Saturday, January 12, 2008

DEBATE W/EASTERN ORTHODOX PART 2: JOSH BRISBY'S OPENING STATEMENT

I thank Jay Dyer for his opening statement. I will interact with his opening statement and focus on more specific critiques of Eastern Orthodoxy in particular in my rebuttal.

INTRODUCTION

I have the privilege of defending and earnestly contending for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints. But what is this faith? Indeed, the debate topic for us asks whether Reformed Baptist Christianity or Eastern Orthodoxy is the true faith. Many denominations and branches of Christianity, including the cults, claim to be the one and true faith handed down by the apostles. To verify whether they are true or not, many offer different claims as proof. Some appeal to "apostolic succesion"; some claim that only they are living in right practice; still others claim that their "translation" of the Word of God is the only correct one. How did the apostles and Jesus Himself view this? "To the Law and to the Testimony."

WHY I AM A REFORMED BAPTIST

I will briefly outline why I am a Reformed Baptist in my theological and philosophical convictions. These will be mainly described as follows:

(1) Philosophically, only Reformed theology allows for the preconditions of intelligibility. That is to say, only it makes sense of the world around us.

(2) Theologically, Reformed theology alone makes sense of the Scriptural revelation.

(3) Practically, only Reformed theology in all its fullness delivers the whole counsel of God and therefore brings about proper Christian living. Specifically, Reformed Baptist theology sees the glory of the New Covenant, which is a far better covenant, with Christ Himself as its very essence.

PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING

Philosophers have always asked questions about the nature of reality, the nature of good and evil, the nature of knowledge, and the nature of beauty. These are of course only a few of the questions that philosophy asks. But philosophers are rightly not content to be satisfied with only a few questions answered. They want to know what is the truth.

Cornelius Van Til was a Christian philosopher and theologian who the Lord used to bring glory to Christ by demonstrating that only Christ Himself and the Christian theistic worldview, particularly in its Reformed presentation, is the only worldview which makes sense. The presuppositions of the Reformed worldview help us to critique other worldviews themselves. Let us look at a few examples of these presuppositions:

(1) God exists as the absolute sovereign Ruler of the universe, governing all aspects of His creation. This is an important presupposition, because, although other Christians will affirm this to some degree, when they are really pressed, we Reformed find that they do not really understand the word "sovereign" in its true sense. For example, a "sovereign" nation is one that is self-governing, and only influenced by itself when it comes to its laws and reign. We Reformed would say the same about God. God is sovereign in the sense that He has absolute free reign over His entire creation. There is nothing that anyone can do to influence Him. He is a Law unto Himself. In fact, not even man's so-called "free will" can stop His plans, because God Himself has even ordained our free acts themselves. Many Christians do not believe that God has really ordained all things. They most certainly don't believe that God has ordained the Fall of man into sin. More than that, they don't dare believe that God has predestined who will be saved and who will be lost. But this is what the Bible teaches. See Romans 9; Proverbs 16:4; Lamentations 3:37-38; Ezekiel 14:9; Ephesians 2:1-10; etc.

If someone does not affirm that God has ordained all things, we can simply break it down and ask them what they mean. So does an event happen because God just thought it would happen or knew it would? Then it was still certain. But some have gone the heresy road and deny God's foreknowledge at all. We can ask them, then, how God planned the redemption of mankind. There is simply an unraveling of the faith unless one upholds God's absoute and sovereign decree.

(2) Although God is absolutely transcendent, yet He stoops down to us and is immanent as well. He has revealed Himself to us in the Person and work of Christ and in Holy Scripture, as well as by way of covenant. Eastern Orthodoxy will say that God's Word is mainly Christ, Who they say is the Icon of God. This is only half the story. How do they know about Christ except by the propositional revelation which is Scripture itself? When we view Scripture, we see that God revealed Himself by way of covenant to the people of Israel, who He used as is even presently using even in their casting away temporarily to bring the gospel to the Gentile nations. God's covenants with Abraham, Moses, David, and the New Covenant are all related and supplement one another. Reformed theology calls this the unity of the covenant of grace. That is to say, that in these covenants there underlies a unity and a fundamental purpose, which is God's plan of salvation for the human race, and the bringing about of the glory of His dear Son.

Dispensationalism, which is the most popular form of thought in American evangelicalism today, sees God's purposes for Israel and the Church as entirely distinct and separate from one another. This gave way to the rise of premillennialism and pre-tribulationism, and a truncated ecclesiology and soteriology. The dispensational view of the holiness of God is very low; it is a focus on His immanence at the expense of His transcendence. Eastern Orthodoxy, likewise, I argue, focuses on God's transcendence (hence apophatic theology and the "negative way") at the expense of His immanence. Both are extremes. It seems to me that only Reformed theology keeps the balance.

(3) Our understanding is darkened unless God renews us and regenerates us by His Holy Spirit. False understanding and idolatry is expressed in all non-Reformed worldviews. I realize that this is a grand statement to make, and a sweeping one. But I have yet to see any worldview that is not Reformed (and I argue, baptistic as well) keep from falling into internal contradictions or practical contradictions from its own claims. One example dealing with Eastern Orthodoxy will suffice. The East says that apophatic (negative) statements about God are really the best way to know God; yet Jesus Himself says in John 17 that "this is eternal life: that they may KNOW You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent." Now, if eternal life is knowing God, then surely it is more than negatively! If I know my wife, I know BOTH positive AND negative things about her. EO claims to accept Scriptural revelation, but not only does it have problems here epistemically, but it also fails to account for the fullness of divine revelation.

THEOLOGICALLY SPEAKING

This brings us to why I am a Reformed Baptist theologically speaking. I believe that the best expression of the faith once for all delivered unto the saints is the London Baptist Confession of 1689 (although I would amend one part to say that the Pope is AN antichrist, although not THE Antichrist). We do not have time to exposit the Confession now, but every section is replete with Scriptural proofs. Only the Reformed faith makes sense of the strong Scriptural language dealing with the depravity of man (Jer. 17:9; Ro 9:16; Ro 8:7-8; John 6:44ff; etc.). It is probably safe to say that every other branch of Christian thought is semi-Pelagian, if not fully Pelagian. This is ironic as well, because, although I would not view the church councils say the way Rome or the East would (the East holds to seven, Rome to twenty-one), nonetheless, Pelagius was the heretic condemned by the most church councils in all of church history. Yet, his thought is alive and well in Eastern Orthodoxy today (as well as Rome, and also in evangelicalism).

Only the Reformed faith makes sense of the strong Scriptural language when it comes to God's election of individuals unto salvation, and even reprobation (which Lutherans do not accept). I honestly do not have time to list the *numerous* Scriptures on this subject.

The Reformed faith has a very high view of Christ's atonement, His propitiation and expiation. Eastern Orthodoxy does not even like to speak in those categories, since it sees the Resurrection as more central than the cross (because our main purpose, according to them, is theosis and not necessarily judicial justification). We Reformed are very concerned and disturbed by a so-called "atonement" that does not really propitiate and expiate. Further, we see that atonement itself has always and only been designed for only those within the covenant community. Israel's sacrificial system was never designed to remit the sins of those outside of the theocracy and state of Israel. Likewise, Christ's atonement was never, indeed, could never be, designed to take away the sins of anyone except God's elect people.

The Reformed faith has a high view of the Spirit's calling and regeneration. But more than that, the Reformed Baptist faith has a high view of baptism (as well as the Lord's Table). We have been saved, as Titus says, by the washing of regeneration. We have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God. The reason we are born of water and the Spirit is because baptism historically before the third century was always seen as the culmination of the conversion experience. "Arise and wash away your sins." But Peter is clear that baptism does not save merely by the water, but by "the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Christ." It is God's way of testifying to us that we truly have been born again. When the Spirit calls us, there is a clean break with sin. Before that, we are dead in our sins. Even as the lion has the "free will" to choose to eat the vegetables or not, and it never will, our "free will" is bound in sin and will always choose to reject the gospel offer. "Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard change its spots? Neither can you who do evil do good." "The hostile mind is not subject to God's Law, nor indeed can be; those who are in the flesh CANNOT please God." (Ro 8:7-8) "No one CAN come to Me unless the Father Who sent me draws him . . . and I will raise him up at the last day." (Jn 6:44ff.)

Finally, the Reformed faith has a high view of the saints' perseverance. If there is one verse which refutes all self-righteousness, all works-based views of salvation (I include among that the so-called "Federal Vision" troubling Reformed circles these days), it is this: "If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." Hallelujah! Our perseverance does not depend upon ourselves. This is hope for the sin-sick soul. The gospel is truly good news. But in Eastern Orthodoxy, the gospel is not good news at all. Michael Horton rightly noted that he has never been attracted to Rome or Orthodoxy, because "there's just not enough of the gospel there." I agree. In fact, the only gospel I know of is what Charles Spurgeon said: "It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else." This may seem like a strong statement, but he made clear that he could not (and nor can I) comprehend a "gospel" that depends upon man's so-called free-will, or a "gospel" which has Jesus "loving" and "dying for" Judas in the same way that He "died for" Peter, or a "gospel" which allows man to thwart God's ?perfect? plan, or a "gospel" which lets saints fall away after they are "called."

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

This leads us to the practical reasons why I am a Reformed Baptist. I have recently wrestled, as many of my blog readers know, with the baptism issue once again, but as I have had time to reflect on this, as well as all of the related issues when it comes to ecclesiology, I am beginning to see the claims of the traditional Reformed Baptist view of the New Covenant. Any kind of Christianity that wants to claim Christianity needs to deal with Jeremiah 31:31-34 in its essence right now. Dispensationalism cannot deal with it because of its stark separation of Israel and the Church, and if it says that the New Covenant is here now in any sense whatsoever, it ceases to be dispensationalism, because here we now have the Church receiving the promises of the New Covenant! Reformed paedobaptist theology cannot really tell us what is "new" about the New Covenant, since it flattens out the covenant of grace to the extreme to the point where there is almost no difference at all. (I realize that paedos will contest this; I am merely speaking from the way we Reformed Baptists see it with our concerns.) Could it be that infant baptism gave rise to the Federal Vision? Could it be that the Federal Vision is kind of a halfway house to Rome or the East? Could it be that all of this is because Reformed paedobaptist theology flattens out the covenants so much that it has a Judaizing element to it, notwithstanding the fact that, to its credit, it does uphold justification by faith alone? This is why I am a Reformed Baptist. Christ Himself is the glory of the New Covenant! As my pastor told me: preaching through the book of Hebrews made him even more of a Baptist. I now see why, praise God!

CONCLUSION

I will do more extensive and specific critiques of Eastern Orthodoxy as well as interact with Mr. Dyer's opening statement in my rebuttal to his opening statement. I again thank my debate opponent for interacting with me and the claims of Reformed Baptist theology.

Mr. Dyer, you now have the floor for your rebuttal to my opening statement.

72 comments:

Acolyte4236 said...

Josh,

If the faith was once for all delivered and the faith amounts to the contents of Reformed Baptist theology, then between 100 AD and 1400 AD can you specify who not only taught this faith but received it from someone going back to the source from which it was delivered?

Points 1 & 2 would only support Reformed theology and not Reformed Baptist theology. But your claim was that the RB view is supported by philosophical and theological convictions.

Van Til’s presentation is flawed on a number of points. There is no Transcendental Argument for the Trinity, let alone the Trinity as the Reformed Baptists distinctly conceive of it. Second, Van Til’s take on the relation between Greek Philosophy and the Fathers is hopelessly flawed and antiquated. Third, the argument that Van Til usually deploys which you echo concerning sovereignty rests on a number of mistakes. First, a Voluntaristic view of God is far more sovereign than your view of God since he is not constrained or limited by his character. The question is not which view of God affords more sovereignty to God, but which view of sovereignty is correct? Second, Van Til confuses causation with determination and these are not the same concepts. G.E. Anscombe pointed this out decades ago. Causation does not imply or entail determinism. Consequently you can have indeterministic causation. More specifically, there is a modal distinction between If P then necessarily Q and Necessarily, if P then Q. Returning to the main points, you don’t make God appropriately sovereign by denigrating his creation. The fact that the Reformed think so, not only reveals troublesome Manichean presuppositions, but manifests a Hellenistic structure where God and creation are related dialectically, that is by opposing properties. If God is free, created agents aren’t. If God is good, creatures must be bad, and so on.

If there is nothing anyone can do to influence God, then why does Scripture speak so, for example in Abraham’s chat with God prior to the destruction of Sodom? Or how about Psalm 132:10? Moreover, this claim runs afoul of the claims of your own tradition regarding the distinction between antecedent and consequent willing in God.


Even if human freedom cannot thwart the divine plan, it doesn’t follow that humans lack free will or that God determines their actions. Moreover, you confuse ordination with causation, Augustine for example clearly distinguishes ordination from causation when he writes that God ordains all things but only causes some.

If God predestines those who are lost to be so, then why does he apparently redeem them? 2 Pet 2:1?

You assume knowing an event amounts to causing it and rendering it fixed. But God knows lots of things he didn’t cause, namely his own existence or other possible worlds he chose not to create. And none of the conditions on knowledge, even infallible knowledge imply that knowing renders the event fixed. On the contrary, the event is fixed and that is why God knows it, and God knows it infallibly because he is a perfect knower.

You ask how the Orthodox know about Christ apart from Scripture, but how would you know, let alone be able to place beyond possible revision scripture without tradition? There is no text that I know of prior to 250 A.D of a canonical Gospel that has an apostolic name attached to it. These are all known from church tradition from Papias, Polycarp, Ireneaus, Justin, et al. And if the church isn’t sufficient to fix the canon, why think that what constitutes Scripture can’t change for you in the future?

As for apophatic theology doesn’t negate God’s presence in the world, for God is presence immediately in his energies, which constitute the very plan or nature of every created thing. All of the many “plans” or logoi are summed up in the one Logos, who is Christ Jesus and this is why is hid in Christ all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2)

Second, the western tradition embraces apophatic theology as well, though it does it a bit differently. You can find this in the Reformed Baptist confession of faith in the London Baptist Confession of 1689 for example, which says of God in chapter 2 “whose Essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto…”

Third, apophatic theology is not a way to know what God is like. Rather it is saying what he is not like. Now, I know the Trinity because the Persons reveal themselves in their activities, but this does not exhaust who and what they are. Consequently apophatic theology doesn’t preclude the possibility of revelation. Knowing persons and knowing essences aren’t the same thing in any case.

So there is no internal contradiction here. You have simply missed the concept and attached a straw man, which you could have avoided had you spent some time and effort being fair by reading some substantial Orthodox theology.



The London Baptist Confession is full of Scriptural proofs, which presuppose a specific set of hermeneutical presuppositions. The question then is not if one can find verses to supports one’s claim, but if one can justify those hermeneutical presuppositions prior to exegesis. Why accept those presuppositions as opposed to any other?

As for the depravity of humanity, the Reformed can’t make sense of the biblical data, for their understanding runs afoul of basic biblical distinctions between person and nature, and natural goodness and personal righteousness. In fact, it is the Reformed who fundamentally agree with Pelagius over Augustine. Pelagianism is not a thesis about earning salvation specifically or synergism. Augustine for example is a type of synergist. Rather it is a thesis claiming that natural goodness and personal righteousness are in fact identical and that since nature cannot be altered by human agents since God is sovereign, humans only require a good example to fulfill the conditions on salvation. For Pelagius, Adam was created intrinsically righteous whereas for Augustine, grace had to be added to nature. At the Reformation, as Hodge and Van Til both note, this difference was no small point with the Reformed taking the Pelagian view and the Catholics taking Augustine’s view. This is why the Reformed hold to total depravity. Because they confuse person and nature on confusing natural goodness and personal righteousness in Adam so that either they have to affirm flat out works righteousness or they have to affirm that the imago dei was lost of changed, thereby implying that humans were powerful enough to alter God’s will for human nature. Moreover, if the Reformed view were correct, not only would there be no explanation for why Adam sinned, since he had only a good nature and good desires which would determine his actions be only good, but it would imply that there was no common human nature for human nature would be different according to how each person willed. But the latter is false then so is the former. Depravity is personal and not natural so that humans can’t inherit guilt from someone else.

The East holds to more than seven councils, but the first seven function as a capstone on the refutation of all heresies.

If it was the East at the council of Ephesus who condemned Pelagius, it might be a good idea to figure out how they take their condemnation of Pelagius to be consistent with their soteriology. They’d have to be complete idiots to make the kinds of mistakes you impute to them.

If you read the Homilies of the Fathers, they use quite freely propitiation and expiation. The question is not if they talk about it, but how they understand it.

The Orthodox do not make the Resurrection more central than the Cross. The Cross is Christ’s taking death into himself and taking away the weapon of the devil. Christ recapitulates death so that now all men die in Christ, so too all will be raised. Christ by his hypostatic union maintains his union with human nature securing its immortality, which is why even the wicked are raised and persist forever.

Theosis is being conformed to the image of Christ which is a major theme and teaching of the NT.
According to Scripture (2 Cor 5:14) Christ dies for all, because all were dead. But if as you maintain, Christ died for some, then some must not be dead. Limited Atonement implies Pelagianism, that there are some men who have no need of Christ.

If Israel’s sacrificial system was only to expiate (purify) the sins of those in Israel, and there were plenty in Israel who were not elect, to continue the analogy, you’d have to agree that Christ’s sacrifice was to expiate the sins of people who were not elect as well.

Baptism before the third century was seen as regenerating also, which is upheld in the canons of the Council of Nicea. Baptism was the culmination of conversion because the fullness of divine power (grace) was given in the waters of baptism proffered by the Church.

To be dead in trangressions means that the transgressions bring death. The wages of sin is death and sin pays that wage. Moreover those that set their mind on the flesh can’t please God. Why? Because THEY have set THEIR minds on the flesh. If they set their minds on things above, thats a different story. But you fallaciously reason from the fact that people suffer from death on account of transgressions that their natural powers sovereignty given to them by God in the imago dei are somehow absent. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and following Augustine against the Pelagians, the good tree is a good person, and a bad tree is a bad person, not a bad nature.

As for John 6, I’d pay attention to vv. 38-39 in which Christ makes clear that he loses nothing of human nature but raises it all up. All are drawn to Christ, some with faith by his teaching and some without, but Christ completes his mission granting the justification of life to all men. (Rom 5:18)

The Platonists were also predestinarians and had a similar view of perseverance, but that hardly made them biblical. Moreover, any gains of comfort your view makes in preserverence are robbed by your view of predestination. For God can predestine you to hell while also predestinating you to think you are elect and have assurance.

Now I know Mike Horton personally, and up till fairly recently, Horton didn’t know his theological ass from his elbow when it came to Orthodoxy. I sat under Horton for four years and been to his home innumerable times. His comments in the Three Views book (see my amazon review) are based on gross ignorance and an attempt to tar the Orthodox with Catholic positions. Fortunatly, in his most recent work, Covenant and Salvation, he finally recognizes the value of the Orthodox take over against Rome, even to some extent trying to model his Reformed view on the Orthodox doctrine of theosis.

Libertarian freedom doesn’t imply that humans or angels can thwart God’s plan. Rather it just shows that God doesn’t contradict himself in granting the same kind of freedom to his creatures that he possesses, since we are made in his image, the image of Christ, while also saving that creation without violating his own gift. God is justified in the flesh for he saves his creation from annihilation in spite of the misuse of the freedom he gives. The Reformed narrowing of the work of Christ to the elect simply can’t do justice to the witness of Scripture (Romans 8 or Eph 1:10 for example) to the cosmic scope of Christ’s saving work.

Now, it is fairly obvious to me that you should quit while you are behind. It is obvious to me that you haven’t spent any time being fair to the position you are attacking by taking the time to study it in the same kind of depth you would want someone to study the Reformed Baptist position before rejecting it.

Kazooless said...

Josh,

A comment for you and then I want to be fair and post a comment for your opponent.

You state: "Reformed paedobaptist theology cannot really tell us what is "new" about the New Covenant, since it flattens out the covenant of grace to the extreme to the point where there is almost no difference at all."

You reference Jeremiah 31:31-34 which is quoted in Hebrews, chapter 8.

What I want to know is what it is that you think an RB accepts as "New" in the NC, but the Paedo rejects?

Those verses talk about God's law being put in the mind of the NC believers. Hebrews goes on talking about what is new. No more physical temple. No more cow slaughtering and other sacrifices. So on and so forth. But now we have the true instead of the foreshadow. We have Christ. He has been sacrificed once and for all. He is before God the Father as our intercessor. Etc. I don't understand how you can see such a huge distinction between the Truly Reformed and the baptist Wannabe Reformed WRT the NC.

Blessings Bro. It's been too long since I've seen you. We should do something about that.

Kazooless

Josh Brisby said...

Perry,

A couple of things.

(1) Welcome to The Reformed Oasis.

(2) We do not accept foul language here. You said, speaking of a godly man, Mike Horton, that he "doesn't know his theological @*&@! from his elbow". Here at The Reformed Oasis we allow strong critiques, but we do not permit disrespectful comments, much less do we allow any foul language. This is your only warning.

(3) As you know, I am busy with this debate right now, but I will respond to your comments in a future post after the debate concludes.

(4) I have noticed that one of your mantras to people who critique Orthodoxy is that they "don't understand Orthodoxy" and that they need to find "better sources," etc. So Michael Horton, a scholar, misunderstands it too huh? So the only way to understand Orthodox is to become Orthodox? What's the purpose of debating then?

(5) But in all seriousness, your comments are filled with so many misunderstandings of the Reformed view that I'm tempted to wonder if you really know anything about exegesis and systematic theology; but I'll include all that in my post in the future.

(6) The Triablogue guys have already dealt with you several times, and I think they have done a more excellent job than I ever could. You do the same things with them when you get cornered: "You don't understand Orthodoxy!". This sounds like your "out" when you get cornered in the ring.

Kazooless said...

Mr. Dyer,

Greetings brother in the name of our Lord! (I assume and hope that you can call me, a 1646 Westminster Standards Presbyterian, your brother. I'll add I agree with Josh about the anti-christ statement).

Anyway, I will not presume that I am in the same league as you are with regards to knowledge of this topic. I am impressed with some of what I see you have written. The arguments about the DC is actually pretty intriguing to me.

However, I think I caught a couple of problems in your rebuttal and I will ask you about them.

First, I think your paragraph on Van Til has a pre-requisite of a couple of Christian seminary philosophy courses in order to understand. But I do understand one phrase of it: "you don’t make God appropriately sovereign by denigrating his creation." What I've learned about Van Til's apologetic and even what Josh wrote on Van Til's view, doesn't seem to me that he is making God sovereign by denigrating his creation. Please explain in layman's terms how you think the Reformed, Van Tillian view on God's Sovereignty does so.

Now, the one thing that really surprised me in your response is the next paragraph asking about Abraham's chat with God and Psalm 132:10. It seems to me that if you spent so many years studying at Protestant schools, 4 years under Michael Horton (was that at Westminster?), and so forth, that you would be very familiar with the traditional Reformed explanations for instances such as these. At your apparent level of scholarship, I would expect you to have at least explained a little bit why you think the Reformed explanations don't work for you.

Next paragraph, Josh did say that God determines man's free actions. So you're arguing for something Josh accepts. And where is it you think Josh is mixing up ordination with causation? I don't want to put words in Josh's mouth, but both reformed camps distinguish between God's ordaining and causing. You know, that "second causes" clause? WCF, LBC 3:1

2 Pet 2:1. Are you really asking that? Maybe your last paragraph should be applied to you as well: "It is obvious to me that you haven’t spent any time being fair to the position you are attacking by taking the time to study it in the same kind of depth you would want someone to study the Reformed Baptist position before rejecting it." Plank, speck, eye. :)

This next one is big, I think. You make a big mistake in this one. You say: "On the contrary, the event is fixed and that is why God knows it, and God knows it infallibly because he is a perfect knower." But that is DEFINITELY NOT what scripture says:

Isaiah 46:10
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’

God doesn't know BECAUSE it is fixed. That would indicate that something exists (the future) apart from God, which would mean that He isn't the creator of all things (the future being one of them). Isaiah clearly tells us that God DECLARES the future. This is one verse out of many that clearly reveal this. So, since He DECLARES it, then He also KNOWS it. If He KNOWS it, and God is unchanging, then it will NOT change.

I'll leave the rest to Josh, mainly because I don't quite follow all of the rest, it's late, and I'm tired. I hope Josh doesn't feel like I am stealing any of his thunder. But lastly, I have to say this is the very first time I've ever heard Reformed theology accused of being pelagian. Funny.

Blessings,

Kazooless

Kazooless said...

I started my comment to Mr. Dyer before Josh posted his comment to Perry. Looks like I was confused as to who acolyte4236 was. Sorry. Arguments still stand though.

Josh, that word in the dictionary is labelled as 'vulgar' but I didn't think of it as profanity or filthy language. I thought he was just trying to make a point strongly. Would it have been okay if he used the word "bottom?" (That's what we tell my boys to say)

LOL :O)

All in good fun,

Kazooless

Josh Brisby said...

Jeff,

Good to hear from you man. Yes, I was responding to Perry Robinson of www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com. As far as comments toward Mr. Jay Dyer goes, please hold them for the Q & A period so we can let the debate flow until then.

Thanks!

P.S.--You really consider Eastern Orthodox our brothers? What about the gospel which the Reformers fought for and the martyrs spilled their blood for?

Acolyte4236 said...

Josh,

I don’t simply make claims that people do not understand Orthodox theology, I give arguments that they in fact do so. For example, I gave a rebuttal and a refutation of your claims regarding apophatic theology. The rebuttal was that even if your claims were correct, your own position endorses a species of apophatic theology in declaring that the divine essence is unknowable, even using the same scriptural passages that the Orthodox do to support their view. Consequently, your position can only be true if your argument is false. Since you take your own position to be true, then your argument is false.

The refutation was showing that your view of apophatic theology was in fact a strawman. First because the via negativa is not a way to know the divine essence, as you stated. Second, since the divine persons are fully present n their revealing acts (energies), the Orthodox don’t compromise God’s immanence but in fact maintain it.

Horton is a scholar, but his area of specialization is not the early church, let alone Late Antiquity or the Medieval era. His area of professional specialization is the Reformation. So when he speaks he is not speaking as a specialist in those areas. My area of professional specialization covers late antiquity and the medieval era.

More importantly, why is it that if Horton is a scholar, you don’t accept his claims about infant baptism? The reason is very simple. Being a scholar implies that one is more reliable, but reliability doesn’t imply success in knowing at every point. What makes what a scholar says important at the end of the day are his arguments and Horton has some very poor arguments. For example, in his Three Views entries he says that the Orthodox don’t have a doctrine of justification. Anyone who reads the main theological journals of Orthodoxy in America (Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Sobronost, St. Vlad’s) knows this to be false. He also imputes the Roman doctrine of implicit faith to the Orthodox. He also tries to explain why the Orthodox understand Romans 5 the way they do by an appeal to Augustine’s captivity to the Latin language. Anyone who knew jack about Orthodox would know that that line is entirely specious. Why? Because the major works of Augustine apart from some chapters of De Trinitate and his writings against the Manicheans, weren’t translated into Greek till the 15th century. And second the Easterners weren’t reading the Bible in Latin, but Greek, since day one. Cyril, Athanasius, Maximus and Chrysostom were all masters at the Greek language, far more so than the Protestant Humanists were, so what’s the reason why they supposedly missed the “clear” gospel?

The only way to understand any position that has historical roots older than this century is to take a few years and read through the best that tradition has to offer and converse with the best minds that position has living. Would you take seriously someone who criticized Calvinism but who had only read a few popular works on it? I don’t think so. I am only asking critics to be fair and consistent. Treat others how you wish to be treated.

If my comments are filled with misunderstandings of the Reformed view, then it should be easy to correct them. Please do so. Moreover, it is funny that when I sat under Mike, Kim and Rod that they and others thought I had a strong grasp of Reformation teaching. Then somehow presto! When I changed views I am somehow an instant buffoon.

I know that the Triabloguers think they have refuted me but I think I have refuted them. So I can easily turn around your argument. I have dealt with them already. To be sure I have conceded certain discussions to them out of the interests of time. I don’t have time to respond to 50 pages of rhetoric and argument every week. But I have never conceded the argument to them. And I think that intelligent persons can see, once all of the rhetoric is peeled away that I got the better part of the argument. And if my demonstrations that people create strawmen about Orthodoxy is my “out” then I suppose the Triablogers’ “out” is to do a whole lot of hand waving, caricature and deploy rhetorical insults. And the fact that they can’t give an exegetical argument for divine simplicity or the filioque and have to contradict their own doctrinal commitments (sola scriptura), not to mention their own confessional standards shows that they haven’t “dealt” with me. They make a big deal if Rome has dogmas that aren’t scriptural, but when they admittedly do, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. That, my friend is special pleading.

In any case, you came on to my blog and challenged me. Now you seem to be heading for the hills.

Acolyte4236 said...

Kazooless,

The Reformed dialectic is between sin and grace, as opposed to Augustine’s nature and grace. These two are distinguished by opposite properties. So Reformed theology generally distinguishes humanity from divinity in terms of opposing properties, which is why they speak of the imago dei being lost or changed, and why they focus on the Fall. God is good, man is bad, God is king, man is a slave, God is active, man must be passive. That is what I mean by denigration. To think of human nature as good as distinguished from grace is pretty unthinkable for the Reformed. Just think about Common Grace. Is there anything done out of Common Grace that is not sin? The Reformed presuppose a pagan way of distinguishing things, by subordinating one thing to the other, which is why 17th century Arianism came out of Reformation theology. See the text Nice Hot Disputes: The Doctrine of the Trinity in the 17th century, by Dixion.

I am aware of how the Reformed interpret those passages (re: Abraham) but to be fair, Josh cites passages without dealing with any Orthodox treatments of those passages, so I am not clear on why I am saddled with a requirement that he isn’t. Second, the point was to motivate the readers thinking-there are passages that could be understood in the way I suggest, because the surface grammar seems at least to indicate as much. Third, space does not permit a doctrinal dissertation on refuting every Reformed exegesis of said passages either.

Josh seems to confuse ordination with causation. God ordaining something only means he directs an action to serve a certain purpose. Ordination doesn’t of itself imply that the act is causally determined by God. Yet this is how Josh seems to use “ordain.” I am aware of the attempt to preserve secondary causation in the WCF, but even if the spectre of Occasionalism could be held at bay by such statements, I think there are good reasons to reject that view. The first is philosophical in that one then lacks any adequate defense for the problem of evil and second, I think one can give biblical and exegetical reasons why that view is mistaken.

I know the various ways that the Reformed try to exegete 2 Pet 2:1 but I think they all fail. I know it is a verse the Reformed struggle with regarding the Atonement, which is why I deploy it regularly.

I think you might wish to take a closer look at Is 46:10. Just taking the passage in its face, my view is consistent with God *declaring* the end from the beginning since God is timeless and knows timelessly. Strictly speaking God does not know anything before it happens, since God does not exist temporally in a moment before or after anything. On my view God does not even exist in a simultaneously moment of a present or “now.” To be timeless is to be timeless, which excludes the present. Consequently there is nothing in the passage that indicates that God knows because he determines actions.

Second, “counsel” could also just as easily be translated “strategy.” So God is saying that his “strategy stands firm.” And what is that? Anointing Cyrus to conquer and rebuke Israel. I seriously doubt Cyrus thought he was fulfilling the plan of Yaweh, even though God ordered or aimed his actions to fulfill his own purpose. In any case Cyrus fixed his own actions and this doesn’t imply that the future exists prior to our existence in it. It only requires that God knows timelessly. God knows about possible circumstances he could have brought about, but didn’t. Does this imply that those possible circumstances in fact exist? No.

Oh I know how funny it is saying that the Reformed are Pelagian in their anthropology, but this is because most people are in fact ignorant of the preceding late scholastic debates on the relation of nature to grace, particularly in the Ockhamist (which was neo-semi-pelagian) tradition in which Luther was trained (See Farthing and McSorely’s works for example). The second reason is that most Reformed persons take causal summaries of what Pelagianism was and never take a careful look at exactly what the Pelagians in their most sophisticated representatives, namely Julian of Eclanum, taught. And what Julian taught is that nature and grace were identical and Adam was created intrinsically righteous. Just go read Hodge or Bavink for example-the pre-lapsarian anthropology is pretty much identical.

Jay Dyer said...

I feel somewhat bound, now, to offer a response to the attending comments as well. This may take some time. If "Acolyte" is Mr. Perry Robinson, let me say that he is far superior to myself in knowledge and erudition. Hopefully I will not saying anything improper, as I am still relatively new to Orthodoxy (as in the last 4 years). I humbly ask Perry to correct me where I err. Note that on our website I list myself as an "amateur." Our Roman Catholic readers have had a hayday with that one.

I'm in the process of my response, but in passing I do think that Josh has misunderstood certain areas of EO, especially such as apoaphatic theology meaning we cannot know God truly. Apophatic theology has to do with the Essence of God, not the Personhood, which is all we can interact with. I mean, when I know you, Josh, I'm not knowing your "essence," abstracted from Personhood, I know you as a Person and only *in* Personhood. This is "enhypostatization" as used by the Eastern Doctors to describe the fact that although we logically and abstractly speak of Christ having "two natures," Christ, since the Incarnation, only exists in reality as an Incarnate Divine Person with a human nature. It's never divided. The *only* reality is a hypostatic union, never a divided up Jesus, and never separate natures under a microscope. This is the only appropriate position to take on what the Divine Nature is.



St. John Damascene gets into this indepth his "Exposition of the Orthodox Faith."

It's very difficult to convey something that took St. John Damascene and St. Maximus the Confessor many treatises to explicate in a few posts, so my only exhortation to Josh is to be patient with us (as he is ) and examine very carefully what is being said before assuming its an automatic semi-pelagianism or pelagianism. This issue will also require a lengthy treatment, since I also was, as a reformed dude, under the same impression that all other expressions apart from the WCF & LBC were some form of pelagian. However, the Councils of Orange, which condemn SP, when examined, turn out to be exactly what many reformed think is SP!

Its been my experience dialoguing with Frame, Wilson, Jones, Jordan, Gunn, Strevel, and other more sothern presbyterian/baptistic minded thinkers of the Morecraft-RPCUS (of which I was a member), that when the topics of this nature arose, there was widespread ignorance-particularly with anything patristic. Unfortunately, many operate from second-hand works on the Fathers, usually distilled from a thinker of their own stripe, so, for example, I would get Rushdoony's treatment of the Fathers, or Morecraft's analysis of the Fathers. And when one examined their sources, they were almost always second-hand!

Pastor Grover Gunn, who recently spear-headed the PCA's anti-Federal vision theological commitee, told me in our last lengthy phone conversation a few months ago that these Trinitarian and patristic issues were far beyond him. So, my point is that its my experience that it's not at all strange that M. Horton or others would fall short of a proper understanding of the Fathers.

Consdier also the fact that I was at Southern Seminary in Louisville for several months (at the undergrad college), but was able to interact with some of the top SBC reformed baptist thinkers, such as Chad Brand, who edited one of the Zondervan Counterpoints series books, and others. Ronald Nash was also there. I was in this atmoshpere when I began serious research of the Fathers, and almost unanimously it was the case that they were severly ill-versed in these matters.

On numerous occaisions I had to correct Dr. Brand on his analysis of Fathers. I'm not trying to be arrogant, just emphasizing that my experience has been a constant lack of familiarity and knowledge of the Fathers by men of these stripes. I also think its precisely familiarizing with these issues that has led the AAPC men down the track they are heading.

Jay

Jay Dyer said...

Also, my experience under local reformed RPCUS authority sounds much the same as Mr. Robinsons. My pastor had high hopes for me, even saying I would ,"impact our generation profoundly for the reformed faith." I could not have been at BTS without his reccommendation. Once I examined that canon and the concept of Tradition, and presented questions that those men were unable to answer, I was a "subversive rebel," and "imposter," and a "Roman agent"! All the more absurd is that I worked to bring roughly half of the [at that time] 20 mission members there.

Jay

Kazooless said...

Josh,

Of course I consider them brothers. They have a Trinitarian baptism. They profess faith in Christ for salvation. They rely on God's grace. I am willing to call them brethren more so than the apostate PCUSA.

In Christ,

Kazoo

Josh Brisby said...

Jay,

I am very familiar with the fact that apophatic theology deals with God's essence and not His energies. But my point is that we have to be careful--does not God reveal Himself to us in His Tri-unity? Do not each members of the godhead exhaust the others in their indwelling? The fullness of the deity and of the godhead is found in Christ. Perichoresis deals with essence as well, does it not? So I see apophatic theology and the essence/energies distinction as unhelpful. I will comment on this more during the debate.

Acolyte4236 said...

Josh,

I think I already said twice now that the persons disclose themselves in their actions (energies). I wouldn’t say that hypostatic interpenetration amounts to metaphysical exhaustion. Why? Because if it did, there would be no distinction between the Father and the Son for example. A full empirichoretic relation does not imply metaphysical reduction.

If you reject the e/e distinction, what is made visible to Moses for example in Ex 33? Is it the essence or something created?

Josh Brisby said...

Perry,

I was addressing Jay and not you, but I will respond to everything you have posted here in a future post. I am not sure what you mean by that I am "running for the hills." I am currently debating Jay, and I cannot deal with several posts at the same time. Also, I invite you to hold your questions for either of us until the Q & A.

Thanks,
Josh

Canadian said...

Josh,
I am a Reformed Baptist looking at the claims of the Orthodox claims.
It was ridiculous statements like this one that have made me question the Protestant claims:

"I believe that the best expression of the faith once for all delivered unto the saints is the London Baptist Confession of 1689"

So even though the church could give you the scriptures you hold in your hand, and define what heresy was through exhausting conciliar effort, to formulate the "necessary" doctrines of the incarnation and the Trinity, to preserve the faith and the scriptures themselves for our benefit....yet they could not properly "express" that faith and get it right until 1689? A bit arrogant, don't you think?

steve said...

I don’t have time to interact with all of Perry’s comments, but I’ll address some of them:

“If the faith was once for all delivered and the faith amounts to the contents of Reformed Baptist theology, then between 100 AD and 1400 AD can you specify who not only taught this faith but received it from someone going back to the source from which it was delivered?”

i) This is a fallacious, all-or-nothing argument. It is not a choice between the teaching of total truth or total falsehood.

Even in OE theology, the church had to arrive at a rough consensus of opinion on various issues.

ii) Why does Josh need to trace the faith once delivered back through a series of persons rather than tracing it directly back to Scripture? Perry has cast the question in a way that begs the question in favor of apostolic succession. But that assumes what it needs to prove, a la Orthodoxy.

“First, a Voluntaristic view of God is far more sovereign than your view of God since he is not constrained or limited by his character.”

A voluntaristic God would be a God at the mercy of random chance. That’s the antithesis of sovereignty.

“The fact that the Reformed think so, not only reveals troublesome Manichean presuppositions, but manifests a Hellenistic structure where God and creation are related dialectically, that is by opposing properties. If God is free, created agents aren’t. If God is good, creatures must be bad, and so on.”

This is an obvious misrepresentation. Reformed theology is based on exegetical theology. Perry always attempts to shift the discussion to historical theology and philosophical theology because he can’t argue for his position, or against ours, on exegetical grounds.

“If there is nothing anyone can do to influence God, then why does Scripture speak so, for example in Abraham’s chat with God prior to the destruction of Sodom? Or how about Psalm 132:10?”

Is Perry an open theist? Does he subscribe to the hermeneutics of open theism? Paul Helm, for one, has dealt with these sorts of objections.

“If God predestines those who are lost to be so, then why does he apparently redeem them? 2 Pet 2:1?”

Because Peter isn’t using dogmatic terminology.

“You ask how the Orthodox know about Christ apart from Scripture, but how would you know, let alone be able to place beyond possible revision scripture without tradition? There is no text that I know of prior to 250 A.D of a canonical Gospel that has an apostolic name attached to it. These are all known from church tradition from Papias, Polycarp, Ireneaus, Justin, et al. And if the church isn’t sufficient to fix the canon, why think that what constitutes Scripture can’t change for you in the future?”

i) This ignores the work of Martin Hengel on the titles.

ii) Perry is quite selective in his appeal to early Christian writers.

iii) Why think what constitutes tradition can’t change for him in the future?

“As for apophatic theology doesn’t negate God’s presence in the world, for God is presence immediately in his energies, which constitute the very plan or nature of every created thing.”

Where’s the argument for the existence of the divine energies?

“Second, the western tradition embraces apophatic theology as well, though it does it a bit differently. You can find this in the Reformed Baptist confession of faith in the London Baptist Confession of 1689 for example, which says of God in chapter 2 ‘whose Essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto’…”

This assumes that “incomprehensible” is synonymous with unknowable.

“Now, I know the Trinity because the Persons reveal themselves in their activities, but this does not exhaust who and what they are.”

Are the energies/activities identical with the essence, or distinct from the essence? If distinct, how does knowing the energies translate into a knowledge of the essence?

“As for the depravity of humanity, the Reformed can’t make sense of the biblical data, for their understanding runs afoul of basic biblical distinctions between person and nature, and natural goodness and personal righteousness.”

Where does Perry exegete these categories from the text of Scripture? Where are these categories applied to by Scripture to Scripture?

“The Orthodox do not make the Resurrection more central than the Cross. The Cross is Christ’s taking death into himself and taking away the weapon of the devil. Christ recapitulates death so that now all men die in Christ, so too all will be raised. Christ by his hypostatic union maintains his union with human nature securing its immortality, which is why even the wicked are raised and persist forever.”

Where does Perry exegete that concept from the text of Scripture?

“Theosis is being conformed to the image of Christ which is a major theme and teaching of the NT. According to Scripture (2 Cor 5:14) Christ dies for all, because all were dead. But if as you maintain, Christ died for some, then some must not be dead.”

i) Is Perry a universalist?

ii) Perry doesn’t understand the function of a universal quantifier.

“As for John 6, I’d pay attention to vv. 38-39 in which Christ makes clear that he loses nothing of human nature but raises it all up.”

Where does the text say that Christ will raise up human *nature* rather than human *persons*?

“Moreover, any gains of comfort your view makes in preserverence are robbed by your view of predestination. For God can predestine you to hell while also predestinating you to think you are elect and have assurance.”

This assumes that, according to Reformed theology, the reprobate enjoy the same assurance of salvation as the elect. Can he document this claim?

“Libertarian freedom doesn’t imply that humans or angels can thwart God’s plan. Rather it just shows that God doesn’t contradict himself in granting the same kind of freedom to his creatures that he possesses, since we are made in his image, the image of Christ, while also saving that creation without violating his own gift.”

Where does Perry exegete his concept of freewill from the imago Dei verses in Scripture?

“The Reformed narrowing of the work of Christ to the elect simply can’t do justice to the witness of Scripture (Romans 8 or Eph 1:10 for example) to the cosmic scope of Christ’s saving work.”

i) Is Perry a universalist?

ii) He is offering an assertion in lieu of an argument.

“And the fact that they can’t give an exegetical argument for divine simplicity or the filioque and have to contradict their own doctrinal commitments (sola scriptura), not to mention their own confessional standards shows that they haven’t ‘dealt’ with me.”

Except that I have, indeed, dealt with all of these objections.

Perry has the same modus operandi: he picks a fight; when he gets a bloody nose he runs home and hides under his bed while telling everyone that he won the fight.

Canadian said...

Steve,
You keep saying:
"Where does Perry exegete these categories from the text of Scripture?"

And you said:
"Why does Josh need to trace the faith once delivered back through a series of persons rather than tracing it directly back to Scripture?"

When Perry does give brief exegetical statements you shoot them down with your own or someone else's exegesis. So it's not really exegesis you demand, it's a specific exegetical tradition. We can't arrive at the truth by simply pitting exegete against exegete. Do the Lutheran's have any exegete's? The Catholic's? The Orthodox? The Pentecostal's? etc, etc....But why does every other tradition seem to have all the bad exegetes? You are part of an exegetical tradition that places scripture into that tradition for interpretation. So which tradition is apostolic? You can't just say "the scriptural tradition" because it doesn't exist.

Jay Dyer said...

This debate is really heating up (from the readers prespective). I'm getting several emails and questions, as Josh is. Readers will have to be patient with us. My response is in the works, its just that school has started back and I also have a job. I'm sure Josh is twice as busy with a family.

steve said...

Canadian said...

When Perry does give brief exegetical statements you shoot them down with your own or someone else's exegesis. So it's not really exegesis you demand, it's a specific exegetical tradition. We can't arrive at the truth by simply pitting exegete against exegete. Do the Lutheran's have any exegete's? The Catholic's? The Orthodox? The Pentecostal's? etc, etc....But why does every other tradition seem to have all the bad exegetes? You are part of an exegetical tradition that places scripture into that tradition for interpretation. So which tradition is apostolic? You can't just say "the scriptural tradition" because it doesn't exist.

*****************************

i) I own a lot of Bible commentaries. They reflect a wide array of theological traditions or persuasions. Most of the commentaries I own are not by Reformed scholars.

And I don't own them just to disagree with them. Many non-Reformed Bible scholars are very fine exegetes. Catholic Bible scholars can be fine exegetes as well (e.g. Fitzmyer, Quinn, L. T. Johnson).

As far as Orthodoxy is concerned, Timothy Ware has admitted that "Biblical theology is not a field in which 20C Orthodox have excelled," The Orthodox Church.

Lutherans haven’t done much in the way of exegetical theology in the 20C or so.

Or you have the case of liberal Orthodox Bible scholars like Paul Nadim Tarazi.

Charismatic scholars like Gordon Fee and Craig Keener are first rate commentators.

ii) Yes, as a matter of fact we can arrive at the truth by pitting one exegete against another exegete, for not all exegetical arguments are equally good. A Jehovah's Witness doesn't exegete the Christological passages of Scripture as well as Gordon Fee or Larry Hurtado.

Josh Brisby said...

Steve,

Thanks for your comments, and welcome to The Reformed Oasis! I'm honored to have a Triablogger here. :0)

Paul Manata said...

Perhaps an analogy would help Canadian out:

"So it's not really logical arnumentation you demand, it's a specific logical tradition. We can't arrive at the truth by simply pitting logician against logician. Do the Aristotelian's have any logicians? The Fregeans? The Quineans? The Dialetheists? etc, etc....But why does every other tradition seem to have all the bad logicians? You are part of an logical tradition that places logic into that tradition for interpretation. So which tradition is logical? You can't just say "the logical tradition" because it doesn't exist." (In fact, I have a book by Roman Catholic Peter Kreeft where he argues against, and mocks, modern propositional logic.)

And thus by parity of reasoning, via reductio ad absurdem, you should easily see that your comment was off track. For, if it wasn't, given the congruity of both claims (yours and mine), then you'd undermine logic and thus the very precondition which makes your response to Steve intelligible.

But, you don't agree with this, as we both know. You think that we can judge claims according to rules of inference &c., and so you should see where your objection is off. It is off precisely because you don't seem to understand the art and science of exegesis. I'd bone up there before I "considered the Eastern Orthodox tradition." That's my two cents.

Paul Manata said...

Perry states,

"First, a Voluntaristic view of God is far more sovereign than your view of God since he is not constrained or limited by his character."

A god that can make a squared circle is far more sovereign (and omnipotent) than your god since he is not constrained by laws of logic.

A god that can kill himself is far more sovereign (and omnipotent) thatn your godsince he's not constrained by his necessary nature.

A god that can lie is for more sovereign (and omnipotent) than your god since he's not constrained by pesky moral rules.

Shall I keep going?

Paul Manata said...

Perry states,

"Van Til’s presentation is flawed on a number of points. There is no Transcendental Argument for the Trinity, let alone the Trinity as the Reformed Baptists distinctly conceive of it."

And there are many Van Tillians who are perfectly content in their Van Tillianism besides agreeing on this point. So, it's nothing like a fatal flaw. Possibly even as worrisome as a cloudy day.

Also, what's more funny, is that you sound like a Van Tillian, e.g., "there is no..." At best, you can say, "the argument has not been produced *yet*." Surely it's not *impossible?* Given all that we know, I don't see how it is an *im*possibility. Or, are you arguing from the impossibility of the contrary to your assertion, Perry? ;-)

"Van Til confuses causation with determination and these are not the same concepts. Anscombe pointed this out decades ago. Causation does not imply or entail determinism. Consequently you can have indeterministic causation. More specifically, there is a modal distinction between If P then necessarily Q and Necessarily, if P then Q."

Quotes and attendant analysis would be nice.

Perry confuses words and meanings. He knows, or at least should know given his bravado, what Van Til *meant.*

Then, regarding the modal fallacy, yes, we know, Perry. Even Paul Helm admits this in his paper arguing for foreknowledge in _Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views_.

"Returning to the main points, you don’t make God appropriately sovereign by denigrating his creation."

den·i·grate

1. to speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame: to denigrate someone's character.

Do I need to cite the multiply Scriptures in which God does precisely this kind of thing to his creation? Or, was Perry being careless, again?


"The fact that the Reformed think so, not only reveals troublesome Manichean presuppositions, but manifests a Hellenistic structure where God and creation are related dialectically, that is by opposing properties."

Assertions aren't arguments. Especially tendentious ones. Do I need to cite the numerous reformed scholars and their comments on the imago dei?

" If God is free, created agents aren’t. If God is good, creatures must be bad, and so on."

Oversimplified and misleading.

And, Perry makes Paul into a reformed theologian: "God's will is good" & "No one [human] is good, no not one."

"Even if human freedom cannot thwart the divine plan, it doesn’t follow that humans lack free will or that God determines their actions."

That's not the argument. It may function as a *sub*-argument, though.

"On the contrary, the event is fixed and that is why God knows it, and God knows it infallibly because he is a perfect knower."

Perry denies free-will. All the events are fixed! Will Perry choose the apple or the pumpkin pie? Whatever one, that event is *fixed.*

(And, God knows it because he decrees it. He knows his decree. He decreed it before it became an "event.")

"The London Baptist Confession is full of Scriptural proofs, which presuppose a specific set of hermeneutical presuppositions. The question then is not if one can find verses to supports one’s claim, but if one can justify those hermeneutical presuppositions prior to exegesis. Why accept those presuppositions as opposed to any other?"

What if some hermeneutical presuppositions are gleaned from the text? What then? Perry continues to sacrifice himself on the alter of opaqueness.

Paul Manata said...

Canadian said...

Josh,

I am a Reformed Baptist looking at the claims of the Orthodox claims.
It was ridiculous statements like this one that have made me question the Protestant claims:

"I believe that the best expression of the faith once for all delivered unto the saints is the London Baptist Confession of 1689"

So even though the church could give you the scriptures you hold in your hand, and define what heresy was through exhausting conciliar effort, to formulate the "necessary" doctrines of the incarnation and the Trinity, to preserve the faith and the scriptures themselves for our benefit....yet they could not properly "express" that faith and get it right until 1689? A bit arrogant, don't you think?

*************

Unless you don't believe that the Church should have teachers for the *building up* of the body *until* we *all* reach the *unity* of the *faith,* then your objection is flaccid.

This wasn't the case in Ephesians 4 (it was future), and so was Paul admitting that at some *future* time the faith would be better expressed, the Bible better exegeted, doctrines made more clear, etc? If so, then could those *future* people say that they were expressing the faith as delivered in the Bible in a way that was more faithful to the totality of revelation? If so, would they be "arrogant?"

Canadian said...

Paul Manata said:
"This wasn't the case in Ephesians 4 (it was future), and so was Paul admitting that at some *future* time the faith would be better expressed, the Bible better exegeted, doctrines made more clear, etc? If so, then could those *future* people say that they were expressing the faith as delivered in the Bible in a way that was more faithful to the totality of revelation? If so, would they be "arrogant?"

The "art and science of your exegesis" of Eph. 4 seems lacking. Paul isn't saying "the faith would be better expressed, the Bible better exegeted, doctrines made more clear" at all. The scriptures are not even mentioned here.
He declares in v.4 and 5 the fact that there IS one body, one hope of their calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. What he is doing is imploring THEM to keep unity (v3), to not be children (v.14), to speak the truth (v.15), to grow up (v.15), and to repent of various sins (v.17-32). In v.11-14 he says the ministry of the church is given to bring about their conformance to this one faith and their maturity in it. The faith itself wasn't going to increase in the future, it was THEM that needed the increasing. And the ministry of the church continues through the centuries for the same reason; that the one body, by the one Spirit (v.4) through the life of God himself(v.18) should partake of His fullness through Christ--that He might fill all things (v.10). This fullness was available to the Ephesian's themselves. He is not saying that in some future age the church will come to a fullness, he said that THEY should and could "no longer be children" and should "grow up into him"(v.14, 15), and that THEY were being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:22)
In Ephesians, Paul is pleading and praying that the Ephesians would understand and know and glory in the fullness of the living God that was for them, not to give them hope that some day in 1646 or 1689 a few folks would finally express the fullness they so terribly lacked.

Paul Manata said...

Poor Canadian can't seem to employ the tactics he chides me for. The unity of the *spirit* isn't the same thing as the unity of the *faith.*

Furthermore, Canadian knows full well that God's teaching was better, more fully, expressed in Paul's time than in, say, king David's. Was Paul arrogant? Could the 1c Christians become "arrogant?"

The Bible is God's revelation to man. Ever living. Most agree that there are deep truths expressed in it. Why wouldn't we dig out more nuggets as time progresses and our knowledge advances?

Indeed, at the end of time, when we have more revelation, many of these debates will be settled. Will we be "arrogant" than?

Time, sanctification, building upon Godly men before us, will produce a confession or an understanding of the Bible that is more consistent with it, and brings more of its truths to bear upon our lives. Indeed, the *Church* is being progressively sanctified. Sanctification also takes place in our theological knowledge.

Having established that there was no problem with what Josh said, I'll add that many commentators on Eph. 4 agree with my rendering. So, Canadian's exegesis isn't obvious, and he also misses the distinction between unity of the Spirit (which they *had*) and unity in the faith (which they didn't). The Scriptures are not mentioned. No. Just *teachers.* What do they teach from, Canadian?

They *have* the unity of the Spirit - this *cannot* be taken away. They are *not* unified in the faith, though - note all the disagreements even in those times over what constituted "the faith."

He says,

"In v.11-14 he says the ministry of the church is given to bring about their conformance to this one faith and their maturity in it. The faith itself wasn't going to increase in the future, it was THEM that needed the increasing."

And you'll note that I never implied that the *faith itself* would change or grow etc., I said that the *expression of* the faith would. The faith - that was once-for-all revealed, would be more fully broken down, better understood, etc. Your ability to "exegete" is hindered because of your poor show exegeting my words.

Yes, exactly, WE will GROW in the "faith" (which, as you will recall, is the teaching of the Bible, the one Jude contends for!). WE will better understand what is already IN there.

Acolyte4236 said...

I have been ignoring this thread since that seemed to be what Josh wanted, but now that Hays has commented on my arguments and questions I feel compelled to address them.


The delivery of the faith-it isn’t fallacious since I am only asking for historical examples of a society of people that passed on his faith, more or less. I can give lots of examples of people who worshipped like I do and believed pretty much the same things. Can he? If the faith was once delivered to actual people you’d expect some historical evidence of this believing society, so where is the evidence?

Consensus wasn’t of opinion but a manifestation of what had been handed down and a stripping away of alien influences, such in the case of Arius. Does Steve wish to claim that the Trinity wasn’t handed down? This is self professedly what the Fathers at Nicea for example took themselves to be doing. We the bishops at Nicea Reformed Baptists or anything that remotely looked like them?

Josh needs to give evidence that the theological system he adheres to is the faith delivered once and passed on. If he can’t show that it is passed on and has no historical legs as a system, rather than picking this or that individual who agreed with him on this or that point, the claim that the faith was once delivered has the degree of plausibility just below Gnostic claims, since at least the Gnostics existed in the 2nd century. So my point doesn’t turn on apostolic succession, just some historical evidence that such a society existed at all.

A voluntaristic God would only be limited by chance if possibility were antecedent to him or if God were being, but if such a God were infinite and without limitation, then chance can’t limit or circumscribe him. In any case, Hays’ argument turns on the same old Hellenistic dialectic between determinism and chaos.

If the Reformed teaching were based on exegesis alone, please cite one text for the doctrine of divine simplicity and provide an exegetical sketch.
2nd this assumes that what language is and exegetical and hermeneutical presuppositions just float free of theology, which they don’t. Third, it ignores the historical fact that such exegesis was conceptually motivated by philosophical beliefs. Fourth, being exegetically focused in the way that Hays wishes doesn’t preclude being dialectical.

I can argue for my position exegetically and have done so in other venues. 2nd I am just arguing like Van Til and like Josh claims to be doing. Where did Van Til produce vast biblical commentaries? Besides, Hays’ comments are merely ad hominem. I could just as easily argue that Hays can’t support his position on philosophical and historical grounds so he has to shift to exegesis, kind of like…well, Arius.

No, I am not an open theist, not in the least. Actually I’d have to think that God was being like Hays and Open Theists do to be so, but I don’t. My view isn’t even on the spectrum of beliefs between Calvinism and Open Theism and hence those two views have more in common with each other than I have in common with either of them. Calvinism-God is good so creatures aren’t libertarianly free. Open Theism-Creatures are libertarianly free so God isn’t good.

Paul Helm deal with Open Theist objections and issues dealing with freedom and foreknowledge assuming the simultaneity view and that God is being, following Augustine’s Platonism (so much for exegesis). But he doesn’t ever deal with them in print with respect to Palamism.

2 Pet 2:1

Peter doesn’t have to be employing dogmatic terms since he doesn’t do so when he supports the deity of Christ either. He only needs to be employing concepts sufficient to make a point. And Jesus isn’t using “dogmatic” terminology in John 6 either and yet Hays feels comfortable with pulling predestinarianism out of that passage. Seems like special pleading.

Canon

So Martin Hengel produces texts from 50-200 A.D that have the traditional Gospel writer’s names attached? Reference please?

I was selective in so far as I listed the earliest writers commonly employed to demonstrate apostolic authorship of the gospels. There is no legerdemain there and Hays is substituting insinuation for argument.

Why think that tradition can’t change for me in the future? Why would that be a problem for me and not a problem for Hays since the canon of scripture on his own principles is a fallible tradition? If its not a problem for him, then its not for me. If it is a problem for him, then why raise it as an objection specific to my view? 2nd it is not a problem anymore than the question of why the matter of inspired texts can’t be altered in the future.

Energies

I didn’t need to give an argument for the energies at that point since the point was to disabuse Josh of a strawman. A nice summary of the exegetical case can be seen in David Bradshaw’s article, The Divine Energies, in Faith and Philosophy. 2nd, unlike Hays, I am not a Platonist when I read passages like Ex 33, I don’t think God’s glory is a created optical appearance which Moses sees with his visible eyes. I don’t have Platonic commitments about intelligible reality being intrinsically invisible like Hays does.

Given that RB writers like Gill refer simplicity, infinity and immutability to the divine essence and think these things are knowable, it seems Hays is correct. On the other hand, given that these are all negations or apophatic-not composite, note limited, not changing, what is there to know? Only what God is not. If that is what Hays wishes to claim to know in contradistinction to incomprehensibility then I can’t see how his claim to know the divine essence is any more informative than my denial in not knowing it. Gill like other RB writers are just following the standard western way of thinking about divine incomprehensibility-we attribute certain perfections to God in an imperfect mode but what God is in himself is not knowable.

No, the essence and energies are not identical and so they don’t translate into knowing the essence, which I have denied. Here Steve is asking a question. There is no argument here.

Where does Hays own Baptist Confession exegete these categories of person and nature from scripture? Are we to believe that elders in Hays church are required to teach and hold to categories relative to the doctrine of God, Christology and Anthropology that guide their exegesis of Scripture that are not themselves biblical? So much for Sola Scriptura.

Where do I exegete the distinctions between person and nature? Try John 1:1 for starters. If Hays doesn’t think these concepts are in the semantic content of the Bible then he must think that they are eisegeted back into the text. And if that is so, he needs to join the Watchtower Society. If those categories aren’t biblical ones then the doctrine of the Trinity (let alone the incarnation) is not biblical and Christianity is false. If Hays wishes to prove that my categories are not biblical on pain of proving Christianity is false, he is free to do so, but then it would be rather odd for him to claim to be a Christian.

I simply assumed that Josh and Steve would agree that these basic theological distinctions were biblical because Josh and Steve profess Trinitarianism. Perhaps they are rethinking their commitment to Trinitarianism. I don’t know.

The Cross

Where do I get the idea that Christ takes death away from the devil, all die in Christ to be raised in him and gives life to all men? Heb 2:14ff, Rom 5:18, Romans 6:1-6, 1 Cor 15, Rev 1:18, Rev 20. Since Steve owns commentaries, perhaps he should read some on these passages. This was a comments post, not a commentary.

Universalism

Steve asks if I am a universalist, when he knows I am not. Universalism would only follow from my reading of 2 Cor 5:14 if there was no distinction between having life and having it abundantly. Jesus thinks there is, so I’ll stick with Jesus. Secondly, univesalism would only follow if there was no distinction between nature and person so that Christ’s redemption of all of creation would then translate into the personal salvation of every person. But I don’t believe the either, so my view doesn’t imply universalism. Steve’s question founders on the common assumptions between Universalists and Calvinists. The only difference between Universalist determinism and Calvinistic determinism is scope, which is one reason why modern Universalism was born from Calvinism. So Steve has more in common with Univeralists than I do.

If I don’t understand the function of a universal quantifier, an argument to that effect would be nice to see as I am unaccustomed to believing bald claims.

John 6

Jesus refers to all of humanity in v. 39, which is why in v. 38 he is talking about his human will being conformed to the Divine Will. As a consequence of that conformity the natural volitional end of all humans becomes resurrection, which is why even the wicked are raised. My question for Steve is, where does the text say that Christ will raised up human persons rather than human nature in its totality? The redemptive work of Christ in the resurrection doesn’t extend to the wicked?

Assurance

My objection doesn’t assume that the reprobate enjoy the same assurance as the elect, only the appearance of the same assurance. And it doesn’t assume that all of them do. It only needs to be possible for someone to think they are elect and in fact not be. That’s why its called deception, right?

Free Will

I exegete it from passages concerning divine freedom, we are free like God is. Steve is offering a question in lieu of an argument.

Again, I am not a universalist. Why is Hays a Platonist? And why doesn’t Hays give an exegesis of Eph 1:10 if it is so simple to do?

ADS

If Steve gave an exegetical argument for Divine Simplicity, I must have missed it. Perhaps he could quickly list three or four verses and give an exegetical sketch or point us to the post where he does so. The same can be said for showing that the Bible teaches a Hypostatic generation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son in eternity.

I didn’t pick this fight, so Steve has his facts wrong. Josh came on to my blog out of nowhere and challenged me to a debate. 2nd I didn’t run from this confrontation. 3rd even if what Steve said were true, it wouldn’t show that my conclusions per say were false since its possible to have a true conclusion and false premises. Talking about my alleged behavior is irrelevant to the veracity of the arguments I give. The fact that Steve has to keep using inflated and rhetorical language and to divert the reader away from the arguments by using humor, insult, caricature, and ad hominem arguments I think is sufficient to show that he can’t just focus on the arguments. Perhaps it is a matter of maturity, I don’t know.


Biblical Criticism

Hays has confused Orthodoxy for Papalism. Timothy Ware isn’t the Pope and he isn’t the Pope of Orthodox Biblical Scholarship either. Hays is assuming that Ware is on the knowledge ball when it comes to knowing what is going on in Orthodox Biblical Scholarship. I don’t think that’s true and Hays hasn’t given me a reason for thinking so.

2ndly Ware is talking about biblical theology as done by the West with western methods and assumptions and to some extent it is true, but it would be foolish to think that people like John Chrysostom and contemporary Orthodox who follow his methodology and viewpoints in writing commentaries weren’t doing biblical theology. Hays is here just being parochial and procrustean. If it isn’t done in a Protestant fashion with Protestant linguistic assumptions, then it isn’t biblical theology, which is just to say that, surprise! The Orthodox aren’t Protestants.

3rd. The statement turns on historical contingencies, like the extermination of most Orthodox clergy in Russia, Romania, Serbia, etc. and the destruction of vast amounts of literary sources in those locations. 2ndly it ignores the work done in Greece. Can Hays read modern Greek? Has he gone through the theology journals and biblical monographs there? No.

Opposing one exegete to another doesn’t of itself show that the exegesis is correct since semantics outruns syntax. Natural languages are not entirely stipulative. I grant that a JW’s arguments aren’t as good as Larry Hurtado, but truth preservation is a different matter from epistemic access to semantic content, which drives us back to the relation between syntax and semantics.

Acolyte4236 said...

Paul,

The claim if I recall correctly was that a view of God with greater sovereignty implied a more correct view of God. My counter example shows that that this is false. I wasn’t advocating a voluntaristic view of God so you seem a bit confused.

The fact that Van Tillians maybe content says nothing as to the question of whether Van Til’s presentation is in fact flawed. You confuse psychological contentment with questions about reality. It is perfectly possible for Van Tillians to be content and also for the presentation to be flawed. For Van Til, the claim is that only the Trinity is a necessary precondition for knowledge, solving the one and the many, etc. But Van Til gives no argument for the Trinity and I have yet to see one from Van Tillians. Why not a quaternity instead of a Trinity? Or a bi-nity?

It might not be impossible, but I think it is for independent reasons. Secondly, whether it is possible or not is irrelevant since Van Tillians can’t produce the argument to support the conclusion. Usually when people can’t support their claims, the claims are idle. As for sounding like a Van Tillian, I studied Van Til when I was Reformed, heard Bahnsen’s lectures and talked to him on occasion.

As far as works, see Van Til’s Defense of the Faith and Bahnsen’s book on Van Til’s apologetic. The argument is essentially that if some event is not caused, then it is random and unintelligible. Caused here carries the notion of determinism where the antecedent state renders inevitable the consequent state. This idea of causation is that there is a necessary connection between cause and effect and if there isn’t the antecedent isn’t the cause of the consequent state. This view is fairly common to people like Edwards as well as Kant. An explication of Edward’s mistake can be seen in “Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian, chapter 3. You can also see it in G.E. M. Anscombe’s argument in detail in “Causality and Determination” in Metaphysics: The Big Questions, chapter 30. This is a well known point in contemporary action theory for the last 30 years. I’d suggest brushing up. As to the modal confusion, Josh didn’t know it and so I wasn’t writing to you specifically, though others on your blog have made that mistake.

As to denigration, I would think that the doctrine of total depravity with the loss or warping of the imago dei woud be a sufficient example of such denigration. But of course we have the pallid Reformed doctrine of creation or the practically axiomatic Reformed claims that the material world can’t convey divine power as in the sacraments but are mere instruments at best.
God speaks in Scripture of persons being sinful since after all, persons sin. Natures aren’t agents and I know of no place where God speaks of creation being intrinsically morally evil.

I agree that assertions aren’t arguments. Perhaps you should remind Steve of that since he seems to confuse the two as I pointed out above. Secondly, you confuse assertion for argument since I argued from the loss or perversion of the imago dei to Manicheanism and to the underlying dialectical structure of your thinking. And I am hardly alone to bring the charge of Manicheanism as even Reformed theologians have had this worry in the past. The Lutherans for example have been quite correctly sensitive to the problem.

You assert that my examples of dialectical framing in Reformed theology is misleading,but of course that’s an assertion and not an argument. Physician, heal thyself. Paul is talking about human persons and not human nature per se and secondly neither Paul nor Jesus deny that human persons post fall can do good. They deny rather that no one is without sin and hence all, Jew and Gentile alike are captive to its power which leads to death and are hence captives of death. Paul moreover states this as a historical claim and not a philosophical argument so you are comparing apples and oranges. The issue is about the philosophical structure that underlies exegesis and informs it and not rather the content to which that structure is applied. Here you are simply ignoring the first and hoping people won’t notice you pouring it into the second.

Your argument was that free will is incompatible with divine success, but logically that doesn’t follow since it is easy to think of ways that God could achieve his plan without determinism.

As for the fixity of events, you are muddled. I think the agents who perform the acts fix the act in the performance of it. I do not think that all events are fixed prior to their occurrence and hence I don’t deny free will.
If God knows it because he decrees a thing, did God decree his own existence? Did God decree other possible worlds he did not create? Second, where does Scripture state that God’s knowledge functions in dependence on the divine will decreeing an action?
You ask what if hermeneutical presuppositions are gleaned from the text. How are they gleaned from the text apart from their employment and possession by the interpreter? He interprets the text apart from any exegetical presuppositions, is that it? Neat trick Mr. Tabula Rasa.

steve said...

“The delivery of the faith-it isn’t fallacious since I am only asking for historical examples of a society of people that passed on his faith, more or less. I can give lots of examples of people who worshipped like I do and believed pretty much the same things. Can he? If the faith was once delivered to actual people you’d expect some historical evidence of this believing society, so where is the evidence?”

What’s so very revealing about this statement is the way in which Perry broaches the question. The correct way of approaching the issue doesn’t even occur to him. And that’s because he takes his cue from historical theology rather than exegetical theology.

Where does this phrase (“faith once delivered…”) come from in the first place? From a Shakespearean play? A Woody Allen movie?

No, it comes from a book of the Bible. From Jude 3, to be precise. So the Christian circles that Jude is moving in would supply the immediate, historical referent.

From there you could analogize to comparable cases in church history. But because Perry isn’t Scripturally oriented, he can’t even ask the right questions. And if you can’t ask the right questions, you can’t give the right answers.

“Consensus wasn’t of opinion but a manifestation of what had been handed down and a stripping away of alien influences, such in the case of Arius. Does Steve wish to claim that the Trinity wasn’t handed down? This is self professedly what the Fathers at Nicea for example took themselves to be doing. We the bishops at Nicea Reformed Baptists or anything that remotely looked like them?”

Once again, Perry is trying to reorient the discussion to his Orthodox frame of reference. Remember what I originally said:

“Why does Josh need to trace the faith once delivered back through a series of persons rather than tracing it directly back to Scripture? Perry has cast the question in a way that begs the question in favor of apostolic succession. But that assumes what it needs to prove, a la Orthodoxy.”

Instead of addressing my objection, Perry is reverting to his default setting. But the *descriptive* question of whether the Trinitarian doctrine has been handed down through the centuries is irrelevant to the *normative* question of whether Josh is duty-bound to retrace his Reformed Baptist beliefs back through a historical continuum in order to identify his beliefs with the faith once delivered.

Perry has simply ducked my objection by repeating himself, which is his standard tactic.

“Josh needs to give evidence that the theological system he adheres to is the faith delivered once and passed on. If he can’t show that it is passed on and has no historical legs as a system, rather than picking this or that individual who agreed with him on this or that point, the claim that the faith was once delivered has the degree of plausibility just below Gnostic claims, since at least the Gnostics existed in the 2nd century. So my point doesn’t turn on apostolic succession, just some historical evidence that such a society existed at all.”

This conclusion is predicated on his initial, methodological error, in which Perry failed to identify the immediate, historical referent (in Jude). Josh only has to mount an argument from analogy. That 21C Reformed Baptists or 17C Reformed Baptists preserve the faith once delivered, as that would be defined by a NT writer like Jude.

“A voluntaristic God would only be limited by chance if possibility were antecedent to him or if God were being.”

Does Perry think that God is nonbeing? Does Perry worship a nonentity?

“But if such a God were infinite and without limitation, then chance can’t limit or circumscribe him.”

A God that lacks definite attributes is a possibility, not an actuality. An unrealized contingency.

“If the Reformed teaching were based on exegesis alone, please cite one text for the doctrine of divine simplicity and provide an exegetical sketch.”

I’ve been over this ground with Perry on many different occasions. For example:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/08/ugly-duckling-of-orthodoxy.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/09/perry-robinsons-bombshell.html

He never engages the counterargument. He merely repeats himself. Unless and until he’s prepared to address my preexisting replies, I’m under no obligation to go around the net, dust off the ball in his court, and toss it back into his court to watch it gather a new layer of dust.

“2nd this assumes that what language is and exegetical and hermeneutical presuppositions just float free of theology, which they don’t.”

Document where I’ve made that assumption in my various replies to you, on this and other subjects. Show me some verbatim quotes.

“Third, it ignores the historical fact that such exegesis was conceptually motivated by philosophical beliefs.”

Even if this were true, Perry has committed the genetic fallacy. And it cuts both ways given the Neoplatonic influence on Orthodox theology.

“Fourth, being exegetically focused in the way that Hays wishes doesn’t preclude being dialectical.”

Unfortunately for Perry, the same doesn’t work in reverse: he’s dialectal without being exegetical.

“I can argue for my position exegetically and have done so in other venues.”

True. Unfortunately, his excursions into exegesis have not been blessed with signal success. To take the most recent example:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/10/enervetic-processions-of-robinson.html

“Where did Van Til produce vast biblical commentaries?”

Irrelevant. I didn’t mention Van Til in my comments on Perry. And Van Til doesn’t have to be an exegete for Reformed theology to have an exegetical basis. We have plenty of Reformed exegetes.

“I could just as easily argue that Hays can’t support his position on philosophical and historical grounds so he has to shift to exegesis, kind of like…well, Arius.”

Is Perry claiming that Arius had the better of the exegetical argument? That Orthodox tradition is a makeweight?

“No, I am not an open theist, not in the least.”

Then why is Perry operating with a neotheist hermeneutic?

Remember what he originally said. This is what I was responding to:

“If there is nothing anyone can do to influence God, then why does Scripture speak so, for example in Abraham’s chat with God prior to the destruction of Sodom? Or how about Psalm 132:10?”

Moving along:

“Peter doesn’t have to be employing dogmatic terms since he doesn’t do so when he supports the deity of Christ either. He only needs to be employing concepts sufficient to make a point.”

Except that Perry is arguing from the usage of a single, untechnical word in 2 Pet 2:1 (agorazo), and a word is not a concept.

Perry doesn’t say how Peter supports the deity of Christ. If he is alluding to 2 Pet 1:1, the argument for that identification is based on far more than the isolated occurrence of an untechnical word. (For the argument, see Davids' commentary on 2 Peter or Turner’s discussion in his Grammatical Insights into the New Testament.)

“And Jesus isn’t using ‘dogmatic’ terminology in John 6 either and yet Hays feels comfortable with pulling predestinarianism out of that passage. Seems like special pleading.”

Perry is committing a classic word-study fallacy, in the form of a level-confusion. The predestinarian force of Jn 6 isn’t based on the meaning of individual words, but on entire sentences as well as the larger flow of argument, including other predestinarian chapters in John.

If you want to see how it’s done, read Carson’s commentary.

“So Martin Hengel produces texts from 50-200 A.D that have the traditional Gospel writer’s names attached? Reference please?”

M. Hegel, The Four Gospels & The One Gospel of Jesus Christ (Trinity 2000), chap. 3, §3.

“I was selective in so far as I listed the earliest writers commonly employed to demonstrate apostolic authorship of the gospels. There is no legerdemain there and Hays is substituting insinuation for argument.”

My point is that Perry is selective in his appeal to early sources because he only quotes from church fathers rather than heretics like Origen. Antiquity is not his criterion. He also picks and chooses.

“Why think that tradition can’t change for me in the future? Why would that be a problem for me and not a problem for Hays since the canon of scripture on his own principles is a fallible tradition? If its not a problem for him, then its not for me. If it is a problem for him, then why raise it as an objection specific to my view?”

Notice his evasive reply. He originally implied that Orthodoxy enjoys an epistemic advantage over Protestantism when it comes to the identity of the canon. This is what he originally said:

“And if the church isn’t sufficient to fix the canon, why think that what constitutes Scripture can’t change for you in the future?”

To which I said: “Why think what constitutes tradition can’t change for him in the future?”

Notice that his reply simply dodges the question. I raised the objection to expose his double standard. It’s quite inadequate for him to say that we would be in the same boat, for his position is that we are not in the same boat since the church is sufficient to fix the canon.

And the reason I didn’t address his question directly this time is because I’ve already addressed that question in the past. For any hypothetical defeater that you can pose for Protestantism, I can hypothesize a parallel defeater for Orthodoxy.

Finally, I’ve given my case for the Protestant canon on multiple occasions. Unless and until Perry chooses to interact with that material, the onus is on him, not on me.

“Unlike Hays, I am not a Platonist when I read passages like Ex 33, I don’t think God’s glory is a created optical appearance which Moses sees with his visible eyes.”

So there was no external, visual stimulus. There was no sensible object. Moses didn’t physically see the theophanic angelophany.

How is it “Platonic” for me to think that Moses saw an objective, extramental object with his physical eyesight? Was Plato a big fan of sense knowledge? Seems to me that my interpretation is pretty empirical. The theophanic angelophany was an object of sensory perception.

Instead, it was a subjective vision? Is that Perry’s interpretation? How does he propose to exegete that distinction from the text?

“On the other hand, given that these are all negations or apophatic-not composite, note limited, not changing, what is there to know? Only what God is not. If that is what Hays wishes to claim to know in contradistinction to incomprehensibility then I can’t see how his claim to know the divine essence is any more informative than my denial in not knowing it.”

These are *verbal* negations—like the use of an alpha privative to express a negation. That doesn’t mean the *concept* is apophatic. It’s simply a linguistic convention, like “in-digestion.”

It’s possible to have a direct knowledge of digestion and indigestion alike. The fact that we take a positive word and then use a linguistic device to negate it doesn’t mean that we don’t know what indigestion is like, in itself, but only know what digestion is like, and can only know that whatever indigestion is, it isn’t digestion.

Why does he assume that simplicity or immutability are merely derivative concepts? That we can’t have a direct concept of simplicity or immutability, but can only know what complexity or mutability are, in themselves, and then try to approximate the notion of simplicity or immutability by mentally negating our concept of complexity or mutability? Does Perry have some compelling evidence that this is a psychologically realistic description of concept formation?

“Gill like other RB writers are just following the standard western way of thinking about divine incomprehensibility-we attribute certain perfections to God in an imperfect mode but what God is in himself is not knowable.”

Up to a point that may be historically correct, but it isn’t distinctive or essential to Calvinism. It all depends on what sort of epistemology you embrace. Different Reformed theologians have different theories of knowledge.

“No, the essence and energies are not identical and so they don’t translate into knowing the essence, which I have denied. Here Steve is asking a question. There is no argument here.”

So is Perry admitting that he doesn’t know what God is really like? In that case, why does Perry believe that God is essentially Trinitarian? Maybe that’s a modalistic projection of the divine energies, in contradistinction to the unitarian essence.

“Here do I exegete the distinctions between person and nature? Try John 1:1 for starters.”

I don’t have a problem with these rough-and-ready categories. My objection is more narrowly-targeted:

i) Perry invests these categories with a specialized meaning which he imports from Orthodox theology rather than exegeting the actual content of these categories from his putative prooftexts.

ii) He then interposes and superimposes these categories onto Calvinistic verses where they do not occur, as a wedge to drive out the nasty Calvinistic connotations of the offending passages.

“Where do I get the idea that Christ takes death away from the devil, all die in Christ to be raised in him and gives life to all men? Heb 2:14ff, Rom 5:18, Romans 6:1-6, 1 Cor 15, Rev 1:18, Rev 20. Since Steve owns commentaries, perhaps he should read some on these passages. This was a comments post, not a commentary.”

This is a fine illustration of Perry’s spooftexting. Where do the Pauline passages say that Christ takes death away from the devil?

How does Heb 2:14ff. apply to all men? Are all men the seed of Abraham (v16)?

Where does Rev 20 say that Christ gives life to all men, or that Christ takes death away from the devil?

Where does Rev 1:18 say that Christ gives life to all men, or that Christ takes death away from the devil?

Rom 6:1-6 has reference to Christians, not believers and unbelievers alike.

1 Cor 15 has reference to the resurrection of the just, not the general resurrection.

“Steve asks if I am a universalist, when he knows I am not.”

True. I ask him that question to point out his arbitrary appeals to the “cosmic” scope of the atonement.

“Universalism would only follow from my reading of 2 Cor 5:14 if there was no distinction between having life and having it abundantly.”

Of course, that phrase comes from Jn 10:10. How does Perry exegete this distinction from his state prooftext (2 Cor 5:14)?

“Jesus thinks there is, so I’ll stick with Jesus.”

Sophistry. He’s amputating a phrase from a verse in John and grafting this onto a verse in Paul. That isn’t how exegesis is done.

“Secondly, univesalism would only follow if there was no distinction between nature and person so that Christ’s redemption of all of creation would then translate into the personal salvation of every person.”

See what I mean? This is another distinction which he interpolates into his prooftext. Robinson is like a crooked detective who plants the evidence so that he can suddenly “discover” it.

“If I don’t understand the function of a universal quantifier, an argument to that effect would be nice to see as I am unaccustomed to believing bald claims.”

He’s acting as if the universal quantifier (“all”) *means* “all men.” That fails to distinguish between sense and reference. The referent of a universal quantifier must be supplied by the context. It isn’t given in the mere meaning of the quantifier.

That’s why the same quantifier can be used to denote different reference. All of this or that—fill in the blank.

“Jesus refers to all of humanity in v. 39.”

Yes, and all of humanity is not the same thing as human nature.

“As a consequence of that conformity the natural volitional end of all humans becomes resurrection, which is why even the wicked are raised.”

Chapter 6 refers to the resurrection of the just, not the general resurrection. Chapter 5 refers to the general resurrection.

“My question for Steve is, where does the text say that Christ will raised up human persons rather than human nature in its totality?”

Because it’s talking about the security of believers.

“My objection doesn’t assume that the reprobate enjoy the same assurance as the elect, only the appearance of the same assurance.”

The “appearance” of assurance? What is that supposed to mean, exactly?

“It only needs to be possible for someone to think they are elect and in fact not be. That’s why its called deception, right?”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that such a consequence ensues, how is that distinctive to a predestinarian scheme? People can be deceived or self-deceived about all sorts of things.

Perry fails to distinguish between rational and irrational doubt. The logical possibility that I might be mistaken about something is hardly a rational basis for me to be racked with doubt. If you want to go down that road, it’s child’s play to bewitch Orthodoxy theology with Cartesian demons. We can cast that hypothetical spell on just about anything.

“I exegete it from passages concerning divine freedom, we are free like God is. Steve is offering a question in lieu of an argument.”

Maybe because I already scrutinized his “exegetical argument” in a previous post (see above).

“And why doesn’t Hays give an exegesis of Eph 1:10 if it is so simple to do?”

Well, the wording isn’t very specific, so the passage is open to more than one possible interpretation. I think that O’Brien, in his commentary (pp112-13) offers the most coherent interpretation:

The “heavenly” things refer to the fallen angles. They will eventually be subdued.

The “earthly” things refer to the unification of Jewish and Gentile believers in the new covenant community.

This interpretation is perfectly consistent with Calvinism.

“If Steve gave an exegetical argument for Divine Simplicity, I must have missed it. Perhaps he could quickly list three or four verses and give an exegetical sketch or point us to the post where he does so. The same can be said for showing that the Bible teaches a Hypostatic generation of the Spirit from the Father and the Son in eternity.”

Yes, you must have missed it (see above).

Same thing with the Filioque.

“Hays is assuming that Ware is on the knowledge ball when it comes to knowing what is going on in Orthodox Biblical Scholarship. I don’t think that’s true and Hays hasn’t given me a reason for thinking so.”

Whose word should we take? Ware or Robinson? Hmm. Here is Ware’s CV:

http://www.thyateira.org.uk/index_files/Kallistos.htm

Perhaps Robinson would like to show us his CV so that we can compare notes.

“Hays is here just being parochial and procrustean. If it isn’t done in a Protestant fashion with Protestant linguistic assumptions, then it isn’t biblical theology, which is just to say that, surprise! The Orthodox aren’t Protestants.”

Since I simply quoted a statement by Metropolitan Timothy Ware, then it must be Ware who is parochial and procrustean and crypto-Protestant.

“Can Hays read modern Greek?”

Can Ware read modern Greek?

“Opposing one exegete to another doesn’t of itself show that the exegesis is correct since semantics outruns syntax. Natural languages are not entirely stipulative. I grant that a JW’s arguments aren’t as good as Larry Hurtado, but truth preservation is a different matter from epistemic access to semantic content, which drives us back to the relation between syntax and semantics.”

These Searlean buzzwords don’t begin to come to grips with the specific exegesis of specific commentators. It’s just a diversionary tactic on Perry’s part.

Saint and Sinner said...

"What’s so very revealing about this statement is the way in which Perry broaches the question. The correct way of approaching the issue doesn’t even occur to him. And that’s because he takes his cue from historical theology rather than exegetical theology."

I've noticed this with Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox as well.

Their argument from "Doctrinal Chaos" assumes a non-Protestant ecclesiology as the standard by which a belief should be judged. Thus, it begs the question.

Their argument from Apostolic Tradition (like the question Perry asked) begs the question against the Calvinist view of Divine Providence (in which God can slowly bring eternal truth to light over time). Allowing heresy to appear causes the truth to come out.

So what if we can't derive the Reformed faith from Historical Theology? Can the Orthodox derive neo-Platonism from the earliest fathers?

The argument also assumes (as Steve pointed out) EO priorities (historical theology) over against Protestant ones (exegetical theology). Again, it begs one of the very questions under dispute.

Paul Manata said...

Perry,

"The claim if I recall correctly was that a view of God with greater sovereignty implied a more correct view of God. My counter example shows that that this is false. I wasn’t advocating a voluntaristic view of God so you seem a bit confused."

1) I showed that your rejoinder didn't offer a "greater view of sovereignty." You seem to think that more unfetteredness = more sovereignty. My analogies showed a God with *less* sovereignty, I thought. So, you seem confused.

2) Josh's argument wasn't as simple as your (mis)characterization. He *qualified* what he meant. You seem confused.

"The fact that Van Tillians maybe content says nothing as to the question of whether Van Til’s presentation is in fact flawed. You confuse psychological contentment with questions about reality. It is perfectly possible for Van Tillians to be content and also for the presentation to be flawed."

1) You seem confused, again. I obviously wasn't going for a *psychological* rebuttal. My point, I thought, was rather obvious. Your point is damaging to Van Tillianism. It's not as if you found some flaw by virtue of which the *basics* of the system are destroyed. One can be a Van Tillian without the strong modal TAG.

2) For example, Victor Reppert has offered reconstructions, or other angles, for understanding or holding to C.S. Lewis' basic argument for reason. The flaws that some, like Anscome, have pointed out do nothing to cause one to abandone ship. Are you still confused, Perry? In other words, no one cares about your weak point. It offers no fatal blow to Van Tillianism - as many Van Tillians (Anderson, Welty, Frame, &c) will profess.

"For Van Til, the claim is that only the Trinity is a necessary precondition for knowledge, solving the one and the many, etc. But Van Til gives no argument for the Trinity and I have yet to see one from Van Tillians. Why not a quaternity instead of a Trinity? Or a bi-nity? "

1) Van Til *did* give arguments, just not ones that reached the conclusion he wanted.

2) And, yes, I know all about the Fristianity objections. They were invented by, guess who, Van Tillians! So, those objections are not obvious reasons to abandon Van Tillianism. You seem confused. You're behind.

"It might not be impossible, but I think it is for independent reasons. Secondly, whether it is possible or not is irrelevant since Van Tillians can’t produce the argument to support the conclusion. Usually when people can’t support their claims, the claims are idle. As for sounding like a Van Tillian, I studied Van Til when I was Reformed, heard Bahnsen’s lectures and talked to him on occasion."

1) You're picking on one *wing* of Van Tillianism. Can't touch the others, like me.

2) As for sounding like a Van Tillian, that was a sarcastic comment on my end. I didn't mean it. You seem confused.

"As far as works, see Van Til’s Defense of the Faith and Bahnsen’s book on Van Til’s apologetic. The argument is essentially that if some event is not caused, then it is random and unintelligible. [...] I’d suggest brushing up."

Pretty much everyone agrees - at least when not speaking about *agents* who "self-cause" events. Uncaused events happen for no reason - hence they would seem unintelligible. Do you believe things happen for no reason. Uncaused events?

Now, WRT agent causation, this has been attacked pretty forcefully by van Inwagen, Mele, and Watson, for example. The argument from luck, as well as thought experiments involving moving the agent back to before they chose what they did, are relevant here. I suggest brushing up.

"Caused here carries the notion of determinism where the antecedent state renders inevitable the consequent state."

Not necessarily, it can involve the notion of a reason for something occurring. These types of arguments are not unique to Van Til and Bahnsen. See Pruss' Principle of Sufficient Reason, for starters. Try brushing up.

"As to the modal confusion, Josh didn’t know it and so I wasn’t writing to you specifically, though others on your blog have made that mistake."

I don't see where.

"As to denigration, I would think that the doctrine of total depravity with the loss or warping of the imago dei woud be a sufficient example of such denigration."

Right, as well as God denigrating his creation. He calls them fools. He calls them all sorts of other names. Sounds like denigration. You seem confused. Try to brush up on God's denigrating man.

"Secondly, you confuse assertion for argument since I argued from the loss or perversion of the imago dei to Manichaeism and to the underlying dialectical structure of your thinking."

But I thought you weren't "responding to me?" You seem confused.

Also, I didn't see anything resembling an *argument,* perhaps you can lay it out again. I saw assertions.

"And I am hardly alone to bring the charge of Manichaeism as even Reformed theologians have had this worry in the past. The Lutherans for example have been quite correctly sensitive to the problem."

Classic beg. If reformed theology is biblical, then it cannot be Manichean since it would have existed *before* Manichaeism. Furthermore, a main claim in Manichaeism is that there is no omnipotent good power. Obviously something we don't hold to. So, go brush up. You seem confused.

"You assert that my examples of dialectical framing in Reformed theology is misleading, but of course that’s an assertion and not an argument. Physician, heal thyself."

That's right. You made the assertion, so I called it for what it was. You attended no support, Perry. Heal your own self. Bone up on how to debate, Perry. You said that we *must* say that if God is good, by nature, man must be bad, by nature. "Must?" We don't think man was bad, by nature, when he was first created. So, we obviously don't hold to anything like your mischaracterization. Bone up. You seem confused.

"Paul is talking about human persons and not human nature per se."

So, human babies are bad? What did they do? It's not their nature, so it must be their actions.

And, bone up on your Paul. He repeatedly contrasts new and old *natures.* The pre-regenerate man is sinful by *nature.*

"and secondly neither Paul nor Jesus deny that human persons post fall can do good."

And, depending on how you define things, neither do reformed theologians. There is a such a thing as civic goodness, for example. But, a good action is one that is done for the right standard, with the proper motive, and has the right goal in mind.

"Your argument was that free will is incompatible with divine success, but logically that doesn’t follow since it is easy to think of ways that God could achieve his plan without determinism."

Don't know what you mean by "free will." Second, notice he doesn't bother to quote anything I said. Go bone up on representing others.

"If God knows it because he decrees a thing, did God decree his own existence? Did God decree other possible worlds he did not create?"

Perry, let's follow the context:

YOU SAID: "On the contrary, the event is fixed and that is why God knows it, and God knows it infallibly because he is a perfect knower."

I SAID: And, God knows it because he decrees it. He knows his decree. He decreed it before it became an "event."

Is God an "event?" Bone up on reading in context, Perry.

Now, let's do some reversals. See how you like me reversing your own defenses:

YOU SAID: "On the contrary, the event is fixed and that is why God knows it"

AND:

"I think the agents who perform the acts fix the act in the performance of it."

Does God know his existence because he performed the act of creating himself? Does God know possible worlds because he performed the act of making them?

You seem confused. Try to brush up.

"I do not think that all events are fixed prior to their occurrence and hence I don’t deny free will."

I know you don't. But (a) that doesn't automatically get you to free will because many have argued that with no antecedent determiner you do not have the control necessary for freedom. Try brushing up on this stuff. And, (b), I have no problem holding that God fixes everything before hand, and we have free will. Tell me you didn't hitch your entire position on a stipulated definition of freedom which I don't grant?

"Second, where does Scripture state that God’s knowledge functions in dependence on the divine will decreeing an action?"

Where does Scripture state that all of God's knowledge functions on dependence on looking into the future?

If God knows that P will happen *apart from* the decree, what sense is made of the passages that god says he decrees or predestines events? He predestines to happen what will happen apart from the predestination.

I would have thought you were familiar with the disparate verses and arguments for this position.

Lastly, your position makes God not know anything until it happens

YOU SAID: "On the contrary, the event is fixed and that is why God knows it"

AND:

"I think the agents who perform the acts fix the act in the performance of it."

So, if the event is not fixed until the agent performs it - because they fix it in the act of performing it - then God couldn't know that the event, or that it would happen, until the agent performed it. But, we know that God did know at least some (so as not to beg any questions) events *before* the agent performed it, therefore it is false that the events fixedness (which happened *when* an agent performs it) is "why" God knows it since all agree that he knew some things *before* the agent performed, and thus fixed, that event!

Since I just showed your position to be illogical, and you've done nothing to undermine mine (except for your sad attempt to defeat it by taking the claim out of context), then mine still stands while yours has fallen. Back to the drawing board for you, Perry.

"You ask what if hermeneutical presuppositions are gleaned from the text. How are they gleaned from the text apart from their employment and possession by the interpreter? He interprets the text apart from any exegetical presuppositions, is that it? Neat trick Mr. Tabula Rasa."

1) Questions aren't arguments.

2) I mentioned *some* hermeneutical principles being gleaned from the text. It thus wouldn't follow that I said *all* were. Try to brush up on inferences, Perry.

Cheers!

MG said...

Steve--

You said:

"He never engages the counterargument. He merely repeats himself. Unless and until he’s prepared to address my preexisting replies, I’m under no obligation to go around the net, dust off the ball in his court, and toss it back into his court to watch it gather a new layer of dust."

Here's what I caught in your post which you designated as "the counterargument":

"1.Divine simplicity

i) I think one can establish on exegetical grounds that God subsists outside of space and time. That, of itself, would make him ontologically simple since there would be no spatial or temporal subdivisions in the life of God.

That is also entirely consistent with the immanent Trinity, since space and time do not individuate the members of the Trinity.

ii) Beyond this we’re transitioning from exegetical theology to philosophical theology. There’s nothing inherently wrong with philosophical theology. We can arrive at reasonable judgments on the basis of philosophical theology. But it doesn’t enjoy the same authority as exegetical theology.

So, for example, the Mandelbrot set is an abstract object. As such, it is ontologically simple. And yet, in another respect, it is infinitely complex (an actual infinite).

One can use examples like that as theological models. But it doesn’t rise to the level of dogma."

The issue that I think might be arising is that what you have argued for here is not what Perry means by Divine Simplicity, nor what Western theology has meant by it in the past. What you are defending is something that everyone is comfortable with: that God is not a spatially-extended object composed of physical matter that can be divided up into parts. But that's not whats usually meant by divine simplicity. Rather what is usually meant is that "All of God's attributes are not really different, but rather are human terms that are used analogically of a single attribute; God's being is his knowledge is his power; all of these are numerically identical."

This is a rough summary of the "Augustine-Aquinas-Reformers-pretty much everyone in Western theology" view. It has been rejected by most modern Christian analytic philosophers of religion outside the Catholic tradition (and with good reason I'd say). Its not the same as saying God has no spatiotemporal parts. There are other views that would agree with your statements and could not be called "Absolute Divine Simplicity". For instance, there's the view of Plantinga, Craig, Swinburne, Richards, etc. about the divine nature, according to which God's properties are distinct from each other, (omnipotence is not omniscience, being Creator is not goodness) and some are contingent (being Creator of the universe) while others are necessary (omnipotence, etc.). Also included is the similar pre-Augustine view of the early Fathers and current Eastern Church, according to which the divine essence cannot have normal ontological categories applied to it ("it is beyond being"). The energies (rough synonym for activities/modes of being) that God brings about when persons make use of the powers of the divine essence can have normal ontological categories apply to them. Some of them are necessary, some of them are contingent; some of them are spatially located and visible, others are not; and obviously they can be individuated (they aren't just different analogical labels for a single thing) as distinct.

Again, notice how both of these views (the modern analytic view and the Eastern view) are compatible with your defense of so-called "divine simplicity". Neither of these views would have included in it an affirmation such as "God has spatiotemporal subdivisions". On the other hand, neither would they affirm that there is no distinction between any divine attributes.

Nothing about an entity being nonspatiotemporal entails that it is simple in a sense similar to that of Augustine, Origen, Aquinas, etc. For the entity in question, even if it has no spatiotemporal parts, could still have distinct properties. A proposition is an abstract entity but it has distinct properties (being true, having a certain content, being necessary).

You probably already know this; and of course I'm not trying to insult your intelligence. But what I'm trying to point out is that I don't understand how your response about spatiotemporal subdivisions is a counterargument to Perry's claims. How is defending a view he would be comfortable with, that neither *is* nor *entails* absolute divine simplicity a counterargument to his demand for exegetical support for absolute divine simplicity?

steve said...

mg said...

The issue that I think might be arising is that what you have argued for here is not what Perry means by Divine Simplicity, nor what Western theology has meant by it in the past. What you are defending is something that everyone is comfortable with: that God is not a spatially-extended object composed of physical matter that can be divided up into parts. But that's not whats usually meant by divine simplicity. Rather what is usually meant is that "All of God's attributes are not really different, but rather are human terms that are used analogically of a single attribute; God's being is his knowledge is his power; all of these are numerically identical."

Again, notice how both of these views (the modern analytic view and the Eastern view) are compatible with your defense of so-called "divine simplicity". Neither of these views would have included in it an affirmation such as "God has spatiotemporal subdivisions". On the other hand, neither would they affirm that there is no distinction between any divine attributes.__Nothing about an entity being nonspatiotemporal entails that it is simple in a sense similar to that of Augustine, Origen, Aquinas, etc. For the entity in question, even if it has no spatiotemporal parts, could still have distinct properties. A proposition is an abstract entity but it has distinct properties (being true, having a certain content, being necessary).__You probably already know this; and of course I'm not trying to insult your intelligence. But what I'm trying to point out is that I don't understand how your response about spatiotemporal subdivisions is a counterargument to Perry's claims. How is defending a view he would be comfortable with, that neither *is* nor *entails* absolute divine simplicity a counterargument to his demand for exegetical support for absolute divine simplicity?

***********************

Hi MG,

1. I’m under no obligation to defend an Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity. I’m not committed to these philosophical speculations.

2. Perry uses divine simplicity to falsify Calvinism. The gist of his argument is this:

i) Reformed theology is committed to divine simplicity.

ii) Divine simplicity is either false or cannot be defended on the basis of Scripture alone:

iii) Therefore, Reformed theology is false.

3. But this sort of argument has no traction with me, for the following reasons:

i) In its definition of God, the Westminster Confession says, among other things, that God is “a more pure spirit, indivisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable…” (2:1).

There’s an allusion here to divine simplicity (as well as impassibility). However, although God is defined by these terms, the terms are left undefined.

It doesn’t attempt to present a detailed model of divine simplicity, along the lines of Aquinas.

ii) But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Reformed tradition is committed to an Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity.

Perry acts as though, if Reformed theology is wrong about divine simplicity, or it if cannot prove this from Scripture, then that also falsifies Reformed theology on reprobation, sola fide, monergistic regeneration, special redemption, unconditional election, spiritual inability, the imputation of Adam’s sin, meticulous providence, the perseverance of the saints, and so on and so forth.

But that’s a non sequitur. It would only follow if Reformed theology were a formal system of internal relations such that if you deny any one element, then that logically entails a denial of every other element. But that’s a very artificial characterization of Reformed theology.

Anonymous said...

It would only follow if Reformed theology were a formal system of internal relations such that if you deny any one element, then that logically entails a denial of every other element. But that’s a very artificial characterization of Reformed theology.

That is not what RC Spoul would say, as well as Bahnsen. As heresy comes from a misunderstanding of the nature of God. It all flows down stream from ones understanding of Him. If you are wrong at the source, then everything that flows downward from that source will be corrupted.

All you are attempting to say is even if divine simplicity is incorrect, it doesn't change the truth of my reformed beliefs.

Anonymous said...

What’s so very revealing about this statement is the way in which Perry broaches the question. The correct way of approaching the issue doesn’t even occur to him. And that’s because he takes his cue from historical theology rather than exegetical theology.

That was the same theory of Charles Taze Russell. When history doesn't support your new found beliefs and it flies in direct contrast with what you believe, then history has no bearing.

You in your argument have essentially appealed to the defense of all heretics, history is bunk.

As Russell said, the light just keeps getting brighter. When Protestant start sounding like apologists from the Watchtower bible and tract society you know things are getting desperate.

Saint and Sinner said...

"Second, where does Scripture state that God’s knowledge functions in dependence on the divine will decreeing an action?"

Isaiah 46:9-10

"Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';"

The verb, "saying", serves to connect the two ideas of God's foreknowledge and His purposes together. Thus, everything that unfolds in history is brought toward a teleological goal ("the end from the beginning") because God has purposed it all to come to pass.

Saint and Sinner said...

"You in your argument have essentially appealed to the defense of all heretics, history is bunk."

Of course, we could start comparing the Orthodox traditions with the Pharisees and their Talmudic traditions (which Jesus condemned), but these kind of fallacies get us nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we could start comparing the Orthodox traditions with the Pharisees and their Talmudic traditions (which Jesus condemned), but these kind of fallacies get us nowhere.

How about Protestant traditions? How about the Protestant tradition of translating every positive mention of tradition in scripture as teaching, and every negative mention of tradition as tradition.

If you would like to compare, then by all means do so, I doubt you will, seeing as a protestant it will get you no where.

Anonymous said...

It just dawned on me, you address an argument I made about history being bunk when you can't find anyone, anywhere at anytime prior to the genesis of your sect teaching your view. You then argue about the Orthodox and Pharisees and their Talmudic traditions.

Please explain, I really would like to know how appealing to Talmudic traditions in any way answers the argument that protestant are a-historical. I will admit, I am a simple man, but that makes no sense what so ever on any level.

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

"That is not what RC Spoul would say."

Have you asked him?

"As well as Bahnsen."

How are you in a position to know that? Did you conduct a séance?

"As heresy comes from a misunderstanding of the nature of God. It all flows down stream from ones understanding of Him. If you are wrong at the source, then everything that flows downward from that source will be corrupted."

This is just a lazy, evasive cop-out on your part. There are specific exegetical arguments for various elements of Reformed theology on reprobation, sola fide, monergistic regeneration, special redemption, unconditional election, spiritual inability, the imputation of Adam’s sin, meticulous providence, the perseverance of the saints, &c.

Since you can't disprove our exegesis, you resort to this aprioristic metaphor about upstream and downstream.

"That was the same theory of Charles Taze Russell. When history doesn't support your new found beliefs and it flies in direct contrast with what you believe, then history has no bearing. You in your argument have essentially appealed to the defense of all heretics, history is bunk."

Are you admitting that Russell had the Bible on his side, and you have to bring in tradition as a corrective and counterweight to Scripture? You're at liberty to think that Scripture teaches Arian Christology. I disagree.

"When Protestant start sounding like apologists from the Watchtower bible and tract society you know things are getting desperate."

If we want an example of full-throttled desperation, it's a guy like you who can't begin to defend your religious beliefs on the basis of Biblical revelation.

steve said...

BTW, I’m all for history, beginning with Bible history. How did God actually administer the OT community? In terms of historical precedent, what does the national apostasy of Israel, the rejection of the Messiah by the religious establishment, as well as the presence of apostates and heretics during the Apostolic age, teach us to expect regarding the vicissitudes of church history?

Anonymous said...

"That is not what RC Spoul would say."

Have you asked him?

"As well as Bahnsen."

How are you in a position to know that? Did you conduct a séance?


No, but I do have their books and tapes and CD's. I did attend Bahnsen's church and so I guess that has to count for something? I mean, that is what they said. Heck, even Horton and the White Horse Inn crowd argue that.

This is just a lazy, evasive cop-out on your part.

Quoting reformed theologians gets you labeled a lazy cop out? I guess Bahnsen and Sproul were/are lazy theologians then.

Are you admitting that Russell had the Bible on his side, and you have to bring in tradition as a corrective and counterweight to Scripture? You're at liberty to think that Scripture teaches Arian Christology. I disagree.

No, but Russell did use the scriptures just as the Arians did, and just as you do, apart from the Church which produced them and substitute you own word studies over and against the universal belief and historical witness of the Church since the beginning.

If we want an example of full-throttled desperation, it's a guy like you who can't begin to defend your religious beliefs on the basis of Biblical revelation.

We use the bible and we also use history, how are we to know if we are reading the scriptures correctly if we are not allowed to look at history to see if what we are finding in the scriptures is in fact that which has always been believed since the beginning.

As RC Sproul has said, if you read the scriptures and you discover something that has escaped the notice of everyone since the beginning, than you have discovered heresy. Heretics are willing to think that the holy spirit more than likely left his church in darkness regarding their heretical doctrine than they are willing to admit that they are wrong.

I guess RC is just using a lazy cop-out.

steve said...

"No, but I do have their books and tapes and CD's. I did attend Bahnsen's church and so I guess that has to count for something? I mean, that is what they said. Heck, even Horton and the White Horse Inn crowd argue that."

I see that you don’t know how mount a reasoned argument for or against anything, which would explain why you left Calvinism for Orthodoxy. So let’s walk you through the process:

1.Quote a statement by Bahnsen where he says that Reformed theology is committed to an Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity.

2.Quote another statement by Bahnsen where he says that if the Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity is false, then that automatically falsifies the totality of Reformed theology.

3.Reproduce Bahnsen’s supporting arguments for (1) & (2).

“Quoting reformed theologians gets you labeled a lazy cop out? I guess Bahnsen and Sproul were/are lazy theologians then.”

You didn’t “quote” any Reformed theologians. You simply indulged in a bit of name-dropping. Name-dropping is not the same thing as quoting, and name-dropping is not the same thing as arguing for a position. Try to learn the difference.

"No, but Russell did use the scriptures just as the Arians did, and just as you do, apart from the Church which produced them.”

That’s a historically intriguing claim. To take just one example out of many, explain to us how the church produced the Book of Isaiah.

“And substitute you own word studies over and against the universal belief and historical witness of the Church since the beginning.”

I’m waiting for your documentation.

"We use the bible and we also use history, how are we to know if we are reading the scriptures correctly if we are not allowed to look at history to see if what we are finding in the scriptures is in fact that which has always been believed since the beginning."

Does hesychasm represent the universal belief of the church since the beginning? Does iconolatry represent the universal belief of the church since the beginning?

“As RC Sproul has said, if you read the scriptures and you discover something that has escaped the notice of everyone since the beginning, than you have discovered heresy. Heretics are willing to think that the holy spirit more than likely left his church in darkness regarding their heretical doctrine than they are willing to admit that they are wrong. I guess RC is just using a lazy cop-out”

i) A Reformed theologian is not an authority-figure. He is not a prophet or apostle. His position is only as good as his supporting arguments. Our rule of faith is sola Scriptura, not sola Sproula.

Appealing to someone’s mere opinion is not a rational form of argumentation.

ii) Then there’s your straw man argument. For someone who indicates that he was once a Calvinist, your ignorance of Reformed theology is impressive. Were you napping during the sermon?

Reformed theology doesn’t take the position that the Holy Spirit left the church. Reformed theology has a doctrine of the remnant. It isn’t a case in which the medieval church was either indefectible or apostate, as if those are the only two options.

There are degrees of truth and error. And the church is a mixed multitude.

steve said...

BTW, both Manata and S&S contend that divine foreknowledge is grounded in divine foreordination. Here's an exegetical argument for their contention:

“Here [46:10-11] the three participles make a direct link between predictive prophecy (declaring the outcome at the start) and divine intervention in history (calling from the east a bird of prey)…As several commentators (e.g. Young) have noted, the three participles move from general to particular to specific…In the first instance, God tells in general what will happen in the future. He can do so because the future is fully shaped by his own plans and wishes. This is the same point that was made in ch. 14 concerning Assyria (vv24-27)…The repetition [46:11] serves to emphasize the unshakable connection between promise and the performance, between divine talk and divine action…This parallelism underlines again that the reason God can tell what is going to happen is that what happens is only an outworking of his eternal purposes,” J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37.

So Isaiah embeds foreknowledge in foreordination. And he states this as a general principle, of which Cyrus is simply a special case.

Anonymous said...

1.Quote a statement by Bahnsen where he says that Reformed theology is committed to an Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity.

2.Quote another statement by Bahnsen where he says that if the Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity is false, then that automatically falsifies the totality of Reformed theology.


I never made that argument, I simply stated that Bahnsen along with Sproul have taught that if ones view of God is distorted than all that flows from the source will be distorted. Have you thought of dealing cards in Vegas? Are are great at trying to stack the deck.

You didn’t “quote” any Reformed theologians. You simply indulged in a bit of name-dropping. Name-dropping is not the same thing as quoting, and name-dropping is not the same thing as arguing for a position. Try to learn the difference.

I have read your pieces in the past. Physical, heal they self.

That’s a historically intriguing claim. To take just one example out of many, explain to us how the church produced the Book of Isaiah.

Well, since the church has been around since the beginning, she just brought along the book of Isaiah when she was batmitzpha at penetcost. What is so hard to understand.

“And substitute you own word studies over and against the universal belief and historical witness of the Church since the beginning.”

I’m waiting for your documentation.


Do I need to remind you of why you are a protestant? Forensic justification, substatutionary atonement...ummmm, Calvinism? Or are you one of these who believe that the Church of The Apostles looks just like your little corner of the protestant world?

Does hesychasm represent the universal belief of the church since the beginning? Does iconolatry represent the universal belief of the church since the beginning?

Icons do go back to the beginning, hesychasm developed but isn't required.

How about your developement? Ruling elder and teaching elder? Where is that in scripture?

i) A Reformed theologian is not an authority-figure. He is not a prophet or apostle. His position is only as good as his supporting arguments. Our rule of faith is sola Scriptura, not sola Sproula.

Appealing to someone’s mere opinion is not a rational form of argumentation.


I love it when protestants eat their own children.

The problem is in protestantism everyones opinion is just as authoritative as the next guys. Oh, I know you say that YOUR opinion lines up with scripture. Really? So, how do we know? Does the holy spirit give you a burning in your bosom? Oh, yeah, its word studies. That is why you can quote Bahnsen, not because you agree with him, but rather, because he agrees with you. As soon as Bahnsen doesn't agree with you, under the bus he goes. Disposable authorities. So, how do you know?

Reformed theology doesn’t take the position that the Holy Spirit left the church. Reformed theology has a doctrine of the remnant. It isn’t a case in which the medieval church was either indefectible or apostate, as if those are the only two options.

Wait, first the light gets brighter, then we are told there are a remnant. Do you believe there was communities of "Steve" having bible studies with the Ephesian study bible from AD 70 till Luther rediscovered the gospel?

I love the remnant theory, quite frankly it makes Dan Brown look competent.

Saint and Sinner said...

"How about Protestant traditions? How about the Protestant tradition of translating every positive mention of tradition in scripture as teaching, and every negative mention of tradition as tradition."

I was answering your specific charge that Protestant authority (Scripture alone) is akin to the Watchtower.

If you can't follow your own argument, then I'll just ignore you.

Saint and Sinner said...

"Please explain, I really would like to know how appealing to Talmudic traditions in any way answers the argument that protestant are a-historical. I will admit, I am a simple man, but that makes no sense what so ever on any level."

I've covered that here:

http://contra-gentes.blogspot.com/2007/09/alfred-edersheim-on-matthew-15-and.html

Anonymous said...

If you can't follow your own argument, then I'll just ignore you.

So, let me get this straight, Paul commands us to hold fast to the teachings we have received wether by word, writing or tradition.

Now, how is it we are to hold tenaciously to what was written, but no so much to oral? Both are of equal weight and authority, or why would St. Paul command to hold on to oral tradition if oral tradition has no authority?

Anonymous said...

The blessed Apostle approves of the Corinthians because, he says, 'ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you' (1 Cor. xi. 2); but they [the Arian heretics], as entertaining such views of their predecessors, will have the daring to say just the reverse to their flocks: 'We praise you not for remembering your fathers, but rather we make much of you, when you hold not their traditions.' And let them go on to accuse their own unfortunate birth, and say, 'We are sprung not of religious men but of heretics.' For such language, as I said before, is consistent in those who barter their Fathers' fame and their own salvation for Arianism, and fear not the words of the divine proverb, 'There is a generation that curseth their father' (Prov. xxx. 11; Ex. xxi. 17), and the threat lying in the Law against such.

They then, from zeal for the heresy, are of this obstinate temper; you, however, be not troubled at it, nor take their audacity for truth. For they dissent from each other, and, whereas they have revolted from their Fathers, are not of one and the same mind, but float about with various and discordant changes. And, as quarrelling with the Council of Nicaea, they have held many Councils themselves, and have published a faith in each of them, and have stood to none, nay, they will never do otherwise, for perversely seeking, they will never find that Wisdom which they hate. I have accordingly subjoined portions both of Arius's writings and of whatever else I could collect, of their publications in different Councils; whereby you will learn to your surprise with what object they stand out against an Ecumenical Council and their own Fathers without blushing. (Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 14)

St. Athanasius

Sola Scriptura, same old song and dance just put to a different tune.

Saint and Sinner said...

"So, let me get this straight, Paul commands us to hold fast to the teachings we have received wether by word, writing or tradition."

I started to address the standard proof-texts here:

http://contra-gentes.blogspot.com/2007/10/eisegeted-verses-2-timothy-113-14-22.html

After I finish my series on apologetics, I'll try to finish the other standard RC and EO proof-texts.

steve said...

Anonymous said...

"I never made that argument, I simply stated that Bahnsen along with Sproul have taught that if ones view of God is distorted than all that flows from the source will be distorted. Have you thought of dealing cards in Vegas? Are are great at trying to stack the deck."

So you admit your inability to establish that Reformed theology is committed to divine simplicity, as well as your inability to establish that even if it were, and even if that doctrine were false, that this would falsify Reformed theology as a whole.

This leaves the original objection in tatters.

“I have read your pieces in the past. Physical, heal they self.”

Once again, you’re bereft of an argument.

“Well, since the church has been around since the beginning, she just brought along the book of Isaiah when she was batmitzpha at penetcost. What is so hard to understand.”

You said the church “produced” the Bible. How did the church “produce” the Book of Isaiah. Make good on your claim.

If, on the one hand, you date the beginning of the church to Genesis, then you’ll have a lot of fun trying to trace the theology of the ecumenical councils (to take one example) all the way back to the Pentateuch.

If, on the other hand, you date the beginning of the church to Pentecost, then Isaiah antedates Pentecost by centuries.

“"Do I need to remind you of why you are a protestant? Forensic justification, substatutionary atonement...ummmm, Calvinism?"

Notice a pattern here? Every time I ask you to document your claims, you come up empty. You indicated that your faith, as an Orthodox believer, represents the universal consensus of the church going back to the beginning. Document your claims.

Since I never made a comparable claim about Reformed theology, I don’t have to document the antiquity or novelty or unanimity or scarcity of my beliefs. Try to follow your own argument for a change.

“Or are you one of these who believe that the Church of The Apostles looks just like your little corner of the protestant world?"

The “Church of the Apostles.” Let’s see. That would be the NT church. Reformed theologians exegete their theology from the NT, as well as the OT.

You’re the one on the outside, looking in.

“"Icons do go back to the beginning."

That’s only half your criteria. You appealed to unanimity as well as antiquity. That which has “always” been believed since the beginning. But, of course, the iconoclast controversy falsifies your appeal to unanimity.

“I love it when protestants eat their own children.”

And do you also love it when the Russian Orthodox Church cannibalized the Old Believers?

“The problem is in protestantism everyones opinion is just as authoritative as the next guys. Oh, I know you say that YOUR opinion lines up with scripture. Really? So, how do we know? Does the holy spirit give you a burning in your bosom?”

How do you know that your opinion of the Orthodox church lines up with Scripture?

“Oh, yeah, its word studies.”

i)I see that mental concentration is not your forte. I’m not the one who is basing my theology on the meaning of individual words. That was Perry. Remember? He was the one who brought up the meaning of a single word in 2 Pet 2:1, not me. Remember? I argued to the contrary. Remember?

ii)However, this doesn’t mean that word-studies are unimportant in theology. Perry’s problem is that he commits word-study fallacies.

If you think that word-studies are unimportant in theology, then you can dispense with your patristic and conciliar authorities. Whether it’s a text of Scripture, or a church father, or a church council, ascertaining the meaning of the words and sentences is an essential feature of correct interpretation.

“That is why you can quote Bahnsen, not because you agree with him, but rather, because he agrees with you. As soon as Bahnsen doesn't agree with you, under the bus he goes.”

Once again, mental concentration is not you forte. I didn’t quote Bahnsen. I didn’t bring him into the discussion. You’re the one who introduced Bahnsen into your exchange with me. Remember? I was simply responding to *your* appeal, not mine. Remember?

Given your sloppy thinking, it’s no wonder that you left Calvinism for Orthodoxy.

“Disposable authorities.”

Once more, mental concentration is not your forte. As I specifically explained to you in my previous reply, Reformed theologians are not authority-figures. Since they are not authority-figures, they are not disposable authorities. To be disposable authorities, they would have to be authority-figures in the first place. Sorry if that elementary logic overtaxes your synapses.

“Wait, first the light gets brighter, then we are told there are a remnant.”

I didn’t say the light gets brighter. Try keeping track of who said what.

However, these are not mutually exclusive statements.

“I love the remnant theory, quite frankly it makes Dan Brown look competent.”

Remnant theology is part of Biblical theology, under both Testaments.

steve said...

Gene Bridges already did a post on 2 Thes 2:15:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/10/hold-fast-traditions.html

Anonymous said...

So you admit your inability to establish that Reformed theology is committed to divine simplicity, as well as your inability to establish that even if it were, and even if that doctrine were false, that this would falsify Reformed theology as a whole.

This leaves the original objection in tatters.


Steve, desperation really makes a stinky cologne.

I simply made the claim, as did Bahnsen and Sproul that all doctrine begins with God. If ones view of God is in error, than all that flows down stream will be corrupted. Again, you are playing fast and loose with the facts here. You know that that is exactly what Bahnsen and Sproul, and Horton and all the rest teach. Again, you simply want to believe your reformed doctrines even though you cannot prove divine simplicity. I think honest readers of this can see for themselves. Twice now you have tried to use this charge and twice you have come up empty handed.

You said the church “produced” the Bible. How did the church “produce” the Book of Isaiah. Make good on your claim.

If, on the one hand, you date the beginning of the church to Genesis, then you’ll have a lot of fun trying to trace the theology of the ecumenical councils (to take one example) all the way back to the Pentateuch.

If, on the other hand, you date the beginning of the church to Pentecost, then Isaiah antedates Pentecost by centuries.


Steve, did the book of Isaiah just drop out of the sky? There is the human element involved. Again, you are just attempting to muddy the waters.

Were there councils prior to pentecost? Nope. Where these councils after, yes, work with what ya got.

That’s only half your criteria. You appealed to unanimity as well as antiquity. That which has “always” been believed since the beginning. But, of course, the iconoclast controversy falsifies your appeal to unanimity.

I guess that the unanimity of the divinity of Jesus is also falsified by the fact that there was a controversy. Sure heretics will arise, and God will use the Church to defend the truth. The fact that some rise up and come against the truth doesn't disprove the unanimity of the belief. If that were the case than they never has been any unanimity on any point of doctrine.

“The problem is in protestantism everyones opinion is just as authoritative as the next guys. Oh, I know you say that YOUR opinion lines up with scripture. Really? So, how do we know? Does the holy spirit give you a burning in your bosom?”

How do you know that your opinion of the Orthodox church lines up with Scripture?

“Oh, yeah, its word studies.”


I can look at 2000 years of history, you can only look at 400. It kinda falls under the faith once and for all delivered to the saints passage of scripture. I like that I can find the Orthodox view of salvation 2000 years ago up to present time, while as a Calvinist I couldn't find it anywhere prior to the reformation.

“That is why you can quote Bahnsen, not because you agree with him, but rather, because he agrees with you. As soon as Bahnsen doesn't agree with you, under the bus he goes.”

Once again, mental concentration is not you forte. I didn’t quote Bahnsen. I didn’t bring him into the discussion. You’re the one who introduced Bahnsen into your exchange with me. Remember? I was simply responding to *your* appeal, not mine. Remember?


Okay, you have me there. I was just using Bahnsen as an example. Lets try it this way, you can site your favorite theologian to bolster your case. It is done all the time. But as soon as (insert favorite theologian here) disagrees with you, you toss him under the bus. So my argument still stands.

Once more, mental concentration is not your forte.

Social skills are not one of yours. I am at the point that I am starting to think that you must believe that arrested development is one of the fruits of the spirit by the way you interact with those whom you disagree.

As I specifically explained to you in my previous reply, Reformed theologians are not authority-figures. Since they are not authority-figures, they are not disposable authorities. To be disposable authorities, they would have to be authority-figures in the first place. Sorry if that elementary logic overtaxes your synapses.

Again, you are simply missing the point. In protestantism there is not authority outside of the individual. Thats the problem. One the one hand you have scripture tell you that no all should be teachers, but on the other you have every man for himself. So IOW, not everyone should be a teacher, but go right ahead and teach yourself.

Wait, first the light gets brighter, then we are told there are a remnant.”

I didn’t say the light gets brighter. Try keeping track of who said what.


No, you just hold to the same theory as Russell, you don't say it the same way, but you believe the same thing. When one cannot find their understanding of the scriptures in the historical record, then you have better find a way to explain it, or you are no different than the next cult to come down the line who finally understand salvation, or have restored the long lost gospel etc.

steve said...

“Steve, desperation really makes a stinky cologne.”

In that event I’d advise you to change your brand of cologne.

“I simply made the claim, as did Bahnsen and Sproul that all doctrine begins with God. If ones view of God is in error, than all that flows down stream will be corrupted. Again, you are playing fast and loose with the facts here. You know that that is exactly what Bahnsen and Sproul, and Horton and all the rest teach. Again, you simply want to believe your reformed doctrines even though you cannot prove divine simplicity. I think honest readers of this can see for themselves. Twice now you have tried to use this charge and twice you have come up empty handed.”

You have failed to establish that divine simplicity, as defined by Augustine or Aquinas, is a Reformed doctrine, and you have failed to establish that an error with respect to divine simplicity would falsify every other Reformed doctrine, irrespective of their exegetical support.

It’s also quite clear that God isn’t real to you. If God were real to you, you wouldn’t try to play this sophistical, divide-and-conquer game since that is no way to establish the truth or falsity of anything. This is irrelevant to the teaching of Scripture.

“Steve, did the book of Isaiah just drop out of the sky? There is the human element involved. Again, you are just attempting to muddy the waters.”

You continue to prevaricate and procrastinate. You make a claim. I challenge you to make good on your claim. You duck the challenge.

This is *your* claim, not mine. You said the church produced the Bible. Explain and defend how the church produced the book of Isaiah. There are two elements to your claim:

i) That the *church* did it.

ii) That Isaiah a *product* of the church.

Thus far, you have yet to make good on either aspect of your claim.

A “human element” is hardly synonymous with your claim that the “church produced the Bible.”

“Were there councils prior to pentecost? Nope. Where these councils after, yes, work with what ya got.”

How does that concession apply to your original statement that the church produced the Bible? Did the church produce the Book of Isaiah? If so, how?

“I guess that the unanimity of the divinity of Jesus is also falsified by the fact that there was a controversy.”

Yes, by *your* criterion, it would be falsified. That’s a consequence of your criterion, not mine. If you reject the consequence, then you need to reject the criterion.

For the sake of argument, I’m playing by your own rules at the moment. And you’re losing.

“The fact that some rise up and come against the truth doesn't disprove the unanimity of the belief.”

By definition, lack of consensus disproves the unanimity of belief.

And we’re not just talking about a little fringe group. The Arian controversy even included many bishops.

“If that were the case than they never has been any unanimity on any point of doctrine.”

Yes, that’s exactly right. Your criterion falsifies your position as soon as we apply your criterion to a real world situation.

"I can look at 2000 years of history, you can only look at 400. It kinda falls under the faith once and for all delivered to the saints passage of scripture."

No, it kinda doesn’t fall under Jude 3 for reasons I explained to Perry—to which you’ve offered no counterargument.

“I like that I can find the Orthodox view of salvation 2000 years ago up to present time, while as a Calvinist I couldn't find it anywhere prior to the reformation.”

i) Feel free to document 2000 years of continuous consensus, century by century, decade by decade, and year by year, and country by country to back up your claim. I await your evidence.

ii) In your personal *opinion*, this is the case. How do you know that your opinion is correct?

iii) You have yet to show that Calvinism is unscriptural.

“Okay, you have me there. I was just using Bahnsen as an example. Lets try it this way, you can site your favorite theologian to bolster your case. It is done all the time. But as soon as (insert favorite theologian here) disagrees with you, you toss him under the bus. So my argument still stands.”

Once again, you’re not paying attention. I don’t treat theologians as authority-figures. A theologian’s position is only as good as the quality of his supporting argument.

I don’t cite a theologian to bolster my case. At most, I would cite a good argument by a theologian, to bolster my case. Whose name goes with the argument is irrelevant.

"In protestantism there is not authority outside of the individual. Thats the problem."

If that’s a problem for Protestantism, then it’s equally a problem for Orthodoxy. You had to exercise your private judgment to decide in favor of the Orthodox church. In your personal *opinion*, the Orthodox church is the true church.

“One the one hand you have scripture tell you that no all should be teachers, but on the other you have every man for himself. So IOW, not everyone should be a teacher, but go right ahead and teach yourself.”

Now you’re equivocating. You had to learn about Orthodoxy. You had to study it before you converted to Orthodoxy. You had to evaluate it. So you, as an *individual*, were “teaching yourself” about Orthodoxy.

“"No, you just hold to the same theory as Russell, you don't say it the same way, but you believe the same thing. When one cannot find their understanding of the scriptures in the historical record, then you have better find a way to explain it, or you are no different than the next cult to come down the line who finally understand salvation, or have restored the long lost gospel etc."

i) I was never looking to church history to validate my religious beliefs; hence, sola scriptura is not my fallback position. Sola scriptura is my rule of faith first, last, and always. I validate historical theology by Scripture, not vice versa.

ii) Can you show, from the Bible, that a Jehovah’s Witness is wrong? If you can, then you don’t need authoritarian tradition. If you can’t, then you faith isn’t based on divine revelation, but human tradition.

iii) You continue to misrepresent the opposing position. Reformed theology doesn’t imply that the gospel was “lost.” Remember the remnant. Reformed theology doesn’t imply that no one had a saving knowledge of the faith between the 2C and the 16C. Remember the remnant.

Are you simply ignorant of Reformed theology, or are you going out of your way to misrepresent Reformed theology?

iv) Yes, as a matter of fact, our understanding of the Bible can improve over time. Take Biblical archeology. A modern Egyptologist or Assyriologist can better understand certain parts of the OT than a 5C Greek Father. Knowledge is cumulative.

Anonymous said...

Feel free to document 2000 years of continuous consensus, century by century, decade by decade, and year by year, and country by country to back up your claim. I await your evidence.

We can end this real quick.

Why should I trust a view of salvation that was unknown prior to Luther? Do you maintain that forensic justification was in fact taught prior to the reformation? Not even Luther would admit that and he made no claim to it.

Even Aliester McGrath admitted that Luther's view of salvation was a radical break with the historic church and was a theological novium seeing no one ever taught it prior too him.

You tell me why I should trust you?

You continue to misrepresent the opposing position. Reformed theology doesn’t imply that the gospel was “lost.” Remember the remnant. Reformed theology doesn’t imply that no one had a saving knowledge of the faith between the 2C and the 16C. Remember the remnant.

Show me whom the remnant were. Give me historical evidence. Show me a group of people who hold the reformed view of salvation prior to the reformation. You keep saying there is a remnant, prove it. We can assert things all day, just simply show me and the readers that from the time of the Apostles to Luther there were those who held your view of salvation.

Yes, as a matter of fact, our understanding of the Bible can improve over time. Take Biblical archeology. A modern Egyptologist or Assyriologist can better understand certain parts of the OT than a 5C Greek Father. Knowledge is cumulative.

So, for the sake of argument, lets say you are correct about the reformed view of salvation, what doe that do for all who came prior to the reformation? As McGrath has pointed out, Luther's view was a radical break seeing no one ever taught it. So, since a belief in Forensic justification and Imputed Righteousness is essential, where does that leave all who came before the reformation.

steve said...

“We can end this real quick.”

Once again, you make a sweeping claim. I ask you to produce evidence commensurate with your claim, and you respond by ducking the issue.

Your Orthodox faith is a series of bounced checks. I take it that intellectual check-kiting is a prerequisite of joining the Orthodox church.

“Why should I trust a view of salvation that was unknown prior to Luther?”

Because you should trust whatever God teaches you in his Word.

“Do you maintain that forensic justification was in fact taught prior to the reformation?”

I don’t care one way or the other. It’s irrelevant to the teaching of Scripture.

“You tell me why I should trust you?”

You should trust whatever God teaches you in his Word. Unfortunately, you’ve chosen to distrust God’s word and transfer the trust you owe him to manmade tradition.

“Show me whom the remnant were. Give me historical evidence. Show me a group of people who hold the reformed view of salvation prior to the reformation. You keep saying there is a remnant, prove it. We can assert things all day, just simply show me and the readers that from the time of the Apostles to Luther there were those who held your view of salvation.”

Since that was never my claim, I’m under no obligation to prove a claim I never made —indeed, a claim I reject.

“So, for the sake of argument, lets say you are correct about the reformed view of salvation, what doe that do for all who came prior to the reformation? As McGrath has pointed out, Luther's view was a radical break seeing no one ever taught it. So, since a belief in Forensic justification and Imputed Righteousness is essential, where does that leave all who came before the reformation.”

Essential to what? Essential to salvation? Or essential to saving faith? In order to be saved, it’s objectively essential that the righteousness of Christ be imputed to an individual.

But it doesn’t follow from this that it’s subjectively essential to believe in the imputed righteousness of Christ in order to be saved. Same thing with forensic justification.

The remnant has reference to the elect in every generation who exercise saving faith in Christ. That there will be such a remnant can be established on Biblical grounds. It doesn’t require historical validation. Indeed, historical evidence can never show who is saved and who is damned.

But saving faith is not conterminous with faith in every teaching of Scripture. The Philippian jailor was saved without knowing his way around systematic theology.

Saint and Sinner said...

“Why should I trust a view of salvation that was unknown prior to Luther?”

Using this same logic:

1. No belief should be accepted by the faith-community if it does not conform to their tradition.

2. The belief in a Divine-Messiah was foreign to Jewish tradition.

3. Therefore, Jesus should not be accepted as Messiah.

steve said...

"How about your developement? Ruling elder and teaching elder? Where is that in scripture?"

Something I mean to comment on earlier:

1.You seem to be assuming that I’m a Presbyterian. What is more, you act as if I’m a jure divino Presbyterian.

2.You also show no understanding of what sola Scriptura entails. It doesn’t rule out extrascriptural developments. According to sola Scriptura:

i) We cannot do what Scripture forbids.

ii) We cannot refrain from doing what Scripture commands.

iii) But we can do what Scripture permits.

So you need to distinguish between what is prescribed, what is proscribed, and what is permitted.

3.As long as Presbyterian polity isn’t contrary to Scripture, it isn’t forbidden by Scripture.

4.We cannot make a merely human tradition obligatory, even if it is consistent with Scripture.

5.In my opinion, a Presbyterian polity isn’t mandated by Scripture. But it is permissible.

Canadian said...

Steve said:
"But it doesn’t follow from this that it’s subjectively essential to believe in the imputed righteousness of Christ in order to be saved. Same thing with forensic justification."

Are you saying then that the genuine Orthodox believer who trusts in Christ is saved? If you do, then you didn't seem to have a problem with this comment from John Brisby:
"P.S.--You really consider Eastern Orthodox our brothers? What about the gospel which the Reformers fought for and the martyrs spilled their blood for?"

steve said...

Canadian said...

"Are you saying then that the genuine Orthodox believer who trusts in Christ is saved?"

Yes, I think it's possible for an Orthodox believer to be saved. There's a distinction between saving faith and a credible profession of faith. Whether I consider someone a brother in Christ depends on whether he can give a credible profession of faith. But it's quite possible for someone to be saved even if he cannot give a credible profession of faith. That's a condition of church membership, not salvation. Of course, many people can't give a credible profession of faith because they lack saving faith. There are many borderline cases.

Jay Dyer said...

As I noted on the other rebuttal post, for all those leaving a flurry of posts and criticisms, we are open to an audio debate to be placed on our website via telephone.

http://www.nicenetruth.com/home/2007/12/protestants-hav.html

Jay

Paul Manata said...

Canadian,

I happen to know that Brisby believes that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox can be saved. He was, though maybe unclear, commenting on those who are familar with what we say the Bible teaches and actively and consciously *reject* these things. Indeed, even try to undermine them. Or, perhaps those who do not trust in Christ alone to be saved, but a mixture of Christ and works.

Josh Brisby said...

Canadian,

Paul hit the nail on the head about what I meant.

Josh Brisby said...

Canadian,

For further clarity, I believe that Orthodox or Catholics can be saved in the same way that Mormons can be saved: that is, if they don't know any better. As Manata mentioned correctly, if they do not actively reject the tenets of the gospel as Protestantism represents it and if they do not believe their works save them or give them right standing before God, then they can be saved. Of course, this is contrary to their own systems of thought of their respective churches.

So, I do wish to make clear that I do not believe someone can be saved who actively holds to what Eastern Orthodoxy teaches, that is, someone who is familiar with its tenets and espouses them.

Canadian said...

Josh said:
"if they do not actively reject the tenets of the gospel as Protestantism represents it and if they do not believe their works save them or give them right standing before God, then they can be saved."
So Augustine rejected the gospel as represented by Protestantism? Anathematize him then. He rejected sola fide and had a thorough-going merit theology, albeit merit through grace. He believed in baptismal regeneration. He defended sola gratia but not sola fide. The fathers believe Christ came down "for us men and our salvation" but that salvation was primarily ontological and not forensic. Anathematize them then. I guess you had better anathematize most arminians who embrace the idea that justification can be lost, same with the Lutheran's. So who's definition of salvation is definitive? Did most folks between 100 and 1517 AD just accidentally get justified because they couldn't consiously reject the not-quite-yet-recovered-gospel?

Josh Brisby said...

Canadian,

There are both kinds of statements in Augustine. It seems that Augustine did not have his view of justification worked out fully. There are some statements where he argues faith alone, and there are others where he argues with merit. But even so, you have a problem here too if you wish to head to Orthodoxy, b/c Orthodoxy rejects the idea of merit. "Ah," you say, "but Orthodoxy doesn't accept everything from the fathers." Exactly. Nor does Protestantism.

Canadian said...

Josh,
Thanks for your response. I wasn't in any way trying to be disrespectful to St. Augustine or to you, I was trying to see if you would be consistent. It seems the Reformed (I include myself here) have always been so lenient with Augustine yet if someone comes to us with similar beliefs today we say they deny the gospel. If Reformed soteriology is plain in the scripture today, then it has always been plain and no church era can be allowed excuses like: "they were too busy working out Christology" or "Justification was not really worked out yet", and therefore they are not really accountable. Why so gracious and patient with the Father's in what you perceive to be error yet not so with genuine non Reformed believers of today. That seems like an inconsistent attempt to retain ancestors other than the Reformers, because without such ancestors it would be very uncomfortable indeed.

MG said...

Steve--

Thanks for your timely response, sorry I haven't answered more quickly. You wrote:

"1. I’m under no obligation to defend an Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity. I’m not committed to these philosophical speculations."

Fair enough.

"2. Perry uses divine simplicity to falsify Calvinism. The gist of his argument is this:

i) Reformed theology is committed to divine simplicity.

ii) Divine simplicity is either false or cannot be defended on the basis of Scripture alone:

iii) Therefore, Reformed theology is false.

3. But this sort of argument has no traction with me, for the following reasons:

i) In its definition of God, the Westminster Confession says, among other things, that God is “a more pure spirit, indivisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable…” (2:1).

There’s an allusion here to divine simplicity (as well as impassibility). However, although God is defined by these terms, the terms are left undefined.

It doesn’t attempt to present a detailed model of divine simplicity, along the lines of Aquinas."

I would bet that the most contextually-sensitive interpretation of that part of the confession would say that its teaching ADS. But I won't push on this, because I'm far from sure I'm right, and I agree that it wouldn't in and of itself falsify Reformed theology and all of its tenets.

"ii) But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Reformed tradition is committed to an Augustinian or Thomistic version of divine simplicity.

Perry acts as though, if Reformed theology is wrong about divine simplicity, or it if cannot prove this from Scripture, then that also falsifies Reformed theology on reprobation, sola fide, monergistic regeneration, special redemption, unconditional election, spiritual inability, the imputation of Adam’s sin, meticulous providence, the perseverance of the saints, and so on and so forth.

But that’s a non sequitur. It would only follow if Reformed theology were a formal system of internal relations such that if you deny any one element, then that logically entails a denial of every other element. But that’s a very artificial characterization of Reformed theology."

Granted, this is true; not everything obviously stands or falls with ADS. But there are some foreseeable consequences for admitting that ADS is not true. Some theological/philosophical support for arguments for imputed righteousness, imputed grace, and a Calvinist view of the Lord's Supper comes from ADS. After all, if ADS is true then created beings can't ontologically participate in divine righteousness or divine grace. I wonder if exegesis of, say, 2 Corinthians 5:21 would have taken the direction it did if Protestant exegetes didn't believe in ADS. At the very least, denial of ADS opens up conceptual space for an Orthodox and Patristic read of various passages on salvation, even if this kind of read doesn't turn out to be necessary.

And there are probably other connections as well but I'll have to think about this issue a bit more before any come to mind.

steve said...

MG said...

“I would bet that the most contextually-sensitive interpretation of that part of the confession would say that its teaching ADS.”

Hi again,

i) That would be difficult to document since the WCF is a consensus document. One would have to know which Westminster Divines voted for that article, and what their specific views were on divine simplicity from their individual writings.

ii) In any case, I’m more interested in exegeting Scripture than exegeting creeds and confessions. These are true to the degree that they are true to Scripture.

“Granted, this is true; not everything obviously stands or falls with ADS. But there are some foreseeable consequences for admitting that ADS is not true. Some theological/philosophical support for arguments for imputed righteousness, imputed grace, and a Calvinist view of the Lord's Supper comes from ADS.”

i) Even if that were the case, their warrant ultimately depends on Scripture, and not philosophical theology.

ii) Since I’m Zwinglian in my sacramentology, I don’t see that your inference, even if valid, impinges on my own theology at this particular juncture.

“After all, if ADS is true then created beings can't ontologically participate in divine righteousness or divine grace.”

i) I don’t see how that follows. When you’re talking about objective grace, like forensic justification, this involves a change in the status of a sinner, not a subjective change in his character. So it isn’t ontological.

ii) I’d add that the language of “ontological participation” has a figurative flavor. You’d have to explain how you cash out this picturesque metaphor in literal terms before we could test your claim against examples of subjective grace like regeneration or sanctification.

iii) In any event, I wouldn’t begin with doctrine of God largely shaped by philosophical theology (i.e. Platonic “participation”) and then pour my soteric categories into that waffle maker.

“I wonder if exegesis of, say, 2 Corinthians 5:21 would have taken the direction it did if Protestant exegetes didn't believe in ADS.”

i) But since you don’t believe that Jesus actually became sinful, you yourself do not apply the category of ontological participation to this passage.

ii) Do you have any documentary evidence that a traditional Reformed commitment to divine simplicity is conditioning the traditional Reformed interpretation of 2 Cor 5:21?

Anyway, always nice to speak with you, MG. Hope your studies are going well.

MG said...

Steve--

You wrote:

"i) That would be difficult to document since the WCF is a consensus document. One would have to know which Westminster Divines voted for that article, and what their specific views were on divine simplicity from their individual writings."

True. However, I don't know of any variation in Western views on divine simplicity (barring philosophical theologians like Edwards) until the emergence of analytic philosophers of religion who criticized the doctrine. From where I'm standing, it looks like there's a prima facie case for the WCF teaching ADS.

"ii) In any case, I’m more interested in exegeting Scripture than exegeting creeds and confessions. These are true to the degree that they are true to Scripture."

Sure.

"i) Even if that were the case, their warrant ultimately depends on Scripture, and not philosophical theology."

Right. But what I'm getting at is that the exegetical framework of Reformed and other Protestant theology may have been influenced by ADS in a way that precluded accepting certain kinds of interpretations of texts. The way that you've been taught to understand biblical exegesis may be influenced by a theology that wrongly assumed ADS, and, if it had not assumed ADS, would have been open to an Orthodox patristic understanding of specific passages and biblical ideas. Of course I'm not an historian of doctrine so at this point I duck out and don't extend any claims beyond the realm of "maybe"s and "what if"s.

"ii) Since I’m Zwinglian in my sacramentology, I don’t see that your inference, even if valid, impinges on my own theology at this particular juncture."

A body would have to have divine properties to be present in a hidden way in multiple locations at once. If a theological tradition doesn't accept that this is possible, then its exegesis of biblical texts may be biased against what they consider in principle theologically impossible.

"i) I don’t see how that follows. When you’re talking about objective grace, like forensic justification, this involves a change in the status of a sinner, not a subjective change in his character. So it isn’t ontological."

Right, that's the whole point. I'm saying that the possibility of exegeting Scripture to denote an ontological change may have been ruled out in principle beforehand by commitment to ADS.

"ii) I’d add that the language of “ontological participation” has a figurative flavor. You’d have to explain how you cash out this picturesque metaphor in literal terms before we could test your claim against examples of subjective grace like regeneration or sanctification."

Hm. I don't see the figurative flavor. It seems to me that language of imputation of grace and righteousness is, if anything, just as vague.

That being said, I think that ontological participation can be elucidated via example/comparison. We all know what an activity is. It is defined primarily ostensively (by example). Activities are done by capacities (powers). So, for instance, a thought is an activity of the intellect. Activities are modes of being of a thing--the ways it can exist. The state of solidity is a mode of being of a collection of H2O molecules.

Now think of the idea of objects sharing some quality. We all know what that means. Human beings share in a common activity of love when they gather as a family or in Church, for instance. So now lets synthesize these examples to think of what it would mean to share a mode of being of God. It would be kind of like the example the Fathers always gave for deification: a sword in the fire. The energies of the fire are conferred to the sword--heat or "hotness" as a mode of being of the fire is transferred to the metal of the sword. The entity that shares in the energy remains distinct from the entity whose powers are energized. The "sharing" of divine energies like glory and righteousness by human beings is like this.

"iii) In any event, I wouldn’t begin with doctrine of God largely shaped by philosophical theology (i.e. Platonic “participation”) and then pour my soteric categories into that waffle maker."

I'm not starting with philosophical theology and incorporating Platonic participation (the idea of participation in Plato is dissimilar in numerous ways to what I'm advocating). I'm starting with Christ's affirmations in John 17 about the apostles sharing the glory that Christ had with the Father before the foundation of the world. I'm starting with Petrine language about being "partakers of the divine nature". And the list of biblical references goes on.

Whatever is going on here, it isn't union with a simple essence. If it were, then God would have new relational properties ("being united to Steve"). But this is ruled out by ADS; all divine properties are identical to the essence which can in no way change etc.

"i) But since you don’t believe that Jesus actually became sinful, you yourself do not apply the category of ontological participation to this passage."

Though what I was thinking of is language of becoming the righteousness of God, (which seems problematic for a doctrine of God that precludes participation in God's righteousness) you have a good point. Because I don't know very much about exegesis of this passage, I will admit that my assumption that "becoming sin" can be translated "becoming a sin offering" or can be understood in terms of "partaking of corruption" is not based on careful or scholarly study. You have given me a new topic to look into :)

"ii) Do you have any documentary evidence that a traditional Reformed commitment to divine simplicity is conditioning the traditional Reformed interpretation of 2 Cor 5:21?"

No documented evidence admittedly. Similar cases related to the impossibility of intrinsic union with God in Reformed theology and its consequences for theology have been documented, though (surely you remember Perry posting on this?).

Yeah, I've got to admit, you've caught me with my pants down on this one. I will definitely have to look into exegesis of that verse more before I speak up; thanks for helping me see a weak point in my case.

steve said...

“But what I'm getting at is that the exegetical framework of Reformed and other Protestant theology may have been influenced by ADS in a way that precluded accepting certain kinds of interpretations of texts. The way that you've been taught to understand biblical exegesis may be influenced by a theology that wrongly assumed ADS, and, if it had not assumed ADS, would have been open to an Orthodox patristic understanding of specific passages and biblical ideas.”

Possibly. Of course, one could say the same thing, in reverse, about Orthodox exegesis.

“A body would have to have divine properties to be present in a hidden way in multiple locations at once. If a theological tradition doesn't accept that this is possible, then its exegesis of biblical texts may be biased against what they consider in principle theologically impossible.”

I disagree. Even if a body had divine properties, this doesn’t follow. For you seem to be construing the divine attribute of omnipresence or ubiquity in terms of actual, spatial extension. Since I construe divine “ubiquity” or “omnipresence” as a picturesque metaphor for the fact that God is literally nonspatial, and therefore not subject to spatial barriers; since I construe this attribute as a metaphor for God’s actual omniscience and omnipotence, such that God’s freedom of action isn’t subject to spatial barriers, I could concede your premise, but draw a contrary conclusion.

“Hm. I don't see the figurative flavor. It seems to me that language of imputation of grace and righteousness is, if anything, just as vague.”

Since you don’t explain how it strikes you as “as vague,” there’s nothing for me to respond to.

“That being said, I think that ontological participation can be elucidated via example/comparison. We all know what an activity is. It is defined primarily ostensively (by example). Activities are done by capacities (powers). So, for instance, a thought is an activity of the intellect. Activities are modes of being of a thing--the ways it can exist. The state of solidity is a mode of being of a collection of H2O molecules.”

Even if I agreed with all of this, the problem is that, while certain divine attributes are communicable, the divine mode of subsistence is incommunicable. God is timeless, a se, &c. Once again, I could concede your premise, but draw a contrary conclusion.

“Now think of the idea of objects sharing some quality. We all know what that means. Human beings share in a common activity of love when they gather as a family or in Church, for instance. So now lets synthesize these examples to think of what it would mean to share a mode of being of God. It would be kind of like the example the Fathers always gave for deification: a sword in the fire. The energies of the fire are conferred to the sword--heat or ‘hotness’ as a mode of being of the fire is transferred to the metal of the sword.”

When we apply that metaphor to God’s economic relations, the result is pantheism.

“The entity that shares in the energy remains distinct from the entity whose powers are energized. The ‘sharing’ of divine energies like glory and righteousness by human beings is like this.”

I don’t regard God’s glory or righteousness as “energies.” Divine righteousness is a moral property—a property of his character. An attribute, not an activity.

God’s glory means different things in Scripture depending on the context.

There’s a sense in which we can share in God’s moral character. That’s what Scripture means by sanctification—which is distinct from justification (especially in Pauline usage).

“I'm not starting with philosophical theology and incorporating Platonic participation (the idea of participation in Plato is dissimilar in numerous ways to what I'm advocating). I'm starting with Christ's affirmations in John 17 about the apostles sharing the glory that Christ had with the Father before the foundation of the world.”

I don’t see you exegeting your metaphysical framework from your prooftexts. For example, this is how Lincoln, in his recent commentary on John, interprets your allusion to the passage(s) in Jn 17:

“God’s glory, the honour and reputation of the divine name, has been bestowed on Jesus and Jesus has granted to his community of followers a share in that glory by making known to them the divine name (cf. v6) and enabling them to share in his own reputation and honour (cf. v10b),” (438-39).

Nothing here about ontological participation. Name, reputation, and honor aren’t ontological categories.

Of course, you can take issue with his interpretation, but it strikes me as a perfectly plausible interpretation of the text.

“I'm starting with Petrine language about being ‘partakers of the divine nature’."

Which means what, exactly? I take it to mean that Christians share some divine characteristic or another. What would that be? According to the same verse, they share the divine characteristic of immortality and incorruptibility.

This is fundamentally ethical rather than ontological. Mortality is rooted in sin. See the detailed analysis in Davids’ recent commentary (173-176), as well as Schreiner’s commentary (293ff.).

“And the list of biblical references goes on.”

Except that you’ve already played your two high cards. And I’ve also discussed Perry’s appeal to the Sinaic theophany. Those were your most promising prooftexts for theosis. If your high cards can’t ace the argument, then your deuces won’t fare any better.

“Whatever is going on here, it isn't union with a simple essence. If it were, then God would have new relational properties ("being united to Steve"). But this is ruled out by ADS; all divine properties are identical to the essence which can in no way change etc.”

Keep in mind that I’m not committed to the Augustinian or Thomistic construction. But even if I were, your inference fails to follow. If God is timeless, then God’s union with Steve would not create a new relational property. Rather, there was never a time when God was not in union with me (although there was a time when I was not in union with God). The relation is temporally asymmetrical.

As to 2 Cor 5:21, I would date the timing of this event (i.e. Christ’s identification with “sin”) to the Crucifixion rather than the Incarnation. See Harris’ argument in his NIGTC commentary (451ff.).

And I also agree with Harris that the antithetical symmetry between hamartia and dikaiosune further implies that, “as a result of God’s imputing to Christ something that was extrinsic to him, namely sin, believers have something imputed to them that was intrinsic to them, namely righteousness,” ibid. 455.