Earthy-ing the Imago Dei

I read Van Til, Dooyeweerd, and Rushdoony for reasons most other people don’t read them.  I couldn’t care less about specific apologetic methodologies.  Their true genius is in the fact that they–more than anyone else–allowed the Creator-creature distinction to inform their understanding of creation and imago Dei.

Any discussion of the imago-dei is better served, not by speculating on essences and accidents, but on man’s role as priest-king-prophet in creation and New Creation.  We must firmly resist any scheme that says the higher part of man is the soul while the lower part is the body (John of Damascus and Aquinas say exactly that).

Some worldview consequences coming from the Patriarchy scandal

The comments immediately following this one, including the one related to Young Earth Creationist Kent Hovind, are worth reading from a legal perspective.   Backlash happens in anything.    Here are some of my predictions (not prophecies, notwithstanding my views on spiritual gifts!  LOL).   This won’t affect older theology students and pastors, but it will affect younger ones.  I have in mind those students are just beginning to explore the mature Evangelical faith in a scholarly manner.

  • All other things being equal, I expect a rise in conservative, Old-Earth creationism.  This will be a solid response to Peter Enns and a mature counterbalance to some of the extreme statements made by VF (and YEC is a huge part of their ministry).  I remember listening to a Doug Phillips lecture and he told anecdotal stories of people who lost their faith in college because the (conservative) Bible professor held to an Old Earth position.  I thought that was probably the silliest thing I ever heard.
  • A movement away from presuppositionalism.  There are good presuppositionalists like Scot Oliphant.  They are the Westminster types. I personally do not hold those views, but I respect them.  They are not the same “wavelength” as Vision Forum.  Sadly, Vision Forum, and I can say this from personal experience, was remarkably talented at communicating presuppositionalism.  I am sad to see Greg Bahnsen’s name tarnished with this (and for the record, Bahnsen voted for Bush I in the 1990s and not Howard Phillips.  That led to a break between him and Rushdoony).
  • There will be a massive PR spin on “complementarianism.”  The pendulum is going to swing back to Wayne Grudem.  Doug Wilson might scoff at such “squeamish” terms (and I Plan to do a response to his calling the victim in the VF scandal “Foxy Bubbles” and trying to give DP a free pass.  I’ve seen a number of “worldview wonks” do the same thing).  As a marketing term, “Patriarchy” is down for the count.
  • Apropos above point, I think we are going to see a muting of the “worldview talk.”  I grant that worldviews are inescapable to a degree, but so is breathing.  But nobody talks about how important it is to breathe.
  • Will there be healthy Christian alternatives to nouthetic counseling?   I don’t agree with Freud and “psychobabble” as such, but I can give several clear-cut arguments why nouthetic models are flawed.   Depression doesn’t have to be related to sin.   It can be something as simple as “lack of sleep.”  The Soviet KGB knew this for decades (which is why they would raid homes at 3 A.M., the time where the body’s circadian rhythm was lowest.   When the CIA created assassin-clones in its MK-ULTRA program, aside from the pornography, prostitution, and mind-altering drugs used on the victim, sleep deprivation was essential the process.  All of this goes to falsify the premise of nouthetic counseling at its most basic).

God, Creation, & Providence in Jacob Arminius

In this volume Richard Muller attempts to fill in a lacuna in the histories of Arminius and early Arminianism. Rather than focus on the debates of predestination, Muller notes that “[I]t must still be explained why Arminius’ doctrine developed along certain technical lines and with attention to such questions as the internal logic of the divine will, the character of human beings in their original created state, the relationship of the divine will, in its providential concurrence, to the acts of human beings, and the nature of the divine foreknowledge of future contingents (Muller, 10). Similar to Muller’s larger project (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics), he attempts to set Arminius in a larger historical context, one that explores the connections between late medieval scholasticism and a burgeoning Reformed orthodoxy (or lack thereof).

Despite what many saw as his later theological errors, Arminius correctly placed his theological roots “in the presuppositional structure and foundational principles of [the Protestant scholastic] system, which is to say, in the definition of theology and in the doctrine of God, the so-called principium essendi of theological system” (Muller, 25).

The Method of Arminius’ Theology

Arminius follows the general outline of both Catholic and Protestant scholastics. He is perhaps a bit more metaphysical in his doctrine of God. Muller notes, “Arminius appears far more willing than Protestants of previous generations to draw ratinal metaphysics into the service of theology: (59). One should be careful, however, in inferring that this is or is not the cause of his theological downfall, so to speak. Arminius’s use of the scholastic method, particularly his emphasis on God as the principium essendi, stands in line with Reformed scholasticism. However, Arminius did phrase his method in such a way to deemphasize final causality, and hence to lessen a decretal theology (68).

After identifying the being of God as the ground of theology, Arminius makes the relationship between God and the world the “fundamental datum…rather than, as in the case of his Reformed contemporaries, a secondary issue predicated on the doctrine of God” (75). Perhaps this does condition Arminius’ later theology; Muller notes, “the conditions established by God in the act of creation become determinative of all subsequent discussions concerning God and the world.” Arminius has made the world a “subordinate principium essendi.” (Cf. pp. 100-101; 171 ff.). As Muller notes elsewhere,

“Whereas the theology of Arminius’ Reformed contemporaries tended to place the work of grace prior to the work of creation and, therefore, to understand creation increasingly as a means to God’s higher salvific end, , Arminius’s theology tends to conjoin nature and grace, to understand creation as manifesting the ultimate goodness of God, and therefore, to conceive of the divine act of creation as standing prior to all other divine acts ad extra and as establishing both the context and limitations within which those acts must occur” (233).

The Existence and Nature of God

On the surface level Arminius begins with the standard scholastic prolegomena, archetypal and ectypal theology, but as he expands it when begin to see his departure from Reformed theology. Arminus notes that existence (esse) and life (vita) must be the two fundamental categories for the essence of God (114). Arminius’s key point is in identifying these two terms as the “two moments” of God. His language is a bit confusing, for he isn’t using the word “moments” in the conventional use of the term. What does he mean by this? A sympathetic reading could simply gloss these terms as the traditional terms actus purus and actus secondus. It appears for Arminius that “there is no first moment of being in God without the second moment, life” (116).

As it stands this is not all that striking. He is not saying anything different from other scholastic theologians, whether Protestant or Romanist. The problem arises when Arminius applies this distinction to God’s will. As Muller notes, “If God is utterly simple, then the fact of God having a will and the divine willing must be identical” (117). Arminius’s distinction of “two moments” will posit a gap between what God intends to will and what he actually wills.

The Divine Knowledge and Will

Arminius does make a unique move concerning God’s knowledge: he refers knowing entirely to the intellect and misses an established Reformed point on the knowledge of God: God’s sapientia (144). Given that sapientia is a knowledge of purposes and goals, and that Arminus omits it, one must wonder if this will play out in his understanding of divine foreknowledge. Arminius further departs from Aquinas by taking the Boethian model that God knows future things because they are future (Muller1991, 152-153; contrast with Aquinas, Summa, Ia, q. 14, art. 8, ad obj. 1). As Muller notes, “[T]his provides a less than total conjunction between the divine will and the divine intellect” (153).

This novelty leads directly into Arminius’s use of the scientia media. After a lengthy discussion of how Aquinas and those following him dealt with “middle knowledge” (e.g., the idea that this knowledge of contingencies stands prior to any free act of God’s will), this means that for Arminius “God will, therefore, be able to ordain the means of salvation on the basis of a hypothetical or consequent knowledge of the creature’s free choice in a context of grace” (161).

The Object of God’s will 

Arminius posited the divine goodness as the object of the divine will; this means that God could not have permitted evil, only permitting the free function of the created human will to evil. This raises one problem that Arminius easily solved: if the divine will is the simple essence, how can we speak of a multitude of objects? Arminius does so by noting that God wills the plenitude of his divine goodness. This raises another problem which he doesn’t solve as well, notes Muller: how do we then speak of “experience[s] of freedom, contingency, and, indeed, of evil running counter to the will of God, in the finite order” (175)?

Arminius makes another subtle move. Muller gives a brief but succinct summary of the ways in which Arminius discussed God’s will. At first glance it is no different from the typical Reformed and medieval scholastic discussions, except for one point. Muller notes, “Arminius emphasizes the way in which the divine opus alienum is a response to the willing of contingent beings—over against the opus proprium as an absolute will of God” (185). In short, and in contradistinction to his Reformed contemporaries, Arminius places God’s will (both antecedent and consequent) as standing in relation to and as a response to the creature’s willing (187). Interestingly, Arminius switches terms. Scholastics had tradtionally spoken of God’s will as voluntas, the facutly that exercises volition, which for God is always perfect and complete. Arminius changed it to velleitas, an inchoate and imperfect will, because incomplete (188).

Creation 

This section is admittedly difficult. Muller gives a fine overview of the scholastic glosses on creatio ex nihilo, noting that the phrase ex nihilo does not mean “deriving its origin from the principle of nothing-ness,” but rather “an indication of the ontological and temporal limit and order of the creative process: first there was nothing and, then, after the creative act, there was something (216). The following, however, is not clear as to what Arminius and his contemporaries were aiming at, but given Arminius’s earlier contention of a connection between God and the world, seeing both in a reacting towards the other (75, 100-101; 171), it appears that one can reconstruct Arminius’s view. It seems that the concept of the nihil, rather than functioning as a “limit,” now functions as a material substratum, a realm of possible being existing independently of the realm of actual being (219).

Conclusion:

Muller effectively rebuts the common charge that Arminius rejected the scholastic method of his Reformed colleagues and chose rather a purer biblicism that rejected supralapsarian predestination. Arminius followed the method of numerous divines and gave careful attention to complex theological problems (26). In light of current intra-Reformed controversies today over the nature of election and the covenant—and this is my point, not necessarily Muller’s—we can see those who argue for a fresher, more biblical theology in contrast to stodgy Protestant Scholasticism, not only come to the same conclusions as later Arminianism, but they lack all of Arminius’ own theological strengths; they get all of his errors and none of this benefits.

Arminius can be seen as a theologian who took some elements of Thomism and modifed them for his own use. As it stands that is not too remarkable. Most every early Reformed orthodox thinker did that. It is the specific modifications Arminius made that set him apart: the use of scientia media and creation as a temporal limit upon God’s power.

Genesis, Creation, and Early Man

This is likely the next book I am getting.

http://stherman.com/Catalog/Writings_of_Father_Seraphim/genesis_book.htm

Several of my Orthodox friends have been attacking Blessed Seraphim, some even calling the “Young Earth Creation” as “stupid.”  (It gets really funny in the debate when I start lining up holy fathers who espoused something like it!).

I’ve held off buying it because I’ve been interested in the “paleophysics” school for a few years.   After watching it dive off, not simply into wackiness (which is no different from the modern University system), but into apostasy, it’s time to call it for what it is.  More on this later

(While rejecting paleophysics per se, I am not rejecting all forays into alternative ancient history.  I still think it is silly to say that a bunch of loincloth slaves built the pyramids;  yes, yes, I know, affirming this makes me a “Sitchenite,” or something like that, which I am not).

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?