Clarifying the Protestant-Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone

Christianity is under attack. It has always been so but the attack has ramped up in recent years. It is more important than ever for Christians to be strong in their faith.

Christians should know general apologetics, that is, the reasons why Christianity is true. But they must also know the tenets of the tradition to which they belong. Only then can they stand firm against the world, the flesh and the Devil.

The Orthosphere is ecumenical but members are allowed to express their beliefs. I express Protestant beliefs. Others can express their beliefs.

Roosh has a post titled What is Orthodox Christianity? In it, he objects to what he calls “the Protestant notion of ‘faith alone.’ “

He does not seem to understand the actual doctrine, which is justification by faith alone. And he’s not the only one. Clarification is needed.

I call it a Protestant-Biblical doctrine because it was not invented. It is expressed clearly in Scripture as I show below, although other Christian traditions find reasons to disagree.

I do not expect non-Protestants to know our doctrines. But many Protestants also do not know this crucial teaching. Perhaps this post will help them understand. Continue reading

The Sacraments are Prior to Everything Else in Mundane Life

Liturgical innovation – e.g., priestesses – is metaphysically obtuse. It presupposes that the sacraments are merely human artifacts, when in fact – the Lamb having been slain from the foundation of the world – they are logically prior to the creation. We are not the masters of the sacraments, any more than we are the masters of the oceans or the skies. Our office is not to deform them, but to reckon and grapple with them, as objective aspects of Reality.

If Reality is Real, then the sacraments in respect thereto, as given ideally, are nowise subject to correction. They are, rather, handed down from on high. There is then nothing we might do about them, or want to do about them, other than to admit them wholly to our lives. Do they want correction? That then is to be had only in their admission to our lives.

Not us, first, but the rite, and of course the obedience in it signified.

What the hell is a ritual for, after all, if in the last analysis it is just meaningless? If a ritual is meaningful, then it must just force us to its formal purposes. In what other way might we be interested to participate in it?

Philosophical Skeleton Keys: The Maximality Test

This skeleton key helps us think about God, by telling us whether or not we are thinking about God in the first place, or about some lesser thing. The test presupposes that God, properly so called, can only be that being than whom there can be no other who is more worthy of worship: that he is the maximal being, the ultimate being. In helping us think about God, the Maximality Test shapes and directs, informs, orders and corrects our worship, our responses to our world, and thus our culture.

To run the Test on a particular notion about God is fairly simple: one merely asks whether another notion of God would make him nobler, greater, more perfect, or better, along any dimension of excellence, than the notion under test.

To take an extreme and so easy answer: which would be greater, along any dimension of excellence: a divine being who requires the sacrifice of millions of children, or a divine being who requires no such thing? The question answers itself. Take it a step further: along any dimension of excellence, which would be greater: a divine being who does not require the sacrifice of children, or a divine being who abhors it? Again, simple. In each of these examples, it is easy to see which notion indicates a thing unworthy of worship.

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The Lamb Risen from the Foundation of the World

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Revelation 13:8

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium, et invisibilium. Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum. Et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri: per quem omnia facta sunt. … Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato; passus et sepultus est, et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, et ascendit in cælum, sedet ad dexteram Patris. Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, iudicare vivos et mortuos, cuius regni non erit finis.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; by whom all things are made. … he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of AD 381

The Lamb is begotten of the Father before all worlds. Then from the foundation of our world is he slain – and, as a necessary forecondition of that sacrifice, is he first incarnate from the foundation of the world (for, what is not already mortal cannot be slain) – and so risen to the right hand of the Father from the foundation of the world. The whole story of Jesus happens from the foundation of the world.

Well, but then that means that Pilate too does what he does in that story from the foundation of the world, no? So do Mary, Joseph, the Apostles, the Romans and Jews, aye and the mosquito resting for a moment on the bark of a sequoia in California in AD 33 as Jesus slept in his tomb.

It *all* happens from the foundation of the world. Everything. Including this moment of your life. Thus must be so; for, worlds are integrities. They cohere. You can’t change a jot of a world without getting a different world than you had before you effected the change. Subtract Jesus from the history of the cosmos and you’d have a different cosmos than the one we have. Ditto for that mosquito, and for the sequoia. And for that itch you felt a moment ago. To constitute a world, it must all agree and hang together perfectly, from one end to the other – not just in space, but in time. Not one item of the thing is dispensable; not one sparrow, not one hair of your head. Everything matters; everything counts; the whole of it depends wholly upon each bit of it.

The whole of the history of our cosmos then happens from the foundation thereof.

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A Clarification by Way of Elaboration of Anselm’s Ontological Argument

Anselm’s Argument presupposes that God is, as (almost) all men have always thought him to be, that than which no greater can be conceived – the Ultimate Being, along all dimensions of perfection, virtue, & goodness – and goes on to argue that such a being that actually exists, being greater than the mere idea of such a being, cannot but be what we mean by “God.” So, if we are talking about God, we *must* be talking about a being who actually exists. If we are talking about a being who might not or does not actually exist, we are not talking about God in the first place, and so all our talk of that thing (whatever it is) is simply inapt, ergo moot. Since we are in fact talking about God, we must be talking about a being who actually exists. So, in order for us even to talk about him, God must actually exist. The actual existence of God is implicit in the concept of God. This is what Aquinas is getting at in arguing that the existence of God is essential to his nature.

Almost all of Anselm’s critics lose him at that point. His famous Argument – which is perhaps the most famous in the entire history of philosophy – seems to many, if not most, to consist entirely of vain logic chopping; of proving a conclusion by a prior definition, that might with equal reason have been defined some other way.

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Gödelian Incompleteness → Creaturely Freedom

It seems we cannot be free.

To each moment of decision, the schedule of inputs is what it is, and as completely constituting the matter of our decision, so it would seem that it completely forms our act therein. We choose what we wish to do, e.g., given our understanding of our circumstances as we find them as each new moment of life arises; but it does not seem that we choose our wishes, nor does it seem that we can choose what, how much or how well we understand. Decision begins with wishes and circumstances as all alike data.

Nor do we seem to be able to choose the way that we choose. The operation of decision – which is our lever of control over our experiences – is not itself subject to our decisions. We are not in control of our means of control.

It seems to us that we choose freely from among options, to be sure. But then, the entire schedule of options really open to us at any moment, however uncountably vast their number, are just as definite ex ante as the facts already accomplished that constitute the causal basis of decision.

Thus the bases, procedure and options of our decisions, being given to each moment of decision ab initio and so unchangeably, would seem to determine us to but one such option, again ab initio and unchangeably. What seems to us to be the free choice of a moment in our lives might then be no more than what it feels like to proceed from the entire schedule of the initial matter thereof to the one option that satisfies the desires felt as an aspect of those data.

Where in this account is there room for freedom?

That room may be found in Gödelian Incompleteness. But to see how this is so, we shall have to traverse several steps.

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Creatio ex Nihilo, Atheism, or Manicheism: Choose But One

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2

The argument for creatio ex nihilo is simple. If contra Genesis God created the heaven and the earth by organizing chaotic pre-existent stuff coeternal with him, two incorrigible problems result. If on the other hand he created the heaven and the earth by organizing pre-existent beings who were not chaotic and who were not created from nothing by him, so that they were with him coeternal, then at least one other incorrigible problem results.

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Wintery Knight (Probably) Spiked This Pro-Calvinistic-Predestination Comment of Mine at His Blog

Prolific Christian blogger Wintery Knight has a recent post commenting on a discussion-format debate featuring William Lane Craig and Paul Helm on Calvinism vs Molinism as rival ways to understand what the Bible teaches about predestination. Calvinism takes at face value biblical statements on God predestining; Molinism (at least as interpreted by Craig) speculates that God knows how each person would voluntarily behave in all possible situations and then God chose to create the unique world that maximizes the good that results from free choices. God solved, as it were, the Mother of All Optimization Problems.

Paul Helm supported the Calvinistic understanding of predestination

Wintery Knight is evidently an anti-Calvinist; replying to a reader comment he wrote

Yes I think it’s important for people to understand what Calvinism teaches. I’m sure there are nice Calvinists, but it’s gotta lot of trouble with the plain meaning of the Bible.

That phrase “the plain meaning of the Bible” inspired me to attempt to post the below comment. But it never went through. Possibly there was an electronic malfunction. Or else WK did not want to get into a discussion on the plain meaning of the Bible.

William Lane Craig claims to believe in predestination and to support Molinism because he believes it is the best way to affirm the biblical texts on predestination while acquitting God of the charge of causing evil. But most non-Cavinists simply reject predestination. What Wintery Knight’s exact position on predestination is, I don’t know. I just know he’s anti-Calvinist and he has no objection to Craig’s Molinism. For that reason my comment dealt not with Molinism (which is highly technical), but with the “plain meaning of the Bible” regarding predestination.

Here is my comment:

1 Timothy 2:3-4 “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

versus

Romans 9:18  “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

and

Ephesians 1:11 “In Him we also have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things in accordance with the plan of His will…”

So which is it? Does God want everyone to be saved, or does he plan it all in advance?

The Bible says both. So is the Bible contradicting itself, or is there a deeper meaning?

The Bible does not contradict itself. There is a deeper meaning. Or rather, more work is needed in order to understand what the Bible teaches on this topic. Continue reading

Can Atheism Be Carried Into Practice?

I was listening this afternoon as I drove along to a broadcast on EWTN in which the presenter, Al Kresta, was talking to EWTN host and Catholic psychologist Ray Guarendi about the 3 years he suffered horribly from clinical depression in the early 80’s. His episode of acute depression – for which he was twice hospitalized – was triggered in him by an encounter with a book by an atheist, entitled The Illusion of Immortality. Reading it in preparation for writing a book of his own, Kresta was suddenly overtaken by profound despair. He reflected that the reason the text – which regurgitated arguments he had long before encountered and defeated to his own satisfaction – had such an impact upon him was that the author seemed like a good guy who was simply sincere about his atheism, in a way that most atheists are not.

As Kresta spoke, his offhand phrase “the horror of the atheist notion of reality” hit me really hard. I began almost to weep at the image of that notion, carried through (in the imagination only) to reality – treated, i.e., as if it were really true (as if that could even happen). This feeling, of horrified tears at being perched for the first time in my life at the edge of a precipice that verged upon an abyss of pain without bottom, persisted throughout the conversation between Kresta and Guarendi. I could feel a boundless ontological void opening beneath me, unlike any I had ever suspected.

It was the horrible vacuum in which nothing can have any meaning, purpose, or point, and nothing is therefore worth anything; in which, i.e., nothing can be about anything, or for anything; in which nothing is any good.

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