Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

I’m looking forward to Tim Keller’s new book, and so are all the PCA & SBC guys who make an idol of him (just a joke flowing from a previous post). 

Here is a short, early review from Publishers Weekly:

“In this apologia for Christian faith, Keller mines material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology and a multitude of other disciplines to make an intellectually compelling case for God. Written for skeptics and the believers who love them, the book draws on the author’s encounters as founding pastor of New York’s booming Redeemer Presbyterian Church. One of Keller’s most provocative arguments is that “all doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs.” Drawing on sources as diverse as 19th-century author Robert Louis Stevenson and contemporary New Testament theologian N.T. Wright, Keller attempts to deconstruct everyone he finds in his way, from the evolutionary psychologist Richard Dawkins to popular author Dan Brown. The first, shorter part of the book looks at popular arguments against God’s existence, while the second builds on general arguments for God to culminate in a sharp focus on the redemptive work of God in Christ. Keller’s condensed summaries of arguments for and against theism make the scope of the book overwhelming at times. Nonetheless, it should serve both as testimony to the author’s encyclopedic learning and as a compelling overview of the current debate on faith for those who doubt and for those who want to reevaluate what they believe, and why. (Feb. 14)”

(HT: Reformissionary)

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Review: Deja Vu

Deja Vu has two of my favorite actors in it- Denzel Washington and Val Kilmer.  Only one of them gets all the fun- Denzel.  Val has lines, but not much depth to his character.  That the character seems so unlike many of his other characters means he did a good job.  The script, alas, didn’t give him much to do.  This was a vehicle for Denzel.  Val also seems to be wearing the ‘fat packs’ again (he jokes about that in the commentary on Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang)

Deja Vu is a sci-fi action thriller set in modern times.  After an act of terrorism in New Orleans.  ATF agent Carlin seems to have a knack for sorting out evidence.  He catches the eye of FBI agent Pryzwarra.  But a woman who appears to be a victim of the bombing catches Carlin’s eye.

Soon Carlin is working on Pryzwarra’s secret project- they have the ability to see the past unfold like a live stream 4 days later.  They want Carlin to help them sort out the clues to catch the killer.  But Carlin wants to prevent the bombing, and save the girl.

Yes, a space-time continuum police movie.  This opens tons of philosophical questions, which the movie isn’t really attempting to answer (much to Kilmer’s disappointment I’m sure).  There seem to be some glitches in the plot as a result.  But, the movie is interesting, and has a goodly amount of action.  Unfortunately, it also has a bit of vouyerism as well.  That was a tad predictable- but at least it wasn’t over the top.  Yet, I think both of us were uncomfortable with it.

Aside from that, we both enjoyed the movie and not just because it got us out of the heat.  This is good, because the CavWife is not big on sci-fi anything. 

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(I originally wrote this in 1999/2000 or so.  I’m pulling out some old work that I found interesting)

I grew up watching professional wrestling.  It was a reflection of our nation’s experience.  The good guys reflected the oppressed groups in our nation (Chief Jay Strongbow, Pedro Morales, Ivan “Polish Power” Putski), or our allies.  The bad guys were from our political enemies (the Iron Sheik, Nikita Koloff), or deranged lunatics (George “the Animal” Steele).  The good guys were actually good.  They tried valiently to wrestle by the rules and display good sportsmanship.  But the bad guys were really bad, breaking all of the rules and eventually provoking the good guys to take matters into their own hands because the ref usually missed the infractions or was powerless to do anything about it.

It was a morality play, pure and simple, teaching us that sometimes good people are forced to fight fire with fire, but only if provoked.  The US saw itself as the good guy forced to take action to counteract plots by the Communists or dictators because the UN refused to act.  On an individual level, most Americans were seen as basically good, law abiding citizens who could strike back if provoked.  We tried to do the right thing, but those darn bad guys made life tough for us.           

“It’s the morality play of the 90’s” declared wrestler “Chris Jericho” on an ESPN special.  He spoke the truth.  In the 90’s there are no longer good guys in wrestling.  There are only not-so-bad guys.  Everything has turned to shades of grey instead of being black and white.  People cheer according to charisma, theme music, alliance or success.  If a wrestler is successful, he is worthy of a following.           

This is the epitome of post-modern, and post-Christian (though modernity and Christianity are not the same), ethics.  The point is gaining power.  Those in power have free reign to do as they please.  If you can outwit those above you, you are to be cheered.  We only boo the horrible authority which tries to oppress the freedom of the individual to make his/her own way.  Success is all that matters.  If a President is successful, he is worthy of a following regardless of his personal and legal conduct.  Charles “Please Quote Me” Barkley has made it known, “I am not a role model”.  He rightly points to parents and teachers, but refuses to accept personal responsibility for being a good citizen.  That’s for “other people”.  Celebrities are somehow exempt from moral standards, even if they are parents and teachers (politicians or pastors).           


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(This is the 3rd in a series on Open Theism)

Review and Summary

Pardon my polemics as I sum this up.  The god that Open Theism offers you and me is a diminished deity.  Much of his power and glory have been sacrificed at the altar of human pride.  People want genuine human freedom; a freedom from God’s control.  They strip him of sovereignty so he resembles rabbi Harold Kushner’s very good but essentially powerless deity.  This is the god who can’t help you very much.  This is the god who can’t really keep his promises because he cannot control all of the factors necessary to keeping his promises.  This god might not be able to save you.  You will get a warm fuzzy because he loves you, but this is a teddy bear against the things that terrify you by night.  This god’s will is altered by prayer, but he can’t necessarily fulfill his will.  The god Open Theism offers in clearly not the God of the Bible.  Therefore he is not a God worth worshipping.

The God who presents Himself in the Bible is one who rules nature.  He rules all of creation.  He is the One who knows the end from the beginning.  He is the One who works out everything according to His purpose.  He is the One who chose who would be saved by Christ before the creation.  He possesses a freedom far greater than ours.  He involves Himself in the affairs of life to accomplish those purposes.  He is actively engaged with us, but is not at our mercy.

I hope that we don’t have to learn this the hard way, as Nebuchadnezzar did.  In his arrogance he exalted himself.  God opposed and humbled him.  When he came to his senses he declared that no one can thwart God’s will (Daniel 4:34-35).  If we continue to exalt ourselves (particularly at His expense), God will oppose and humble even His church.  To embrace this doctrine is to place ourselves under God’s curse.  Indeed, “no one can deliver us from His hand”.

 For More Study:

God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict.  Gregory Boyd (IV Press)

God of the Possible.  Gregory Boyd (Baker Books)

God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism.  Bruce Ware (Crossway Books)

No Other God: A Response to Open Theism by John Frame (P&R Publishing)

The Case of Freewill Theism: A Philosophical Assessment.  David Basinger (IV Press)

The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence.  John Sanders (IV Press)

The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God.  Pinnock, Rice, Sanders, Hasker and Basinger (IV Press)

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(This is the 2nd in a series on Open Theism)


The Curse of Open Theism

Genuine human freedom would be a morally neutral will.  I could freely choose from any number of options without any outside interference.  That identical set of circumstances may produce any number of choices. 

I say genuine human freedom is a myth because they fail to account for, or minimize, depravity and its effects on human freedom.  They ignore the Bible’s assessment that we are slaves to sin and enemies of God.  God’s Word declares that we do not possess genuine human freedom.  Their theological system is built to protect a philosophical idea we do not find in Scripture.

Jonathan Edwards called the will “the mind choosing”.  We choose, freely, according to our character.  Unfortunately, we are sinners.  We make our choices on the basis of our impure motives, desires and longings.  We are not morally neutral!

However, this assumption of genuine human freedom affects how Open Theists interpret some key Bible passages.  In Genesis 28 they believe that God actually learned that Abraham feared Him.  They use a “face value” model of interpretation.  They claim God had to learn this piece of information about Abraham by testing him.  This despite the fact they still claim God has full knowledge of the past and present.  If God has full knowledge of the present, He would have known that Abraham feared Him.  If we have genuine human freedom, this test is irrelevant.  God cannot base any of His future actions on Abraham’s fear and faithfulness because God does not know if Abraham will continue to fear God and be faithful in the future.  Tested again, Abraham could choose differently.

In his book God’s Lesser Glory, Bruce Ware does an excellent job examining these and other passages related to this discussion. He shows that a “face value” method of interpretation would strip God of His present and past knowledge (He had to see if Sodom and Gemorrah were really that bad).  It would also mean that God is not present everywhere at every moment (He had to go to Sodom and Gemorrah!).  They fail to test their interpretation of these passages against the clear teaching of Scripture elsewhere.  We do this because God cannot lie.  As a result, Scripture will not contradict itself.  The clear passages illumine the unclear passages.

So, part of the curse of Open Theism is that it is a slippery slope whereby God’s glory continues to decrease.  The same method of interpretation that robs us of God’s knowledge of the future robs us of other attributes of God.  We end up with a god more like ourselves, and less like the Savior, Redeemer and Defender we need.  They give us a god who could not know the Fall would happen, Jesus would die on the cross, Peter would deny Jesus three times (how’d he even know Peter would be questioned three times), that Hezekiah would live 15 more years (that is a whole lot of possible accidents, injuries, illnesses and possible assassination attempts), much less that you would exist in order to be adopted in Christ.  The Bible, and our faith, begins to unravel.

Bruce Ware also does an excellent job building the biblical case for God’s foreknowledge (in the Calvinistic sense).  In Isaiah 40-48, God declares that what separates Him for the numerous idols the people worshipped is the fact that He does declare the future.  He points to past prophecies that have come true.  He points to past prophecies that are about to come true.  He is specific about many of those.  In order for God to bring His purpose to completion, He must know and control the choices of a vast number of volitional beings.  The mystery is how He can do this “without violating the will of the creature” as the Westminster Confession of Faith asserts.  The claims of Open Theism that God does not know the future do not stand up to the teaching of Scripture.

The curse of Open Theism is not limited to theology proper.  It has a practical outworking in the lives of those who believe it (Bruce Ware is once again extremely helpful).  This is why Paul told Timothy “watch your life and doctrine closely”.  One area of concern is prayer. 

Proponents of Open Theism declare that prayer really matters.  They believe that prayer really matters only if we have genuine human freedom.  In prayer, our relationship with God is built.  We are able to share our feelings and desires.  In their view, foreknowledge would mean that our prayers do not change anything.

In Reformed Theology (summed up in the Westminster Confession of Faith) prayer has two primary purposes (at least).  God has not just ordained what will happen, but also how.  Some the instruments God uses to accomplish His will are the prayers of His people.  Our prayers matter, even in a theological system where God is in complete control. 

Prayer is also related to our adoption as God’s children.  We express our needs, longings and feelings to our Father who expresses His loving involvement with us by responding to our prayers.  One need not accept the views of Open Theism to have a prayer life that matters and builds one’s relationship with God.

Open Theism seems to forget that God knows everything past and present.  Our prayers are significant, in their opinion, because God learns something new.  But He knows what we think, feel and desire.  If God’s knowledge of the future makes prayer useless (as they claim), so would God’s complete knowledge of the present.  We don’t need to pray because God already knows. 

Their own argument backfires (as if the purpose of prayer were to inform God of something).  God will not learn something new which will cause Him to change His mind.  The point would rather seem to be integrity in our relationship with God and ourselves.  God seems to be letting us know our hearts better.  But they insist on using a human model for communication between God and man.  This is part of the same problem we saw before- making God in our image!

Their views once again slight God’s wisdom.  Why does God need our help to make decisions?  He certainly possesses more complete knowledge than we do, is wiser than us, and has much purer motives than us.  To believe that God’s decision making process is incomplete (like mine) without input from others does not make any sense.  It exalts my knowledge and wisdom, and minimizes God’s.  Compare their views with Isaiah 40:13-14.  No one is competent to be God’s counselor.  And God has no need of a counselor.  Open Theism again falls short of God’s glory as revealed in Scripture.

Beyond this, what happens when things turn out to be difficult?  Are we to surmise, as they do, that God was mistaken (since He couldn’t see the future)?  Our disappointment shifts from our circumstances to God’s character.  We depart from Paul’s conviction that God is at work in all our circumstances to make us like Jesus (however painful that might be).  We would be forced to believe that God is a good-hearted bungler who can’t be trusted to protect us.  As a result suffering has little or no meaning in Open Theism.  God’s plan can be ambushed either by Satan or your neighbor.  God’s glory is assaulted by Open Theism once again.  They reject the biblical teaching that God is absolutely in control and that God is absolutely good.  The Bible asserts both, not one at the expense of the other as Openness Theology does.  Once again it fails to measure up to the standard of Scripture.

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Darwin’s Doubts

“The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.  Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”  Charles Darwin from a letter to W. Graham quoted in The Autobiography of Charles Darwin and Selected Letters.

Once again C.S. Lewis is helpful in undermining the naturalist position, Darwin defended by doubted (in his saner moments).

“If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason for supposing that my beliefs are true… and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”  C.S. Lewis in Miracles.  In other words, such a belief would be a self-defeating argument.

Update:  Gene Edward Veith, in a post on  the irreducible complexity of memory, answers Steven Carr’s objection better than I could (no surprise there).

“What strikes me is not only the multiple kinds of levels of memory but that all of this, at some point, is MOVED from one part of the brain to another. A major weakness of the theory of random evolution is that it fails the imaginative test. It is hard to IMAGINE how random natural selection could produce something like the mind. It is like trying to imagine a pair of bolts shaken and stirred until they turn into a computer. And the human mind, in its electronic circuitry and memory-storage capacity, is so much more than any computer we can fathom.”

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While pumping that iron yesterday I was listening to Carson’s lecture on the emerging church.  I think I downloaded that from  Southern Seminary’s website, but I can’t remember.  But it was very good anyway.

Sounds like his book had already been released, and was being blasted by some folks.  My opinion is that they accuse him of things he didn’t do.  He was not being reductionistic, as if all emerging pastors and authors were the same.

In the lecture he affirmed some of the things that the emerging church is saying.  He does remind us that they are not the only ones saying them.  He finds decidedly non-emerging church like Capital Hill Baptist, Camelback Bible Church in AZ (I nearly took a position there upon graduation from seminary… one of those times you go “what was I thinking?”) among others.


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