Thursday, December 10, 2015

What John Really Says About Drawing and Election

The Gospel of John is easy to misinterpret, not only because it shares so little with the other gospels, but because it is filled with commentary by Jesus about his reception among the Jews. Jesus certainly had a lot to say about why folks and about which folks were able to recognize him as he walked on the face of earth. If one is not cognizant of contextual cues, things which were only definitely being said about that reception can be applied to the broader context of humans in general throughout time and result in erroneous conclusions.

When one takes what Jesus was saying about his reception among the Jews and mistakenly applies it to humans in general outside that time and place, contradictions arise with other scriptures regarding God's intentions toward humanity in general. For instance, 1 Timothy 2:1-6 and 2 Peter 3:9 seem to be at odds with statements in John if that hermeneutical error is followed. Readily evident readings have to be discarded (really, twisted) in order to align with misreadings of John. Because God was highly selective before the resurrection in who would recognize Christ, associate with him, and form the core of the church after his resurrection does not automatically mean he exercises the same prerogatives after the resurrection and through the age of the church.

I want to reference 3 key places where this problem can be seen and demonstrate a hermeneutical framework that evaporates any issues.

First, John 12:27-33...

This passage is key because it says something explicitly about God's exertion of drawing power upon the post-crucifixion population of planet Earth (see also John 8:28). It is, in fact, different than what was said to exist for the population around Christ before the crucifixion. The member of the Trinity acting changes, as does the scope of the action. This passage must been seen, it seems to me, as the basis for understanding any other statement in John concerning drawing and election to Christ which is being applied to post-resurrection populations.

Second, the last half of John 6...

As he made these statements, was Jesus referring to witnesses of his physical visitation at that time, or was he making a broader statement applicable to all people throughout time? He seemed to speak broadly (vs. 28-58) and specifically (vs. 59-71) with regard to people responding to him within the same pericope, so the question is complicated. The section which clearly refers to specific people at that specific time (i.e. his contemporaneous disciples) is reiterated conceptually in the High-Priestly Prayer in John 17, which serves to focus, I think, Jesus' comments about effectual calling in John 6 upon those who witnessed his earthly ministry. Verse 65, in explaining v. 44, constricts the context to the more specific milieu, and therefore, vs. 44 and 65 can be readily applied to those folks at that time but cannot be applied without the mitigation of John 12 to the post-crucifixion population.

Third, John 8:42-47...

Jesus comments in this section of John were addressed to those that had some sort of belief in him (see v. 31-32), and yet contended with him and were rejected by Christ as children of the devil. They were unable to understand his words, to truly believe in him, and so be saved. I would say that their condition is not out of the ordinary for people pre-crucifixion, but does their example say anything at all about people post-crucifixion? It is an extremely important consideration given Romans 10:8-9. But there is nothing contextually that relates their condition to the human race in general, or to the post-crucifixion population in particular.

When statements in John about being drawn to Christ (which, incidentally, entails enablement to believe acc. 6:44-47) and God electing followers in the pre-crucifixion population shape our understanding about the those subjects in regard to the post-crucifixion population, confusion and contradiction occur. The sad state which is Calvinism is an example of such an occurrence. When our understanding about drawing and election among the post-crucifixion population is informed primarily by the one text that deals with that subject specifically, we find that clarity and harmony between scriptures result.

Since the crucifixion, this should be clear from an accurate reading of the Bible: God is drawing all people to Christ because he genuinely wants everyone to be saved by hearing the word of Christ and responding with faith.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Twenty-four Elders

24 is a significant, symbolic number in the Apocalypse.

It's symbolic content can be understood in terms of two: two covenants and two flocks becoming one in Christ, the Good Shepherd. Twelve is an obviously significant number since there are 12 tribes in Israel and twelve apostles. 24 is merely the whole of twelve times two, and so represents the one people redeemed by Christ out of Israel and the Gentiles. That is clearly a major theme in the Apocalypse, though it leads dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists to vastly different conclusions.

This theme is visited rather dramatically for the last time in chapter 21 as the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven to a new earth is described. The eternal home of the saints has twelve foundations and twelve gates. The combination of 12 and 12 in the structure of the New Jerusalem (which is 24, though not explicitly mentioned) is used to encompass the entirety of God's salvivic people, and picks up the theme which streams throughout the Apocalypse. Jew and Gentile who believe in Christ, though distinctive in some ways, form one eternal people of God.

The 24 are elders (presbyters) which means, basically, they are old men who are wise and worthy of respect. I think the use of the generic term, "elders," accentuates their symbolic quality, and yet excludes seeing them as non-human living creatures, or even angels, because those things are specified in the Apocalypse when they are meant. How long they've been there, or how they got there is not mentioned, so it's either unimportant or so obvious it's assumed to be known. Could they represent the sons of Jacob and the twelve apostles?

Although John is viewing and recording the vision, not much of an objection could be raised to the 24 representing the 12 Apostles (Paul substituted for Judas). It's a bit more difficult to see them representing the actual, less than exemplary, sons of Jacob. Throughout biblical history the names of the twelve tribes was always more important than the twelve people that gave those tribes their names, so specification as to person is not so important with the twelve representing Israel, which fits well if this was merely a generic identification. They could represent some exemplary member of each of the associated tribes, but that is not actually necessary if the identification is purely generic.

They are given thrones placed in close conjunction with that of God, which, along with their victory (but not regnal) crowns, implies they are engaged in judgment and administration with him. That jives well with Matthew 19:28, which would tend to verify seeing at least twelve of them as representing Christ's Apostles. If that is the case, then it's hard to avoid the math and see the other twelve as faithful representatives from each of the twelve tribes. They are clothed in white which is always associated with purity or righteousness in the Apocalypse, so, in effect, the 24 elders are clothed in righteousness.

Aside from judgment, the 24 seem occupied with worship. They hold censers and harps. They fall to their knees (the implication of proskuneo), cast their victory crowns at the feet of God, extol the Creator's virtues, and sings songs of praise to God and the Lamb. The force of their worship is to attribute to God the action that accomplishes his salvivic and magisterial aims--God is the actor, everyone else is the benefactor.

We are told explicitly that the incense signifies the prayers of saints. That is not an endorsement for the doctrine of the Intercession of the Saints, but merely represents that the prayers of the saints rise directly before God. The elders, though themselves men and therefore representative in some fashion of all believing humans, are not the makers nor mediators of the prayers (interceders), but, really, only witnesses of such. The harps, in very similar fashion, signify the praise of those same saints.

So the prayer and praise of the saints rises to the throne of God, symbolically carried by those representative of all who follow. As they are before God in prayer and praise, symbols in the heavens, so are those they represent also before God as they praise and pray on earth.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Limits of Omniscience

Essential Omniscience: resting God's omniscience in the brute fact of his essence rather than sovereignty or observation. In other words, his divine essence is of such a nature that he knows all that can be known, including all free acts of agents throughout time, not because he sees all or controls all, but just because he is what he is.   (SLW)

If God knows everything by the brute fact of his essence, including the free acts of created agents, one has to wonder how and when such knowledge came to be. If God's omniscience is essential, rather than observational, then it would have existed as "long as" his essence has. Why not? On EO, he doesn't rely upon "waiting" for history to unfold or for agents to decide their choices--he "already" knows all by virtue of the brute fact of omniscience founded in his essence.

God's essence is eternal (i.e., without time rather than long-lasting). God is not developing, he doesn't gain some aspect of his essence (such as omniscience if that is the case) by means of time passing or by the instantiation of creation. That would make God essentially dependent upon something other than himself and breach aseity. So if God's knowing is by virtue of his essence, it means he always knew what he knows.

But if God knows every thought, every inclination, every action of every agent from all eternity, those acts and inclinations would have to be God's rather than the agent's. If EO is the case, then each and every one of those actually existed in God's essence quite apart from ever coming into being in the creature. How then could those acts and intentions ever be proven or understood to be anything other than a projection of God's own essence? They cannot.

We cannot have our cake and eat it too. We cannot say that God is not the author of intentions and acts (particularly sin) that were ultimately "in" him before they were in others. If God had in his mind the evil acts of devil and man before the devil and man had a mind, then that evil finds its genesis in God--he had evil in his heart before any of us had a heart that could be evil. If EO were true of God, we would have evil in us because God has evil in him and evil would, in fact, be God's will.

Determinism, Compatibilism, Molinism and Essential Omniscience all fail in this same way.

The interplay of omniscience and freewill can never be posited to be such that free actions were settled or known certainly in the mind of God before creation. Any attempt to do so hits this same brick wall, which has God very specifically and extensively knowing evil before evil was. If evil acts were known by God by virtue of his essence eternally, then in his essence God contemplated evil and plumbed the depths of temptation and enticement apart from their existence in creation. Therefore, permutations of Simple Foreknowledge which resort to omniscience by brute fact of God's essence fail God's scriptural disclaimer that sinful acts in general (James 1:13-15), and certain sinful acts specifically (Jeremiah 19:4-5), were founded in the hearts of sinners and not at all in God.

The only way I can see to avoid this error is to align with the scriptural accounts of God in action and the biblical instances of his self-disclosure and attribute God's omniscience (at least insofar as creaturely freedom goes) to Omnitemporal Observation. Regardless of how philosophically distasteful it may be, any of the more philosophically palatable theories fail to keep God from being the source of evil. Scripture demands that sinful intentions and sinful deeds not be attributed to God--not in conception, not in practice, and not first in the heart of God before in the hearts of our countrymen.

God doesn't think evil thoughts, how would he preconceive them for others? It seems to me that even omniscience has its limits!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How Does God Know the Future?

The future does not really exist (nor for that matter, does the past).

The past is merely the record of what used to be the present, and the future can only be what will be the present when the present gets to that point. It is the present where the action is and it is that action that produces either the past or the future. So the present is what is necessary for either the future or the past to have what existence they might, and never vice versa.

There are of course, circumstances which were in motion in the past and which determine the future to some degree. A huge asteroid could be hurtling toward us from ages past that will impact our future in very tangible ways. Celestial bodies move according to the laws of physics and their courses can be charted and accurately projected. Earthly bodies, and by that I mean humans, cannot--their responses to their environment, to one another, to God, or to themselves cannot be charted because their free actions are uncertain until taken (the Heisenberg principle of free agents?).

Freedom is entirely wrapped up in the present. It exists in the moment of decision. Insofar as choice is concerned, the past is inert and the future is is inaccessible. Decisions are made in the moment their action occurs, necessarily. Some choices are made which effect the future and/or are influenced by the past, but freedom to act, to choose, always and only happens in the present.

Therefore the future cannot be fixed in any real sense, because it is dependent upon a present which is in flux. A future which is dependent upon that which is in flux has to be in flux itself. It seems to me that if there is any truth at all to the notions of will, freedom and spirit (which produce flux) it is impossible for the future to be fixed, and by that fixity control the present. Nothing is actually written until it's written in its present.

That does not mean the future cannot be known. 

If an omnitemporal observer (God) could view all of the presents that will ever exist from a vantage outside of time, the future would be known to him, exhaustively, through observation of the present. That the future is known by this God would not make it fixed, in the sense that it determined the present, for it is the present in which action occurs, the uncertain becomes the established, and which God observes and thereby knows the future. God knows the future because God has seen the present timelessly, but it is never his knowing that causes what he sees.

It is, in fact, a confounding of cause and effect to assume God's knowing the future would bind the freedom of an agent in the present. That God knows an agent will act in some fashion at a particular time is not equivalent to saying that the agent must act in that fashion at that particular time because God knows that agent will. On omnitemporal observation of freewill, the act of the agent causes the knowledge, the knowledge doesn't cause the act. Seeing timelessly is out of our wheelhouse as humans, and therefore justifiably confusing, but it should be straightforward enough to perceive that seeing an act omnitemporally cannot be said to necessitate causing that act in time.

Furthermore, an infinitely wise and powerful God could shape the panorama of time by a directive interposition here and there (or as often as he saw fit) without affecting the existence of freedom, generally, in any present. He could shepherd time to an appointed end without meticulously determining anything that occurred in time. In being able to do so, I see no reason to posit that he would require a mental "trial run" (i.e middle knowledge and/or deterministic decrees) in order to do so. He saw all at once, once he created.

I see no other possible way than this for the future to be known exhaustively by God, for creaturely freedom to exist in the present (see this and this), and for God to not have conceived evil before evil existed. We'll address that last concept later, for now, suffice it to say that if the future is fixed and thereby determinative of the present, will and freedom would have to cease to exist in any meaningful fashion. I see no biblical warrant to suggest such a course. To posit such is to put the cart before the horse and totally miss how God knows the future.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Measure of Grace

"I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away."    Luke 19:26  NASB

I think grace may be something that is shown to us by God in increments. Not that I'm suggesting the spiritual equivalent of quantum mechanics, but I do think divine light dawns upon the human spirit in measures. If that light has the intended effect, then more light is shone. If it doesn't, then what light had been shining is withdrawn.

When "grace" (or "light") is used in this manner, what it really is referring to is the action of the Spirit of God. Grace, I think, is a term which is used, generally, very inaccurately in the Church. When it is used, more often than not, it conjures up a picture of some mystical force or power flowing from God unto that which he has made. Grace is not such a force or power, it is merely a sentiment in the heart of God toward that which he has made--joyful kindness, unmerited favor.

It is the Holy Spirit (or, at times, those ministering spirits called angels) that actually reaches out and touches someone or something with the application of light and power. God's grace actually does nothing, but God by grace surely does! Nonetheless, in keeping with the way in which grace is used broadly (even if erroneously), I use it here to refer to the unseen activity of the Spirit by which spiritual qualities are imbued to the spirit/soul of one who is a believer or one who may become a believer. In other words, grace is shorthand for the work of the Holy Spirit.

I do not believe that the seed of Adam is capable of receiving such grace unmitigatedly. The darkened souls of Adam's sinful race would be overwhelmed if that were to occur, and the effect would be to blight the image of God they still possess. The image of God entails freewill by necessity and God's design, and it is not God's will to emasculate or eradicate the independence that comes thereby. Therefore, God's drawing, convicting grace does not and cannot come upon man as a storm surge, irresistibly, or it would incapacitate the image of God within.

Grace, it seems to me, is measured out by incremental nudges.

Light shines in some measure upon the souls of men. The soul so illumined which responds to that light gets more light, and softens. The soul repulsed by that light remains in darkness and hardens. The journey of the faithful from rank unbelief to oneness with God is one of responding to increasing grace and brightening light.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why I Tithe

The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ put an end to the practice of hopeful sinners reticently approaching God from respectable distance while carefully managing their behavior according to script (law). "It is finished!" wasn't just the end of an earthly mission, but the period at the end of the old covenant sentence the faithful had been serving. Jesus wrote a new story in which the cleansed sinner bounds into God's presence and jumps into his lap, invited and accepted, because of the shed blood of the Lamb. Under this new covenant, any and everyone who believes can enter God's presence, and if they need something, they merely ask and they will receive.

Given such a view on the new covenant, some folk are amazed to hear that I've practiced tithing for virtually my entire life as a Christian. In fact, I can't hardly imagine a scenario in which I wouldn't give at least a tenth of my increase in the name of the Lord. Considering Paul's Holy Spirit inspired stance on legalism and my views on the contemporary practice of tithing (see this), some might wonder why. Hopefully, this article will explain my reasoning.

Jesus taught that believers should be giving people. Since we're meant to be like Christ, that certainly makes sense, for who is more giving than he? Jesus did speak about tithing within the framework of OT Jews giving as commanded; however, his three word declaration on the cross announced the fulfillment of that economy. Giving, under the new covenant, is a matter of identification and collaboration with the joyful kindness (grace) of God; therefore, Christians give, not under compulsion, but in exhilaration whatever they purpose in their hearts to give.

Years ago (1979), upon embracing Christ's invitation to follow him, I knew I wanted to experience life as God would have me live it. I saw readily from the Word that becoming a giver was part of that, but in what way? I yearned for some dependable instruction from God that would clarify the nebulous purpose of my heart. In reading the scriptures and hearing some good preaching, I discovered that holy men of old found tithing an expression of faith in this regard, apart from any law, and something clicked for me.

I've been tithing ever since.

In all the years that have followed, I haven't secured anything nor assured myself of any measure of blessing by tithing. God has been faithful sure enough, and he's been real to me, but not because I've locked him into an arm's length contractual agreement by putting forth consideration. He's not a stranger I'm doing business with, after all. He shares what it's like being him with me, and it's my joy to cooperate with him and so experience what it's like to be kind and generous.

So I'm alive and well and free in the Holy Ghost, and I don't tithe because I have to...

I tithe because I want to.

Monday, November 2, 2015

I Just Don't Have the Tithe

In regard to what is to follow, let me refer you to Banking on God: the Tithe by Dan Edelen. It is an excellent interaction with the theological and biblical implications of the subject, and I highly recommend it.

The gospel is good news because it establishes our acceptance by God on the basis of the finished work of Christ rather than our works. That work of Christ was not undertaken just to change our label (e.g. saved or unsaved), but to change our very natures by enabling our dead spirits to be quickened by the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Believers in Christ are actually born of the Spirit, and made new creatures thereby. Christianity, therefore, is not about status but substance: we who were dead in trespasses and sins have actually been made alive in Christ Jesus, eternally.

On the other hand, the law (including tithing) was put in place (see Galatians 3:19-25) to serve as a custodian over sinners who were merely given the promise of Christ's coming, not the substance. It was only meant to keep Israel from running completely amok while they waited for the Promised One. Now that Christ has come, the law has been superseded by the realization of actual fellowship with God through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit. Reverting to the custodial to attain blessing from (or standing with) God through works of the law is a fool's errand, capable, only, of proving that in our natural selves we are sinners.

When I was a kid in nursery school, all the kids had their own nap mat. When nap time came, we unrolled our mat, laid down quietly and caught a few zzzz's. Back then I was always rested, my class functioned well and was always in good order, and I got stickers for being a good boy! Life was good and I had no reason to worry about anything.

Things were simpler then and more blissful, at least according to my idealized recollection, when there was something that clearly told me what to do and rewarded me for doing it. Nowadays, my life tends to be more harried: I'm often tired, things get chaotic, only duty tells me what to do, there are obligations to meet and bills to pay, and no one gives me so much as an "attaboy" for behaving myself. I wonder what people would think if I shucked my adult freedom and responsibility and hired a babysitter to keep me in line and give me stickers when I was doing well and being a good guy?

Christians who revert to legal principles (such as tithing) and depend upon rules and regulations in order to attain blessing or to assure themselves of standing with God have done that very thing. At best they are childish and at worst they are alienated from Christ. That's not a minor issue, but strikes at the heart of what it means to be born again. Such action is every bit as preposterous as an adult trying to establish the simple bliss of childhood by putting themselves in the charge of a babysitter! 

What this really comes down to whether or not it's appropriate for a Christian to claim that any objective, specific behavior (like tithing) serves as a basis for securing blessing from God. In truth, that is purely and simply a legalistic principle that has no place in understanding a believer's relationship to God. Under the auspices of the Gospel, all one has to do in order to get whatever he or she needs from God is to ask in Jesus name! But then, that requires the messiness of faith rather than a cut and dried formula that can be exercised braindead and worse, Spiritless.

I could go on, and on, and on dealing with the folly that's been perpetrated on this subject (e.g. seed sowing, 100 fold return, etc.) but right now, I just don't have the tithe.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Purpose of Discipline from God

When those Christians who do say it, say that God does not punish sin in our lifetimes (or really, at all for the believer), they do so reckoning upon the punishment for our sins Christ took upon himself. No condemnation remains for us to bear as a result. By that reckoning, anything painful experienced in this life which might appear punitive is either not coming from God or is not intended as a punishment. I must admit, there's much to commend in such a thought.

However, our thoughts about what God does or doesn't do must line up with each and every passage of scripture. Whereas it is certainly biblical to say that the Devil is seeking to bring us pain, it is not biblical at all to say that God won't or can't bring us things that are painful or punitive or both. We can say biblically that if God brings us to something painful, whether punitive or not, he does so for our own good and his grace is sufficient to bring us through it. To hold otherwise puts people who hold otherwise in the regrettable position of trying to make excuses for a theology that doesn't work in real life (unscriptural theology never does), or becoming incredibly self-absorbed trying to improve their faith to get a more desirable outcome.
"...have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” 
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."               Hebrews 12:3-12 NASB
Why would a loving father discipline his children through hardship and suffering? I think we have to trust that there is no other way to get us to where he wants us to be. Ultimately, that is by his side in eternity, sharing in all that is in Christ. Between now and then, Christ is our example, suffering can be a teacher, and the humility that goes with it is a boon to faith.

The bottom line in all this is understanding the reasons our forgiving God might use punitive measures in our lifetimes. Let's be clear, God's corrections mean legitimacy and life and are never without purpose. God uses corrective discipline so we do not go off the deep end and lose all we had in Christ. If punishment from God comes to believers, it comes not to write them off but to preserve them.

There's no reason to walk about shivering in fearful anticipation, looking over our shoulder expecting divine retribution for some misstep to overtake us and ruin our lives. God is not like that, he walks softly among us. But understand this: if you're on a path that could lead to your destruction as a believer, God is not above making an effort to stop you in your tracks and correct your course with a big stick.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Does God Punish Sin During Our Lifetimes?

Such a question arises because of the cross. There, Jesus took the punishment for the sins of the world to himself and suffered it completely, so what place is left for punishment of sin elsewhere? And yet, despite the universality of the atonement, the scriptures teach that Hades and the Lake of Fire are still in play for some sinners--namely all who do not trust in Christ. So the cross, despite its inclusiveness, does not effectively keep God from ultimately punishing at least some of the sin for which it was suffered.

If the cross, despite its universality and eternal consequence, does not prevent God from punishing some sin ultimately (i.e that of unbelievers), why would anyone suspect that the cross would automatically wipe out punitive measures from God temporally? Certainly, with regard to the unbelieving there can be no question. The cross does nothing for the unbelieving, now or later. If they are "uncovered" for eternity, they are absolutely "uncovered" now, but what about believers?

If one adhered to the Once-Saved-Always-Saved theory, there would be some reason to think that God does not punish the believer for sin in the now. If the cross crossed out sin and punishment for eternity, and our eternal situation is locked in now (as it is according to that doctrine), then there could be no basis for punishment either then or now. OSAS seems to me to logically entail God-Does-Not-Punish-Sin-Now. The problem, however, is that both concepts can be demonstrably proven false according to Bible.

I've presented one way the Bible does that in regard to OSAS, but let me say that it is also readily apparent from the texts used for that purpose that Christ clearly promises punishment in this life for those in his church who are sinning against him. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 is transparently clear on the subject as well, though it is often conveniently ignored by many in my theological circles. What else can be made of other biblical instructions, such as Hebrews 12:4-13, or promises, such as Revelation 3:19? Suffice it to say, to hold that God will not punitively discipline the believer in this life is to hold unscriptural doctrine.

Of course, one can disbelieve OSAS and still believe that God does not punish sin within a believer's lifetime, or believe OSAS and yet believe that God can punish sin in the present. In either case, one would merely hold one biblical error rather than two (although if one believes the latter, any punishment in the present would be superfluous at best and capricious at worst). That God may overlook sin in the present and does not operate in a tit-for-tat manner in disciplining believers in no way, shape, or form undermines the general premise: God can, God has and God may well punish a believer for sinning during the believer's lifetime.

That a swat in the here and now doesn't translate into an eternal bath in the Lake of Fire should be seen as encouraging, not as a means of discounting the promise of discipline in our lifetimes. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Set Your Face Against Gog

Iran joins Russia in Syria

Are we seeing the precursor to Ezekiel 38? Frankly, I've leaned toward the idea that the prophecy deals with amassing troops in the second half of the Tribulation, but there has always been the possibility that it would precede and precipitate the rise of the Ten Horns. A few more players would have to come on the field to make it truly an Ezekiel 38 fulfillment, so it's not there yet. Regardless, it's very interesting to see this turn of events.

Bears watching, I'd say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When Did God Know?

There is knowledge that did not and could not exist apart from God actually creating. Creation is an act of God's mind, and what he created is sustained by his mind (will), nonetheless, only as God created did that knowledge which had to do with creation and time come into being. Apart from that action, there was nothing to know in regard to it, and if he would never have created, there would be nothing to know. It is not a breach of aseity to realize this.

We have no reason to believe that God amuses himself with fantasy. Does he daydream or ponder, "What if I were to..." trying to figure out what he might do before he did it? I don't think so. God either does or does not, and if he does, he understands what he does thoroughly. When God created, he would have known all conceptual things at once, and seen all historical things as he created. If he had not created, he would have seen and known nothing about creation.

Therefore, when there was no creation, God knew nothing of the acts of free agents, for there was nothing to know. When God created, he instantly knew exhaustively what was not in flux by the brute fact of his omniscience, and what was in flux from omnitemporal observation. Of course, something has to be in existence to be observed, so there is a distinction within the knowledge of God. What exists because of conception God knew when he conceived it, but what exists as a result of freedom he knows by creating that which can act in time and timelessly observing it throughout its time.

When God created the universe, he instantly knew its entire history, including that of mankind, because he observed it from a timeless vantage. The foreknowledge gained through omnitemporal observation is therefore exhaustive while the choices and acts of agents are free. The conception of children in Christ is the only template mentioned in scriptures which guided God in creating. We are never told in the scriptures that a conception of the damned burning throughout eternity, nor the precise acts of mankind, guided anything prior to creation.

There is an aspect of incrementalism in observational foreknowledge. For instance, when God said "let there be...",  he would instantly know the history of all that existed in response to that decree. When he said, "let there be..." again, then he would know the entire history of what that decree brought into existence in conjunction with all the former decree had actualized. It is likely the former history would have been changed in some way by the latter decree. When God finished his creative work, the fullness of all he foreknows observationally would have been perfected.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Antichrist's Penchant for Taking Heads

There are three biblical characteristics by which the Antichrist can be identified (other than his proclamation in the Temple that he is god above all that's called god, which removes all doubt). First, he arises in the place of the King of the North (Seleucid Monarch) which was centered in what is today Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq. Second, we are told in Daniel that he honors a martial god unknown to his fathers at the time of Daniel and gains his status due to his fealty to him. Third, his name (which could be his birth name, his titular name, or his popularized name) has the gematria value of 666. What can we conclude, if anything from these characteristics?

The 666 is so cryptic, I don't know that there's anything helpful to say about it in this time. Perhaps it suffices just to recognize that what it means won't matter until after the Rapture, when it's used as a mark of submission. Prior to that it's anyone's guess, and after that it will only be of usable consequence to the Jews. So much for gematria.

What more can I say about the King of the North? It really is self-explanatory.

The reference to a martial god, on the other hand, could use some unpacking. It aligns quite well with the god of Islam, and really, no other. Allah is a god of conquest and siege who was unknown in the days of Daniel. Since no other god before or since could really fit the entirety of this description, the Antichrist will be a nominal Muslim.

He will succeed politically through the auspices of Islam. It may be that he initially sees himself as the Mahdi (I think others will), but eventually, he will come to see himself as god. The Islamic world will gravitate toward him, and much of the rest of the world will be bowled over by him and his violent impulse. Resistance will be seen as futile, while spiritual delusion will seal the deal.

With all true Gentile believers removed from the scene through the Rapture, the only people that will withstand the delusion and offer any resistance (particularly to the mark) will be the Jews. For anyone not willing to go along with his rule, his religion, and his economy, their heads will be taken. That that is a a penchant seen readily amongst radicalized Muslims today is no mere coincidence, its seems to me, so the details converge and tell me the Antichrist is a Muslim who will rise to power in the area that's at war this very day.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Failure of Middle Knowledge

Molinism posits that God's omniscience is expressed in three moments which are logically sequential rather than chronologically sequential. The first moment is God's Natural Knowledge which encompasses everything that is necessarily true apart from God's will. The second moment is God's Middle Knowledge which is aware of all possibilities (particularly free actions of agents) given any circumstance. The third moment is God's Free Knowledge which entails all that he actualized.

What kind of knowledge is Middle Knowledge, actually? At best, it could only be analytical and theoretical, because it is never instantiated, never incarnated (apart from that which becomes Free Knowledge). What isn't actualized is merely hypothetical--a mental "trial run," if you will. Supposedly, Middle Knowledge answers with certainty, not mere conjecture, the question: "What would occur if another state were to obtain? Since those other states are nothing more than whimsy in the mind of God, who purposely selects what is actualized, how is the outcome resultant from using Middle Knowledge distinct from, or better than, compatibilism (soft determinism)?

A Bible passage that purportedly backs this premise is Christ's musings concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. I question whether or not interpreting the passage to teach Middle Knowledge catches the gist of what Jesus was using the illustration for.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day."    Matthew 11:21-23  NASB
Was Jesus divulging precise alternate history or just making a point about how awful was the rejection of Christ by Jews who heard what he said and saw what he did? I don't think there's really much of a question.

If God can forecast the free choices agents would make in any circumstance accurately, without fail, prior to anything created existing, then I submit that those actions are not truly the agents' at all, but are instead mere projections of the mind of God. How could they be proven to be otherwise? The only qualification that withstands scrutiny and averts blameworthiness when it comes to matters of choice is independence (in connection to this, see Genesis 2:19Judges 3:4Jeremiah 19:5; James 1:13-15). Choice has to be made by the chooser and seen by the seer at the moment of decision in order to be free.

If a decision of an agent is known with absolute certainty before anything else was even made, and if in making everything else God opts among various possibilities to instantiate that decision (the agent certainly has no access to those possibilities), God unavoidably becomes the author of that decision. There is no way that choice is free in the sense that it is instigated in freedom by the chooser. The biblical notion of freedom, as I see it, is that choice is derived independently of God. If that choice "happens" before it happens, the choice is illusory.

Middle Knowledge was formulated as a means of attributing meticulous sovereignty and foreknowledge to God without obliterating freewill or having God incur culpability for actions taken which he opposes (sin). It fails to do so. If God knew what every choice an agent would make was before he created the universe, and knowing, then actualized that "blueprint," then culpability for all choices (including sin) adheres unshakably to God, and none of those choices are actually free (independent).

Molinism, it seems to me, reduces to determinism, so why add the extra layer?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Omnipresence and Omniscience Entail Omnitemporality

If it is true that God is both omnipresent and omniscient, then he must also be omnitemporal.

Omnipresence requires that each point in creation (or space, if you'd like) is accessible to God with equal facility. More to the point, everywhere is actually always before God, though God himself is not circumscribed by creation or in any way actually "in" it. God, being God, is transcendent and immutable. In other words, God is what he is everywhere at once.

It is known that everywhere in space is in a state of fluctuation, nothing is static, everything is in motion and changing. To be omnipresent, God has to be the same everywhere despite everywhere's constant fluctuation. Change, in itself, is a time construct, but, thanks to Einstein, we know that time is experienced relative to motion. The result, I think, is that "this instant" is a much more fuzzy concept than I'd care to admit; nonetheless, it leads me to the conclusion that God must be omnitemporal if he is omnipresent.

Omniscience requires that everything that can be known is known by God. If, in any instant, God is unaware, or ignorant of some knowable thing, he would cease to be omniscient. Omniscience, it would seem, precludes discovery. If that is so, it follows that God knows all that he has known or will ever know at once, or at least at once upon any decision to act.

Knowledge grows with the passage of time. Not in the sense that new facts come to light as time goes on, but that new facts, correlated with time passing, come into being. There is constantly, in every instant, something new to know. The result, I think, is that God could not be perfect in knowledge if his knowledge was dependent upon time. Therefore (by definition alone), God must be omnitemporal if he is omniscient.

Omnitemporality is entailed in omnipresence and omniscience. We can't have one without without the others. To that end, God's omnitemporality could be understood to be that such that every instant in time is before God at once. God is not "in" time nor subject to it, but rather is transcendent to time and unfettered by it, and he knows its entirety from start to finish.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why Neither Molinism nor Determinism Can Be True

"Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind"    Jeremiah 19:4-5   NASB
Molinism and Theological Determinism suffer from the same scriptural and fatal flaw, in my mind. Either regimen has to say something about how God thinks that he doesn't say of himself. We don't know, nor can we know how God thinks. We have what he tells us about himself, and that is it.

In the passage above, God tells us something about how he thinks, namely that the brutal, idolatrous infanticide practiced by apostate Jews was something that never entered his cogitations. It was not something that found it's way into his thinking nor something that arose because of his thinking. This was solely existent because of the agency of the Jews in question. God had no prior involvement, as it were.

This conclusion depends, to a degree, upon how one reads this text, there is some ambiguity in it. The general context of the passage is God's decrial through Jeremiah of a sin incomprehensibly out of place given Israel's history and God's word to them. As I see it, the extension in thought (v. 5) intended to be communicated by the author was something along the line of: "I did not command such a thing be done, I never spoke of such a thing, nor has such a thing ever even entered my mind." In other words, the antecedent of the understood "it" in that last phrase is the horrific act of infanticide, not the act of commanding or speaking.

Even if the antecedent of the understood "it" in that last phrase were to be seen to be referring to the action of God commanding or speaking (i.e., "nor did it ever enter my mind to command such, or speak of such"), there would still be an issue concerning God's decrees. If all is only as God decreed, as either Molinism or Calvinism would affirm, then the Israelites were, in effect, commanded (decreed) to burn their children from before time began and it did, in fact, enter God's mind to speak (decree) of it. His disclaimer through Jeremiah would be a disingenuous protest at best if Molinism or Calvinism were true--merely crocodile tears.

On either Theological Determinism or Molinism, my reading, which I think reflects what was the original intent, could not possibly be true. In both regimens, "it" would have had to enter God's mind before this world was actualized (which would actually be the case regardless of how one interprets that "it"). Therefore, for either system to be true, this passage would have to be false. The Word says, "let God be true and everyman a liar," so Molinism as well as Determinism must be tossed into the ash can, as far as I can see.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Image of God, Freedom, Depravity and Faith

There are those made in the image of God without the presence of God within, which are thereby bound to be sinners. Sin will be their very nature, for there is nothing truly good (godly) in them. They are depraved.

There are those made in the image of God within the presence of God (as were Adam and Eve) which thereby are capable of choosing a course contrary to God and thus becoming sinners. Though they were created good, it's hard not see that sin, for them, was inevitable.

There are those made in the image of God who actually participate in the divine nature (as the redeemed do in earnest now but who will not fully, or perfectly, do so until raptured) who thereby can do as God would at every opportunity to do anything, without fail. They, like Jesus, will never sin.

It seems to me, faith is the operative element and the status of spirit the conditional element in each category which determines the outcome.

Those in the first category are born separated from God and therefore have no inclination to, nor capability of seeing him as he truly is. They do as they want, and what they want does not factor in God as he truly is. Faith in God as he truly is (without which it is impossible to please him) could not arise in those in such a condition. They suffer an incapacity, as a result, to do anything truly good (i.e. of God) with no desire to do according to God as he truly is or wants.

Those in the second category (in which only Adam and Eve ever existed, and then only until The Fall) are made to do as they choose, for that is what being in God's image entails. As long as they chose to do as God wished things were splendid. When they chose to do otherwise sin was conceived, to be born when the choice was enacted. Faith (trusting in God's rather than their own judgment) would have been the thing which could have averted disaster, but they acted without faith and threw themselves and their heirs into Depravity.

Those in the third category are actually the other categories made anew without the taint of separation and are granted participation in the divine nature. They are like Jesus. They have a complete trust in God which does not have to compete with evil drives within nor evil enticements from without, and thereby they are enabled to walk in perfect agreement with God throughout eternity.