Archive for September, 2021

My Theological Essays

September 29, 21

I’m putting up my essays for posterity and in case any are helpful to those seeking more information on their pertinent topics.

Jurgen Moltmann’s ‘The Trinity & The Kingdom’ Review – I review his lengthy book musing on various views of how the Trinity functions. Not an easy task deciphering his thoughts, especially as he’s a German theologian being translated into English! In particular, he affirms a controversial view that all believers (and even all creation!) will join with the Trinity to become part of God. Although he says he denies pantheism, he already seems to support panentheism as the current state of affairs – so really what else is there in further joining to God than straight-up pantheism?

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Christopher Ash’s ‘Bible Delight: Psalm 119’ Review – A short review of a book with the full title ‘Bible Delight: Heartbeat of the Word of God: Psalm 119 for the Bible Teacher and Bible Hearer.’

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How John’s Gospel Portrays Jesus Christ – In which I argue using many example passages that John portrays Jesus as the very same YHWH, one true God of the Old Testament Jews. This explains why strictly monotheistic, shema-affirming Jews could worship Jesus without considering it blasphemy. I peruse quite a bit of Two Powers in Heaven and other material related to the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish belief in an embodied, multipersonal YHWH.

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High Christology in Colossians (With Divine Council Worldview) – I took this opportunity to introduce the Divine Council Worldview (as popularized by Dr Michael Heiser), where Jesus is the very same God who arises to reclaim the whole earth as per Psalm 82:8, who conquered every spiritual power and principality – as Paul mentions multiple times in Colossians. If anyone is totally unfamiliar with the concept of the Divine Council Worldview, this essay is a good primer using mainly familiar Old & New Testament passages by showing how they are linked as part of a coherent whole.

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Elwell and Yarbrough’s ‘Encountering the New Testament’ Review – A short review of their introductory overview of the New Testament. I liked the explanations of geographical, cultural and historical backdrop – but their chapter on Revelation is extremely short, especially for such a long and complicated portion of the Bible!

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Tall el-Hammam: Fire From Heaven – Archaeology and arguments for why this is Biblical Sodom. Lots of impressive images, and over 100 footnotes with useful links to further information. The Sodom narrative is one of the most spectacular and memorable in the Bible, and the fact that the evidence of its firey (and salty!) is still around to be dug up and archived is simply amazing.

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Finding Sodom in 15 Slides (Tall el-Hammam) – Companion short Powerpoint presentation (with audio) for the above essay.

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Psalm 82 – Gods or Frauds? – I use four layers of context (the Psalm itself, the wider Old Testament, the surrounding and rival Ancient Near Eastern religions with their divine councils, and Jesus’ use of Psalm 82 in the New Testament) to argue for a supernatural interpretation of the elohim, bene elyon of this passage. Like my Colossians essay above, this essay is geared towards a reader who might have zero exposure to Divine Council Worldview or the plurality of elohim in the Bible. As might be expected when it comes to the Divine Council, Dr Michael Heiser is cited and referenced a lot – especially since his PhD thesis was on this very Psalm! There are over 60 footnotes with lots of useful links to more in-depth material related to this topic, including many articles by Dr Heiser (some obscure, some better known) and other Old Testament scholars. A sneak peek from the New Testament section:

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Psalm 82 – Gods or Frauds? (Original Long Version) – An extended version of the above, before I drastically cut down the number of words to somewhat fit the wordcount target! The footnotes are roughly the same though less by An expanded version of the above table with relevant explanation:

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1 Peter 3, A Trifecta of Hope in Christ I point out how various groups use parts of this passage to prooftext for things like apologetics (v15), the Harrowing of Hell (v19) or baptismal regeneration (v21)… Not that these are invalid! However, I argue that as a whole the passage is about reassuring believers to hold on to their faith despite persecution and suffering, by knowing why they can have such confidence – because Jesus Christ has overcome the three historic divine rebellions of the Fall, the precursor event to the Flood, and the division of nations to Babel (see also my essays on Colossians and Psalm 82 above). Dr Heiser has often stated that Second Temple Jews expected Messiah to reverse all three of these afflictions, but to my knowledge he hasn’t pointed out how all three rebellions are mentioned in 1 Peter 3.

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JOHN WESLEY’S ‘WORSE THAN THE DEVIL’ SYLLOGISM

September 7, 21

You might have seen this quote of John Wesley before, full text at: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N03929.0001.001/1:4?rgn=div1;view=fulltext

Here’s the syllogism I think he’s making:

1) The Bible as God’s word cannot teach anything false, illogical, unholy, etc.
2) Systematic X interprets the Bible as teaching something false, illogical, unholy, etc.
3) Therefore, Systematic X is a wrong interpretation.

The above premises in Wesley’s words rearranged:

1) Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? That GOD is worse than the Devil? It cannot be.
2) You represent GOD as worse than the Devil: More False, more Cruel, more Unjust. “But, you say, you will prove it by Scripture.”
3) Whatever that Scripture proves, it never can prove this. Whatever its true Meaning be, this cannot be its true Meaning.

PAUL CITING 3 GREEK SOURCES IN ACTS 17

September 7, 21

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unknown_God#Archaeology

For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ – Acts 17:23

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In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment.
… They all of them by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled their own districts;
… Now different gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order. (Critias, Plato)
http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/critias.html

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place – Acts 17:26

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They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,
Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.
But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,
For in you we live and move and have our being. (Minos, Epimenides)
http://garrymullen.blogspot.com/2014/11/for-in-him-we-live-and-move-and-have.html

In him we live and move and have our being – Acts 17:28

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Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbor are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring … (Phaenomena, Aratus)
http://garrymullen.blogspot.com/2014/11/for-in-him-we-live-and-move-and-have.html

For we are indeed his offspring – Acts 17:28

OPEN THEISM & PROPHECY

September 7, 21

Prophecy is one immediate objection to Open Theism. If God doesn’t / cannot / chooses not to know the future (depending on the variant), how can God give accurate prophecy?


Alan Rhoda’s responses are:


1) Some prophecies are special cases where God will do it regardless of what humans think or feel about it, ironically cites Isaiah 46 & 48 where God says He declares the future – they will happen because God Himself directly accomplishes it. [NB: I have also read at least one Open Theist who says God DOES use mind control in a few specific cases, to ensure certain events happen such as the crucifixion.]


2) Some are because God knows people so well, He knows what they will do and how they will respond (e.g. Jesus with Peter’s denial). Not as strong as Middle Knowledge, more like my analogy of Batman predicting Joker’s next move than Dr Strange’s checking 14,000,065 futures.


3) Some are because God intervenes to affect people’s decisions, not mind control but like how we can ‘make’ people angry or happy or afraid through mundane actions (e.g. showing up to threaten Balaam, sending a spirit of fear onto the Canaanites). Again, this is Batman territory.


4) Categorical predictions that are actually conditional, God announces things that He will change if the people repent (e.g. Nineveh in Jonah, Hezekiah’s).



I’m not an Open Theist (yet – I always try to keep myself OPEN to all data!), but it’s important to steelman arguments.

But also:

This kind of extremely bad outcome, even if possible, is nevertheless extreme unlikely


Forgive me but this doesn’t exactly give me confident assurance that God will fulfill solemnly sworn promises.

SHORT EXPLANATION OF CALVINISM’S TULIP USING LOGICAL NECESSITY & ORDER

September 7, 21

Total Depravity – Everyone is so sinful they’ll never accept the Gospel.


Irresistible Grace – So the only way to make them accept is to unstoppably change their hearts.


Unconditional Election – Since everyone is so sinful and would never accept the Gospel on their own, they are equally worthless. Hence who God chooses to grace must not be based on any conditions.


Limited Atonement – But if the above are true, why isn’t everyone unstoppably changed into Christians? It must be because God doesn’t want them, and Jesus died only for a limited selection of people, otherwise Jesus failed which is impossible.


Perseverance of the Saints – And anyone God chooses will make it all the way to the end without quitting, otherwise God failed which is impossible.


Note that human free will to accept or reject the Gospel is nowhere in there. The consistent application of these is that the Sunday School Gospel or street evangelism are lies – God doesn’t really love everyone or want everyone to be saved, people can’t choose to accept Jesus, Jesus likely didn’t die for the people you’re trying to preach to. It’s all God all the way, whether you’re destined for salvation or damnation.


Arminianism: Avoids this by adding Prevenient Grace to replace Irresistible Grace, God makes everyone able to freely accept or reject the Gospel.


Provisionism: Says Total Depravity is false, people CAN freely accept or reject the Gospel by default, it’s the closest to bare basic Christianity – no extra philosophical ideas required.

LEGAL MINUTIAE AND BELIEVING LOYALTY AND THE TRINITY

September 7, 21

I’ve been thinking about all the minutiae laws in the Mosaic Code like not using two types of thread or not boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk, and maybe it’s meant as a test of Chesed (Believing Loyalty) in preparation for even more ‘ridiculous’ tests of faith.


If the Jews won’t obey and believe YHWH on something ‘dumb’ like those laws, would they really obey and believe when YHWH asks them to take something like Two Powers in Heaven, or the Trinity, or YHWH dying but also still in heaven and by believing this you get saved?


Maybe some things cannot be made sense of by YHWH’s intentional design. Logic and philosophy fail because YHWH requires us to take a Chesed step of faith across the gap of credulity.

I’m currently thinking that it’s fine to leave it at MYSTERY for how God’s future omniscience and sovereignty is true while also real human freewill agency is true.

Just like how it is a MYSTERY how things like the Trinity, Jesus is both man and God, God is eternally uncreated (this one really hurts my brain trying to envision), God made everything out of nothing…

(If anyone disagrees that these things are MYSTERY, they should cite a model of how the Trinity works that everyone accepts)

PROVERBS 14:6 – GOD MAKES DAMNED PEOPLE?

September 7, 21

Proverbs 14:6 is always used by Calvinists to argue that God made the wicked for the purpose of being destroyed, ie unconditional reprobation.

But looking at the word ‘made’ (paal), it is NOT the word for ‘created’ (bara) in Gen 1:1. Instead, by looking at other occurrences it can mean do, work or ordain: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/proverbs/16-4.htm

So Proverbs 14:6 more correctly is saying that God has ordained the ultimate end, the final destination – the pre-destination – for everything, which includes the wicked being headed to destruction (hell) – but this doesn’t mean God created some people just for the sake of destroying them, nor does it ever say that God determined some people to be wicked (the rest of the proverb warns us not to choose evil!)

Above: Dr Michael Heiser

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