Doctrine


Many if not most Calvinists view the world in terms similar to Islam, in the sense that the world is neatly divided into two opposing camps: Dar al-Islam and Dar al-HarbDar al-Islam is the “house of Islam,” the theopolitical abode of the faithful; by way of contrast, Dar al-Harb is the “house of (those with whom we are continually at) war (until the Day of Judgment).”  There is no middle ground, there are no third parties, you are one or the other.

Very neat, very tidy, very binary.

For many if not most Calvinists, you are either a Calvinist or you are an Arminian (or, as many of the “Truly Reformed/New Calvinists” like to insist, a Semi-Pelagian).  To them, these two options exhaust the theological possibilities.  If you are not for Geneva, you are against her – and for at least some, that is equivalent to rejecting the Gospel itself.

I have heard countless times by my Reformed friends how my unease with the Calvinist “doctrines of grace” stem from the fact that I value humanistic philosophy over the clear teaching of the Word – the necessary implication being that if you reject Calvinism, you reject the clear teaching of the Word, and instead embrace humanistic philosophy.  I am constantly labeled an Arminian as a result.

However, the prevailing Calvinist insistence on the Calvinism/Arminianism dichotomy fails irreparably (and quite quickly) when honestly examined.

It turns out that there are quite a few theological systems which owe nothing to either Calvinism or Arminianism.

For instance, Lutheranism.

Lutherans would be mighty surprised to find that their theology owes its existence to a Dutch reformer who was born fourteen years after Luther (the putative founder of their confession) himself died.  Yet that Lutheranism is emphatically not Calvinism is beyond controversy.  It instead occupies a theological territory quite other than either Calvinism or Arminianism.

Though I am far from being Lutheran, the more I read about Lutheran theology the more impressed and appreciative of aspects of it I become.  Among other things, Lutherans handily navigate the vexing waters between the Scylla of God’s Sovereignty and the Charybdis of man’s free will.  Take, for instance, the Lutheran position on the doctrine of divine election, summarized by Josh Strodtbeck in an interview with iMonk:

Luther shied away from abstractions, and we Lutherans inherited that. Not just sovereignty, but the attributes of God in general are simply not of extreme importance. If you look at Luther’s catechisms, he actually defines God in terms of Creation, the Cross, and the Church. Compare that to Q7 in the Westminster LC. So for Lutherans, theology is done in terms of God’s relation to us. That means theology never gets away from Law and Gospel, from justification, from the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If you look at the discussion of election in the Formula of Concord, its driving concern is not maintaining God’s sovereignty, but rather how election is to be preached within the framework of Law and Gospel. That’s why Chemnitz is comfortable with basically saying that God declares our election to us in the preaching of the Gospel and admonishes against rational speculation on the inscrutable decrees of God apart from Christ, who is made known to us in the Gospel and the Sacraments. It’s also the source of the bewildering (to Calvinists) assertion by Lutherans that while election is purely of the grace of God in Christ, reprobation is purely of the obstinate will of man and against God’s desire that they be saved. This doesn’t make sense in terms of divine attributes or sovereignty, but it does if you hold that damnation is Law and election is Gospel.

{emphasis mine}

I like that.

I really like that.

To my Calvinist brothers: I still love you, my opening paragraph was purposefully provocative, in order to provoke a reaction similar to the one I and other non-Calvinists feel when your theological brethren dismissively try to pigeon-hole us into the “Semi-Pelagian” category simply because we don’t see the Canons of Dort as comporting with what we understand in Scripture.

That said, I find it beyond fascinating that the theological landscape is vastly more variegated than the oversimplistic “Calvinist/Arminian” weltanschauung prevalent in so much of the current theological conversation.

From the American Vision blog:

What is the question? Simply this: "If God loves me unconditionally, why does it matter how I live my life?" Or it could also be phrased this way: "If God truly loves me unconditionally, why should it matter whether or not I ‘become a Christian?’" Be careful to not miss how powerful and deadly this question really is. It is not just a clever twist of wording, meant to sidetrack the evangelistic efforts of well-meaning proselytizers. Far from it. This question is the stake in the heart of the modern evangelical notion of God’s "unconditional love." In fact, I challenge you to search for the phrase "unconditional love" in the Bible or find the concept that God unconditionally loves every person on earth being taught anywhere in Scripture. In fact, R.J. Rushdoony makes the bold claim that "unconditional love is contrary to the Bible."

Again: the Calvinist is noetically incapable of seeing God’s love as being truly unconditional.  For him, when God says He “so loved the world,” the Calvinist is presuppositionally forced to inject “…of the elect” into the verse.  When the Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, he is again forced to inject “…any of the elect…all of the elect” where the clause does not in fact exist either contextually or necessarily.

The fact is, the Bible does teach God’s unconditional love – quite emphatically so.  It is, however, inaccurate to assert that unconditional love means that there are no necessary consequences for sin and rebellion.  I can love my son unconditionally – but if he misbehaves, because and as a direct consequence of my love, I will not shield him from the consequences of his actions, and will instead discipline him.  There is no real conflict between my unconditional love for my son and my then administering to him the consequences for his behavior when he misbehaves.

So, too, God.  God loves the world – every single person on it.  He even spoke to Judas in love, calling him at the very moment of his betrayal of Him, “friend,” giving Judas a last opportunity to repent.  That love is not inconsistent with His permitting men to receive the consequences of their choices, since that is likewise a consequence of two other of His attributes – justice and holiness.

But the consistent Calvinist cannot see this; he is committed to a theology which has God arbitrarily deciding from eternity past who will be saved and who will burn, with the individuals in question having absolutely no choice in the matter, instead being foreordinately and infallibly vouchsafed to whichever destiny He arbitrarily chose for them – who in effect created the vast bulk of humanity to suffer in unimaginable agony throughout eternity for His glory alone.

…and insist on calling these the “Doctrines of Grace.”

…and Calvinists wonder why us non-Calvinists run as hard and fast as we can away from Calvinism, screaming in horror the whole way.

God’s unconditional love for mankind is in no way inconsistent with His holiness and justice.  It is HIs holiness and justice which requires that sin be dealt with, and which in fact demands that there be such as place as hell for those who die in their sin; it was likewise His unconditional love which impelled Him to take upon Himself human flesh to die so as to provide the only way men might be saved through His free grace, providing an escape from the just consequences of their sins which would otherwise require their eternal damnation.  God’s unwillingness that any should perish but that instead all should come to repentance is in no way inconsistent with His will that those who do not repent will perish.  Nobody (who isn’t a Hypercalvinist) has any problem with the distinctions between God’s perfect, permissive, and declarative will.

I may not have things as tightly bound up and figured out as the Calvinist has; but I can identify crazy when I see it – and the assertion that God’s love is conditional emphatically falls under that category.

Chuck Smith’s autobiography was made available at the recent Senior Pastors’ Conference.  I began reading it the last day of the conference (yesterday) and I’m already a little over halfway through.

About the middle of the book, as he relates the great revolution of his thinking which led ultimately to the genesis of the Calvary Chapel Movement.  One of the key things which impacted him was an Excursus on Grace in Newell’s Romans Verse by Verse.  This excursus so profoundly changed his thinking on grace, that it still echoes through his ministry to this day.

After reading it, I can see why:

Excursus Chapter Six: “A Few Words About Grace” (excerpt)

I. The Nature of Grace

1. Grace is God acting freely, according to His own nature as Love; with no promises or obligations to fulfill; and acting of course, righteously – in view of the Cross.

2. Grace, therefore, is uncaused in the recipient: its cause lies wholly in the GIVER, in GOD.

3. Grace, also is sovereign. Not having debts to pay, or fulfilled conditions on man’s part to wait for, it can act toward whom, and how, it pleases. It can, and does, often, place the worst deservers in the hightest favors.

4. Grace cannot act where there is either desert or ability: Grace does not help – it is absolute , it does all.

5. There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His Grace.

6. The discovery by the creature that he is truly the object of Divine grace, works the utmost humility: for the receiver of grace is brought to know his own absolute unworthiness, and his complete inability to attain worthiness: yet he finds himself blessed – on another principle, outside of himself!

7. Therefore, flesh ahs no place in the plan of Grace. This is the great reason why Grace is hated by the proud natural mind of man. But for this very reason, the true believer rejoices! Fro he knows that “in him, that is, in his flesh, is no good thing:” and yet he finds God glad to bless him, just as he is!

II. The Place of Man under Grace

1. He has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing!

2. He is not “on probation.”

3. As to his life past, it does not exist before God: he died at the Cross, and Christ is his life.

4. Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn: For God knew all the human exigencies beforehand: His action was independent of them, not dependent upon them.

5. The failure of devotion does not cause the withdrawal of bestowed grace (as it would under the law). For example: the man in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; and also those in 11:30-32, who did not “judge” themselves, and so were “judged by the Lord-that they might not be condemned with the world!”

III. The Proper Attitude of Man under Grace

1. To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.

2. To refuse to make “resolutions” and “vows;” for that is to trust in the flesh.

3. To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth.

4. To testify of God’s goodness, at all times.

5. To be certain of God’s future favor; yet to be ever more tender in conscience toward Him.

6. To rely on God’s chastening hand as a mark of His kindness.

7. A man under grace, if like Paul, has no burdens regarding himself; but many about others.

IV. Things Which Gracious Souls Discover

1. To “hope to be better” is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.

2. To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself.

3. To be discouraged is unbelief to God’s purpose and plan of blessing for you.

4. To be proud is to be blind! For we have no standing before God in ourselves.

5. The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion.

6. Real devotion to God arises, not from man’s will to show it; but from the discovery that blessing has been received from God while we were yet unworthy.

7. To preach devotion first, and blessing second, is to reverse God’s order and preach law, not grace. The Law made man’s blessing depend on devotion; Grace confers undeserved, unconditional blessing: our devotion may follow, but does not always do so – in proper measure.

Probably one of the chiefest reasons modern evangelicalism is wholesale abandoning Biblical inerrancy is the discomfort many have with the plain reading of the Biblical account of Creation.

This has led some to put forward the idea that the Creation account was simply an observational statement which is not itself an actually accurate description of the real events – much like when we say “the sun rose” – obviously, the sun don’t rise none; our world, caught in a stable orbit within our sun’s gravity well revolves around our parent star exactly once each solar year.  It is simply a statement of observation; from the perspective of the viewer, the sun seems to rise while the horizon appears from our frame of reference to remain fixed.  It is technically inaccurate to use the phraseology, “the sun rose,” but even planetary scientists use the term descriptively; it is an idiomatic peculiarity of the human experience expressed in language.

Those who seek to accommodate current scientific assumptions, to help the Bible out and excuse what they view as an obvious contra-scientific view of origins, try to argue that the first several chapters of Genesis are obviously in the same category; they are observational, phenomenological descriptions only which are something more than myth but less than strictly accurate.

You have several galactically massive problems with that view.  Not the least of which is that the Creation account is given in such exacting detail down to an explicit chronology, that the Spirit sure does seem to have Himself at least at one time believed that He was accurately recording the events He claims to have not only been witness to but actually the active agent in.  Too bad the Holy Spirit didn’t have the benefit of modern science, there, eh?  Poor divine Guy…

The Spirit’s not the only Person of the Trinity Who suffers from this myopia, either; Jesus apparently didn’t have that information, either.  He certainly seems to have been victim to the mistaken idea that Genesis is accurate and trustworthy.  He didn’t have the advantage of living in the modern era, here in the Year of Our Lord Darwin 200, where such silly misconceptions could have been corrected and He could have spared Himself (to say nothing of His less conservative followers) considerable embarrassment.

The bottom line for me, and one which those who hold this sort of view vigorously deny is the case, is that it all boils down to a question of authority.

Either the Bible is the final authority for the Christian, or it isn’t.  You can’t have it both ways, and there is no via media.  If it is the final authority, then all things must be viewed through its lens.

The modern (and the postmodern, ironically enough) view Scripture through a lens other than itself.

The modern views Scripture through the lens of current scientific understanding.  The idea is that the Biblical authors were genuine and sincere, but also ignorant, and while the Bible is accurate in the message it seeks to convey, the particulars must be viewed through our much more complete understanding of the way of things and must be redacted to fit more comfortably into the worldview we now know to be established scientific fact.

Except…that it’s not established.

Science, by its very nature, is constantly (dare I use the term?) evolving, constantly learning new things which put the older, “established” things into a different light, allowing for wholesale reinterpretation of previously unquestioned tenets.  We are vastly more ignorant than our premodern ancestors if we think that we have things so nailed down scientifically that we can now offer editorial help to God.  Even previously understood laws of science are vulnerable to reinterpretation in light of new information.  Just in the previous century, our entire understanding of the physical nature of creation had been turned on its head – not once, but several times.  In another hundred years (should the Lord tarry) I expect that our current understanding of physics (and with it, cosmology) will be again completely revolutionized.

By contrast, the Bible is fixed, unchangeable.  And given its origin (the God who created all things and exists wholly outside of Creation), is the only viable lens through which the Christian can and should view the world.

The modern views Scripture though the lens of our current, limited understanding of science; the postmodern views Scripture through the lens of culture.

Even worse an option.

I view both through the lens of Scripture.

So when the Bible sure does seem by every internal indication to teach that God created the universe in six consecutive chronological days, I have no choice but to accept that, and to view all data through that presupposition.

As Dr. Morris states in this tremendous article:

The difference is this: we believe the Bible must take priority over scientific theories, while they believe scientific theories must determine our biblical interpretations.

The issue is, categorically, one of authority.  If I view Scripture through any external lens, that lens is my true authority.  If I accommodate Scripture to culture, culture is my authority.  If I accommodate Scripture to current scientific understanding, then that is my authority.

If I instead accommodate both culture and current scientific understanding to Scritpure…then Scripture is my authority.

Read the article “Old-Earth Creationism” and consider its arguments.

Good article here from the Institute for Creation Research, which among other things looks at the current evangelical trend of soft-pedaling the all-important doctrine of inerrancy.

"Oh, I really don’t see it that way," he stated. "My church teaches that the Bible may be inspired, but it’s not inerrant. It’s all about man’s description of God."

I heartily agree with those who state that evangelicalism is in its twilight. Evangelicalism, ironically due to its obsession with relevance, is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  In seeking to accommodate itself to the zeitgeist, it has both consciously and unconsciously watered down the core tenets of the Scriptural faith and has become little differentiated from the moderate-to-liberal mainstream of modern Christianity.

There is a reason why most theologically paleoconservative church Statements of Faith (including CC Lakeshore’s) begin with a clear declaration along the lines of, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, verbal, plenary, confluent Word of God” or something along those lines. The reason is that without an inspired, inerrant Bible, we have no firm basis to believe in God in the first place – at least, no firm basis to believe in the God revealed in that very Bible.  It is the Bible which tells us of the Triune God, of the fall of man, of God’s work of redemption on the Cross, and of His soon-return for us at the end of the age.

And of Creation, and other bugaboo topics that theological neoconservatives really and fervently wish weren’t in the Bible, as they cause great embarrassment for them in their quest to be relevant and must be explained away rather than accepted and dealt with head-on.

The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is under concerted attack from,  it seems, all quarters.  Even ostensibly theologically conservative pastors are wading into the fray, Clintonesquely parsing out what we mean by “inerrant.”

Makes me want to smack somebody.

Several somebodies.

The current hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant prevarication is to affirm the Bible’s infallibility while failing to affirm its inerrancy.

Bottom line, if the Bible is not inerrant, it is not infallible.  The two conditions are necessarily and mutually inherent.  And if either is falsified, then the Bible is not authoritative – some other authority must be placed above it to ferret out those parts which are acceptable and which parts are not.

Detractors of the doctrine key in on the incontrovertible fact that no two individual manuscripts of the NT agree 100% – there are variations on spelling, and some juggling of sentences and word order.

True.

The NT manuscripts (much like the OT) were copied by hand; unlike the OT, the copies weren’t made by scholars, but by anybody who wanted a copy of the Scriptures for themselves.  There were no Christian bookstores you could go to to buy a Bible – indeed, there were no printing presses to make that a practical reality in the first place.  So the Scriptures were copied by hand, and as inevitably happens (especially given the writing medium and writing style of the first few centuries of the church) copyist errors crept in to individual manuscripts.

But – and this is an all-critical “however” – the autographs were copied so soon from the time of original writing, copied so frequently, and distributed so widely so rapidly, that though individual copies contained inevitable errors, the entire aggregate mass of NT copies – collectively called “witnesses” by textual scholars – along with the massive amount of quotations in lectionaries and patristic sermons and writings, plus the large number of early translations of the NT Books into other languages – as a whole retain the original readings.  It is the privilege and duty of textual scholars to collate the vast corpus of extant witnesses and extract the original readings by paring away the variants.

The result is that, while there are as many individual variants of the Text as there are witnesses, the sheer number of those witnesses ensures that the very words of Paul (for instance) are recorded in the whole body of manuscripts, fragments, lectionaries, and patristics.

What that means for us, is that though we don’t have the autographs themselves, we do have the autographical readings.  We can be assured that we do have the very Word of God, and that Jesus wasn’t misguided when He promised that “not one jot nor one tittle” will be lost or pass away from the Law (and by extension, the whole Word).

Therefore, this particular argument against inerrancy (i.e., that the Scriptures can’t be inerrant because there are textual variants in individual witnesses) falls apart.

So we (Calvary Chapel) as a movement are rightly obsessed with Biblical inerrancy – and woe betide the man who tries to self-identify with the movement and yet ignores or rejects this essential tenet of it.

Let me be clear: This is a hill we are quite willing to die on.

Now, if someone wants a much more cogent treatment of the doctrine of inerrancy, I can think of no better summary of the issue than the Chicago Statement.  It is probably the best and most balanced treatment on the issue that I’ve ever read; and it’s all the more incredible to me since it raises and answers all of the objections to inerrancy that I’ve ever encountered.

The whole Statement and exposition are worthy of reading and careful consideration; but for the benefit of both of my readers, I’ll quote the Articles of Affirmation and Denial from the Statement here:

Article I.

WE AFFIRM  that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.

WE DENY  that the Scriptures receive their authority from the Church, tradition, or any other human source.

Article II.

WE AFFIRM  that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.

WE DENY  that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.

Article III.

WE AFFIRM  that the written Word in its entirety is revelation given by God.

WE DENY  that the Bible is merely a witness to revelation, or only becomes revelation in encounter, or depends on the responses of men for its validity.

Article IV.

WE AFFIRM  that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.

WE DENY  that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God’s work of inspiration.

Article V.

WE AFFIRM  that God’s revelation within the Holy Scriptures was progressive.

WE DENY  that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings.

Article VI.

WE AFFIRM  that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.

WE DENY  that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.

Article VII.

WE AFFIRM  that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.

WE DENY  that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.

Article VIII.

WE AFFIRM  that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.

WE DENY  that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.

Article IX.

WE AFFIRM  that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.

WE DENY  that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.

Article X.

WE AFFIRM  that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

WE DENY  that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.

Article XI.

WE AFFIRM  that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

WE DENY  that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.

Article XII.

WE AFFIRM  that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

WE DENY  that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

Article XIII.

WE AFFIRM  the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.

WE DENY  that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

Article XIV.

WE AFFIRM  the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.

WE DENY  that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of the Bible.

Article XV.

WE AFFIRM  that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.

WE DENY  that Jesus’ teaching about Scripture may be dismissed by appeals to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity.

Article XVI.

WE AFFIRM  that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history.

WE DENY  that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.

Article XVII.

WE AFFIRM  that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.

WE DENY  that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.

Article XVIII.

WE AFFIRM  that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

WE DENY  the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.

Article XIX.

WE AFFIRM  that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

WE DENY  that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.

If you don’t already subscribe to the RSS feed for the Theological Word Of The Day, correct that oversight immediately.  TWOTD is a stupendous resource, giving very helpful summaries of important theological words and terms.  It’s one of the blog feeds I read on a very regular basis, operating as I do under the twin assumptions that (1) you can’t know too much about God, and (2) theology, being the study of God, is an indispensable resource for it.

September 26th’s word was analogia entis – the “analogy of being,” a very, very important concept, especially in light of so much of the ECM’s love-affair with “chastised epistemology” which in essence states that we can’t really know anything for certain about God except that we can’t really know anything for certain.

Tony Jones summarized this sort of thinking well in his published dialog with Collin Hansen over the differences between the newbreed “Young Calvinists” and the Emergents:

Where we probably differ is not so much on theology, but on epistemology. That is, it seems the difference between the people you profile in Young, Restless, Reformed seem pretty darn sure that they’ve got the gospel right, whereas the Emergents that I hang out with are less sure of their right-ness. In fact, they’re less sure that we, as finite human beings, can get anything all that right.

The Emergent party line is that, as result of the noetic effects of sin (that is, that among other things the Fall corrupted the mental faculties of man – which I agree with, BTW, and why I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the Presuppositional Apologetic) we as humans ultimately can’t know anything with an absolute degree of certainty save that we can’t know anything else than that with an absolute degree of certainty.

In other words, since we are finite, fallen beings, it is impossible to fully know an infinite, holy God; and by extension (they say), we cannot know Him directly at all, but only obliquely, and imperfectly at that.

The argument, however, presupposes what it tries to prove – it begs the question, in other words.  It presumes that an incapacity for absolute knowledge precludes a capacity for moral certitude.

In other words, though I as a finite, fallen human cannot know God with absolute clarity, I can know what I know of God and what He has revealed of Himself with absolute certainty.

I can know, for instance, that God is good, holy, loving, and just, and that He took upon Himself human flesh, suffered and died, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead. I can know that His Word is true, and that any problems I have with that Word derive from myself and not the Word itself.

Anyway.

Back to the point of this blogpost…TWOTD posted a brief article on analogia entis which answers the ECM’s “chastised epistemology” party line very well; turns out this isn’t a new idea at all, and that the faithful in the church have dealt with this already in ages past and come up with a very sound position:

The belief that there exists an analogy or correspondence between the creation and God that makes theological conversation about God possible. While many would say that finite beings with finite language cannot describe an infinite God, theologians of the medieval era discussed this problem, seeking to resolve it by developing a theory which alloted the communication of words into three separate categories. Some words are univocal (always used with the same sense), some were equivocal (used with very different senses), and some were analogical (used with related senses). It is this third sense that the analogia entis finds meaning. While finite man cannot describe and infinite God perfectly (univocally), he can do so truly being that God has created man in his image and, through this, has provided and analogical way of communicating himself. To deny the analogia entis is thought, by some, to be a self defeating proposition since it would present the situation where an all-powerful God is not powerful enough to communicate himself to his creation.

Amen.

So – if you haven’t already subscribed to TWOTD’s feed – do it, now. Tons of good, solid stuff.

You’ll thank me later.

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