Justin Wishart

Mary, Did You Know? An Interview

botticelli-the-virgin-and-child.jpg

By Justin Wishart

Contemporary Christian Singer (CCS): Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?[1]

Mary: Well, I was a bit surprised by this one. However, when it happened, the words of Job came to me when he said, "He alone spreads out the heavens and walks upon the waves of the sea." This is, of course, talking about God and since Jesus is God, I was no longer surprised. But, it did give me some goosebumps when I heard of this event.

CCS: Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?

Mary: Yes, of course! Gabriel himself came to my husband and said, "he"—meaning Jesus— "he will save his people from their sins." Gabriel also came to shepherds and said, "today, one who saves from the punishment of sin," referring to Jesus. Simeon said, upon seeing Jesus, "my eyes have seen the one who will save men from the punishment of their sins." Anna soon gave thanks for my son as he will take our sins away and set us free. Isaiah spoke of my son saying, "After he," as in Jesus, "has suffered, he," as in the Father, "will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities." Really, I can go on, but this is one of the most sure things I knew about my son.

CCS: Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

Mary: This depends on what you mean by "new." If by this you mean saved, then I have already answered your question. If you mean that I would be made a "new creation," as Paul puts it, then I would have to say that I did not expect this. For my son to ontologically change me into a new creation as he did was something that I would come to understand when Jesus became an adult.

CCS: This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you?

Mary: This is a confused statement because you are equivocating the word "delivered." He certainly did not deliver me in the same sense that I delivered him. It seems, however, that you mean "deliver" in the sense that he would deliver me from my sins. If this is your meaning, I have already answered this.

CCS: Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary: Yes and no. Isaiah speaks of God's servant who will have extraordinary powers. He specifically says that "the eyes of the blind [will] be opened" and my son will "open eyes that are blind." I always thought that this meant giving wisdom or knowledge to people and this was used metaphorically. I still think this is probably true, but given all the other healing abilities mentioned, restoring sight should be expected.

CCS: Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Mary: Again, I didn't know specifically this miracle would happen. But, since my son is God, that idea still gives me shivers, I am not surprised that Jesus did this. Doesn't the Psalmist say, "he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed?"

CCS: Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?

Mary: Why, yes! When Gabriel spoke to me he said, "the Holy Spirit will come on you. The power of the Most High will cover you. The holy Child you give birth to will be called the Son of God." This seemed to make it clear to me that this child somehow came to me directly from heaven. I could not imagine this meaning anything different.

CCS: When you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God?

Mary: This is a harder question to answer. For one thing, Jesus looked very human. Holding Him, though, you knew something was different and He certainly didn't act like any other kid I have seen. My knowledge of the Trinity was pretty small at that point, but I would often contemplate the words of Daniel: "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." I would also meditate on this while also thinking about what God told Satan: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel." So, a human who is an offspring of a woman and was like a son of man, would have the same power and authority as God and will set up an eternal kingdom while crushing Satan. I must confess that I was confused by all this, but I did know without a doubt that I wasn't kissing a mere human. It wasn't until Jesus started teaching and speaking did I start coming to a fuller understanding that He was also God.

CCS: Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary: This is basically the same question as the last one. Some of these questions seem a bit repetitive.

CCS: Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?

Mary: Well, I already mentioned Daniel's words, but I suppose you want more. I knew Isaiah said, "See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted."

CCS: Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?

Mary: Yes. When I became pregnant, I read the words of Isaiah a lot. I have the book memorized. See, the servant Isaiah speaks often of the servant being perfect; there is "no violence" or there is "no deceit in his mouth," for example. Yet, just like the Passover lamb, the servant would be "pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." Knowing this did not make watching Him die on the cross any easier. In fact, I felt it was really unfair. Yet, I suppose grace is unfair. Fairness would mean we all get the judgment we deserve, but grace allows us to not receive what we deserve. This is blatantly unfair. It's really a beautiful concept when one thinks about it, though. I am so glad that God is not fair. We would all be in trouble then.

CCS: The sleeping Child you're holding is the great "I am"?

Mary: Listen, man! I have already answered this twice. Three strikes and you're out, buddy. I am done with this interview.

[1] Questions taken from Michael English, "Mary, Did You Know?" by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, Michael English, Curb Records, 1991, CD.


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



Dear Government of Alberta

government-of-alberta-guidelines-for-best-practices.jpg

By Justin Wishart

At Faith Beyond Belief we want to model how Christians can winsomely engage the public, including government officials. This is one letter that a concerned Christian parent wrote to a public official about the issue of transgenderism.

I am a proud father of two wonderful daughters. As their father, I take seriously the duty to protect and care for them. To me, their lives and well-being are more important to me than my own. Not only is this true emotionally, but I believe God, the maker of all things, gave me these daughters specifically with the mandate that I should love and protect them. This is as great an expression of my religious convictions as there is. In short, I love and care for them at a much deeper level than you are capable of.

This is the motivation behind my open letter. You have undermined the safety and dignity of my daughters with the adoption of the "Guidelines for Best Practices" document. Before I explain why this is so, I would like to explain why I created this open letter. I sent a letter to the Education Minister, David Eggen (NDP), and my MLA, Prasad Panda (Wildrose). Mr. Eggen replied with what appeared to be a generic form letter. It had the appearance of something sent any parent who may express some concern for these guidelines. The reply did not address even one of my concerns, not one. It seems clear that the Education Minister did not read what I sent and, judging by the response, they have not officially addressed the problems I see. Mr. Panda, as an MLA for the opposition party, offered me encouragement to make my issues known. I agree with Mr. Panda (thank you for actually addressing the concerns I raised) and this is the reason for this letter. When the safety of my children are at stake and my concerns are ignored, I am left with only two options: make this a public matter or remain quiet. My love for my daughters will not allow me to remain quiet.

The Best Practices document states that "strategies should be in place to ensure all areas of the school are safe for all students, all of the time." Yet, it is the document itself that undermines this goal. The primary issue I have is how the schools identify a transgendered person: "Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression." This clearly states that there are no other criteria which override a simple claim. No test, no medical evidence, nothing to confirm a person's claim. I understand why this is, as there is nothing that can possibly verify someone being transgendered. The document uses the term "evidence-based" throughout, but at the most basic level of this discussion, there is no "evidence-based" data for a subjective claim to transgenderism. It follows that anyone can make the claim, for any reason, and the school would simply accept it.

Put aside your political correctness for just a moment and think about that. One could claim transgenderism because the person feels like a girl trapped in a boy's body. Yet, another person could claim the same thing just because they want to look at naked girls. According to the Best Practices document, there is absolutely no way to tell one from the other. My daughters become potential victims, over and over again, and the school isn't allowed to stop it. This will allow a boy with sexual issues into my girl's washroom since students "are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." This potential victimization of my daughters is not some vague theory. At the University of Toronto, they had to revise their inclusive washroom policy because of voyeurism. Two people were seen recording their victims as they used the washroom. How many more people were victimized this way without their knowledge? What would be different here?

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only should these false claimers be allowed into the washrooms, but also in change-rooms. "Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and change-room facilities that are congruent with their gender identity." How easy would it be for a boy to sneak a camera into a change-room because they falsely claim to be transgendered? Not only would you be allowing such a person to lewdly view my daughters, you set up a very real possibility of them being victimized on the Internet. This also applies to sport teams, as it states, "if sports teams are divided by gender, students are given the opportunity to participate on the team that reflects their gender identity and expression." As a former wrestler, I shudder at the thought of girls being forced to wrestle with boys who falsely claim transgenderism. This easily opens girls up to be molested by such people; all with the school's approval. Given these guidelines, how could you stop it? This does not even include the real possibility of an unfair physical disadvantage given to my daughters, and can discourage female participation in sports.

Yet, it even gets worse. This doesn't merely apply to students, but to adults as well. "Family members are able to access washrooms that are congruent with their gender identity." When pedophiles are given a ready excuse to be somewhere they should not be, this will merely embolden them. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a parent who is a pedophile slipping into the girl's washroom where my daughter is. There he will have uninhibited access to her. If a teacher happens to walk in before anything happened, the pedophile would simply claim transgenderism. The teacher becomes powerless to do anything at this point. Sure, she can wait around until he leaves, but the pedophile could simply attend the next function and try again until he is successful. Even if a "legitimate" transgender physical man walks into the washroom, my daughters could feel vulnerable and more than a bit frightened. This, then, undermines her sense of security. Things like this have happened. Christopher Hambrook, self-identifying as Jessica, was granted access to a woman's shelter where he sexually assaulted at least two women in Ontario. Hambrook had previous convictions including a sexual assault of a five-year-old girl and raping a 27-year-old woman. The proposed guidelines found within this document are similar to the Ontario laws which allowed Hambrook access to the vulnerable women. What's to prevent a "family member" from doing the same thing here?

Then, the Best Guidelines policy further undermines the dignity of my daughters. If they feel threatened or insecure, whether it is due to a real or perceived threat, they are shamed if they bring it up. "A student who objects to sharing a washroom or change-room with a student who is trans or gender-diverse is offered an alternative facility." It is my daughters who get paraded around the school, thus showing everyone how "intolerant" they are. This will marginalize them and open them up to ridicule. Not only does the policy undermine the safety and security of my daughters, they are publicly exposed and shamed if they decide not to be a victim.

I know it must be difficult for a student to feel that their physical sex doesn't match their internal sex. Growing up can be confusing enough without throwing something like this into the mix. I also, on a certain level, understand the government's desire to offer help to such students in this manner. I also find no solid evidence that this would even be helpful to children who claim transgenderism. What if these children experience gender dysphoria? Could these guidelines end up harming children by affirming their dysphoria?

I also demand, yes demand, that my daughters are not sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. To be clear, I do not think that every person, or even most people, who claim to be transgendered are predators. But, to be even more clear, predators will use the ideas expressed in these guidelines to help them catch their prey. It may not happen right away, but we can see that these things are happening in other jurisdictions. Let's have an open-minded and inclusive conversation about this, not the narrow-minded, politically-correct, and totalitarian approach these guidelines propose. The lives and well-being of my daughters depend on it.

Sincerely,

My daughters' father,

Justin Wishart


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



A Hijab and a Philosopher

holy-trinity.gif

By Justin Wishart

A short time ago, Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College, was suspended for saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.[1] Many people came out in support of Wheaton, while others supported Dr. Hawkins. The main controversy was over her Facebook comment: "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God." One supporter of Hawkins is Catholic philosopher Dr. Francis Beckwith. He wrote two articles in support of Hawkins, and by extension his pope.[2] Much ink has been spilled commenting on Hawkins' and Wheaton's actions, so this article will focus on and analyze Beckwith's articles.

It's important to recognize the implications here and Beckwith's desire to defend this position. "As the Church declared in Nostra Aetate (1965): '[Muslims] adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men. . . . Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet.'" Beckwith views this as Catholic dogma, and his desire to defend Hawkins becomes evident.

The Argument

His first argument is to point out that just because people use different names doesn't mean that they are talking about something different. "Take, for example, the names 'Muhammed Ali' and 'Cassius Clay.' Although they are different terms, they refer to the same thing, for each has identical properties. Whatever is true of Ali is true of Clay and vice versa." Beckwith points out that if one person uses one name for God and another person uses a different name for God, this does not mean that they are speaking about different gods. I agree. Even Christians in Middle Eastern countries call God "Allah." "So the fact that Christians may call God 'Yahweh' and Muslims call God 'Allah' makes no difference if both 'Gods' have identical properties."

This is where Beckwith gets into his first bit of trouble. If his above argument is true, and I think it is, then the object in question must have "identical properties." Anyone who has compared the Islamic idea of tawheed and the Christian idea of Trinity knows that they don't share "identical properties." Beckwith anticipates this objection. He attempts to argue that Islam and Christianity share concepts that are identical. "In the same way, there is only one being that is essentially God: the uncaused, perfect, unchanging, self-subsistent, eternal Creator and sustainer of all that which receives its being from another." Both faiths have these identical beliefs about God; Beckwith rightly calls this "classical theism."

Yet, the immediate question focuses around the differences between the two faiths. Beckwith anticipates this, as well, and argues that just because people have different notions about something does not mean they are talking about different things. He uses this analogy:

Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of "being a father to several of SHs children." On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of "being a father to several of SHs children."

Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not. . . . Abraham and Moses did not believe that God is a Trinity [How does he know this?], but St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Billy Graham do. Does that mean that Augustine, Aquinas, and Graham do not worship the same God as Abraham and Moses? . . . The fact that one may have incomplete knowledge or hold a false belief about another person—whether human or divine—does not mean that someone who has better or truer knowledge about that person is not thinking about the same person.

This is the distinction that holds Beckwith's argument together. From this argument, he concludes: "For these reasons, it would a real injustice if Wheaton College were to terminate the employment of Professor Hawkins simply because those evaluating her case cannot make these subtle, though important, philosophical distinctions."

Analysis

For clarity, I will list Beckwith's points succinctly:

1. Just because people use different names does not mean they are talking about different things. If they have "identical properties," they are the same thing.

2. Muslims and Christians ascribe many identical properties to God, which is called "classical theism."

3. Just because Muslims have less knowledge of the true God, doesn't mean they are necessarily talking about a different god.

My analysis will focus primarily on point #3, as I essentially agree with the first two points.

The major blunder in Beckwith's argument is that he confuses epistemology and ontology. Epistemology focuses around knowledge, for example, how one gets to know God; and ontology focuses around being, for example, what God is. Looking at Beckwith's analogy, one sees this epistemological focus. It is because "Bob does not find the evidence convincing" that he doesn't believe that Thomas Jefferson "sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings." This clearly has no bearing on whether Thomas Jefferson actually "sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings." Now, let's make his analogy into an ontological analogy. If Fred's Thomas Jefferson actually did "[sire] several children with his slave Sally Hemings" and Bob's Thomas Jefferson actually did not "[sire] several children with his slave Sally Hemings," then they cannot both be talking about the "Third President of the United States."

To say that God is triune, or to say that God is tawheed, is not an epistemological expression, but an ontological one. As the Athanasian Creed states, "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God."[3] This is clearly an ontological claim. Likewise, when Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips explains the meaning of tawheed, he says "that Allah is One, without partner in His dominion . . . One without similitude in His essence and attributes . . . and One without rival in His divinity and in worship."[4] Since these are both ontological statements, expressions of what God is, the differences actually do make "God" different between the two faiths.

To make matters worse, the knowledgeable Christian deniestawheed and the knowledgeable Muslim denies the Trinity. It's not as if Muslims believe in "classical theism," which doesn't contradict the Trinity, and when shown the Trinity he accepts it. It is precisely the opposite: it's exactly the knowledge that has been shown to him that he rejects. To lump in Abraham and Moses into this discussion is to say that Moses only has "classical theism" in mind when talking about God, a dubious claim, and if shown the Trinity he would have rejected it as well. Does Beckwith believe this? Sure, it is probably correct to say that Paul had a more complete view of God than Moses. But Moses' view of God never contradicts Paul's. Yet, Mohammad's view does.[5] It is the contradictions that equally matter. For Beckwith to focus on what Muslims and Christians agree on is to not really have a meaningful discussion on this subject. It's not that Muslims have a lack of knowledge, it's that they reject this knowledge. The laws of thought demand that we cannot be talking about the same thing anymore. Muslims do not worship the same God as we do.

Space does not allow me to point out that God Himself does not think He is like any other God, or provide the copious scriptural evidence to support this. Molech and Yahweh also shared identical properties, but God clearly didn't say the Canaanites worshiped the same God. Why should we accept Beckwith's "classical theism" as the benchmark for sameness while denying the similarities found within other religious conceptions of God? On what basis? Beckwith has not provided a meaningful argument here. It is disappointing that someone of Beckwith's calibre produced this fallacious argument because he "cannot make these subtle, though important, philosophical distinctions."

[1] Manya Brachear Pachman and Marwa Eltagouri, "Wheaton College Says View of Islam, Not Hijab, God Christian Teacher Suspended," Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2015, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-wheaton-college-professor-larycia-hawkins-20151216-story.html.

[2] Francis J. Beckwith, "Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?," The Catholic Thing, December 17, 2015, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/12/17/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god/, and Beckwith, "Why Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God," The Catholic Thing, January 7, 2016, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2016/01/07/why-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god/. All quotations attributed to Beckwith are taken from these two articles.

[3] "The Athanasian Creed," New Advent, accessed January 15, 2016, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm.

[4] Abu Ameenah Bilaal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawḥeed (Islamic Monotheism), 2nd ed. (Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 2005.), 17.

[5] "O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, 'Three'; desist—it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs" (Quran 4:171, Saheeh International translation).


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



Logic and Worship

By Justin Wishart

As I was in a local Christian bookstore, I noticed a book simply titled Logic. Since I am fascinated with the study of logic, I grabbed the book. The author of this book was Isaac Watts who lived between 1674-1748,[1] with this book being first published in 1724.[2] I was very interested in the chronology of the book as a historical look into logic, as it was written before symbolic logic became a dominant way of teaching and doing logic. Another thing that really interested me was that Isaac Watts is much better known for writing hymns, some of which we still sing today.[3] Many people seem to think worship music and logic somehow operate in different spheres. While the book itself isn't about the relationship between logic and worship specifically, there are many clues as to what he thought that relationship might entail.

Isaac Watts
Isaac Watts

The first thing to do is properly define what worship means within Christianity. In the ESV translation, the word "worship" is used 110 times in 104 verses. Reading through the verses shows how big a topic worship actually is, and how the word refers to many different things. It can refer to religious ceremonies that one performs.[4] It could mean the actions one does in their life.[5] Worship can be done incorrectly (Deuteronomy 12:4), directed towards the wrong object (1 Kings 9:6), and if done incorrectly or to the wrong object there will be great consequences (Deuteronomy 8:19). Worship seems to be so much more than mere Sunday service songs, yet it also includes our sacred songs. Merriam-Webster provides some definitions that help sum up this encompassing view of worship:

2: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence

3: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual

4: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem[6]

Particularly striking is definition 4, which has "devotion" as part of the definition, which really lines up with Scripture well (see Romans 12:1, for example). This means that worship is an all-encompassing trajectory of one's life. While it includes things we do, it also includes who we are. To worship God is to become godly. Once worship is biblically defined, we can see how logic becomes critical in proper worship. Jesus said, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).[7]

In the introduction of Watts' book, he spells out the usefulness of logic in a person's life.[8] We will go through what he says and apply it to worship as defined above.

Now the design of Logic is to teach us the right use of our reason, or intellectual powers, and the improvements of them in ourselves and others. This is not only necessary in order to attain any competent knowledge in the sciences, or the affairs of learning, but to govern both the greater and the meaner actions of life. It is the cultivation of our reason by which we are better enabled to distinguish good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood; and both these are matter of the highest importance, whether we regard this life, or the life to come.[9]

There seem to be three general prongs in Watts' quote. First, logic cultivates our inner self. Second, logic helps inform our actions in life. Third, logic is needed to know what is true.

Logic Cultivates Our Inner Self

This perhaps is the most profound relationship between logic and worship that Watts presents, because it does not merely indicate our outward expressions, but speaks to who we are. Scripture tells us that we are made in God's image, but what does this mean? The late theologian Gordon Clark gives the answer:

The Scripture teaches that God created man in his own image. Although the first chapter of Genesis does not say explicitly what that image is, it implies that the image distinguishes man from the animals. From Colossians 3:10 we may infer that the image consists chiefly in knowledge, rationality, or logic. . . . Therefore, the contention is that knowledge and rationality are the basic constituents of God's image in man.[10]

While some might protest against the idea that rationality is "the basic constituents of God's image in man," certainly one should recognize that logic is at least part of God's image. There is a relation, an image, between the mind of God and the image of God in man, to our mind.[11]

To develop one's logical abilities is a sanctifying process towards the pure design of God for man. God gave us logic so we can think His thoughts, communicate with Him, communicate about Him to others, communicate with others, and enact His will on this earth. All these things we understand to be exactly what worship is. Thus, the more we develop our internal logical faculties, the better we become at being vessels of worship of the creator who made everything logically and orderly. Logic is, therefore, critical to worship.

Logic Helps Inform Our Actions in Life

In Deuteronomy we read, "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way" (12:4). The immediate question should be: how shall we not worship God? There is also the question of who the real God is that we should worship. In the same book we read, "And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish" (8:19). It becomes extremely important that we have the right God, and that we worship God correctly. This is no easy task, but it is a task which requires logic to complete. Without logic, you could not tell the difference between Christ and Krishna, or know whether to communicate with the spirit world, or partake in Communion.

Given our definition of worship, we need to know to whom we worship and how we are to act in our worship before we can know our proper actions. Thus, in order to be worshipers who worship in truth in our actions, we need to have solid development of our logic and reasoning. As mentioned, this process is not always easy, but the more we develop our logical faculties the more competent in worship we become.

Logic is Needed to Know What is True

Obviously, if we are to be worshipers who worship in truth, then knowing what is true becomes critical. When Jesus proclaimed, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," Jesus equated Himself with truth (John 14:6). As Christian worshipers, the truth, or Jesus, must be defining our lives because worship is our lives. Logic becomes critical in distinguishing, as Watts said earlier, "good from evil, as well as truth from falsehood." Should we act one way or another in some situation? Should we sing this hymn or that hymn? Should we worship this God or that god? Is this experience we are experiencing from God or from a demonic angel of light? We cannot even begin to answer these questions until we can distinguish truth from error. This is but another way that logic is necessary to our worship.

Even when we look strictly at worship music itself, we see that logic is necessary. Do we want to sing words of error if we are to worship in truth? On the back cover of this book, Doug Wilson says the following:

Fuzzy thinking is one of the great sins of our age. Christians who seek a return to the clear-mindedness which characterized the church of previous generations will certainly welcome the return of this great text on logic by Isaac Watts. The clear devotion of Watts' hymns came from a clear mind – and that was no accident.

Many people wrongly characterize logic as somehow a "cold" exercise that is not a befitting pursuit for a Christian. Logic is certainly not an easy field of study, it is true, but neither is becoming good at the piano easy. However, when we look at what logic is and how it applies to worship, we see that logic is truly a beautiful thing. It is a gift from God, and allows us to have a real and meaningful relationship with Him and with others. It allows us to become the creations He meant us to be. It allows us to follow God's commands in our lives because our love for Him compels us to do so (John 14:15). Because of logic, we can become the true vessels of worship we were intended to be, and really, what could be more beautiful than that?

[1] "Isaac Watts," Wikipedia, updated August 19, 2015, accessed October 30, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Watts.

[2] The copy I purchased was a reprint: Isaac Watts, Logic: The Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1993).

[3] Notable ones are "Joy to the World" and "As I Survey the Wondrous Cross."

[4] For example, in Acts 24:11, Paul says he went to Jerusalem to worship, meaning he went there for the religious ceremonies done at the Temple.

[5] For example, in Romans 9:4 worship has been translated from the word λατρεία which means "service rendered for hire; any service or ministration: the service of God; the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law; to perform sacred services." Also look at Hebrews 12:28.

[6] "Worship," Merriam-Webster, accessed October 30, 2015, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/worship

[7] All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[8] Watts, Logic, 1. Watts defines logic as "the art of using Reason well in our inquiries after truth, and the communication of it to others."

[9] Ibid., 1-2.

[10] Gordon Clark, Christian Philosophy (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), 308-09.

[11] Augustine also held this view. For more, see Ronald Nash's book, The Light of the Mind: St. Augustine's Theory of Knowledge (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1969).


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



Pietism and the Bible

cornelius-van-til.jpg

By Justin Wishart

The Evangelical church is very diverse in its expression of Christianity. Going from one church to the next, you can experience churches that have a very different "feel" to them. Some years ago I attended a church that had been greatly influenced by Pietism. I was fairly new to studying theology and apologetics, but as I got more proficient, and vocal, about what I was learning, I encountered strong resistance. While my approach wasn't always appropriate and sometimes negative, I was confused by this resistance. Even given some faux pas on my part, surely a pastor could look past this and at least contemplate what I was saying. I eventually came to understand that it wasn't necessarily my approach to the pastoral team that was the problem, but that my approach to Christianity was opposed to theirs. I focused on the "head" while they focused on the "heart," or so I was told. They were a Pietist church, a church which focused on devotion and emotion.

While this church was not directly against theology or apologetics, it was more relegated to the back. Some slogans are common to this movement, such as: "God cares most about your heart," "People don't care about what you know until they know you care," or "Christianity is about relationship, not doctrine." This primary focus on devotion and emotion is a pretty popular movement within the Evangelical church and is the backbone of many charismatic and emergent movements. Pietism is often called non-doctrinal Christianity. It doesn't necessarily deny and attack theology or apologetics, but it does undermine them.

"Christianity...must present itself as the light that makes the facts of human experience, and above all the nature of man himself, to appear for what they really are. Christianity is the source from which both life and light derive for men." —Cornelius Van TilThis idea isn't a new one. Variations of Pietism can be found throughout church history in all areas of the world. However, we shall focus on the distinctive western Evangelical expression. I will outline a few contributing factors which contributed to the rise of Pietism. Many in the church became discouraged and fatigued from attacks outside the church, and tired by the theological fighting within the church. The option chosen was to de-emphasize the intellect, and focus on things which were believed to unite us,like love and joy. Another was the acceptance of a modern anthropology (theology of man). Pietists generally make hard distinctions between intellect, volition, and emotion. They then de-emphasize (or outright disparage) intellect, and emphasize emotion. The "head" is cold and dead, while the "heart" is warm and alive. This all created an Evangelical vision of John Lennon's song "Imagine": where we get rid of the things that divide us, which are typically intellectual things, and we will all be one.

It is easy to see how this position undermines theology and apologetics, since they are generally intellectual things. Why wrangle with theology, or defend Christianity to the world around us? Can't we all just get along? As Evangelicals, we look to Scripture to guide us; so to Scripture we will go. I am not going to defend theology or apologetics directly, but biblically defend the intellect in the Christian life. Does the Bible make such hard distinctions between the intellect and emotions? Should we care about doctrine? Some might find such a Bible study tedious, but every Evangelical should do so at least once. If God has spoken to us, we should discover what He has to say.

Heart vs Head

The first issue which needs to be addressed is this idea that the heart and the head are opposed things. Modernity has designated the head as the domain of propositions and logic and the heart as the domain of emotions and love. Yet, is this what the Bible says? Let's review some key verses. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5).[1] Here we see clearly that "thoughts" are directly tied with "heart." If Moses (and the Holy Spirit) believed that thoughts only incurred in the head, this verse would make little sense. "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander" (Matthew 15:18-19). Jesus says that it is out of the heart that evil thoughts come, not out of one's head. "But the righteousness based on faith says, 'Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?"' (that is, to bring Christ down)" (Romans 10:6). Here we see a specific proposition being said in one's heart. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Again, we see the Bible saying that one's thoughts are in the heart.

While this is only a meagre biblical study,[2] it should be clear that the modern dichotomy between head and heart is not found within Scripture. The Bible has a much more deep and complex understanding of the word. It is an understanding that contradicts the head/heart dichotomy, so the dichotomy must be rejected as unbiblical.

The Mind and Christianity

While the head/heart dichotomy might be unbiblical, couldn't the emotional experiences of God still be more important in the Christian life? While I do not have space to argue for the supremacy of the intellect, I will at least argue that the intellect is important.

In the gospel of John, the word logos is regularly employed. Logos is often simply translated as "word," but the meaning is much more focused. It refers to the intellectual, propositional nature of language and understanding. We get our word "logic" from this word. So, when John says, "In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God" (John 1:1), how could one not see the importance of the intellect in the Christian life? If Jesus is the logos, then one's intellect is automatically very important. Paul says that, "Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). If Christ is the "wisdom of God," then wisdom, which is an intellectual process, becomes very important. Jesus said, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Knowing the truth is, again, an intellectual activity and Jesus says this is what sets one free. Likewise, Jesus again says, "[t]he words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63). Spoken words, and words one hears, all go through an intellectual process. Therefore, the intellect is important as they are directly involved with what is "spirit and life." 1 Corinthians 2 is a very strong chapter on the intellect in the Christian life, and the chapter ends with, "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). Surely having the "mind of Christ" is something very much intellectual.

Again, this was merely a small sampling of what the Bible says about the intellect. However, it should be enough to show that it is not scriptural to disparage the intellect. The Bible itself is written in an intellectual form. Why would God communicate with us in a manner which requires us to use our minds if our minds are of little worth? Why would He insert many verses showing the importance of the intellect if we are to deny, or minimize, our intellect? It seems that our intellectual life is a very important component in our Christian life.

While very little more can be said on this subject due to space, it should be clear that the Pietists who disparage the intellect do so against the counsel of God. It is one thing to fight against a dry and dusty expression of Christianity. Yet, to do so at the expense of the intellect that God endowed humanity with is to go against the Bible. Once it is understood that the intellect is important for Christians, this will provide an appropriate Christian environment where disciplines such as theology and apologetics can flourish. Yet, Pietism represents a warning that the church should be aware of. Paul instructs Timothy to "[k]eep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16). Intellectual pursuits should be done with the utmost reverence to God's revelation, which reveres God. The church can fall into an intellectual idolatry where the teachings reflect the person(s) doing the teaching, and not God.


[1] Scripture passages are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[2] According to Bible Hub, the word translated as "heart" occurs 1223 times in the Bible.


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



Same Ol' Argument: a Logical Refutation

Bible-with-warning-sticker.jpg

By Justin Wishart

Our Executive Director, Jojo Ruba, recently sent me an opinion editorial published by the Medicine Hat News.[1] Scott Schmidt, the article's author, goes on a diatribe chastising Christians who submit to the Word of God, and the God who inspired it. Schmidt makes it very clear what he thinks of the Bible by saying that when it is "read cover to cover it becomes blatantly obvious just how much complete nonsense there is." He attempts to give a moderated view by saying, "I couldn't care less what you believe in your own life, as that is the entire point. Live and let live." However, Schmidt then says, "[I]t's time for you to change your attitude, or go away"; so much for "[l]ive and let live." Schmidt is very interested in forcing his morality on anyone who might disagree with him. However, there is one thing he said which I agree with him about. "The thing is, while it might be your right to say what you want, the second you make it public (or attempt to) it becomes my right to tell you what I think." I will now do the same.

There are so many poor arguments, outright logical fallacies, and misrepresentations in Schmidt's article that I am surprised he deemed it worthy to print. It also made it hard to pick which direction to take my response. There is a virtual delta of channels I could have taken. However, I deemed a response worth the time because you see many of his flawed arguments used by various Internet Atheist types. This might provide a useful resource for our readers if they encounter such arguments online, and if you do apologetic work online, you will face these arguments.

Schmidt's article is an attempt to argue that Christians shouldn't take the Bible's teaching on homosexuality seriously. He makes the mistake that many Internet Atheists make. He accuses Christians of not reading the whole Bible and applying it equally to their lives, so why should we accept what the Bible says about homosexuality?

Your religion also says I have to marry my sister-in-law if my brother dies, and that my daughter must marry her rapist as long as he gives me 50 gold coins. In the same part of the book that calls "a man laying with another man" an "abomination," we're also told we can't eat shrimp, wear polyester or get divorced. Those same pages require hair never be messy, beards never be trimmed, and, for good measure, dictates parents kill their children if they curse at them. Unless you don't find any of these rules to be absurdly offensive, how could you keep a straight face while trying to suggest the one about "laying with another man" deserves credibility?

Schmidt thinks that since we wear polyester, we shouldn't be against homosexual actions. Far from being a good argument, this simply shows that Schmidt hasn't thought through this subject. Due to space, I am not going to justify these mentioned laws individually, but provide some general principles that show Schmidt's argument is meaningless.

Bible with warning sticker1. Schmidt gives the impression that homosexuality is only discussed in Leviticus. This is simply false. There are six passages which specifically deal with homosexuality, including three in the New Testament.[2] Yet, Schmidt seems to be completely unaware of this fact, or simply chose not to mention this in his article. This shows that Schmidt's argument fails to refute the biblical teaching on this subject. Any proper refutation must deal with these other verses as well.

2. The Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman.[3] This disqualifies a same-sex union from being a biblical marriage. Sorry, Schmidt: to a Bible-believing Christian, a homosexual union is not a marriage. The Bible also teaches that sex should only take place within a marriage covenant.[4] This then disqualifies any homosexual act as permissible, because they would all have to happen outside a marriage covenant. Schmidt's argument fails to recognize this fact found within Scripture. Since there is no mention of this in his article, his argument doesn't even come close to addressing the Bible's teaching homosexuality, much less refuting it.

3. Everyone, including Jews, must reinterpret their relationship with Torah Law. There are two main reasons for this. One is that there is no Torah theocracy. Cultural context must be therefore considered.[5] Since many of the paradigmatic laws found within the Torah are state-focused laws, they do not directly apply in our modern context. While we can look at the paradigm and see the wisdom of the principles that the law is derived from, some direct commands cannot apply anymore. Secondly, the Temple, with all its ceremony and rituals, is no longer here. Much of the Torah Law is focused on the Temple (or Tabernacle) and the rituals associated with it. Schmidt does not attempt to deal with these hermeneutical issues. But if anyone is going to refute the Bible's teaching, it must be addressed. This is but another way his argument fails.

4. Christians believe the Jesus fulfilled the Law.[6] This is exactly the main thing that changes the Christian's relationship with the Torah Law. Until Schmidt shows how eating shellfish (and the other laws he mentioned) is treated the same hermeneutically as homosexuality in light of the life of Jesus, his argument cannot refute the Bible's teaching on the subject.

5. Schmidt confuses the actions of Christians with the veracity of the Bible. Even if he was able to account for the above principles, this would still not make his case. It might be the case that the vast majority of Christians have gotten our beard laws wrong. That if we were to be consistent, men should never shave our beards. Yet, Schmidt argues that if this is true, and that we indeed should not shave our beards, that it follows we should be okay with homosexuality. How does that follow? It could be that homosexuality is still an abomination and we should also not shave our beard. Pointing out (alleged) Christian inconsistencies does not mean we should necessarily throw out all other laws, but could mean that we should simply become more consistent. Since Schmidt does not provide any justification as to why we should abandon the Levitical teaching on homosexuality, instead of taking seriously the beard laws, his argument fails here.

While more could be mentioned, these five failures alone show Schmidt does not provide a meaningful refutation of the Bible. I don't even need to provide justification as to why Leviticus commands what it does.[7] An argument which is shown to be fallacious does not need to be refuted further; and Schmidt's argument is about as fallacious as they come.

I mentioned earlier that there were many channels I could have taken my response given the fallacious nature of Schmidt's article. One simple example will highlight the absurd nature of this article. He says:

You see, I couldn't care less what you believe in your own life, as that is the entire point. Live and let live.

However, that flies right out the window when you use archaic excuses to take other people down.

If I replace the pejorative term "archaic" with the pejorative term "liberalized," how does he avoid his own criticism? Is he not trying to take down the Bible, and as a result Bible-believing Christians? Does he not want us to simply "go away"?

It appears that Schmidt would benefit more in learning some basic logic instead of fallaciously attempting to take Christian people down.[8] He would have easily seen how erroneous his arguments are and realized that he needs to study the subject much more. Instead of such a pointless hit piece, he might actually be able to add something meaningful to this discussion. Unfortunately, the general population haven't learned basic logic and may even find his arguments convincing. The fact that I have come across this argument many times proves this to be the case. It is up to the apologist—correct that, it is up to the Christian to point out the errors in this argument. People actually fall for such poor argumentation.


[1] Scott Schmidt, "The Bible Is Not Always the Best Source of Right and Wrong in the 21st Century," Medicine Hat News, July 8, 2015, accessed July 24, 2015, http://medicinehatnews.com/commentary/opinions/2015/07/08/the-bible-is-not-always-the-best-source-of-right-and-wrong-in-the-21st-century/.

[2] Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10.

[3] Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5.

[4] Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 5:15-19; Exodus 20:14; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.

[5] To use an Old Testament example, many of the Torah Laws had to be abandoned when Israel was under Babylonian rule.

[6] Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4.

[7] However, simple Google searches will find good introductory justifications for such laws if one is really interested in learning.

[8] I would recommend Gordon Clark's book Logic (4th ed., Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2004).


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



The Apostolic Bible Polyglot

apostolic-polyglot-2.jpg

By Justin Wishart

apostolic-polyglot-1

As I have progressed in my Greek studies, I became interested in buying a Bible that will help me continue reading Greek while doing Bible study, to kill two birds with one stone. I knew that there was an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint.[1] I started looking for a Bible that contained both the Septuagint and Greek New Testament in one edition. I thought this would be a fairly common Bible, but found out that it is not. After some searching, I discovered the Apostolic Bible Polyglot.[2] This blog will be partly a review of this unique Bible. However, as I was researching the product, I discovered a bit about the man that created this version. I was intrigued by his story. So, this post will also highlight this man and glean some lessons we can possibly learn from him.

Apostolic Bible Polyglot I ordered the ebony eco-cowhide edition, which is the cheapest physical Bible offered. When the Bible arrived and I opened up the package, the quality of the construction far exceeded my expectations. It is the nicest-quality Bible I now own. It is one of those Bibles that just feel nice in your hands. The binding is not simply glued together but you can see the quality stitching. The paper edging is a nice gold which matches the lettering on the spine. There are two built-in bookmarks, which is really nice touch for this specific Bible (more on this later). The paper used is of high quality. The only quibble I have is that the print is a bit too small, but I think that was a necessary evil (more on this later). If I were to give a rating for the construction of this Bible, I would give it 5 out of 5.

Apostolic Bible Polyglot: Interlinear However, as impressed as I was with the construction of this book, the real value is found within. The words found within any Bible is of greater value than even the finest possible construction, but for the novice Greek reader this is especially the case with this Bible. The first thing that strikes you when you open the book is that it looks very different than most Bibles. This is called an interlinear. The Greek words are centred in bold, the English equivalent word is underneath, and the AB-Strong's number is above.[3] I can read the Greek as best I can, but when I get stuck I can glance at the English equivalent for help.

Apostolic Bible Polyglot: Concordance Another plus to this book is that it has a good word study tool complete with a lexical concordance and English-Greek index at the back. This is where the AB-Strong's numbers come in. If you would like to do any further word studies, they are all catalogued by this numbering system. This is why the double bookmark is such a nice touch. You can keep your place in the Bible while studying the index, and bookmark your place in the index while you read the Bible. It should also be clear why the font might be a little small. With all this information packed into one Bible, any increase in the font would make the Bible unwieldy, never mind more expensive. Other products that supplement this Bible are freely available or can be purchased. There are more substantial lexicons, video seminars, and a host of other resources. This is truly one of the best biblical Greek resources out there, and it is unfortunately one of the best kept secrets as well.

All this is the life's work of Charles Van der Pool. When I was researching this product, I was surprised that Van der Pool does not have a PhD in Biblical Greek. He was just a man who wanted to know the Bible better. Creating this polyglot was not his intention, but God used the desire to know His Word better to blossom into this incredible resource for the church. I had the opportunity to interview Van der Pool, and this is part of that interview.

You have produced a unique Bible. What are some of its unique features, ‎and what is a polyglot?

The unique thing to the ABP [Apostolic Bible Polyglot] is it is the ONLY interlinear Greek Old & New Testament translation, along with being numerically coded to other works . . . lexicons, indexes, etc. This makes the ABP open to both experts in Greek and to beginners. One who doesn't know Greek can follow along with the English. A polyglot is basically using more than one language. In the case of the ABP it is in Greek, English and partially in Portuguese.

What do you mean by the Greek Old Testament? Isn't the OT written in Hebrew?

We know from the writing at the time of Jesus that the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, possibly during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (circa 250 B.C.). As many Jews had been scattered throughout the world by Nebuchadnezzar and others, and during the time of Alexander the Great the Greek language became the popular language worldwide, many Jews knew only Greek. So when the writers of the New Testament wrote to many Greek-speaking Jews, they wrote in Greek. Interestingly, while they were writing and were quoting the Old Testament, they never quoted the Hebrew writings, only the Greek, popularly called the Septuagint.

How long has it taken you to complete all this work?

I started in 1985.

That's 30 years! Why did you dedicate so much of your life to this project?

That's a good question and hard to answer. I didn't start off with a dedication to achieving an agenda, but as I tell people, "I was a cast iron stove to which God opened the door and inserted the ABP pie in it, and cooked it for twenty-seven years; then He opened the door and out popped the ABP pie twenty-seven years later." It wasn't a dedication as much as in inward drive of the divine. I suppose one could sum it up by saying that I allowed God to use me. I couldn't do it again.

What would you say to someone who God has placed a pie in their oven? Maybe someone out there has that inward drive of the divine to pursue a scholarly endeavour as you have, but hasn't received a PhD or formal training. What would you say to them?

Many people misread what is a personal desire and what is the will of God. I never had a desire to pursue a scholarly endeavour. In fact I hated foreign language studies, as my memorization faculties were lacking. I also hated English grammar and didn't know a noun from a verb when I started. But now I have developed a Greek grammar. But as it states in Isaiah 55:8, "For my plans are not as your plans."

What struck me most about this interview was the simplicity of his answers. There wasn't some mystical sage response, no complex theological or philosophical treatise. The answers were simple: God wanted to do something with Charles Van der Pool, and he went for the ride. The result is a truly impressive achievement from a man who had no interest and little ability in languages. This gives me great hope. As I go through school, sometimes things seem daunting, but the answer to any worry is simple: allow God to work through you while doing the best work you can, and the results will be what God wants them to be. It won't always be easy, but I don't need to carry around worry. Maybe God has placed a scholarly pie in your oven, maybe even something as impressive as the ABP. Yet, you may sometimes feel overwhelmed. Remember Charles Van der Pool, a layman who simply had faith in God's plan and rolled up his sleeves and produced something that any top notched PhD would be proud of.


[1] To find out a bit more, read Septuagint.net.

[2] Charles Van der Pool, ed., The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, 2nd ed. (Newport, OR: Apostolic Press, 2013). See http://apostolicbible.com/.

[3] This is a modified Strong's numbering system. While James Strong catalogued all the Greek words used in the New Testament, the Septuagint uses words not used in the New Testament. Thus, the Apostolic Bible Polyglot uses its modified system to account for this.


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



Arminianism and Culpability

calvin-and-arminius.jpg

By Justin Wishart

[Note: This article is not an official statement by FBB. FBB allows for freedom on this issue and encourages godly dialogue and debate. The author hopes that one of his fellow bloggers will offer a critical response to the article.]

How does God's sovereignty mingle with human will? This is the very question that initially drove me to my interest in theology and apologetics. This question has motivated me to study God's Word more than any other question. One critical question for me was how an all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing God could create this world with sin but, at the same time, not be culpable for the sin. Arminianism, and in particular the "free-will defence," was at first a satisfying answer for me. God wanted all people to come and to enter into a loving relationship with Him. For this to be authentic, it could only be accomplished if people were given the free choice to do so. For love to be real, as the position goes, it cannot be forced. God is not some cosmic rapist who forces His love on others. It is then concluded that salvation must be chosen by the person being saved, otherwise a forced salvation is contradictory to a loving God. God allows evil into the world because it logically serves the greater good, and because of this, God is not culpable for the sin free-willed people choose. Sin is present because it serves the greater good. The people who used their free will are the only ones culpable.

However, this initially challenges the notion of an all-knowing God. If God does not force relationship, morality, or salvation on us, how can God know what we will freely choose? The spectre of Open Theism looms. This is typically answered by appealing to Molinism, but it is important to note that there is more than one type of Molinism.[1] The Arminians will, naturally enough, have an Arminian view of Molinism. While God completely knows all choices and their results, including sin, He does not force these choices on anyone. Thus, God is both all-knowing and not culpable. This position was intellectually satisfying to me for a long time.

Arminianism was first undermined for me when I read Gordon Clark's book Religion, Reason, and Revelation. In this book, Clark discusses whether the Arminian view really takes away God's culpability. He provides an analogy which helps drive his point home:

Suppose there were a lifeguard stationed on a dangerous beach. In the breakers a boy is being sucked out to sea by the strong undertow. He cannot swim. He will drown without powerful aid. It will have to be powerful, for as drowning sinners do, he will struggle against his rescuer. But the lifeguard simply sits on his high chair and watches him drown. Perhaps he may shout a few words of advice and tell him to exercise his free will. After all, it was of his own free will that the boy went into the surf. The guard did not push him in nor interfere with him in any way. The guard merely permitted him to go in and permitted him to drown. Would an Arminian now conclude that the lifeguard thus escapes culpability?

This illustration, with its finite limitations, is damaging enough as it is. It shows that permission of evil as contrasted with positive causality does not relieve a lifeguard from responsibility. . . . And yet the illustration does not do full justice to the actual situation. For unlike the boy who exists in relative independence of the lifeguard, in actuality God made the boy and the ocean, too. Now, if the guard—who is not a creator at all—is responsible for permitting the boy to drown, even if the boy is supposed to have entered the surf of his own free will, does not God—who made them—appear in a worse light? Surely an omnipotent God could have either made the boy a better swimmer, or made the ocean less rough or at least have saved him from drowning.[2]

Arminianism seems to make God culpable in a different way. Is the inaction of the lifeguard a type of evil? Is someone who supremely rules all the forces that cause or allow the sinful situation to happen not at least somewhat culpable for the situation? It seems very unclear to me how it is not the case. Judging by the writings of many Arminian theologians and philosophers, this doesn't seem clear to them as well. Based on my study, they seem unaware of this form of culpability that their scheme creates.

John Calvin and Jacob ArminiusHowever, I would even take God's level of culpability under this scheme a step further than Clark. At least, I will argue that Arminians are in the exact same situation they claim Calvinists are in. In order to avoid Open Theism, Arminians conclude that God exhaustively knows all events and choices that happened, are happening, and will happen in the actual world. God knows the beginning from the end down to its finest detail. This would obviously include our freely choosing salvation or not. This understanding is coupled with the idea that God does not directly force people to accept Him or reject Him. He knows but does not coerce.

If God knows exhaustively what will happen when He creates this world, then when He creates this world events will go perfectly according to his knowledge. Also, it seems logically valid that under this scheme, God could have created a world where a different set of events happened. For example, He could have created a world in which I didn't accept Jesus as my Saviour. It follows that God created this world, in part, because He specifically wanted me to accept Him. Of course, no one can give any proper accounting of why God would choose me specifically as I can discern nothing special about me. However, God saw something in this actual world, which involves my salvation, that He liked enough to create it. Also, since God created the actual world with full knowledge of my salvation being included, there was no possibility I could not have freely chosen to follow Him. This includes every sinful act by all mankind and the pain that comes from such acts.

A question arises under this view. Did I become a Christian because I chose to be, or did I become a Christian because God chose to create this world? It seems to me that the answer would have to be "both." Then another question forms. If I am culpable for my free choices (whether I accept or reject God), then why is God not culpable for His free choice (creating the world where I would accept Him)? It seems just as much to be the case that I am a Christian because God created the actual world as it is as that I freely chose Him. It becomes all the more poignant when one thinks about people who are damned for unbelief. The only difference that I can see from Calvinism is that God enacted His will for my salvation at the moment of creation, and not actively on me right now. Yet, under both views, God enacted His will.

While Arminianism does put culpability on me, as I should be responsible for my actions, this doesn't seem to take the culpability for the sins of this world off God. Unless this is answered, this seems to take away one major reason why people accept Arminianism. Notice that my argument here doesn't make Arminianism false, it argues only that, if sound and valid, culpability is not taken off God under this view. The only way I can see to remove God's culpability at this point is to use arguments that Calvinists already make. Thus, at least when viewing this from a culpability perspective, Arminianism doesn't seem to offer any philosophical advantages over Calvinism.


[1] For a good account of this, read Kirk R. MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2007).

[2] Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961), 205.


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required



Matt Dillahunty's Illogical Worldview

By Justin Wishart

I recently watched a debate between Sye Ten Bruggencate and Matt Dillahunty.[1] I have been mildly interested in Dillahunty's show The Atheist Experience[2] over the years. The question under debate was whether it was reasonable to believe God exists. I was pleasantly surprised that Dillahunty presented what I think is his epistemological position. Ten Bruggencate suggested that Dillahunty's worldview leads to absurdity. Is this true?

The most striking feature of Dillahunty's epistemology is that he gives a two-level epistemological view. The first level, which I will call the metaphysical level, says that we cannot know reality. "As such, many philosophers have simply acknowledged they cannot be absolutely certain about anything, including the claim that they cannot be absolutely certain."[3] The second level, which I call the subjective level, is that one must accept certain presuppositions as true, with no argument given for them as all arguments are derived from them.

My worldview begins with the recognition of the logical absolutes,[4] that they are true and the foundation of reliable thoughts, as such that we can derive sensible conclusions from them. While I don't support absolute certainty in the ultimate sense . . . the logical absolutes represent maximal certainty, which may or may not be absolute, and anything directly deduced from those absolutes, like math and set theory, are also maximally certain, while things indirectly derived from those are reasonably certainties.[5]

So, how does Dillahunty combine the metaphysical level with the subjective level in his overall epistemological scheme?

In the past I have said that we can be absolutely certain that we exist, that the logical absolutes are true, and about things like exoteric claims and labels, but my expression of absolute certainty on those topics are done within the context of an epistemological view known as foundherentism (which is a combination of foundationalism and coherentalism). In a nutshell, in the rules of chess it is absolutely wrong to move your rook diagonally. And while I reject that we can be absolutely certain from an externalist point of view, we can still be absolutely certain within the meshed framework, and it makes no sense to appeal to some absolute truth which it isn't wrong to move your rook diagonally . . . I will simply refer to this as maximal certainty, and that maximal certainty may or may not map to ultimate certainty.[6]

To put it succinctly, while we can deduce certainty at the subjective level, we cannot obtain certainty at the metaphysical level. An important consequence of this scheme is that all claims to knowledge, including what he calls maximal certainty, are predicated on the understanding that nothing is knowable at the metaphysical level. It follows that Dillahunty's scheme is fundamentally pragmatic, and he recognizes this: "I will concede, as do most philosophers, that there appears to be no . . . absolute solution. But I am stuck dealing with the reality I experience until someone offers me a way out."[7] It's not that Dillahunty's subjective level is capable of deriving true beliefs, but that it has worked best for him. Yet, a Christian could offer the same explanation, but they would have a different subjective level foundational set than Dillahunty. This seems necessarily true as all our experiences are different. How does Dillahunty avoid the charge of situational arbitrarity?[8] When viewing this at the metaphysical level, there is no reasonable belief for Dillahunty at all, much less a reasonable belief in God. This would, of course, include his subjective-level epistemology scheme. This refutes anything he may say at the subjective level and his words are reduced to mindless babbling.

Dillahunty thinks that a valid accounting of knowledge isn't even important. "Whether or not my beliefs count as knowledge,[9] under my definition or Sye's or someone else's, is irrelevant to the topic of this debate and it's largely irrelevant in any context that isn't expressly an academic philosophical discussion about knowledge."[10] Does he really think that one's belief corresponding to reality has no bearing on the reasonableness of the belief in God? Well, since he brought up Ten Bruggencate, let's see what Ten Bruggencate said about this relationship. "Why is it reasonable to believe that God exists? Quite simply, because it is true that he exists."[11] The truth of the issue is exactly the standard that Ten Bruggencate uses to define reasonableness. This refutes Dillahunty's statement, and one's belief being real has much bearing in a conversation with Ten Bruggencate. It also seems that Dillahunty himself recognizes the importance of beliefs corresponding to reality. "It's in our best interest to believe in as many true things, and as few false things, as is possible. Making our internal map of reality as accurate as possible."[12] It appears that for Dillahunty, the correspondence of our beliefs to reality is important, unless he contends that this statement isn't reasonable. Why is it reasonable to believe in as many true things as possible if the truth of the belief has no bearing on the belief's reasonableness? This seems contradictory.

However, Dillahunty is insistent that we look at his epistemological scheme from the subjective level, so we will. He seems unaware that he presents a trilemma:

  1. Since he has made the term "reasonable" a result of one's subjective level of epistemology, of course the existence of God becomes reasonable to the Christian. It is also the case that it is true that it is unreasonable to believe in God's existence for the Atheist. This makes it true that it is both reasonable and unreasonable to believe in the existence of God. Since there is no way, according to Dillahunty, to know if one's view corresponds to reality, we seem stuck with this contradiction, "and that way madness lies."[13]
  2. Or, if he insists that the unreasonableness of God's existence is objectively more reasonable still, his position leads to a case of special pleading. He believes his subjective level is superior to the Christian's subjective level, but cannot provide valid and sound argument that is supported by evidence.[14] Dillahunty may appeal to philosophical consensus as much as he likes, but he knows this does nothing to prove the reality of his view. The rules soften when applied to his position, while they are in full force when applied to Ten Bruggencate.
  3. If he makes it about the reasonableness of a belief, with no reference to its correspondence to reality, then he must provide valid, sound criteria. Since the only thing left to him is the subjective level, any criteria will be circular. What is reasonable is dictated by the subjective level, and the subjective level seems derived from its reasonableness.

I didn't focus on more minor issues in Dillahunty's presentation, as they were legion. I will only mention one as an example. "'You can't know anything unless you know everything or know someone who knows everything.' Well, I would like to see the proof of that rather than just an assertion or a demand that we prove them wrong or a fallacious shifting of the burden of proof."[15] He says one cannot use a "prove me wrong" defense as this is a "fallacious shifting of the burden of proof." Then why earlier did he provide this argument in support of his subjective view?

I don't believe that the question "Why are the logical absolutes true?" expresses a sensible concept. For me it's like asking, "Why is one, one?" Because it is and it doesn't appear it could be any other way and if it could be any other way, give any evidence to the contrary, you need to demonstrate it, and that's a very heavy burden of proof, but if you can do it, then I will believe it.[16]

With such faulty reasoning and shoddy argumentation it's a wonder that anyone takes his views seriously. I have lost nearly all interest in Matt Dillahunty as a serious thinker after watching this debate. He is no more profound than the people I debate on Facebook, although he uses bigger words. Ten Bruggencate said earlier on in the debate he wanted to argue that unbelief in God leads to absurdity. While Dillahunty's performance doesn't prove that conclusion, it did prove that Dillahunty's epistemology, at least, leads to absurdity.


[1] "The Refining Reason Debate: Matt Dillahunty VS Sye Ten Bruggencate," YouTube, June 3, 2014, accessed February 21, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL8LREmbDi0. All time indexes given in this article are taken from this video.

[2] The Atheist Experience, accessed February 21, 2015, http://www.atheist-experience.com.

[3] Dillahunty vs. Ten Bruggencate, 27:33.

[4] Dillahunty equates "logical absolutes" with the "Laws of Logic."

[5] Dillahunty vs. Ten Bruggencate, 30:42.

[6] Ibid., 31:50.

[7] Ibid., 27:06.

[8] This is the idea that our situation is such as it is. If our subjective level epistemology is based on this situational arbitrariness, then it follows that Dillahunty promotes an arbitrary epistemology.

[9] Defined as justified true belief.

[10] Dillahunty vs. Ten Bruggencate, 32:54.

[11] Ibid., 1:57.

[12] Ibid., 13:30.

[13] Ibid., 14:11.

[14] Ibid., 12:00. This is Dillahunty's definition of a reasonable belief, which makes his two-tier epistemology unreasonable by his own standards.

[15] Ibid., 33:15.

[16] Ibid., 30:14.


Learn to stand strong in your faith!

Subscribe to our weekly email to get the latest content from Faith Beyond Belief.
* indicates required