Category Archives: sin

Apologetics

A Review of Sutanto’s Covenental Apologetics And Common Sense Realism

I came across Sutanto’s paper in the Journal of Evangelical Theology (JETS 57/4 (2014) and have been thinking it through. Part of the reason this caught my interest is because I live in Southern California and I have noticed how predominant the Argument from Consciousness is in these parts seeing how I believe it lacked the Theological justification for a genuine apologetic. But I struggled to understand why it was that these well intending apologists were so adamant about using the Argument From Consciousness and did use it with every opportunity seemingly. I believe Sutanto does an outstanding job explaining the situation in this paper and if you get the time I would highly recommend reading his paper.

However, here I provide a very simplified and watered down explanation of Sutanto’s argument. Some readers may not be too familiar with the technical language but many will be familiar with the concept the terminology seeks to communicate. Thus common sense realism (CS) is expressed by Sutanto as “referring to those propositions or intuitions that are perspicuously true, upon, or even prior to immediate reflection. When any subject S entertain these propositions, it is supposed, S will come to see the obviousness of the veracity of the proposition, and thus be lured, or even compelled, to adopt a belief in them. (777)” For example the fact that I have hands is a belief I hold from common sense and it would be difficult for anyone to refute. This is what Sutanto is addressing in the CS thesis. The relationship of CS to the Argument From Consciousness (AFC) is that the common sense reality of my conscious awareness points to belief in God. CS provides the epistemic justification for the fact of consciousness. Allow me to explain.

Sutanto begins by looking at the AFC as it is articulated by J.P. Moreland in The Rationality of Theism. It is here that Moreland wants to argue that the existence of non-physical mental states (consciousness) is a defeater of any naturalistic argument that can be offered since a precommitment to naturalism is inconsistent with a notion of non-physicality (i.e. consciousness or mental states). Sutanto frames Morland’s argument this way:

  1. Genuinely non-physical mental states exist.
  2. There is an explanation for mental states.
  3. Personal explanation is different from naturalistic scientific explanation.
  4. The explanation for mental states is either personal or natural scientific explanation.
  5. The explanation is not a naturalistic scientific one.
  6. Therefore, the explanation is a personal one.
  7. If the explanation is personal then it is theistic.
  8. Therefore, the explanation is theistic.

Sutanto seems to be in agreement with Moreland’s AFC. Where Sutanto wishes to “recalibrate” is not the AFC itself but rather Sutanto wants to recalibrate AFC’s foundation.

The argument that Sutanto is going make centers on the matter of the principium cognoscendi (principle of knowing).  Morland begins premise one by denying third person scientific investigation. For Morland premise one is based on first person phenomenology  hence it is at this point that he invokes the CS thesis as his principium. Here Sutanto offers some objections to the understanding of CS as principium.

Sutanto pulls from different sources in the formulation of these objections. The first objection he calls the “Marsden Olifent objection” named after two scholars George Marsden and Scott Oliphint who address this issue of CS in other works. Without going to far into what was said I think I can summarize their position as a historical refutation of CS demonstrating that there is no ground or reference for what knowledge is in fact common. Without a base or start point the pursuit of knowledge that is common becomes vacuous at best. The next objection he refers to as the “Bishop and Trout objection” which comes from Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout’s book Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment. The thrust of the argument is an appeal to a naturalistic epistemology. Because no genuine  agreement among epistemologists or people in general can be found in standard analytic epistemology the authors propose a third person naturalistic approach which is precisely what Morland is refuting.

The next set of objections that Sutanto offers is divine revelation and the noetic effects of sin. Here with the text of Scripture he makes the case that there are two implications of the noetic effects of sin (or the way sin impacts our thinking). The first is that which should be common- namely the knowledge of God- which is treated by the natural man as uncommon. Therefore any appeal to what is thought to be CS can potentially be an appeal to what is uncommon. Thus in this sense the natural man will take for granted that his epistemic equipment is functioning properly when in reality it is working from the noetic effects of sin which suppresses true knowledge.

If the noetic effects of sin are so comprehensive what then can be our  principium cognoscendi. This is where Sutanto turns to the Triune God. He writes “With these objections we have shown that an appeal to common sense to ground an argument is insufficient at best or simply wrongheaded at worst, especially when we live in the post-lapsarian order” (786).  Sutanto goes on to say, “In recalibrating the argument from consciousness, and placing it on divine revelation rather than on natural theology, we preserve its concluding premises from devolving into a proof for some finite god. Instead , we begin from the ontological Trinity, and we lay an argument that concludes, also, with the Trinity” (791).

 

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Filed under Apologetics, Covenantal Apologetics, Philosophy, Review, Self-Deception, sin, Theology, Trinity

Hagar And The Covenant Of Works

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:21-26 NIV)

The law-simply stated-can communicate different ideas to different people. Sometimes the term is used in reference to the Old Testament as a way of distinguishing it from the New Testament. The term law can also be used to refer to a certain collection of laws within the first five books of the Old Testament often referred to as the Pentateuch. Sometimes it is in reference to the Ten Commandments or the decalog. When we come to the New Testament we find Paul using law to contrast works (Col. 3:15, ref. Lev. 13:5) from faith (Gal. 3:11, ref. Hab. 2:4). So it goes without saying that any study of Scripture would require a good understanding of the law if for no other reason than its repeated occurance throughout Scripture and its relationship to the Gospel.

From the text above (Gal. 4:21-26) there is a significant amount that we can glean about the law. Dr. James P. Boyce has written, The two covenants of works and grace are spoken of in Gal.4:22-31, and are called “the two covenants” in verse 24… That of works, is the covenant of the law entered into between God and all mankind through the first Adam, their natural head and appropriate and appointed representative… A covenant is an agreement between two or more parties by which any one or more things are to be done under the sanction of reward or penalties (Abstract Of Systematic Theology P.235). Covenant is a term that we are not as familure with but one of vital importance if we are to understand the law and Gospel. For this we will now look at our text.

For this explanation Paul takes his readers back to Genesis 16. His reason for doing this was probably to properly explain the proof-texts used by the Judaizers who argued that obedience to the law brought about fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul explains that Sara and Hagar are two covenants. Sarah is the free woman who represents those who are united to Christ through faith. Hagar represents the law and the covenant that was given on Mt. Sinai. In this covenant Moses and the elders swore the oath of ratification and obedience to the law. Under this oath the sanction of reward was life and the penalty was death. Thus Hagar’s children are born in bondage because they were born under the law.

The principle here is one of blessing or curse in the covenant of works. If God’s people are obedient to the law given on Mt. Sinai coventat blessings will fall upon them. However if God’s people are not obedient to the law covenant curses will fall upon them. Paul believes this is the case of present Jerusalem and this would also apply to anyone who envokes the law over grace. That is why Paul says, For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11 ESV). According to the covenant of works you must obey it perfectly both inwardly and out in order to recieve the blessings of life. But as Paul says “it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law.”

Having said all this it is important to keep in mind that someone did keep the law perfectly inwardly and outwardly and received the blessings of life. If it wasn’t for Jesus’ active obedience to the law their would be no righteousness for us to receive under grace. Using Paul’s figurative interpretation we are of the free woman (Col.4:28) because we are born of the promise (Col. 4:24). It is important to realize that the covenant on Sinai doesn’t simply go away, with any covenant there is a promise that is made, and if Israel doesn’t keep their end of the promise God must keep His. This reaches back to Adam our covenant head who was the first to break the covenant with God (Rom. 5:12-21).

There are a number of ways to simplify this. One scholar put it this way, Adam was offered life on the condition of his obedience, he could but didn’t. Israel was offered life on the condition of obedience, the couldn’t because they were fallen so they didn’t. Christ takes that same promise of life offered to Adam and Israel and not only could he but He did. Jesus in other words met all the demands of the law and executed them perfectly. Under the covenant of works He merited life and that life was passed on to all who have faith and believe.

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Confront Sin

Confront Sin

Week of November 15, 2015

Bible Verses: Daniel 5:17-28

The Point: Call sin what it is and point to what God says about it.

[17] Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. [18] O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. [19] And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. [20] But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. [21] He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. [22] And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, [23] but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. [24] “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. [25] And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. [26] This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; [27] TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; [28] PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” [ESV]

So interesting how the Son follows in the foot steps of the father in this case. It wasn’t as if Belshazzar was ignorant to his father’s transgressions and how God dealt with him. Daniel even says in verse 22 “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this”. Belshazzar had first hand account of his father’s actions but in spite of this failed to humble his heart. In Daniel says to Belshazzar “but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven” 23. Not a very wise place to be in.

The question then before us is what did Belshazzar do. Well, aside from defiling the Temple vessels an act of apostasy against God; Daniel also says that he has “praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” 23. Belshazzar fixed his gaze upon earthly things which became his gods and rejected the God that gives Him life.

As a result, like his father, Belshazzar’s days were numbered.

What does Daniel 5 teach us about Belshazzar?

What lessons can we learn from God’s treatment of Belshazzar?

What do we learn about God in this passage?

How has God shown His mercy on you?

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One nation, seven sins

Researches at K State have-through statistical analysis-mapped the seven deadly sins by degree in each US state. First, all sin is deadly and second I have to be skeptical about the data and how it was obtained and used. That aside its still interesting. You can find it here.

One nation, seven sins.

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