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JD Hall v Ante Pavkovic Debate: Critical Review II of II

Subtitle: This is Not That

This is part 2 of my review of the JD Hall – Ante Pavkovic debate. Enjoy!

At 1:04 –

 

In his cross examination of Ante, Jordon used a Mormon website that affirms the charismata. However, Ante missed Jordon’s point completely in his rebuttal because he attempted to casually dismiss the problem by saying that Mormons also believe in prayer, so that means we should do away with prayer. The real problem for Pentecostal/Charismatic theology along these lines is that Mormons, Catholics, Modalists (people who deny the Trinity), prosperity subscribers, other religions, and even cults all practice the very same ecstatic utterances of gibberish as those who claim to be more orthodox in their doctrine in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. When modern linguists study the practice from a scientific standpoint, there is no discernible difference in the practice among these various groups. It is the exact same phenomenon. Therefore, the Pentecostal claim that their tongues are an extraordinary act of God is patently false. So unimpressive is the practice that anyone can learn how to do it with minimal instruction.

 

The second point of this section is Ante’s attempt to defend the long ending of Mark. Ante believes that the ending of Mark was initially removed by infidels who did not believe in the resurrection of Christ and so they took it out. The idea is that all the resurrection accounts, on this view, were added to the gospels later as the church was trying to deify Christ. Ante actually says the source for rejecting the ending of Mark is “from the devil.” This is typical Pentecostal rhetoric and intimidation when they become nervous that their doctrine may actually be in jeopardy.

 

I do not want to get too side-tracked in textual criticism, but it seems appropriate to refute Ante at least at some level on his outrageous claims around the ending of Mark. First, the earliest and best MSS which are Siniaticus and Vaticanus do not contain Mark 16:9-20. Second, of the church fathers, Clement, Origen, Cyprian, and Cyril of Jerusalem show no knowledge of the longer ending of Mark. The historian Eusebius said that the most accurate copies of Mark ended with v. 8. Third, there isn’t just two optional endings in the MSS evidence. There are five potential endings in the MSS evidence. Which one is correct? The earliest MSS that contain the longer ending of Mark are no earlier than the 4th century: MSS according to Eusebius, Jerome, Severus. The only exception is a Latin translation coming from Irenaeus. Fourth, the longer ending is stylistically incongruous with Mark. Scholarly consensus then is that Mark did not write any of the endings available to us except, of course, the one that ends at v. 8. Ante’s claim that most MSS contain the longer ending is, from a textual critical standpoint, irrelevant.

 

It is also worth mentioning that Ante thinks that Mark could not have ended without having a resurrection account. The implication is that if we reject the longer ending in Mark, we end up with an Markan ending that is absent a resurrection account. This is confusing to me because when one reads Mark 16:1-8, they do in fact find a resurrection in Mark’s gospel. In fact, Mark 16:1-8 is entirely focused on the empty tomb. The angel says, He has risen; he is not here! Again, Ante’s basic mistakes are piling up one by one.

At 1:28

 

Ante begins with the proposition that the Bible teaches that the gifts of the Spirit would continue until Jesus returns.

 

Ante references Matt. 28:18-20. Ante’s argument is that Jesus was given all authority and that through the charismatic gifts, that authority would be granted to the church for the purpose of world missions. Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 24 not to leave Jerusalem but rather, wait until they are clothed with the power from on high. Again, in Acts 1 Jesus reiterates his command. And in Acts 2, this power falls upon the disciples through the filling of the Holy Spirit. The problem with this line of reasoning is that the filling of the Holy Spirit and the charismata are conflated in this argument. Moreover, Ante still has not made the case that the miraculous tongues (languages) that appeared in Acts 2, 10, and 19 should be understood as normative phenomenon when someone is filled with the Holy Spirit. Out of the 11 conversion stories in Acts, only 3 references the supernatural language abilities. And out of the 6 mentions (Acts 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 19) of someone being filled with the Holy Spirit, only 3 of them (Acts 2, 10, 19) include any reference to tongues. Therefore, the assumption that the filling of the Holy Spirit will always be accompanied by tongues is simply false. Paul reinforces this fact in 1 Cor. 12:30: Do all speak with tongues? The Greek construction requires an emphatic negative answer – no! So, not everyone in the body will speak in tongues according to Paul as documented here in 1 Cor. 12:30. But in Eph. 5:18, this same Paul commands that all Christians are to be “being filled with the Spirit.” It is safe to assume that all Christians must be filled with the Spirit since Paul commanded it and to live a lifestyle in perpetual disobedience is an indication that one’s faith is not genuine.

 

Therefore, if Ante is correct, and being filled with the Spirit is always accompanied by tongues and I am right when I say that Paul commands all Christians to be filled with the Spirit, then this would mean that those of us who do NOT speak in tongues are not filled with the Spirit, and are living in perpetual disobedience to Scripture and are therefore not saved. The point I am making is really this: the same apostle Paul who commanded all Christians to be filled with the Spirit is the same Paul who unambiguously denied that all Christians would speak in tongues. This must mean that even in Paul’s day, in fact, and yes, even in Corinth, that not everyone who was filled with the Spirit spoke in tongues. In fact, this same Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, and said that God has blessed us (all Christians) with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. I do think that being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, according to Ante’s theology, would be considered one of the spiritual blessings that Paul is talking about. Paul went on to say that we are all sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. This is the same promise Peter referenced in Acts 2:38, and that Jesus referenced in Acts 1:4. Moreover, the same Paul said to the Corinthian Church at 1:7 that they were not lacking in any spiritual gift even though not all of them spoke in tongues. So even in Paul’s day, it was possible to “not speak in tongues” and be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be “not lacking” in any spiritual gift. Ante’s argument has hit a proverbial brick wall. His conclusion that everyone who is filled with the Holy Spirit will speak in tongues, or, more accurately, supernatural languages.

 

For the remainder of this section of the debate, Ante goes off on what can only be described as a Pentecostal tirade lifting text after text out of context in order to support his radically biased and anachronistic hermeneutic. There is literally nothing that I could find worthy of rebuttal. At the risk of sounding uncharitable, it was an embarrassing moment among embarrassing moments.

 

Some closing points

  • The apostle Paul did not believe that speaking in tongues always accompanied being “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
  • Of the 11 conversion accounts recorded in the book of Acts, only 3 mention tongues. (27%)
  • Of the 6 accounts of people being filled with the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, only 3 mention tongues.
  • The ending of Mark has 5 different options, not two. [1) Siniaticus/Vaticanus; 2) Bobiensis; 3) A, C, D, θ, f13, 33, Maj MSS, & others; 4) W, MSSaccording to Jerome, 5) L, ψ, 083, 099 & others).
  • The tongues mentioned in Scripture are genuine languages – spoken miraculously as a divine sign that God is ushering in the New Covenant.
  • The miracles and healings in the NT were indisputable.
  • The Holy Spirit is the dispenser of the gifts. He gifts them out as he wills, not as we will.
  • The church fathers overwhelmingly speak of tongue-speaking as the supernatural gift of speaking in real languages: Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Hegemonius, Gregory of Nazianzen, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Augustine, Leo the Great, and implied by others (such as Tertullian and Origen)

 

Afterthought: How to debate Pentecostal/Charismatic Theology

 

When I debate Pentecostals, I like to begin the discussion by talking about their more egregious errors rather than their experiential bent. Many Pentecostals hold to oneness theology, modalism. These oneness Pentecostals engage in exactly the very same practices as Trinitarian Pentecostals. There is no experiential difference between them. How could a heretic be filled with the Holy Spirit? Second, the overwhelming majority of Pentecostals believe you can lose your salvation. This reflects a serious heresy in their soteriology. Third, as mentioned above, most Pentecostals believe that ecstatic utterance is a necessary sign that always accompanies the experience of being baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit. After demonstrating that these first two views are heresy and the latter serious error, I move to my cessationist arguments.

 

My approach to discussing and debating the operation of the gifts is pretty straightforward. I begin by affirming that God can perform a miracle today if he chooses. God can heal today. And if God chooses, he can gift someone in a foreign country with the gift of language not previously studied for missionary purposes, if God so chooses. Having said that, my assertion is simply this:  the claim by modern Pentecostals and Charismatics that they are practicing the very same charismata we read about in the NT church is patently false. Essentially, my claim is the contradictory of Peter’s quote of Joel: this is not that.

 

First, one must examine the nature of these gifts exegetically without regard for modern phenomenon. What was the nature of tongues in the NT? What was the nature of prophecy? And so on and so forth. Once you have determined the nature of these gifts using sound hermeneutical and exegetical principles, only then can you examine the phenomena within modern Pentecostalism and Charismatics. What are they doing? Is what they are doing what the early NT church did? NOTE: you cannot examine these modern claims using Scripture alone so to speak. You have to use other methods. One such method is empirical in nature. When a Pentecostal “faith-healer” comes to town making remarkable claims to be able to cure all sorts of ailments, we don’t use the Bible to see if he is telling the truth. We examine the actual physical evidence in front of us. For example, when people who can walk are placed in a wheel chair and a faith-healer prays for them and they stand up and walk, how can you refer to the Bible to determine if a miracle just took place? If that is your method, you will never distinguish between true faith-healers and the false faith-healers. And I have no reason to think there are true faith-healers living today. So, what you do is examine the person to see if they really were paralyzed to begin with and if they really can walk now. You study the nature of the phenomenon itself. You look for medical documentation that someone was in fact, paralyzed. The same is true for modern tongues. Is this that? Are modern tongues of the same nature as those we see in Scripture. Does the modern experience match our exegetical analysis of Scripture? Well, we don’t simply use Scripture to make this determination. We have to look at and examine the nature of modern tongues. And when we do, we discover some remarkable things.

  • The modern practice of tongues is not actual languages. Therefore, it is not the same thing that the NT church experienced.
  • The modern practice of healings and miracles are unverifiable and nebulous at best. In fact, no one claiming to be a miracle-worker or faith-healer has been able to demonstrate clear proof of his or her gifts with anything close to authentic documentation. In fact, every time a Pentecostal is given the opportunity to “show us” they fail. On the other hand, the NT miracles were verifiable and uncontroversial. Therefore, the modern claims that miracle workers and faith-healers exist is illegitimate and demonstrable false.
  • Finally, scientific studies have conclusively demonstrated that modern tongues, better understood as ecstatic utterances, are not miraculous in nature, are identical to tongues practiced by other religions and cults as well as heretical Christian groups, and can be learned or copied by anyone wishing to do so.

I do believe that Peter would say: this is not that!

 

JD Hall v Ante Pavkovic Debate: Critical Review – I of II

Debate Proposition: The Charismatics Gifts (to include Tongues & Prophecy) have ceased to operate in the Church.

 

Affirmative: J.D. Hall

Negative: Ante Pavkovic

 

In case you were unaware, another debate on the issue of the Charismatic Gifts has just taken place in Cleveland, OH. This debate took place between J.D. Hall and Ante Pavkovic.

 

The purpose of this review is primarily to interact with, and provide a response to, the negative position offered by Ante Pavkovic to the debate proposition above. I agree with JD Hall’s positive position even though my approach and focus may be somewhat different in certain areas. Because I see so many things wrong with how Ante approached this subject, I will try and focus on only those areas where I think he was at least in the ballpark on supporting his position.

Segment #1: Timeline 21:00 – 36:00

One area where I think Ante tried to focus was on the traditional Pentecostal belief that the new birth and the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” are two separate experiences.

Is salvation only an encounter with Jesus Christ while the baptism in the Holy Spirit is strictly speaking, an encounter with the Holy Spirit? Ante affirms that these are two distinct experiences. 

The problem with this question is that it fails to consider whether or not that which Pentecostals are calling the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is the same thing that Luke calls being “filled with the Holy Spirit” in Acts 2, 8, 9, 10, and 19. In order to determine whether or not the modern practice is the same thing as the ancient practice, we have to examine both.

Luke writes the following: both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11) It is abundantly clear that the tongues of the New Testament then were actual languages. This is the only place in the NT where we are given any details about the nature of tongues. According to Luke, they were clearly actual languages. What Ante does with this assertion is introduce a red herring. It is irrelevant whether or not conversion and Spirit-baptism are two separate experiences (even though I wholeheartedly reject the idea). What is relevant is the claim that being filled with the Holy Spirit was always accompanied by tongues and by extension, speaking in ecstatic unintelligible broken syllables which is what modern Pentecostals engage in today. Ante’s argument does not depend on two separate experiences for its soundness, but instead, it requires ecstatic utterances (non-languages) to be present everywhere there is the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Ante’s biggest challenge is that, out of the six occurrences in Acts where someone is filled with the Holy Spirit, only half the time does Luke record the presence of the miraculous glossa: Acts 2, 10, and 19. In Acts 4, 8, and 9, there is no mention of tongues. In Acts 4:31, Luke says they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word with boldness. There is no mention of tongues. In Acts 9, Luke goes out of his way to use the phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” but fails to mention tongues. In Acts 8, the apostles Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans, and though they were filled with the Holy Spirit and although we know that something miraculous happened because of Simon’s reaction, Luke does not mention tongues leaving room for speculation. We cannot say what Simon saw. I doubt that a modern Pentecostal would have ever failed to emphasize tongues had they written the Samaritan account in Acts 8.

Now, on top of this, we have to add the fact that there is no indication that the remaining Jews in Acts 2 also spoke in tongues at their conversion. There were 3,000 more added to the church that day and Luke neglects to mention tongues. Luke also tells us about an Ethiopian Eunuch who was converted but no mention of tongues anywhere. Are we to believe that he was saved but left unfilled with the Holy Spirit? Should we think that Luke just didn’t think it was important enough to mention? In Acts 9 we are told that the residents of Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord but there is no mention of tongues. Again, after Peter raised Tabitha from the dead, many in Joppa were converted to Christ but there is no mention made of tongues. In fact, there are conversions upon conversions in the book of Acts but no mention is made of tongues or of this “baptism in the Holy Spirit” that Pentecostals emphasize.

What we see is that the miracle of tongues was visible at Pentecost, which was the enacting of the New Covenant, God pouring his Spirit out in a new way under a new covenantal arrangement. After the enactment of the new covenant, we witness something miraculous with the Samaritans that shows that God has now extended salvation beyond the Jewish people to their Samaritan relatives. From there we witness this miraculous sign when God officially brings the Gentiles into the covenant. And finally, to drive home the point that John’s Baptist was not the be all, end all, John’s disciples at Ephesus are filled with the Holy Spirit and we see this miraculous sign again. Of the eleven different conversion accounts in Acts, only three of them are explicitly accompanied with the miraculous sign of tongues. Since Luke is the author of Acts from beginning to end, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that these three occurrences were all the same supernatural languages spoken as a special sign that God was moving in a different way in the world. A new arrangement was now in place. Salvation was extended to the entire world and the miracle of tongues was the sign God chose to demonstrate this to his community. We hearken back to the tower of Babel where God used tongues to confuse and divide humanity. Now we see this curse in reverse. There are eleven conversion accounts recorded in Acts. Only three of the eleven mention tongues and those three accounts are anything but routine. They are all significant signposts that God is doing something amazing.

I want to point out that Ante is simply mistaken when he reads narrative in an overly literal fashion as he seems want to do. Simon the magician is worth mentioning here. Ante seems to think that if Acts describes someone as believing that this ipso fact speaks to their salvation or to the genuineness of their conversion. He says so when he used the disciples of John in Acts 19 as an example of those who have been saved but not “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But he is terribly mistaken. There is another incident in Acts that points to the danger in such a practice. Luke describes Simon as follows: Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. Now, before we can get very far into this story, we discover the truth about Simon: May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Peter was right about Simon. He had an outward profession but inwardly was still not converted. His heart was still unregenerate. His believing was nothing more than an external outward description that said nothing about the genuineness of his conversion. Interpreter beware!

Now, when one examines this supernatural sign elsewhere in the NT, it shows up only in one other place: the church at Corinth. There is no mention of this practice, of this sign, anywhere else in all the writings of the NT. Additionally, there is no indication in any of the epistles that any writer of the NT considered there to be a three-step process as Ante has outlined. By the way, it used to be that Pentecostals believed that sanctification was also a separate experience as well. That has become less common today than in years past. There is no mention in the rest of the NT epistles of being baptized with or in the Holy Spirit. No one else wrote about this phenomenon. In fact, the expression of being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is mentioned only once in all the NT epistles: And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:18) Here, the word filled is a Greek imperative which is a command. The idea is that the Christian must continue being filled with the Spirit! And what is the indication that one is “being filled” with the Holy Spirit? Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not connected with the miraculous sign of glossa. Instead, it is associated with godly living. The fruit of the Spirit is not glossa. Rather, it is loving God with all my being and loving my neighbor as myself. It is loving what God loves and hating what God hates.

At 37:00 – 40:00 minutes

Ante admits that the NT Apostles were unique because their names are written in the twelve gates. This needed more probing in my opinion. To say they are unique in this way is to say that they are only unique in status, not function. Paul was unique because he was, well, Paul. There are no other apostle Paul’s. What needs to come out is whether or not Ante believes that there is a truly material difference between those apostles and apostles today. He will have to say no. There is no biblical reason for him to say otherwise in terms of Pentecostal hermeneutics.

In this section, Ante also tells us that the gift of prophecy is inferior to the Scripture. He references Peter which is in no way teaching that the gift of prophecy is inferior to Scripture. Peter is telling us that even supernatural experiences are not on the level of Scripture. He is referring to his experience on the Mountain and saying that the prophecy of Scripture is even more sure than that experience. The issue here is not the gift of prophecy itself but what is uttered through that gift. It is the utterance that is infallible if that utterance is indeed determined to be from God. In that sense, there is no and cannot be any material difference between the authority of Scripture and the authority of uttered prophecies. Why? Because they are BOTH God speaking if Pentecostal theology is correct. All that Scripture is, is prophecy set down on paper. All Scripture is prophecy, God speaking! It isn’t the written form of prophecy that gives it it’s authority. The authority of prophecy is derived from God, not its particular form and the same is true of Scripture.

Part of the problem with this section of the debate is that the nature of glossa and prophecy are not adequately defined. What was taking place at Corinth was not foretelling the future. It was proclaiming what had been inspired or already revealed. Otherwise, how could it be evaluated? It could not. And the connection between prophecy and glossa is clear. Tongues was doing in miraculous languages what prophecy was doing in the known language. This is why both gifts were able to edify. But if there was no one present who understood the language, and hence, no interpreter, for all intents and purposes, God was the only one who understood and this was not helpful to the church. This seems lost on most Pentecostals and even most continuationists.

At 44:00

Ante attempts to link the presence of a gift in the church at any time in the existence of the church with the necessity of that gift being present in the church so long as there exists the church. But this argument is specious. Here is why Ante’s logic fails. The Apostle Paul was placed in the body at one point as a gift to the body. But the gift of the apostle Paul no longer exists. He is dead. Nevertheless, Paul was given to the church and since the church can be viewed as the body of Christ from its inception to its completion, it can be said that these gifts are given to the church even if they were only given for a brief period. It does not follow that because the church had the gift of apostles in it at one time, that it must always have that gift for its entire existence. The truth is that we are still being served by the gifts of miracles and healings and tongues even though they are not practiced today. We see them in Scripture and they serve a very specific purpose for the body. Moses is still a gift to the church. To argue then that 1 Cor. 12:27-30 supports the continuation of the gifts is to engage in exegetical gymnastics.

Ante then moves to Eph. 4:11-14 which he will reference several times. I get the sense from Ante that he believes this passage does much the same thing as 1 Cor. 12:27-30. Ante is going to make the argument that because v. 13 employs a temporal conjunction that this means that these offices are in the body and operating until a certain time. He then asserts that the “until” must be until the end because the church has not yet attained the level of unity and maturity mentioned in this verse. But this simply does not work from an exegetical standpoint. Follow the line of argument in Paul: God has gifted these offices to the body – why? To equip the saints. For what purpose? For the work of the ministry! The saints are to be equipped for the work of the ministry until we all come into the unity of the faith, to mature manhood. SO THAT we are no longer children being tossed about with every wind of doctrine by human cunning and craftiness. The ‘until’ is not a time, but a state. And that state is clearly not the state of perfection from an eschatological standpoint. The reason it cannot be referencing the end is because there will be no aberrant doctrine tossing anyone around in the end. It will all be over. So then, how should we understand this text? It’s simple really. God placed apostles and prophets in the body who are clearly identified in Scripture. These individuals are known to us by way of divine revelation. They were placed in the body for a purpose at a specific time. Once in the body, you are always in the body. Second, the work they did, such as writing Scripture as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, is a permanent contribution. Their acts as recorded in Scripture is a permanent contribution. Now, the pastors, teachers, and evangelists take that work and continue to work to equip us for the work of the ministry so that the body can grow in unity and into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That is how we should look at 1 Cor. 12 and Eph. 4. Ante’s logic is really guilty of what we call the non-sequitur fallacy. His conclusion does not follow from his premises. I will come back to this in part II.

My own approach to debating Pentecostals is quite different from most of my reformed brothers. I do believe that we argue from Scripture but I take my starting point from the Pentecostal claim and work backwards. In other words, I don’t allow the continuationist to remain in a theoretical debate about the charismata. My position is that there is no good reason to believe that the charismata as experienced by the NT church are continuing to be experienced today. I demand evidence consistent with the claim. The claim that God is working miracles today is an empirically verifiable claim. And because it is an empirical claim, it is appropriate to demand empirical evidence. I realize that there are claims involved that are not empirical and when I encounter those claims, I take a different approach. My evaluation of the claim really determines the nature of the claim itself. I will come back to my approach in part II which I hope to post no later than mid-week.

 

 

 

 

 

The Transcendental Argument for God

There are several methods available to the Christian for answering questions about or, challenges to, Christianity from the unbeliever. One could engage in an inductive approach which is aligned more closely with the evidentialist method of doing apologetics. This approach claims to follow the evidence to conclude that God exists. Or, a person may take a more deductive approach, which is most closely aligned with the classical method of doing apologetics. This method employs logical arguments that conclude that God exists. The presuppositionalist usually prefers to employ what is termed, a transcendental argument (TA) in his or her approach for doing apologetics.  This method is not quite inductive or deductive in its method even though it may appear to be deductive at times. This method seeks to demonstrate that God is the necessary condition for the intelligibility of human experience.

Disclaimer: This website is not aimed toward advanced level apologetics. That fact should be kept in mind when reading articles, such as this one, that introduce concepts whose tentacles extend into the more complicated workings of logic and philosophy. The goal is to scratch the surface of the basics. The aim of this article is simply to introduce you to the basics of how the transcendental argument for God is employed in Christian apologetics.

The Definition

Robert Stern has helped flesh out a definition in his book, Transcendental Arguments: The first, and perhaps most definitive feature, is that these arguments involve a claim of a distinctive form: namely, that one thing (X) is a necessary condition for the possibility of something else (Y), so that (it is said) the latter cannot obtain without the former.

The Basic Idea

Presuppositional apologetics takes a two-step approach when answering questions about Christian belief. First, the presuppositional approach steps into the shoes of the non-Christian and asks how it is possible for the basic beliefs of the non-Christian to provide for the intelligibility of human experience. By human experience, I mean things like knowledge, morality, logic, language, existence, etc. So the Transcendental Argument for God takes basic human experience, any experience that is uncontroversial (all agree that humans experience X) and proceeds to argue that God is the necessary precondition for the intelligibility of that experience.

Logic as Necessary Proof for God

For example, what is the necessary condition, for logic. What has to be the case in order for logic to be the case. That humans experience logic is uncontroversial as far as it goes. Moreover, any attempt to argue against logic necessarily employs logic. You cannot argue against logic without affirming it. In fact, in a recent discussion with a group of atheists, I demonstrated that logic could not have been the creation of the human mind on the ground that the creation of logic presupposes the prior existence of logic. In other words, logical thinking would have been a condition for the creation or invention of logic. What this means is that logic had to exist prior to the human mind. But how is this possible? How could logic, an experience that requires a mind, exist prior to any mind? This is no small conundrum for the materialistic atheist. The answer for the Christian really isn’t that difficult. Nevertheless, this is where we, as Christians, must be do better. We must be better thinkers. Now, think about what a mind is and how a mind operates. At this point, it seems impossible to imagine a mind functioning at all without logic. I have tried to imagine a mind functioning apart from logic and I confess that I find such a scenario entirely impossible.

Logic is necessarily the case. Logic obtains in the current state of affairs. Now, imagine any possible world in which logic is not the case. Such a world is not possible. There is no possible world in which logic is not the case. What this means is that logic is necessarily the case. When I say that logic is necessarily the case, I mean that there isn’t any possible world in which logic doesn’t exist.

The human mind is not a necessary entity. Human beings are not necessary beings. There are logically possible worlds in which human beings do not exist. This is a serious problem for any atheist attempting to account for the existence of logic. The atheist must either deny that logic is necessary or he must  deny the proposition that human beings are not necessary beings and admit that human beings are necessary beings. But if he denies that logic is necessary, he has to admit that logic is nothing more than a convention and if that is the case, logic really isn’t a law-like thing but can easily be set aside as we please when it is convenient. This leads to a radically subjective skepticism and irrationalism which is itself self-refuting. This path is closed to the atheist. Well, the atheist then only has one other option. If he cannot tinker with logic, perhaps he can tinker with the human being. Again, the atheist will have to adopt the position that the human being is a necessary being. But if he does so, this will mean that human existence is infinite, without beginning or end. But the atheist insists on evidence for such beliefs and the evidence is wholly lacking for the belief that humans are necessary beings. Second, if the atheist can posit an infinite, necessary human existence, why not God? It seems entirely permissible to accept God belief if one is going to accept the belief that humans are necessary beings.

This places the atheist in a position of denying the necessary properties of logic or affirming the necessary property of human existence. If the atheist does the former, he ends up in self-refutation because necessity of logic cannot be denied without affirming it. If the atheist does the latter, he has abandoned any objection he had to God belief. Either way the intelligibility of the experience of human logic serves as a powerful demonstration for God belief.

The second step is to ask the atheist to step into the shoes of the Christian. This, most atheists as simply unwilling to do. The Christian explains that the laws of logic are not creations. There was never a time and there is no possible world in which logic is not the case. This conviction is based on the Christian’s view of the nature of logic. Logic, for the Christian, is how God thinks. Logic comes from the mind of the God. It just is a property of God himself. And since God is a necessary being, existing infinitely and eternally in all possible worlds, so too does logic. This explains why logic seems irresistible. Humans are created in God’s image with a mind similar to God’s mind. Logic is felt to impose itself on the human mind. It transcends us. And the Christian understanding of God’s nature explains why this is the case. In other words, if it is the case that God exists, and that logic is a property of God, then we would expect logic to function in exactly the way it does. And so it is.

Now, TAG makes the bold claim that Christianity is proven true because of the impossibility of the contrary. And the contrary is impossible because it involves contradiction. In other words, every non-Christian worldview is proven to collapse under the weight of TAG. The idea is that only the Christian conception of God can account for the intelligibility of human experience. If God were different from the Christian conception of God, things like logic, morality, knowledge, language and so forth would prove to be unintelligible. Could there be another worldview available, as yet uninvented that could account for the intelligibility of human experience? Logically speaking, philosophically speaking, yes. Theologically speaking, on Christian presuppositions about the state of affairs as it has obtained? No.

The Form of the Argument

The Transcendental Argument for God generally takes the for form of Modus Ponens even though it is not a deductive argument. The properties of the conditional premise in TAG are different from those in a standard deductive argument.

Intelligibility –> God

Intelligibility

/God

This argument claims that God is the necessary condition for intelligibility. But it is not a deductive argument properly speaking because in a deductive argument, the denial of the condition entails the denial of the conclusion. This is not the case for transcendental arguments. In this case, the denial of the condition is impossible. One cannot deny intelligibility without engaging in a self-refuting claim. There is no intelligibility is a self-refuting proposition. It is like saying, “I cannot speak a word in English.” If it is true, then it is false. What this means is that the argument claims that God must be presupposed even to deny his existence. The argument would look like this:

Intelligibility –> God

~Intelligibility

/God

In summary then, TAG is an very forceful and powerful way to answer questions and challenges issued against Christian belief. It is irrelevant that one could speculate that it fails to actually accomplishes the once-for-all death blow to all non-Christian worldviews that some TAG proponents claim. What is relevant is that in its execution with unbelievers, it is incredibly effective and efficient. And what matters more than anything else is that TAG takes Scripture as its final and supreme epistemic authority for all truth claims.

Debating Dave Miller on Racism – Sort Of

To be fair, I asked Dave to debate this issue with me and he did NOT respond in the official sense of “okay, let’s debate.” But he did respond and that is enough for me. The reason I am posting this exchange is that I hope to influence how you see this issue and change the way you think about it. I hope for real change. I hope for spiritual growth. I hope for sanctification. I hope for a unity of truth, of love, in our diversity as a body of believers.

Dave Miller wrote:

“Maybe it would be best for us (I’m assuming that like me, you are a white American) to work on removing the log of racism, prejudice, and all of its effects in America before we attempt to extract the speck of unforgiveness from the eye of the Black community?”

First, Scripture doesn’t charge the church with the responsibility for “fixing” the pagan culture. The Bible is unconcerned with external compliance to our favorite Christian principles. It is entirely concerned with heart-obedience, with full submission, with complete devotion to the Sovereign Lord of all!

Second, to suggest that we handle racism as a cultural problem prior to informing Christians who have unforgiveness and bitterness in their hearts is a dereliction of pastoral duty, indeed, of our Christian duty. God is sovereign. I am NOT entitled to anything, contrary to what someone else said earlier. Whatever I receive that is good in this life comes through grace, not some inherent RIGHT I have. I am a vile rebel against a perfectly good sovereign Lord who is also my Creator. The good gifts I receive are an act of grace. The trouble I experience are 1) consequences of sin, 2) but also being worked by God himself in my life for my good so long as I love him.  Is this not what Romans 8 clearly teaches us? Is it not the case that Jesus said that if we do not forgive others of their sin against us, the Father will NOT forgive our sins? How could we let someone believe that it is okay to withhold forgiveness until the situation has been corrected JUST IN ACCORD WITH MY PERSONAL satisfaction?

Dave Miller writes,

“Can you not see how a White man lecturing Black people to just forgive and forget comes across less than effectively?”

No, I cannot. Not a black Christian, not at all. And this is the problem. It proposes to fix the “one-way-street” sort of racism. Is it okay for a black Christian to judge me, a white Christian, for speaking God’s truth to them the same as I would speak it to any other SIMPLY on the ground that I am white? This thinking does NOTHING to produce repentance and forgiveness. I resent the fact that I cannot preach to black Christians without being ipso facto judged to be a racist or sympathetic to racism. We are incubating hateful attitudes when we think in patterns such as this. The black Christian needs help in this area the same as some white Christians need sharp rebuke for their left-over racial attitudes. But it has to be 100% rebuke in BOTH directions, not just one. Why? Because that is the only Biblical response. Any other response is political and that is unconscionable in my opinion.

Dave Miller writes,

“It reminds me of a man in a previous ministry who was horrible to his wife for 14 years. She finally had enough and kicked him to the curb. Suddenly he “repented” and couldn’t believe that his wife didn’t immediately and completely forgive him for 14 years of verbal and emotional abuse.”

Your story reminds of the some of that hardest sayings that Jesus spoke. And the one on forgiveness qualifies:

  • Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” . Mt 18:32, 35
  • but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Mt 6:15.

I think we have all been wronged if we have lived long enough in this world. I know I have. I know I have wronged others. Where does our teaching Christians about forgiveness begin? It has to begin with the Christian concept of grace. I had a tough counselor a few years back. He was a Masters Seminary man. He asked me if I had been wronged or trespassed by humans to the extent and degree that I had wronged my heavenly Father over the course of my life. Then he asked me to justify withholding forgiveness from others in light of God’s own forgiveness toward me. Then he asked me to consider the cost of that forgiveness. I was hemmed in on all sides with NO EXCUSE whatsoever to withhold forgiveness. My heart was smitten over my sinful and ARROGANT attitude. I got it. I have taken that lesson with me to this very day. God put me through the wringer and I learned a beautiful lesson about true forgiveness. I also learned how to suffer better, something all Christians ought to learn sooner than later. I learned that I was created by God FOR God. My only concern is to glorify God according to his Word in every single situation I find myself. Those are two very valuable lessons. But someone had to bruise me, an already bruised man in order to help me see God’s goodness and my own wicked pride and arrogant attitude. Who is going to lovingly bruise our Christian brothers that suffer from racial maltreatment? Who will stand up and help them take up Christ’s attitude? That will take real courage. Anyone can join the band wagon. I am not interested in external, shallow political or cultural shifts. I am interested in real heart change. I am interested in genuinely loving my brothers enough to speak the truth into their lives. I am interested in the sanctification of my brothers just as I am interested in pleasing my God. And if my being “white” is a problem for them, then that only proves my point even more.

Dave Miller writes,

“We might do better to DEMONSTRATE our love and concern for the black community rather than lecturing them about their flaws in forgiveness.”

We DO demonstrate love for our black Christians and brothers in Christ when we help them see sin in their own life. To allow race to get in the way of loving our brothers the way we should is itself racism. It is saying this: well, because you are white, like me, I will rebuke you or correct you in love because I love you and I want God’s best for you. But I will not do the same for my black brothers and sisters because, well, you know, the race thing. Is this the sort of behavior we want from leaders? From Christians? I don’t think it is. I could care less what color you are. If I see hate in your attitude, I am going to remind you of that obscure THEME in John regardless of your race:

  • 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 Jn 2:9–11.

I think a case can be made that anyone who deliberately withholds the truth, God’s truth, from his brother who desperately needs it, hates his brother in that instant. Are we saying to the former racist whose sins are now forgiven him because of Christ, NOT SO FAST MR! You have some penance to pay. Christ may have released your transgression, your debt, but you still have ME to deal with. And if you want to be known as a true Christian, you will have to meet MY standards as well! Is that the sort of attitude we are unwittingly promoting, endorsing, or refusing to rebuke and correct? Really?

I hope some of you read this and see how this conversation is uncovering attitudes and thinking that are misguided and seriously diverge from Scripture. I hope you begin with a high view of grace, that you recognize the seriousness of the sin of unforgiveness, and that you also are connecting the dots of my main concerns on this subject.

I do not intend to be overly polemical or sharp. However, I do believe the real spiritual need is behind the curtain and it seems to me that most people are not talking about it. At least it is on the table at this point. I hope we can push forward and advance the conversation to a more substantive place.

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