Monthly Archives: March 2010

Wordy Wednesday: Bibliolatry

In a recent conversation on Google Buzz a brother in Christ told me:

Douglas K. Adu-Boahen – What I mean is that this discussion has been barren from any deep discussion of the only real factor that matters – the Bible, which is God’s Word. All this talk of philosophical concepts is boring, boring, boring – let’s go to God’s Word and let it speak unless of course, you feel it is insufficient for this discussion, which I hope you do not.

Here’s my response:

Douglas, what you are expressing is something that I believe JP Moreland addressed in his paper titled “How Evangelicals Became Overcommitted to the Bible and What Can Be Done about It.”

“this discussion has been barren from any deep discussion of the only real factor that matters – the Bible”

No, the only real factor that matters is Christ, which the Bible tells us about but the Bible itself is not, strictly speaking “the only real factor that matters”.

“All this talk of philosophical concepts is boring, boring, boring”
I’m sorry you feel this way, however I don’t see how you can avoid philosophical discourse in your interpretation of Scripture. Any claim to have achieved this nirvanic state of interpretational bliss ought to be treated akin a claim to divine revelation.

“let’s go to God’s Word and let it speak unless of course, you feel it is insufficient for this discussion”
I’ve held the Bible to my ear for quite a while and have yet to “hear it speak”. However, when I read the words on the page I cant help but to ponder and filter those words through my mind and philosophical presuppositions.

No, the answer here is not to attempt a claim at premature conversational victory by claiming the hermanutic high ground. The answer, as I’ve said earlier, is to admit our philosophical presuppositions and then discuss how those systems answer the apparent contradictions in the text between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s freedom.

In short, Bibliolatry is defined as akin to idol worship characterized by Douglas’s statement that “the only real factor that matters – the Bible”.

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Secular sources against abortion

Why is abortion always treated as a Catholic issue?

I get highly annoyed when people speak of issues such as abortion as if they were purely the invention of the religious right and devoid of any other supporters than “the crazy Christians”.

So to help put things in perspective, here are several secular sources who, like Christians, thought that abortions were a bad idea. Boldness liberally applied by myself.

“There are five kinds of evil Karma which are difficult to extinguish, even if one were to repent of them. What are the five kinds of offences? The first one is killing the father, the second one is killing the mother, the third one is abortion, the fourth one is to injure the Buddha, the fifth one is to create disharmony among the Sangha assemblies. These five types of evil and sinful karma are difficult to extinguish.” -The Dharani Sutra of the Buddha

“I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.” -Hippocratic Oath – Greek, 4th century BC

“The law enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing humankind.” -Josephus, 1st century Jewish historian

Do not abort a foetus or kill a child that is born.” -The Didache – the first manual of the Christian Church, AD 100 (Ok, this doesn’t exactly fit the criteria of a secular source, but it does show that this isn’t a recent tirade of the religious right.

“You shall not kill your awlad [born or unborn children] due to fear of poverty. We provide for them, as well as for you. Killing them is a gross offence.” Quran 17:311

“It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“They are killing the baby in the womb. How cruel! In this age of unwanted population, man is losing his compassion. That living entity must again take on that same life form to complete its designated life term in that body. And the killer must return to pay for damages.” -A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, founder of the Radha-Krishna movement

  1. Come on, this is even more potent coming from one of the most blood-thirsty religions on the planet. []
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Soldier

Some ex-scripts from an article by my friend Jeff Henning on being a Christian soldier in God’s army:

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”2 Timothy 2:3

..

Paul equated the life of a soldier with the life of a Christian. A Christian needed to have the civilian individualism taken out by disciplined training and the ‘team first’ concept installed in it’s place. He wrote “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs” to mean that way of life had to cease. Being a soldier was a serious, full time job.

I wonder how we would change if we began to see our “walk with Christ” as more of a march?

About the Church, and Christian in particular, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26 “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” This implies shared sacrifice, shared suffering, shared duty and shared reward. This is what we learned in boot camp, and what we should learn as new Christians. Jesus understood this concept. He said in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”.

Our problem is we bring our civilian mindset into the church. “my needs”, “my desires” and “my glory” is what matters. Shared suffering isn’t tolerated. The mission is clouded by special interest; Everyone wants to give orders, but no one wants to carry them out.

One of the sad realities of the feminization of the church is a lack of this mindset among Christian men.

Jeff’s last line contains a haunting question for us all,

Boot camp was tough, rugged and unrelenting, but it put in me the sense of honor, duty and courage. Christians, have you been to boot camp since you were sworn in to the Army of the Lord? Do you think you can take it?

I hope so, because what the army of God could use is a few good men who are willing to stand on their convictions, fight, and die for the truth.

Read the rest of Jeff’s article here.

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Ken Keathley on Molinism

I recently came across the draft of a paper written by Ken Keathley on Molinism titled “A Molinist View of Election
Or How to Be a Consistent Infralapsarian”. The full PDF version is avaliable here. The final version is included in the book Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue.

On supralapsarianism and historical Calvinism Keathly writes:

Some Calvinists (following their namesake, John Calvin) cannot accept that there is any conditionality in God’s decrees, so they bite the bullet and dismiss permission altogether. They embrace a double predestination in which God chose some and rejected others and then subsequently decreed the Fall in order to bring it about. Those who hold this position are called supralapsarians because they understand the decree of election and reprobation as occurring logically prior (supra) to the decree to allow the Fall (lapsis), hence the term supralapsarianism.

On the topic of “permission” being an acceptable refuge for the compatabalist position Keathly writes:

The crucial concept to the infralapsarian Calvinist model is the notion of permission. God did not cause the Fall; he allowed it. God does not predestine the reprobate to Hell; he permits the unbeliever to go his own way. But permission is problematic for the Calvinist—particularly to those who hold to determinism—because permission entails conditionality, contingency, and viewing humans as in some sense the origin of their own respective choices. Calvinists such as John Feinberg define God’s sovereignty in terms of causal determinism, and this leaves little room for a logically consistent understanding of permission. I am arguing that what Calvinists want to achieve in infralapsarianism, Molinism actually accomplishes.

On the subject of reprobation Keathly cites David Engelsma’s quote:

If reprobation is the decree not to give a man faith, it is patently false to say that unbelief is the cause of reprobation. That would be the same as to say that my decision not to give a beggar a quarter is due to the beggar’s not having a quarter. That reprobation is an unconditional decree is also plain from the fact that if unbelief were the cause of reprobation, all men would have been reprobated, and would not have been elected, for all men are equally unbelieving and disobedient.

And to this Keathly comments:

In other words, Engelsma is pointing out that if sin is the basis for reprobation, then no one would be elect because all are sinners.

In the final analysis, infralapsarianism teaches that reprobation is as much a part of God’s decrees as is election. Infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism are simply nuances of the same approach, as long as both begin with God’s eternal decrees and reject the notion that God would (or even could) grant any type of libertarian choice to responsible creatures.

On the advantages of the Molinist approach Keathly writes:

The Molinist approach has a number of advantages over both Calvinism and Arminianism, which I want to list briefly. First, Molinism affirms the genuine desire on the part of God for all to be saved in a way that is problematic for Calvinism. God has a universal salvific will even though not all, maybe not even most, will repent and believe the Gospel. Historically, Calvinists have struggled with this question; with most either
denying that God’s desires all to be saved, or else claiming God has a secret will which trumps his revealed will.

Molinism fits well with the biblical teaching that God universally loves the world (John 3:16) and yet Christ has a particular love for the Church (Eph. 5:25). William Lane Craig suggests that God “chose a world having an optimal balance between the number of the saved and the number of the damned.” In other words, God has created a world with a maximal ratio of the number of saved to those lost. The Bible teaches that God genuinely desires all to be saved, and even though many perish, still his will is done.

Molinism better addresses this apparent paradox.

This is an excellent paper which shows how, as open theist William Hasker puts it:

If you are committed to a “strong” view of providence, according to which, down
to the smallest detail, “things are as they are because God knowingly decided to
create such a world,” and yet you also wish to maintain a libertarian conception of
free will—if this is what you want, then Molinism is the only game in town.

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Shouldn’t all Christians be socialists?

A brother of mine recently wrote the following by way of advocating the position that “all Christians ought to be socialists”:

Acts 2:44-45 “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need’

Acts 4;32b, 34-35 “..neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

That’s all well and good, but that only applies to Christians, not society in general. The reason that works with Christians is that we are endowed with the Holy Spirit as a guide and restraint so that we aren’t governed by our evil desires which tend toward excess.

Notice the terms; “everything in common”, no posessions were personal, distributed to everyone as they had need.

Is this more like capitalism or what critics would call “socialism”?

PS…. it is biblical!

Here’s my response:

Most people forget that it was Christianity that actually gave birth to capitalism1 because, while it is not perfect, it does the best of any economic system out there to be fair when it comes to the unequal distribution of goods and services that exist and it also does the best job of restraining people’s natural desires to hoard wealth since one of the basic tenets of capitalism is to reinvest into one’s business.

Capitalism also tends to value social programs to a degree, it is a misnomer to think that capitalism is inherently opposed to a concern “for the good of the people”.

The problem we have is when we try to take an amoral system (amoral meaning neither good nor bad) and start attaching moral significance to it.

At the end of the day, an economic system is neither good nor bad but can be considered wise or not based on whether it sustains and helps prosper the people in it.

Socialism is not concerned with the production of wealth but rather the distribution thereof while capitalism is more concerned with the production of wealth. In the end, capitalism is in a much better place to provide hope for lifting people and nations out of poverty than socialism is.

A good case-in-point is the amount of resources capitalistic nations like the US (barely) are able to bring to bear in crisis situations like the present one in Haiti.

Also, for an excellent and concise definition of capitalism I feel the need to include the following definition borrowed shamelessly from Rodney Stark’s book Victory of Reason:

Capitalism is an economic system wherein privately owned, relatively well organized, and stable firms pursue complex commercial activities within a relatively free (unregulated) market, taking a systematic, long-term approach to investing and reinvesting wealth (directly or indirectly) in productive activities involving a hired workforce, and guided by anticipated and actual returns.

  1. Two excellent books on this subject are Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark and The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber and Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay Richards []
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More on handling theological differences between brothers in Christ

In a recent conversation via Google Buzz between a couple of Reformed brethren and myself I was told the following:

Nathan White – Wes-
I don’t see Calvinism starting with philosophy because it starts with what scripture explicitly says, that we were chosen, predestined, and even that God created vessels of wrath and mercy for His specific purposes, and then moves on from there and forms compatibalism based upon statements of God’s love, and inferences that God holds men accountable for their actions. Molinism cannot exegete a text in context and form a doctrine, and let that doctrine help interpret other tough passages, but Calvinists can easily do so with the explicit statements of Romans 9.

Scripture says that God is sovereign completely, and that man is held responsible for his and Adam’s sin. Those are two seeming contradictions, but not so in the mind of God. Molinism, at the end of the day, leaves sovereignty in the hands of man…completely.

Aaron Sauer – Only the Holy Spirit will open Wes’ eyes to the deep truths of scripture. Lord willing, one day he will realize that salvation is 100% of the Lord

Here’s my reply:

Aaron, come now. Please don’t be so disingenuous as to place foreign words into my mouth. I have never said that salvation is not 100% from the Lord nor will I. As Nathan has rightly stated, our differences lie not necessarily in our commitment to Christ or the truth of Scripture but in philosophy.

Nathan, I don’t see how you can claim philosophical immunity for your theological system and I don’t see how quoting Scripture we both agree is Holy and inspired helps your case any.

Molinism is built (as the Calvinist Alvin Plantinga states) on the twin notions of sovereignty and the limited free will of humans. I know it is popular to claim that Calvinism holds to a higher view of sovereignty than any other theological system (including Molinism) however I ask that you do Molinists like myself the charity of not redefining our words for us and simply accept it when we say that we in fact do hold to God’s complete soverignty over all of His creation.

Again, the issue here is in how we define sovereignty and what philosophical presuppositions we bring to bear on the texts. You seem to think (along with most Calvinists) that Romans 9 is wholly unanswerable from anything short of a hard causally deterministic view. I believe men like Geisler and Yarnell have done an excellent job of pointing out how, while the Bible does teach and confirm the doctrine of election, Romans 9 is not an apt text to use for God’s willful violation or robotic control of mankind’s will (which was given to him by God as beings created in His image).

I think a helpful place for us to start from would be to acknowledge and accept that Calvinism is built on a particular (no pun intended) philosophy (which I would argue is closely related to the Stoicism that Calvin wrote his doctoral dissertation on).

The question then is how well the underlying philosophy which guides the exegesis from a Calvinistic point of view answers all the questions raised by Scripture vs competing theological systems such as Molinism. The question is not, however, which one is “based on philosophy” vs “based on scripture” as the notion of a theological system devoid of philosophical input is simply incoherent.

The bottom line is that we really have to learn how to disagree and fight strenuously but fairly if we want to see the broken body of Christ healed in a real and meaningful sense.

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Was I ever saved in the first place?

I was recently sent the following challenging response to a previous post regarding the deconversion of those who once claimed to be Christians:

Apply your reasoning to any other area of life, and no one can ever stop believing something that they really believed in. True belief PRECLUDES assimilating newly discovered evidence which causes re-evaluation of what you once would have given your life in defense of????

So an Amazon tribal person who once believed that the sun revolves around the earth, who is shown through diagrams and scientific language he understands, then stops believing that and then believes that the earth revolves around the sun, DIDN’T REALLY BELIEVE IN THE FIRST PLACE THAT THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH????

It’s ridiculous isn’t it? And yet that is the same faulty logic you are applying to us former Christians (in my case, a Th.B. from Multnomah Bible College, several years as a missionary in Europe, and 46 years as a witnessing, praying, worshipping, fervently passionate evangelical.

If you apply your logic to all of life, no held belief can ever change, and if it does, it was never a true belief. The only infallible test of true belief is DEATH. If you can make it to the grave without ever denying a belief, then that proves it was “true”. There is NO OTHER WAY to prove whether the belief was genuine, according to your test of belief.

I started penning a response but it quickly grew past the size that could be comfortably included or contained within a comment field. So I’ve chosen to include my response below and post it outside of my normal post schedule. Enjoy!

You raise some interesting questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them in the following.

I think it would be a useful exercise to step back and define what we mean by terms such as belief, faith, and knowledge. Generally these terms are the concern of epidemiologists and admittedly there is not, strictly speaking, widespread consensus even among them.

Since greater men than I have been exploring this subject longer than I have been alive I must apologize in advance for any confusion I may inadvertently bring into the discussion and encourage you to, instead, seek out works by epidemiologists such as Alvin Plantinga, Thomas Flint, etc. if you seek a more academic discourse on the matter.

At any rate, I’ve written elsewhere in regards to how beliefs are formed and would like to simply cite the following from Alvin Plantinga’s “Warrant” series as the basis of how “true beliefs” are formed:

A belief has warrant (and can thus be considered true) if and only if:
1. it is produced by cognitive faculties functioning properly,
2. in a cognitive environment sufficiently similar to that for which the faculties were designed,
3. according to a design plan aimed at the production of true beliefs, when
4. there is a high statistical probability of such beliefs being true

With that definition in place I would like to turn to your underlying question of objectively claiming to have held a belief or not. Specifically I would like to examine the case of the African bushman you mentioned above.

I freely accept that the bushman held a belief in the sun’s rotation around the earth and that he believed such a belief to be true. However one factor was working against him and at least one more, I believe, likely played a part in working against him which caused his resulting belief to not be true and thus not to constitute knowledge.

1.) He lacked the epistemic faculties (or access to the proper epistemic sources, rather) required to detect the truth regarding the relationship of the earth and the sun.
and
2.) He lacked an environment that was geared towards the production of true beliefs. That is, his culture more than likely played a role in the continuation of the belief that the sun revolved around the earth. Thus the environment he was a part of was not, strictly speaking, wholly interested in the pursuit of truth and thus not geared towards the production of true beliefs, at least in this instance.

Absent these crucial pieces we can see that there was a clear breakdown in the epistemic process which, while producing many other true beliefs, failed to obtain to the production of a true belief in this case.

Now I want to apply the same criteria to the subject of whether a person who no longer believes in Christianity (or Christ moreover) ever was a Christian in the first place.

This is a fairly complex subject and I apologize if my initial treatment of the issue failed to be as well defined as it could have been.

Let me begin by saying at the outset that not being omniscient I cannot, of course, know what epistemic warrant you or anyone else who has since renounced their once-held belief in Christianity has had access to. That is, I do not know how your belief was formed, what it was formed on, or how it was sustained for such a lengthy amount of time. However I am curious since, as a person who holds Christianity to be objectively true, if sufficient defeaters were to exist (along with sufficient positive competing explanations) for the facts Christianity is based upon (specifically the resurrection of Jesus Christ) then it would stand to reason that no one ought to be a Christian and we ought to prefer the competing explanation over the one we currently hold.

Were you a believer at one time? I believe you were, and I would further concede that your actions at least appear to back up your claims. However this does not answer the question as to what your beliefs regarding Christ were or were based on. Many times I run across even professing Christians who are unable to clearly articulate what they believe much less why. If these believers were to renounce their faith tomorrow I would be hard pressed to make a case of their ever truly having held a clear and objective belief in Christ in the first place.

Now, to switch gears slightly.

So far I’ve dealt with this issue primarily from an epistemological and philosophical standpoint. However I would like to turn to the theological standpoint since I believe it also has some bearing in this discussion. After all, Christianity is not merely about the cold acceptance of facts, but also work of a being we hold to have objectively occurred at one point in history which opens the door for a real relationship with this same being.

I’m speaking, of course, about Jesus and his work on the cross. Now I’m not sure where you’ve come from theologically, but what I am going to outline I believe is a fairly orthodox position ascribed to by most of the major creeds down through Christendom.

What saves a man?

Is it merely our mental assent to a cold hard fact? While I believe such a mental assent and acceptance of at least a bare minimum of facts is required (such as the ones outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8), I do not believe that our mental assent to the facts alone is what saves us or brings us into relationship with Christ. What saves us is the righteousness imputed unto us from Christ in such a way as to be irrevocable . Such an event, I would maintain, is also an irreversible event in time in much the same way as the decision to jump off of a cliff or walk through a door.

So the question becomes: Could you have been imputed Christ’s righteousness at one point in the past and still be saved even though your current belief structure no longer affords the same degree of warrant you once held? Possibly.

You see, one of the curious things about mankind’s ability to form, change, and reform beliefs is that while we do grow in our epistemic capacity and acquisition of new beliefs (and rejection of previously held beliefs) we don’t reject ALL of our beliefs. If that were the case we would never be able to grow at all since we would merely be in a constant state of flux.

The same holds true when it comes to Christianity and it all hinges on how our beliefs in Christ were formed and what our basis was (if any) for the rejection of those beliefs.

We must also keep in mind that when 1 John 2:19 was written, there weren’t such things as cultural Christians who had grown up on the church. Believers in that day, for the most part, either accepted or rejected the claims of Christ’s objective historical actions and claims. In John’s case the people who “went out” were (according to the context of the letter) not even claiming what Paul proclaimed as a minimum criteria of one being a Christian in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and were, instead, attempting to essentially hijack the Christian religion for their own ends (and we later see from the Gnostic movement that many were unfortunaly successful in their efforts).

So, the answer to “was I ever a Christian in the first place” is a lot more complex and more often than not it cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”, even by the person asking the question. The evidence of a person’s present state of unbelief, while making it very hard to accept that the initial state of belief hard to accept, is ultimately not a question that is of no import if asked of a fellow human.

You see, the final question here must be directed at God.

It is his answer that ultimately matters and if you no longer believe that he exists then I suppose you will have to wait until you meet Him (or not) after you die in order to ask Him.

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God and evil, two views

From a conversation via Google Buzz1:

I can’t help but coming to the conclusion that, outside of open theism where God has no clue what the future holds, God is always in some way ‘responsible’ for sin and evil in the world. I say that with reverence and a few qualifications, of course. But God created the world at least knowing the sin and evil that would come from it. He also sustains the world and the wicked in it. He gives them life, breath, health, cognitive ability, opportunity, freedom of conscience, He doesn’t restrain their evil, and He doesn’t always save the innocent (though having full power to do so).

So if you really want to talk about ‘responsibility’, then God is most definitely the ultimate cause of all things. Without Him this world would not exist.

If we’re going to use our fallible understanding in determining if God is ‘responsible’ or not, which IMO is what Molinism is trying to do, then by anyone’s book the definition above applies full guilt and responsibility to God.

There is a big difference between 1a) God choosing to actualize (or create) a world where in evil is possible and 1b) further choosing to sustain it’s order in spite of the free choice to sin and perform evil by free (in a limited capacity) causal agents and 2) God’s being the direct cause of all that happens in the world such that all things that happen do so as a direct result of his will.

In the first instance we can show how God is truly holy and unconnected with sin who can nonetheless use it or direct it to good ends.

In the second case we are left wondering how God could be against something he causally directs. We are left with a dualistic view of evil’s being necessary for the existence of good which is something that ought to bother us since God declares his absolute disdain of evil.

We can also see that only in the second sense can God truly be at war with evil, sin, and death. Whereas the second view of God’s direct involvement in the promulgation of sin calls into question God’s commitment to it’s destruction, the first view is able to logically account for evil as being the sole product of limited free causal agents outside and independent of God.

Or, as Ravi Zacharias put it in a recent open forum: God gave us the tools of free will and love and we chose to misuse those tools to produce slavery and death.

  1. I love Google Buzz. []
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Defending the defenseless, setting the record straight on the Anabaptists

The anabaptists often get a bum rap in Church history classes. Especially among the reformed crowd who would preferr to paint them as anarchists who despised order and expoused heresies. A lawless mob. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, since the anabaptists were routienely persecuted by both the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Magesterial Reformers such as John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Ulrich Zwingli.

Emir Caner has recently released a paper in defense of the anabaptists in an attempt to set the record straight. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in Church history to take a minute and read it.

Highlights include:

  • Anabaptists were hated by everyone so it’s no surprise they have been maligned in history courses for centuries.
  • Anabaptists promoted “believers baptism” as opposed to “paedobaptism” which was the main cause of their mistreatment (some were even killed in the US for their refusal to baptize infants).
  • Anabaptists did not hold to a strict hierarchy of clergy (and for this reason were often mislabeled as anarchists)
  • Anabaptists promoted simple or house church.1
  • Anabaptists objected to theology that ultimately would not lead to primitive Christianity.2
  • Anabaptists did not waver in their belief that God wrote the Bible to be understood
    clearly and explicitly. (as opposed to having to be understood through “trained clergy” per the magisterial reformers or “the priests” per Rome).
    Anabaptists highly valued a clear separation of church and state. This should come as no surprise considering they were killed by everyone in Europe.

Finally, I leave you with a quote from the article:

On 29 May 1525, an unknown peasant farmer, known as a ―pious goodhearted man‖ was
given the privilege of being the first Swiss Anabaptist martyr. Not much is known of this young
man—his birth, his life, even his name—whether he was Eberli Bolt or Bolt Eberli. In 1525, he
found himself in the midst of a spiritual revolution in his country and he himself was placed in
the center of this religious equation. Along with another priest, Eberli was talked into going to
St. Gallen where he chose to be baptized and was ―pressed into preaching service on behalf of
the movement because he could speak well. Johann Kessler, a contemporary of Eberli, spoke
of Eberli‘s sermon as so ―abundantly eloquent that ―hereupon many of the citizens and rural
people consented [to baptism]. His words were so convincing that many ―came to the city
daily and asked where the baptism house was and then left as if they had been to the barber‘s.

When he arrived at home in his canton, Eberli was quickly arrested and sentenced to
death as a heretic. As the chronicler described it, ―Soon [he] approached the fire stakes with
joyful bearing and died willingly and joyfully. Eberli understood what most Christians today
completely miss—it is an honor to suffer for Christ‘s sake. He was the first martyr in a line of
martyrs that, according to Estep, would last for three centuries. He was the first in a line of a
number that only the Lord knows and that could only be revealed in heaven. He gladly bore his
cross.

  1. This was actually more of an outworking from the commitment to a primitive church experience devoid of the trappings of buildings, luxury, and political affiliation. []
  2. This is one of the tenets which helped produce descendants of the anabaptists such as the Amish, Quakers, Mennonites, etc. []
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The ontological argument for God’s love for the whole world

I ran across a recent Tweet via Google Buzz that read:

Would we be more pious than Jesus? – “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given Me” – Jn 17:9

During the course of our conversation on the implications of the thought expressed above I come up with the following logical argument for God’s loving the whole world as opposed to a small segment of it per reformed theology.

Per the ontological argument: We can never be more pious than Jesus.

Since love for the whole world is better than love for a particular “favored” group (per Jesus’s own admonition that it is more admirable to love one’s enemy than it is to merely love one’s friend).

We can see that it logically follows that God must love the whole world and not merely a segment of it since failure to do so would entail the illogical conclusion that we are, per the initial comment, “more pious” than the God who is the very definition of good.

No, it’s not very polished and I invite comments and thoughts on it, but I figured its a pretty good start!

UPDATE:
A friend of mine pointed out that I should probabally post a little more showing my thought process and why I think my arguement fits in with “ontology” in general.

Ontology is the study of “being” and the sense I’m using it in here is along the lines of the ontological argument for God’s existence specifically Descartes’ formula:

1. Whatever I clearly and distinctly perceive to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing.
2. I clearly and distinctly perceive that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Here, though, I’m attempting to show that God does indeed love the whole world in opposition to the Calvinistic doctrine that God only “effectively” loves a small subset known as the elect.

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