not the latter. There can be granted an antecedent cause or condition of the thing willed, but not immediately of the volition itself. Thus God wills salvation to have the annexed condition of faith and repentance in the execution, but faith and repentance are not the condition or cause of the act of willing in God, nor of the decree to save in the intention.

[Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology. 1.4.3. 9-10]

Is the Gospel conditional or is it not? Is salvation conditional? The answers given by many people nowadays are incoherent, because they have lost the clarity of thought that characterized Reformed Scholasticism. Those like the PRCA (Protestant Reformed Churches of America) in their attack against the "conditional covenant" showed forth their theological incoherence as they simultaneously attacked the idea that there are conditions in the Covenant of Grace, yet will defend that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation (which would make "faith in Jesus Christ" a condition). Others like the Federal Vision will state openly that faith is necessary and thus a condition in the Covenant of Grace, then like Norman Shepherd assert that conditionality implies humans are to fulfill those conditions, thus undermining the "faith not works" principle of the Gospel and the Covenant of Grace. In both of these examples, failure to think clearly and logically result in theological error and incoherence, with further implications for the lives of believers as they are worked out (either in Legalism or Antinomianism).

In contrast to such confusion in the modern broadly Reformed sphere, Turretin's clarify shines forth. There is no such thing as a "conditional decree" or a "conditional covenant," but there are conditions within God's decree and covenant. Faith is a condition, but faith is conditioned as absolutely decreed, not as a decree that is conditioned upon Man having faith. This is the clarity we need to reject the errors in our time in the Reformed sphere of churches, and keep to the narrow path of orthodoxy.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Who is the Spiritual Man? - 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Here is last week's sermon on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, dealing with the topic of who is the spiritual man, as opposed to the "carnal" or "worldly" man.

Language and the problem of discourse

1) These Terms Are Ideologically Loaded

They’re not ‘value-neutral’.

When words like ‘patriarchal’, ‘privilege’, and ‘gender-inequality’ are used, they don’t merely describe a state of affairs: they also evaluate it.

...

What’s more, when you introduce ideologically loaded jargon, the evaluation is already assumed – it’s smuggled in, as it were, underneath our worldview radar. For example, what secular ideology means by ‘oppression’, is often different to what the Bible means by ‘oppression’. It is of concern that when this language is used, we rarely see any corresponding discussion of particular Biblical passages, arguing whether such evaluations are true to the Bible. (And when these Scriptural discussions do happen, they tend to be secondary rather than primary.) Importing this type of jargon into our discussions with each other means that, if we’re not careful, we can uncritically swallow the non-Biblical worldview.

[Akos Balogh and Dani Treweek, "Christian Discusson and Feminism: Here's What We're Getting Wrong," TGC Australia Blog (30th June 2017), here]

"When did you stop beating your wife?" For an ordinary couple, there is no right answer to that question, because the husband did not even begin to beat his wife in the first place. Questions like these are loaded questions, complete with many assumptions that attempt to sway the direction of discourse, in that particular case, into a presumption of guilt of wife-beating on the part of the one questioned.

Likewise, terms and phrases are not necessary value-neutral. Utilizing terms such as "patriarchal," "privilege" and all other "social justice" terms are likewise not value-neutral. These terms have assumptions built into them that will direct the framing of discourse concerning these topics, even for those who might disagree with them. Utilizing these terms predisposes the users towards the theories in which these terms originate, and thus it should not be too surprising for example that people who utilize the terms "social justice" and "racial inequality" tend to veer left and socialist, while those who use the terms "welfare" and "charity" tend to veer right. None of these terms are value-neutral: "social justice" has the connotation that one is righting a social wrong in pursuing it (which should also be or become illegal), while "charity" has the connotation that what one is doing is done out of love and grace and the recipient totally does not deserve the charitable action, not even if coming from the State. As is clearly seen in this example, although these terms are used to refer to approximately the same thing (from the center), adopting either of these terms clearly slant the manner of discourse concerning the subject matter.

It is therefore very important not just to believe in truth, but also to know how to believe in truth. That is also why, while doctrine is propositional, it cannot be reduced to propositions only. It is why we have to watch over the manner of our discourse, and refuse to utilize loaded words from the world without scrutinizing these terms according to the Scriptures.

Just to take one more example, the word "privilege" when applied to social situations has the connotation that the difference between those who have "privilege" and those who do not have "privilege" is a matter of social injustice that must be corrected by the use of the law. It doesn't matter even if one were to attempt to take the term out of the context of Critical Race Theory, for as long as it is used to refer to the same sociological phenomenon, it retains that connotation. The only way it could lose that connotation is to take the position that "privilege" is natural and to be celebrated, something no social justice warrior on the left would ever conceive of, and a position that defeats the entire choice of adopting the word "privilege" in the first place!

On the theological front, language is even more important, if that were possible. The classic case of the need for theological precision is the Nicene distinction between "same essence" (ὁμοουσιαν) and "like essence" (ὁμοιουσιαν), where the difference between orthodoxy and heresy is the presence or absence of a single iota. But beyond the need for precision is establishing the language of discourse about how we are to talk about God and about Christ. Without the final framework of the meaning of "essence" (οὐσια), "hypostasis" (ὑποστασις), and "person" (πρωσοπον), thus establishing a proper manner of discourse concerning the doctrine of God and of Christ, Nicene and Chalcedonian orthodoxy would be unable to be established.

Our manner of discourse can never be a value-neutral thing. This is not to suggest absolute postmodern relativism concerning words and their meaning, but rather to have a more chastened realism concerning the nature of language. As we deal with social, philosophical, theological and even scientific discourse, we should realize the value-imbued meaning of various words, and then decide whether these are suitable words to be used in the context of Christian discourse.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

On Critical Race Theory

What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Over at the Harvard Law Record, a student-run newspaper, Bill Barlow has written a succinct description of what Critical Race Theory is, here. As it can be seen, Critical Race Theory is just racism (of the "minority" against the "majority"), or "reverse racism" (discrimination against real and perceived racism). It is something that nobody who is actually interested in equality should be promoting. Yet we know that CRT is being promoted by Progressives, and even worse, by organizations such as RAAN (Reformed African-American Network).

One of the many problems with those pushing such nonsense is that they treat people as their "race" not as individuals. They do not care to actually get to know individuals first, but rather they see everything through the lens of "race" before anything else. After "race" of course comes ideology. Thus, whites have to "confess" their "privilege" all the time, and be an "ally," before they can be accepted by blacks for example. Those who refuse to buy into such nonsense are by default "racists" and "bigots," without any regard for how they actually treat those who are different from them.

Among many reasons, this is a reason why Christians ought not to buy into CRT in any form. The solution to discrimination (real or perceived) is not more discrimination. The solution to racism is not more racism, in the opposite direction. An eye for an eye, and the whole world becomes blind! The solution is have true equality, color-blindness, which does NOT imply that minority cultures are unimportant but that all (both majority and minority) are to be treated equally before others and before the law.

Even to utilize their language is problematic, because the language itself partake of the racial tones of CRT. To use the word "white privilege" or even "Chinese privilege" is already to state something in racial tones, which is racist. There is no redemption of CRT terms possible, just as there can be no redemption of terms such as "Racial Hygiene."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The pilgrim context of not living by "bread alone"

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. (Deut. 8:3-5)

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by our Daily Bread. OK, bad pun. But the point is how often we, and Evangelicalism as a whole, have taken what is truly deep and rich and trivialize it into cheap piety saleable to the masses. From a pietist background, how else should we think about showing our dependence upon God and His Word than in spending 5 minutes of each day reading shallow "Christian" drivel and calling it a devotion? And then we wonder why is that Christianity is not practical, or that this daily reading seems more like ritual than actual true enjoyment. Perhaps the problem is because we have trivialized God's Word, and make the reading of God's Word into something more like the reading of inspirational sayings. In fact, for some "pastors" like Joel Osteen, there is no real difference between what He says and the inspirational sayings of self-help gurus!

The real context of the phrase that "Man shall not live by bread alone" is not in a time of comfort and ease. Many people might think the Exodus was a great time of deliverance from slavery, and that is true. But many people do not consider the costs of the Exodus, as if deliverance is such an enjoyable event. It is not! In leaving Egypt, Israel thrusts herself into the unknown. Her calendar was disrupted, one's daily routine in life is disrupted. The food has changed, there is no permanent home, and everything seems to be settled upon the whim of one man's decrees, a man that none of them have elected to be their leader. When Israel cried to return to Egypt, it is not so much that they love slavery, but that Egypt offered stability and certainty. But what certainty or stability do they have with Moses in the wilderness? And while it is true that God is leading His people, for most of Israel most of the time, since God is unseen, the earthly impression is that of an unelected dictator telling them where to go, what to do, and how to worship. And if any of them object, like Korah, supernatural punishments and plagues will come upon them (Num. 16).

The context of Deuteronomy 8 therefore is one of destabilization. God removed the pillars of stability of Israel's life, such that they have nothing whatsoever to depend on but God alone. This is the context of the phrase "Man shall not live by bread alone," not the idea that it is a good thing to get daily "spiritual nourishment" through 5 minutes of devotion every day. It it for those whom God has brought to the end of themselves, so that they will say

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:25-26)

And we respond, like Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," (Jn. 6:68b).

Deuteronomy 8:3-5 itself shows us that it is God's discipline that brings us to Himself. He Himself removes our pillars of support and security, because we have made them into idols and put our trust in them. We have put our trust in job security, in having peaceful lives (as if God owes us peace), relatively just government (as if God owes you a good government), and for Singaporeans, our CPF. Those are the crutches and idols in our lives that take the place of Christ, and that is why it is hard for people to trust in Christ, because we have become too comfortable. We have taken God's blessings of health and prosperity and made them into a curse upon our souls. And thus we cannot say that we have learned dependence upon God, because we have not. We trust in all the other things God has given, and think we are entitled to them. If God were to remove them, we curse God for taking any of them away from us, as if we are entitled to all these things. And then we ask how we can make Christianity practical to us! Ever read the story of the rich young ruler? Unfortunately, many Evangelicals are just like that rich young ruler, someone who is looking for something he can do to make himself better, but unwilling to let God actually touch the things He puts His trust and security in.

It is only in times of trials and tribulations that the worth of a man's faith is made manifest. When God begins to shake your life, will you, following the advice of Job's wife, curse God and die? Or will you surrender what God has blessed you with, acknowledging that it is God who gives, and God who also takes away, and regardless of what happens, God is to be blessed. Can you therefore say that you have learned to not live by bread alone but by the Word of God?

Christ of course is the fulfilment of this passage, as He took our punishments on our behalf and live the righteous life, with trials and tribulations, for us. But this does not imply that God is no more disciplining His children. We continue to need to learn this lesson of trusting in God alone, not for our salvation but for our sanctification. Those whom God loves He disciplines, and conversely those whom the Lord does not discipline, He does not love. True Christians living in this life will face trials and tribulations, and much sorrow, as God disciplines us for our good. We will slowly learn from experience what it is to trust in God alone, and thus, like Israel, learn that man is not to live by bread alone but by the Word of God.

Christology and Theology conundrum

A claim about the incarnate Son—particularly a claim about the relationship of the incarnate Son to the Father—may be a trinitarian proposition, but it may also be a christological assertion. To take a classic example, well worked through in patristic thought, when we hear Jesus pray, either in Gethsemane or in the high-priestly prayer of John 17, we necessarily hear the authentically human voice of the incarnate Son pleading with God, not an internal triune dialogue between the eternal Father and the eternal Son. [Stephen R. Holmes, "Classical Trinity: Evangelical Perspective," in Jason S. Sexton and Stanley N. Gundry, eds., Two Views on the Doctrine of the Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 44]

When Jesus prays to the Father, is it an intra-Trinity dialogue? According to Holmes, who claims the support of the Church Fathers, it is the human voice of Jesus praying to God the Father, not the Second person of the Trinity praying to the First person of the Trinity. Now, of course it is admitted that the voicing of the prayer in human words and language is necessarily human, but is the prayer also "human"?

The problem it seems to me comes down to Christology. The Christian position has always been Christ is one person with two natures and two wills. The "two wills" is meant to safeguard the fact that Christ has two natures, in the sense that a nature comes with a will, and thus Christ having two wills safeguards the fact that Christ is both fully human and fully divine, not a mixture of the two in any sense. But orthodox Christology has similarly deny that a nature is its own actor, as if Christ has two separate wills in him warring over what to do. Christ is one actor, thus one person. Unlike humans who have one nature and thus our persons, natures and wills coincide, Christ's two natures are in one person and thus one act of willing (through two wills of course). The view that Christ's natures can subsist independent of His one person can be considered to be some variant of Nestorianism, which holds that Christ is two persons, two natures and two wills.

Thus, in embracing Chalcedon, it seems that we must reason in light of this orthodox doctrine of Christ's one person. Christ's natures are not personalized in any way, but rather it is Christ who acts according to either of his natures in whatever He does. In other words, Christ in His person is the actor, not His natures. Natures don't act, but persons do. Therefore, while it can be said in a human action that Christ acts to, for example, eat His lunch, according to His human nature, yet it is the one person of Christ who chooses to eat His lunch. Yes, such human actions are done according to His human nature. BUT, it is Christ's person who does so, according to His human nature.

What this implies for Holmes' interpretation of Christ's prayer is that we have a real problem here. According to Holmes' interpretation, which claims patristic support, Jesus' prayers on earth was done according to His human nature. So far, so good. But since Christ's natures don't act, it is Christ's one person that chooses to act according to His human nature. Or to emphasize, it is Christ's ONE PERSON who acts. In other words, yes, we hear the "authentically human voice of the incarnate Son pleading with God." But it is also the authentic voice of the one person of the SON who is pleading with God the Father. So, since it is the one and same person of the Son whether He is incarnated or not, does it really change the fact so that such interactions are not somehow intra-triune dialogues? The person of the Son remains the same pre-incarnated or incarnated. So why does the incarnation somehow makes the dialogue between the Father and the Son no longer an intra-triune dialogue?

Seeing as how Holmes claim patristic support, it is possible that such a conundrum was addressed by any of the Church Fathers. However, based so far on what I have read, I do not see how this rejection of the presence of intra-triune dialogues in time can be maintained. Not to mention that this idea of reading the Gospel accounts does not seem to me a natural way of reading Christ's interaction with His Father, which does suggest a genuine interpersonal relational interaction between God the Father and God the Son, rather than the triune God with the human nature of Christ.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The problem of reversed virtue

In my latest sermon, one point that I had made, but did not elaborate too much on, was in my second point concerning the problem of what I would call "reverse virtue." Due to the growing progressive liberal trend in Western society, cultural Marxism has infiltrated mainstream American society, such that Marxist ideas have become the trendy thing. In Latin America, Marxism in its various forms have long been influential, resulting in much devastation to the region (see e.g. today's Venezuela, also Argentina under Peron). Liberation Theology is the Marxist reading of theology, and its religious idea of "God's preferential favor towards the poor" has followed closely upon the heels of cultural Marxism, the latter infecting society while the former infecting religious thinkers and activists. Thus today in Western society, neologisms such as "white privilege," "confess your privilege," "woke" among other redefined terms have redefined social discourse, all for the worse.

The problem with Liberation Theology and contemporary Social Justice Warrior (SJW) religious Marxism (e.g. RAAN) is that it will not ever solve the real problem of human sin and actual inequality. What it does is that is merely flips societal values 180 degrees. What was once lauded as social virtues like wealth, thrift, intact families, law-abiding, truthfulness etc, are now labeled as vices, while what was once scorned as social vices such as poverty, wastefulness, single parenthood, law-breaking, being illegal aliens, lying etc, are now labeled as virtues. I will not be speaking here of the many social problems with such a scheme, but merely would like to point out how this does not conform to the Gospel at all.

The Gospel is all about salvation by grace alone, which excludes works of any kind. That is why God chooses the weak, and the foolish, and the lowly, because there is nothing virtuous about being weak, being foolish and being lowly. But in a Marxist scheme with the inversion of virtue, that would make God chose the newly-minted virtuous people. In a Marxist scheme, God choose the weak, the foolish, and the lowly because they are now virtuous in their weakness, folly and lowly status. But such is a betrayal of the Gospel message of salvation by grace alone! In a Marxist scheme, the poor can now boast that God chose him because poverty is a virtue. The foolish can now boast that God chose him because folly is a virtue, and so on.

Thus, whatever problems the problem of Marxism has socially (e.g. denial of Natural law), when it comes to the Gospel, religious Marxism with its reversed virtue scheme is an assault against the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. It is thus "anti-Gospel." It is a real indication that works-righteousness is not so easily expunged from the consciousness of men that the supposedly Reformed RAAN is promoting a theory that is contrary to the Gospel. We children of Adam are forever trying to make ourselves better and more deserving of salvation, and it is this tendency to think of ourselves better than we are that we all need to repent of, continually.

God glorified through our lack: 1 Corinthians 1:25-31

Here is my latest sermon preached May 28th 2017, on 1 Corinthians 1:25-31, entitled "God glorified through our lack."