Friday, August 08, 2008

Wrapping The Debate Up...

Let Your Conscience Be Your GuideI have recently been in a small debate with a fellow named Preston over the opposing views of Open Theism and Calvinism. I will try to wrap up what I see to be the main points of the debate in a concise manner.

Oddly enough the debate ended up being primarily on the issue of authority in doctrine, or what is authoritative in doctrine. Preston wants to say that in addition to Scripture men's consciences and natural law are guides God has given us to know His character and even doctrinal teachings such as election.

I am reminded of Jiminy Cricket's exhortation to Pinocchio "Let your conscience be your guide!". Unfortunately, Pinocchio's conscience failed him and he ended up with a rather disfigured nose and in need of plastic surgery.

The same is true of us, while it is true men have been equipped with a conscience by virtue of the image of God in them, what Preston overlooks is the effects of the fall. That really is the point of Romans 1, though men have knowledge of God they suppress this knowledge and chase after passions and even are so delusional as to make gods according to their seared consciences.

We read repeatedly in the New testament of the condition of fallen man and how not only his soul needs renewal but his intellect. (Eph 4:17-18, 23) I would say with Anselm that if you think that there is some safe haven in man that is reliable and can be a sure guide to truth, if you believe that, then you have not yet come to know the depths of your sin.

I think that the very passage Preston would like to take refuge under to justify his extra-biblical doctrines (that is what's going on, like Rome he seems to want to unblushingly say that it is the Bible plus...)is the very passage which anathematizes Open Theism. For in v.22-25 of Romans 1 we read:

"Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."

What do you say about a theological system that says God can not know the future other than that system has made God likened unto a man. What do you say about a system that elevates the alleged free will of man to such a height that in order to preserve it that system sees fit to dissolve God Almighty of attributes, what do you say other than that it is serving the creature rather than the Creator.

The main issue I see really comes back to authority, the axe must be laid to the root of the tree and this I see as the root. The logic of open theism proceeds as follows:

1. We know (via conscience/natural law) that man has free will.

2. We know (via conscience/natural law) that God desires man to have free choice. (the old robot/love analogy is usually invoked to "prove" this)

3. We know (via conscience/natural law) that for God to know the choices of men ahead of time would undermine men's freedom of choice.

:.\C. Therefore we know that God must have limited himself and does not know the future choices, but is also and agent in causality.

Do you see how none of the premises that lead to the conclusion have any root in the Bible? I am sure Preston would bicker about this formalization of his beliefs, that's fine, I am more than welcome for him to present his position in logical format. In either case and he admitted it himself, an authority outside of scripture is invoked to lead to the conclusion of a god who doesn't know the future.

That I believe to be the very essence of the debate, it is one about authority and presuppositions. I presuppose that the Bible in all of it's entirety illuminated by the Spirit of God is the only sure foundation for sound doctrine, knowledge of God and His work of salvation.

I therefore stand with the reformers on the doctrine of sola scriptura, which by the way for our Papist friends IS Biblical: "To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn." (Isa 8:20)

Before I end I do want to say that there was one point Preston made that I think hasn't been said enough, and that is that Open Theism is the logical outcome of Arminianism. I think he is absolutely spot on in this and I have been saying this for some time. It is interesting to hear an OT professor acknowledge this.

We may continue the debate if desired, however I will be moving on to my intended series on the marks of a move of the Spirit of God in future posts. Thanks for the talk Preston, you are more than welcome to throw your input in at anytime.


Anonymous said...

AAAAH.... what a beautiful wife and three children will do to one's appearance! I remember what you looked like before both! :)

Hey, don't touch my pinocchio! grrrr!!

Bobby:I am reminded of Jiminy Cricket's exhortation to Pinocchio "Let your conscience be your guide!". Unfortunately, Pinocchio's conscience failed him and he ended up with a rather disfigured nose and in need of plastic surgery.

If I need plastic surgery then that's what I need! :)

I'm not lying!

Tim said...

In the same vain as our discussion of Spong, authority of scripture has been a big topic for me lately. I found this thesis by N.T. Wright very interesting:

I wonder if we put too much emphasis on the text of the Bible itself rather than the authority of God through the text, which includes interpretive lenses we are bound to read the Bible through. This, of course, requires faithful community participation to flesh out what God is saying in examination of the Biblical text.

In the same way, I wonder how often the general person realizes just how little of the Bible we actually follow these days - in fact how much we just could not follow from the OT. Some of these elements changed even within the Bible (like acceptance of polygamy and prostitution), and some since (like having graven images in our church buildings or not stoning our children when they act in severe disobedience to us). These are just examples that I'm sure can be picked apart in numerous interpretations, but they beg the examination of where the true sense of authority lies.

Bob said...

Hey Tim, glad to see you active over here again.

I haven't read the Wright article yet so I can't give my input, but I promise to read it.

As for some of the other things you said I was wondering if you could further explain what you invision by what you call "a faithful community participation"? I am not sure what that means or looks like.

As for applying the Bible, I think we often can get jumbled with the the applicational duties of the OT passages for us in the New Covenant. The Bible never gives approval of the practice of polygamy, it just describes individuals who practiced it in the OT. It is in the New Covenant that we find it to be prohibited. (1 Tim 2) as an elder is to be the husband of one wife.

As far as applying the capital laws of the OT I think they still apply, I however believe in a libertarian view of civil/self government so it is up to states to apply them as they see fit. In the stoning of children I see the main emphasis being that it is the parents jobs to see that their children are not misfits, and that involves punishment. If you honestly think about it, if a child rebels and casts off the authority of his godly parents to such a disrepectful height as to make reconciliation altogether impossible, what sort of authority will he obey and what sort of citizen will he be?

Now I am not saying we need to put him to death, I think we are under a New Covenant, one of grace, however the point remains that such a one is deserving of death. This shows us our sin and our need of a saviour who takes the death we deserve for our rebeliousness.

The churches that have graven images, on the other, hand are not in violation of a civil or ceremonial law (which are reformed in the New Covenant) rather they are in violation of the moral law/God's self revelation which indicates how He is to be worshipped, which has never changed.

So the Papists who kneel and pray to statues are commiting idolatry, as are all who bow pray and kneel before images. The 2nd commandment is clear, this involves kneeling before crosses and images of Jesus as well.