Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Christianity and the State, pt. 1

The following series of posts constitutes another chapter by chapter summary, this time summarizing the book Christianity and the State by R. J. Rushdoony. The book is 192 pages and includes forty chapters an a short appendix. Since each chapter is relatively short and given the lengthy nature of the previous summary, I will include two to four chapters per post, with the appendix and any additional thoughts garnering a final post of its own. Thus, the next eleven posts shall comprise the complete summary. Unlike my summary of Gentry, I shall write in the place of the author, bracketing any of my own comments [like so].


Chapter One
Introduction: The Need for a Theology of the State
Evolutionary thought has assumed that primitive cultures are polytheistic and are succeeded by monotheism, however, polytheism marks a culture in decay, not a culture in formation. One contemporary example of polytheism is the post WWII figure Dr. Kerr (chancellor of UC Berkeley in the fifties) who claimed that instead of a universe (and university) there is really a multiverse (and multiversity). Plurality rather than unity is the structure of reality, and this view is a world of polytheism because it rejects any over-all truth and order in favor of "fragments and limited connections in the shambles of time and space" (1). The result of polytheism and its disavowal of universal order and meaning is the requirement of force to accomplish cohesiveness and truth. Religion within polytheism makes no claims of universality, but remains relegated to its own corner of acceptance, occasionally demanding gifts and bribes for appeasement rather than overarching claims of jurisdiction over men and nations.

The Enlightenment saw churches limit their spheres severely. While churches overstepped their boundaries up to this point in history in many ways, what authority is not limited is that of Christianity, specifically the authority of Scripture, which declares every sphere of life to be under the rule of God's word and under the authority of Christ the King. The implication is that EVERY human "must be a Christian in church, home, school, state, vocation, and all of life" (2). Not one sphere of life is not autonomous from the claims of Christ--just as we cannot move from fidelity to Christ to that of Mammon, Ball, or Molech so too we cannot move from fidelity to Christ to that of school, state, or any other order that is not under "the catholic or universal sway of God's rule and law" (2). The limits of the Enlightenment to the "spiritual" realm, which created an untenable distinction that led to more and more being categorized under the command of the "material" realm of the state and economics.

The following paragraph is as good a summary of the first chapter's argument as any:

Polytheism was born thus within the church. The work of Jesus Christ was progressively limited to soul-saving, and, with the steady rise of Arminianism, even here man gave an assist to God.

As a result, the cosmic Christ was traded for a polytheistic Christ, and the Bible was read, not as God's law-word, but as a devotional book for pietists. The state (and most of life) was thus "freed" from God to follow a humanistic course. Humanism, as the new Catholicism, began to claim the school and all other agencies and institutions, until humanism too began to decay within and thus resort to force to gain its will without, i.e., in the physical world of men and nations.


Scripture asserts its authority against such paganism and thus requires a theology of the state to guide our beliefs and actions. Psalm 2 proclaims to the nations a command to submit themselves to God's law or face his wrath and judgment. The state that would claim authority and lordship over any sphere of life must be challenged with the claims of Scripture proclaiming the sole Sovereignty of Christ.


Chapter Two

Religion and the State
The so-called problem of church and state is akin to the so-called problem of free will. Both require the problem to be correctly identified and formulated in order to be answered correctly and sufficiently. Unfortunately, "Church and State" is a term that obscures rather than elucidates the discussion of the problem, for the current "state" is no more a unity than the current "church," although the rising assertion of influence over local branches of civil government by the U.S. Supreme Court is approaching something of a unified state authority. Rushdoony quotes from John F. Wilson's book, Church and State in American History, to elucidate the problem more clearly, and he narrows Wilson's six phases of the problem into three:

1. The colonial period's policy of establishment, where a single church (or in some cases more than one denomination) was established and financially supported by the state.

2. The colonial period's policy of disestablishment, where particular denominations were divested of state establishment and support and Christianity was established as a religion over an against any particular ecclesiastical establishment.

3. The post WWI rapid development of the post Civil War trend, which insisted on the neutrality of the state towards religion while maintaining religious liberty for churches.

Despite this historical discussion of the phases, Rushdoony finds it lacking in its attention to the basic issue, which he finds as far back as the medieval period, where the "Church-State" tension is identifiable apart from the traditional formulation expressed by Wilson.

The debate in the medieval period was the papal conflict with the nations under the Christian empire, and resolution was sought in institutionalization. A Christian order was acknowledged by both the popes and rulers, with periodic hostility concerning who would have primary control and maintenance of this Christian social order. This original formulation of the problem of Church and State has become obsolete in the modern era because the state is not concerned with establishing a Christian social order (and is more often hostile to that agenda) and there is less often any single church that seeks to claim establishment in any Western nation. Where establishment does exist, it often receives no support from tax funds and no legal recognition of Christian order in law courts. Also, there is no common consensus (ecclesiastical or civil) in the modern era that a Christian social order is even necessary. Finally, in the modern era religious liberty has been replaced by religious tolerance. Historically, religious liberty meant freedom for the church and its worshipers from state control and jurisdiction. But religious tolerance has meant that the state retains the power to declare which church or religion has a right to exist. The authority to govern that was foreign to the state under religious liberty has been usurped by the state under religious toleration. The original purpose of the First Amendment was to preclude the Federal Government from entering the jurisdiction reserved to the State governments who retained the right to establishment of religion [some of which had established religions during the ratification of the Constitution]. It was not until the 14th Amendment was interpreted by the Supreme Court as applying to all states that a complete denial of state establishment of religion was effected.

All of this history is preparation for the proper formulation of the problem, which must recognize the fundamental nature of the institutions of Church and State:

Not only is every church a religious institution, but every state or social order is a religious establishment. Every state is a law order, and every law order represents an enacted morality, with procedures for enforcement of that morality. Every morality represents a form of theological order, i.e., is an aspect and expression of a religion. The church thus is not the only religious institution; the state also is a religious institution. (7)


The battles between church and state are thus religious battles, where two rival claims to religious order are being waged against each other. These claims constitute totalizing influence for they wage for the governance of society, the whole of life for a people. Just as the American Puritans held the Bible to be the source of all reason and morality, so too humanists hold autonomous humanity to be the source of true reason and morality. Thus the issue is not between church and state, but between the state as a religious establishment or Christianity as a religious establishment. Neutrality is a myth created to obscure the claims made upon the power to enforce the governance of society. As humanism has increased its theological influence upon Christian belief, so it has increasingly become the established religion over the state, the school, and the church.

12 comments:

Jacob Haynes said...

Thanks for shortening your reviews Josh. While I found your last series to be interesting, I only made it part way through some of your posts.

I have only briefly come across Theonomy in reading and discussion and it almost always leaves a bad taste in my mind. I will be interested in your view on the subject once you finish this book by Rushdoony.

Also, it is not clear whether you are summarizing the book or giving commentary on the contents of the book. It seems like you are just summarizing at this point.

Joshua said...

I should have broken the review of Gentry into shorter part, but I hope you will continue to work through the summary.

If you have only briefly read about Theonomy the chances are that you haven't received a fair presentation of it. Many misnomers persist about what Theonomy entails.

I'm going to just summarize Rushdoony without adding anything of my own except to clarify a point here or there. I've already read the book and I am summarizing it here for some friends who are interested in the arguments but aren't inclined to read the book itself.

One of these days I'm going to read Greg Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics, which is a huge, but comprehensive treatment of Theonomic principles.

I'm interested to know what you have read and discussed to have left you with a bad taste. I was once very predisposed against the idea myself, until I read and considered it more closely.

Jacob Haynes said...

Josh,

I understand Theonomy can be a polarizing subject and I hate being pushed to one side or the other merely by strong opinions. Although I must admit I took the negative comments about it at face value because they came from friends with much broader knowledge of current trends in theology. Your post sparked some knew interest and I went searching for positive explanations. I found quite a few from blogs to Wikipedia.

I can understand now where the movement is coming from and see that it has been misused by a great deal of people. For example, many people claim that Theonomy would like Christianity to rise up and take control of the current government so as to legislate Christian morality to the unbelieving populous. From what I gather they merely predict that eventually there will be enough Christians that the government will naturally be controlled by them and what do we do as the church when that time comes?

Fundamentally, my disagreement with this position is my disagreement with post millennialism, not necessarily with their ideas on what government is (though I find it strangely American-centric with their love for free market and representational government). I see no evidence in the world around me, or in history, or strongly in Scripture that the world is getting better and that it is getting better as the result of the church. That’s not to say it is getting worse, like the premillennialism claims, I just see redemption happening in the small things continuously throughout history. True, we might get close to having a large majority of Christians in America but time will balance that out because I do not think it is ultimately healthy for the church to remain the majority. Take Europe as an example, take America as an example, Christianity on the whole becomes weak when left in comfortable, powerful conditions.

The Jewish people where looking for a political figure with the messiah and I don’t think theonomy is doing any less. So I am initially opposed to the idea but am still more than interested in hearing Rushdoony out. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and so far he hasn’t completely put me off.

By the way, thanks for doing these summaries because I doubt if I would have ever read the book either.

Joshua said...

With controversial topics it is best to go to the original sources. Our friends may have good intentions, but nevertheless be reporting error.

Those who wish to institute a political overthrow misunderstand the key principle of Theonomy: Law is a matter of the heart and without conversion, the law is a tyrant. The hope of theonomy (which is also the hope of postmillennialism) is that as the Holy Spirit converts souls to Christ through the faithful ministry of the Church, their hearts would embrace the rule of Christ in every aspect and sphere of life, and that their behavior would flow forth from those beliefs.

As for postmillennialism, it is not American-centrist. The view existed well before America was even around. The reason why representative government and the free market are supported is because they are based on the principle of liberty, which is robustly visible and promoted in Scripture. Consider that although God has given many commands He does not act to compel by force the will of His people. Consider too the great verse from the NT that where the Spirit of Christ is, there is liberty. Human beings should not have their consciences constrained by the wills of men.

As for the hope of the world getting better, you should not look to history or to the world around you, but to Scripture alone, for it alone is Truth and confirms the Truth, while all else is but opinion. Besides, for any example of the world getting better or worse there is a counter-example. Whatever conviction is in one's heart determines what one's hope of the future shall be. I would encourage you to consider what sort of hope the figures of Scripture have for the purpose of God and reign of Christ. The hope is not for political revolution, or for revolution at all. God is patient and longsuffering, and the gradual unfolding of His Kingdom is perfectly compatible with theonomy and posmillennialism.

Only those who are frustrated with God argue to take control of history by works of force or intrigue. The plain and purposeful proclamation of the Gospel and sanctifying obedience to its commands is what God requires. As we realize more and more those areas of our lives where we have not taken captive by the mind of Christ and submitted to His authority, we are then compelled by His Spirit to repent and walk on in righteousness. Surely such obedience will have its tangible effect. Correct belief (knowledge=assent and trust) leads to correct behavior (for trust is not trust unless it acts in accordance).

Jacob Haynes said...

//I was hopping not to initiate a disagreement so soon without me really knowing what we are specifically talking about, but I did (imagine that). I think that hopefully we will get better about being clearer and reading each other more carefully, as it will help tremendously with our online conversations.

“Those who wish to institute a political overthrow misunderstand the key principle of Theonomy: Law is a matter of the heart and without conversion, the law is a tyrant. The hope of theonomy (which is also the hope of postmillennialism) is that as the Holy Spirit converts souls to Christ through the faithful ministry of the Church, their hearts would embrace the rule of Christ in every aspect and sphere of life, and that their behavior would flow forth from those beliefs.”

//This is what I gather from the internet. Not as bad as my initial impressions of it.

“As for postmillennialism, it is not American-centrist. The view existed well before America was even around. The reason why representative government and the free market are supported is because they are based on the principle of liberty, which is robustly visible and promoted in Scripture. Consider that although God has given many commands He does not act to compel by force the will of His people. Consider too the great verse from the NT that where the Spirit of Christ is, there is liberty. Human beings should not have their consciences constrained by the wills of men.”

//I was arguing that theonomy is American influenced not post millennialism. And free market does not give liberty any more then socialism does (but that is another rant entirely).

“As for the hope of the world getting better, you should not look to history or to the world around you, but to Scripture alone, for it alone is Truth and confirms the Truth, while all else is but opinion.”

//We will probably always disagree on this. Just because Scripture is Truth doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cross reference it with observation, with intuition, and as I am sure you would agree, with logic and rationality. There is objectivity in much more than Scripture.

“Besides, for any example of the world getting better or worse there is a counter-example.”

//Exactly my point.

“Whatever conviction is in one's heart determines what one's hope of the future shall be. I would encourage you to consider what sort of hope the figures of Scripture have for the purpose of God and reign of Christ. The hope is not for political revolution, or for revolution at all. God is patient and longsuffering, and the gradual unfolding of His Kingdom is perfectly compatible with theonomy and posmillennialism.”

//I was referencing specifically the Jewish people in the gospels when they tried several times to prop Jesus up as king. I am also not completely discounting postmillennialism, it can be Scripturally supported, but so can premillennialism. Scripture is not clear enough on this specific issue to define exactly how God plans to work everything out. It is clear that it will be worked out, the world will be redeemed, there is hope for the future. But that more importantly than how this gets worked out is how we live now, in the present. People can contrive systems from Scripture and I do not think that is entirely fruitless (see my comment above on other forms of Truth) but it is not the same as Scripture. A subtle difference but an important one.

“Only those who are frustrated with God argue to take control of history by works of force or intrigue. The plain and purposeful proclamation of the Gospel and sanctifying obedience to its commands is what God requires. As we realize more and more those areas of our lives where we have not taken captive by the mind of Christ and submitted to His authority, we are then compelled by His Spirit to repent and walk on in righteousness. Surely such obedience will have its tangible effect. Correct belief (knowledge=assent and trust) leads to correct behavior (for trust is not trust unless it acts in accordance).”

//I am not arguing against Sanctification but that Sanctification is not necessarily a linear process on a universal scale, just as time is not linear on a universal scale.

Joshua said...

Jacob,

The arguments will become clearer, but I doubt you will find them compelling so long as you retain an epistemology that includes naturalistic presuppositions.

We'll have to talk about the free market some other time. I would be interested to listen to your thought on that matter.

There is one argument that I'd like to deal with a bit more here:


"//We will probably always disagree on this. Just because Scripture is Truth doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cross reference it with observation, with intuition, and as I am sure you would agree, with logic and rationality. There is objectivity in much more than Scripture.

“Besides, for any example of the world getting better or worse there is a counter-example.”

//Exactly my point."

The issue isn't whether we ought to compare Scripture's Truth to our experience or the thoughts in our minds or logical analysis. Those comparisons are inevitable and inconsequential to the fundamental issue, which is what provides the justification necessary for certain belief. We can believe a good many things based upon unjustified rational belief. Some are true and some are false, but none are justified simply by our rational belief. Only certain beliefs can be justified, which makes them compelling beyond all other arguments. Only Scripture provides justification and leads to certain belief because only Scripture is transcendent, that is, universally and objectively true--precisely because it is Divine Revelation. Universal and objective truth can only come from God, for He alone knows all things beginning to end, for He has made them to be.

This means that our experience, our thoughts, and our logical analyses, when compared to Scripture, must submit to the authority of Scripture rather than bring its own authority. In other words, my experience, thoughts, and powers of analysis do not confirm Scripture, but rather Scripture confirms (or denies) my experience, thought, and power.

The point about being able to make historical arguments for both progression and regression is not proof that neither is occurring or that both are occurring. My point was that only Scripture can justify as true or condemn as false any analysis or conclusion about the ::meaning:: of history. Only God can reveal what course this world is upon and what responsibilities and laws we have governing us in fulfilling that course.

The second to last paragraph in your last post has numerous claims that I do not think are supportable. I'll try to address them one by one:

Jacob said:
"I am also not completely discounting postmillennialism, it can be Scripturally supported, but so can premillennialism. Scripture is not clear enough on this specific issue to define exactly how God plans to work everything out."

The question is not whether one can provide arguments that purport to support either postmillennialism or presmillennialism. The question is whether that "support" is tenable or untenable. When the arguments are examined and presuppositions have been exposed, it becomes clear which arguments represent Scripture accurately and consistently. What gives you the confidence that Scripture is not clear?

Jacob said:
"It is clear that it will be worked out, the world will be redeemed, there is hope for the future. But that more importantly than how this gets worked out is how we live now, in the present."

How we live now in the present is not isolated from our beliefs about the future. One who believes that the collapse of the world into irreconcilable sin and the rapture of God's people out of its evil, if that one lives consistently with this belief, will live very differently from one who believes that God is redeeming all of Creation right here and now in a way that will largely eradicate worldwide sin by the time of Christ's return. Those who are indifferent to a view of the future are still influenced by what they consider to be their responsibilities according to God's overarching purposes in history. Thus, their eschatology is no less present in their living, although they are ignorant of its operation and implications in their actions.

Jacob said:
"People can contrive systems from Scripture and I do not think that is entirely fruitless (see my comment above on other forms of Truth) but it is not the same as Scripture. A subtle difference but an important one."

The correct word is "derive" not contrive. Contrivances are imposed upon Scripture whereas derivatives are collected from Scripture's self-testimony. The difference here is also subtle but important. It is clear that no systematic treatment of Scripture is complete. What is also clear is that not all systematic treatments of Scripture are equal. Less clear, but nonetheless true is that everyone has a systematic understanding of Scripture whether or not they ascribe to one and seek to question and clarify it. For example, when we speak of whether Scripture is the only source justifying the truth of claims and you reply that it does or does not, you have created a distinction and a category for what Scripture does or does not address. If you were to say that a systematic approach to Scripture is useful, but not indispensable, you would prioritize it in relation to other approaches, which is a manner of distinction and categorization.

Human beings are systematic because thought is systematic. We aren't fully self-conscious, which limits our ability to know the entire system that we use to draw conclusions, but it is surely there for God has given us minds to know, and to know means to separate what is from what is not and relate X to Y and so on.

Thus, a systematic approach to Scripture is nothing more than drawing conclusions about the questions we have about life from searching what Scripture says both explicitly and by inferential implication. How do we know that God is One Being comprising three Persons? We infer it from what Scripture says about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How do we know what Paul means when he says "they are not all Israel who are of Israel," except by understanding his use of the word, his message in the epistle, and the whole council of God in Scripture concerning Israel? To answer such questions require that we have some idea about what the whole of Scripture is saying, i.e. a system (the collection and relation of parts into a coherent whole) of understanding?

It has been all too common to reject systems because of the trends that have ebbed and flowed in philosophy over the course of history. Surely the one who seeks to impose a system upon Scripture that does not result from submission to Scripture's authority and to its plain meaning will be idolatrous to some degree, for it will seek to make Scripture in its own image, rather than being conformed to the image it gives of itself. But to abandon systematics because of this possibility is actually to aid its occurrence because no one thinks without a system of understanding operating--even if the person is unconscious of the fact.

Finally,
Jacob said:
"//I am not arguing against Sanctification but that Sanctification is not necessarily a linear process on a universal scale, just as time is not linear on a universal scale."

This phrase does not make sense to me. Sanctification is a temporal (and therefore linear) process insofar as history and time proceed in our living experience. From God's vantage point nothing is a process, but from our vantage point everything proceeds in one way or another. Thus, our sanctification is either exclusively individual and limited (a premillennial view, and in some degree an amillennial view) or it is corporate as well as individual and expansive (a postmillennial view). If few are being saved and their sanctification is a matter of their control rather than God's, then we have little confidence in assuming that their lives and the lives of those around them should change very much at all to accord with Scripture's commands. However, if many are being saved and their sanctification is a matter of God's control and not their own, then we have confidence to expect that their lives and the lives of those around them will change to accord more with Scripture's commands. The only way to satisfactorily decide upon this question is to consult what God's power and purpose are. Such consultation can only find truth by looking at Scripture's testimony.

Any other source of inquiry looks not to God and his power and purpose, but to nature, humanity, or some other finite and created power and purpose that is only derivative to God's own power and purpose and moreover cannot give authoritative information because they do not possess knowledge of God's power and purpose apart from His self-revelation and attestation of the same.

Jacob, I commend you for having the willingness to think about these matters. I encourage you to continue to pursue the foundations upon which your thoughts rest and to consider what justification is provided for them.

Jacob Haynes said...

Josh, sorry for the long reply but I think our conversations are starting to bear fruit. I am becoming clearer on how I view the world, and that is a very good thing. The clearer I am, the more I can discover if it is holistically consistent both internally and with Scripture. And you are more then welcome point out when I fail to achieve this consistency.

When it comes to presuppositional apologetics (which is relatively new terminology for me, so bear with me) I adamantly agree with the first part of its premise: that you must presuppose the truth of Scripture in order to properly interpret life. But I find that I do not limit this presupposition to Scripture but apply it to Science, Art, Literature, Philosophy, Design, etc. equally.

I’ll lay out an example of how I apply this, using the subject of science.
Science’s purpose is to draw truth from the physical world by way of observation and experimentation. Because God created it, the physical world has His truth essentially embedded in it. Scripture and science in reality completely agree. From God’s perspective there is not one single discrepancy between them. They can describe different aspects of reality but are absolutely mutually supportive.

But from our perspective they don’t always reconcile, sometime in fundamental ways. So we can conclude:

The interpretation of science is wrong.

The interpretation of Scripture is wrong.

Both interpretations are off.

There is no reason we should automatically assume that the interpretation of science is wrong because hierarchically Scripture is not “truer” then science. They both ultimately completely agree with the truth of God. By using them together, we are more likely able to come to a stronger understanding of Truth. I do not sacrifice the authority of Scripture in this view but only admit that we can have incorrect interpretations of it, and that other sources can provide support for our interpretations. I am still approaching Scripture presupposing it is true just as I am approaching science as if it is true and so on. There is not a fundamental authority problem between them because they do not disagree.

This system is held together by some presuppositions of my own. First, Scripture can be interpreted incorrectly. This is pretty self explanatory but you can look to Galileo for example if you wish.

Second, there is nothing implicit in Scripture that makes it more likely to be interpreted more correctly then anything else. We rely on the Holy Spirit for a correct understanding of both Scripture and science. The Holy Spirit does not favor enlightening Scripture. Nor do we excel in enlightening science. We are completely incompetent at interpreting either and must rely on God’s power to give us understanding.

Third, just because Scripture is meant to be the central and direct means for revealing God, it is not meant to be the only means of revealing God. Scripture is universally necessary to the faith where as science is not a requirement needed by everybody. This does not mean it is truer than science, just more fundamental.

Back to our discussion on post millennialism: I better understand your argument against using observation of the world around us as support for a Scriptural interpretation. You would say that our observations of the world tell us nothing without a Scriptural system to see it through. If you are pre millennial, then you will see the bad in all the world events; if you are post millennial then you will see the redemptive work of God everywhere.

First, you are denying that we are incapable of any objective observation. Second, when you make a system like postmillennialism you are not dealing purely with Scripture any more. Even if you have strong inductive support, you mix in historical context and logical conclusions at the very least. Once again, I am not saying this is bad, context and rational thinking should be used. I am arguing that other support can be used as well.

I see Christ as the center of creation and that the moment 1000 years before his Incarnation He is redeeming just as fiercely as the moment 1000 years from now. Also, when I look at history and science on a large scale, I rarely see linear progression; I see a cyclic nature of balance. All of this influences how I approach eschatology.

My point is that we are both creating systems in which to interpret the world. You would just use Scripture, because of authority and purity, and I would use Scripture as well as a lot of other ways of approaching truth, due to the belief that the wider my lens the better chance I have of understanding truth. My critique of you is that you are already doing what I am doing and not admitting it. Inductive study is great and I highly recommend it; but anytime you are fitting together pieces of Scripture and making large systems, you are making some sort of judgment. Brian and I looked at Daniel for a year and Revelation for two years in high school using nothing but Scripture and came out with a pre millennial view. Scriptural systems based “purely” on Scripture can still be flawed.

The important thing in all of this is that we approach Scripture or science with a desire to know God more deeply, a desire that only He can give us.

Joshua said...

My own reply to yours is lengthy. Please bear with me until the end.

Jacob said:
Josh, sorry for the long reply but I think our conversations are starting to bear fruit. I am becoming clearer on how I view the world, and that is a very good thing. The clearer I am, the more I can discover if it is holistically consistent both internally and with Scripture. And you are more then welcome point out when I fail to achieve this consistency.

Josh says:
I’ll do my best to help you with consistency. I also appreciate the challenge to think clearly on a given matter.

Jacob said:
When it comes to presuppositional apologetics (which is relatively new terminology for me, so bear with me) I adamantly agree with the first part of its premise: that you must presuppose the truth of Scripture in order to properly interpret life. But I find that I do not limit this presupposition to Scripture but apply it to Science, Art, Literature, Philosophy, Design, etc. equally.

Josh says:
Well I’m glad, if we truly agree! But it remains to be seen whether you are consistent with your applications to your example of Science below. I suspect that you are not really presupposing the Truth of Scripture alone, but are allowing other truth apart from the grounds of Scripture. I’ll elucidate this, if I am able, below.

Jacob said:
I’ll lay out an example of how I apply this, using the subject of science.
Science’s purpose is to draw truth from the physical world by way of observation and experimentation. Because God created it, the physical world has His truth essentially embedded in it. Scripture and science in reality completely agree. From God’s perspective there is not one single discrepancy between them. They can describe different aspects of reality but are absolutely mutually supportive.

Josh says:
Already we disagree. Observation and experimentation do not arrive at Truth. Truth requires logical certainty and induction cannot provide that certainty, for it cannot demonstrate the validity of the scientific method as a way of arriving at true premises and conclusions. Truth is a matter of propositions, so properly speaking, the physical world does not “contain” truth, which is “embedded” in it, as though truth were a substance. Rather, truth is the result of propositional thought: “All A are B.” Science may make a claim to truth: “The law of gravity causes objects to fall,” which can be put into a logically testable form: “All objects that fall, do so according to the law of gravity.” However, from whence is the law of gravity deduced? The equation offered by Newton is: F=GMm/d^2 where
F is the force of gravity, G is a constant (the Gravitational Constant) which can be measured, m1 and m2 are the masses of the two objects (earth and apple or earth and moon, in the above text), and d is the distance between them. But what is the force of gravity? Or what is force for that matter? Science only provide operational definitions, not ontological ones, and moreover, these operational definitions are not universal, for Newton’s law of gravity was replaced by Eistein’s law of relativity, which provided a better description of how certain object behave than did Newton’s law. These operational definitions are not universal, nor are they certain, for the measurements required to adduce them are arbitrarily made (consider our measurement of mass requires a reference to operate as its standard, but that reference is not self-evident, but chosen according to its precision within a given operation).

This is a long example, but you can see that Creation, although it IS something objectively true, cannot be described in its objective truth by the methods of scientific examination. I’ll talk more about knowledge and from where it comes below.

Jacob said:
But from our perspective they don’t always reconcile, sometime in fundamental ways. So we can conclude:

The interpretation of science is wrong.

The interpretation of Scripture is wrong.

Both interpretations are off.

There is no reason we should automatically assume that the interpretation of science is wrong because hierarchically Scripture is not “truer” then science. They both ultimately completely agree with the truth of God. By using them together, we are more likely able to come to a stronger understanding of Truth. I do not sacrifice the authority of Scripture in this view but only admit that we can have incorrect interpretations of it, and that other sources can provide support for our interpretations. I am still approaching Scripture presupposing it is true just as I am approaching science as if it is true and so on. There is not a fundamental authority problem between them because they do not disagree.

Josh says:
The difference between and interpretation of Scripture and an interpretation of Science is that the former rests upon a complete whole that can be tested by logical deduction, whereas the latter is incomplete by its own methodological assumptions. Scientific methods will always undergo revision and refinement as new “laws” are discovered that better explain phenomena and as more accurate standards are derived for producing consistent measurements. Biblical interpretation, on the other hand, examines a product that is final: God’s Word. Examining the logic required to arrive at those conclusions from the propositions that Scripture contains can test the claims that any interpretation makes regarding Scripture. For example, the claim “faith is a result of regeneration and not of human nature” can be tested against Scripture passages that discuss that issue. If Scripture confirms the claim, it is true, but if it contradicts the claim, the claim is false. Science sets up its own standards of measurement and makes educated guesses at what laws work or don’t work for the observed phenomena. Scriptural interpretation simply deduces from what Scripture says (the inspired Word revealed to us by God Himself through His prophets).

Jacob said:
This system is held together by some presuppositions of my own. First, Scripture can be interpreted incorrectly. This is pretty self explanatory but you can look to Galileo for example if you wish.

Second, there is nothing implicit in Scripture that makes it more likely to be interpreted more correctly then anything else. We rely on the Holy Spirit for a correct understanding of both Scripture and science. The Holy Spirit does not favor enlightening Scripture. Nor do we excel in enlightening science. We are completely incompetent at interpreting either and must rely on God’s power to give us understanding.

Third, just because Scripture is meant to be the central and direct means for revealing God, it is not meant to be the only means of revealing God. Scripture is universally necessary to the faith where as science is not a requirement needed by everybody. This does not mean it is truer than science, just more fundamental.

Josh says:
The system of Science is held together by presuppositions that are not derived from Scripture. A system of doctrine or principles of interpretation can be derived from Scripture alone. The laws of logic required to do so can also be seen in Scripture, for when it says “David was the King of Israel” it cannot also mean “David was not the King of Israel” in the same way and at the same time as the first statement. Otherwise meaning would be impossible and God could not communicate to us intelligibly.

You are correct that it is the Holy Spirit who provides us with knowledge of the Truth of Scripture. Scripture itself testifies to the same. Scripture doe not indicate that the Holy Spirit provides us with knowledge of scientific claims derived from scientific methods. Rather, the Holy Spirit reveals the Truth of God’s Word, which is the source of all Truth and which justifies all claims of Truth. We have already seen that Science cannot make truth claims because it cannot provide universal validity to any of its claims, because observation and experimentation are not universally applied (no one can observe all phenomena past, present, and future).

The key issue that we continue to come up against is the same one that we have been coming up against for awhile now, and which is the same question that Pilate asked Jesus: “what is Truth?” Scripture is clear that Christ is Truth, that He is the Wisdom of God, the source from which all knowledge is revealed. Unless Scripture (God’s Word and testimony of the Truth) is our sole standard and ground for assent, we will always be polluting it with conclusions foreign to it. No matter how useful those conclusion may be (the conclusions of Science) they cannot be true as a matter of justified, certain knowledge.

Jacob said:
Back to our discussion on post millennialism: I better understand your argument against using observation of the world around us as support for a Scriptural interpretation. You would say that our observations of the world tell us nothing without a Scriptural system to see it through. If you are pre millennial, then you will see the bad in all the world events; if you are post millennial then you will see the redemptive work of God everywhere.

Josh says:
Yes, Scripture provides us with the lens through which we must believe or deny conclusions about our observations.

Jacob said:
First, you are denying that we are incapable of any objective observation. Second, when you make a system like postmillennialism you are not dealing purely with Scripture any more. Even if you have strong inductive support, you mix in historical context and logical conclusions at the very least. Once again, I am not saying this is bad, context and rational thinking should be used. I am arguing that other support can be used as well.

Josh says:
No, I am not denying that we are capable of objective observation. Objective observation is observation that is confirmed by Scripture as true. Although many superficial observations, which are made do not appear upon the surface to rely upon Scripture as their basis, it is nonetheless true that Scripture grounds every certain claim. If I claim that by turning a switch a light will come on, the claim is not certain, although it will prove true much of the time (one instance in which it would be false would be if the bulb were broken, thus demonstrating that this claim is indeed uncertain, though reliable).

Postmillennialism claims to be an accurate summary of Scripture’s own statements regarding the outworking of history in God’s redemptive plan. As such it does not rely upon historical observations, nor does it rest upon inductive claims, although it may employ them in its arguments as support. Rather, its claims rest upon the self-attesting claims of Scripture itself. When verses are examined and tested against other verses, what do they say in regard to the outworking of God’s redemption in history? Only an analysis of Scripture can provide certain answers to that question. Other supports are secondary to this support, which is alone sufficient for belief. Secondary claims can bolster the persuasive effect of Scripture’s claim and secondary claims can confirm what Scripture already testifies to, but secondary claims are not the basis of Scriptural truth, nor can they be the basis of certainty.

Jacob said:
I see Christ as the center of creation and that the moment 1000 years before his Incarnation He is redeeming just as fiercely as the moment 1000 years from now. Also, when I look at history and science on a large scale, I rarely see linear progression; I see a cyclic nature of balance. All of this influences how I approach eschatology.

Josh says:
From whence do you derive these conclusions? What confirms to you that history and science on a large scale are cyclical rather than linear? Does that coincide with Scripture’s claims? How do you know? Can you demonstrate where Scripture supports your belief? I appreciate you sharing your perspective, but sharing doesn’t constitute an argument for me to agree or disagree with. I don’t think your conclusions are justified by Scripture, but if you disagree, I would encourage you to provide the evidence for your claims.

Jacob said:
My point is that we are both creating systems in which to interpret the world. You would just use Scripture, because of authority and purity, and I would use Scripture as well as a lot of other ways of approaching truth, due to the belief that the wider my lens the better chance I have of understanding truth. My critique of you is that you are already doing what I am doing and not admitting it. Inductive study is great and I highly recommend it; but anytime you are fitting together pieces of Scripture and making large systems, you are making some sort of judgment. Brian and I looked at Daniel for a year and Revelation for two years in high school using nothing but Scripture and came out with a pre millennial view. Scriptural systems based “purely” on Scripture can still be flawed.

Josh says:
The difference is that your system is derived from propositions that are unsupported by Scripture, but rely upon your experience and observation devoid of Scriptural warrants (at least you have not stated any). Postmillennialism as an argument from Scripture makes claims from Scripture alone, and not from science, history, or personal experience. A wider lens does not guarantee an increased chance of arriving at truth. Earlier you agreed with me that only the Holy Spirit grants truth to our minds, which means the matter is not up to chance at all, but to what God Himself has testified to as how we ought to seek the Truth. Scripture tells us that we are to seek the Truth in God’s Word and upon its own logical structure. As for your studies with Brian, I’m confident that Brian would look back upon those conclusions and be able to identify where they contradicted with passages from Scripture whether they be in Daniel, Revelation, or elsewhere. The point is not that studying Scripture alone always results in perfection, but rather that any truth at all must be gleaned from Scripture alone. All of us face illogical steps in our thinking, such that our conclusions from Scripture will contradict its self-attestation. But the solution is not to seek some aid outside of Scripture to supposedly enhance our understanding, but rather to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and seek out where our thinking departed into contradiction. If we seek Truth in Scripture with an aim to glorify God, then enlightenment shall come if and when God so wills it.

Jacob said:
The important thing in all of this is that we approach Scripture or science with a desire to know God more deeply, a desire that only He can give us.

Josh says:
The important thing in all of this is that we realize that in order to know God at all we must know Him as He has intended, and we can only know what God intends insofar as He reveals it to us. His revelation is His Word, which is the only epistemological ground of knowledge about God, ourselves, the world, history, or any other area where knowledge may stake its claim.

Jacob Haynes said...

Josh,
Thanks for the quick reply. I find we are still at the same impass (though I can see it clearer now).

I still think you are placing Logic in a hierarchically incorrect position. If God reveals Truth through logic then what is stopping us from uncovering Truth through observation. I don’t think Logic is inherently bad (in fact I encourage it) but I won't equate it to God. God and Scripture are much more then a system of correct correlations to be figured out.

Romans 1:19-20
19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Psalm 19:1-2
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.

Acts 14:17
17Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness."

Ezekiel 34:27
27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.

As a friendly challenge to you, provide Scriptural support for understanding the revelation of God by applying logic.

Joshua said...

The issue is a very simple one, although it is often hard for us to accept. I will attempt to make it clear and answer your questions about certain passages of Scripture.

Jacob said:
I still think you are placing Logic in a hierarchically incorrect position. If God reveals Truth through logic then what is stopping us from uncovering Truth through observation. I don’t think Logic is inherently bad (in fact I encourage it) but I won't equate it to God. God and Scripture are much more then a system of correct correlations to be figured out.

Josh says:
You misunderstand my position. God’s Spirit reveals Truth. Logic is how we think coherently about the Truth. Observation isn’t identical with thought. Thought is what interprets our sensations and thus logic also determines what we believe is or is not present to our senses. When I see, hear, taste, touch, or smell something, the knowledge of that this isn’t given by the sensation. Rather, my mind understands those senses according to the knowledge it already possesses (for, if I do not recognize what I am sensing, it is not because I am not sensing it, but because I do not KNOW what it is I am sensing). The knowledge we possess is granted by God and confirmed by Scripture (i.e. Scripture provides the justification for knowledge, because it is what tells us who God is and who we are). Sensations do not contain knowledge, nor do they express propositions in and of themselves, therefore they cannot be Truth. Rather, Truth is what determines nature’s meaning. And this is what is being expressed in the passage below, which I will now address.

First:
Romans 1:19-20
19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Josh says:
This passage does not teach that nature gives knowledge to men, or that it declares to them truth. Rather, it is God who receives the emphasis of action: “For what can be known about God is plain to them,” and why? “Because God has shown it to them” or as the NASB says, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” God gives knowledge of His existence by bearing witness directly to men’s minds. So what role does creation play, if not that of knowledge? “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, even since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” Clearly perceived (or clearly seen as the NASB states) does not equate to understanding. Men recognize the power evident in creation and they have a sense of its awe, but rather than attributing this to God, they worship creation (the creature, vs. 25) rather than the Creator. Thus, it is not knowledge that saves them, but a knowledge that condemns them, and it is not derived from their senses, but revealed to them by God Himself, illuminating their minds. This is consistent with my view, which claims that all Truth comes from the Holy Spirit and is confirmed by the testimony of Scripture. You could not even make the case that nature testifies to God’s eternal power and divine nature unless Romans 1:19 were written to testify to this truth!

Second:
Psalm 19:1-2
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.

Josh says:
First of all, the passage is clearly using metaphor to elucidate its concept rather than speaking literally. The heavens do not declare by means of sound, nor do days speak in audible words. Just as God is not made of corporeal parts, yet the Scripture speaks of his eyes and his hands, so this passage speaks of things beyond the literal meaning of their words. So what are they indicating? This passage is concomitant to Paul’s words in Romans 1:19-20. Since Creation does not literally “speak” words, we must ask HOW it is that knowledge is revealed to us in nature. The Psalmist would agree with me when I say that it is the Holy Spirit who gives us knowledge of God that we may recognize His handiwork in Creation, and it is also Scripture that testifies to this truth. Scripture is replete with references that testify to the fact that God alone grants knowledge of the Truth, including the knowledge of practical skills. Consider as examples, Exodus 31:1-11 and Exodus 35:30-35; Job 12:13-25, Job 28, Job 32:8, Job 38:36, and Job 39:17; Psalm 119 is full of David’s petitions to God for understanding acknowledging that it is God who gives or withholds it by His will (vv. 34, 73, 104, 125, 130, 144, 169). More examples of God’s impartation of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding could be cited.

Third:
Acts 14:17
17Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness."

Josh says:
Once again, how is it that we are to know that rains and fruitful seasons are from God unless He has revealed it to our minds? The Spirit of God is the one who illuminates our minds to the Truth that is here confirmed by Scripture. Without the testimony of the Spirit and the Word of God, no knowledge of the Truth concerning creation is possible. You are mistaking the secondary effects of knowledge as necessary causes of it. Consider also the testimony of Qohelet: “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight” (Ecclesiastes 3:24-26). God gives us knowledge of creation and even grants us the ability to enjoy it (including the enjoyment unbelievers experience in their labors, though it is ultimately vanity for them).

Fourth:
Ezekiel 34:27
27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them.

Josh says:
The context of this verse is its place within the prophecy of Covenant renewal and fulfillment. God is promising to redeem those who are His sheep, granting to them all these increases, including the shepherd “My servant David,” who is Christ. However, we are again facing the same distinction between the testimony itself and the knowledge of it. The reason that they will know that these signs are signifying the goodness of the Lord unto them is because the Lord will give them understanding to know. Why is it that unbelievers and believers can fail to recognize that all things come from God? It is because the signs of Creation that testify to God’s Providence are made evident by the Spirit of God who testifies to the minds of men, and that testimony is confirmed by Scripture.

Jacob said:
As a friendly challenge to you, provide Scriptural support for understanding the revelation of God by applying logic.

Josh says:
I have shown how my view is not only consistent with the Scripture verses you provided, but is also supported by numerous others. Moreover, I have demonstrated that you views concerning the testimony of Creation are based upon a misunderstanding between the sign itself and the knowledge of what a sign is indicating truly rather than falsely. This is why some people can look at Creation and conclude that it exhibits chaotic power and capricious change whereas another can look upon Creation and say that God orders it and it groans under the penalty of sin. But only Scripture testifies to this Truth, and people only believe that testimony by the illumination of their minds by the Holy Spirit.

Jacob Haynes said...

Josh,
I appreciate your commitment when it comes to the postmillennial approach. Going back through our long string of comments from the past month I realize how much it shapes your thought. It seems at every turn you were pulling the conversation back to it in some way. I definitely lacked extensive knowledge of this view before we started and that probably led to the trouble we had in the beginning with communication.

I feel like I now have a much better grasp on where you are coming from but could use a blog post from you sometime in the future explaining the Scriptural basics for the approach. I have faith that you have the support but since I do not know them my self I have a hard time arguing with you sometimes. I am a big picture person and cannot focus on specific details without seeing the broad picture of where you are deriving your arguments. I would also like to know what it is that specifically convinced you (apart from the Holy Spirit) to adopt this approach (whether it be Scripture or not).

Be forewarned that I am stubborn (as if that wasn’t already apparent) and that I don’t ever foresee myself adopting this approach entirely. Honestly, for myself I have not observed the church performing this progressively (being the key word) redeeming cultural and societal role throughout history that would convince me (and I know that we disagree on this observational method of epistemology). But know that my first exposure to postmillennial thought changed my stance from premillennial to amillennial pretty quickly (this was about a year ago). So who knows?

Joshua said...

Don't worry, I'm stubborn too! I've butted heads with myself and others about a great many positions that I've now come to accept.

I'll see what I can do in the future regarding postmillennialism. If you are impatient, or simply ambitious, you should try reading anything that Greg Bahnsen has written on the subject. Bahnsen is not only a clear writer, but he was truly humble in his study and defense of the faith as an apologist.