December 24, 2011

Baby Jesus

Often times when I look at my son, I think, "What will he be like when he grows up? What kind of a man will he be?" I think every parent has that thought.

But the other day, as I was watching him, I thought, "What was Jesus like when He was this age?" Often when it comes to historical figures, especially ones who had a great impact on history, we forget that they were once children. This is especially true of Jesus even though we talk about the baby Jesus once a year.

So here we have this kid who possesses the fullness of the Godhead. Yet according to Christian theology He must have developped like any ordinary child. Well, my child gets stuck under the side table because he could only crawl over one the bars. Of course, he has no history or knowledge that would have aided him in knowing that that was a bad idea, but wouldn't Jesus have?

Personally, I think no. At least I think that right now; I could easily change my mind in a month. However there is more going on in my son right now besides learning. His physical brain and body are developping, and what he can't do one day, he can do the next. There is a necessity for a child to explore and try out his mind and body. Jesus who would have just come into possession of a human body, which was itseld still developping, would also need to try it out. This is especially true if we have the theological commitment to the belief that Jesus was truly human.

What are your thoughts? How do you think Christ's divine nature would affect His childhood days?

December 19, 2011

Calvinist Santa: The Movie


Calvinist Santa
by: jc_freak

View here for original script

December 12, 2011

Calvinist Santa (Satire)

We enter Santa's workshop. Over by the desk we see two elves talking. One is Legolass, who has been Santa's secratary for the past 200 years, and is moving on to new work. The other is Qeebler, who is taking over the secretary resposibilities. As the scene opens, Legolass is pulling out a large scroll from his desk drawer. Let's listen:

Legolass: So this is Santa's naughty and nice list for this year. You will find that about 75% of your responsibilities will involve referencing this list.

Qeebler: Wow this is heavy. So after this year, where does this go.

Legolass: Over there. (points to a room) That room is full of old lists. And this filing cabinet over here has the future lists.

Qeebler: What do you mean future lists?

Legolass: You know, for the next few years.

Qeebler: How does Santa already have a list?

Legolass: Because Santa is the one who decides who is naughty and who is nice, of course.

Qeebler: Of course, but doesn't "nice" and "naughty" refer to what the kids actually do?

Legolass: Well sure! Santa decides who is going to be naughty and who is going to be nice.

Qeebler: Wait wait wait! Isn't the whole point of the Santa Claus project to encourage all children to be good?

Legolass: Originally yes. However, about a hundred years ago, Santa read this book by A. W. Magenta. Completely changed his outlook. He realized that all kids are inheritly naughty.

Qeebler: Of course! That's why they need to be given incentives to be taught right from wrong.

Legolass: Except Santa realized that it is even worse than that. He realized that no amount of present giving or coal giving will ever teach a child right from wrong. So he individually causes each kid to be either naughty or nice. That is the only way to be sure that any of them are going to be nice at all.

Qeebler: Well, then why doesn't he just make them all nice? Why make some of them naughty?

Legolass: Are you kidding? Then who'll get the coal, man! Think!

Qeebleer: Why does anyone need to get coal?

Legolass: Because coal is a basic symbal of justice! In order to show that he is just, Santa needs to deliver coal to someone. Therefore he has to make some kids naughty, or them getting the coal wouldn't be just.

Qeebler: But how is it just to punish a child for doing what Santa caused him to do? Besides, why is justice even an important concept if he can just make all children be nice? Justice only makes sense as a reaction to naughtiness. It doesn't justify the existance of naughtiness itself.

Legolass: Ok, clearly you haven't read enough A. W. Magenta yourself. Maybe I can recommend a few more contempory books. For instance, maybe Desiring St. Nick by John Flutist, or In the Toymaker's Hands by James Mutherovpirl.

Qeebler: Look, you can't just hide behind a bunch of authors whose names sound like really bad puns. How can you and Santa justify punishing children for doing exactly what they were made to do? That's just hypocritical!

Legolass: Apparently you have this strange idea that kids can be good enough to earn their own presents.

Qeebler: I never said that. First of all, I am aware that you can't earn gifts. That's what makes them gifts. Santa is under no obligation to give anything to anyone. Second of all, I am not complaining about children not really earning theirs gifts under your system. I'm complaining about them not really earning their coal! While there is nothing unjust about giving someone something good without merit, there is something inheritantly evil about giving someone a punishment without merit. There is a big difference between Santa punishing a child by intentionally giving them a lump of coal and Santa simply not givng certain kids a gift because he loves other kids more.

Legolass: Wait a minute! Stop right there! Santa loves all kids! After all, he says so.

Qeebler: How can you say he loves all kids if he treats some differently by means of some arbitrary decision!

Legolass: It's not arbitrary.

Qeebler: Oh, so what does he base his decision on then!

Legolass: His own good pleasure.

Qeebler punches Legolass hard in the shoulder

Legolass: Ow! What was the reason for that?!

Qeebler: My own good pleasure.

Legolass: Qeebler, maybe we rushed you to this position. I'm not sure if you are quite ready for it yet. In fact the cookie department could use a good managerial mind. Perhaps we can move you there.

Qeebler: Hold on, you di...

Legolass: That's enough! Good day Qeebler.

Scene fade out.

December 5, 2011

Or "Van Til It Hurts"

What I Mean By Consistency

In the 1920s a Dutch Theologian by the name of Cornelius Van Til (hence the joke in the subtitle) revitalized an apologetic approach known as presuppositional apologetics. In essence, presuppositional apologetics assesses the validity of a philosophical view by its presuppositions (the underlying assumptions upon which the view is based) and whether these presuppositions contradict each other or are consistant with each other.* It sort of like a monological Socratic argument.

Oh, and Van Til was a Calvinist.

Personally, I have no issue with presuppositional apologetics. Indeed, I think it is a powerful rhetorical technique, and it vastly important in inter-religous studies as well as systematic theology. I even defend it in this post. However there are some precautions one should consider before they completely trust arguments from consistency.

First, there are very few beliefs that are homogenous, that is existing in only one form. For most philosophies, there are variations, and some of these variations are going to be more consistant than others. Therefore, if one is intent on making good and honorable arguments (instead of trying to just destroy whatever you disagree with irregardless of validity), one must study the breadth and depth of the other position.

Second, if you are going to argue from consistency, then you must only consider the other opinion. You cannot allow your own presuppositions and priorities to be involved in the argument. This is really, really, really... really hard to do. Therefore, one must not only study the breadth and depth of the position to be critiqued, but also must completely and exhaustively and critically study the full depth of one's own position so that it may be appropriately set aside.

Third, there needs to be an understanding that if you are making an argument from consistency, you are not criticizing what a person believes; at least not directly. If I say that to be consistent, a Calvinist would have to believe that God is the source and designer of all evil, I cannot then say that God, in Calvinism, is evil. I have to admit, if I care about being honest, that Calvinism doesn't actually teaches this (Thank goodness).

Fourth, we have to consider how much strength we can give to an argument from consistency given the theological category of mystery. Mystery is the simple and humble acknowledgement of God's ineffability: we cannot fully describe Him. Though without having any stipulations as to what properly constitutes a mystery the idea becomes an intellectual cop-out, we do still have to be careful about how much strength we give to consistency arguments when the subject is the ineffable God.

Consistency in Action


Here is an example of this:
You may say, how can "everything be of Christ" if faith is from us? I would answer, it is possible to be inconsistent! (we all are to some extent) But it is a happy inconsistency, as long as they truly rest on Christ alone.
The accusation is a common one: if Arminians were consistent, we would note that we are the cause of our own salvation. I would say that this accusation is completely false. Although one could call us synergistic, we do not hold that we in any way cause our salvation. (Of course, this depends on your definition of the 'synergism' so I don't find the appellation helpful in theological discourse. )

Why do we say salvation is all of Christ? Because I do not do any of the saving. The actions of salvation (justification, salvation, election, sanctification, regeneration, etc...) are completely done of God. We have no energetic input into any of these processes. The "part we play," so to speak, is passive: we get out of the way and trust God to do all of the work. That is hardly something causal.

But Calvinists say that is inconsistent. Inconsistent with what? Here is one of the major problems with the way in which Calvinists use the rhetoric. In order to demonstrate inconsistancy, they must point out two or more beliefs that Arminians hold and show them to be incompatible. However, they usually don't really do this. They usually merely state that we are inconsistent.

Personally, I think that they usually don't mean inconsistent (there are counter examples of course). Inconsistent is just a euphemistic way for them to say illogical. However, saying illogical directly gets them in much more trouble because it is a much harsher accusation to make and a much harder accusation to prove (not to mention untrue). Much like the political use of the word 'tolerance' in lieu of 'acceptance', it is a way of saying what they really want to say, while not sounding like they are saying something obviously objectionable.

The truth is Arminianism isn't illogical, nor inconsistent. This is because all logical arguements start with unprovable presuppositions, and even though both Calvinism (at least certain forms of it) and Arminianism (at least certain forms of it) are completely logically, they are still different belief systems. This is because we hold different presuppositions: different starting places. The Calvinist claim that we are inconsistent usually is based on their inability to seperate out their own presuppositions in their analyses.

The End Result

The way that the term consistency is used gives a lot of unscholorly Calvinist arguments a scholarly feel. It makes them (the arguments) sound a lot more impressive than they really are.

Think about it. To say that something is inconsistant is to claim that you have done all of the work that I mentioned in the first part of this post (studying the breadth and depth of Arminianism, exhaustively and critically studying the full depth of Calvinism, and setting aside Calvinistic assumptions). Therefore the Calvinist is rhetorically taking this higher ground that says, "Trust me. I've thought about this."

However, the gross ignorance of of these same Calvinists on what Arminianism teaches coupled with the absolute assumption of certain Calvinist presuppositions means that most have actually not done this work. For many, Arminianism is inconsistant because Piper or Sproul said so, but they don't actually know themselves. The arguments simply make sense to them, so it must be true.

Dealing with this rhetoric though is actually fairly simply. First of all, you can simply give it back (like how they say that making the human will a secondary cause in salvation** puts salvation in the hands of man, but God only being a secondary cause to sin completely absolves Him from it). Second, point out how they are assuming Calvinist presuppotions in their analysis, which is a failure in showing inconsistancy. Finally, by callingg you inconsistant, they have essentially invited you to explain Arminianism. take up that invitation and set the record straight.

*Actually any argument based of an analysis of presuppositions is an example of presuppositional apologetics. Arguments from and for consistency are just the most common and basic form of it.

**I wouldn't actually say that humans are a "secondary cause", since I don't think that we take as causal role. But, Calvinists due argue that human inaction does alter the course of one's eternal destiny, and is thus causal in some way. But even if it is causal, it is, at best, a secondary cause since God does all of the actions.

For series index, click here.