Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Problem of Evil by William Lane Craig

Here are links to the nearly 3 1/2 hour long series of lectures by William Lane Craig on the Problem of Evil which he gave at Aalborg University in Denmark:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Succinct Case for Sola Scriptura

With minor editing, the following blue paragraphs are my comments in Steve Hays' blogpost: "The priority of tradition"  Any additional comments will be in black. BTW, I've argued for the following many times with greater force in various blog comments, but I've never collected their links or redacted them into a single blogpost. So, I decided to just post these comments here as a new blogpost.

There are different types of order and priority. For example, logical, chronological, causal, explanatory, importance, sequential et cetera. There's a sense in which one can say Church tradition has chronological, sequential, causal, explanatory priority to the NT Scriptures (I say NT because the OT existed prior to the formation of the NT church). Nevertheless, the NT Scriptures (and the Scriptures as a whole including the OT) has priority of importance over church tradition.

Even then, ultimately speaking God's Word/Revelation (either verbal or written) is chronologically, sequentially, causally and explanatorily prior to Church tradition since it's the Word/Revelation of God that put Adam under covenant with God, that initiated covenant with Abraham, Moses, David and the NT Church through the words of Christ (who is Himself God). Since the beginning of the enscripturation of Revelation into written form from the time of Moses it's [it has] always been the case that the already recognized and canonized written Revelation of God (i.e. the Scriptures) took priority over any further alleged revelations (whether written, verbal or oral). What could be termed the principle of Summa Scriptura. That was in operation EVEN DURING the time when inspired verbal revelation on par with Scripture was STILL being given. How much more when virtually no claiming [or is it "claimingly"?] Christian body believes NEW verbal revelation is being given on par with Scripture (not even Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and most charismatics; though exceptions would include cultists like Mormons etc.).

Since, church tradition does not solely contain revelation from God it's not pure, and therefore not reliable like Scripture is. Tradition may contain a mixed bag of human tradition and orally passed down inspired revelation. Say, hypothetically, it turns out that God really did inspire an Apostle to reveal that God's favorite color was green and that that [sic] revelation was recorded and preserved down to the present time through church tradition. That tradition must nevertheless be tested by the priorally greater authority of the written Scriptures because of the principle of Summa Scriptura. Even if the chain of transmission is impeccable. Interestingly, there is no such impeccably transmitted tradition which isn't already something recorded in Scripture.

We know from Scripture, Jewish tradition and Christian tradition that Scripture (whatever that might be, and irrespective of the correct canon) is reliable and possesses God's full authority (though for many Jews the Torah has more authority than the rest of the Tanakh). That can't be said about tradition. Jews claim that it's [it has] always been the case since the time of Moses that oral tradition was considered the Word of God, but Karaite Jews would demur and give good arguments against that claim. Similarly, Christians can also show from the Scriptures and Christian tradition itself that Scripture took priority over tradition. It was a later Catholic development that started to claim that Church "Tradition" (with a capital "T") was on par with Scripture, along with Ecumenical Councils (and a teaching magisterium for Catholicism). But that's not historical. It cannot be demonstrated from history that that's the case. On the contrary, the exact opposite can be demonstrated from the earliest church traditions. It's true that at times the Scriptures were spoken of as a subset of the greater traditions of the Church. But, many of those same church fathers would state that the Scriptures alone held the highest authority. So much so that some of them would say that a dogmatic doctrine of faith must be demonstrable from Scripture.

For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.” - Cyril of Jerusalem [from his Catechetical Lecture 4, 17]

That quotation is from Cyril's Catechetical Lectures where he was teaching about the basics of the Christian faith. Apparently it seems he was teaching something like the principle of Sola Scriptura or Summa Scriptura contrary to modern Catholic claims and teaching.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Why I'm Provisionally a Postmillennialist Succinctly Stated

I've been a Christian for nearly 30 years and the more I study eschatology the less certain I become regarding which position is true.

In a Christian Facebook group someone asked everyone what their eschatological position was and why. Here's my response in blue. My additional comments which I didn't post on Facebook will be in black.

1. It seems to me that God has intentionally inspired Scripture so that we cannot certainly determine which eschatological position is true. But broadly speaking we can have choices based on two issues: a) the timing of Christ's Return in relationship to the Millennium; b) to what degree the Gospel will succeed during the interadventual period. So, it seems to me that the most important and basic issue would seem to be the three general millennial positions.

2. If Premillennialism is true, yet I provisionally held to and lived as if Postmillennialism were true, at least I "expected great things and attempted great things for God" (as the saying goes). I tried to fulfill what I thought were the Cultural Mandate and the Redemptive Mandate of the Great Commission. Spreading the Gospel and its benefits to all parts of the world in hopes of converting humanity to Christianity. Proclaiming the Kingship and Lordship of Jesus to "whom all authority has been given" and who had already sat at the right hand of God.

3. If Postmillennialism is true, yet I provisionally held to and lived as if Premillennialism were true, I'll most likely end up expecting too little and attempting too little for God (even if I tried not to fall into that psychological trap). I think Postmillers rightly label ***some*** Premillennialists as really being "Pessimillennialists". Pessimillennialism of course being a portmanteau of "pessimism" and "millennialism". I think therefore, that of the two, it's better to provisionally hold to Postmillennialism.

4. Since *most* brands of Amillennialism are usually not as optimistic as **any** brand of Postmillennialism, then when a comparison between the two are done, the result will be similar to the comparison between Postmillennialism and Premillennialism. In which case, it's better to hold (at least provisionally/tentatively) Postmillennialism.

5. The truth is that God often does things counter-intuitively. So what makes most sense to us echatologically might in fact be wrong. Universalism is probably the best example of this, and historically speaking, there have always been a very small minority of "Calvinistic" Universalists. Nevertheless, having said that, it seems to me (from my admittedly finite and subjective perspective) that Postmillennialism would bring most glory to God were it true, than if the other two options were true. As I hinted to above, I think Postmillennialism is also the position that best encourages people to attempt to bring God most glory in every area of life, family, theology, culture et cetera. Postmillennialism also seems to have a more glorious vision of Redemptive History. Premillennialism and Amillennialism seem to make God look like a failure. Whereas Postmillennialism seems to be most consistent with a Calvinistic view of God's power to save and redeem (though I emphatically reject Universalism). Postmillennialism doesn't limit salvation to individuals, but also emcompasses the redemption of the whole human race (but not in a Universalistic sense).

I really like the following quote. Though, I'm not sure how accurate it is because I got it from a meme, and meme quotations are notoriously inaccurate.

"Postmillennialists do not believe in the inherent goodness of man. But non-Postmillennialists seem to believe in the inherent weakness of the Gospel." - Ken Gentry

Having written the above, I don't mean to imply that I don't think a Biblical case can be made for Postmillennialism. I think one can. Just as one can make a Biblical case for the other two millennial positions. They all look so plausible to me. Though, Premillennialism seems the least plausible of the three despite the fact that I started out a Premillennialist nearly 30 years ago.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Case for Revelation's Canonicity

In a Christian Facebook group a Christian said he was starting to doubt the book of Revelation's canonicity. I responded off the top of my head with these 7 reasons to be hesitant to reject Revelation. I could have added more, but I thought 7 was a good number (especially in light of Revelation's own fixation on sevens). I might eventually add to this list based on other people's comments.

1. There's no good ***positive*** case against its canonicity.

2. While its canonicity was in question for a time in the early church, by God's providence it was included and recognized by most Christian denominations as belonging in the canon. Therefore, we should be hesitant to reject its canonicity.

3. Rejecting it would eliminate many arguments that can be made from it for important doctrines like the Trinity, the full deity of Christ and the personality and full deity of the Holy Spirit, hell as eternal conscious torment, aspects of angelogy et cetera.

4. Its Jewish character and reliance on the OT, along with its similarities with the Gospel of John suggests it really is from the Apostle John. Among the many similarities, here are just some. Both gJohn and Revelation refer to Jesus as the "Word of God", liken Him to a "lamb", as the light and glory of God, strongly affirm and emphasize Christ's full deity, both alone specifically identify Zech. 12:10 as fulfilled at the cross, refer to Christ as the Shepherd et cetera.

4. Among all NT books, Revelation quotes or alludes to the OT the most. See my blogpost where I quote E.W. Bullinger:

This suggests it's from a Christian community that respects the Jewish origins of Christianity, and therefore further suggesting its historical connection with the original followers of Christ. For example, "maranatha" (1 Cor. 16:22) is considered to be a very early Christian phrase because it's Aramaic. Revelation's "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20) seems to allude to that.

5. Revelation has MANY, MANY connections with the book of Genesis. It alludes to themes and concepts in Genesis in a way that demonstrates their fulfillment in Redemptive history in the person and work of Christ. It does so in a way that, to me and many others, strongly suggests its inspiration. Genesis as the first book and Revelation as the last book makes a beautiful inclusio that smacks of inspiration and providential design.

6. The OT does have clearly prophetic, apocalyptic and echatological literature (e.g. Daniel). It would make sense that God would inspire at least one book in the NT to be in that genre. Revelation seems to be that book. No other NT book really fulfills that. It tells us about the ultimate and final victory of Christ and the Kingdom of God against all other kingdoms and kings.

7. For nearly 2 millennia it has provided all Christians (especially, those persecuted) great comfort, assurance of future rewards, future rest from labors (cf. Rev. 14:13) and ultimate vindication in the face of inevitable death and sorrow (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). It's power to do so and to encourage perseverance in faith suggests its genuine inspiration.

These are just 7 reasons off the top of my head why we should seriously hesitate rejecting the canonicity of Revelation.

Below are some Comments by others in the Facebook thread. My further comments are in blue:

-And somehow you become the litmus test to determine this... Remember the warning at the end of the book. If you add to or take away... pretty dangerous stuff.
Great point. IF Revelation really is from God, then we might face harsh judgment for rejecting it. Though, it's warning, if genuinely from God, applies to us secondarily. It's primarily for those in the 1st century who were in a greater position to know its source as being that of a true Apostle. Our uncertainty slightly mitigates our responsibility. But only slightly. Since, if it's truly inspired and belongs in the canon, then by God's design it has the secondary application to itself in relation to the rest of Scripture, along with the tertiary sense in which the warnings of Revelation applies to ANY part of the canon (i.e. including passages outside of the book itself).

-Have you examined and compared the Greek vocabulary with the books of John, 1st 2nd and 3rd John? How does the Bible look without the end story?

-Since we acknowledge that we believe in an absolutely sovereign God who rules by decree, and that the Canon of Scripture has been widely accepted by Christians for many centuries to include the Revelation of John, it is unreasonable to conclude that God would permit it to be included as part of divine, God breathed inspiration.
It would be negligent or even deceptive for God to allow a counterfeit book of this importance to be included in what we widely accept as the Conon.
While the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of professing Christian communities accept Revelation, apparently not all do. The Wikipedia article on Revelation claims (rightly or wrongly) "Revelation was the last book accepted into the Christian biblical canon, and to the present day some "Nestorian" churches[citation needed] such as the Church of the East reject it.[23][24] It was considered[by whom?] tainted because the heretical sect of the Montanists relied on it[25] and doubts were raised over its Jewishness and authorship."

- Plus, I may add; this is not John's revelation-it's the revelation of Jesus Christ...tread lightly