Monthly Archives: October 2015

Romans 5:1-2 – Hope in Peace and Glory

Romans 5:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

 

 

Introduction:

Over the past few weeks, we explored the saving faith that connects us to the righteousness of God.

  • Of the many things we uncovered, one was that this faith consisted of new knowledge, new affections and new hopes.

 

As Paul transitions from chapter 4 to 5, he spells out the content of our new hope.

  • Specifically, he fleshes out the now and not yet aspects of our new hope.

 

N.T. Wright says there is a good reason for Paul to speak of the content – the facts – of our hope.

“We mustn’t imagine that our feeling of being close to God is a true index of the reality. Emotions often deceive. Paul is summoning us to understand the reality, the solid rock beneath the shifting sands of feeling” – N.T. Wright.

 

If our faith is not blind, the hope of that faith is not blind either!

  • This is especially important to know during times of suffering.
  • We will see this next week.

 

 

Therefore – Peace:

Romans 5:1 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

So in 3:21, Paul transitioned from God’s judging righteousness into His saving righteousness as found in Jesus Christ with “but now”.

  • Here he transitions into the new reality of the “righteoused” with a “therefore”.
  • This new reality is why our future hope has real, actual content.

 

A first new reality for the “righteoused” that gives content to our hope is…

  • We have peace with God” (vs. 1).

 

Now what this means for the “righteoused” is powerful.

  • The idea here pertains to the nature of our relationship with God – Moo.
  • Instead of being at enmity with God, we are now reconciled to Him – something Paul will talk about a lot in the coming verses.
  • Paul uses “peace” to describe this reconciled relationship.

 

This relationship of peace is an objective fact.

  • It was made possible by the historical work of Christ.
  • And it becomes ours through faith.
  • This reality can and should bring feelings of peace.
  • But it does not find its reality in feelings.
  • It finds reality in the facts of the Gospel – the new knowledge of saving faith.

 

To flesh out the meaning of this peace we have we can look to the OT.

  • Tom Schreiner points out that…
  • “In the OT peace is the gift of the end time when God fulfills his covenantal promises to his people” – Tom Schreiner.

 

In other words, peace is covenant language with both a present reality and a future hope.

  • The reality of our present peace with God points to the complete consummation of peace with God.

 

These OT passages will help us here:

  • Zechariah 8:12 (ESV) — 12 For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
  • Ezekiel 37:26 (ESV) — 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
  • We have peace with God now, but more is coming.
  • Namely the heaven on earth stuff.

 

BTW – If only the “righteoused” are at peace with God, what are we to say of the “none righteoused”?

 

 

 

Therefore – Grace:

Romans 5:2a (ESV) 2a Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,

 

A second reality that gives content to our new hopes is grace.

  • The “righteoused” are ushered into a new realm or domain of grace.
  • And, “It is the realm in which ‘grace reigns’ (5:21), a realm that is set in contrast to the realm or domain of the law” – Doug Moo.

 

We explored this domain of grace some weeks ago as an introduction to Romans.

  • So I will not cover it here.
  • Needless to say, however, that the implications of this new domain are huge!

 

 

Therefore – Hope in Glory:

Romans 5:2b (ESV) 2b and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God

 

A third reality that gives content to our new hope is the idea of glorification.

  • Paul says we have a “hope of the glory of God”.

 

What we need to understand right away is that…

  • Paul is talking about a glory of God that will be restored in us.
  • The “righteoused” of God will actually be changed – ontologically (our being).

 

And this coming change of our being is something about which we are to rejoice.

  • This literally means that we are “to take pride in something, boast” – BDAG.
  • We are to boast about this coming transformation.

 

Glorification:

What is this coming change; what is this glorification?

  • What is “hope of the glory of God”?

 

It is both incredible and bizarre sounding at the same time.

  • “‘The glory of God’ is that state of ‘God-like-ness’ which has been lost because of sin, and which will be restored in the last day to every Christian” – Douglas Moo.
  • This is not just a spiritual and ethical state, but a physical state as well.
  • It is also known as theosis or deification.

 

Paul speaks of this in a variety of ways.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) — 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV) — 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (ESV) — 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:49 (ESV) — 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

 

Peter speaks of this:

  • 2 Peter 1:4 (ESV) — 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

 

John tells us Jesus’ hope concerning His glory.

  • John 17:24 (ESV) — 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

 

And he later tells us what this means for us!

  • 1 John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

 

Take It Up a Notch:

Greek theologian Panayiotis Nellas calls all of this our “Christification”:

  • He says that Paul doesn’t speak of this glorification “for reasons of external piety and sentiment; he speaks ontologically. He is not advocating an external imitation or a simple ethical improvement but a real Christification” – Panayiotis Nellas.
  • And as we just saw in 1 Corinthians 15, our resurrection will complete our “Christification”.

 

A similar concept is present in the OT.

  • Scholars see it present in the radiant “star” language describing the heavenly host who live in the presence of God.

 

Here are examples of referring to members of the heavenly host as celestial beings.

  • Psalm 148:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! 3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! 4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
  • Job 38:7 (ESV) — 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

 

Then Daniel uses this language to describe the elect.

  • Daniel 12:3 (ESV) — 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

 

But with Paul, glorification (shining/ruling like the heavenly host), like just about everything else, has been redefined entirely around Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

  • Yahweh’s intent to glorify the people of God is accomplished in and through Jesus.
  • In a sense, through Christ, we become the heavenly host – God’s rulers (Michael Heiser).
  • Revelation 3:21 (ESV) — 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

This is why Paul can say (Michael Heiser):

  • 1 Corinthians 6:3a (ESV) — 3a Do you not know that we are to judge angels?
  • Colossians 1:12 (ESV) — 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light [holy ones – heavenly host].

 

Glorification Wrap-Up:

So much more can be said of the NT’s concept of glorification and its connection to various OT ideas.

  • Needless to say, this is a topic neglected in the modern western church.

 

Michael Heiser quotes Robert Rakestraw to make this point:

“The idea of deification, of redeemed human nature somehow participating in the very life of God, is found to a surprising extent throughout Christian history, although it is practically unknown to the majority of Christians (and even many theologians) in the west” – Robert Rakestraw.

 

Indeed, I found that from Augustine to Calvin, this concept was taught and understood.

  • Some considering it “the greatest possible blessing” – Carl Mosser.
  • For example, Calvin says about 2 Peter 1:4…
  • “We should notice that it is the purpose of the Gospel to make us sooner or later like God; indeed it is, so to speak, a kind of deification” – John Calvin.

 

BTW – “The Mormon concept of deification (‘eternal progression’ or ‘exaltation’ in LDS parlance) is very different from anything in the orthodox Christian tradition” – Carl Mosser.

 

 

What Is Faith – Part 4

Last week we saw where faith came from and how it works.

  • Faith comes from the “internal instigation” of the Holy Spirit.
  • What Jesus called a new birth.
  • What we also call regeneration of the heart.

 

Faith plays out through a series of events – some virtually simultaneous in occurrence.

  • Call – through a drawing of the Holy Spirit and the speaking of the Gospel.
  • Regeneration – the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Conversion – a combination of faith and repentance.

 

Today, I want us to finish up with an apologetic of faith.

  • I want to deal with the following question.
  • Is faith rational?

 

 

Christian Epistemology:

To get started, we have to see what Christian epistemology looks like.

  • Epistemology is the study of how we come to know what we know.
  • What is knowledge, and what is its source, and why is it reliable.

 

Alvin Plantinga describes Christian epistemology this way:

  • All humans have a “sensus divinitatis” – sense of divinity.
  • This is “a kind of faculty (like sight or hearing)”.
  • It is a “belief-producing faculty…designed and created by God”.

 

“The purpose of the [sense of divinity] is to enable us to have true beliefs about God”.

  • “Under the right conditions” our sense of divinity comes to true beliefs about God, the Gospel and reliability of Scripture.
  • The right conditions are the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit.

 

Christian beliefs are triggered by and arise out of circumstances.

  • These circumstances would be the “ordo salutis” stuff we spoke of last week.
  • All the stuff God is doing in us through the Holy Spirit.

 

So given the call and regeneration stuff, we just find ourselves believing in God.

  • It seems right to do so.
  • In fact, outside of the Holy Spirit’s work we would not choose these beliefs.

 

This is crucial for the rationality of Christian epistemology.

  • We believe because of the actions of an outside agent.
  • Our belief does not originate in our “stuff”.

 

Plantinga puts it this way:

“These beliefs do not come to the Christian just by way of memory, perception, reason, testimony, the sensus divinitatis, or any other of the cognitive faculties or processes with which we human beings were originally created; they come instead by way of the work of the Holy Spirit, who gets us to accept, causes us to see the truth of these great truths of the gospel. These beliefs don’t come just by way of the normal operation of our natural faculties; they are a supernatural gift” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

So, then, we have seen what a Christian epistemology looks like.

  • And no doubt, there are clearly some presuppositions in play here.
  • A couple of them are that God exists and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
  • More on these later*.

 

 

Anatomy of Irrational Belief:

Now we need to see what an irrational belief might look like.

 

Philosophers suggest that a belief is irrational if (Alvin Plantinga):

  • (1) It is produced by cognitive faculties that malfunction.
  • (2) It is produced by a cognitive process aimed at producing something other than true beliefs.

 

I would have to add a third supposed criteria often used by the lazy or unsophisticated.

  • (3) A belief is irrational because it is emotionally troubling or distasteful.
  • This is a rhetorical appeal to emotions to portray a belief as absurd or even hateful.

 

An example of the first:

  • This would be a cognitive faculty that has been physically or chemically damaged.
  • It also could be one that is “blinded by ambition” or “blinded by loyalty” – Plantinga.
  • “You can also be blinded by covetousness, love, fear, lust, anger, pride, grief, social pressure, and a thousand other things” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

An example of the second:

  • This would be a cognitive process that forms beliefs whose aim isn’t truth but to…
  • Contribute to survival.
    • Plantinga is well known for lodging this argument against Evolutionary Naturalism.
  • Provide peace of mind.
  • Provide some psychological well-being.

 

An example of the third:

  • Belief “A” is irrational because it is unfair, intolerant, or objectionable.

 

Implication:

All of this means that for one to criticize a belief producing system as irrational it must be shown:

  • That the cognitive faculties used to produce it are malfunctioning.
  • That the cognitive process used to produce it isn’t aimed at producing true beliefs.

 

We have already seen that in Christian epistemology:

  • There is a cognitive faculty called the “divine sense” that when acted upon by the Holy Spirit produces belief in the Christian God.
  • And that this “divine sense” is designed by God to produce true beliefs about Himself.
  • So, on its face, Christian epistemology is not irrational.

 

 

Presuppositions:

Now lets go back to the presuppositions behind a Christian epistemology.

  • At a minimum they are that God exists and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

 

So, here is the thing!

  • Anyone who makes knowledge claims does so having already assumed the truth of certain presuppositions.

 

The most obvious of these is an appeal to the past or experience as indicators of:

  • The reliability of our reason.
  • And the uniformity of the laws of nature.

 

For example:

  • I know it to be factually true right now that Norfolk is east of Suffolk.
  • Why – because I was in Norfolk on Friday and to get there, I drove east.
  • I know it to be factually true that when I strike a golf ball with my putter, the ball will stop.
  • Why – because I just saw this repeatedly happen yesterday.
  • I know it to be factually true that I have a Prius.
  • Why – because I remember driving it this morning.

 

In all of these examples, things are assumed without being accounted for or explained.

  • Specifically, everyone believes the world will act uniformly today because it did so in the past.

 

In other words, that which was true yesterday is true today.

  • What “east” was yesterday will be what it is tomorrow.
  • Friction and energy depletion will work tomorrow the same way they did yesterday.

 

About these presuppositions, Alvin Plantinga says:

“And what about the very idea of past occasions, or more generally what about the very idea of a past? I certainly believe that indeed there has been a past; but where can I find a good argument for the conclusion that there really has been a past? The whole development of modern philosophy from Descartes to Hume really shows that there is no good argument from what is self-evident [the assumption of a past] to propositions of this sort [that there really has been a past]” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

In other words, the past, and thus our experience, cannot be shown to be objectively real.

  • Yet, even though they are unaccounted for, they are a starting point for trusting our reason.

 

Circular Reason:

These types of unaccounted for assumptions lead to circular reasoning.

“All chains of argumentation, especially over matters of ultimate personal importance, trace back to and depend upon starting points which are taken to be self-evidencing; thus circularity in debate will be unavoidable” – Greg Bahnsen.

 

For example, as we have just seen:

  • We use reason informed by past experience – a past that is assumed as self-evident – to conclude that reason is reliable.
  • So we are using our reason to argue for the reliability of our reason.

 

Atheist David Hume concedes:

  • “When it is asked, What is the nature of all our reasonings concerning matter of fact? the proper answer seems to be, that they are founded on the relation of cause and effect. When again it is asked, What is the foundation of all our reasonings and conclusions concerning that relation? it may be replied in one word, Experience. But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience? this implies a new question, which may be of more difficult solution and explication” – David Hume.
  • He understands the problem of using reason to assume reason.

 

As we said earlier, a Christian epistemology has the same problem.

  • We assume the existence of God, and that He has revealed Himself in the Bible.
  • We use the Christian Bible to argue our Christian epistemology.
  • See note at bottom for more on circular reasoning*.

 

At this point, Greg Bahnsen says we must do the following.

“At this level of conflict with the unbeliever the Christian must ask, what actually is the unquestionable and self-evidencing presupposition? Between believer and unbeliever, who actually has the most certain starting point for reasoning and experience? What is that presuppositional starting point? Here the Christian apologist, defending his ultimate presuppositions, must be prepared to argue the impossibility of the contrary—that is, to argue that the philosophic perspective of the unbeliever destroys meaning, intelligence, and the very possibility of knowledge, while the Christian faith provides the only framework and conditions for intelligible experience and rational certainty. The apologist must contend that the true starting point of thought cannot be other than God and His revealed word, for no reasoning is possible apart from that ultimate authority. Here and only here does one find the genuinely unquestionable starting point” – Greg Bahnsen.

 

In other words, the only way to account for the reliability of reason is if Christian epistemology is true.

  • Without a transcendent, objective source of knowledge all reasoning is irrational.
  • This is because there is no way to account for it objectively.

 

 

Irrational Faith:

Understanding all of this, we can now look at some common objections to the rationality of Christian beliefs.

  • As we do, we will see if we can identify the problem with each approach.

 

(1) God of the Gaps

  • Christian faith may have been rational before the advent of modern science – but no longer.
  • Science has demonstrated that it can provide empirical evidence for why things are the way they are.
  • Locusts don’t swarm due to the judgment of God, but because of a “build-up of serotonin”.
  • Crops don’t flourish because God has shown favor, but because the right combination of water and nutrients were introduced.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(2) Religious Pluralism

  • The numbers of religious traditions that claim to know the truth are enormous.
  • It seems unlikely that one is any better than the others.
  • Nor does it make sense that a cognitive process aimed at supposedly producing true beliefs would produce so many beliefs at odds with each other.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(3) Intellectually Arrogant

  • It is arrogant, narrow-minded and intolerant to think that you have stumbled upon the truth.
  • Not to mention, this implies that those who disagree with you are somehow intellectually inferior.
  • “William Cantwell Smith: ‘except at the cost of insensitivity or delinquency, it is morally not possible actually to go out into the world and say to devout, intelligent, fellow human beings: ‘. . . we believe that we know God and we are right; you believe that you know God and you are totally wrong’” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(4) Evidence Deficient

  • There simply isn’t any good empirical evidence that Christian truth claims are tenable.
  • Supernatural truth claims can’t be tested.
  • Even if they are true – there is no way to know them to be so.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(5) Wish-Fulfillment

  • “These [religious beliefs], which are given out as teachings, are not precipitates of experience or end-results of thinking: they are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. The secret of their strength lies in the strength of those wishes. As we already know, the terrifying impressions of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection — for protection through love — which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this helplessness lasts throughout life made it necessary to cling to the existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one. Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the dangers of life; the establishment of a moral world-order ensures the fulfillment of the demands of justice, which have so often remained unfulfilled in human civilization; and the prolongation of earthly existence in a future life provides the local and temporal framework in which these wish-fulfillments shall take place” – Alvin Plantinga (quoting Sigmund Freud).

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

Plantinga sees wish-fulfillment as the most persuasive argument against the rationality of Christian beliefs.

  • Even so, he dispatches it quite easily.

 

He does so as follows:

  • The claim, he says, is that “there is a failure of rational faculties to work as they should”.
  • The malfunction is wish-fulfillment.
  • The false belief is God.

 

But, Christian epistemology “stands Freud and Marx on their heads” – Plantinga.

  • “It is really the unbeliever who displays epistemic malfunction; failing to believe in God is a result of some kind of dysfunction of the sensus divinitatis” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

He goes on to say:

  • “According to St. Paul, it is unbelief that is a result of dysfunction, or brokenness, failure to function properly, or impedance of rational faculties. Unbelief, he says, is a result of sin; it originates in an effort, as Romans 1 puts it, to ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness.’”

 

And even more fun is this:

  • “Indeed, unbelief can also be seen as resulting from wish-fulfillment — a result of the desire to live in a world without God, a world in which there is no one to whom I owe worship and obedience” – Plantinga.

 

But wait…there is more!

  • It might be that wish-fulfillment does produce many false beliefs.
  • But, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t produce the one true belief it is aimed at producing – belief in God.

 

 

Conclusion:

Christian beliefs are not irrational any more than it is to believe in the past.

  • We could theoretically be wrong, but we are not irrational.

 

The only legitimate objection to Christian belief would be to show that our presuppositions are wrong.

  • Specifically, that the Christian God doesn’t exist and/or that He did not reveal Himself in Scripture.

 

The problem here, of course, is that there are just as many logically sound arguments for belief in the personal God of the Bible as there are against such a belief.

  • So ultimately, we always end up back at our presuppositions.

 

And as Greg Bahnsen said earlier, we argue for the “impossibility of the contrary”.

  • Without God as the source of an objective, transcendent knowledge, and without Him providing adequate reasoning apparatus to “know” this knowledge, there is no meaningful reasoning about knowledge.

 

For as Scripture says:

  • Colossians 2:2–3 (ESV) — 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
  • Proverbs 2:6 (ESV) — 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
  • Job 38:36 (ESV) — 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?
  • Isaiah 55:9 (ESV) — 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
  • Colossians 1:15–17 (ESV) — 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

 

 

*A further word about circular reasoning:

“Indeed, it is the case, as many will be quick to point out, that this presuppositional method of apologetics assumes the truth of Scripture in order to argue for the truth of Scripture. Such is unavoidable when ultimate truths are being debated. However, such is not damaging, for it is not a flat circle in which one reasons (i.e., “the Bible is true because the Bible is true”). Rather, the Christian apologist simply recognizes that the ultimate truth—that which is more pervasive, fundamental, and necessary—is such that it cannot be argued independently of the preconditions inherent in it. One must presuppose the truth of God’s revelation in order to reason at all—even when reasoning about God’s revelation. The fact that the apologist presupposes the word of God in order to carry on a discussion or debate about the veracity of that word does not nullify his argument, but rather illustrates it” – Greg Bahnsen.