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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Argument from Inspiration for Compatiblism

According to standard Protestant/Evangelical views on Inspiration (Verbal Plenary Inspiration) God, by the Spirit brought about the exact text and wording such that what the authors of the various scriptural texts wrote could properly be called God's word. However at the same time, we Protestants can rightly say that Paul wrote Romans based on his own beliefs, personality, style, history, autobiography and that inspiration is neither via dictation nor merely of general concepts, nor a kind of sentimental "inspiration" like Shakespeare being inspired by a summer's day.

There is concurrence where God determines the exact wording of the scriptures while the authors are also freely writing what they desired to write.

I think this is a good example of Compatiblism. I can say that the Pentateuch is the direct word of God and that Moses should be praised as a literary genius for his composition of Genesis. Whether we think that this is by supervenience or concurrence or some other thesis, the question can be asked - Was it God who determined the content of his word or the authors? To which it is correctly responded - Both/and, yes.

Many Incompatiblists attempt to make a principled objection that if God causally determines the outcome of some action that the agent is not free in their actions. Inspiration seems to provide a clear exception to the principled objection that shows the assumption of Libertarian forms of Incompatiblism to false.

A Molinist may attempt to say that God merely foreknew what Paul would write and actualized a world where Paul wrote what God would have wanted him to write had he intervened. This poses two problems.

1. Why think such a world is feasible? Maybe the Bible is the best that God could get in a feasible world so it's his Plan B (still a plan but not his perfect word to be sure). And why not Plan C? Or D? or AABB?

2. The Molinist would need to give the metaphysics of how that is a concept of inspiration of the Biblical text specifically and not of any other text, for surely God equally foreknew and actualized the world with War and Peace written in the way that we have it. If the exact metaphysics of the Molinist accounts for the Bible in precisely the same way that it does War and Peace or the Devil's Bible, then in what conceptually significant way can we say that the Bible is inspired in a special way or that it is, properly speaking, "the Word of God"?

To the Incompatiblists reading this, based on the numerous objections to Compatiblism (that it undermines freedom, that it removes the ability to be praise/blameworthy, that if we are determined we cannot said to be rational, etc.) does that fact that God exhaustively determined the Scriptures mean that Paul and the other authors were not free, praiseworthy, rational, etc. in their composition of their texts?

Or to escape this problem, do you then feel the need to alter your view of Inspiration to affirm either a Dictation view or an Aeshetic Inspiration view?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Does Baptizo Always Mean Full Immersion?

Someone in a Facebook group asked this question: 

"If infant baptism is proper practice, then why wasn't Jesus sprinkled? The bible only speaks to His full immersion baptism..."

 Here is my answer: 

1. Because Jesus was circumcised as the sign of the covenant, not baptized. He underwent the ceremonial cleansing of John's baptism. In many ways John's baptism was disanalogous to Christian baptism as the covenant sign and seal.

2. What passage is unequivocal that he was immersed? Like most passages, down to the water / up from the water does not necessarily mean immersion and can refer to him literally going down the bank to stand in the water and then walking back up the bank out of the water. So you must beg the question that Jesus was immersed anyway. (I'm not saying he for sure wasnt, just that you cannot build an argument from that assumption without begging the question). 

3. The root word Bapto seems to typically mean "dip/immerse" but Baptizo does not. It seems to almost universally mean to wash/cleanse, without reference to means. 

4. Jews baptizo'd their hands when they washed and we know this was done by pouring over their hands into a basin. 

5. The author of Hebrews in 9 talks about the baptizo's of the OT (sprinkling of the blood of bulls and goats) which were not done by immersion, but it spells out the various baptizo'd os sprinkling of the blood as the chapter progresses. 

6. If you claim that baptizo MUST mean immersion then you actually make Jesus a liar. In Acts 1:5 we read, "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."" So Jesus is say that what is going to happen at Pentecost is a baptizo (on your view, a "full immersion") in the Spirit.

Yet when Peter says what happened as seen by the tongues of fire, he conveys it via Joel 2 where the Spirit is poured out. In 2:17-18, Peter cites Joel saying, 

"I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy." 

So Jesus calls it a baptizo and Peter says that it was expressly a pouring. So if Baptizo ONLY means immersion, then either Jesus is wrong or Peter/Joel is wrong. 

7. Even when I was a Credo-baptist I didnt find the case convincing that it was only "immersion." So my denominational affiliation has nothing to do with it. For example, in Acts 8 (where Philip baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch, the term "eis" is used for "to/toward/into" and is present ELEVEN times in the chapter. With the exception of v38 (which is the verse in question about them going to or into the water), all the other instances clearly are directional - to/toward. They are never "into." The term "ek" is also far more often the directional term "from" rather than a "from out of." So it is a very normal reading that they went down the bank to the river and came back from the river. In fact, the last location marker was the chariot itself which acts as a focal point - they went down FROM the chariot (v38) TO the river and then when they come FROM the water it is implied that they are going back TO the chariot. It is there where Stephen vanishes. 

8. We can also see that in Acts 9 Paul was baptized in the house of a commoner in Damascas. People did not have bath tubs back then. They would have wash basins over which they would pour water over their heads or use some kind of rag to basically give themselves sponge baths. It's wildly unlikely that they would have had anything like a modern baptismal to do full immersion baptisms. 

9. Josephus records that the Jordan River, at that location was about ankle deep and would maybe be waist deep at flood levels. Unless it was flood levels, fully immersing someone in a couple of inches of water... not probable. 

 ------ 

The simple fact is, outside of simply bald assertion that it only means immersion, unless you beg the question that it means immersion, there are almost no texts where baptizo is clearly something being fully immersed.  Now, this does not prove Paedobaptism nor disprove Credo-Only Baptism. What it does is simply make the lexical case that Baptizo simply DID NOT only or even mostly mean full immersion.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Freedway Thinker #16: Allegory vs. Metaphor... Literally.


Equivocations abound when discussing hermeneutics and whether a text is allegorical, metaphorical, symbolic, literal, historical and so forth. I try to quickly unravel the knot that many have made.

Enjoy the show!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

SERMON: A Plan For Suffering


In this sermon I preach from Romans 8 and why we can have assurance in the love and sovereign plan of God, even in suffering, not because of anything good about us, but because our God is a God who keeps his promises to us.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Does Calvinism Make God the "Author of Sin"?

A common objection to Calvinism is that the anti-Calvinist believes it makes God the “author of sin,” (which I will call “AoS objection”), in which it is proposed that if God is the author of sin, the God is inappropriately related to the existence of sin such that he is somehow blameworthy for it. There are numerous responses to this objection that I think easily dispatch the problem by correctly understanding the Reformed view of God’s sovereignty and decrees in relationship to creation. Guillome Bignon’s book Excusing Sinners, Blaming God is a good example of this. The line of response typified by Bignon, is, basically, that the term “author of sin” is left too vague and ill-defined to pose a meaningful objection to Calvinism and Reformed dogma. That is, “author of sin” could mean several different things and could hide several assumptions about the relationship between God and creation, and a certain view of Libertarian Freedom, that are not present in Calvinism. Because the AoS is a variety of internal critique (i.e. “IF Calvinism is true, then God would be the author of sin…”), bringing in assumptions, principles, and views that are not intrinsic to Calvinism means that objection fails – it no longer is evaluating Calvinism qua Calvinism, but rather is objecting to a misconstrued strawman of Calvinism slanted and distorted by extra-Calvinistic principles. This does not mean Calvinism is true, but merely that this objection often fails for that reason.

There are other responses that could be given as well from views concerning the non-moral goodness of God such that God just is the good and as such, has no moral obligations to any moral standard like we humans do. This would mean that whatever God did for his own reasons would be good for God to do precisely because God does it. This is complex and would take too long to explicate here, but I wanted to atleast give a nod in that direction so many of my readers who would make such an argument (myself included) can rest assured that I am aware of its viability.

However, in addition to the above responses, I recently saw another rejoinder to the AoS that I had not seen before and found interesting. I have not thought about it long enough to think of all the ins and outs so I’d like to throw it open to everyone here to weigh in on its merits (if any). It goes like this:

One of the assumptions of the AoS, is that if God is the author of sin, it means that he is becomes the sole actor and only responsible party – that God being the “author of sin” removes the human component, even if they freely chose to act upon their desire to act sinfully. That is, that God would be monergistically responsible for the existence of sin, and man’s choice is not considered sufficiently free enough to be blameworthy or causally determinative. They argue that this just is what “author” means. This then, in conjunction with the first rejoinder above, a set of horns on a dilemma.

Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus the “author” of our faith. If we take the meaning needed to make the anti-Calvinistic objection to work, that “author of…” just means a monergistic work where God becomes the only responsible party eliminating the volitional role of the human, then we would also need Hebrews 12:2 to mean that. That would mean that in order to press the objection against Calvinists, the anti-Calvinist would need to affirm the Calvinistic notion of monergism with respect to the existence of faith in the believer – that God in Christ is the one solely responsible for the existence of what he is the author of and that man was determined and thus not praiseworthy for their own faith – they chose because God “authored” them to it.

In order to avoid this, the anti-Calvinist will need to then equivocate on the term “author” and say that author can and does in some instances mean something other than the responsible agent for the existence of some feature of what they authored, if they authored it with the secondary cause of human action and choice. However, the instant that they do this, then they have shown that Bignon’s rejoinder above properly dispatches their original objection.

This means that the AoS objection either proves too much and inadvertently proves the Calvinistic doctrine of monergistic salvation, or else it does not prove enough to sustain its case because it requires a concept of authorship that the Calvinist would not affirm (and that they themselves do not affirm in analogous cases).

Therefore, the AoS objection fails because the anti-Calvinist cannot have his book and eat it too.

For more on Reformed Theology and Calvinism, please visit the collection here