Prologue: The next three posts are rather technical (technical rating = 6/10). For readers who may find the reading tough going, just enjoy the jokes on Calvinism vs Arminianism.
Q1: How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. God has predestined when the lights will be on. Stay seated and trust him.
Q2: How many Arminians does it take to change a light bulb?
A1: Only one. But first the bulb must want to be changed.
A2: All. They need everyone to make sure it stays on. One can never really be sure.
Q3: How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three, one to cast it out and two to catch it when it falls!
Q4: How many Open Theists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: No one knows the answer. Not even God!
Calvinists have their TULIP! Arminians prefer the daisy. Why? “He loves me, but he loves me not. He loves me, but he loves me not…
Now to the serious stuff:
God’s omnipotence and omniscience and are inseparable correlates of his sovereignty and providence over creation. As Creator, God knows everything. This includes their essential nature and how they interact with other things as “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13) As the omnipotent Lord, God controls all happenings in the universe and directs them according to his eternal plan. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Eph. 1:11)
The scriptural teaching of God’s predestination contradicts the Arminian view that God’s foreknowledge is “simple”, that is, God knows the future, but not that he predetermines it. Furthermore, the Arminian maintains that God’s foreknowledge is contingent on our prior choices- that God’s knowing isn’t the source of our doing. Rather, our doing is the source of God’s knowing. However, Scripture teaches that God’s knowledge is active rather than passive since he foreordains and directs all things “according to the counsel of his will.” Continue reading “Does Foreknowledge of God Negate Human Freedom? – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 5/7”
Before proceeding further in our series of posts on divine sovereignty and human freedom, it would be good to clarify some of the contested concepts in the debate.
Let’s begin with two fundamental concepts:
1) Free will. The ability of an agent to make genuine choices that stem from the self. Libertarians argue that free will includes the power to determine the will itself, so that a person with free will can will more than one thing. Compatibilists typically view free will as the power to act in accordance with one’s own will rather than being constrained by some external cause, allowing that the will itself may ultimately be causally determined by something beyond the self. Hard determinists deny the existence of free will altogether. Most Christian theologians agree that humans possess free will in some sense but disagree about what kind of freedom is necessary. The possession of free will does not entail an ability not to sin, since human freedom is shaped and limited by human character. Thus a human person may be free to choose among possibilities in some situations but still be unable to avoid all sin. /1/ Continue reading “Debate on Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom: Fundamental Philosophical Concepts”
Many Malaysians were disappointed when the Federal Court ruled that apostasy matters should be decided by the Shariah Court and not the Civil Court, and dismissed the application by four Sarawakians for a court order to direct the National Registration Department (NRD) to recognize and register them as Christians. [Re: Federal Court defers to Shariah courts in Sarawak apostasy cases]
Several church leaders have called for peaceful acceptance of the Court judgment as the law should be upheld and peace maintained in our society. Hopefully, Parliament will table amendments to ensure that the law is more just and equitable in matters of religious liberty for all citizens.
We should not miss a more fundamental concern in the Court controversy, that is, religious liberty has become a tenuous legacy for Malaysian democracy with the introduction of new shariah-compliant laws which authorize the state bureaucracy to extend its powers to regulate the private morality and religious activities of its citizens. It has become painfully clear that any intervention by the government inevitably restricts the religious liberty of citizens. Continue reading “Religious Liberty and Limited State Bureaucracy: The Logic of Locke”
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 4
If ‘sex’ was the impolite word which should not be raised in Victorian cocktail conversations, ‘heresy’ is the unmentionable word among ‘progressive’ Christians today. [Re: Post on ‘Progressive’ Christianity Beware*] Perhaps this is a reaction to the spirit of dogmatism, authoritarian and legalism found among leaders who are defensive about their faith when they perceive the Christian community to be a besieged and embattled minority. Doctrinal defensiveness is the outcome of a “Christ Against Culture” manifestation of Christianity. It is easy for these leaders to become unnecessarily alarmist as there could be genuine doctrinal disagreements which should not be stigmatized as departures from orthodoxy. Not every doctrinal or theological error is a heresy. Continue reading “The Concept of Heresy Arises from the Fellowship of the Church and not From a Lack of Love (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)”
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 3
I feel a sense of ambivalence whenever I read Roger Olson. His expertise in historical theology is beyond doubt. He is an excellent communicator which is not often found among theologians. But I find him rather intemperate and lacking measured judgment in his polemics against Reformed theology.
Surprisingly, I find myself nodding my head in hearty agreement when I read Roger Olson’s post on the subtle dangers of so-called ‘progressive Christianity.’ Surely, there must be truth when a Calvinist is in agreement with an Arminian! I invite my readers to ponder carefully some of Olson’s observations on ‘progressive Christianity’ given below:
Nine Signals of Liberal Protestantism Disguised as “Progressive Christianity.” Continue reading “Sheep Dog Alert: Beware of ‘Progressive’ Christianity?”
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 2
The Prayer of the Dog
I keep watch!
If I am not here
who will guard their house?
Hatch over their sheep?
No one but You and I,
what faithfulness is.
They call me, “Good dog! Nice dog!”
I take their pats
and the old bones they throw me
and I seem pleased.
They really believe they make me happy.
I take kicks too
when they come my way.
None of that matters.
I keep watch!
do not let me die
until, for them,
all danger is driven away.
Amen [From: Carmen Bernos de Gasztold Prayers From the Ark (Penguin 1976)] Continue reading “Friedrich Schleiermacher and “Dog Theology””
Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 1
Better to be a Live Dog than a Dead Lion
There are times when life disappoints us even to the point of despair. Ecclesiastes 9: 3 confirms our fears: “This is the miserable thing in all that is done under the sun: One fate comes upon all. Moreover, the human heart knows its full measure of misery and folly during life—and after it, they join the dead.”
It is good at such times to take heart the counsel given by Qoheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes.
9:4 But whoever is among the living has hope;
a live dog is better than a dead lion.
9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead do not know anything;
they have no further reward—and even the memory of them disappears
9:6 What they loved, as well as what they hated and envied, perished long ago,
and they no longer have a part in anything that happens on earth.
For Qoheleth, “a live dog is better than a dead lion”! Like most proverbs, the verse delivers truth with a punch. The despised, scavenging dog fares better than the King of the beasts? How can it be? Continue reading “A Live Dog is Better than a Dead Lion? (Ecclesiastes 9: 4) – Enjoying Life between Misery and Mystery”
Three professors – a biblical scholar, a systematic theologian and a philosopher were in the same coach as the train was passing by a meadow.
Biblical scholar: Look at the great variety of grass and plants! – Just penta-species to start with: Andropogon Gerardii, Bouteloua Gracilis,Erechtites hieracifolia, Vernonia Cinerea, Helictotrichon Pratense, etc. You must carefully identify the multiple grass sources. What milk you get is what grass the cow eats.
Systematic theologian: Hey! Are you sure this is milk? Is it kosher-halal?
Philosopher: I don’t know what cow, grass and milk you guys are talking about.
NKW: I don’t know what grass I smoked to come up with this lame stuff.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s philosophical acumen is evident in his academic dissertations, Act and Being and Sanctorium Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church* where he gives a masterly analysis of the relationship between Kantian transcendental idealism, Heideggerian phenomenology and the social ontology of the church. But Bonhoeffer’s theological analysis necessarily took a concrete turn when the Germany was confronted by an existential threat as Hitler began to impose an idolatrous ideology (National Socialism) aimed at building a homogeneous collectivity of single-minded obedient citizens. The Nazi regime proceeded to arrogate power to appoint leaders for the German Evangelical Church, control of its finance and governance structures. Any church which resisted would have its pastors arrested and its property confiscated.
[* Karl Barth described Bonhoeffer’s book Sanctorium Communio as a miracle and gave it the highest praise. “I openly confess that I have misgivings whether I can even maintain the high level reached by Bonhoeffer, saying no less in my own words and context, and saying it no less forcefully, than did this young man so many years ago”]
Never is freedom valued more than when it is forcibly taken away. Bonhoeffer himself experienced the blunt instrument of political tyranny when his radio address warning Germany not to be seduced by the idolatrous cult of the Fuhrer was abruptly cut off the air. The proclamation of German transcendental idealism about the sovereign ego and the supreme freedom of man sounded hollow when the social institutions of freedom and justice were being hijacked by totalitarianism. Bonhoeffer therefore asserted that the ontological foundation of freedom rests on authentic human relationships based on mutual recognition. Continue reading “Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Freedom under Tyranny”
Divine Providence and Determination Do not Negate Human Freedom
[Berkouwer warns against associating divine election with phrases like ‘incontestable freedom” and “absolute possibility” as these descriptions “open the door to a fatalism and determinism in which the events of our time and history were robbed of all genuine meaning.” (HCT 89) Human action is rendered insignificant and fate becomes inescapable as the future inexorably unfolds with relentless logic following an impersonal decree set by God at the beginning.
The fundamental error of identifying Providence with determinism is the de-personalization of the God-concept. Scripture rejects rigid determinism because the almighty power of the personal living God embraces freedom and responsibility of the creature] Continue reading “Reading: G.C. Berkouwer on Freedom and Divine Providence – Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom. Part 4/7”