Transcendental Tradition (part two)

In the previous post, I pointed out some (but not all) of the problems when Calvinists rely on transcendental reasoning in apologetics.    While the argument may not be sound in the end, the TAG does work well (practically) against crass materialists and moral relativists.

One of the questions that was always raised in Bahnsen’s seminars concerned using TAG against groups that have their own religious texts (and make ultimate truth claims):   Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims, and Mormons (while I hate to admit it, Gerry Matatics scored huge points on Bahnsen on this very issue).

On transcendental grounds, what’s to stop the Mormon from claiming that the works of Joseph Smith provide the preconditions for intelligibility?

The TA says you cannot know y unless you presuppose x. X provides the preconditions for intelligibility for y:

  1. You cannot know the Bible’s contents without the canon.
  2. Yet, the Bible doesn’t list the contents of the canon (and probably doesn’t even presuppose the concept of a New Testament canon).
  3. Therefore, to know the Bible’s contents, you must first presuppose the Church.

In fact, the Bible says something like that.

Addendum:  Bahnsen’s article on the canon:

I just read Bahnsen’s article on the canon.   I was a little nervous at first, trembling before the authority of the great teacher.   Unfortunately, Bahnsen didn’t say anything new on canonical studies, and the only real points that hard any force were the quotations by some fathers that acknowledged the Apocrypha as of a different category as the rest of Scripture.

However, Lee McDonald’s book on the canon calls into question almost all of Bahnsen’s arguments:  Jamnia was not the final word on “Old Testament Canoncity” (and even if it were, so what?  These guys murdered Christ and said the Prophet Isaiah is in hell), and the early fathers weren’t too worked up about a canon (see Ignatius).

Penultimate Thoughts on the Creation Debate

I say this as one who has no definite conclusions on the matter.  The following are some fairly solid points, though:

  1. When Christians simply “latch” on to the latest scientific paradigm (per evolution), they look silly.  These paradigms have short life spans.  As Chesterton said, when men marry the spirit of the age, they soon become widows.
  2. Likewise, when Christians (who have no scientific training) spout evidence to support Intelligent Design, they look silly and convince no one.
  3. Simply coming to a 6,000 year old earth conclusion, and missing the fuller picture of creation, is to miss the whole story.
  4. Time is fluid.  I don’t know enough about relativity theory to say more than that, but I am hesitant to die on hills of years.
  5. If you say man is monkey, you will have a hard time with Christ as the Second Adam.
  6. I can’t get past the suspicion that many of the theistic evolutionists are simply throwing unbeliving atheism a bone, but does anyone seriously think the atheists will respect Christians more for this?  No, these are the people who hate Christ and some respected thinkers suggest Christians should be prosecuted in some sense on this matter.
  7. The holy fathers accurately passed down the faith, and the holy fathers all held to non evolutionary views.  Further, it puts you in a bad light when you use modern atheistic scientists to debunk the holy fathers.   The burden of proof is on you, and when you are opposing 1,900 years of Church teaching….well, that’s a big burden.
  8. If I really wanted to throw a monkey (no pun intended) wrench into the equation, I would bring up the works of Joseph Farrell.  Good luck!

So Jesus Recapitulates this?

The most helpful essays of 2010

The most helpful essays of 2010 (or in the past few years)

Azkoul, Fr. Michael. “Sacred Monarchy and the Modern Secular State.”   Decent job in demonstrating the worldviews that underlie both sacerdotal monarchy and modern democracy.  I do not often agree with Fr Azkoul, but this is a good read.

Bradshaw, David.  “Augustine the Metaphysician.”  Orthodox Readings on Augustine.  Eds. Papanikolaou, Aristotle and Demacopolous, George.  Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2008.  A summary of his Aristotle East and West.  While Bradshaw has been ridiculed, and his detractors have done little more than simply chant “De Regnon is debunked,” he has offered one of the more powerful critiques of the limitations of Western theological thought.

Farrell, Joseph.   “A Theological Introduction to the Mystagogy of St Photios.” A summary of the neo-Palamite critique of Western theology.  While people ridicule Farrell because of his Giza Death Star theory, Farrell’s summary of St Maximus has actually been quoted in the leading theological work on St Maximus, which the author notes few critics of neo-Palamism have actually interacted with Dr. Farrell.  ‘Sup?

Farrell, Joseph.  “Prolegomena:  God, History, and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations to the Two Europes.” The arguments in this book have had a powerful impact on me.   Farrell outlines how the dialectical tensions within the Filioque have an effect on all of Western society.    Also shows how Russia did theology without relying on the dialectical tensions of Aristotle and Plato.

Milbank, John.  “An Alternative Protestantism.”  Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2005.  I actually read this a few years ago, but Christology has been the reference point in my theological journeys, and Milbank’s essay pointed out some major problems in Reformed Christological thought.

A lot of Fr. Matthew Raphael Johnson’s essays continue to challenge me.  Unfortunately, his site is no longer running, and not all of his essays have been transferred to The Orthodox Nationalist.

Trifkovic, Srdja.  “Orthodoxy versus Modernity.”  If I may employ a van Tillian term, Trifkovic nicely outlines the antithesis between the globalist elite and what an Orthodox outlook should be.   Or in any case, he demonstrates why the Globalists hate traditionally Orthodox countries–and these reasons why should make conservative Protestants pause, for they should realize they are next on the globalists’ agenda.

Filioque and Alchemy

Dr Joseph Farrell has noted that after the gap between the death of the last neo-Platonic magicisan—Iamblicus and the rise of the first modern occult order, the Knights Templars, alchemy and the occult emerged in a fully mature form.   This is rather odd since occultic movements develop gradually.  How did alchemy emerge fully mature in the absence of relatively 1,000 years?

Farrell suggests that alchemy went underground in the Christian West but was studied by philosophers and occultists who masked it with Trinitarian terminology, specifically that of the Filioque.  The following is from Farrell’s The Philosopher’s Stone. Unfortunately, I only have this book in the Amazon Kindle version, which makes it impossible to reference page numbers.

Patriarch Photios of Constantinople noted that the way the Trinity was formed in the West was more appropriate to “sensory things” than to theology.  In other words, it had a specifically “physics” veneer to it.

Following the topology from Hermes Trismegistus, we see a metaphor about God:  theos, tomos, and cosmos (God, space, and Cosmos).  These three are in turn distinguished by a dialectic of opposition based on three elemental functions, each of which implies its own functional opposite.

Farrell comments that alchemy survived the Middle Ages because it was often masked behind the language of the Carolignian Shield.  While the Filioque has openly neo-platonic roots, one can also see deep but largely unsuspected roots in Egyptian hermeticism.


Smashing Piper’s Dialectic

I think I have posted about John Piper’s implicit Origenism sometime in the past. Essentially, Piper said that for God to be glorious and Lord, there must be something for him to be Lord over.   It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this makes sin necessary and creation eternal and necessary.

Still, one could respond, “Well, God is Lord, isn’t he?”   This is an example of dialectical horns at their finest, and it is a question I have wrestled with for a while.

The answer lies in St. Gregory of Nyssa.   For Nyssa, and for most of the Fathers, God’s names are names of his attributes, not his essence.    We deny that God’s essence = his attributes, and we deny that God’s names = God’s essence.  God’s names, rather, = God’s energies.  God’s names he God’s acts (i.e., creation).   Yet we do not say that God’s acts are eternal.

Still, for my part, I don’t think this question is fully answered.  At first, I simply noted that John Piper (and his legion of Christian Hedonists) had simply rehashed old Origenism in a new light.  I didn’t answer the question, though.   Now, I’ve offered a new way out of the dialectical process.  Still, there is one or two other questions that remain to be answered.


Hilarious Lecture on NT Wright’s Theology

If anyone is considering or reevaluation traditional Protestant soteriology, or is just interested in theology and New Testament studies, then he or she must listen to Kevin Vanhoozer’s lecture on NT Wright’s theology.   Vanhoozer is a gifted speaker (almost as much as Wright himself!).  Vanhoozer is a Calvinist (PCUSA!  Yikes!) who actually agrees with Wright’s project, but he offers (rightly, I think) some helpful corrections to Wright.

More importantly Vanhoozer realizes that while Wright does not intend to sinister(ly) reintroduce semi-Pelagian Popish errors back into the Church (he effectively clears Wright of that charge), he does admit that Wright’s own project calls for serious reworking of Calvinist theology.

For example, while the Federal Visionists and Wright himself may label themselves as Reformed Calvinists, we must also point out that Wright rejects imputation (which many consider to be even more “heart of the gospel” than justification) and Wright also rejects the Calvinist readings of Romans 9 and Ephesians 1.

Vanhoozer understands the difficulties that Wright brings to Reformed theology.   Vanhoozer realizes that imputation theology as such cannot stand careful scrutiny (he does reference a John Milbank essay where Milbank runs a blistering critique on Calvin’s theology), but Vanhoozer wonders if some form of God’s righteousness being ours is still salvageable.

Therefore, Vanhoozer presents something like locutive righteousness.  He is drawing from his previous works on “speech-act theory.”  For example, many times when one says something, one is creating a new situation (e.g., “I pronounce you man and wife”).  Therefore, when God declares us righteous, it is not a legal fiction but God is actually creating a new situation.

So will this work?  (Never mind if it is actually correct for the moment).  Will Reformed pastors rally to “locutive righteousness?”   I say they won’t for the following reasons:

  • Not only do most Reformed theologians consider the substance of their system to be the sacred gospel itself, they also consider the words that describe the system as sacred.  And if you change the words, or even suggest materially synonymous words, on their gloss one is abandoning the gospel and embracing popish error.
  • If one stood up before being licensed in the Reformed camp and said, “I don’t believe that the way imputation is described is theologically tenable, but that’s okay because I think we can get the same truth by calling it “locutive righteousness,” not only will one not get the job, but will probably be run out of the room!   Vanhoozer is in the PCUSA and they don’t have these particular problems (though Vanhoozer would likely get in trouble for believing in…traditional Christianity or something).
  • Here’s the problem with using the latest philosophical categories to explain Christian truth–especially on sensitive subjects.  While your own position might be right (and I am impressed with how Vanhoozer construed it), you have to assume that your audience is up-to-date on the latest philosophical trends, but who is sufficient for that?  I mean, I read this stuff for fun, and I read more than most, but I maybe read 5% of the current theological  scene.

Still, kudos to Vanhoozer.