Monday, February 25, 2013

Slight Absence

Greetings to all readers!

I haven't blogged much lately because of a minor illness. But I'm recovering now and should post something by this weekend. Hope everyone is doing well.

All the best,


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lactantius on the "Brightness" of Divine Truth

Hello all,

This is taken from Divine Institutes 1.5.1 (Numbering based on Anthony Bowen and Peter Garnsey's Translation):

"the effect of the actual truth is too strong for even a blind man not to see divine brightness when it forces itself on his eyes."



Revelation 6:14-17 and Variant Readings

This passage could potentially be used by a Trinitarian and likely has been utilized to prop up the idea that Christ is Almighty God. It reads:

And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great Day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" (21st Century KJV)

Notice the use of "His" in 6:17. But other translations contain the following lectio:

for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand? (ASV)

Either way, the verse does little to support Trinitarianism.

The NET Bible provides these remarks:

Most mss (A Ï bo) change the pronoun “their” to "his" (αὐτοῦ, autou) in order to bring the text in line with the mention of the one seated on the throne in the immediately preceding verse, and to remove the ambiguity about whose wrath is in view here. The reading αὐτῶν (autwn, "their") is well supported by א C 1611 1854 2053 2329 2344 pc latt sy. On both internal and external grounds, it should be regarded as original.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Two Ways to Argue for God's Existence

1) Logical evidence is limited in what it can prove regarding the existence of God. One reason is because of our limited experience with the material world and God.

Examples of logical arguments for God's existence are the ontological (Anselm of Canterbury and Descartes), cosmological (Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas) and teleological arguments. My favorite line of reasoning for God's existence is the Kalam cosmological argument. The Kalam argument says that everything which begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore, the universe has a cause. Now the cause of the universe is either personal or impersonal. But, based on what we know about how complex entities come into existence, it is plausible to believe that the universal cause of all things is personal.

2) Scientific arguments for God revolve around the universe's structure, its laws and constants. There are four basic physical forces that operate in the cosmos: gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force. It has been observed that if electromagnetism were significantly weaker, then electrons would not be combine with atoms to form molecules. Furthermore, if the four basic forces were not fine-tuned as they appear to be, life as we know it would not be possible.

3) One argument that I've used recently with atheists has been the moral argument for God's existence, which was developed quite effectively by Immanuel Kant and suggested by Fyodor Dostoevski. The gist of this argument is that one must believe in God to make sense of morals or ethics. If God does not exist, or if we do not at least believe in God, then there is no foundation for absolute morality. It's also hard to make sense of similar morals that exist in diverse cultures, if God does not exist.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Thomas F. Torrance on Divine "Father" Terminology

Torrance indicates that "Father" (a divine epithet for the Christian deity or first person of the tripersonal Godhead) is a relation rather than a description of God's essence or substance. He then continues:

"Hence Gregory Nazianzen like Athanasius insisted that they [the terms 'Father' and 'Son'] must be treated as referring imagelessly, that is in a diaphanous or 'see through' way, to the Father and the Son without the intrusion of creaturely forms or sensual images into God. Thus we may not think of God as having gender nor
think of the Father as begetting the Son or the Son as begotten after the analogy of generation or giving birth with which we are familiar among creaturely beings."

Quote taken from Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 158.

See Nazianzen's Orationes 29.16; 31.7, 31ff.

How to Arrive at the Truth Without an Infallible Body of Humans

How can we know (with a high degree of certainty) whether our understanding of the Scriptures is correct? I propose a threefold answer.

(1) Rely on what the Scriptures themselves say.

In Acts 17:10-12, Luke records that the Jews in Beroea were "more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica" because they not only received the apostolic witness eagerly, but they also "carefully examined the Scriptures daily" to verify the evangelical message of Paul and Silas.

Louw-Nida observe that the Greek term (ANAKRINW) can denote: "to try to learn the nature of truth of something by the process of careful study, evaluation and judgment--to examine carefully, to investigate, to study thoroughly" (See Semantic Domain 27.44). John B. Pohill also writes: "This was no cursory investigation either, no weekly Sabbath service, as at Thessalonica. They met daily to search the Scriptures" (Pohill 363). And what was the result? POLLOI MEN OUN EX AUTWN EPISTEUSAN.

Question: If we cannot reach a certain understanding of the Scriptures by consulting them and thoroughly studying them, then how did the Beroeans become believers through this method? Why didn't they need an infallible human authority to teach them the truth?

My next case example is Apollos. Luke says that this man "thoroughly proved the Jews to be wrong publicly, while he demonstrated by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 18:24-28).

Question: If sharing Scripture with a person who subscribes to a different interpretation only results in "biblical ping-pong," then how did Apollos prove the Jews to be wrong publicly? How did he "demonstrate" (EPIDEIKNUS) by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah if we can't prove anything by comparing Scripture?

(2)Though I believe the previously mentioned examples clearly show the fallacy of thinking that one cannot arrive at the true understanding of Scripture by consulting and comparing Scripture, as I mentioned hitherto, discussing Scripture is not the only way to attain truth. If we want to really understand God's will as set forth in Scripture, we must also offer ebullient and sincere prayers. The psalmist earnestly supplicated God: "Teach me to do as is acceptable to you, because you are my God. Your spirit is good; let it lead me over level ground" (Ps. 143:10 Byington). See also Ps. 43:3.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also taught us the way to comprehend Scripture. He encouraged humans to 'keep on asking, seeking and knocking' because "everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking it will be opened" (Matt. 7:7-11 NWT). So diligent prayer is a second requisite for authenticating one's understanding of Scripture. But there is yet a third way.

(3) The Primitive EKKLHSIA also relied upon apostolic teaching and the older men and apostles in Jerusalem to accurately understand Scripture (Acts 2:40ff; 15:1ff). Today I believe one must be in frequent association with the organization God is using to fully perceive the Divine written Revelation. So, far from believing that studying Scripture is enough, I contend that the way to guarantee one's view of Scripture is correct is by employing the three methods I have delineated above. Study, meditate, pray and find the true Christian EKKHLSIA.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Meaning of Aktionsart (K. L. McKay and Stanley Porter)

Here is part of an old dialogue written to a friend:

Keep in mind that different grammarians or linguists use the term Aktionsart in bewildering and disparate ways. But older grammars often employ Aktionsart as a reference to action that is delineated by the verbal stem.

Stanley Porter points out that K. Brugmann (in 1885) was the first writer who employed the German term Aktionsart to describe: "the kind of action indicated objectively by the verb" (Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the NT, Stanley Porter, 29). So when I talk about "kind of action" in this context, I mean action in terms of completed, durative, ingressive or conative (inchoative) activities that are objectively signaled by the respective verb stem (root + affix) or in some other fashion.

For example, K.L. McKay (when discussing the conative and inceptive use of the Greek present "tense") provides an example from Jn 10:32:

DIA POION AUTWN ERGON EME LIQAZETE: "for which of these deeds are you trying to stone me?"

McKay thinks that the present verb LIQAZETE in this passage, "has the effect of so emphasizing the incompleteness of the activity that the most natural English equivalent is try to do" in this case.

So in Jn 10:32 we evidently have an example of the conative present. Certain scholars would argue that the conative "kind of action" is signaled by the verbal stem (Aktionsart). Others would contend that we know LIQAZETE is conative present (imperfective aspect) in view of contextual features that mark the action of the verb (still referring to Aktionsart). I hope the example from Jn 10:32 helps you to see how Aktionsart is applied by graammarians and linguists.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Addressing Stuckenbruck's Treatment of Greek Pronouns

Loren T. Stuckenbruck, in Angel Veneration and Christology: A Study in Early Judaism and the Christology of the Apocalypse of John (Tubingen: JCB Mohr, 1995),lists a number of biblical passages in which the singular Greek pronoun or third person singular verbs seem problematic.

He apparently concludes that the Lamb is being worshiped alongside God in a "monotheistic framework" when we encounter such usages. But I am not so sure the examples that he provides support his point. Let us examine Revelation 11:15 as a case example:

"The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and HE will rule as king forever."

Grammatically, John's use of BASILEUSEI ("will rule") could refer to God or Christ. Stuckenbruck thinks that it refers to both the Messiah and the Lord Almighty (Jehovah) as a unit. But grammar does not necessitate that we read the text in a Trinitarian manner. Furthermore, the context suggests that it is YHWH (the Father), who will rule as King forever and ever (Rev 11:16-17).

Even if one objects to the NWT's use of the Tetragrammaton in Rev 11:16-17, the surrounding verses still manifestly indicate that KURIE, hO QEOS or hO PANTOKRATWR takes up HIS great power and begins to rule as King through His Messiah, who clearly is not the Lord in this context.