Monthly Archives: November 2009

Handbook for explosive subjects

explosionRecently our small church decided to take on the controversial topic of homosexuality. Not in spite of the controversy, but because of it.

Now I realize that many of you will read that and think that we are intentionally trying to be divisive and unloving but the reality is that our goals are quite the opposite.  Our aim in discussing this topic is to learn how to handle conflict in a more Christlike manner. How to maintain unity in the midst of sharp differences without compromising our deeply held beliefs but, at the same time, while still loving each other and maintaining a humble and teachable spirit.

Why risk the hurt, pain, sorrow, division, etc.?

I’ve been party to a number of debates that have gone sour. Many that have gone past the point of not only wounding feelings and damaging long-held relationships to outright hatred. I’ve been party to some debates that have ended up putting a wedge in otherwise deep and intimate relationships (or so I thought) to the point where I haven’t talked to them in years (except for the occasional sniping).

I share that to let you know that I take very seriously the risks and dangers inherent in what I’m proposing. I understand that we are playing with fire and that some will get burned. However, as Augustine mentions in his famous “City of God” in reference to those who don’t wish to examine Christianity for fear of being converted (and I’ll paraphrase): Standing far off from the sun not only keeps you from getting sunburned, but it also prevents you from enjoying it’s warmth.

Intimacy comes with risks.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we are content to remain at a superficial level or if we want to risk going deeper and get to know each other in a more meaningful sense.

This is a serious question and a scary proposition for many people because it also means that, while we get to know others we are likely to find out they are far more broken than we have bargained for.

We will also find out that we are far less saintly than we like to imagine.

Love is messy.

How do we plan on accomplishing this?

If our chief concern were mere unity and superficial agreement, then we certainly would not take this path. However our goal is truth, whom we also believe to be a person in the form of Jesus Christ.1

In this respect, I believe that our only hope of surviving, and indeed thriving, is to keep our eyes firmly fixed on three main truths found in Scripture when it comes to controversy.

Mind the logs in our eyes

Jesus told us that before we take on the responsibility2 of correcting others we ought to first examine ourselves. Likewise we are told by James that our own evil desires are the source of the divisions among us (not the topic!) and that accordingly our tongues are among the greatest weapons of mass destruction known to man.

In our quest for truth we have to keep our finiteness in mind and remain teachable, no matter how convinced we are that we are right.

One seminary professor put it to his students this way: What would it take to convince you to walk away from the faith? If you answer is nothing then you should reexamine Scripture because yours is not the faith of the Bible.

Put simply, people who can never be persuaded or shown wrong are incapable of intimacy and do not value truth.

Stick to the facts

Since we are not omniscient we have no insight into the intentions of others and, as such, all of our arguments must be constrained to the realm of facts, reason, and evidence.

Not having either a theological degree or a computer science degree (my other love) I’ve learned to rely on facts and well formed arguments when making my case. Since I can’t use the “well this is how I was taught to do it in/by …” approach (which I’ve also found doesn’t work even if you insert the most prestigious names), I have to essentially rely upon tactics that are meant to persuade, as opposed to force, the other person to convince them of my position on any given topic. What I’ve also found using this approach is that quite often the other person will have something I hadn’t considered to bring to the table which, while derailing me from my original point for a time, adds to both of our understandings rather than subtracting from it.

So if we are to have any hope of getting to and understanding the truth (which is what we should be seeking after as of paramount importance)  we need to exhaustively study any subject we hope to engage in3 and we need to limit our comments and questions to the subject at hand4.

Above all else, love

This is far easier said than done, of course, but our whole goal of intentionally discussing such a controversial issue is to strengthen and expand the free-flow of communication between us. After all, if we claim to be the members of the same body we should understand that our head, that is Christ, was extremely divisive in his day when it came to the ruling religious majority but yet he managed to do so in a spirit of truth and love. Consequently, Ephesians 4:15 tells us that we should “speak the truth in love”.

Coupled with the description in 1 Corinthians 13 of what love is, and using the example Jesus himself set, we should weigh our comments and arguments against what we know of those we are talking with. This has the dual benefit of also helping us more effectively engage the world around us (that is, people in the world around us) by teaching us to temper the truth we are convicted of from our diligent study.

The road marked out ahead of us is not going to be easy, and we covet any and all prayers on our behalf as we walk through this minefield. However we also know the pearl we hope to gain, that is real and genuine community centered on the truth with a  willingness and ability to engage each other and grow spiritually, is certainly worth the cost.

Ultimately the charge to pick up our crosses and engage in explosive (and often hurtful) subjects can be stated this way:

Jesus didn’t leave us where he found us, so the least we can do for our brethren is not to leave them the where we find them.

Happy debating!

  1. Incidentally, even non-christians have noted the inconstancy and illogical way in which passages such as Titus 3:10 have frequently been used to quell “divisive people” rather than taking these as an opportunity for genuine growth. []
  2. Notice I said “before”, not “if”. One of the greatest misconceptions in the Christian community today is that we are not supposed to judge. Quite the opposite. We are to judge well according to John 7:24. []
  3. This also means we should have a broad range of subjects we can speak intelligently on if we hope to do anything more than remain silent in most conversations that happen around us. Being learned in several subjects also has the added benefit of making us better and more interesting conversationalists which, surprisingly, makes people more interested in talking with us. This is a large part of the answer to overcoming the common fear of sharing our faith with others. []
  4. The funny thing about rabbit trails is that they never, or very rarely, lead you anywhere productive. I think Paul would agree that an ordered meeting would include a clear discussion on one topic at a time so that everyone can keep up and participate. []
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Can Christians support the death penalty?

To answer the question of whether Christians can, with honesty and clarity of conscience (not to mention with Biblical warrant) support and even promote the death penalty we must first make a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. Greg Boyd calls them “the kingdom of the cross” and the “kingdom of the sword”. He derives the second from Romans 13:4 which states that the government doesn’t bear the sword in vain. Jesus also says in John 18:36 that his kingdom wasn’t of this world.

Put simply, these two kingdoms occupy two completely different spheres with distinct roles and responsibilities. Unfortunately, many people completely miss this point and, instead, tend to believe that where the Bible commands us to love our enemies1 and turn the other cheek2 it also forbids us from self-defense or the exercise of justice insofar as we, imperfect though we may be, can exact here on earth.

Sadly, this muddled thinking also spills over into the unrelated on abortion. Unrelated, because one deals with the death of an innocent human being for the pure pleasure of another (known Biblically as murder) vs. the state’s exacting of justice3. It’s helpful to keep in mind Romans 13:1-7 where we are told to submit to the state. Many like to qualify this with “as long as the state is within the will of God” but such a qualification fails in the face of the Biblical and historical evidence that the early Christians willingly submitted even to the point of death to the unjust laws designed to eradicate the “dangerous” sect of Christianity.

Like God, who sent his son to die in payment for the sins of the world, I support the death penalty.

I don’t see how someone can be a Christian and not support it actually4. I also don’t see how one can claim that support of the death penalty is against the Bible when God himself commanded it multiple (many multiples actually) times. It would seem that claiming support of the death penalty would necessarily entail questioning the holiness of God himself5.

Many like to claim that support of the death penalty is somehow intrinsically opposed to the notion of the sanctity of life, however I would argue that quite the opposite is true. If we say that there are no sins/crimes that merit death (including the willful murder of another human being) then we actually call into question the entire “eye for an eye” foundation upon which we base our entire understanding of justice. Sorry, but the phrase “an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind” is patently false.

“An eye for an eye” doesn’t make the whole world blind, it makes the whole world just.

So, in sum, whether a Christian supports or doesn’t support capital punishment is, I believe, a matter of personal conviction6. However to claim that a person is not being consistent in their beliefs of the sanctity of life while, at the same time, upholding the practice of enforcing the death penalty is a stretch to say the least as it lacks logical, philosophical, and/or Biblical warrant.

  1. Matthew 5:44 []
  2. Matthew 5:39 []
  3. which is never called murder in the text even though there are good Greek words that would suffice to communicate that idea if that were the author’s intent []
  4. Though, I’ll stop short of questioning their faith I will question their sanity and grasp of reason and logic []
  5. Which I’m sure no one who claims to be a follower of Christ is willing to do []
  6. I believe it is important to not run to the other extreme and start questioning the salvation of pacifists either. []
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Wordy Wednesday: aphiēmi

What it means

Greek

ἀφίημι

Transliteration/Pronunciation

aphiēmi/ä-fē’-ā-mē

Strong’s

G863

Definition

This word has a rather broad range of meanings (well, broad from our western perspective) as it can mean “I let go”, “leave”, “permit”, and “forgive”. The broad range of meanings this word has permits for some interesting word studies, particularly when it comes to the cases where it is translated as “forgive”.

Where it’s found

Matthew 3:15; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 4:20; Matthew 4:22; Matthew 5:24; Matthew 5:40; Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14; Matthew 6:15; Matthew 7:4; Matthew 8:15; Matthew 8:22; Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:5; Matthew 9:6; Matthew 12:31; Matthew 12:32; Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:36; Matthew 15:14; Matthew 18:12; Matthew 18:21; Matthew 18:27; Matthew 18:32; Matthew 18:35; Matthew 19:14; Matthew 19:27; Matthew 19:29; Matthew 22:22; Matthew 22:25; Matthew 23:13; Matthew 23:23; Matthew 23:38; Matthew 24:2; Matthew 24:40; Matthew 24:41; Matthew 26:44; Matthew 26:56; Matthew 27:49; Matthew 27:50; Mark 1:18; Mark 1:20; Mark 1:31; Mark 1:34; Mark 2:5; Mark 2:7; Mark 2:9; Mark 2:10; Mark 3:28; Mark 4:12; Mark 4:36; Mark 5:19; Mark 5:37; Mark 7:8; Mark 7:12; Mark 7:27; Mark 8:13; Mark 10:14; Mark 10:28; Mark 10:29; Mark 11:6; Mark 11:16; Mark 11:25; Mark 12:12; Mark 12:19; Mark 12:20; Mark 12:22; Mark 13:2; Mark 13:34; Mark 14:6; Mark 14:50; Mark 15:36; Mark 15:37; Luke 4:39; Luke 5:11; Luke 5:20; Luke 5:21; Luke 5:23; Luke 5:24; Luke 6:42; Luke 7:47; Luke 7:48; Luke 7:49; Luke 8:51; Luke 9:60; Luke 10:30; Luke 11:4; Luke 12:10; Luke 12:39; Luke 13:8; Luke 13:35; Luke 17:3; Luke 17:4; Luke 17:34; Luke 17:35; Luke 18:16; Luke 18:28; Luke 18:29; Luke 19:44; Luke 21:6; Luke 23:34; John 4:3; John 4:28; John 4:52; John 8:29; John 10:12; John 11:44; John 11:48; John 12:7; John 14:18; John 14:27; John 16:28; John 16:32; John 18:8; John 20:23; Acts 5:38; Acts 8:22; Acts 14:17; Romans 1:27; Romans 4:7; I Corinthians 7:11; I Corinthians 7:12; I Corinthians 7:13; Hebrews 2:8; Hebrews 6:1; James 5:15; I John 1:9; I John 2:12; Revelation of John 2:4; Revelation of John 2:20; Revelation of John 11:9

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Tuesday bonus: The Secular case against abortion and homosexuality.

In a stimulating discussion with a friend of mine following my earlier post on homosexuality I was asked to provide further support from a wholly secular standpoint to substantiate my position against homosexuality. Here’s my response:

My secular argument against homosexuality mirrors my secular argument against abortion and that is: Population.
Human capital is the greatest asset any nation has. This has been true for all nations at all times in all places. In fact, there is almost nothing that can’t be solved with a brute force application of people (just ask the Chinese).
While your assertion of homosexual couples adopting unwanted children (a product of a highly feminized culture I might add) is a nice sentiment, the reality is that selfishness does not produce the sacrificial environment required for the rearing of children. homosexuality, as you so eloquently put it above, is not something done for the mutual pleasure of the other person nor is it done for biological means. It is wholly done, as are the vast majority of abortions, for selfish motives.
For the single and simple reason that a population in decline is readily susceptible to merely being out-bred by foreign cultures (as is the case in in the EU currently in regards to Islam), I would strongly argue that the last thing we ought to be doing as a culture is worrying about the myth of overpopulation or propping up anti-family and anti-children ideologies.
Simply put, we need babies. Lots of them.
Not babies that are left to the state to support and care for. Or the army of single mothers created in recent decades by liberal legislation. no, we need strong families with men who give a damn about someone other than themselves.
In retrospect, the issues of homosexuality and abortion share more in common than being anti-family and anti-children. They are both only sustainable in a culture that is anti-men which got that way when men became fat and lazy.
Incidentally,

My secular argument against homosexuality mirrors my secular argument against abortion and that is: Population growth.

Human capital is the greatest asset any nation has. This has been true for all nations at all times in all places throughout the history of human civilization. In fact, there is almost nothing that can’t be solved with a brute force application of people1.

While your assertion2 of homosexual couples adopting unwanted children (a product of a highly feminized culture I might add) is a nice sentiment, the reality is that selfishness does not produce the sacrificial environment required for the rearing of children. homosexuality, as you so eloquently put it above, is not something done for the mutual pleasure of the other person nor is it done for biological means. It is wholly done, as are the vast majority of abortions, for selfish motives.

Simply put, we need babies. Lots of them.

Not babies that are left to the state to support and care for. Or the army of single mothers created in recent decades by liberal legislation and social programs. No, we need strong families with men who give a damn about someone other than themselves.

In retrospect, the issues of homosexuality and abortion share more in common than being anti-family and anti-children. They are both only sustainable in a culture that is anti-men which got that way when men became fat and lazy.

It should concern us that the countries with growing populations are not in the first world. They are in “less developed”3 countries where things like abortion on demand and pure pleasure seeking aren’t luxuries the average man can readily afford.

For the single and simple reason that a population in decline is readily susceptible to merely being out-bred by foreign cultures4, I would strongly argue that the last thing we ought to be doing as a culture is worrying about the myth of overpopulation or propping up anti-family and anti-children ideologies.

Update:

After publishing this I received a challenge regarding my assertion above regarding population decline being a real issue in many countries. My opponent pointed out that the population of the US in particular was actually increasing. Here is my response:

The US’s population is increasing due to immigrants, specifically the Spanish-speaking community not because we are choosing to have the required 2.2 children required to merely sustain our population.

As far as military service or society, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing for a society to discriminate against behaviors/lifestyles that aren’t conducive to their growth. Russia found this out not too long ago as their national policies against sex plunged their country into a population crisis such that now they are forced to almost completely reverse their stance on the matter and hold national sex days in hopes of merely staving off a massive population shortage.

In short, its not just the type of sex that is an issue here, it’s the selfish lifestyle and attitude towards procreation in general (which is why I lump abortion in with this argument as well).

We should, as a country, at least be focused on the fact that killing off our population (abortion) or promoting selfish lifestyles (which stretches beyond homosexuality) is not something that strengthens us a country nor something that has benefited any country in history.

  1. just ask the Chinese []
  2. This is in reference to a rather colorful description of anal intercourse which I’ll leave up to your imagination while sparing you the details. []
  3. Read: less selfish []
  4. as is the case in in the EU currently in regards to Islam []
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On homosexuality

Our simple church group recently took up the rather controversial topic of homosexuality. It is a prevalent issue in the public square as well as among the Christian community1 and we decided that the topic was worth perusing in order to know where we all stood on the issue (and, more importantly, where we are supposed to stand on this issue according to the Scriptures) and how to respond to those inside as well as outside of the Church who are struggling with this issue.

Biblical case

The following verses refer either directly or indirectly to the practice of homosexuality which should serve as the basis of any discussion provided both parties agree upon the existence of God and that that God is described accurately by Scripture:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
  • Romans 1:26-27
  • Leviticus 20:13
  • Leviticus 18:22
  • Romans 1:24-27
  • Genesis 19
  • Leviticus 18:22
  • I Corinthians 6:9-11 The word for homosexuality here has an interesting nuance in the Greek not often captured by translators wherein it referrs to both active and passive participants in the act. The NETFree bible renders verse 9 as follows:
    “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals,”
  • Galatians 5:19-21  The term “immorality” is from the Greek word “porneia” which refers to all illicit sexual activity, including adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and prostitution.
  • Ephesians 5:3-5 The same term for “immorality” is used here
  • I Timothy 1:8-11

Many proponents of homosexuality try to co-opt characters such as David and Johnathan as portraying a homosexual relationship or have tried to explain that passages such as Genesis 19 merely condemns inhospitality and intentions of rape rather than an imply that the homosexuality is the author’s way of expressing that the type of rape intended further emphasized how depraved these cities had become.

Careful exegesis and hermeneutics2 shows, along with the above passages, that we cannot escape the fact that homosexuality is considered a sin and never portrayed as beneficial or laudable in Scripture.

Teleological case

Men and women are, well, different. While this might seem obvious, it is something that, I’m afraid, needs to be reiterated in today’s gender-neutral climate where one can specify their gender when obtaining a driver’s license.

Teleogy is the study of how things ought to work. Their purpose in other words. While this is an area of study that is often overlooked in our post-modern culture, I believe it still provides a strong foundation for arguments against same-sex relations.

For example, there are many medical arguments to be made against the physical actions often involved with homosexuality. Many may accuse me at this point of succumbing to “the yuck factor” but the truth of the matter is that there are unique and specific medical conditions associated with putting things where they don’t belong.

For a more detailed explanation of the medical case against homosexuality, take a look at the resources below.

Political case

One of the most overlooked cases to be made against common acceptance of the practice of homosexuality is the political aspect. Specifically the basic fact that any culture without a population that is geared to the reproduction and rearing of children will eventually fall into decline.

One of the biggest problems we face as a society are the wide-reaching effects of feminism and how it has undercut the family unit, the foundational building block of any society. Homosexuality and the campaign to normalize it in our society is part of a larger social shift. One that has historically had drastic consequences in every culture that has tried it.

Resources for further study

Homosexuality & the Politics of Truth” by Jeffrey Satinover
Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong” by John MaCarthur
Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity” by S. Michael Craven

Finally, here is Ravi Zacharias giving the best answer I’ve ever heard to the question “Can someone be a practicing homosexual and a Christian”:

  1. Here is an example of an entire denomination who is becoming more vocal about their belief that Christ not only accepts homosexuality but somehow promoted it. They are currently running an ad campaign using bilboards along highways in Texas to get their message across. Here is another example of a blog run by someone who honestly claims that homosexuality is compatible with Christ’s teachings. []
  2. The kind which take into account the ‘prejudices’ of the origional author and audience as central to the meaning of the text rather than, in Derrida’s deconstructionalist fashion, allowing our prejudices and prefrences to be read back into the meaning of the text. []
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Thanks to whom?

My daughter’s recently had a week where the emphesis was on “being thankful” before Thanksgiving this year.

Curiously, or typically rather in our politically correct society, she and her classmates weren’t told who they were supposed to be thankful to. Just to have a general attitude of thankfulness. But that raises an interesting question:

Thanks to whom?

My wife immediately recognized the problem such an ungrounded view of “general attitude of thankfulness” presents. We’ve been teaching our children to pray and they typically begin “Thank you Jesus…” Right from the start we’ve tried to make them understand that what we have is not our own1 and that the thanks we offer has a specific object in the form of Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all things Colossians 1:16-17.

Whether you have a diety such as Krishna, Allah, or the I AM of the Bible, or an inanimate object like genetics, “mother earth”, or an impersonal force like fate, our thanks must be directed at something.

So this season our goal has been to further instill (as much as possible with a 4 and 2 year old) the understanding that thanksgiving without an object is a contradiction in terms. Who knows, maybe they will be able to pass that bit of information on to their deistic friends. Wishful thinking, I know, but hey stranger things have happened.

Happy thanksgiving!

  1. That is, not of our own making. We may earn the physical things we buy but the existence of those things is beyond our control. In fact, even the ability to gain the resources needed to obtain the things we are thankful for are beyond our control. So while we work hard and want to teach our children to do the same, we also want to teach them that every moment we’ve been given is a gift from above and we should be thankful for even the very breath in our lungs. []
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Wordy Wednesday: astheneō

What it means

Greek

ἀσθενέω

Transliteration/Pronunciation

astheneō/ä-sthe-ne’-ō

Strong’s

G770

Definition

This word means weak, sick, ill. It’s a pretty common phrase that can indicate either physical or spiritual sickness/weakness.

Where it’s found

Judges 16:7; Judges 16:11; Judges 16:17; I Samuel 2:4; I Samuel 2:5; II Samuel 3:1; II Kings 19:26; II Chronicles 28:15; Job 4:4; Job 28:4; Psalms 9:3; Psalms 18:36; Psalms 26:1; Psalms 27:2; Psalms 31:10; Psalms 58:7; Psalms 68:9; Psalms 88:9; Psalms 107:12; Psalms 109:24; Proverbs 24:16; Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 28:20; Isaiah 29:4; Isaiah 32:4; Isaiah 44:12; Jeremiah 6:21; Jeremiah 18:15; Jeremiah 46:6; Jeremiah 46:12; Jeremiah 46:16; Jeremiah 50:32; Lamentations 1:14; Lamentations 2:8; Lamentations 5:13; Ezekiel 17:6; Ezekiel 21:15; Ezekiel 34:4; Daniel 11:14; Daniel 11:19; Daniel 11:33; Daniel 11:34; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 11:41; Hosea 4:5; Hosea 5:5; Hosea 11:6; Hosea 14:1; Hosea 14:9; Nahum 2:5; Nahum 3:3; Zechariah 12:8; Malachi 2:8; Malachi 3:11; Matthew 10:8; Matthew 25:36; Matthew 25:39; Mark 6:56; Luke 4:40; John 4:46; John 5:3; John 5:7; John 5:13; John 6:2; John 11:1; John 11:2; John 11:3; John 11:6; Acts 9:37; Acts 19:12; Acts 20:35; Romans 4:19; Romans 8:3; Romans 14:1; Romans 14:2; I Corinthians 8:11; I Corinthians 8:12; II Corinthians 11:21; II Corinthians 11:29; II Corinthians 12:10; II Corinthians 13:3; II Corinthians 13:4; II Corinthians 13:9; Philippians 2:26; Philippians 2:27; II Timothy 4:20; James 5:14

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Is salvation available for all men?

I was recently asked on twitter about my view of salvation and how I viewed it in light of my recent postings on Molinism.

My simple, twitterish, response was: “I believe that the Holy Spirit moves on, prompts, and draws all men to Christ.

This prompted an email from one reader who wanted to probe deeper. Here’s my response.

Going deeper

The first place I would probably point for this verse is John 12:32 which is in reference to the golden snake from the Exodus which was fashioned for all the people of Israel, not all of whom chose to look upon the symbol for salvation.

Does all mean all?

The response from my new friend was along the lines many proponents of limited atonement use which is to claim that verses that contain unqualified references to mankind aren’t really talking about mankind but rather are talking about all ethnic groups, tribes, tongues, nations, etc.

Here’s my response to this objection.

The problem with interpreting “all” to be people groups as opposed to all people is that in Revelation 5:9 we are explicitly told that the author is referring to nations as opposed to people. This is ironic since it is the same author who chose to use the words “all”, “whosoever”, and other unqualified terms to refer to the wide availability of salvation that is offered through Christ.

I think we can both agree that not all will accept Jesus, the question rather is whether everyone has within their power (given, obviously by God) the ability to choose Christ in the first place. In that respect I think that the entire third chapter of John should suffice to show us that God does indeed will that no man should perish (2 Peter 3:9) but that the decision to accept the grace freely offered has indeed been given by a sovereign God to his creatures in the interests of love.

I think we should back up to John 3:14 where, before the famous verse in John 3:16, Jesus mentions the snake being an archetype of the salvation he is about to offer. Was the snake only offered to those who were going to look at it anyway? Hardly, since many still perished even after the snake was fashioned as a means of grace offered to a rebellious people.

Skipping ahead to the verses you mentioned1, I fail to see how they present a general view of election wherein many are called and yet few are chosen with chosen being chosen in Christ based on repentance and free acceptance of a freely given gift.

Not that God doesn’t know whom will be saved. I think the verses you pointed out clearly present God as possessing the foreknowledge of who will and won’t accept or reject him.

I simply question, however, the notion that God’s foreknowledge is logically tied to a causal decree. In other words, I don’t see how God’s foreknowledge is inextricably tied to the causally deterministic notion that God also causes those he foreknew to accept the grace he has offered.

I also don’t see how God’s foreknowledge necessitates the other reformed doctrine that the atonement is somehow limited because, based on my understanding of the reformed doctrine of limited atonement, if Jesus’s sacrifice were to have been made for the whole world, many of whom willfully reject Him, that his death and subsequent atonement would have somehow been wasted.

The above aren’t merely rhetorical questions. While I think they pose significant barriers to belief in reformed doctrine, I’d love to hear what you think. Whether you agree or not, leave a comment below!

  1. John 6:37, John 6:44, John 6:65 []
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Answering the grounding objection against Molinism

One of the strongest objections to the doctrine of Molinism is what has commonly been called “the grounding objection” which, stated simply, is; “Where is God’s knowledge in future events grounded?”

Many who ask this question object the idea that, if God’s knowledge is based in his eternal decree then Molinism is undone because it eradicates the notion of libertarian freedom. On the other hand, they think that if the Molinist says that God’s knowledge is grounded in the decisions of his free creatures then God is somehow handcuffed by his creation.

They further find it strange that the leading Molinist apologists such as William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga  are strangely silent (in their minds at least) about this objection.

I don’t think it is that Craig or Plantinga fail to take seriously the grounding objection so much as they simply find the objection to be incoherent given the presupposition that counterfactuals are true regardless of their instantiation. That is, they are true regardless of whether they obtain or not AND whether the actors in question exist or not. In short, the question of where God’s knowledge of future free decisions is incoherent at the outset because it presupposes that true statements require grounding in the first place. My question when such an objection is raised is when would we suppose that a tensed factual statement such as “I will be in the office tomorrow morning” becomes true?

In sum, the grounding objection begins with a flawed premise that presupposes that knowledge of future-free events must be contingent on the will of either God. The answer, however, is to expand our options to include the possibility that the knowledge of future-free events is what some philosophers call a “brute fact” that God knows in accordance with His omniscience so that the question of where God’s knowledge of future events is grounded is answered by His omniscient nature, not his eternal decree (or man’s finite and contingent decree).

For a better and more in-depth answer to the grounding objection I would point to Thomas P. Flint’s book, Divine Providence, chapter 5 which is also referenced in this article by Craig.

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Resources for more information on Molinism/Middle Knowledge

Since my post on Molinism/Middle Knowledge garnered some interest I figured it would be helpful to provide some more resources on the subject for anyone who is interested in exploring, as William Lane Craig puts it, such a fruitful doctrine further:

Audio

William Lane Craig‘s multi-part series “Doctrine of God” taught in his Sunday School class (Defenders) at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church

Articles

Philosophia Christi is a scholarly periodical published by the Evangelical Philosophical Society which regularly has articles both for and against Middle Knowledge, recently Vol 11 Num 1 2009 featured Steven B. Cowan (Editor of Five Views on Apologetics) against and Scott A Davison (Professor of Philosophy at Morehead State University) for with some good interaction between them both.

Books

Other notable proponents of Middle Knowledge1 include:

I would be remiss if I were to claim this as an exhaustive list of proponents or resources pertaining to Middle Knowledge/Molinism so if you know of any other resources, by all means, let me know!

  1. These include both active and passive proponents of Middle Knowledge/Molinism. Not all of these people actively promote Middle Knowledge by itself but all, as far as I know, hold to this doctrine and deem it useful or “fruitful” in answering other theological/philosophical issues. The most significant being the question of evil. []
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