Current Readings in Christology & Philosophy

glarserzHere are some of the works on Christology and other subjects  that I’ve been reading lately.

Books

1. Oliver D. Crisp. God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology.

2. Gordon H. Clark. The Incarnation, .

3.Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes.

4. Athanaius of Alexandria. Four Discourses Against the Arians.

Scholarly Articles

1. Nigel M. de S. Cameron. “Incarnation and Inscripturation: The Christological Analogy in the Light of Recent Discussions,” in The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 3.2 (1985), 35-46.

2. Kenneth Kantzer. “The Christology of Karl Barth,” in Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 1.2 (Spring, 1958), 25-28.

3. Donald MacLeod. “The Doctrine of the Incarnation in Scottish Theology: Edward Irving,” in The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 9.1 (Spring 1991), 40-50.

4. P.J. Baldwin. “The Human Nature of Christ,” in The Evangelical Quarterly 36.2 (April-June 1964), 68-77.

Till next time.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.

An Interesting Find in an Unexpected Place…

platonistical[The following excerpts are taken from the book Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. The first quote demonstrates that even the unbeliever understands that the God of Scripture and the god of the philosophy of religion are not identical, but drastically different.The second quote demonstrates how fallen man attempts to place himself in the judgment seat  of God when deciding epistemological matters.

As I read this book, these passages stood out as clear and precise declarations of man’s idolatrous formation of a false deity from non-Scriptural  source material, as well as man’s desire to see God’s revelation of himself as nothing more than some more evidence among other pieces of evidence that will contribute to man’s drawing of a  likely or unlikely inference from those bits of evidence.

As for the book itself, as a whole I enjoyed the book. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar is a very accessible introduction to the wider, persistent ideas, problems, and developments in philosophy.

There are some “adult jokes,” but apart from these, the work is overall an easy and enjoyable, if not at times cheesy, intro to philosophy.

-h.]

1. The God of the Philosophers of Religion

The God that philosophers of religion like to argue about isn’t one that most of us would recognize. He tends to be more on the abstract side, like “The Force” in Star Wars, and less like Heavenly Father who stays up at night worrying about you.
-p. 97
2.  The Rejection of Divine Revelation as the Highest Authority
Four rabbis used to argue theology together, and three were always in accord against the fourth. One day, the odd rabbi out, after losing three to one again, decided to appeal to a higher authority.
“O, God!” he cried. “I know in my heart that I am right and they are wrong! Please give me a sign to prove it to them!” It was a beautiful, sunny day. As soon as the rabbi finished his prayer, storm cloud moved across the sky above the four rabbis. It rumbled once and dissolved. “A sign from God! See, I’m right, I knew it!” But the other three disagreed, pointing out that storm clouds often form on hot days.
So the rabbi prayed again. “O, God, I need a bigger sign to show that I am right and they are wrong. So please, God, a bigger sign!” This time four storm clouds appeared, rushed toward each other to form one big cloud, and a bolt of lightning slammed into a tree on a nearby hill.
“I told you I was right!” cried the rabbi, but his friends insisted that nothing had happened that could not be explained by natural causes.
The rabbi was getting ready to ask for a very, very big sign, but just as he said, “O, God . . . ,” the sky turned pitch-black, the earth shook, and a deep, booming voice intoned, “HEEEEEEEE’S RIIIIIIIGHT!”
The rabbi put his hands on his hips, turned to the other three, and said, “Well?”
“So,” shrugged one of the other rabbis, “now it’s three to two.”
-p. 45

The Potato Salad Fallacy

PSaladForm/Presentation & the Modification of Accidental Qualities

Without fail, nearly every time there is a Spring-Summer birthday party in my family, someone shows up with potato salad. And without fail, every such birthday party entails a 30 second awkward dialogue that goes something like this:

FM[1]: Hey! How’s it going, man? Nice to see you! Have you tried the potato salad? It’s amazing! Here have some! [Raises spoon filled with a large lump of potato salad.]

Me: [Uneasily gesticulating.] No thanks, on the potato salad. I’m just not a fan of the stuff. But it’s good to see you, too.

FM: Really good to see you here. [Awkward silence.] Are you sure you don’t want some of this potato salad? It’s got like bacon and other tasty stuff in it. Try it!

Me: Sorry. I don’t like potato salad. Never have. Never will. [Anxious smiles reciprocated.]

FM: Hey, brother. I understand. I’m not a big fan of potato salad either. But this potato salad?This stuff is different. I don’t even usually eat potato salad. But this stuff is great. Uncle Pete’s recipe is really unique. He’d love it if you gave it a try.

Me: I’m sorry. Tell Pete I said hello.

FM: [Still holding the spoon.] Sure. Have a good time, H.

Without fail, I inform people that I do not like potato salad at all. Yet without fail, I am informed thatthis potato salad made by a different cook will somehow convert me to the potato salad cult. Why?

In a word, the PS (Potato Salad) advocate believes that despite my clear identification of PS as inedible slop, he can change my mind by adding something else to PS, something agreeable to my tastes. What the PS advocate does not understand, or ignores, is that the form of the food itself is what I loathe, not the ways in which it has been mis-seasoned by prior PS chefs. So the PS advocate thinks that he can change the accidental qualities of PS and cause me to thereby accept the essential qualities of PS as agreeable to my tastes. My distaste for the form of PS, for the essential qualities of PS that make it what it is, in other words, is never dealt with. Instead, I am offered the essentially identical form of PS with only a few modifications. This, my friends, will not convert me.

The Point?

In the PS example given above, the essential qualities of PS are what forces me to reject all forms of PS, regardless of who has authored them. Adding accidental qualities to PS that may, in themselves, be agreeable to my tastes does not change the essence of PS. In a similar way, if a theological or philosophical position on a given matter is essentially incoherent, then it does not matter who modifies its accidental qualities, the position is still essentially incoherent.

In my own experience with different anti-Christian schools of thought,[2] the Potato Salad Fallacy is a very popular tool of persuasion used by them. In conversation, it appears in various appeals to authorities one is unfamiliar with, authorities which will, it is claimed, change one’s mind on a given position. Here is an example of such a conversation:

AC[3]: Do you belong to our school of thought?

Me: No. Your school of thought teaches P, correct?

AC: Yes.

Me: Well, doesn’t P simultaneously affirm A and ~A at the same time and in the same sense?

AC: Yes, but that shouldn’t keep you from joining our school of thought.

Me: Your school of thought is self-contradictory at the most basic level. Should I not reject it for that reason alone?

AC: Not if you haven’t read R. I used to think like you, but I’ve since changed my mind after reading R’s book explaining P.

Me: Does he still maintain that P simultaneously affirms A and ~A at the same time and in the same sense?

AC: Yes, but if you read S

The point should be clear.

To give a rather specific example, consider that John and Susan are arguing about the worldview of the Gospel of Mark. John believes that Mark’s author was superstitious. Here is his argument.

“Susan, the people of Mark’s time were generally very superstitious. And Mark was a man of his times. Therefore, he too was superstitious.”

Here is Susan’s reply:

“John, you have just committed the fallacy of composition by identifying the people of Mark’s day as being generally very superstitious, when in fact you only have a select number of texts that may be interpreted as saying that. You have also committed the fallacy of division by attributing to Mark what you have fallaciously inferred was true, in general, of the people of his time. Your position is based on fallacious reasoning. You haven’t proven your point, but only further demonstrated the fundamentally irrational nature of your position.”

John replies (weakly):

“Well, if you only read Dr. So and So’s work you wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss my position.”

Susan:

“Does he repudiate the logical fallacies I just mentioned were present in your argument?”

John:

“Well, no. But….”

John is trying to add bacon to the potato salad. But Susan is wise enough to know that sprinkling verbose quotations from equally irrational scholars will not eliminate the foundational fallacious reasoning which she has confronted him about. John’s potato salad is identical to every other liberal heretic’s potato salad teaching.

Concluding Remarks

When engaged in apologetics, we are called to dismantle intellectual opposition to Jesus Christ. In so doing, we demonstrate the foundational logical inconsistencies of all other worldviews in opposition to the Truth of the Scriptures. This implies, then, that there is no number of extra scholarly ingredients that can turn a bad argument for a false worldview into a good argument. The potato salad is identical in both cases.

-h.


[1] FM = Family Member

[2] By this I intend to also include heretical groups, cults, and other religions.

[3] Anti-Christian

Christ Dines With Sinners; Ergo, He is Yahweh

lamb of god[The following is an excerpt from a sermon I preached some weeks ago at my church. The text I preached from is Mark 2:13-17. The full audio is available here. Hope you are edified.

-h.]

In verse 16, we are told that the Pharisees and scribes asked: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” The word for eat in this passage suggests eating in communion with, as it does in our own common expressions. For instance, the phrase “to break bread” means something like “to share one’s valued assets with another.” Negatively, the phrase “biting the hand that feeds you” signifies betraying someone who is close to you and supplying your needs. Scripture, likewise, shows us the significance of eating with others in many places. For instance, in Genesis, when God visits Abraham, they eat and speak of our Lord’s plan of salvation (in soon causing Sarah to conceive Isaac, through whom the Messiah would come centuries later) and his plan of judgment (in soon destroying Sodom and Gomorrah). Likewise, at the confirmation of the Old Covenant, our Lord meets with Moses and the chief men of Israel, communing with them as they beheld him and ate.

So the scribes and Pharisees were not merely asking “Why is Jesus eating with them?” but “Why is Jesus eating in communion with sinners?” The idea is that Christ is spending time with sinners, speaking to them about sin, death, redemption, the love of God, and the judgment to come – and this is what the Pharisees do not approve of. They thought, incorrectly, that a sign of our Lord really being a prophet would be his refusal to be intimately related to sinners, as we can learn from Luke 7:39. So they ask: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Why does he teach them? Why does he sit with them and lovingly instruct them of the nature of his law, his gospel, his kingdom, and his kingship?

The text tells us the reason very clearly: God has mercy on sinners, heals the sick, imputing righteousness to the wicked who repent and believe him to be their Savior. However, we could also answer the Pharisees by saying what David says: “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore, he instructs sinners in the way.” (Ps 25:8) Why does our Lord commune with sinners? Because he is good. This flies in the face of the self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. God is good. Therefore, he instructs sinners in his way. Therefore, he calls sinners to sit with him, to take and eat, to taste and see that he is good. When we see our Lord Jesus sitting with sinners and communing with them, intimately speaking with them, and teaching them, we see that he is, indeed, Yahweh the Lord God of Israel of whom David writes in Psalm 25. If the scribes and Pharisees knew the Scriptures half as well as they thought they did, they would have recognized that he who ate with Abraham and taught him of salvation and judgment is the Lord Jesus Christ who communes with fallen men and women. If they had spiritual sight to see the truth, they would have watched as our Lord communed with fallen men and women, in anticipation of his inauguration of the New Covenant, even as he did at the confirmation of the Old Covenant.

The Pharisees and scribes should have seen in Christ what David speaks of when he declares that Yahweh instructs sinners in the way of righteousness. They should have known that a God who does not commune with sinners is not the One True God but an idol who is powerless to save sinners. It is because God is good that he saves sinners, imputes righteousness to us, and instructs us in the way of righteousness.

So as we follow our Lord’s earthly ministry, we see him later sitting at the table of the Last Supper, breaking the bread, the symbol of his broken body, and drinking the wine of the New Covenant, the symbol of the blood he shed for the remission of our sins, and saying to his disciples and us: “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25) And we learn that the self-righteous, those who refuse to wear the wedding garments of Jesus’ righteousness, those who seek to justify themselves by pointing to their filthy rags and saying “I am as righteous as God the Son,” those who refuse the righteousness of Christ imputed only by grace through faith in the Gospel will be bound “hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. [And] in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 22:13) This is why the angel in Revelation 19:9 says: “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb…These are the true words of God.” The self-righteous have no place at the table, says our God. But sinners – prostitutes, adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, murderers, covenant breakers, thieves, and liars – who repent and trust only in Christ, the Son of God, in the fact that he shed his blood for the remission of their sins, these who are humbled under the damning power of the law of God and turn to him for forgiveness, these will eat with Jesus our Lord at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The Lord is good; therefore, he saves sinners, gives them life freely, and instructs us in the way of his righteousness. Jesus is the Lord, Yahweh; thus, he does the same.