f The Wittenberg Door: September 2010

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

God’s Aseity, Self-sufficiency, and Love—A Contradiction?

Two of God’s incommunicable attributes (belonging to God alone) are His aseity (self-existence, John 5:26) and His self-sufficiency (Psm. 50:12-13). His name “El Shaddai” (God all-sufficient, Gen. 17:1, 2) signifies these attributes. Being the great “I Am” (Ex. 3:14), God’s existence is not dependent on anything or anyone, nor does He need anything or anyone.

We also find in Scripture that God is love (1 John 4:8), meaning that He is characterized by love. This poses an interesting question when the previous two perfections are considered. Here’s what I mean: Love requires an object. It’s not possible to love something or someone unless there is something or someone to love. Let’s put this in a simple syllogism (a deductive argument where the conclusion is inferred from the supporting propositions):

God is love. Love needs an object. Therefore, God needs an object for His love.

The argument is valid (it's structured properly) and sound (the premises—supporting propositions—are true). Therefore, by force of logic, the conclusion is inescapable: God needs something. So how does this square with His aseity and self-sufficiency?

The Trinity

The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Spirit, and vise versa all around, and this from all eternity. This cannot be said of anything else, for all else is created by God (Gen. 1:1). Hence, the doctrine of the Trinity is the only explanation that avoids contradiction.

So next time you speak with a Jehovah’s Witness, Oneness Pentecostal, or anyone else of the non-Trinitarian stripe, give this line of reasoning a whirl.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Rejection of Errors, Paragraph Eight

Synod condemns the error of those ...

VIII Who teach that it was not on the basis of his just will alone that God decided to leave anyone in the fall of Adam and in the common state of sin and condemnation or to pass anyone by in the imparting of grace necessary for faith and conversion.

For these words stand fast: He has mercy on whom he wishes, and he hardens whom he wishes (Rom. 9:18). And also: To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given (Matt. 13:11). Likewise: I give glory to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and have revealed them to little children; yes, Father, because that was your pleasure (Matt. 11:25_26).

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, CA, and co-host of the White Horse Inn, provides an excellent explanation of this portion of the Canons of Dort. Here's how it begins . . .

The error identified and refuted in paragraph eight is one which attempts to locate reprobation in people’s misuse of their freedom, not in the sovereign will of God. According to this error, people somehow manage to reprobate themselves, by using their free will in such a way as to disqualify themselves from that which they could have otherwise obtained–salvation from sin. In other words, these people could have co-operated with God’s grace, and then believed the gospel. Instead, they “chose poorly,” as someone once put it.

This erroneous notion results from the Arminian contention that despite the fall of the human race into sin, men and women are still able to co-operate with the grace of God, and when they do so, they are thereby inclined to believe, repent, and live in holiness before God. When the logic of the Arminian view is applied to those whom do not chose co-operate with God’s grace (the reprobate), the reason given as to why these people are not numbered among the elect is because they did not chose to believe, repent, and live a holy life before God. To put it crudely, they reprobated themselves by not co-operating with grace.

You can read the entire explanation here.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Karen Armstrong: Fauxtheist

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting exchange on the topic, “Where does evolution leave God?” Representing the atheists is well-known protagonist Richard Dawkins. On the theist side is religion-author Karen Armstrong, whose new book is titled, The Case for God.

What makes this offering so interesting is that Karen Armstrong doesn’t realize that she’s not a theist. Here’s how she begins her case on the “God side”:

Richard Dawkins has been right all along, of course—at least in one important respect. Evolution has indeed dealt a blow to the idea of a benign creator, literally conceived. It tells us that there is no Intelligence controlling the cosmos, and that life itself is the result of a blind process of natural selection, in which innumerable species failed to survive. The fossil record reveals a natural history of pain, death and racial extinction, so if there was a divine plan, it was cruel, callously prodigal and wasteful. Human beings were not the pinnacle of a purposeful creation; like everything else, they evolved by trial and error and God had no direct hand in their making. No wonder so many fundamentalist Christians find their faith shaken to the core.

Ms. Armstrong’s theistic confusion, however, is apparently not lost on Mr. Dawkins, who ends his case with the following . . .

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: "Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn't matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism."

Well, if that's what floats your canoe, you'll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world's peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They'll be right.

I recommend that Ms. Armstrong’s publisher stage an intervention prior to her writing anymore “case for God” books.

You can read the entire exchange here.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Today in Church History: William Tennent

On September 6, 1718, William Tennent landed in Philadelphia, with his wife, four sons, and daughter.

Trained as a Presbyterian in Scotland, Tennent had served in the Anglican church in Ireland before setting sail for the new world. Ten days after his arrival, he was admitted into the Presbytery, and he labored in parishes in New York before moving to Neshaminy, Pennsylvania, in 1727. There he established the "Log College" in his home, where he would educate his four sons and others in Presbyterian ministry. The school (the formation of which historian Leonard Trinterud called "the most important event in colonial Presbyterianism") became the focus of controversy in its short history. Critics claimed that the ministerial education it provided was deficient, and its graduates (especially Tennent's son, Gilbert) enthusiastically endorsed the Great Awakening and formed the leadership of New Side Presbyterianism.

- John Muether