Author Archive

Advice For Reformed Hipsters

From none other than Carl Trueman:

Two things came to mind: the beautiful young things of the reformed renaissance have a hard choice to make in the next decade.  You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.

The whole thing is worth a read.

An Argument For the Existence Of The Soul

In an episode of “Closer to Truth”, Prof. Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame gives a quick analytic argument for the existence of the soul that is sound and persuasive. Plantinga points out that even though it’s all the rage to be a materialist when it comes to human persons, he’s not convinced. Consider the following:

If Alvin was merely a material object then he would have to be his body or brain (for example, he couldn’t be a material object 100 miles away). Now the thing is that it’s perfectly conceivable that he could exist when his body doesn’t. For simplicity’s sake ‘my body’ will now be referred to as B. It seems that I could exist when B doesn’t for I can conceive of existing apart from B. And if it’s possible that I can exist when B doesn’t, then I’m not identical with B. If this is the case, then there’s something true of me that is not true of B. Therefore, I am not identical with my body.

The reason for this has to do with Leibniz’s law. Leibniz’s law states that what is true of A has to be true of B in order for A and B to be identical. All of A’s properties have to be shared with B in order for them to be the same thing. So, if it’s even possibly true that I could exist when B doesn’t, there’s something true of me that is not true of B. There are possibilities that are true for me that are not true for my body. But, in order for me to be the same thing as my body, every possibility for me must be shared with my body. Plantinga has shown this to be false.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Jim Caviezel Sings As Christopher Walken

I’m finishing up a paper on Molinism for a philosophy course and a sermon tonight, so apologies for this post not being really substantive. Regardless, here’s some Friday frivolity: Jim Caviezel singing a Chicago song as Christopher Walken. (HT: Denny Burk).


Buzz Aldrin And Communion On The Moon

It turns out that Buzz Aldrin was a Presbyterian elder. He celebrated communion on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

Why You Should Sleep On The Job

He Knows Me – Light From JI Packer

J. I. Packer:

What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind.

All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort — the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates — in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 41–42, emphasis added. (HT: Desiring God)

On Coming To Your Own Conclusions

I’m writing a paper on Molinism for a course I’m taking at Reformed Theological Seminary. For part of the paper, I’m researching how Molinism as a philosophical system interfaces with the Scriptural data on election. Typically, Molinists will view divine election as being primarily corporate as opposed to being individual. Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary has an article critiquing the corporate view of election. I reference this not for the critique itself, but for the way Wallace introduces the debate. Wallace is interacting with a pastor friend of his who, no doubt, is less of a scholar and exegete than he is. Notice what Wallace says:

Preliminarily, I should address an antecedent issue. Although I will express my opinion, you of course have to come to your own conclusions. Having a good conscience about the text doesn’t require agreement with others; it requires being faithful to pursue truth at all costs to the best of your abilities. To be sure, you want to seek the counsel and input of various experts. But when the day is done, you have to stand before God and tell him how you see your views as in harmony with Holy Writ. In other words, I never want you to feel any kind of intimidation or pressure from me or anyone else about your handling of the text. I do of course want you to feel a great duty (as you always have) to the Lord in the handling of his word. At bottom, all of us have to give an account of ourselves to the Lord, and any human loyalties will have no standing before him.

Wise words.

Helpful Resources On Productivity

Here are a few resources on productivity that I’ve found helpful as of late:

CJ Mahaney on biblical productivity

Rebuilding a healthy schedule

James Anderson, philosophy professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, has created an app for Firefox called Leechblock. I just installed in my office at church. Works pretty well. Plus, it’s free.

And when it comes to productivity, it would be criminal to go without mentioning Matt Perman’s blog, What’s best next.

Does Calvin Really Deny Free Will?

This is a guest post from blog friend and fellow Tyndale alumni, Greg Armstrong. 

Does Calvin deny free will?  That’s a question I’ve always thought could be given a quick and simple response: Yes.  This was obviously the case, since don’t we all know that Calvin was a determinist?  For the longest time I thought these questions were like asking whether Ockham was a nominalist or Aquinas was an Aristotelian.

In the couple years when I would have regarded myself as a strong Calvinist I didn’t have time for Calvinists who would say that Calvin or Calvinism affirms free will but just defines it differently than the libertarian.  I still somewhat agree with that mindset: that we should not simply redefine terms so that we can say we also affirm them.  Where I now disagree on this issue is over how we should answer the initial questions on Calvin’s view of free will and determinism.  Calvin does not deny free will; nor is he a determinist.

What got me interested in exploring Calvin’s Institutes in recent months in more depth was my studying of Aquinas and Thomistic metaphysics.  Arvin Vos’ book, Aquinas, Calvin, and Contemporary Protestant Thought: a Critique of Protestant Views of the Thought of Thomas Aquinas, was the real catalyst for getting into Calvin.  Vos explains that, contrary to a common misperception, Calvin’s anti-Scholastic and anti-Sophistic emphases in his thought were not directed against Aquinas.  Actually, it would appear that Calvin had minimal knowledge of Aquinas’ thought and possibly did not study Aquinas’ texts firsthand.  Rather, his response to Scholasticism was a response to his contemporaries and the later Scholastics, who rightly deserved repudiation by Calvin, who castigated them for their hypocrisy (i.e. using their theology to rationalize abuses) and for their heresy.  In the Institutes, Calvin typically characterizes their theological method as excessively speculative and concerned with controversies over the trivial minutiae of precise philosophical distinctions.  Now, I think Calvin was justified in his rejecting people who would obsess over unimportant issues and would draw distinctions to justify sinful behaviour.  But I also think Calvin took this too far because it resulted in him avoiding drawing what are really important distinctions.  His understanding of Aristotelian psychology (i.e. human faculties and operation) is also mistaken in some important places (cf. Institutes, bk.1, ch.15.6-7; bk.2, ch.2.3).  For example, he thinks that the Aristotelian distinction between vegetative, sensitive, and rational souls means that humans have multiple souls (1.15.6).

Given Calvin’s tendency to avoid many of the Scholastic discussions of philosophical distinctions, I thought I should try to read Calvin more charitably knowing better the context of abuses in which he was responding.  That is, I should make a point of trying to understand his own usage of terminology and try to import as little as possible and recognize that his terms might be imprecise and ambiguous.  And assuming Calvin’s minimal direct study of Aquinas’ thought, I realized I shouldn’t read his reactions to Scholasticism as a reaction that necessary related in any way to Aquinas.  On reading him in this light, I came to find that Calvin really did not deny a traditional concept of free will, nor was he a determinist.

One of the most troublesome issues in the Institutes for libertarians is Calvin’s frequent use of the term “necessity.”  For example, Calvin speaks of divine “determination” and that everything is subject to the “necessity” of the divine will—even to the point that Calvin appears to explicitly deny all “contingency” and only affirm that things ‘appear to be contingent to us’  (1.16.6-9).  But Calvin does not, in fact, deny real contingency, nor is he affirming necessitarianism.  At least in many instances, when Calvin says “contingency” he really means “chance”—that is, an occurrence that results without God’s deciding that it would result in that way and causing it do so.  Calvin’s concern is to safeguard God’s ultimate primacy as First Cause of all things; and in extension of this, to safeguard God’s providence over all things, both universally and particularly.  Calvin also speaks of “the necessity of [God’s] own plan” (1.16.9) by which he means to counteract the notion “that the plan of God does not stand firm and sure” (1.17.12) and to affirm that God cannot fail in bringing about whatever God wills to bring about: “whatever God has determined must necessarily so take place, even though it is neither unconditionally, nor of its own peculiar nature, necessary” (1.16.9).  Another way of saying this is that Calvin wants to safeguard the infallibility of God’s will and that the divine decree extends to all things in all their particularity.   (more…)

Tim Keller’s Evangelism Tips

At a conference this year, Tim Keller gave a talk on how to get lay people involved in evangelism. Keller advises that you start with 1-4, move to 5-7, and then if people are still interested, move on to 8-10. But, the only way to get people to 8-10 is to put a lot of work into steps 1-4. This is some of the most practical and helpful advice that I’ve come across. (HT: Salternite)

Here they are:

  1. Let people around you know you are a Christian (in a natural, unforced way)
  2. Ask friends about their faith – and just listen!
  3. Listen to your friends problems – maybe offer to pray for them
  4. Share your problems with others – testify to how your faith helps you
  5. Give them a book to read
  6. Share your story
  7. Answer objections and questions
  8. Invite them to a church event
  9. Offer to read the Bible with them
  10. Take them to an explore course

Is there anything that you’d add to or take away from Keller’s list?