Thursday, May 23, 2019

B.B. Warfield Discusses the "God is love" Argument for the Trinity

Our sympathies go out to that old Valentinian writer — possibly it was Valentinus himself — who reasoned — perhaps he was the first so to reason — that “God is all love,” “but love is not love unless there be an object of love.” And they go out more richly still to Augustine, when, seeking a basis, not for a theory of emanations, but for the doctrine of the Trinity, he analyzes this love which God is into the triple implication of “the lover,” “the loved” and “the love itself,” and sees in this trinary of love an analogue of the Triune God. It requires, however, only that the argument thus broadly suggested should be developed into its details for its artificiality to become apparent. Richard of Victor works it out as follows: It belongs to the nature of amor that it should turn to another as caritas. This other, in God’s case, cannot be the world; since such love of the world would be inordinate. It can only be a person; and a person who is God’s equal in eternity, power and wisdom. Since, however, there cannot be two divine substances, these two divine persons must form one and the same substance. The best love cannot, however, confine itself to these two persons; it must become condilectio by the desire that a third should be equally loved as they love one another. Thus love, when perfectly conceived, leads necessarily to the Trinity, and since God is all He can be, this Trinity must be real. Modern writers (Sartorius, Schoberlein, J. Muller, Liebner, most lately R. H. Grutzmacher) do not seem to have essentially improved upon such a statement as this. And after all is said, it does not appear clear that God’s own all-perfect Being could not supply a satisfying object of His all-perfect love. To say that in its very nature love is self-communicative, and therefore implies an object other than self, seems an abuse of figurative language.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Review of Matthew Barrett's "None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God"

Matthew Barrett, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019), 283 pp.

One common theme in the philosophy of religion and theology is the divine attributes. I can readily think of numerous studies written by Gary Rosenkrantz and Joshua Hoffman, Edward Wierenga, Millard Erickson, and Gerard Hughes, so this new book by Barrett caught my attention--especially in view of open theistic beliefs and process theology.

Barrett writes from a Reformed standpoint: his stance is rooted in classical theology. Chapter 1 explores divine incomprehensibility. He ponders whether it's possible to know God's essence? The answer given is that God is utterly incomprehensible; in the words of Calvin, we must not speculate on the essence of God, but simply adore it.

Chapter 3 investigates whether God is the perfect being, an entity without limitations. Those familiar with Anselm of Canterbury's ontological argument for God's existence will be familiar with Barrett's reasoning in the chapter. While I think most western theists would have no problem conceiving God as infinite, what the term means when applied to God is by no means clear and distinct. Compare Richard Swinburne's The Coherence of Theism.

I cannot help but find Barrett's choice of subject matter interesting whether I agree with him or not: he discusses aseity in Chapter 4, meaning God's self-existence and self-sufficiency (i.e., God doesn't need his creation). Classical theists will agree that God did not need pre-existing matter to make the cosmos--nor is God a contingent being like the beings he's created. However, as if aseity is not complex or controversial enough, Barrett introduces a section about the Trinity, eternal generation and eternal spiration. While that section gives Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian thinkers something to gnaw on, the imposition seems unnecessary in a chapter that's complex enough.

The remaining attributes probed are divine simplicity, immutability, impassibility, timeless eternity, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, omnisapience, righteousness, goodness, love, jealousy, and glory. The book contains a glossary, notes, and a bibliography. Those who like divine attribute analyses will probably like Barrett's approach. If one is more favorable toward open theism or likes the thought of God having self-imposed limitations, then you'll find plenty of statements to critique. Moreover, the book is not strictly academic but becomes devotional at certain points. All in all, I think Barrett is worth reading.

I received this book free from the publisher, but I was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Mark Rooker Analyzes Exodus 20:5

Not only are we not to make any image of a god, but we are also forbidden to bow down and worship an existing image (Exod 20:5). The word translated “bow down” (wh) is a unique verb in that it is the only root attested in the rare shafel stem in the Old Testament.12 The verb occurs 170 times in the Old Testament with the meaning of “bow down” or “prostrate oneself,” whether out of respect to a human superior or in obeisance to a god. For example, the Israelites “bowed down” to the image of the golden calf (Exod 32:8). They bowed to the lîlîm made by human hands (Isa 2:8) and to a carved image (Isa 44:15,17). “Bowing down” is a religious gesture that conveys homage and reverence. Idolatry involves “bowing down” in reference to the worship of the stars (Deut 4:19; Jer 8:2) and the worship in a pagan temple (2 Kgs 5:18). But it is fitting for worshippers to “bow down” to Yahweh, the true God (Gen 24:26,48,52; Ps 99:9). Many times this action of bowing down includes placing one’s face to the ground (Gen 18:2; 19:1; 24:52; 42:6; Isa 49:23). We are not only not to bow before idols but also not to “worship them” or “serve them” (bd). The root (bd) often occurs with wh (bow down) in reference to the worship of other gods.13 The verb bd (“worship”) frequently has Yahweh as its object. We see this early in the book of Exodus as we learn that the Israelites will worship God on Mount Sinai (Exod 3:12; 4:23; 7:16; 8:1[7:26]; 8:20[16]; 9:1,13; 10:3,7,8,11,24,26; 12:31).14 For the Israelites to turn back after being delivered from Egyptian bondage (bdîm) and serve other gods would be to reverse the exodus.15 The verb bd (“serve”) can be distinguished from the verb wh (“bow down”) by the fact that wh refers to prostration, whereas bd often refers to making offerings (Exod 10:26; Isa 19:21). As with wh (“to bow down”), the word for worship (bd) has a nontheological usage as it refers to serving kings and political suzerains, which may involve paying tribute (Gen 27:29; Ps 72:11).16

Rooker, Mark. The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century (New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 807-827). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Albert Barnes, John 1:14, and the Incarnatio Christi

Like a lot of things posted here, this blog entry is the first word rather than the last about the subject:

I want to deal with the language of "assumption" that is used by those who advocate the Incarnation of Christ. But first I want to clarify why I raised the problem of the Logos becoming flesh. Here is a quote from Barnes' Notes on the Bible about John 1:14 that I find somewhat troubling:

"The expression, then, means that he became a man, and that he became such by the power of God providing for him a body. It cannot mean that the divine nature was 'changed' into the human, for that could not be; but it means that the λόγος Logos, or 'Word,' became so intimately united to Jesus that it might be said that the Logos, or 'Word' 'became' or 'was' a man, as the soul becomes so united to the body that we may say that it is one person or a man."

1. So the Word "became" a man by virtue of the fact that God provided a body for him (according to Barnes). In other words, the bodiless (incorporeal) Logos became or was embodied by divine power, but he became flesh (came to have a body) without any change occurring respecting his deity. It's still difficult for me to understand how this event/action transpired without any change occurring to a divine person, which by definition would represent an alteration to his deity. If C (a change) happens to a human person (P), then C happens to his humanity (H). I have read assertions that no change occurred in the case of the Logos. However, I've yet to see a developed and plausible account that justifies the assertions.

2. Barnes writes that the language in John 1:14 could not mean that the divine nature of the Logos was changed into human nature because that simply could not be the case. In this part of the text, I do not detect a reason for his denial that the divine nature of the Logos was changed into human nature other than John 1:14 simply could not mean that. I'm not arguing for that strong conclusion anyway. Mine is weaker; it's that the divine nature of the Logos as understood by Trinitarians had to experience some type of change if the Logos truly became human or assumed humanity with his divinity.

3. Barnes seems to give the passage a figurative interpretation. He insists that "it could be said" the Word became human although it appears to really denote that the Word became so "intimately united" to Jesus of Nazareth that one could declare that the Logos became human. I believe Barnes is trying to avoid positing real change (ontologically) in the Word. But he is forced to rework the language of the Gospel writer to make it fit the concept of assumption; yet Barnes still uses "became" although he might be using the verb in a qualified sense (with scare quotes).

4. Finally, to say that "S became P" in the relevant sense I'm discussing (e.g., "John became a doctor" or "Paul became a Christian") normally involves some type of actual change. I see no good reason to make an exception in this case unless one wants to argue that the change is metaphorical.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

John 9:38: "he worshiped him"?

G.R. Beasley-Murray writes: "PROSEKUNHSEN [in Jn. 9:38] is commonly translated 'he worshiped him' (so KJV, RSV, JB, NIV, etc.), but this is 'doubtful'" (Murray, John, 159). He later goes on to say that the honor which the healed man ascribes to Jesus in Jn. 9:38 was beyond the honor due to other men but short of that "due to God Almighty." I have no problem with this observation. Where I am suspicious of Murray's interpretation of Jn. 9:38 is when he insists that the man in 9:38 attributed honor to Jesus as "the Redeemer from God" (Murray 160). Notice that Murray capitalizes the word "Redeemer." Why? Is this an implicit attribution of Deity to Christ? While it is no secret that Murray is a trinitarian, I wonder just what he means by this statement. If he is implying that the blind man gave honor to Jesus as DEUS REVELATUS qua DEUS REVELATUS--then I definitively reject this aspect of his explanation. But he seems to be making the claim that the PROSKUNEW Jesus received in Jn 9:38 should not be fully equated with the worship that Almighty God's worshipers render to Him.

Another Johannine commentator named Schnackenburg also implies that while the formerly blind man does not express "formal adoration" to Jesus, he does grant adoration to "the God-sent bringer of salvation which itself gives honor and adoration to God. It shows the man's advance from his Jewish faith to Christian faith." Depending on what Schnackenburg means here, I can accept his contention. But if his words tacitly express trinitarian concepts, then I unequivocally and without reservation reject this part of Schnackenburg's exegesis.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Is There A Third Person Reference in Revelation 22:6? (William Milligan)

The person introduced with the words He said unto me is not indeed named, but there can be little doubt that he is the angel spoken of in the Prologue as sent to "signify" the revelation that was to follow.[586] Again, when the Seer is overwhelmed with what he has seen, and may be said to have almost feared that it was too wonderful for belief, the angel assures him that it was all faithful and true. A similar declaration had been made at chap. xix. 9 by the voice which there "came forth from the throne,"[587] and likewise at chap. xxi. 5 by Him "that sitteth on the throne." The angel therefore who now speaks, like the angel of the Prologue, has the authority of this Divine Being for what he says. It is true that in the following words, which seem to come from the same speaker, the angel must thus be understood to refer to himself in the third person, and not, as we might have expected, in the first,—The Lord sent His angel, not The Lord sent me. But, to say nothing of the fact that such a method of address is met with in the prophetic style of the Old Testament, it appears to be characteristic of St. John in other passages of his writings. More particularly we mark it in the narrative in the fourth Gospel of the death of Jesus on the Cross: "And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye may believe."[588]

Milligan, William. The Expositor's Bible: The Book of Revelation (Kindle Locations 4947-4958). Kindle Edition.

Arrabon: "Earnest-Money" (A Discussion)

Interlocutor: I'm sorry, Edgar, but the earnest money is a pledge that the rest of the money will follow. BAGD says it "is a payment which obligates the contracting party to make further payments."

Edgar: I don't read BDAG or BAGD in the way that you suggest. First, the comment about the down payment obligating the contracting party is a reference to how ARRABWN was used in literal business transactions, not how it was employed figuratively or metaphorically. When a term is utilized metaphorically, it means (according to a number of metaphor theorists) that one conceptual domain overlaps another conceptual domain (A overlaps B). Additionally, metaphors usually focus on certain aspects of a particular conceptual domain. Thus, if Christ is called the "head" of the Christian congregation and his followers are portrayed as his "body," this means that the writer making use of the SWMA metaphor has certain characteristics of the conceptual domain "SWMA" in mind (as it applies to a literal body) when he refers the Greek word to a figurative body (SWMA) such as Christ's bride.

Edgar: My point here is that one cannot legitimately read Paul's "body" metaphor and then begin reading foci into the Pauline trope or metaphor. Rather, one needs to examine the context of the metaphor and in the case of the NT, look and see what other parts of an epistle or the NT have to say that may shed light on the metaphor in question. In short, there is nothing written in Paul's letters to imply that once God "seals" one of His worshipers, the said worshipers are guaranteed to receive other figurative payments. I don't read BDAG that way and neither does Ralph Earle. I recommend you consult his Word Meanings in the NT. As an interesting aside, ARRABWN can also refer to a wedding ring, according to the Greek papyri and it is also evidently used this way in Modern Greek.

Addendum: I should have said that ARRABWN signifies an engagement ring in Modern Greek, not in the ancient papyri.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Martin M. Culy Remarks on 1 John 5:19a

1 John 5:19--A Few Observations

Greek: οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐσμέν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος ὅλος ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται. (WH)

Most people seem to focus on 1 John 5:19b without giving much attention to part a. However, what did the apostle mean by ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐσμέν?

Here's some food for thought:

NET Bible: tn The preposition ἐκ (ek) here indicates both source and possession: Christians are “from” God in the sense that they are begotten by him, and they belong to him. For a similar use of the preposition compare the phrases ἐκ τοῦ πατρός (ek tou patros) and ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου (ek tou kosmou) in 1 John 2:16.

7/15/1986 WT: Since anointed ones have evidence that they are spiritual sons of Jehovah, they can say, “We know we originate with God.” The fact that they have faith in Christ and do not practice sin proves that they are God's children on whom Satan has not been able to “fasten his hold.”

Stephen Smalley (Word Commentary Series): The writer now expresses in specific terms what he has enunciated as a general principle in v 18. “We know that we derive from God,” he says, whereas “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” This is the second use of οἴδαμεν (“we know”) in this subsection (vv 18–20), and for the second time it is used with reference to the confidence which may be experienced by the believer (in v 20, at its third appearance, the verb occurs in relation to Jesus). The first part of v 19 echoes v 18a, and the second part picks up the thought of v 18b (cf. Haas, Handbook, 128).

Smalley Continued: For the expression ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐσμεν (literally, “we are of God”) see v 18; also 2:16; 3:9–10; 4:1–4, 6, 7; 5:1, 4; 3 John 11. The opposite is to belong to the devil (ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου, literally, “of the devil”), as in 3:8.

Smalley, Dr. Stephen S. 1, 2, and 3 John, Volume 51: Revised (Word Biblical Commentary) (Kindle Locations 9810-9815). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Smalley, Dr. Stephen S. 1, 2, and 3 John, Volume 51: Revised (Word Biblical Commentary) (Kindle Locations 9822-9824). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.