21 comments on “A Conversation on God, Evil, Scripture, and the Will of God & Man

  1. Let me begin by saying again that I’m only going to concern myself with the issues of Scripture and how it relates to epistemology. While the so-called problem of evil is important, it is not as foundational as the question of how we know truth.

    You have summarized our disagreement thusly:

    “Scripture is helpful for setting boundaries as to what one may consider a Christian view, but not helpful in absolutely deciding which of these two plausible Christian views is correct. This is not to relativize truth’s ontology, but to highlight our epistemic uncertainty. In other words, Scripture and its authors undoubtedly held to a view similar to one of ours, but it is not unambiguously clear as to which view that is. This is why I stressed that we appeal to philosophical issues regarding our views to see which is more plausible. This has been met with objections that we must derive the answer purely from Scripture.”

    If I may reword this, to make sure I understand your approach: I (Patrick) am arguing that any assertions made must be demonstrated from Scripture, using deductive logic alone. You (Clifton) are arguing that Scripture is ambiguous on the subject of Meticulous Sovereignty vs. Libertarian Free Will, thus neither you or I will ever be able to prove our respective positions from Scripture alone. Therefore, you claim that extra-biblical philosophy must be consulted in order to discover the truth of the matter. Is this a fair assessment?

    First, I’ll answer your objections. An axiom is an unproven first principle; by definition, it cannot be proven, and must therefore be assumed or “presupposed.” All worldviews must begin somewhere. My axiom is simple: “The Bible Alone is the Word of God.” Each of the words in this axiom is pregnant with meaning.

    By the word “Bible” I refer to the 66 books of the Protestant Canon, in their original autographs.

    By the word “Alone” I mean that the Bible stands apart from all imaginings and philosophies concocted by men. Only Scripture is infallible, thus the Pope is excluded.

    By the word “Word” I mean that the Bible is a revelation of true propositions.

    By the word “God” I mean the Being revealed in Scripture to be, as the Westminster Divines defined Him in questions 7-9:

    “God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. There is but one only, the living and true God.There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.”

    Now that the Axiom has been explained, you challenge that it is ultimately self-refuting, because the Axiom itself is not found in Scripture. But again, that is the nature of axioms. I need not try to prove the truth of the Axiom, for if I were able to prove it, it would not be an axiom at all.

    Thus, the only way that the Axiom could be self-refuting is if Scripture provided a statement which contradicted the Axiom itself.

    “Unless the Triune God of Scripture reveals new information and verifies it through signs and wonders…”

    You are aware, of course, that Satan can also perform signs and wonders. How then could you be sure that the new information was from God, unless you appealed to the authority of Scripture? For example, the Roman Catholic Church-State has documented many instances of “Marian Apparitions” in which Mary is said to have appeared and spoken to people. These apparitions are often accompanied by miracles of healing, etc. What is your basis for rejecting these “revelations?”

    “But this does not mean that other truths may not be discovered from other sources. “

    It is impossible to discover truth by any means other than Scripture. Can you provide an example of how one might discover truth by another method?

    Now, what I’ve just written is the primary part of this post. But since you asked how I define “good” from Scripture, I’ll use it as an example. We know from Ex. 33:19; Ps. 31:19;107:1; Hos. 3:5; Nahum 1:7; Matt. 19:17 etc. that God is good. We can deduce from this that anything God does is good. Therefore, “good” is that which corresponds to God’s character. We can only know God’s character from what He has revealed in Scripture. I imagine that this explanation still doesn’t sit right with you, and this is because we haven’t cleared up our epistemological foundations yet. Again, I’d appreciate if we stayed away from discussing the problem of evil for now; I was just demonstrating how I would define good from Scripture.

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  2. We seem to be misunderstanding one another again, so I’ll try to clear up some things about what I’ve posted.

    In your rewording of my view you’ve stated the following:

    “Therefore, you claim that extra-biblical philosophy must be consulted in order to discover the truth of the matter.”

    This isn’t quite correct. I’ve already clarified what I mean when I use the term ‘philosophy’. A quote from me earlier:

    [When I use the term Philosophy, I mean with respect to its more analytical use, that is identifying the soundness and lack thereof of certain concepts. So when I say that, as God’s perfect Word, the Bible will not run contrary to Philosophy, I mean it will not base its statements upon fallacious reasoning. I by no means intend to say that every Philosopher must agree with Christianity.]

    And so my argument against your view was the following:

    [There may in fact be times in which God overrides human decisions to accomplish some goal, but I think Scripture and sound reasoning forbid this sort of thing from being the norm.]

    Note that my argument and use of the term ‘philosophy’ has referred to the soundness of the concepts for which we argue. In other words, what Scripture does not exhaustively cover, we may assess its plausibility using logic.

    Your view that “The Bible Alone is the Word of God” seems clear enough until you pose the following question:

    “It is impossible to discover truth by any means other than Scripture. Can you provide an example of how one might discover truth by another method?”

    I must be misunderstanding you. If not, this is trivially easy. Here is another truth I have discovered apart from Scripture: I am currently typing at my computer. Scripture did not tell me this, my five senses did. Now, I would agree that there is no true proposition which contradicts Scripture, but that does not seem to be what you’ve said. Could you clarify this for me?

    With regard to Sola Scriptura and possible negations, it is likely, if not certain, that an appeal to Scripture would be necessary to determine if some revelation were truly from God or not. I was not giving a full criteria for verification of such a thing; I was simply stating that if it had been verified to be revelation from God, the 66 books we currently have would not constitute all knowable divine authority. It was purely hypothetical.

    Your last comment illustrates a point I made earlier as well:

    [As I understand it, Scripture simply uses the word good, assuming we already understand its meaning.]

    Your deduction constitutes what I have called philosophy throughout this conversation. The problem is that I may, and already have, critiqued your reasoning. My goal in our conversation has never been to attack Scripture, but to assess (and refute) the validity of the deductions you make from it. My concern with Scripturalism, namely that we affirm many true statements without an immediate appeal to Scripture, seems to stand at this point. Even if we continue under that axiom, it seems your interpretation of free will is still rendered implausible due to the ‘philosophical’ considerations, or deductive logic as you’ve called it.

    Hopefully I’ve at least clarified my view.

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  3. So you’re defining philosophy as logic. If that’s the case, we might want to stick to using the word “logic,” since that’s what it means. I’ve not heard anyone use the word “philosophy” in the way that you are. Allow me to add some clarifying comments as well:

    If something can be logically deduced from Scripture, I am considering it to be in Scripture. Also, just because an idea is logically coherent does not mean that it is true. Also, your issue with my view is that it does not fit logically with *how you define good*. I understand and sympathize, but I’m returning the argument that you are not basing your idea of good on God, but rather your idea of God on your idea of good.

    You have not misunderstood me. One cannot discover truth through sense experience. I believe that I am typing at my computer right now as well, but it is my opinion, I do not know it to be true. It has not been revealed to me by God. Perhaps I am dreaming; a few hours ago I woke from a very realistic dream in which our family cat died. In the dream, I used all five senses. But then I woke up to discover our cat alive and well. Or possibly I’m having a vivid hallucination due to the cold medicine I’m on. Or maybe I’m in the Matrix. My senses cannot tell me any of these things.

    Have you ever been to a magic show? Looked at a book of optical illusions? Used audio headphones which make it sound as if the music is coming from inside your own head? Heard an echo? Anyone who has done any of these things should understand that the senses are not reliable, and are quite easy to fool.

    I do not say this to be facetious or trivial. We make decisions every day based on what we see, hear, etc. But we cannot possibly place sense experience on the same level as God’s revelation as a source of truth. I know, you would subject your sense experience to Scripture. I mean on the same level, meaning as an alternate source of truth.

    Another problem the evidentialist must face is the question of how electrical impulses traveling from the eyes or fingertips to the gray matter in their head magically turns into an immaterial thought in a person’s mind.

    I’m not going to address your last paragraph, as it leads directly back to where we started. Suffice to say that I have defined “good” from Scripture, while you have not attempted to do so yet. Don’t worry about it for now, focus on epistemology.

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  4. I hope it is fair to say that your last statement only 1) challenged my definition of philosophy and 2) defended your axiom “The Bible Alone is the Word of God”. Assuming this is the case; in this response I will do the following:
    1. Defend/clarify my use of the word philosophy
    2. Critique your axiom
    3. Erect a superior strategy for both apologetics and this discussion which will allow us to properly separate and analyze the philosophical and biblical evidences for the nature of free will.
    “So you’re defining philosophy as logic.” Close, but not quite. I understand philosophy as “the study of general and fundamental problems regarding knowledge, values, reason, etc.” (Wikipedia) This study relies on deductive logic to function. So I do not consider deductive logic to constitute *all* of philosophy, but it is central to it. When I have used the term philosophy and you have discredited its use, and countered by appealing to the need for deductive logic, I have stressed the relationship between the two, bordering on implication that they are one in the same to communicate the validity of the discipline which, in part you seemed to endorse. Sorry for the confusion this has caused.

    “If something can be logically deduced from Scripture, I am considering it to be in Scripture.”
    Is this perhaps from Gordon Clark’s presuppositionalism? He is noted for understanding Logos (the Word) as meaning logic in John 1 correct? If this is the case, I understand the difficulty in our conversation thus far. You have not shied away from the logical questions I’ve presented, and have simultaneously demanded an appeal to Scripture, while I have considered the two to be independent.
    Having studied it a bit, the problem with identifying the statement “The Bible Alone is the Word of God” as an axiom is that the statement is not self-evident. Several sources, including Answers.com which I’m quoting, define axiom in the following way:

    1. A self-evident or universally recognized truth; a maxim

    Since your proposed axiom is neither self-evident nor universally recognized, it is invalid. No non-believer, upon hearing such a statement will regard the Bible as God’s Word. Thus, one fairs better upon approaching conversations of this sort using Classical Apologetics. This also means that, since it is based upon this axiom, your rejection of my appeal to a source of truth outside of Scripture is not warranted.
    “Another problem the evidentialist must face is the question of how electrical impulses traveling from the eyes or fingertips to the gray matter in their head magically turns into an immaterial thought in a person’s mind.”
    I’m not an evidentialist, so I hope this problem was not directed at me. If it was, I should first note that I do believe in the immaterial soul, and second that my reason for doing so would be that which may truly serve as an axiom: Foundationalism. This is also considered the notion that certain beliefs are Properly Basic, as I mentioned earlier. Yet again Answers.com proves helpful:

    “In epistemology, the view that some beliefs can justifiably be held directly (e.g., on the basis of sense perception or rational intuition) and not by inference from other justified beliefs….Foundationalists have typically recognized self-evident truths and reports of sense-data as basic, in the sense that they do not need support from other beliefs.”
    There are certain beliefs which cannot be proven, and thus we must assume that they are true. You’ve stated this to be true of axiom:
    “I need not try to prove the truth of the Axiom, for if I were able to prove it, it would not be an axiom at all.”
    If I can provide an argument for your axiom, this serves as a second reason, according to your words, that it is not an axiom. William Lane Craig presents some interesting thoughts on the nature of Scripture on his reasonable faith website. Hopefully these not only provide a deductive argument for biblical inerrancy, but also support the notion that it should not be our starting point. He writes:
    “(I)nerrantists have maintained that belief in biblical inerrancy is justified as a deduction from other well-justified truths. For example, the late Kenneth Kantzer, Dean of the seminary I attended, argued for inerrancy by means of the following two syllogisms:

    1. Whatever God teaches is true.
    2. Historical, prophetic, and other evidences show that Jesus is God.
    3. Therefore, whatever Jesus teaches is true.

    4. Whatever Jesus teaches is true.
    5. Jesus taught that the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
    6. Therefore, the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

    The claim here is that we have good reasons to think that the Bible, despite its difficulties, is the inerrant Word of God and therefore we should accept it as such. As Friedrich Schleiermacher once put it, “We do not believe in Christ because we believe in the Bible; we believe in the Bible because we believe in Christ.”’

    Given the validity of this argument, your axiom is provable and not properly basic. I may, however, take as a Properly Basic belief that I have experienced God personally since I cannot provide any outward evidence of the experience. I may also affirm the reality of my sense experiences, such as my typing at this computer on the same basis. It is hypothetically possible that such beliefs may be incorrect, and I must answer these defeaters, but the simple proposition that they could be false in no way threatens my experience.
    This approach permits me to believe the truth of Scripture independent of argument and evidence, yet provide both argument and evidence in support of its claims. It also allows me to examine secular fields such as philosophy and science, accepting their fallible yet relatively trustworthy history, and gather universally accepted information as evidence for God. I presuppose Scripture and nature to be in agreement, but this belief is falsifiable. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to conclude that if an interpretation of Scripture is both exegetically and philosophically plausible, it is superior to an interpretation that lacks one of these.
    You probably won’t see any response from me tomorrow, as I’ll be spending time with family. I pray you’ll do the same regardless of whether you reply. It may almost seem harsh to say such a thing after giving making such a post, but I genuinely mean it: Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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  5. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.
    I’ll try to be concise.

    The difference between you and I is very simple, and by now should be evident to any readers:

    For definitions, you go to Answers.com, and I go to Scripture.

    I accept ideas on the basis of Scripture alone, while you accept Scripture on the basis of “Properly Basic” beliefs. I wonder, what is more properly basic than a Word from God?

    The irrationalist Friedrich Schleiermacher traded logical reason for religious feeling. His quote is ridiculous; the only way we can know who Christ is is from the Bible. Thus a belief in Scripture must come before a belief in Christ. But again, Schliermacher was hardly interested in applying logic to theology.

    Regarding what an axiom is, check out dictionary.com and look at the 3rd definition, the one used in the fields of logic and mathematics. That is the one I’m using, since this entire conversation is about logic. No truth, let alone axiomatic truth, let alone God’s Word, is dependent upon what is “generally accepted.”

    “No non-believer, upon hearing such a statement will regard the Bible as God’s Word. Thus, one fairs better upon approaching conversations of this sort using Classical Apologetics.”

    Interesting that Christ and the Apostles never used a “Classical” approach. Not once did they try to prove the truth of Scripture or the existence of God, things that modern “apologists” are obsessed with. Instead, Christ answered His opponents by either quoting Scripture or using his opponents’ assumptions against them. Someone should have told Paul that he should have spent more time finding common ground with the unbeliever using “Properly Basic” notions, instead of simply pointing out that they were wrong, and using Scripture to support his position.

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  6. I’ll start with a quote from your last statement:

    “Interesting that Christ and the Apostles never used a “Classical” approach. Not once did they try to prove the truth of Scripture or the existence of God, things that modern “apologists” are obsessed with. Instead, Christ answered His opponents by either quoting Scripture or using his opponents’ assumptions against them.”

    At least three things are remarkably different between the Apostles and Christ and us:

    1. Christ and the Apostles received direct divine revelation.
    2. These individuals were able to authenticate their ministries through the working of miracles.
    3. The Apostles and their generation were eye witnesses to the events of the life of Christ.

    For these reasons, one should expect their apologetic approaches to take on different characteristics. These facts are frequently implemented in the ministry of Christ and the Apostles, though certainly they use other methods. It should also be noted that they preached Christ and His Kingdom for the first time. It would be more accurate to say that their methods are exactly like neither of ours.

    Even regarding mathematical and logical statements, Answers.com, borrowing from Columbia Encyclopedia states the following:

    “The axioms should also be consistent; i.e., it should not be possible to deduce contradictory statements from them.”

    Due to the deductive argument given before, I do not accept that there are actual contradictions in Scripture. Nonetheless, it is not so evident that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word that it is appropriate to use as an axiom. When the skeptic raises questions as to Scripture’s reliability, the Burden of Proof falls on us to defend it. We ought not to dismiss their accusation because they cannot explain ethics, logic, or the purpose of their existence without God. On such arguments alone, adopting Scripturalism upon entering the conversation, it may just be coincidence that only Christianity appears true, since no argument or evidence is provided. This leaves the skeptic with unnecessary freedom for unbelief; he may still say there is no evidence for Christianity, and a wealth of evidence against it. Furthermore, since you stated that if an axiom was provable, it would not be a true axiom at all, and since I have proven your axiom, the statement “The Bible Alone is God’s Word” is not an axiom.

    Finally, let’s suppose you’re right. What is the problem with implementing problem solving skills based upon logic to validate an interpretation of Scripture? Would that not be a simple inference from the available sources of truth? You define “axiom” apart from Scripture, what is the problem with defining “good” apart from it as well? Again, it should be noted that you cannot actually obtain definitions from Scripture. Simply ignoring my point about this will not help.

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  7. Gentlemen,
    It sure has been interesting reading the discussion between you two. As you both know all too well, if all do not begin with the same first axiom, an argument or debate will forever go around in circles.
    Merry Christmas.

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  8. @ Clifton:
    1. We have received divine revelation: Holy Scripture.
    2. How do you know, without appealing to Scripture? The rest of the world does not seem to agree with you.
    3. Irrelevant. Why would that change their apologetic toward those who were not eyewitnesses? Why didn’t they first try to establish some common, properly basic, ground with the unbelievers?

    Could you please define “self-evident”?

    For anyone to accept the burden of proving his own axiom is foolishness. As I have said, axioms are unprovable by definition. You claim to have “proven” my axiom, but you have only done so by beginning with other axioms that you feel are more foundational than God’s Word, such as the reliability of sense experience and so-called properly basic ideas. You have also watered down the meaning of “proved,” to mean something like “very probably likely.” When I use the word “proved,” on the other hand, I mean that something has been correctly deduced from Scripture alone.

    Regarding your last paragraph, do you really mean to say that Scripture is not sufficient to obtain a working definition of “good?” Scripture? The rule of faith & practice? Scripture, God’s Word, cannot tell us what “good” is? Also, Scripture presupposes the existence of axioms. “I AM that I AM” assumes that A=A, which is an axiom of logic. In our language, the word “axiom” is used, but it doesn’t matter what word is used, the concept is present in Scripture.

    I’m not entirely sure why we’re continuing the conversation, you have already admitted my original point, that Libertarian Free Will is not deducible from Scripture. In order to arrive at this notion, one must appeal to sources outside Scripture, be they the words of philosophers, electrical signals, properly basic ideas, or whatever. The point is, my point has been made: Libertarian Free Will is not found in Scripture. Thus again I’m forced to echo Luther: Unless I’m convinced by Scripture (The 66 books of the protestant canon) and plain reason (the laws of logic applied to the propositions of Scripture), I’ll stick with my rejection of Libertarian Free Will.

    @John: You’re absolutely correct, which is why I shifted the conversation from a discussion of man’s will to a discussion of axiomatic truth: to demonstrate Clifton’s view of Scripture as insufficient as a source of truth, necessitating looking to philosophy to discover “properly basic” ideas. Now that this has been made quite evident, readers can decide for themselves which is the more solid foundation on which to stand.

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  9. At what point did I admit that Libertarian Free Will is not deducible from Scripture? I said the following:

    “There is no passage of Scripture which demonstrates the truth of Libertarianism. I would argue, however, that many verses seem to endorse the view that God does not directly will certain things which come to pass.”

    What I meant here is that no passage unambiguously spells out such freedom. If I truly thought there were no biblical support for Libertarian Free Will whatsoever, why did I propose Matthew 23:37, with the claim that I could produce more passages in support of it? (This passage was never decisively settled).
    I also charged, not that Scripture is not God’s Word, but that it is not a dictionary or an exhaustive book for systematic theology. To truly honor Scripture, one must accept what it is written for. I feel that Scripturalism is an over-extension of the text.

    I won’t cover any more points made at this time, since your last statement appears to be a plea to end the conversation, but I can answer any questions related to my previous statements if you wish to continue.

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  10. I thought Matthew 23:37 was settled, as there is no evidence that Jesus is prevented from accomplishing His desire, and the verse was about how the Jewish leadership didn’t like the idea of Israelites actually listening to the prophets.

    “Scripture… is not an exhaustive book for systematic theology. To truly honor Scripture, one must accept what it is written for.”

    I know you said you’re aware of the existence of 2 Tim 3:16-17, but perhaps we should look at it again, paying special attention to all the universal statements it contains:

    “ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be COMPLETE, THOROUGHLY equipped for every good work.”

    So, in this verse we see that Scripture is given for the direct purpose of providing doctrine, instruction in righteousness (goodness, anyone?), so that you and I might be COMPLETE, and THOROUGHLY equipped.

    This is a far cry from Paul. He says “complete” and “thoroughly,” but you say that it’s “not an exhaustive book for systematic theology.” If theology is the study of God, how else can we learn about God than by His Word? Paul says that Scripture contains a complete system of doctrine.

    In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul writes that “ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden” in Christ. Note the “all” and the “hidden.” Christ, the Word of God, possesses ALL knowledge, and Paul says that it is hidden. Paul does not say that knowledge is all around us, or available from many sources — no, ALL knowledge is HIDDEN in Christ, and thus is only available through His revelation, Holy Scripture.

    1 Tim 6:20 — Timothy is to guard the doctrine that has been given to him (Scripture), the flip side of which is to avoid that which is called “knowledge” or “science” but is actually no such thing.

    2 Peter 1:19 — Peter refers to Scripture as a light which shines in a dark place, not a dim place. Only Scripture contains the light of knowledge.

    What, according to Scripture, is “properly basic?” Prov 1:7 — “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Prov 9:10 — “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Ps 111:10 — “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”

    Scripture is emphatic and unequivocal. The only way one can see room for other sources of truth is if one already presupposes them. Amazingly, many Christians think the same way you do. They may not realize it, but they are so attached to their notions of truth & understanding that they read the plain words of Scripture and think to themselves, “It can’t possibly mean that Scripture’s doctrine makes a man complete,” or “Surely some other basic principles must come before God.” So they introduce other sources of knowledge (falsely so called). It does not stop there. They read Scripture concerning God’s control over man’s decisions and think, “It can’t mean that God actually determines man’s choices! That doesn’t fit with how the world understands ‘good,’ and it does away with my ideas about how my will works!” And thus, eisegesis becomes common practice.

    I’m not pleading for an end to the conversation, but I am pleading for an end to placing any ideas/philosophies/opinions at the level of God’s written revelation. If you’re unwilling to do so, there is no point in continuing, because as I said, you and I are standing upon different foundations of truth, thus cannot agree. I’m not interested in the ideas of philosophers, or how any man defines “good” or “free will,” I’m only interested in what Scripture has to say on the subject. If that means I’m too narrow-minded, I’ll take it as a compliment.

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  11. It was quite clear that you attempted to answer the philosophical objections I brought up before, and only dismissed them because your answers were easily dealt with. The explanation of first/second causes was ineffective. You simply cannot answer how God causing evil is an example of justice, and so you’ve requested that we drag this conversation around in every direction but the original topic which I commented on and you challenged me; the different views of free will.

    There is no direct evidence that Jesus could not save Jerusalem’s children, but we agreed that in Matthew 23:37 Jesus was condeming the Jewish leadership on account of their unwillingness. But I charged that this makes no sense if God willed that they be unwilling. You did not reply with further reason to think our agreed upon interpretation was compatible with God having predetermined the unwillingness of Jerusalem’s leaders.

    I never stated that philosophy, science, or anything else stands on equal ground with Scripture. With regard to properly basic beliefs, my only point was that certain beliefs must be assumed before approaching the biblical text. How can one assume Scripture is true if it is not evident that one can trust his own sight to see it? This was not to say that my senses contain all truth.

    I challenged Scripturalism on multiple accounts. First, I stated that certain words, such as “good”, are not actually defined in Scripture, and thus we ought to turn to a dictionary to derive its meaning. The reply was not an actual definition but various uses of the word throughout the Bible. Second, I presented the following argument to prove the axiom, which by definition is supposed to be unprovable:

    1. Whatever God teaches is true.
    2. Historical, prophetic, and other evidences show that Jesus is God.
    3. Therefore, whatever Jesus teaches is true.

    4. Whatever Jesus teaches is true.
    5. Jesus taught that the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
    6. Therefore, the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

    This is a deductive argument, meaning that if the premises are true, the conclusion follows naturally. Which premise dare a Christian reject? Even premise 2 includes prophetic evidences. Are we to deny that prophetic evidence from Scripture proves that Jesus is God? It seems then that the argument is valid, and thus proof was provided for the axiom, proving it to be no true axiom at all.

    Obviously, many more points were made on both sides, but I defended the core of my claims for Libertarianism over Calvinism and challenged that the foundation of your view sits on very shaky ground. I see no further need to continue since I don’t intend to agree to the proposed axiom.

    I thank you for your time and thoughts; hopefully this was mutually beneficial to some extent. I also intend to refrain from further posts on this discussion so that you may have the final word.

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  12. Clifton..

    I cant help but wonder that the problem with such conversations as these is that either one or both sides of the discussion are not willing to change their view if another view is proven correct. Scripture should ultimately be the deciding factor in such discussions and we should always be willing to let Scripture and the Holy Spirit (these go hand in hand) to guide our viewpoints on the issues presented. This is something I struggled with a few years back, I was decided in my mind on the issue presented but then God worked on me and gave me a very high view of Scripture and I went searching. After a while God guided me to the Scriptural view rather than the view I wanted!
    So all that to say, why in the world would you have such a discussion or even research a topic if you don’t intend to let the evidence guide you (ultimately, Scripture should be the evidence that is held in the highest regard)???
    I am kind of saddened by this statement by you:
    “I see no further need to continue since I don’t intend to agree to the proposed axiom.”
    Scripture should be our guide and both sides of the discussion should be willing to change their view as Scripture and the Holy Spirit guides!

    It is folly to try to understand God with philosophy and logic. God is far beyond that… He is too big.. He is infinite, what folly it is to try to understand Him with finite minds?!?!? I would even say that would be an insult to Him, for He knows we cant understand Him and His ways with our minds, but He has given us the perfect way to understand Him, which is His divine revelation! If we have the key, why try another way? Is it our pride that makes us do so?

    I really hope that you guys can continue the discussion, but if not, I think many things were presented well, and hope you read back through it! Looking forward to reading more.. 🙂

    God Bless y’all!

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  13. Brian

    Even if we covered Scripture and nothing else, it is not evident thus far, nor do I think it would be, which view is correct. I can see the discussion now: I bring up Ezekiel 33:11, Patrick brings up John 6:44, I bring up John 12:32, he brings up Acts 13:48, and so on, with no agreed upon absolute resolution to any verse. The reason I have not made this central to the discussion is because these passages are famous for each side; not because I’m trying to avoid Scripture. Were this an age of the earth debate, for example, my primary goal would be to prove that my view were biblical because it would not evidently be.

    The suggestion that God is too grand for our finite minds is true, but this does not mean that the person presenting his theology may claim absurdities and leave it at that. We must still use our minds to teach the things which God has revealed to us.

    I am trying to understand this view, and would change my mind on the matter were it shown that I’m wrong. The question is, is anyone truly trying to understand where I’m coming from? Aside from simply rejecting the plausibility of my arguments, can anyone refute them? Can’t we understand that at certain times our interpretation of Scripture steps into other fields such as Philosophy and Science? In part, I want to end the conversation out of the frustration of my view being misunderstood and immediately rejected, rather than considered. I might continue the conversation if it can be displayed, not just asserted, that only Scripture deserves consideration in this matter. I’ll try to keep an open mind.

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  14. Clifton:

    “You simply cannot answer how God causing evil is an example of justice, and so you’ve requested that we drag this conversation around in every direction but the original topic which I commented on and you challenged me; the different views of free will.”

    I challenged you to prove Libertarian Free Will from Scripture. I did so because I assumed that you would agree that one’s assertions about such things as God’s sovereignty & Man’s will must be proved from Scripture. Over the course of the conversation, I realized that you were not relying on Scripture alone, and thus shifted the conversation to make that point very plain.

    “…we agreed that in Matthew 23:37 Jesus was condeming the Jewish leadership on account of their unwillingness. But I charged that this makes no sense if God willed that they be unwilling.”

    It does make sense, unless someone introduces extrabiblical ideas of God’s justice, Man’s will, and Man’s responsibility. Remember, the conversation began with me challenging you to prove Libertarian Free Will. At what point did it become about me proving my view?

    “I never stated that philosophy, science, or anything else stands on equal ground with Scripture. With regard to properly basic beliefs, my only point was that certain beliefs must be assumed before approaching the biblical text.”

    Exactly, which places “certain beliefs [which] must be assumed” as higher authority than Scripture, because one can only interpret Scripture in light of these logically prior “certain beliefs.” I realize you may not intend to place your own beliefs above Scripture, but nevertheless that is what you’re doing when you say such things.

    “I stated that certain words, such as ‘good’, are not actually defined in Scripture, and thus we ought to turn to a dictionary to derive its meaning.”

    If the definition of ‘good’ is in dispute, why must we trust a dictionary’s definition? If I found a dictionary that define ‘good” as “a dark shade of yellow”, would you accept it? No, because that dictionary is not an authority. Sorry to break it to you, but Merriam-Webster, Oxford, & Dictionary.com are not authorities on truth, Scripture is. If your reply is that we understand the definition of ‘good’ by what is commonly understood by a majority, then your ideas of truth need to be realigned, because popular opinion does not make truth. If it does, then the world used to be flat.

    You provided the following syllogism as part of your argument to “prove” the Axiom of Scripture:

    1. Whatever God teaches is true.
    2. Historical, prophetic, and other evidences show that Jesus is God.
    3. Therefore, whatever Jesus teaches is true.

    Isn’t it painfully obvious that your FIRST premise is derived from SCRIPTURE? You may have studied logic, but I don’t think you understand how deduction works.

    I’ll go further: #2 cannot be relied upon, because just because something *appears* true does not mean that it is. Thus #2 cannot be used as a “proof” without redefining what a logical “proof” actually is.

    There are more problems with your “deductive argument,” but these two should be sufficient to show that your reasoning is bogus.

    “Obviously, many more points were made on both sides, but I defended the core of my claims for Libertarianism over Calvinism and challenged that the foundation of your view sits on very shaky ground. I see no further need to continue since I don’t intend to agree to the proposed axiom.”

    My foundation is Scripture alone… that’s shaky ground? If you think dictionary.com must be consulted before approaching Scripture, and you think that’s a stronger foundation than mine, good luck to ya.

    I’d be happy to discuss Ez 33:11 and Jn 12:32. The problem with these somewhat cloudier verses is that I would use clearer Scriptures to help us interpret them, but you’re cool with just asserting “that doesn’t make sense” over and over, without showing why (from Scripture).

    I agree that a person presenting his theological views may not claim absurdities. This is why I’ve been trying to demonstrate my views from Scripture, which is not absurd.

    “I am trying to understand this view, and would change my mind on the matter were it shown that I’m wrong. The question is, is anyone truly trying to understand where I’m coming from? Aside from simply rejecting the plausibility of my arguments, can anyone refute them?”

    Tell me, what would you consider a “refutation?” When I bring Scripture to the table, you reject my plain exegesis because of your extrabiblical presuppositions. When I try to demonstrate that relying on Science for truth is logically fallacious, and that sense experience provides us with ZERO truth, you claim you’re not an evidentialist or empiricist or whatever. In fact, it’s very difficult to pin down your view; you tend to shift to whatever source of truth is convenient for your view. You say that you can prove that Scripture’s true, but then you use Scripture to do so… what’s that about?

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  15. Brian:

    “It is folly to try to understand God with philosophy and logic. God is far beyond that… He is too big.. He is infinite, what folly it is to try to understand Him with finite minds?!?!? I would even say that would be an insult to Him, for He knows we cant understand Him and His ways with our minds, but He has given us the perfect way to understand Him, which is His divine revelation! If we have the key, why try another way? Is it our pride that makes us do so?”

    As long as you mean we cannot understand God with logic apart from Scripture (i.e. Rationalism), then I agree with you wholeheartedly.

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  16. My view is that Scripture contains the highest and most necessary truth. It is not evident, however, how to best interpret Scripture at all times. Exegesis is an important tool; we must make sure that we are doing justice to the biblical texts and Scripture at large. But it may be possible to arrive at a multitude of interpretations, even if one employs exegesis. Thus, it seems proper to turn to other fields dealing with the same issues to see what the implications are of adopting a certain view. If one of these fields declares a certain view implausible, then we have an additional reason not to adopt it. At the bottom of this ladder of truth, so to speak, are foundational beliefs one must adhere to in order to even begin such a study. I cannot do exegesis if I do not exist, or my cognitive faculties do not work properly, etc. I consider the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to be at this foundational level. Philosophy is a fallible tool, and many use it inappropriately, but if it is properly put in submission to Scripture it can prove helpful. Hopefully this is clear; Scripture is the main goal; multiple sources may be employed for proper interpretation.

    With regard to the Axiom to Prove Scripture, #1 need not be derived from Scripture, as this would be Begging the Question. The premise that whatever God teaches is true is based upon the attributes of God as taught in classical theism, which could be just as easily derived from reading the Quran. I needn’t appeal to Scripture; it is implicit that God’s attribute of moral goodness entails that He will not teach false propositions. It should be noted that, if conversing with a non-believer, I would first argue for God’s existence and the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection before moving to this argument. #2 is perfectly compatible with the fact that it “appears” to be true. This is a premise of the argument, not the argument itself. A premise need only be more plausible than its negation; it needn’t be proven. Unless you are going to argue that #2 is less plausible than its negation, you’ve yet to refute this premise or the argument.
    It should be noted that while the statement “The Bible Alone is God’s Word” is not an axiom (as an apologetic tool it simply Begs the Question), the statement “One’s Five Senses are Reliable” is. Unlike the former statement, the latter actually cannot be proven, for any argument used to display the truth of it would be less obvious than the statement itself and would even presuppose it. Also, the statement “One’s Five Senses are Reliable” cannot be rationally rejected. If I cannot affirm my five senses, what can I know? I cannot even know if a discussion is taking place. One would literally have to be insane to deny the validity his or her senses entirely. One may occasionally be deceived by them, but this provides no reason to think they are wholly unreliable.
    I consider a refutation to be some line of reason that suggests that an argument is fallacious. In this case, you must refute that Calvinism makes God the author of evil. When you brought Scripture to the table, I provided plausible alternative interpretations. I’ve yet to see that your exegesis, whoever plain it might appear, is necessarily correct. Besides, I could raise the same objection with regard to Matthew 23:37; if exegesis shows us that Christ condemned the Jewish leadership for their unwillingness, it is not immediately obvious that He secretly willed that they be unwilling.

    I consider John 12:32 part of a counter to John 6:44 as many Calvinists interpret it. I do consider Ezekiel 33:11 as evidence for Libertarianism though. It reads:

    Ezekiel 33:11 (New American Standard Bible)

    11″Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

    Given that God says “As I live” and pleads with the house of Israel to turn back from their evil ways, I see nothing “cloudy” about this passage. In case one wants to dismiss this passage as an oddity, the same language is used in Ezekiel 18:23:

    Ezekiel 18:23 (New American Standard Bible)

    23″Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?

    This seems utterly incompatible with a God who wills that individuals sin, and is in fact glorified by it.

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  17. Clifton, in your last post, you said:

    “The premise that whatever God teaches is true is based upon the attributes of God as taught in classical theism, which could be just as easily derived from reading the Quran.”

    What about the countless religions which feature evil gods? I can’t believe what I’m reading…

    “I needn’t appeal to Scripture; it is implicit that God’s attribute of moral goodness entails that He will not teach false propositions.”

    So you begin by defining God how you want, then proceed to prove the truth of Scripture. Wow.

    “It should be noted that, if conversing with a non-believer, I would first argue for God’s existence and the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection before moving to this argument.”

    With apologetics like this, it’s no wonder atheists think Christians are foolish. No argument can prove the existence of the Christian God. And good luck convincing someone of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection without using Scripture.

    “It should be noted that while the statement “The Bible Alone is God’s Word” is not an axiom (as an apologetic tool it simply Begs the Question), the statement “One’s Five Senses are Reliable” is.”

    With all sincerety and due respect, the anti-Scriptural epistemological foolishness of this statement is so evident that I refuse to waste any more time arguing it. You’re not stupid, you’re a better thinker than this Clifton.

    Also let me point out that I don’t think our senses are useless, only that they cannot be relied upon to furnish us with knowable truth.

    As for your impositions onto John and Ezekiel, I see no reason to debate the proper exegesis of Scripture with one who believes the Quran can be used in proving the validity of Scripture. This is why I shifted to the subject of epistemology in the first place.

    This is going nowhere. I’ll let Scripture have the last word:

    “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

    “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col 2:8)

    “Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Prov 26:4-5)

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Cor 10:4-5)

    “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.” (Col 2:1-4)

    “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7)

    “…for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16:17)

    “The heart is deceitful above all things,
    And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jer 17:9)

    “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” Therefore let no one boast in men.” (1 Cor 3:18-21a)

    And finally, the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 2:

    “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
    However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
    But as it is written:

    Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
    Nor have entered into the heart of man

    The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
    But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

    Comments closed.

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  18. I recently discovered that the comments were reopened. I want to clarify a previous statement I made:

    “The premise that whatever God teaches is true is based upon the attributes of God as taught in classical theism, which could be just as easily derived from reading the Quran.”

    Your perception of this statement was that 1) this could apply to evil gods in other religions 2) that I believed the Quran could be used to prove the Bible. Neither statement is true. By classical theism, I meant capital G God, which Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines as the following:

    the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe

    All of the Abrahamic religions would agree to these attributes. Obviously, God has more attributes than those given by the above definition, and I’m aware of your dislike of any definition not found exclusively in Scripture. But my point was that the Bible could be shown to be true by starting with a definition of God which, while compatible with Scripture, needn’t be derived from Scripture to make the argument. Even if that point is false, it is not obvious to me that Scripture is or ought to be our epistemological starting point.

    Again, if my previous statement appeared to endorse the absurd things you understood it to; I apologize for lack of clarity. Frankly, I never expected the conversation to take such a turn, and I had never encountered such a view before. I have made it a priority to study these matters more in depth, and perhaps we’ll discuss them again.

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  19. Thanks for the clarification.

    “…the Bible could be shown to be true by starting with a definition of God which, while compatible with Scripture, needn’t be derived from Scripture to make the argument. Even if that point is false, it is not obvious to me that Scripture is or ought to be our epistemological starting point.”

    I think the problem with this approach is that if we first create an idea of God in our mind, then try to reason from that idea to the Bible, it becomes quite clear to observers that we would simply be accepting the Bible because it agrees with our own preconceived ideas. They’re thinking, “Of course they accept the Bible, it fits their system!” It also places a man’s idea in a more foundational place than Scripture. What we know about God, we know from Scripture. There can be no higher authority or foundational truth than a Word from God.

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  20. Pingback: Clark & Calvin on Determinism & Responsibility | Reformed TAP

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