Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What if God?

OK, so just to review, I have found in Romans 9 Paul weeping over his people, Israel. He then says that the promised plan is still real... even though not all of Israel had received the Messiah. He says they are not all spiritual just because they are in that nation chosen by God. He futher explains that God makes specific choices in regards to the plan unfolding. He favors certain people and even allows others to go their own rebellious way. He infuences key people in His plan, and all the while he is not unfair in doing this. He uses the rebellious of attitdue for His own purposes to show the world who He is. He has the right to do this and if we find ourselves or others being used in a way that we don't like, we should not sass the LORD about it. We can not imagine that He is less righteous than ourselves.

(more from Romans 9:)22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
What is all this talk about clay and vessels? Do you think Paul knew anything about this passage (Jeremiah 18):

1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
Interesting! This passage from Jeremiah is talking about God's dealings with Israel. I also have thought that the chapter 9 of Romans has been dealing with the nation of Israel, judging by the opening that Paul gives. I do, however see that we are at a transitional point in verse 23. In verse 22, Paul is talking about the longsuffering of God. Here is the LORD pictured as a very patient LORD. He can't be said to be unmerciful. He can't be accused of cruel meanness here. He puts up with those who are fitting themselves for destruction. Yes, FITTING THEMSLEVES. The Greek middle voice is employed in verse 22, not the passive voice. In other words, the Greek of this sentence is not that something is being done to its subject, but that the subject is doing something. Verse 23 is the passive voice. So these verses are teaching that men actively fit themselves for destrucion, but passively are fitted for mercy. Remeber, it is not of him that wills or runs. Paul is teaching that God has been patient with all those in rebellion, willing to make them again into a better vessel. Either way He will show His power.

Look at the Jeremiah passage again. Is God saying there that the attitidue of the clay has anything to do with how it is ends up? The answer is yes. VERSE 8: "...if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it." God is longsuffering towards us all, (as we are all fitting ouselves for destruction), in order that His mercy might be shown on some as they are re-fitted by Him. In Israel's case, they were to repent of evil. In Christ, we are made a new creation, both Jews and Gentiles and our destruction is taken away because of faith , because of Christ taking on Gods' wrath. He is making His saints into vessels for glory and honor. We all come from the same lump though, so we shouldn't have any pride.

Moreover, I think the point here is really deeper than we might first think. Remember how this whole chapter has been going? The Jews - God chose them, but they have not received their Messiah. What if God allowed them, and endured many of those rebellious Jews so that His plan would unfold as it has... and we would be right where we are right now. His wrath was poured out on this crucified and risen Messiah who is now stretching out His arms to the world - to both Jews and Gentiles so that any might find mercy in His sight and heed the call? What if, just what if God has put up with all of this trouble, all of this marred clay, to make His power known and so that His plan to emit mercy to the nations would come to pass?

81 Comments:

  • This is really good.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 9/29/2007 10:23 AM  

  • Matthew,
    You are too nice.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/29/2007 10:29 AM  

  • I appreciate this article Sis. I pray it will be a blessing to those who read.

    By Blogger Kc, at 9/29/2007 12:27 PM  

  • Thank you, KC. It is a great chapter to study.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/29/2007 1:00 PM  

  • I Love it Rose! I'm guessing Buddingh's excerpt containing Jeremiah 18 was helpful :)

    By Anonymous danny, at 9/29/2007 6:35 PM  

  • Yes, it was, Danny. Thank you.

    I have a lil' book by J. Vernon McGee called "What the clay can do with the potter." He deals with both the Jer. 18 and the Romans 9 passage too, in that book. They are definitely linked! There is no coooincidence here that these two servants of God used the same illustration.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/29/2007 9:33 PM  

  • Hi Rose!

    And it came to pass, when all that knew her beforetime saw that, behold, she blogged among the bloggers, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto Rose? Is Rose also among the Calvinists? (Adapted from 1 Samuel 10:11)

    Two quotes leave me wondering!

    [i] "He favors certain people and even causes others to go their own rebellious way."

    Even as a Calvinist, I would have to do a wee bit more talking on that one!

    [ii]So these verses are teaching that men actively fit themselves for destrucion, but passively are fitted for mercy.

    Excuse me, if I'm wrong, but if the sinner is passively fitted for mercy (without anything on his part whatsoever i.e. faith seen before hand) then this is unconditional election, is it not?

    Don't ruin it, Rose, but maybe you should clarify! :-)

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 9/30/2007 11:23 AM  

  • Great post Rose!

    KC, this reader has been blessed by this and all of Sister Rosie's posts on Romans. God answers prayer!

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 9/30/2007 3:31 PM  

  • Colin Maxwell,
    Did you misquote me?
    BTW, I am glad to see that you are coming around to our way of seeing things. ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/01/2007 1:46 PM  

  • Thanks, John! :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/01/2007 1:46 PM  

  • Colin,
    Per the first quote that you ask me about - I do think God favors. He certainly favored Israel. He certainly chose Jacob. When have I or any non-Cal denied that God favors? I think He definitely chooses key people as well and makes it prit near impossible for them to run (Paul, for example).

    Per the other - passively being fitted for mercy is not the same as unconditional election. Election is always conditioned on faith.

    23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

    To me there is a lot lacking in this whole chapter that some are filling in with assumptions. Firstly, it never says in this verse when "beforehand" is. Some assume it is before the foundation of the world or sometime way back then. Some imagine eternity past as being the "beforehand for glory." I see it simply as before the glory. Right now is "beforehand" if you think about it.

    This never says anything about specific vessels, only that there are two groups of vessels. Some imagine a list of names. I imagine *two ways*.

    Try taking a fresh look at this chapter. I am and it is quite edifying. See if you are perceiving this without predjudice, without importing theological considerations into it.

    Thanks for your contributions and your great wit! :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/01/2007 2:01 PM  

  • What if Paul, in employing the hypothetical "what if", is not actually talking about true realities (i.e., the corrolaries of the "what ifs"), but is using the hypothetical as a hyperbolic treatment of his point--contra the Judaizers against whom he is preaching--concerning the just decision of God to incorporate the Gentiles completely without consideration of the national/racial/cultic schemas of Judaism?

    In this way, these passages could be viewed as a negative treatment of the workings of God. By asking the hypothetical, Paul may be assuming the exact opposite of the content of hypothetical, and is merely using the rhetoric to show that even in the most absurd situations (those imagined in the hypothetical), God would yet be just in what God does, even though the nature of the hypothetical question might suggest that Paul does not actually believe that such accurately reveals the way in which God does actually work.

    It would be like Paul saying something like this:

    "We all know God doesn't operate in this manner---but what if God did X? Even if God operated in the most unreasonable manner conceivable (here, the hypothetical), God would nonetheless be just, for that which God does is just and the justness of God's action is based not on conformance with human paradigms and cultic establishments, but rather on the mercy and grace of the divine."

    So you see, the hypothetical need not be assumed to be a theological statement about what Paul believes to be in keeping with the character of God. It may very well, in fact, be a deliberate juxtaposition of Paul's own position merely for the sake of underscoring--over and against the arguments of the Judaizers--Paul's convictions about the propriety of the extension of divine reconciliation to the Gentiles in the person of Christ completely apart from the Jewish cultus of worship.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/01/2007 3:11 PM  

  • Sorry...hi Rose!

    One more thing: The conclusions I have outlined above are not only consistent with the larger methodology of Paul's argument throughout Romans, but moreover wipe away a huge proof-text for the Calvinistic argument. That is, if Paul is using these hypothetical questions not as positive theological assertions, but rather as negative, hyperbolic juxtapositions of his own beliefs, then the Calvinist finds themselves arguing not only against the nature of the questions in the text, but moreover against the apostle as well.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/01/2007 3:15 PM  

  • ED, yes, I tend to agree.

    Paul is making an assertion of God's sovereignty without advocating a particular model of divine-human relations.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/01/2007 5:45 PM  

  • Hiya Rose! Lot's of good thoughts here!

    By Anonymous Mary, at 10/01/2007 7:25 PM  

  • Good morning, Rose! How are things with you?

    I didn't misquote you at all (Would I?) on the first quote, but took it word for word and pasted it from your original posting - Did you change it from "even causes" to "allows"?

    If faith is the condition of election then the sinner cannot be said to be passive in the matter, because faith is an operating or energising principle. Faith moves the believer to do something. (Not in any meritorious sense, of course, but it is moves the hand to receive the gift, or moves the heart to cry out etc.,)

    The Scripture itself elsewhere tells us when the "beforehand" was - Ephesians 1:4 tells us that it was before the foundation of the world (in Genesis 1:1) i.e. eternity past. Whatever God does, He always planned to do - I think we discussed this before on the decree of God - for there is no new information as far as God is concerned. You and I chop and change our plans for so many reasons. We are fickle. We receive new information that makes present plans look ancient. We run out of resources. Others let us down. Malignant forces frustrate us etc., Not so, God.

    I don't think that enlarging the idea to merely being two groups of vessels really helps anything. Everyone of us will rightly say: "Which group of vessels do I belong to?" and we are back to the individuality matter again.

    Just a few thoughts from the other side of the pond.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/02/2007 4:32 AM  

  • Colin,
    You caught me! I changed a word. hehe
    I do think that you should consider that faith is the condition for salvation. I think Paul clearly teaches this. :~)

    Mary,
    Thanks. I agree - the comments are great.

    Exist,
    I was hoping to find your email because I want to ask you something. Can you email me? rcole@ambt.net.
    I must tell you - I find your comments here very compelling! Thank you. You have shed a whole different light on this. I wish Colin Maxwell or some other Calvinist would engage your thoughts. Thank you SO MUCH for participating.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/02/2007 11:36 AM  

  • Good morning Rose,

    You not only changed a word, but you suggested that I had misquoted you. Imagine if that had been the other way round. :-(

    Calvinists have no problem with the concept that salvation is conditional on faith i.e. no faith = no salvation. John 3:18 makes that abundantly clear. However, we are not discussing the grounds of salvation, but the grounds of election.You have posited the ultimate say in the matter of election in the choice of man, even though you quote earlier from Romans 9:16 that it is not of him that runs nor of him that wills, yet what is faith, but a willing embrace of God's word? By making faith the cause of your election (and not the fruit) you effectively make it the reward of God, for it is you that ultimately made the difference between you and one who is reprobated. While I willingly run with the idea that the reprobates fit themselves to destruction, yet I cannot run with the idea that I fitted myself to election, salvation and glory, which is where the faith = election = salvation doctrine leads us. While faith may be said to be a condition of salvation - we use this concept regularly in our evangelism when dealing with responsible sinners - yet faith is better said to be the instrument of salvation i.e. the receiving hand that receives the free gift of God.

    Do you agree that the "beforehand" is best explained by Ephesians 1:4 i.e. before the foundation of the world?

    Re: Exist Dissolves theory that Romans 9:22 is hypothetical rather than true: I think this shows how strong the Calvinist position really is. When I was a young believer and struggling with the Doctrines of Grace, I sat one Lord's Day afternoon and went down these verses. Of course, I came up with an alternative view, but I showed more my skills as a butcher than an exegete. The best way to read Romans 9 is to "Let God be God" and stop trying to mould Him into our way of thinking. If the argument introduced in Romans 9:22 is basically untrue (but stated only by way of contrast) then Paul is introducing various OT Scriptures (v25ff) to back up the side of the argument which he is trying to expose as untrue. That there are hard things for carnal minds to digest in Romans 9:22 is beyond dispute. That there are wonderful things to digest in Romans 9:23 is also beyond dispute…but (if I understand it right) Exist Dissolve's argument is that the good things are only stated by way of argument and actually the opposite of what Paul was getting at.

    No one can complain in what is written in Romans 9. The Christ rejecter fits himself for destruction. Who can he blame but himself? The ultimate Christ receiver comes to faith and salvation through the sheer mercy of God. Who can he praise, but the God who did not leave him to perish in his sins, but ensured that he would come savingly to Jesus Christ?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/03/2007 4:19 AM  

  • Exist, your hypothetical does not seem to have any basis in exegesis. Paul shows that his argument is based in reality:

    Rom. 9:23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
    Rom. 9:24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at 10/03/2007 9:56 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I've always viewed the "what if" statement by Paul exactly as it reads.

    Paul is posing a hypothetical question prodding them to understand how it's not the children of Abraham's flesh but rather the spiritual children of Abraham and his spiritual heirs through the promise which unfolded as the "promise by faith in Jesus Christ" given to those who believe.

    Regardless of why, it is a question, and doesn't pretend to be a broad doctrinal statement on predestination but simply just asks what it asks in order to serve its immediate point.

    I thought E-D's comment was very useful.

    Todd

    By Blogger Todd, at 10/03/2007 10:06 AM  

  • Jonathan,

    My read is that Paul's "what if" can carry through all the way to the end of his thought which ends at the end of verse 24.

    Even if it does not, Verses 23-24 still refer back to the question just before them for their context.

    Though granted, much more speculation and guesswork and controvery can be made of it.

    Just my thoughts Jon.

    By Blogger Todd, at 10/03/2007 10:31 AM  

  • Exist, your hypothetical does not seem to have any basis in exegesis. Paul shows that his argument is based in reality:

    Rom. 9:23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,
    Rom. 9:24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.


    Jonathan --

    In keeping with the argument I have posed, I would suggest that verse 24 is an interjection--perhaps a bit of sarcasm--to further hyperbolize the juxtaposition that Paul is creating. That is, perhaps the hypothetical question is itself a charicature of the Judaizer's position which Paul is rebutting throughout this section, and to futher antagonize it, Paul appends the point of his argument--e.g., the extension of God's mercy to Jews and Gentiles alike without distinction--to make the ridculousness of his opponent's argument even more apparent.

    Of course, you will probably suggest that such requires too much from the text, that a more "natural reading" leads to your conclusion. However, given the nature of hypothetical questions in the context of polemical discussions as well as the limited ability of human language to communicate sarcase through the written word, I see that my interpretation is no more arduous than the one which you would derive from the imposition of your own philosophical categories upon the text.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/03/2007 1:27 PM  

  • Colin,
    I am sorry. I did not mean to be bad. I was kidding around. I apologize if that seemed like a serious accusation. I have a poor sense of humor sometimes, I think. God bless you.

    Todd,
    Thank you for coming over! Yes, "What if God..." does not sound like a proclamation of undisputable truth. I also found EDissole's comments useful for thought.

    Exist~Dissolve,
    Thank you for your contribution!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/03/2007 5:50 PM  

  • Rose:

    I did not have your e-mail so I want to drop a note to you here.

    I just read through a thread from summer 2006. Several people commended you for articulating some concern with what you had read at that site.

    I thought you'd like to see it.

    Can I e-mail that link to you, or would you prefer I post it here?

    You can e-mail me from my site so that I can forward the link to you.


    Lou

    By Blogger Lou Martuneac, at 10/03/2007 6:19 PM  

  • Re: Exist Dissolves theory that Romans 9:22 is hypothetical rather than true: I think this shows how strong the Calvinist position really is.

    Interesting...

    When I was a young believer and struggling with the Doctrines of Grace, I sat one Lord's Day afternoon and went down these verses. Of course, I came up with an alternative view, but I showed more my skills as a butcher than an exegete.

    And from what position of authority do you sit to properly adjudicate between exegesis and "butchering"? Such a definitive pronouncement would require access to some objective, historically transcendent repository of knowledge (not to mention the infallible means by which to use said knowledge) whereby one might be able to determine such a difference. Moreover, as you have clearly decided that the Reformed philosophical matrix known as the "Doctrines of Grace" is a reliable exegetical tool, have you not pre-fabricated the very criteria by which you would determine the exegetical validity of any interpretation?

    The best way to read Romans 9 is to "Let God be God" and stop trying to mould Him into our way of thinking.

    I fail to see how approaching these passages through the philosophical structure of the "Doctrines of Grace" escapes your own critique, for it is your own judgment that has decided that said criteria will be sufficient for properly framing and defining biblical exegesis.

    If the argument introduced in Romans 9:22 is basically untrue (but stated only by way of contrast) then Paul is introducing various OT Scriptures (v25ff) to back up the side of the argument which he is trying to expose as untrue. That there are hard things for carnal minds to digest in Romans 9:22 is beyond dispute. That there are wonderful things to digest in Romans 9:23 is also beyond dispute…but (if I understand it right)

    See my comments about the segway from 23 to 24 above in response to Jonathan.

    No one can complain in what is written in Romans 9.

    Who's complaining about what is written? I--and the rest of us--are merely voicing our opinions about what we believe to be the instructional import of this passage.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/03/2007 8:20 PM  

  • Hi Lou<

    Rosies email can be accessed through her bloger profile.

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 10/03/2007 8:40 PM  

  • Oh, OK.

    Thanks,


    Lou

    By Blogger Lou Martuneac, at 10/03/2007 9:20 PM  

  • Exist-Dissolve: I judged myself a butcher when it came to interpreting Romans 9. I was working from the erroneous framework that God could not but deal with all men equally and was unaware of the basic maxim that if God was not obliged to save any then he was not obliged to save all. As I say, I was a young believer at the time, so I do not judge myself too harshly now.

    My authority for properly adjudicating between interpreting and butchering lies in being able to reconcile my conclusions with the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Bible. This is the rather fundamental position of the Evangelical faith. While I accept that there are Evangelicals who do not accept some of my conclusions, yet there is basic agreement among Evangelicals that this is how we should seek to come to our views. I disagree with your allegation that I am forcing my judgement upon the Scriptures.

    I find it interesting that you see the maxim "Let God be God" is part of what you term the philosophical structure of the Doctrines of Grace. The implication of this is that we should not let God be God and find it hard to think that this is your position. I cannot but feel that you have worded your thoughts somewhat clumsily on this matter.

    Re: Romans 9:22-24 I think we are going to have to disagree on your rather novel interpretation. I am unaware (forgive my ignorance) of any noted commentator from whatever camp within the Evangelical fold who shares it with you. A note to any prepared to run with it: If Paul is but using a rhetorical device i.e. rephrasing the position of another in order to demolish it, then you cannot employ the argument that God endures with longsuffering and wrath towards the vessels of wrath or that such fit themselves to destruction or that He makes known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He prepared aforehand unto glory. These glorious truths, according to E-D, are only (and I use his own words here): "perhaps a bit of sarcasm…hyperbole…perhaps a caricature of the Judaizer's position…" and that Paul uses them to make the ridculousness (sic) of his opponent's argument even more apparent. Perhaps, it may be argued, that such truths may be gleaned from other places in the Scripture. If this is so, why then would Paul be refuting them here, if E-D is right? I, for one, am not willing to believe such an novel and rare interpretation that demands that which the vast majority of the commentators of both schools take to be inspired truth should be reduced to an example of hyped up sarcasm, given merely for the sake of refuting it. Furthermore, surely it is wrong to deliberately caricature any one's position?

    Rose: Dinnae fash yersel'!" [Don't worry] :-)

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/04/2007 11:48 AM  

  • Goodnight, would it not be accurate to say that what you mean by 'let God be God' is accept the 'doctrines of grace'?

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/04/2007 12:10 PM  

  • Come back soon, Rose.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/04/2007 12:10 PM  

  • Matthew: That would be simplifying it too much. When I say "Let God be God" I mean: See that it is lawful for God to do what He will with His own. The consistent position on salvation issues, when this is the case, lies with those who profess these doctrines.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/04/2007 12:28 PM  

  • Exist-Dissolve: I judged myself a butcher when it came to interpreting Romans 9. I was working from the erroneous framework that God could not but deal with all men equally and was unaware of the basic maxim that if God was not obliged to save any then he was not obliged to save all. As I say, I was a young believer at the time, so I do not judge myself too harshly now.

    And now you judge yourself capable of exegesis? Surely you see that both evaluations are ultimately terminated in the subjectivities of your own epistemology...

    My authority for properly adjudicating between interpreting and butchering lies in being able to reconcile my conclusions with the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Bible

    Again, I ask how you find yourself in the position to adjudicate what would amount to the "whole counsel of God" in Scripture? After all, such a determination requires--as with the previous example--the same reliance upon personal subjectivities and philosophical allegiences, so much so that a more accurate rendering of your assertion above would be as follows:

    "My authroity for properly adjudicating between interpreting and butchering lies in being able to reconcile my conclusions with other personally-determined conclusions concerning what I believe to be the whole counsel of God as interpreted by my own epistemological subjectivities."

    This is the rather fundamental position of the Evangelical faith. While I accept that there are Evangelicals who do not accept some of my conclusions, yet there is basic agreement among Evangelicals that this is how we should seek to come to our views. I disagree with your allegation that I am forcing my judgement upon the Scriptures.

    Yes, I can see how you would not see that as your prior judgments have created license in your own hermeneutical methodology for accepting as a given that which you have determined to be consistent with your philosophical presuppositions concerning God, truth and the relation of the subjectively-mired human to each.

    I find it interesting that you see the maxim "Let God be God" is part of what you term the philosophical structure of the Doctrines of Grace. The implication of this is that we should not let God be God and find it hard to think that this is your position. I cannot but feel that you have worded your thoughts somewhat clumsily on this matter.

    Not at all. Simply saying "let God be God" is meaningless, for how one philosophically constructs a doctrine of God will invariably determine the logical parameters in which one will subsequently assert that God "can be God" and God "is being God." I fully support the idea that we should let God be God. But this is precisely why I seek to undermine the so-called "Doctrines of Grace," for in their philosophical construction, they undeniably place logical constraints upon the way in which one conceives of the being, nature and action of God in the history of salvation.

    Re: Romans 9:22-24 I think we are going to have to disagree on your rather novel interpretation. I am unaware (forgive my ignorance) of any noted commentator from whatever camp within the Evangelical fold who shares it with you.

    You are probably right. However, I do not limit my interpretive study to the very narrow strictures of Evangelical theology. There is an entire world of orthodox, Christian theology that does not fall within the parameters of what, ironically, is the novelty of Evangelical theology in relation to the farther reaching history of Christian theology as a whole.

    A note to any prepared to run with it: If Paul is but using a rhetorical device i.e. rephrasing the position of another in order to demolish it, then you cannot employ the argument that God endures with longsuffering and wrath towards the vessels of wrath or that such fit themselves to destruction or that He makes known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He prepared aforehand unto glory. These glorious truths, according to E-D, are only (and I use his own words here): "perhaps a bit of sarcasm…hyperbole…perhaps a caricature of the Judaizer's position…" and that Paul uses them to make the ridculousness (sic) of his opponent's argument even more apparent.

    I see no loss to a robust Christian theology by making these assertions hyperbolic charicatures of Paul's opponent's position.

    Perhaps, it may be argued, that such truths may be gleaned from other places in the Scripture.

    I would not assume that suggestion as a given--therefore, it poses no issue for my interpretation.

    Furthermore, surely it is wrong to deliberately caricature any one's position?

    I would argue that this is not the first time that Paul does it...

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/04/2007 1:20 PM  

  • When I say "Let God be God" I mean: See that it is lawful for God to do what He will with His own.

    Then why place the constraints of the "doctrines of Grace" upon God, if this is truly your position? You are as guilty of constraining God through your philosophical presuppositions as any of those who you accuse of the same.

    The consistent position on salvation issues, when this is the case, lies with those who profess these doctrines.

    I hardly see any compelling philosophical reason to substantiate this claim. Surely enough, the professors of the doctrines of Grace are moderately consistent within the parameters of their own philosophical methodology--but to say that they are consistent with "salvation issues" (as if the same were capable of being objectively identified and adjudicated apart from the personal subjectivities of the interpreter) is simply incapable of being substantiated by anything other than rhetorical fiat.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/04/2007 1:23 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: I knew from your comments that you were less than Evangelical. In order to draw out further blood, I would ask you that being unable to satisfy you by my method of interpreting the Scriptures i.e. subjecting all conclusions to the united testimony of Scripture itself, then which authoritative church body do you suppose I should tender my interpretations for sanction or otherwise? Maybe I am wrong in feelings here, but I feel it is the logical question to ask.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/04/2007 2:24 PM  

  • rose~, good afternoon. I was wondering if you would email me? Wanna ask you something. selahV
    selahVtoday@aol.com

    By Anonymous selahV, at 10/04/2007 2:49 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: I knew from your comments that you were less than Evangelical. In order to draw out further blood, I would ask you that being unable to satisfy you by my method of interpreting the Scriptures i.e. subjecting all conclusions to the united testimony of Scripture itself, then which authoritative church body do you suppose I should tender my interpretations for sanction or otherwise? Maybe I am wrong in feelings here, but I feel it is the logical question to ask.

    I am not asking you to subject your conclusions to any authoritative body--such was entirely beside the point. All I am doing is questioning what I perceive to be your naivety concerning the indelible subjectivity inherent to the act of interpretation. That is, you understand the authoritative basis of your interpretations to be alignment with the "united testimony of Scripture itself". However, what you are also not disclosing, or are not willing to countenance, is that the supposed objectivity of your authoritative basis is itself dependent upon infusion of value from your own methodological prejudices, for the nature of the "united testimony" of Scripture is not an independently verifiable reality.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/05/2007 8:37 AM  

  • Apart from insisting that I am interposing my own views on Scripture, can any one else comprehend what Exist~Dissolve is getting at here? The argument rises higher than the Calvinism vs Non Calvinism issue. I think it is an Evangelical vs Non Evangelical issue. That last statement: "...for the nature of the "united testimony" of Scripture is not an independently verifiable reality. is hardly going to raise our confidence in the word of God, is it?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/05/2007 8:49 AM  

  • I just read this verse last night in study. I always think of it when reading Romans 9

    2 Tim 20 -21

    By Anonymous mary, at 10/05/2007 9:13 AM  

  • Ah messed up my ref

    2 Timothy 2:20-21

    By Anonymous mary, at 10/05/2007 9:15 AM  

  • Thank God for the simplicity of devotion to Christ and the lack of necessity in clever doctrine building.

    By Blogger Todd, at 10/05/2007 9:17 AM  

  • Goodnightsafehome, he's saying that you're only capable of a circular reasoning because of your Calvinism. A is true because B is true B is true because A is true. All of your Biblical intepretation is true because you believe Calvinism to be true. Your doctrine rules the Bible not the Bible ruling your doctrine. You are not cabable of making a logical without the 5 points. I think ED could also say since no one else has ever said it that you are one of the most rude, arrogant condescending Calvinist on the new. Now of of course you know so much more than anyone esle so you've got the right to hang out at all these blogs as if we've all graced with your very august presence. Amazing that a minister of the gospel witll sit there and throw darts at someone he believes is not a Christian and instread of treaking him kindly and gently in the hopes of correcting him, he just gets all uppity and hurls the insults. Just like Christ would do.

    By Anonymous Casey, at 10/05/2007 9:52 AM  

  • Just for the record; the previous "Casey" is not "this" Kc.

    Also for the record Colin and Joel are both a blessing to me. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/05/2007 4:38 PM  

  • [In this way, these passages could be viewed as a negative treatment of the workings of God. By asking the hypothetical, Paul may be assuming the exact opposite of the content of hypothetical, and is merely using the rhetoric to show that even in the most absurd situations (those imagined in the hypothetical), God would yet be just in what God does, even though the nature of the hypothetical question might suggest that Paul does not actually believe that such accurately reveals the way in which God does actually work.]

    ED,
    The only problem with your theory is that it goes against all rules for sound biblical interpretation.

    Here are some of my notes on Biblical Hermeneutics taken from a sermon by Dr. Fred Malone. He learned these in seminary.

    1. Inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture

    2. Literal grammatical-historical method.
    Taking the words of Scripture literally as God has spoken them. Grammatically as God has communicated them to man through human language. Historically in a certain context that must be understood before we can apply them to our context.

    3. Analogy of faith. Scripture must interpret Scripture-- not tradition or men interpreting Scripture. Theology should be based on Scripture alone.

    4. Perspicuity of Scripture
    Scripture is clear within itself enough for the average person to understand what they need to know concerning eternal life and godliness.

    5. Unity of Scripture
    Old and NT are Word of God and are not contradictory but complementary.

    6. Diversity
    Scripture is given in progressive units of revelation diversely given under different Covenants God has established with man. NT explains (Hebrews 8) types and shadows of the OT. The NT brought to light the things which were unclear in the OT.

    8. Priority of NT. In terms of the final interpretation of OT. Augustine said, “The New is in the OT concealed and the Old is in the New revealed.” NT has the priority of interpreting the OT.

    9. Typology of Scripture
    Not allegory or spiritualizing text. True typology. The OT is full of types and shadows of Jesus Christ is explained in fullest bloom in the NT fulfillment. This is the key to understanding salvation and escatology.

    10. Priority between hermeneutical Principles

    1. Near context is more determinative of meaning than the far context. Compare statements of Paul with other related statements of Paul before comparing the text with Matthew or Isaiah. Go from chapter-author-book in same revelation period, and then the historical connections and then go to OT quotes. This practice guards against “proof texting”.

    2. Didactic or systematic discussion of a subject is more significant for that subject than a historical or descriptive narrative. Don’t form doctrine of church from book of Acts which is an historical narrative. Form doctrine from the didactic (teaching) passages rather than isolating an historical text.

    3. Explicit is more determinative than supposed implications of a text.
    Inference in our study of Scripture concerning a doctrine takes second place to explicit teaching about that doctrine.

    4. Literal passages are more determinative than symbolic ones.

    5. Later passages reflect a fuller revelation than earlier.

    By Anonymous VA ~Susan, at 10/05/2007 8:52 PM  

  • va-susan:

    Inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture

    what exactly does inerrancy entail?

    Literal grammatical-historical method.
    Taking the words of Scripture literally as God has spoken them. Grammatically as God has communicated them to man through human language. Historically in a certain context that must be understood before we can apply them to our context.


    Why is the literal grammatical-historical method the only applicable model? Judging from the hermeneutical method employed by the writers of the scriptures (including Matthew and Paul, for example) one would be hard pressed to defend the grammatical, etc., method as the preferred method.

    Paul, on at least one notable occasion, launches fully into the allegorical method to defend his doctrine.

    3. Analogy of faith. Scripture must interpret Scripture-- not tradition or men interpreting Scripture. Theology should be based on Scripture alone.

    The problem with this is that some of the most important dogmas within Christian faith cannot be substantiated solely upon the words of scripture- notably, the nature of the trinity and the hypostatic union of the God-man. To be sure, there are allusions and implications, but nothing explicit, at least not explicit enough to justify their dogmatic stance.

    The interpretation of people interpreting scripture is inevitable, since people are the ones interpreting scripture.

    4. Perspicuity of Scripture
    Scripture is clear within itself enough for the average person to understand what they need to know concerning eternal life and godliness.


    Interestingly enough, the scriptures themselves speak about how some of the things they contain are hard to understand. Even Jesus' parables were by no means easy to understand, as Jesus himself indicates. In fact, he mentions that the purpose of speaking the way he did was to make things difficult to understand, and how he had to explain things more fully to the disciples away from the crowds.

    If the scriptures, as you say, are indeed inspired, how can one adjudicate between what is important enough to be clear and not as important to be less clear? Presumably, if it's the words of God, it's all pretty important.

    2. Didactic or systematic discussion of a subject is more significant for that subject than a historical or descriptive narrative. Don’t form doctrine of church from book of Acts which is an historical narrative. Form doctrine from the didactic (teaching) passages rather than isolating an historical text.

    This is suspect. The entire theology and praxis of the early church was built upon the narrative; that is, the apostolic tradition. Who arbitrarily determined that didactic is more formulative than narrative? Even didactic passages are influenced by the historical nature of life.

    Additionally, what portions of the scriptures are 'systematic'? Who determines what is systematic and what isn't? What about something being systematic gives it more precedence?

    3. Explicit is more determinative than supposed implications of a text.
    Inference in our study of Scripture concerning a doctrine takes second place to explicit teaching about that doctrine.


    In that case, the doctrines of the Trinity and the hypostatic union in Christ would have to take second place to the explicit statements in the Scriptures re: such, which apparently aren't explicit enough to not necessitate further doctrinal clarification.

    4. Literal passages are more determinative than symbolic ones.

    Why?

    5. Later passages reflect a fuller revelation than earlier.

    This completely contradicts #2. If the gospels, which on a whole came later than the 'didactic' writings, are more revelatory than earlier writings, (the didactic) then either the narrative should have more weight or one would have to say the Gospels add relatively nothing to doctrinal understanding.

    This disconnect between 'narrative' and 'didactic' is more a product of rationalism than anything, it would seem, since we have decided to 'objectify' truth.

    By Blogger Deviant Monk, at 10/05/2007 10:20 PM  

  • Casey: Apart from the principles of this blog where Rose rightly insists that we all "leave censure and hand-slapping to me." your attack seems to be more on my person (" the most rude, arrogant condescending Calvinist on the new (sic)" than on my position. Perhaps one reason why no one else has said it, is that no else sees it as being true? My experience of this blog is that none of the main contributors are wall flowers and say what they have to say when needed to do so. E~D (at least publicly) has not made any complaint about my conduct towards him. If he wishes to email me privately, my email is available through my personal profile. He has also the liberty of emailing the owner of this blog and I'm pretty sure that she would give a little warning cough, whether publicly or privately, as she is quite capable of doing. None has come my way so far.

    For the record,

    [i] My belief in the authority of the Bible does not depend on my Calvinism. I believed it long before I embraced the Doctrines of Grace and I share it with every other Evangelical Believer whether Calvinist or not.

    [ii] I have never claimed to know so much than anyone else. One reason why I come on blogs like this is to gain new insights from other believers who take an opposite position to mine. I enjoy the cut and thrust of debate. I do not regard my presence as been very august and have never claimed so.

    [iii] I have never claimed either that E~D (assuming that you are talking about him) is not a Christian and I have never thrown darts at him nor hurled insults as you somewhat sensationally put it. Your lack of any evidence in these insults is all revealing. E~D admitted to drawing some of his views from outside the Evangelical school, which left me wondering (hence the qualification: "I might be wrong in my feelings here") if he were a member of one of the various churches which did not accept that the final authority of Scripture. I'm sure that E~D can answer for himself on this one. I made reference to the drawing out of blood which is a medical illustration. (In case, you assume it to be aggressive in its nature.) I see serious error and perhaps a further questioning will draw it out. I suggested earlier that perhaps a statement had been worded clumsily and thus refrained from an unnecessary attack. I have often worded things clumsily myself and had to follow up one posting with another clarifying a previous point.

    Exist~Dissolve: Sorry for the distraction here. Your statement causes me some concern: You last statement: "...for the nature of the "united testimony" of Scripture is not an independently verifiable reality" surely must drive us outside the Scriptures to some one/thing else to sit in judgement upon it and verify it?

    Rose: I ought to have bade you good morning!

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/06/2007 5:04 AM  

  • The blog administer of this site has gone off to the “left coast”
    :-(
    and will not be back until Sunday evening.

    She may not return to her blog till Monday.

    I am positive she would echo K.C.’s remarks.

    She has a strict policy

    “Give me a greeting when you visit. I appreciate nice-ness.
    _________________________
    You can address another blogger ... and even disagree with them, that is fine. All I ask is that you leave censure and hand-slapping to me.
    _________________________
    Speak up ...
    about the posts.
    __________________________
    Be nice!´re: “her guiding principles for visits here”
    __________________________


    I am pretty sure Casey’s comments would be terminated.

    I for one have been enjoying the discussion between ED and GNSH, as I have enjoyed all of the comments here.

    Shine on,
    Brother John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 10/06/2007 5:53 AM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: Sorry for the distraction here. Your statement causes me some concern: You last statement: "...for the nature of the "united testimony" of Scripture is not an independently verifiable reality" surely must drive us outside the Scriptures to some one/thing else to sit in judgement upon it and verify it?

    Such an action would only be necessary if one posits that verifiability (that is, verifiability along the lines of Western, rationalistic criteria) is fundamentally intrinsic to process of interpretation. Personally, I do not think that the level of "verifiability" called for by modern hermeneutics is possible--therefore, any search for an alternative set of "authorities" is doomed, IMO, to the same limitations of personal interpretation.

    That being said, I personally think that proper interpretation should be subjected to the voices of the historic church and its orthodoxy, not because the historic church is somehow an objective authority on mysteries of God, but rather because it is within the life, teachings and praxis of the church that God's salvation is being revealed in the history of creation.

    Such will not, of course, provide us with propositionally ascertainable answers, but it will, at the very least, anchor our thinking and interpretations within the historic life and thought of the centuries of saints while concomitantly providing an immense plasticity in theology that allows for us to creatively and progressively refine our thinking about God within the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/06/2007 7:10 AM  

  • I miss you Rose~

    Hi ED,
    Do you mean the Roman Catholic institution?

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 10/06/2007 7:16 AM  

  • ED,
    The only problem with your theory is that it goes against all rules for sound biblical interpretation.


    Deviant has answered many of the objections I had to the criteria you provided, so I will not rehash his answers.

    The issue I have with this statement above is that, historically, the "rules" of sound biblical interpretation have been incredibly elastic.

    For example, in the early church, allegory and typology were used extensively, many of the interpreters using them not only for exegesis, but even for apologetics.

    In the Middle Ages, many schools of interpretation recognized 4 different "levels" of interpretive methodology, and applied them to texts based on the seeming applicability of the given level.

    Martin Luther began with an explicit presupposition--that of the primacy of justification by faith--and doggedly used it as a matrix through which to filter all of Scripture, boldly asserting that "Scripture" was only that which conformed to this interpretive principle (e.g., his rejection of James and other sections of the Scriptures).

    Modern interpreters have created Christocentric interpretive methodologies (Barth), kerygma-centered methodologies (Bultmaan), etc.

    So given the very brief and admittedly incomplete sampling of shifts in interpretive methodologies throughout Christian history, upon which one is the contemporary interpreter to hang a hat? Who makes the rules, and why are they exclusively privileged to do so?

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/06/2007 7:20 AM  

  • Hi ED,
    Do you mean the Roman Catholic institution?


    Hi!

    No, I am not referring principally to Roman Catholicism, although I would see it is a player in what I was describing.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/06/2007 7:21 AM  

  • Such will not, of course, provide us with propositionally ascertainable answers, but it will, at the very least, anchor our thinking and interpretations within the historic life and thought of the centuries of saints while concomitantly providing an immense plasticity in theology that allows for us to creatively and progressively refine our thinking about God within the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

    Exist~Dissolve: This in effect means that no one can categorically say (for a very basic example) that God exists in a Trinity or that sin is the transgression of the law or that salvation (if it even exists) is by grace through faith etc., In theory, it is possible that if the Lord tarries another 1,000 years or 10,000 years, anyone reading this blog or any doctrinal writing might not have the faintest notion what we are talking about?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/06/2007 8:26 AM  

  • Hi John! (I’m sure Rose is proud of your hosting ;-) I hope you and Rose will continue to give us latitude in departing from her article somewhat in this discussion.

    E~D I think you’ve made some excellent points with respect to hermeneutics but I question a few of your more recent thoughts on ecclesiology. I am perplexed in this matter because, for the most part, I find your arguments my own but supporting an entirely different proposition.

    “That being said, I personally think that proper interpretation should be subjected to the voices of the historic church and its orthodoxy, not because the historic church is somehow an objective authority on mysteries of God, but rather because it is within the life, teachings and praxis of the church that God's salvation is being revealed in the history of creation.”

    We would agree concerning the lack of authority within the historic Church but isn’t God’s salvation revealed in the life and teachings of Christ? It seems that He is consistent in all things and unchanging where, as you’ve made it clear, the historic Church is not. It even fails in defining itself according to His words, “by this shall all men know you…” If the historic Church lacks both authority and consistency then by what virtue should we give it our trust in any matter, let alone one so critical as an understanding of the scripture?

    While I perceive the Church has a great commission and great authority in many things I do not find where the body can usurp the head at all. If once we’ve proclaimed the “all things whatsoever” Christ’ commanded we then grant ourselves subjective authority over them isn’t that exactly what we’ve done? I agree we should be anchored together but firstly and chiefly to Christ; subjecting ourselves in His love to one another but not subjecting His authority as head to one another. Isn’t that authority His alone?

    Colin if the “sin was in the world” until the law (Romans 5:13) then how can we define sin by the law? The doctrine of the Trinity is a theological construct and although a true one, in my opinion, falls outside of “Perspicuity of Scripture”. I do not find where the Church has authority to define sin or to insist theological conformation.

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/06/2007 8:55 AM  

  • Kc:- The early church had no problem defining sin How could we confess sin as commanded in 1 John 1:9 or seek to avoid it in 1 John 2:1 if it could not even be defined? Surely we need more than your opinion to believe the doctrine of the Trinity? You write that you do not see where the early church insisted on theological conformation (by which I assume you mean theological conformity to a set of beliefs.) If there was no conformity among the apostolic churches, then how could the many apostolic warning against false doctrine be raised in the first place and how could such be actively heeded and put into action to secure a doctrinally pure church? Certainly, something needed to be in place to constitute the "apostle's doctrine" (Acts 2:42) in which they continued so stedfast?

    John: Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/06/2007 2:04 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: This in effect means that no one can categorically say (for a very basic example) that God exists in a Trinity or that sin is the transgression of the law or that salvation (if it even exists) is by grace through faith etc.,

    Yes, I do not think that "propositional truth" is an entirely helpful concept, for the assertion of the same deludes one into thinking that human language and epistemology can encapsulate the ineffable, eternal nature of the divine.

    In theory, it is possible that if the Lord tarries another 1,000 years or 10,000 years, anyone reading this blog or any doctrinal writing might not have the faintest notion what we are talking about?

    If they were not in possession of a robust context for our discussion, it would highly unlikely that they would be able to infallibly reconstruct the essence and meaning of our conversation.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/06/2007 2:30 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: I think we are moving further and further away from the original post by Rose. However, if we run with what you are saying, ultimately we cannot believe anything - not even your own statements which carry a very definite air of finality about them, contrary to the very point you are arguing?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/06/2007 2:42 PM  

  • We would agree concerning the lack of authority within the historic Church

    I may not have made my position clear. I do believe that the historic church has authority in matters of Christian theology and praxis. This is why I mentioned that I believed that all interpretations should be made within the purview of the historical faith and teachings of the ecumenical church.

    My point in what I was saying earlier was simply that I do not believe there exists an authority which is capable of imbuing any interpretation of Scripture with objective, propositionally assertive and incontrovertible meaning. The nature of interpretation, in my perspective, rules out such absolutism.

    Does this mean that authority is non-existent? I don't believe so. While there might not be an identifiable, transcendent authority which is brought to bear upon interpretation of Scripture, the very fact that we interpret Scripture would indicate that we acknowledge some level of authority in the ecumenical Church in that we are satisfied to use the documents which they created and transmitted to us in the formulation and defense of our theological assertions.

    but isn’t God’s salvation revealed in the life and teachings of Christ?

    Yes, and the church proclaims to the world this glorious inbreaking of God's salvation into cosmic history.

    It seems that He is consistent in all things and unchanging where, as you’ve made it clear, the historic Church is not. It even fails in defining itself according to His words, “by this shall all men know you…” If the historic Church lacks both authority and consistency then by what virtue should we give it our trust in any matter, let alone one so critical as an understanding of the scripture?

    As I mentioned above, to even recognize the Scriptures as useful for theological and praxial study is a tacit acknowledgment of the authority of the Church in that one trusts that the documents under consideration are a more or less accurate representation of the life and teachings of Christ and his apostles. If the church is to be stripped of all authority on the basis of lack of trust, upon what criteria do you extend trust to the writings which this same church produced?

    While I perceive the Church has a great commission and great authority in many things I do not find where the body can usurp the head at all.

    I'm not entirely sure what your meaning here is as I do not see where anyone in this discussion has suggested that this is the meaning of the church's authority. Could you expound on your meaning here?

    If once we’ve proclaimed the “all things whatsoever” Christ’ commanded we then grant ourselves subjective authority over them isn’t that exactly what we’ve done? I agree we should be anchored together but firstly and chiefly to Christ; subjecting ourselves in His love to one another but not subjecting His authority as head to one another. Isn’t that authority His alone?

    Yes, the authority is ultimately Christ's, but I would suggest that Christ authority has been extended through the life of the Church as imaged in Christ's commissioning of the apostles to carry on Christ's divine mission in the world. While the church has authority, it is derived from and entirely dependent upon the authority granted to Christ by the Father.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/06/2007 2:42 PM  

  • However, if we run with what you are saying, ultimately we cannot believe anything

    If "believing" something requires propositional knowledge about the object of belief, then no, we can believe nothing. However, I do not maintain the the criterion for belief is quite that high, and would further suggest that it is a holdover from logical positivism which has proven itself to be a thoroughly doomed epistemological enterprise.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/06/2007 2:44 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: This thoroughly doomed enterprise of logical positivism that you speak about is so glorious, that I think I'll stick with it. If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul...then it is good enough for me.

    Thanks for engaging me in this debate.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/06/2007 4:49 PM  

  • Colin I’m grateful for this opportunity. I hope I can devote the time to discussion that these subjects deserve.

    I would understand that it is not the Church or the law that defines sin but God. In times past God used the law to convict Israel of sin but that is the work of the Holy Spirit today. I have no doubt that there are acts that we, the Church, can say are sinful by virtue of the scripture but by what authority can we define sin?

    I will gladly defend the authority of the scripture but I cannot defend anyone as having the authority to interpret it for the Church. Who can claim to know the mind of God? I consider my opinion worthless but I consider the scripture on which I strive to base it invaluable. It’s the scripture I point to and not my understanding. If you find the doctrine of the Trinity true then we agree in our understanding but it was not the understanding of another or the authority of the Church that made me, you or anyone else to believe it.

    I think you’ve made an excellent point concerning the early Church and the doctrines of Christ and the apostles. These are truly the doctrines that are the foundation of our faith. They are of divine origin and are God’s revelation to man. While we agree that these doctrines are the foundation for our various theological perspectives (including the Trinity) these perspectives are only our own feeble attempts to understand God. Which do you say be the rule for faith and practice; God’s revelation to men or mans understanding of God?

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/06/2007 9:17 PM  

  • E~D I very much appreciate your attitude in discussion and the abilities God has blessed you with.

    I may have been unclear on what you intend by the term, “historic” Church. Are you referring to the early Church or the Church throughout history? If your reference were to the early Church then I would likely agree concerning their authority in that the apostles were endowed with divine knowledge from Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand if you are referring to the development of the institutions that purport to be the Church or the various theologies found within Christianity over history then I will likely continue to argue. ;-)

    I would find the authority to interpret the scripture belongs to God alone and is administered to us through Christ, our head, by the Holy Spirit and not by the Church. The authority and responsibility of the Church to teach does not extend to usurping the authority of Christ as our head or to governing the function of the Holy Spirit.

    “As I mentioned above, to even recognize the Scriptures as useful for theological and praxial study is a tacit acknowledgment of the authority of the Church in that one trusts that the documents under consideration are a more or less accurate representation of the life and teachings of Christ and his apostles.”

    The implication I read into this is that the scripture was given to men by the Church and not by God. If you would refer to the canon as an act of the Church I would say it was an act of God through the Church but that it in no way conveys any authority to the Church outside that previously granted by Christ.

    “If the church is to be stripped of all authority on the basis of lack of trust, upon what criteria do you extend trust to the writings which this same church produced?”

    The trust I have developed in the scripture is based on its truths as evidenced in my life. What of it that I can prove to myself, I do, and what of it I cannot prove to myself has never proved to be wrong or untrue. This is unique in all my experience and has led me to conclude that the scripture is true. My faith in Christ is by virtue of the Holy Spirit testimony and my faith in the scripture is by virtue of my own experience. I do not propose that the Church be stripped of any authority but I do propose that Christ granted and defined Church authority and that authority did not extend to governing our relationship with God in Christ.

    “[While I perceive the Church has a great commission and great authority in many things I do not find where the body can usurp the head at all.]

    I'm not entirely sure what your meaning here is as I do not see where anyone in this discussion has suggested that this is the meaning of the church's authority. Could you expound on your meaning here?”

    I hope my position is a bit clearer. I will try to expound. Christ is the head of the man and He alone possesses the power and authority to govern the relationship of the man with God. The Holy Spirit guides and enlightens us through Christ and not through the Church.

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/06/2007 9:20 PM  

  • KC: I am happy to continue discussing this matter with you. As I survey your arguments, I get the feeling that you must think us (or me) to be Roman Catholic (?) Some of my answers, concerning the authority of the Church, are basically a denial of what I do not believe anyway.

    I agree that God defines what sin is, but He makes known His definition through the law which He gave to His Church (as comprehended in the 10 Commandments) and which it is the duty of the Church to proclaim. Furthermore, conviction of sin has always come through the Holy Spirit who works through the law of God. I do not give the Church any authority to define sin but rather to proclaim the law of God which He has given to that end. We can only take the lead from that which is written in the Scriptures and subject the Church's teaching, doctrinal and moral, to the Divine standard.

    Again, no one is claiming to interpret anything for the Church. Paul claimed to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and thus delivered, by inspiration, those things which it was lawful for him to utter. True, God has not revealed everything about Himself (hence Romans 11:33-36 etc.,) but He has revealed quite a lot and He is therefore knowable as He reveals Himself through the pages of Scripture. The Church has the authority of a witness (Acts 1:8) but ultimately we are like those Samaritans who said to the woman in John 4:42 that they believed, not for her saying (i.e. not on the ultimate authority of her saying) but because they had heard Him for themselves. I often use this verse when dealing with RC's who are ever trying to bind me to the ultimate authority of their church. If the dreaded Pope says that God is a spirit and they that worship him must do so in spirit and in truth, I cannot argue with him on this point although I care not for him or his arrogant claims. I believe, not ultimately because the Pope says it, but because the Bible says it in John 4:24 and it matters little who is the messenger is, if the message itself is true.

    If man's understanding of God does not square up with God's revelation of Himself in the Scriptures, then it is faulty and to be rejected at the point of failure and therefore cannot be the rule of faith and practice. On the other hand, if God's Unity in Trinity is proclaimed, and it is maintained that there are three persons in the One Godhead - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the same in substance and equal in power and glory, Scriptural proof for each preposition can be readily supplied and its truth boldly proclaimed. This is our understanding of God, but it is ultimately much more than that, it is God's revelation of Himself. While it might not be a full knowledge of God (seeing such has not been revealed to us in the Bible) yet it is sufficient and it is infallibly true when it is in agreement with the revealed Word. This is then a far cry from your description that proclaiming (say) the Trinity in Unity of God is merely our own feeble attempts to understand God.

    Thanks for your time.

    Rose: I hope you enjoyed your time away. John missed you terribly, but we all did what we could to console him until you returned.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/07/2007 4:19 AM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: This thoroughly doomed enterprise of logical positivism that you speak about is so glorious, that I think I'll stick with it. If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul...then it is good enough for me.

    Paul...a logical positivist? I can't let that one go--could you explain how you would substantiate this assertion?

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/07/2007 8:09 AM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: Working on the assumption that by logical positiveness we both mean my position of belief requiring prepositional knowledge about the object of belief, (this being where you introduce the phrase logical positiveness to the debate) then it will not be too hard to show that this was indeed the position of the Apostle(s). (Incidentally, I was thinking more of the old line that the KJVO folk use of their 1611 translation: "If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul…" but nevertheless, I can take my own line seriously.)

    Paul introduces such a method of reasoning in Galatians 3:10-13 where the main argument is that we are justified by faith in Christ without the deeds of the law and yet with the law's demands fully satisfied.

    V10: Preposition One: To try to be justified by the law places ourselves under the curse.
    Proof text: it is written: Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things…written in book/law…to do them (Paul quoting from Deuteronomy 27:26)
    V11: Preposition Two: No man can be justified by the law in God's sight.
    V11: Preposition: Three: Preposition two is not only so, but is evidently so - i.e. it can be clearly seen
    Proof text: It is written (Habakkuk 2:4) The just shall live by faith
    V12: Preposition Four: The law is not of faith
    V12: Argument for preposition four: Only the man that perfectly keeps the law can live - we cannot keep the law perfectly but faith does not require us to keep the law perfectly to live
    V13: Preposition Five: The curse of the broken law needs to be borne if we are to be redeemed from the curse
    V13: Preposition Six: Christ bore the curse of the law in our room and stead
    V13: Proof text: It is written: "Cursed etc.," (quoting from Deuteronomy 21:23)

    You have not only the logical prepositions, but the proof texts to support. Furthermore, as the argument progresses, Paul bases his argument in Galatians 3:16 on the fact the word "seed" is in the singular and not in the plural i.e. it relates to one Person which Paul identifies as Christ. The distinction is as fine as that and yet rock solid. Much the same way as Christ based His argument against the Sadducees on the basis of a tense of Scripture: "I am the God of Abraham etc.," (Mark 12:26)

    We might take other portions of Scripture from other Apostles to show much the same line of reasoning. John's arguments in 1 John 1:7-10 and beyond are very logical and easily worked out.

    So, yes, perhaps thoroughly doomed in your sight, but gloriously embraced by me as by the Apostles and others since as the only way to truly know the mind of God.

    Thanks for your time.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/07/2007 11:21 AM  

  • Welcome back Sis! Please forgive me for straying so far from your topic.

    Colin I really appreciate the dialog and would very much like to continue. Would you consider picking this up at your place or mine? I feel I have contributed to hijacking discussion on Rose’s article. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/07/2007 12:13 PM  

  • Kc. It would give a bit of needed life to our group blog:

    http://ulsterfpcs.blogspot.com/

    Give me a day or two and I rig something up and you can respond to that. I'll need to think what and it's a bit late tonight (after preaching twice today) to get the old brain to go the extra mile.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/07/2007 3:21 PM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: Working on the assumption that by logical positiveness we both mean my position of belief requiring prepositional knowledge about the object of belief, (this being where you introduce the phrase logical positiveness to the debate) then it will not be too hard to show that this was indeed the position of the Apostle(s).

    I'm not sure of the definition you are working with. The logical positivism (not "positiveness") that I am talking about would be that engendered in the thinking of the likes of Wittgenstein and others who held to a more or less consistent insistence that the meaningfulness of any proposition can only be established through the verifiability or non-verifiability of its fundamental tenants. Such was a more or less direct reaction to Kantian assumptions about a priori truths.

    Given that Paul continually disavows the ability of human reason to encapsulate the meaning of the salvation of God as revealed in Christ and further advocates that its truth is grasped only through "faith," I hardly see that Paul could be called a logical positivist...

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/07/2007 7:49 PM  

  • E~D I very much appreciate your attitude in discussion and the abilities God has blessed you with.

    I have enjoyed the conversation as well--thanks!

    I may have been unclear on what you intend by the term, “historic” Church. Are you referring to the early Church or the Church throughout history? If your reference were to the early Church then I would likely agree concerning their authority in that the apostles were endowed with divine knowledge from Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand if you are referring to the development of the institutions that purport to be the Church or the various theologies found within Christianity over history then I will likely continue to argue. ;-)

    When I speak of the "historic church", I am referring to the ecumenical body of the early centuries which defined the Canon and articulated the parameters of orthodoxy, Christian belief.

    I would find the authority to interpret the scripture belongs to God alone and is administered to us through Christ, our head, by the Holy Spirit and not by the Church. The authority and responsibility of the Church to teach does not extend to usurping the authority of Christ as our head or to governing the function of the Holy Spirit.

    I don't really see this as a satisfactory solution to your objections, for does this not ultimately dissolve the authority of interpretation down to the individual subjectivities of the private interpreter? For example, as no one knows the heart of another but God, upon what basis could one disavow someone else's interpretation if that same person appealed to the "inspiration of the Spirit" as the source of their interpretation? Upon what basis could the ecumenical Church denounce the heresies of Arius? While they certainly did themselves appeal to Scripture, the straw the broke the back of Arius' argument was its complete incongruence with the accepted orthodoxy of the church which had been preserved within the apostolic tradition of which the councils who condemned the ancient heresies were a part.

    The implication I read into this is that the scripture was given to men by the Church and not by God. If you would refer to the canon as an act of the Church I would say it was an act of God through the Church but that it in no way conveys any authority to the Church outside that previously granted by Christ.

    It is undeniable that the church wrote (per the apostles) and codified (per the councils) the form and content of the Christian Scriptures. As the tradition which produced and later codified the Scriptures is one and the same (i.e., the apostolic tradition), would it not stand to reason that there exists within that stream of tradition an inherent measure of authority by which to adjudicate those things which are in keeping with said tradition? Again, if Arius appealed to Scripture in his defense of his "creature-Christ," upon what basis could the early church have overcome his exegesis and declare it to be heretical? If they did not perceive themselves to have a measure of authority over the interpretation of Scripture and the analysis of interpretation in comparison with the content of the apostolic tradition, their only recourse could have been to the amassing of proof-texts and an eventual stalemate, or, alternatively, a denunciation of Arius on the basis of pure political fiat.

    The trust I have developed in the scripture is based on its truths as evidenced in my life. What of it that I can prove to myself, I do, and what of it I cannot prove to myself has never proved to be wrong or untrue. This is unique in all my experience and has led me to conclude that the scripture is true. My faith in Christ is by virtue of the Holy Spirit testimony and my faith in the scripture is by virtue of my own experience. I do not propose that the Church be stripped of any authority but I do propose that Christ granted and defined Church authority and that authority did not extend to governing our relationship with God in Christ.

    I agree that any authority inherent to the church has been granted by Christ. However, I think if you were to look closely at your hermenuetical methodology, you will find that it is rooted quite strongly in the personal subjectivities of the your own conscience. While this is inevitable for the act of interpretation to a certain extent, I do not see that it provides an answer to the question of how one could adjudicate proper exegesis from one interpretation to another.

    I hope my position is a bit clearer. I will try to expound. Christ is the head of the man and He alone possesses the power and authority to govern the relationship of the man with God. The Holy Spirit guides and enlightens us through Christ and not through the Church.

    I do not see that the enlightenment of the Spirit need be mutually exclusive with the authority of the church. For example, where did you learn of the dogma of the Trinity? Was it derived from your own isolated, private interpretation of Scripture? Or did you learn it from others? And what of your understanding of the hypostatic union of Christ? Did you infer this on your own, or was it taught to you by another? You see, while it is the Spirit who brings illumination, I would argue that this illumination is not something that happens in individual, isolated circumstances, but that rather the Spirit of God works through the church which Christ commissioned to raise up into theological soundness those who have been joined to Christ in faith.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/07/2007 10:49 PM  

  • Good morning Rose!

    Exist~Dissolve: I am unfamiliar (as you probably guessed from my cautious approach in the last post) of this particular phrase which you use. From what you have said on these posts (and this is the sole grounds of which I have been basing my comments) you seem to disagree profoundly with the idea that we can have doctrinal prepositions. I quote: If "believing" something requires propositional knowledge about the object of belief, then no, we can believe nothing. However, I do not maintain the criterion for belief is quite that high, and would further suggest that it is a holdover from logical positivism which has proven itself to be a thoroughly doomed epistemological enterprise. I understand this to mean that I am wrong to think that I can stand up and say: " I believe, on the basis of the Bible, that God is one God in a composite unity of three persons within the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Ghost." I disagree. Although I might be laughed at by a whole confederacy of people for stating such, I can be like the battle horse who "paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men." (Job 39:21 ) Yet, if I read you right, I am on a hiding for nothing.

    Re: faith and human reason. The latter can only take us so far. Faith takes us further again, but true faith is never against human reason. A blind faith may induce us to do things that are totally irrational, but not true faith. True faith always flows from a true knowledge of God and this is gotten from a sincere, earnest study of the Bible which has pledged itself to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Paul stated that yielding our bodies to God is our "reasonable service (Romans 12:1) while the Lord Jesus Himself did not hesitate to challenge His hearers with the words What think ye?"

    P/s BTW: Bearing in mind the crossing of wires, on my part, over the wording "postivism" and "positveness" I assume that your use of the word "propositional" is a typo and that my correction to "prepositional" is justified?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/08/2007 4:17 AM  

  • Wow,
    One goes away for a few days and look what happens!

    Mary mentioned this passage:
    2 Timothy 2:20-21
    20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.


    I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on how that relates to Romans 9?

    Who are you, Casey?
    I don't feel that Colin Maxwell is rude or condescending. I actually appreciate his style of communication, even though he is wrong on his view of predestination. ;~)

    (now that was arrogant, was it not? - ha!)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/08/2007 9:04 AM  

  • Rose it's good to see you posting again.

    Do you think that verse 21 is hypothetical? ;-)

    E~D thanks so much for your response. Would you accept a reply at my site? ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/08/2007 9:51 AM  

  • E~D thanks so much for your response. Would you accept a reply at my site? ;-)

    Sure!

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/08/2007 11:59 AM  

  • Exist~Dissolve: I am unfamiliar (as you probably guessed from my cautious approach in the last post) of this particular phrase which you use. From what you have said on these posts (and this is the sole grounds of which I have been basing my comments) you seem to disagree profoundly with the idea that we can have doctrinal prepositions. I quote: If "believing" something requires propositional knowledge about the object of belief, then no, we can believe nothing. However, I do not maintain the criterion for belief is quite that high, and would further suggest that it is a holdover from logical positivism which has proven itself to be a thoroughly doomed epistemological enterprise. I understand this to mean that I am wrong to think that I can stand up and say: " I believe, on the basis of the Bible, that God is one God in a composite unity of three persons within the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

    I do not deny that one can make assertions of belief based on self-determined criteria. One is certainly free to do this to exhaustion. However, my point is that it is not possible to ground this assertion in propositional truth, for such a methodological move would require the absolute establishment of the beginning premises from which said said assertions are supposedly derived. To use your example, it is not possible, epistemologically, to move from assertion to proposition, for to do so would require that one's language and proofs encapsulate the fullness of the truth and reality of the divine, a quite arduous task for that which derives its very existence from that which would need to be encompassed in being and knowledge. In this way, the only way in which to propositionally establish the validity of your statement would be if you were able to transcend Godself whereby one could achieve the criteria necessary for the verifiability of the assertions made about God.

    Re: faith and human reason. The latter can only take us so far. Faith takes us further again, but true faith is never against human reason.

    I agree, but the modern epistemological enterprise has done precisely this, with many segments of Christianity unwittingly towing the modernist line to their own marginalization and eventual self-destruction. Take, for example, the concept of "infallibility" of Scripture. To many Western Christians, this concept is the fundamental proposition upon which all assertions of interpretation are made. However, upon what proof is one to establish this assertion in such a way that it can attain to the postivistic motivations which provide the impetus for its positing? In the height of irony, this methodological principle is concomitantly based upon and undermined by modernistic valuations of textual/historical data, its supporters having to depend more and more heavily upon the positivistic principles which undergird it in order to substantiate their ever-undermined proofs concerning the presuppositions inherent to their interpretive approach.

    P/s BTW: Bearing in mind the crossing of wires, on my part, over the wording "postivism" and "positveness" I assume that your use of the word "propositional" is a typo and that my correction to "prepositional" is justified?

    Actually, my use of "propositional" is very deliberate, as it encapsulates what I have identified as logical positivism's requirement for verification in the delineation of truth. A proposition, after all, is little more than an assertion which has been premised on the verifiability or non-verifiability of its beginning premises.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/08/2007 1:22 PM  

  • Good morning, Rose.

    Exist~Dissolve: You're losing me in your arguments here. Scenario: I am a violent man and because I think I am in trouble with the pretty merciless authorities, I am about the end my life and literally fall upon my sword. A Christian gives me an solid assurance that the immediate cause for my serious suicide tendency has been removed. I ask this Christian a sincere and anxious question: "What must I do to be saved?" Bear in mind that I am not a theologian or a philosopher and that I have had limited (although obviously effective) exposure to the gospel - that I have probably more brawn than brains, although I am not stupid either. If you were that Christian: [i] What answer would you give me? [ii] What philosophical knowledge do I need to put it into practice?

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/09/2007 3:41 AM  

  • Scenario: I am a violent man and because I think I am in trouble with the pretty merciless authorities, I am about the end my life and literally fall upon my sword. A Christian gives me an solid assurance that the immediate cause for my serious suicide tendency has been removed. I ask this Christian a sincere and anxious question: "What must I do to be saved?" Bear in mind that I am not a theologian or a philosopher and that I have had limited (although obviously effective) exposure to the gospel - that I have probably more brawn than brains, although I am not stupid either. If you were that Christian: [i] What answer would you give me? [ii] What philosophical knowledge do I need to put it into practice?

    I am not advocating that any philosophical knowledge is needed. In fact, it is the collusion of philosophy and theological belief that I am questioning. As I said before, I fully accept the "surety" of belief, that faith is not bound to the parameters of human philosophy. However, what I am questioning is whether the "surety" of belief can be wired up to philosophical systems, such as the tendencies towards logical positivism and the prejudice towards factual verifiability which I perceive in your thinking.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/09/2007 10:37 AM  

  • E~D:- So your sufficient answer would be...

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/09/2007 12:00 PM  

  • I would say Paul's answer is sufficient.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 10/09/2007 5:28 PM  

  • Good morning Rose!

    Exist~Dissolve said...
    I would say Paul's answer is sufficient.


    I agree. Perhaps a good note to close my part in this debate on. Thanks for your time and patience.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 10/10/2007 1:53 AM  

  • KC,
    Yes, I think I do. It certainly is stated as such. What do you think?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/10/2007 10:29 AM  

  • I do, in the sense that it is conditional though I don't see it as being theoretical or as questioning the possibilty. I think it implies real potential.

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/10/2007 3:39 PM  

  • KC,
    I think I will have to start saying, "I agree with whatever KC says about this."

    I think your view is the right one ... balanced, as ever.

    :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/11/2007 8:47 AM  

  • Rose that is such a coincidence! I had found out some time ago that I always agree with whatever Rose says! (grin)

    By Blogger Kc, at 10/11/2007 12:11 PM  

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