Sunday, August 21, 2016

G. C. Berkouwer and Holy Scripture as the Word of God

Theopedia supplies this description for G. C. Berkouwer:

Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer (1903-1996) was a minister of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands (GKN) and a Christian theologian. He was the chair of Systematic Theology at the Free University of Amsterdam, and a prolific author. While critical of the teachings of Karl Barth, Klaas Schilder, and Roman Catholicism, he is also known for leading the ecumenical movement of his day.

Berkouwer allows us to perceive his view of Scripture in one important work:

"We are also reminded in the discussion of Scripture of the function of the phrase 'it is written' as the final and ultimate appeal of the Lord himself in his temptations (Mt. 4:4, 6, 10), and we are reminded of many statements, both warning and admonishing, 'to live according to the scripture' (1 Cor. 4:6). Such statements constituted the background of the discussion and the heeding of the Word in the church and of the conviction that Holy Scripture is the trustworthy Word of God." (Holy Scripture, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975, page 12.)

While making such lofty professions about Scripture, Berkouwer disappointed many Evangelicals by means of his insistence that a priori formalizations of the Bible should be eschewed. He believed that we should pay close attention to the divine and human elements of Holy Writ.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Physical Kosmos in Relation to the Spiritual Kosmos: God, Cause and Effect

It's logically possible for a Christian physicalist to accept the existence of a non-physical God, who created a wholly physical universe filled with stars, planets, atoms, particles, humans and animals, etc. So I don't see a necessary entailment between a defeater for anthropological dualism and a defeater for the existence of an omnipotent spirit person. By "defeater," I mean an argument that overcomes/refutes another contention. So we can have one without necessarily having the other: God can exist without dualism being true.

1) A non-physical God exists.
2) A physical world exists.
3) Dualism is false.

These three propositions do not inherently conflict with one another. Hence, it's logically possible for a non-physical God to exist alongside a physical kosmos. By "dualism," I mean "anthropological dualism."

Secondly, pace my dualist friends, I wonder why we have to reject David Hume's three causal elements. While I don't accept Hume's take on causation, let it be sufficient to note that causes possibly take place within a nexus of relations (i.e., there are causal linkages).

The astrophysicist Paul Davies refers to "causal linkages" (networks) rather than ascribing causal potencies to objects themselves. For example, I put my foot on the accelerator, and this event increases the velocity of my car. Therefore, I say that the cause of my car picking up speed is the act of pressing the accelerator with my foot. However, if there's no gas in the car or if some other factor prevents the vehicle from moving (no engine, someone stole all of my tires, bad spark plugs), then pressing the gas pedal will have little to no effect. For simplicity's sake, though, there's nothing wrong with insisting that pressing the accelerator (gas pedal) makes cars go, and pressing the brake with enough force causes vehicles to stop. Yet it seems that there is a causal relationship which exists between event A (pressing the gas pedal) and event B (the car picking up speed) to provide the glue that joins them; different causal events likely will not make my car go (i.e., the event of pitching a baseball or the event of opening the door to my house). By the way, Immanuel Kant wrote that cause-effect relations are not analytic a priori, but synthetic a priori whereas Hume suggests they are synthetic a posteriori.

Part of John H. P. Reumann's Commentary on Philippians 1:1-2 (Jesus as Kurios)


Reumann's commentary is part of the Anchor Bible series.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:8 (The Lexical Semantics of SWMA)

About the Greek word σῶμα.

θαρροῦμεν δὲ καὶ εὐδοκοῦμεν μᾶλλον ἐκδημῆσαι ἐκ τοῦ σώματος καὶ ἐνδημῆσαι πρὸς τὸν κύριον· (2 Cor. 5:8).

The operative words for me are ἐκδημῆσαι ἐκ τοῦ σώματος. Regarding the use of σῶμα in Rom. 8:10, we read:

"It should first be noted that SWMA (body) should be taken literally. That it refers to the physical body [in Rom. 8:10] is almost certain" (Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the NT, 177).

σῶμα also signifies the physical body in 2 Cor. 5:8. If this observation is true, however, then 2 Cor. 5:8 does not pose a difficulty for my theological beliefs about the condition of the dead. For while the physical body of those Christians who are privileged to "see God and be like him" (1 John 3:1-2) may be "dissolved" at death (2 Cor. 5:1-2), 1 Cor. 15:42ff indicates that these same Christians are given new spiritual bodies when God resurrects them. As Paul so clearly expressed matters: "If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one" (1 Cor. 15:44).

Therefore, when the apostle speaks of Christians being "absent from the body," he is evidently referring to the physical body. Those who put on/assume immortality and incorruption, however, will acquire renewed bodies made like unto the Son's glorious corpus (1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:20, 21). These new bodies will not be souls, but nonetheless they will be spiritual.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

John C. Cooper on Names for the TRES PERSONAE

John C. Cooper (Professor of philosophical theology at Calvin
Theological Seminary) contends that the triune name for God (Father,
Son and Holy Spirit) cannot be replaced salva veritate. Names or titles such as Lover, Beloved, and Love (Augustine of Hippo) or Source, Word and Comforter do not adequately describe God and neither does the language, "God, Christ and Spirit" as Cooper explains:

"God, Christ, and Spirit is also impeccably biblical (cf. 2 Cor.
13:14). Moreover, this formula uses personal names or titles. But it
is not equivalent to the triune name. For taken on its own, it seems
to imply that Christ and the Spirit are not God. That implication
might not be disastrous for Christ as a referent to the human nature
of Jesus. But it still leaves the Holy Spirit out of the Godhead. It
also juxtaposes God with the humanity of Jesus, failing to communicate
that Jesus is God the Son. Though this trio of terms is biblical, it
is not even close to the meaning of the triune name. Like the other
formulas, it depends on the triune name to be understood in a
trinitarian sense" (Our Father in Heaven: Christian Faith and
Inclusive Language for God
. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), page 212.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Old Dialogue Concerning Religion, the Intellect, and Authority

[Interlocutor]
I personally do not find subsuming your intellect, the authority of the scriptures or your reputation to a religious organization. Whatever Paul meant by 1 Cor 1:10, it would be distressing to think that he meant this [speaking in agreement as Witnesses do].

[Edgar]
Who said you have to "subsume your intellect" to a religious organization? A sacrificium intellectus is most abhorrent to yours truly. Jesus taught us to love God with our whole mind. However, I believe that it is perfectly viable and legitimate for a theologian or Christian thinker to work within his or her own religious tradition while simultaneously refusing to turn a blind eye to error. The Bible encourages Christians to submit to those taking the lead among them, to wit, those who govern (Heb 13:7, 17). That may not sound so lovely to our postmodernist society which takes delight in flouting authority, for the most part. But the Bible shows that the first-century Christians submitted themselves to the apostles and older men of Jerusalem and other local overseers of the Primitive Congregation (Acts 2:40-42; Acts 15:1-29). Likewise, Jehovah's Witnesses strive to do the same in their worship to God the Father today.

There is one major difference between us and the Catholic Church. In the Roman Catholic Church, the buck stops at the pope. You can't question the papacy because it supposedly has the "requisite authority" to interpret Scripture and even to declare certain doctrines infallible. You technically have to submit to the pope whether what he says is backed by Scripture or not. Jehovah's Witnesses do not go beyond the things written (1 Cor. 4:6). We believe in "making sure of all things," including what we're taught by the Governing Body (1 Thess. 5:21). Of course, we believe that we are being taught Scriptural truth, therefore we humbly submit to the Governing Body. But if a teaching ever turned out to be unscriptural or downright harmful, we would not just follow along like gullible little puppies. [No Jim Jones people here!]

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Jesus and Proverbs 30:8-9

In Proverbs 30:8-9, we read:

"Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither
poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread of my daily
need: lest I be full and deny [thee], and say, Who is
Jehovah? or lest I be poor and steal, and outrage the
name of my God" (Darby).

The words above are said to be the utterances of Agur
the son of Jakeh (Prov 30:1 Darby). However, for our
present purposes, who pinned the words is not as
important as the intended meaning of the individual,
who spoke or wrote these words.

Agur says that he desires neither poverty nor riches;
he only wants "the bread of his daily need" or "the
food that is [his] portion" (NASB). In other words,
Agur believed that there is a "golden mean" between
the two pecuniary extremes of poverty and riches. He
sought a proper monetary balance and only wanted
sustenance and covering for each day. In this way, he
would avoid becoming either self-satisfied or
(morbidly) autarchic (i.e., self-sufficient) and forget
his God or steal because of depleted funds and thereby
assail the name of his God, YHWH.

Those of us who accept the full inspiration (= the
theopneustic or God-breathed character) of the sacred
writings believe that Almighty God Himself inspired
the words of Prov 30:8-9. We think God is telling us
that we should seek a balance when it comes
to money or material possessions. This is why I find
Paul's words in 2 Cor 8:9 of so much interest:

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor,
so that you by his poverty might become rich" (ESV).

There are many "gems" contained in this verse, but one
point I would like to consider is the thought of
God's Son becoming poor, so that we might become rich
by means of his poverty.

Jesus was materially poor during the time of his
earthly enfleshment. (This assertion does not imply
that I believe Jesus is still enfleshed in the
celestial heights.) He evidently did not experience that "golden
mean" which Agur suggests in Prov 30:8-9 since Jesus
did not even have a place to lay his head. Yet we are
told that Christ set an example for us by the way he
conducted himself on earth. Did he therefore show us a
new and more exalted way than that espoused by Agur?
How do we harmonize Prov 30:8-9 with 2 Cor 8:9, if
such a harmonization is even necessary? Is there
anything we can learn from Paul's words about how we
ought to view pecuniary matters in our respective
lives as Christians? Thomas Aquinas would later write
that the poverty of Christ was voluntarily undertaken
for our sakes.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ktisis (Colossians 1:23)

Although I take a specific position in my blog entries, I just want to remind those on this site that my positions are always up for revision or correction.

What does κτίσις mean in Colossians 1:23? The verse most certainly uses κτίσις (the lexical form) as a reference to the known human creation which existed in Paul's time. At the very least, a subset of humanity is being discussed in this passage. While it might seem odd to argue that κτίσις bears this meaning in 1:23, we must note that the long conclusion of Mark's Gospel found in MSS that include aleph, B (et al.) contains a similar use of κτίσις at Mark 16:15. Are we to believe that animals or non-humans are the referents there?

Most importantly Revelation 5:13 proclaims:

καὶ πᾶν κτίσμα ὃ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης ἐστίν, καὶ τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς πάντα, ἤκουσα λέγοντας Τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ ἡ εὐλογία καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.

In the foregoing passage, κτίσις certainly refers to animate rather than inanimate creatures. It does not have reference to the earth or the heavens or to any other inanimate referent that someone might have in mind. Compare Colossians 1:15.

Matthew Poole's Commentary: "Creature with the Hebrews doth eminently signify man, by an antonomasia, or a synecdeche [sic], putting the general for a particular. In the original it is, in all the creature; and so it may be, in all the world, (creature being sometimes used for the system of the world, Romans 8:19-21), in opposition to Judea, i.e. in those other parts of the earth which the Greeks and Romans knew to be then inhabited: under heaven, which is a pleonasm, but of the greatest emphasis, as Acts 4:12."

For more about the rhetorical device, pleonasm, see https://fosterheologicalreflections.blogspot.com/2016/07/redundancy-pleonastic-speech-and-bible.html

More On Interaction Between Body and Soul/Spirit (Dialogue with a Friend)

I've edited the material below to preserve anonymity and to make the discussion more concise. Sean K., maybe this material will be helpful to you.

God could make a human with a non-material mind, then fully determine that mind (theological determinism). Dualism doesn't automatically make the problem of free will go away, and it [actually] raises a new problem of agent-causation. How does an immaterial will bring about action in conjunction with all of the physical factors that exert causal influence on us? That question is not easily answered with the tools of science or philosophy. See Watson, Gary (editor). Free will. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003. Flanagan, Owen J. The problem of the soul: two visions of mind and how to reconcile them. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Here is where I'll broach the problem of overdetermination again. I'm not that comfortable saying "I am my brain" or "free will does not exist." It just seems that higher-level processes of the brain could explain free will and other conscious states. Conversely, I'm curious as to why you'd say that we need dualism to explain Alzheimer, addiction, hormones (etc.)? Could we not explain all of these phenomena by appealing to neurobiological processes? And if a physical cause is able to explain an effect, then why propose another cause for the effect (i.e., the problem of overdetermination)?

Addendum: On that last point, to illustrate, if pain can be explained adequately by natural factors and it's made better through analgesics, then why propose a supernatural factor to account for pain? Or if psychosis explains why a person hears voices, why claim that the person must be demon-possessed? If water can be explained by H20, why say that there must be something else that makes water, water?