An Apologetics Primer

My church group began discussing ideas about an apologetics course this summer.  I’m wondering what kind of books to use.  Nothing too advanced.  And I don’t want this to become a “different styles of apologetics.”  Those discussions are usually as fruitful as sucking a gas pipe.  But I have found the following to be good in getting you to think about thinking.

My goal is not to “prove” anything or say x apologetic method is good.  I just want you to be good at thinking, and thinking about thinking.

Moreland, J. P. Love Your God with all Your Mind.  The place to start.  I’ve read it probably half a dozen times.  I used to buy it on the cheap and give it away.

Moreland, J.P.  Kingdom Triangle. Never quite gained the importance of his other book, but in many ways the argument is more focused.

McCall, Thomas.  An Invitation to Analytic Theology.  This will teach you how to break down an issue.

Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil and Knowledge and Christian Belief.  After Plantinga atheists realized they could no longer say that evil made the Christian worldview contradictory.

Clark, Kelly James.  Return to Reason. Plantinga’s lieutenant, so to speak.  Read this before you dive into Plantinga.

Clark, Kelly. ed. 101 Philosophical Terms You Need to Know.

Review: For Faith and Clarity

Beilby, James. ed. For Faith and Clarity: Philosophical Contributions to Christian Theology.

This book is not an intro to apologetics. It’s not even an intermediate text. It’s more like a supplement to some theological issues in apologetics. On the whole it is of limited value. Nevertheless, there were a few outstanding essays.

J. P. Moreland: General Ontology and Theology

Moreland outlines what substance metaphysics is. The ultimate categories are substance, property, and relation (47), and these categories are in sets. “A set of categories is a set of mutually exclusive and exhaustive classifications of all entities.”

A substance is a continuant that can change by gaining new properties and losing old ones, yet retaining its identity (57). Substance are not had by other properties. They have properties. A property is an existence reality which is exemplified by a substance.

William Lane Craig: Pantheists in spite of themselves.

Craig cuts Hegelianism off at the pass. For post-Hegelians God is the Infinite, yet any concept of the infinite contains within it the concept of the finite. Therefore, the finite is just as necessary as the infinite. Therefore, God is both infinite and finite. For Neo-Hegelians, “infinite” means “all.” The problem should be evident. God and the moon both exist, so this means that God is not all. Yet we hold that God is infinite.

How does a Christian respond to this? Craig notes that the Hegelian concept of infinity is just silly and outdated. Modern mathematics uses the concept of infinity, but it never means what Hegel says it means. Take Cantor’s sets:

0, 1, 2, 3,….

1, 3, 5, 7,…..

We can extend both sets to infinity. There is one to one correspondence between two sets if the members of A can be paired with the members of B. We do not need to get into all of the paradoxes with an actual infinite, but we need only show that the Neo-Hegelian definition is false.

J. Wesley Richards: Divine Simplicity

Richards gives 8 different senses of how divine simplicity was used in the history of the church.

  1. All divine properties are possessed by the same self-identical God.
  2. God is not composite in the sense of being made up of parts. God has no external causes.
  3. God’s essence is identical with his act of existing.
  4. All God’s essential properties are co-extensive.
  5. All God’s perfections are identical.
  6. All God’s properties are co-extensive.
  7. God’s essential properties and essence are (strictly) identical with God himself.
  8. All God’s properties are (strictly) identical with God himself..

Richards says that all Christians can accommodate P(1) – (6). Part of the difficulty is that earlier Christian thinkers were hamstrung by Platonic and medieval ontologies. For Thomas an essence of a thing is its “what it is as such” (Richards 162). Modern essentialism, by contrast, sees an entity as “exemplifying a certain essence.” For medieval realists, an entity participated (or shared) in the form of x. For modern essentialists, an entity exemplifies x.

Other essays of note are Plantinga’s evolutionary challenge and Wolterstorff’s essay on justice.

Review: McCall, Invitation to Analytic Theology

This is an old review, but I thought I had already posted it.  I hadn’t.

Despite it’s relatively simple-sounding and generic title, this book is unique in offering both a model for analytic theology as well as a brief crash course in certain debates. There are a handful of books (Richard Muller’s Dictionary is one) that could replace a seminary class. This is one of them.

McCall begins by dispelling myths about analytic theology (hereafter AT). AT doesn’t *necessarily* entail univocal language, substance metaphysics or naivety about church history (though that probably is true about analytic philosophy–JBA).

McCall makes clear that AT doesn’t entail the following

  1. A univocal view of language (25). (NB: Does William Alston hold to univocity?  Cf. Divine Nature and Human Language, pp. 17-117).
  2. AT entails natural theology (26).
  3. AT is naive about the history of doctrine.
  4. AT is apologetics for conservative theology.  Depends on what we mean by “conservative.” Plantinga, for one, has advanced problems of divine simplicity; yet, it probably is true, pace the current leadership of the Society of Christian Philosophers, that analytic theologians are committed to Christian orthodoxy and ethics.
  5. AT relies on substance metaphysics (30ff).  The battle isn’t between pre-Kantian and Kantians, but between Kantians and post-Kantians.  It is possible to read Kant and remain unconvinced.
  6. Analytic Theology isn’t spiritually edifying.

The true gold-mine of the book is McCall’s “Case Studies” dealing with metaphysics, compatibilism, and evolution. Particularly, one gets a refreshing survey of what it means for something to have an essence (kind-essence, Individual essence, common properties, merely human, fully human) and how this pays significant dividends for Christology.


Analytic Theology and Scripture

How does the Bible control and authorize analytic statements?  McCall offers an interesting model that can be applied elsewhere in theology (55ff). Let P be a primary true proposition.

RA1: The Bible contains propositions that explicitly assert P.

RA2: The Bible contains propositions that entail P.

RA3: The Bible contains propositions that that are consistent with P and suggest P.

RA4: The Bible contains propositions that that do not entail ~P, and is consistent with P (it is neutral with respect to P)

RA5: The Bible contains propositions that entail neither P nor ~P, but suggests some Q that is inconsistent with P.

RA6: The Bible contains propositions that entail ~P.

RA7: The Bible contains propositions that which assert ~P.

RA8: The Bible contains propositions that assert P and assert ~P

RA6-8 are incompatible with orthodoxy, yet RA1-5 are compatible and are far more robust than stereotypes of inerrancy.

Christology

Abstractionism:

Individual essence (haeccity): set of properties one must have for this distinct individual.  The full set of properties possessed by that person in all possible worlds in which that person exists.

Kind-essence: the full set of properties individually necessary and sufficient for inclusion in that set.

Common human properties: a property possessed by many or most humans.  Most humans can have a property without its being essential.

Essential human properties: an object has a property essentially iff it has it and could not have not had it.  It belongs to kind-nature.

Merely human: to exemplify only that kind-essence of humanity.

Fully human: to exemplify the kind-essence of humanity.

How does the two-minds approach account for Jesus’s being omniscient per divine yet nonomniscient per human?  Thomas V. Morris suggests an asymmetrical accessing relation.

Concretist Accounts

The “natures” are reified, not properties.

Every primary substance (Fido the Dog) has a secondary substance-kind (caninity) that pertains to it without which it could not exist (104).

For every primary substance x, there is only one secondary substance-kind K that pertains to x through itself and is essential to it.

Unfortunately, this rules out the incarnation, since there can’t be more than one secondary substance-kind to a primary substance.

Medieval theology modified this Aristotelianism: it is possible for a primary substance x that is essentially of a substance-kind also to possess/be/come to be of a substance kind K’ (where K is not the same as K’) contingently and non-essentially (105).

Concretists affirm a part-whole (mereological) account of the Incarnation.  There

He gives a wonderful rebuttal to theistic evolutionism simply by showing how sloppy their language is. Thus, the whole point of analytic theology.

My only criticism of the book is the lack of survey on how to get started in AT (e.g., which texts to read first).

Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil

Plantinga, summarizing his earlier work in The Nature of Necessity and God and Other Minds, demonstrates that the theist does not face a contradiction in a) asserting God exists and b) evil exists. In this work Plantinga also deals with essences, persons, possible worlds, and logical analysis. While Plantinga uses rigorous logic, this book is well-written and and fairly short.

Is There a Logical Contradiction?

If there is a contradiction between the following three premises, the atheologian has yet to show it:
1. God is omnipotent
2. God is wholly good
3. Evil exists

We will call this Set {A}. The atheologian has to show that one of these propositions’ denial or negation contradicts another proposition (Plantinga 13). Even if the atheologian cannot show a logical contradiction, Plantinga will go on to argue that he cannot show a logical inconsistency (at least not on these three propositions. By the end of the book all three of these are meticulously refined).

The Free Will Defense (FWD) is the heart of Plantinga’s argument. He argues that a person is free with respect to an action, a world containing free creatures is more valuable than a world without it, and to create free creatures capable of moral good is to create them capable of moral evil (29-31).

Plantinga further clarifies classical theism by noting that an omnipotent God cannot create just any world. God can only create logically possible worlds (or rather, God can only actualize logically possible states of affairs). For example, God cannot actualize a state of affairs in which God didn’t actualize any state of affairs.

This leads to discussions of Possible Worlds (W). W is a way things could have been. It is an actual state of affairs that obtains. A W is a possible state of affairs, but a possible state of affairs is not necessarily a W (35).

Must Evil Exist?

This is the trickiest part of the book. Plantinga seems to imply “yes” at times (though to be fair that probably isn’t his intention). Classical theism has always denied that evil is necessary. Plantinga calls his model “Transworld Depravity:” God cannot create a world in why my essential properties (E) mean I will be free and always do the right thing (48, 52). I think Plantinga is correct but we need to change “always” to “always compelled.”

Conclusion:

This is the easiest of Plantinga’s books to read. And while the material is simpler, he does clarify points from *The Nature of Necessity.* My only criticism is the second half on natural theology. His arguments on Evil and Free Will Defense stand or fall independent of Natural Theology. That section merely restated the material from *God and Other Minds.*

Review: Plantinga, Nature of Necessity

The most difficult yet most important book (outside of Bible) I have read. Somebody described this book perfectly: “I felt like I was up against a Level 97 Boss and I was only Level 70.”plantinga

Plantinga begins his survey of modal ontology with a discussion of de re and de dicto statements.

de dicto: predicates a modal property of another dictum or proposition (Plantinga 9).
de re: x has a certain property essentially.

The problem: “suppose we are given the object x and a property P. Is it possible to state general directions for picking out some proposition–call it the kernel proposition with respect to x and P–whose de dicto modal properties determine whether x has P essentially” (30)?

While such a question seems arcane, it does allow Plantinga to furnish the theist with a number of highly useful concepts and tools, like possible worlds. A possible world is the way things could have been, a possible state of affairs (44). But not every possible world is a possible state of affairs. “A state of affairs must be maximal or complete.”

From this Plantinga gives a fine, if not always lucid, presentation of essence and nature. An essence could also be a set of properties (76). An essence is a set of world-indexed properties (i.e., that is those which exist in every possible world; 77). Essential properties: the properties Socrates has in every world he exists. Essence: the instantiation of the above properties.

Plantinga uses these tools to deal with the atheologian’s problem of evil. First of all, what is freedom? Freedom: no causal laws and antecedent conditions determine whether I will or will not act.

The initial defense: a world containing creatures who are sometimes significantly free is more valuable, all things considered, than a world with no freedom (166). Therefore, creatures that are capable of moral good are also capable of moral evil.

The problem: if God is omnipotent, then how come he couldn’t create a world where all the creatures freely do what is good? Plantinga takes a brief detour and clarifies what we mean by creation. God does not create everything (e.g., he does not create his own properties, for example). Rather, God creates some things and God actualizes states of affairs (169).

Plantinga gives a rather dizzying survey of the Ontological Argument. While I have my doubts on its psychological efficacy in debates, the Ontological Argument, especially Plantinga’s retelling of it, serves a crucial role in defining what we mean by God and what it means for God to have properties.

This allows Plantinga to utilize the concept of Transworld Depravity: Every world that God actualizes, given person P’s freedom, P takes at least one wrong action (185). It is possibly true (not necessarily) that any world God actualizes has P doing wrongly.

Plantinga concludes his discussion with the Ontological Argument. The crux of the matter is this: a) is existence a predicate? b) is existence a great-making property?

Kant denies (a). I am not sufficient to judge whether he is right or not. In any case, (b) is more interesting. Can (b) be proven adequately to the unbeliever? Maybe, maybe not. However, for the believer for whom the existence of God is already a settled issue (whether rightly or wrongly) (b) certainly follows (and thus informs one’s systematic theology).

Further, given Plantinga’s possible worlds semantics, a maximally great being will exist in every possible world.

Conclusion

This is the hardest book I’ve ever read. The above is a fourth grade summary of what I think Plantinga said. The appendix on symbolic logic is like what math would look like if it were designed by Satan.

I found a lot of useful logical tools. I am not sure all of Plantinga’s arguments are fully developed. For example, I like the idea of transworld depravity. I am just not sure why the atheologian will not object in the following way: “Why could God not create a world in which transworld depravity doesn’t obtain? Must freedom then entail transworld depravity?” Indeed, this is problematic for the doctrine of creation.

Bringing the nous into the heart

This is from John Mcguckin’s The Path of Christianity: The First Thousand Years, pp. 862-869.  It is very difficult for many people to approach the ancient fathers on prayer.  For some, it looks too much like Buddhism.  And for many activists theologians, it doesn’t make sense to do hesychasm when you can be lobbying on Capitol Hill.  Nevertheless, the “stillness” model rests upon a particularly sophisticated anthropology, one that can help us in our technological age.  Indeed, one that can counter (with God’s help) deep state monarch programming.all flame

Have you ever prayed and felt dead?  Like the prayer wasn’t real?  Maybe it’s because you carried into prayer the mindset you had when you were watching the Kardashians ten minutes ago.  The Fathers teach us how to develop a mindset for prayer.  This mindset is important because it prevents us from having a “fractured psyche.”  Jay Dyer quotes Strategopoulos , noting,

 

 

” the human nous (the “eye of the heart”) will see God’s uncreated Light (and feel God’s uncreated love and beauty, at which point the nous will start the unceasing prayer of the heart) and become illuminated, allowing the person to become an orthodox theologian….

“They became vain in their reasonings, speculations”. Please pay attention to the choice of words. Almost always, especially in the New Testament, the term (“dialogismos” in the original Greek) is used in a negative sense. When He is about to heal the paralytic, Christ is aware that people “are reasoning within themselves” (Mark 2:6). So Christ says: “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?” You see, the word in the Greek text is not “logismos” (thought, contemplation), it is “dia-logismos”, i.e. fragmented, scattered thinking: The fragmentation of the nous. You might as well apply this knowledge when you are confronted with cults, heresies and similar issues, [considering that the same word is used today for “meditation”]. There is a direct link. Reasoning, speculation [of a fragmented nous]: terms which are always used in a negative sense in the Holy Scripture. Thus, man ends up in a state of ignorance, although he is created with a predisposition towards God, with a nous that is meant to turn to God for help: “Love the Lord your God”. This is faith, the movement towards God, and it is something that we have overlooked….

St Gregory of Sinai clearly states that forgetfulness of God is a disease of the soul and of the faculty of reason. It has a direct impact on human memory, which ends up divided, diffused and fragmented, a prey to tempting thoughts. If I forget God, my memory will crumble into pieces, resulting in scattered, wayward thinking: “Dia-logismos”.

Now, on to McGuckin: “The heart is the inner place where the creature stood before God” (Path 865).  Heart isn’t quite the same thing as nous.

  • It is a biblical cipher for the whole spiritual personality.
  • It is sometimes expressed by the word wisdom (Prov. 19.8).
  • It is a synonym for the innermost self (Rom. 7.22).

So how does this apply to prayer?  Where does the doctrine cash out?  The fathers practiced the monologistos prayer.  It was a short phrase from Scripture that was repeated over and over until it soaked the consciousness (870).  That sounds like it violates Jesus’s command not to pray over and over like the heathen, but several things need to be noted:

  • He probably meant pagan incantations.
  • You are going to have something soaking your mind anyway.  Your mind is never neutral.  You will either soak it with God or with Katy Perry songs.  Take your pic.  Would you rather wake up in the middle of the night singing, “Romeo save me/I can’t ever be alone” or with

McGuckin notes the effect of this practice, “Charging and reorienting the human  consciousness, focusing it, as it were, like a lens on the singleness of the idea of the presence of God” (871).  The ancients knew that our minds wonder during prayer.  This trained us to begin the struggle of prayer.

The Anthropology of Prayer

We have a body (physical impulses), soul (feelings and desires), and nous (spiritual intellect). If the body was agitated, the other two “ranges” of consciousness would be pulled down as well (871).  Therefore, the monks knew that bodily needs are controlled by redirection.

That takes care of the body.  What about the soul?  Our prayer lives are usually by default rooted in our soul (consciousness).  This is where we live habitually. The monologistos prayer quiets down our soul. McGuckin succinctly points out, “Thoughts generate thoughts.  Words make words.  Monologistos prayer kills those unnecessary words” (872).

palamas

When the soul is finally quieted, the nous descends to the heart and one reaches stillness. This is what the hesychasts knew.  You aren’t just doing funny breathing.  At this point when you slow down the breathing, your body calms even more.

Everyone wants to claim that the human person is a body-soul unity, or some kind of unity.  I think it is the genius of Palamas to see how the person is a unity.  There is a dynamic interplay between body, soul, and nous.

And while I think Fr John Romanides overshoots his target, there is at least an aspect of “healing the nous” in theology.

Extra Resources

Fragmentation of the Psyche and the Nous

Lady Gaga ‘Raped’ – Victim of Mind Control?

Mind-Controlled Alters Documented

Psychological Warfare and Media

Satanic High Fashion & Weinstein Hollywood & Vegas COVERUPS – Jay Dyer & Boiler Room

The Fragmented Psyche, The Nous & The Osiris Complex- Jay Dyer (Half)

The Ghost in the Machine and Mass Mind Control

Masculine Wisdom/Feminine Matter: the Drug-Fractured Psyche

al-Kindi’s argument against eternal universe

Strictly speaking, this isn’t the cosmological argument, because as it stands there is no inference to a creating Agent.  But it does establish the groundwork for it.  This is from William Lane Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, pp. 23-27.

  1. There are six self-evident principles
    1. Two bodies of which one is not greater than the other are equal.
    2. Equal bodies are those where the dimensions between their limits are equal in actuality and potentiality.
    3. That which is finite is not infinite.
    4. When a body is added to one of two bodies, the one receiving the addition becomes greater.
    5. When two bodies of finite magnitude are joined, the resultant body will also be of finite magnitude.
    6. The smaller of two generically related things is inferior to the larger.
  2. No actual infinite can exist because:
    1. If one removes a body of finite magnitude from a body of infinite magnitude, the remainder will be a body of either finite or infinite magnitude.
    2. It cannot be finite.
      1. Because when the finite body that was removed is added back, the resultant would be finite (see 1.5).
      2. The body would then be both infinite and finite
      3. But this is self-contradictory (see 1.3).
    3. It cannot be infinite
      1. Because when the finite body that was removed is added back to the remainder, the resultant body would be either greater than or equal to what it was before the addition.
        1. It cannot be greater than it was before the addition.
          1. Because then we would have two infinite bodies, one of which is greater than the other.
          2. The smaller would be inferior to the greater (because of 1.1).
          3. And the smaller would be equal to a portion of the greater.
          4. Thus, the smaller body and the portion would be finite because they must have limits (1.2).
          5. The smaller body would then be both infinite and finite.
          6. But this is self contradictory (see 1.3).
        2. It cannot be equal to what it was before the addition.
          1. Because the whole body composed of the greater portion and the smaller portion would be equal to the greater portion alone.
          2. Thus a part would be equal to the whole.
          3. But this is self-contradictory.
  3. Therefore, the universe is spatially and temporally finite because:
    1. The universe is spatially finite
      1. Because an actual infinite cannot exist.
    2. The universe is temporally finite
      1. Because time is finite.
        1. Time is finite
          1. Because time is quantitative
          2. And an actually infinite quantity cannot exist.
        2. Time is the duration of the body of the universe.
        3. Therefore, the being of the body of the universe is finite.
      2. Because motion is finite.
        1. Because motion is the change of some thing.
      3. Body cannot exist prior to motion.
        1. Because the universe is either generated from nothing or eternal.
          1. If it is generated from nothing, body would not precede motion.
            1. Because its very generation is a motion.
          2. If it is eternal, body would not precede motion.
            1. Because motion is change.
            2. And the eternal cannot change.
              1. Because it simply is in a fully actual state.
        2. Thus, body and motion can only exist in conjunction with each other.
        3. Motion implies time.
          1. Because time is a duration counted by motion.
        4. Time is finite.
        5. Therefore, motion is finite.
        6. Therefore, the being of the body of the universe is finite.
      4. Because the universe is composed.
        1. Composition involves change.
          1. Because it is a joining of things together.
        2. Bodies are composed
          1. Because they are made up of substance and three dimensions.
          2. Because they are made up of matter and form.
        3. Motion involves time.
          1. Because time is a duration counted by motion.
        4. Time is finite
        5. Therefore, motion is finite.
        6. Therefore, composition is finite.
        7. Therefore, the being of a body is finite.
      5. Because time must have a beginning
        1. Otherwise, any given moment in time would never arrive.
          1. Because infinite time is self-contradictory.
            1. The duration from past infinity to any given moment is equal to the duration from the given moment regressing back into infinity.
            2. Knowledge of the former duration implies a knowledge of the latter duration.
            3. But this makes the infinite to be finite.
            4. But this is self-contradictory.
          2. Because infinite time cannot be traversed.
            1. Before any given moment to have been reached, an infinity of prior moments would have to have been reached.
            2. But one cannot traverse the infinite.
            3. So any given moment could never be reached.
            4. But moments are, in fact, reached.
        2. Moreover, future time cannot actually be infinite.
          1. The future consists of consecutive additions of finite times.
            1. Past time is finite
            2. Therefore, future time is finite.

Review: The Logic of God Incarnate

by Thomas Morris.

This is an incredible primer in analytic theology. Not the first intro text to be sure (that would be McCall), but indispensable nonetheless.

Does the claim “Jesus is God the Son” introduce incoherence into the Incarnation? Morris says no, provided that we properly understand what is meant by key philosophical terms. His argument trades on a number of similar philosophical tools: what is a concept? What is a natural-kind? Does fully-human = merely-human? Modern theologians who reject the Incarnation rarely examine these issues.

According to Morris (Morris 21ff), we hold to the proposition

(C) Jesus is God the Son

not

(C’) Jesus is God

Modern critics of the Incarnation say that humanity and divinity are contraries, so one subject cannot exemplify both. The heart of Morris’s book is that these are not contraries and Jesus does, in fact, exemplify both the properties of humanity and the properties of divinity.

Some of the difficulty comes with the undefined usage of the term ‘nature.’ Critics of the Incarnation think that the properties in human nature and in divinity are logical complements, thus precluding any bearer to exemplify both. Morris argues this isn’t necessarily the case. We aren’t saying that Jesus held to two undefined natures, but rather two natural kinds, or kind-nature. Natural kind: a shareable set of properties (39ff). Jesus had all the kind-essential properties of both humanity and divinity (40). It’s not clear where the contradiction, if any, is.

So far Morris has cleared orthodoxy of the charge of incoherence. But are divinity and humanity compossible?

Divine and Human Existence

Is Death annihilation? If it is, then Jesus, as one bearing divine properties, cannot die.
But why should the theist accept this? Doesn’t the soul outlive the body? Morris doesn’t take this argument, though. He rather points out that Jesus bore essential, if not common, human properties. Either one works.

Jesus and the Attributes of Deity

Problem: how can Jesus bear the property, say, of omnipresence during the Incarnation?

Anselm: God is a maximally perfect being who exemplifies a maximally perfect set of compossible great-making properties.

Great-making property: a property it is intrinsically better to have than to lack.
Degreed: something you can have more of
Logical maxima: highest possible degrees
Non-logical maxima: capable of infinite increase

The Properties of the God-man

Alvin Plantinga: the divine persons can differ in the modal status of their properties (94-95). The Son can exemplify some of those properties contingently.

Morris explores a number of options to avoid the kenotic conclusion.

Two-Minds
Range of consciousness = collection of belief-states (102).
Two minds = two ranges of consciousness. Morris writes, “The divine mind of the Son of God contained, but was not contained by, his earthly mind” (103). There is an asymmetric relationship.

The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship

by George Marsden.  Oxford University Press.

Instead of “Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship,” we can name it the “Unstable idea of a halfway-covenant going by the name of Christian scholarship.”

A key argument:  Here is the problem.  Secularists object to Christians in the academy because the latter claim access to knowledge (special revelation) that others do not have, so they can’t do real science.  Marsden counters that Christian beliefs function as “background beliefs.” They are not used as evidence for one’s views.  Christians would look to other beliefs “that we share with persons from differing ideological camps so that we could agree on common grounds” (50). So what is the point of even having religious beliefs in the academy?  They function as “control beliefs” (ala Wolterstorff) which filter which beliefs we are allowed to entertain.

Marsden then borrows an idea from Newman, which was later echoed by Dooyeweerd:  the tendency in the modern academy is for each discipline to absolutize its own claims at the expense of each other. What the disciplines used to do to Christianity they now do to each other.  The solution is to see the disciplines as integrally connected.  This, of course, is a specifically theological claim.

A Concluding Analysis

The book is refreshing and in many ways nostalgic for me as a reader.  I cut my teeth on Marsden when I was in college, especially as I dealt with the pressure from covenant-breakers (at an ostensibly Christian college, no less).  There are a few fine chapters and an interesting appendix.  Still, I think Marsden either doesn’t see (or more likely couldn’t imagine, as this book was written decades ago) the true nature of the Left towards Christians in the public sphere.  

One good Christian argument for Christians in the Academy is that Christians can account for the unity and stability of the “self.” Postmodernism has denied the reality of the unified self.  This allows Facebook (and the state of California) to believe in 58 genders.  Strangely enough, it is these people who accuse Christians of rejecting science!

I return to my opening sentence: the book is a halfway covenant with the secular academy.  It wants a place at the table.  I’m not sure why he thinks secularists will play along.  Which is why I think the whole idea is unstable.  Mind you, I believe Christians should be in the academy.  But we are living in what Van Til called the “later time of common grace.”  The lines are getting sharper and the corners more hard-edged (to quote CS Lewis). Neither side is going to rest content with compromise.

 

Outline of God, Revelation, Authority (vol 5)

By Carl F Henry.

carl henry

The first four volumes dealt with epistemology.  The final two deal with ontology and the doctrine of God.

“God who stands” = personal sovereign containing in himself the ground of his own existence.

“God who stays” = governs in providence and in eschatological consummation (Henry 10).

Substance language

Does have its uses.  Its basic meaning is “to stand under.”  It is not an essence distinguishable from the divine personality (11).  God stands under, not as an underlying substratum, but as the free originator (12).

“God stands” includes his revelational initiative.

“Secular religion lacks revelational criteria to distinguish the divine from the demonic in its promotion of social revolution” (39).

Chapter 2: The Being, Coming, and Becoming of God

Thesis:  The Bible has no problem with “being-language,” but such language is always conditioned by God’s self-disclosure (48-49).  And this self-disclosure is known to us (if not exhausted by) by valid propositional truths.

Chapter 3: The Living God of the Bible

The ambiguous status of cosmic powers in the Bible is not because of some evolutionary move towards mono- or henotheism.  Rather, it is because that world has an ambiguous ontology of rival spirits (74).

Chapter 4: Methods of Determining the Divine Attributes

Henry surveys the three ways (negation, eminence, causality) and finds them inadequate.  Even neo-orthodox scholars must presuppose some positive statements about God in order for them to posit a crisis-intuitive encounter.

Can we know God “in himself?”  Henry cautiously affirms that.  If our knowledge of God’s nature and attributes comes from cognitive, propositional statements from God’s self-disclosure, then there is no reason why we can’t have metaphysical knowledge about God’s nature (96).

God’s attributes are determined by a logically ordered exposition of scriptural revelation  (100).

Chapter 5: Relationship between Essence and Attributes

Realism: “nonmental ‘substance’ is the ontological core of all finite realities.”

Henry’s position: rejects that there is an underlying substratum in which attributes inhere.  This would make the forms and logic “other than” and superior to God.

Chapter 6: God’s Divine Simplicity and Attributes

Essence or nature of God: a living personal unity or properties and attributes (130).  “Essence and attributes are integral to each other.”  “A living unity of perfections.”

“God’s activities are divine qualities or attributes.”

Chapter 7: Personality in the Godhead

Person: the medievals applied it, not to God’s being, but to the distinctions within the Godhead (153). For us there is both personality of God and personality in God.

 

Chapter 8: Muddling the Trinitarian Dispute

Divine personality is not simply the human self infinitely expanded.

Chapter 9: The Doctrine of the Trinity

Gregory of Nyssa: the Trinity is a Platonic idea where the three persons are subsumed under the one idea of God just as three men are subsumed under the one idea of Man.

Shedd: There is a personality to the Godhead.  This is not the same as the person of the essence.

 

Chapter 11: God the Self-Revealed Infinite

Barth: Infinity is the plenitude of God’s perfections (Henry, 230).

Chapter 12: Divine Timelessness or Unlimited

Thesis:  God is timelessly eternal (239).  This is not the same thing as an “everlasting now.”

Chapter 13: The modern attack on the timeless God

Question: If God is timeless, how does he respond in time to humans? The answer lies in his sovereignty.

Chapter 14: Divine Timelessness and Omniscience

Omniscience: God’s perfect knowledge of all things, actual or possible, past, present or future” (268).   “The biblical view implies that God is not in time; that there is no succession of ideas in the divine mind” (276).

Chapter 15: Immutability not borrowed from the Greeks

The changelessness predicated of an eternal being is different from the changelessness of a being in time (288).

Chapter 16: The Sovereignty of the Omnipotent God

God’s power is not exhausted by his universe.

Chapter 17: God’s Intellectual Attributes (very important chapter!!)

Thesis: God is the source and ground of all rational distinction (334).  The laws of logic are the architecture of God’s mind.  “The divine Logos is creative and revelatory.”

Revelation is divine self-disclosure.

Chapter 19: The Knowability of God

Incomprehensibility does not imply unknowability.

Chapter 20: Man’s Mind and God’s Mind

Our minds “coincide” in certain propositions, but not pantheistically (383).