Saturday, February 16, 2013

Disturbing Tactics: The Trap Question

It becomes increasingly difficult to discuss Biblical doctrine when people are constantly trying to paint others into a corner with the sort of “trap question” that the scribes and Pharisees so often used with Jesus. 

A good example of such a question was submitted this morning on another thread by Pastor Peter Prange.

Dear Paul:

Would you say that Christ's vicarious satisfaction is *sufficient* for all the world but not *efficient* apart from faith?

Just trying to get further clarification.



One of the marks of a “trap question” is the very “cordial” tone of the question.  It appears innocent.  “Just trying to get further clarification.”  “Help me understand this better.”  It sounds like the author of the question is trying to engage in honest discussion.  Who could have a problem with that?

This cordial tone is intended to disarm the person being questioned.  The respondent wants to assume that the one asking the question is being charitable and honest, and so he wishes to respond with charity as well, putting the best construction on the question.  It also allows the questioner to feign innocence (and shock) in the end if he is caught in his Pharisaical behavior:  “What?  I was just asking an innocent question.  You didn’t put the best construction on it.  That’s your fault.  I will pray for you.”  How pious!

But there are certain words and phrases that are loaded with meaning in theological discussion.  And just as in a chess match when a player attempts to out-maneuver his opponent by hiding his strategy, so a theological “player” will couch his language in innocence while introducing these loaded words, hoping that his opponent isn’t paying attention.  Sometimes he may notice the trap and avoid it.  Other times, he may not see it coming, and then, “Checkmate.”

I invite out readers to research the source of Pastor Prange’s language.  It isn’t the Book of Concord.  It isn’t the language of Lutheran orthodoxy or of Scripture.  It is straight out of the textbook of Calvinism.

I’ll quote here an example, but if one googles “atonement sufficient efficient,” one comes up with about half a million results.

Dr. Nettles does a wonderful job of summarizing the “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” position(s) in his book By His Grace and For His Glory (note pages 302-05).  He believes this view represents “a majority view among Calvinists” though as I demonstrated in previous posts, is not the position he himself prefers.  From this point on I will refer to the Sufficient for All, Efficient for the Elect view as the SFA position.

The SFA position basically affirms both the sufficiency in the nature of the atonement to save all men and the limitation of the atonement to the elect in its divine intent.  It is unlimited in extent but limited in its intent.  According to the Synod of Dort, “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”  W. G. T Shedd (a Presbyterian theologian form the nineteenth century) wrote, “Christ’s death is sufficient in value to satisfy eternal justice for the sins of all mankind…Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins for all and every man in the world.” 

This view would say Jesus Christ bore the sins of the entire world (Isaiah 53:1-6) on his shoulders when he died on the old rugged cross.  As the sinless God-man He offered up a perfect sacrifice of infinite value.  The extent of the atonement is universal but the intent of the atonement (to save only the elect) is clearly limited.  Steele and Thomas explain it this way, the atonement was limited in its original design; not in its worth, value, or scope.

Pastor Prange is a learned, intelligent man.  The words he chose in his question were not random, nor were they innocent.  If he wanted to ask me if I held to the Calvinist doctrine of “Limited Atonement,” he could have simply asked.  If he had been intending to have an honest discussion, he would have been open about the source of his language.

Instead, he used the insidious “trap question.”  Unfortunately, this is rather typical in discussions I’ve had concerning UOJ.  Perhaps I have been guilty of it on the other end at times, and if so, I apologize.  The “trap question” is normally an uncharitable form of dialogue.  I say normally, not always, because at times Jesus Himself responded to trap questions with trap questions of His own, (“I will answer your question if you answer mine. John’s baptism—where did it come from?”).  Obviously in these cases, our Lord was perfectly justified in turning the trap back on the heads of those who were wickedly persecuting Him.

As for this “trap question” about “sufficient but not efficient” atonement, I will simply answer as I always have, that I reject the Calvinist limited atonement, as well as the Calvinist absolute double decree of election both to salvation and to damnation, together with all the theological baggage that goes along with these Calvinist heresies.  And in my discussions, I will not be baited into departing from the language of Scripture and the Book of Concord, and I urge our readers both to watch out for these trap questions, and not to employ them as a general rule.

But this incessant attempt of UOJers to pin the charge of Calvinism on those who hold to the Lutheran doctrine of Justification By Faith Alone is nothing new.  Samuel Huber, with his version of universal justification, did the same thing to the orthodox theologians at Wittenberg, because to him, either one has to teach universal election and universal justification, or one must be a Calvinist teaching a limited atonement.  Hunnius, of course, demonstrates Huber's folly.

From the Preface to A. Hunnius’ Theses Opposed to Huberianism:

In this book, he not only miserably and ineptly hijacks and most violently twists the apostolic text with his dreams and deliria, but he also, in unbridled fashion, seeks, beyond all rhyme and reason, to rub the scab of Calvinism off of me, most wantonly inventing that which he knows full well to be made up by him in his own study.  What does one expect from such propensity for fabrication, by which, perhaps, he tries to outdo his own father by whom he writes and speaks?

…I have also recommended these Theses so that it may be clearly seen how barefaced Huber is, how prodigiously vain, how contrary to his conscience is his testimony to impugn us as heretics guilty of a Calvinistic crime, that this man who has been handed over to a reprobate mind has no fear whatsoever, neither before God nor before the Church. 


Anonymous said...

Have any of the WELS pastor and teacher signers of Intrepid Lutherans been contacted by their DPs yet?
Scott E. Jungen

Peter Prange said...


My question was not in any way intended as a "trap," as you put it. As I've written elsewhere, I believe it's very important in times of controversy to define our terms very carefully so that we are not talking past one another. Definition of words in theological discussion often requires us to use dogmatic distinctions; that's all I was trying to do (even if I wasn't entirely successful from your perspective). I'm simply attempting to understand the distinction you seem to be making between the fact that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 Jn 2:2) but not the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe (1 Tm 4:9,10). I don't understand how the first can be true without the second also being true.

That's the reason for my question, and I did mean it cordially, in the most objective sense of the word, whether you believe it or not! :-)


Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is just a little too simple, but doesn't the Apostles' Creed address the issue of justificatin quite clearly? We confess in the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed that we believe in the "forgiveness of sins". The Third Article addresses the Work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier; he creates our faith through the Means of Grace, and he grows our faith through the Means of Grace. And the benefit of faith is the forgiveness of sins. It seems so simple. That was after all, the purpose of the Apostles' Creed, to put the teachings of Scripture in simple terms for a simple confession of the true faith.

Now some WELS pastors are eliminating the Apostles' Creed from the liturgy. Well, that is, if you can still call what they are doing for a service a "liturgy". Are they eliminating the Apostles" Creed from the service because it teaches frogiveness of sins as a gift of the Holy Spirit too clearly? UOJers need ambiguity to support their cause. Eliminate the creeds and you've helped the cause of ambiguity considerably.


Benjamin Rusch said...

The timing of this is actually rather ironic, Pastor Rydecki. You're actually being accused of Calvinism's Limited Atonement by some at MLC right now (who, evidently, have not read your stance concerning justification). You were pretty explicit in "Dresden Lutherans" by saying "Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation were, indeed, won for all people by Christ on the cross, thought His merit alone." But it's one of those subjects that begs that I safely keep my mouth shut.

Whoops! Looks like I just put my opinion on the internet! There goes keeping my mouth shut!

@Vernon, Interesting how you note the Apostles' Creed. I've been noticing the Apostles' used over the Nicene creed lately, and yes, one church service where the creed was suspiciously missing after the sermon. I guess the message of the cross is "too foolish" for those perishing, therefore we must make it more palatable for evangelism's sake?

Anonymous said...

Statements copied from your "Why?" article:
• Jesus paid for the sins of the world and made satisfaction for the sins of the world and earned righteousness and forgiveness of sins for all people at the cross.
• God only forgives and justifies sinners by im puting the righteousness of Christ to them.
• He only imputes the righteousness of Christ to faith.
• Faith is only created by the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace.
• Therefore, I do not speak of God having already forgiven the sins of the world at the cross, because the Holy Spirit did not apply the merits of Christ to the world at the cross, nor did the world believe in Christ at the time of the cross. We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone—not without grace, not without Christ, and not without faith and the means of grace.
The first bullet point appears to conflict with the other three, particularly in the use of the word, "only." An even better statement of bullet point one is that Christ atoned for our sins as it states in Romans 5:11. Christ did not have to earn anything as is was his plan from eternity.

I can see why Pastor Prange asked for clarification because one could see signs of limited atonement in your last three statements. If forgiveness does not already exist, faith will not save anyone. As stated in Ephesians 2:8, man is saved "through faith" and not by faith which is the means God uses to separate those who reject his pardon at the cross and lose their salvation as stated in John 8:24.
Donald N. Gretel

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...


I have a lengthy post brewing, due Monday, probably, that will address aspects of your question alongside related issues. Stay tuned...

- Douglas

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

OK, Peter, I'll take your word for it that you were not trying to suggest that my position is Calvinistic. Thanks for that. If you weren't trying to compare what I have taught with Calvinism, then why did you bring in the language of Calvinism (without mentioning that you were doing so)? I mean, if I hadn't been studying this material in depth for the last several years, I wouldn't have even known where this "sufficient/efficient" terminology came from, in which case, I would have viewed your question differently.

If it's honest dialogue you're seeking, then I'm on board. But then I have to ask, why did you again mischaracterize my position with your question? You asked:

I'm simply attempting to understand the distinction you seem to be making between the fact that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world (1 Jn 2:2) but not the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe (1 Tm 4:9,10). I don't understand how the first can be true without the second also being true.

"But not the Savior of all people"? When have I ever said that God is not the Savior of all people? If you will go back to our earlier thread, I certainly agreed and stated that God is the Savior of all people. Those are the very words of the Apostle in 1 Timothy 4. Why would I deny them? When have I denied them?

But you're confusing that confession with the meaning you're adding into those words. As you know, when a Universalist, for example, hears "God is the Savior of all men," he means that God saves all men by bringing them all into heaven. (I know that's not what you mean.)

"God is the Savior of all men" and "God has already saved all men" are not the same thing.

When you say that "God is the Savior of all people," it seems like you mean that God has already saved all people from sin and justified all people.

As I pointed out, that has never been taught in the Church before recently. Luther, Chemnitz and Melanchthon all referred 1 Tim. 4 to temporal salvation (rain, sunshine, harvests, etc.) in the sense that God graciously provides for all people. Or, one can understand it in that God is the Savior of all men, not as though He had already finished saving all men, but that He is the saving God to whom all men should turn in repentance, because He gave His Son to save all men, or because "with Him is forgiveness."

But to interpret it as though God has already justified/saved all men is not consistent with either the context or the rest of Scripture.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Thanks for the heads up on how some are slandering me at MLC. That saddens me greatly. But it is no different than what the entire COP of the WELS is currently doing. By continuing to hurl insults at me behind my back and labeling the Gospel as "false doctrine," they are insulting Christ. May they be brought to repentance.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment on the Apostles Creed. It was not written by the apostles and it is in error. It says Christ descended into hell before he rose. There is scripture evidence that proves that to be wrong. If he did descend, for which I say he did not, it would have been after he rose, not before. The entire teaching of descent is based upon 1 Peter 3:19 and nowhere in scripture does it say Christ descended into hell. Even the Book of Concord does not use that verse. This whole issue raised itself around 1550 and is known as the Hamburg Controversy. My study says Christ did not descend into hell, he went directly to the right hand of his Father. The verses I would use to defend this position are Matt. 12:29-40, Luke 23:43, Hebrews 9:12.924.10:12,John 16:16,16:28, 19:30 and 2 Peter 2:5. The verses in 1 Peter are talking about Noah preaching while building the ark, and the spirits in prison are those who rejected Noah's teachings and were lost in the flood. God spoke through the prophets, Hebrews 1:1. You have to go back to Genesis 6 because that is what 1 Peter 3 is related to.

There is also a translation error in some Bibles in 1 Peter 3:18 where it says "quickened by the Spirit" and others say "in spirit in which." The Greek shows the latter to be correct and it makes a significant difference in the translation. WELS also uses Colossians 2:15 with 1 Peter 3:19, but that is also error.
Donald N. Gretel

Brian G. Heyer said...

Pastor Prange,

Regarding your question in the comment above about 1 Tim 4:9-10, I recommend to your attention Luther's Commentaries on 1 Timothy where the good doctor applies a distinction between eternal salvation vs. temporal salvation ('sun and rain on both the just and unjust,' prayers for just kings and unjust kings, etc.) [Pastor Rydecki mentions this point above as well.]

Reading 1 Tim 4 in entirety with Luther's comments in mind avoids shoehorning an unjustified conclusion into v9-10. Verse 8 itself immediately prior to v9-10 validates Luther's distinction.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

A true story:

Several years ago, our congregation was a participant in a WELS-Affiliated Ministry to the mentally handicapped, known as Jesus Cares. About once a month we would host Divine Service geared for those having a developmental need for more physically oriented participation and a very simple presentation of the Gospel. The Apostles' Creed was always part of the service.

On one occasion, a mildly retarded fellow challenged Pastor on the chronology of Christs' descent. Pastor replied, "The Apostles' Creed does not necessarily list these events in the order that they happened, it just lists what we confess did happen." Chuckling, he later mentioned to directly, "I get that question all the time in Catechism. It's NOT a chronological listing."

It is interesting to me how controversy draws insects from the woodwork. The commenter above, Mr. Donald Gretel, in order to defend the doctrine of Universal Objective Justification, finds it necessary to declare the Apostles' Creed -- the confession of all catholic Christians on the planet -- to be the Creed of errorists. n so doing he has placed himself outside the Church catholic, and deprived himself of a voice in any further discussion regarding the doctrine of Justification, or any matter of Christian doctrine whatsoever on this site. At minimum, only those we can reasonably recognize as having a Christian confession are permitted to do so, and, at minimum, this requires unreserved subscription to the Ecumenical Creeds.

I can read the headline on Ichabod now: "Supporters of UOJ find it necessary to deny the Ecumenical Creeds!".

Mr. Gretel, in order to preserve the integrity of those who, in good conscience, hold the teaching of Universal Objective Justification, in order to preserve them from the indignity of being falsely charged with a denial of the Apostles' Creed so that we may continue to regard them as legitimate disputants, you are no longer permitted the further outrage of commenting here. You will no longer distract important discussion over vital doctrines with perspectives which are now clearly recognized as comming from outside, not only the Lutheran Confession proper, but outside what Lutherans can consider a legitimate Christian confession. Period.

Joe Krohn said...

Here is a question. But first let me frame it:

Colossians 1: "19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister."

It seems that by verse 20, all things are reconciled. It also seems this reconciliation precedes faith (v. 23). But this is neither my point nor question, though I believe it!

As Lutherans, we believe the Gospel calls men to faith. In this passage the Holy Spirit claims that the Gospel has been preached to all creatures.

However, I have seen language in this debate saying that God calls only certain people to faith. So which is it? Does He call all men or only certain men?

Joe Krohn said...

Mr. Lindee, thank you for dispatching Mr. Gretel. I believe he also espoused the false teaching that a man's sin against another man was not a sin against God's Law. I believe the he was in error regarding the second table.

LPC said...


If I may...

In Col 1:21, you must not ignore the context of of the whole passage, namely the "you" mentioned by St. Paul are the Christians - in short, the fulfilment of reconciliation of which Jesus was sent to accomplish finds its reality in the one who believes via the Means of Grace. In fact if you go back to Col 1:3 the "you" there refers to those who have believed in Christ.

The Scripture you are quoting is part of a bigger whole and it does not stand on its own without connection to the rest of the passages where it is found.


Joe Krohn said...

Lito, no you may not. First the reconciliation of God in Christ and then the reconciliation of the believer through faith. Faith brings nothing into reality. Clearly synergism.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joe, go back to the Scriptures and learn what faith is and what faith does, and stop labeling faith as synergism. It will not be tolerated here.

I urge you to read the healing accounts in Scripture, especially the ones where Jesus teaches us what faith is and does, and even extols faith with the words, "Your faith has saved you."

To assert that the faith of the blind man brought nothing into reality (i.e., his healing) is absolutely absurd. I don't know how you expect to get away with such nonsense. To assert that the faith of the lepers brought nothing into reality is just as foolish. Their faith itself had no healing power, and yet, by clinging to Christ the Healer, their faith most certainly was the instrument God used to bring their healing into reality, as you say. Their healing didn't "pre-exist" before they came to Jesus.

Again, you will not be allowed to mock God by labeling faith as synergism. It is God's gift through which He reconciles His enemies and clothes a person with Christ.

Joe Krohn said...

Pr. Rydecki, with all due respect. Look at what Lito confesses. Reconciliation does not find it's reality in the believer, but in Christ who was reconciled for us since He bore our sins as well as those of all men. There is nothing good in us. Even our faith is less than that of a mustard seed. Still, what faith we have resides in what Christ finished. Even Abraham saw this: John 8: "56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

Joe Krohn said...

So again, I ask: "Does He call all men or only certain men?"

I say He calls all by His Grace based on Col. 1:23. Some are saved by Grace and others reject it. As Luther says I can not by my own reason or strength come to Jesus. Grace as well as faith are gifts from God so that we can come to Jesus. But Grace comes first. Grace saves through faith. Faith by itself does not save.

LPC said...


You are following as per usual the fallacy of UOJ. It seems the moment we mention faith, you immediately label it as synergism.

Immediately when we mention faith you rush to call that as if it is something of our own. Where did I assert faith is my own and I should take glory for it? Can you quote it back to me?

I will gladly admit Romans 7:18. In my flesh dwells no good thing, IN MY FLESH.

A Christian is not only in the flesh, he is in Christ, and His HS dwells in the Christian. The presence of the HS is linked to the presence of faith - John 16:9.

According to John 1:12-13, a sinner who believes in Christ, has been born of God and not through the will of the flesh!!!

It seems in UOJ nothing cosmic happens to the believer, to them faith does not bring a new creation!

When Jesus said to Jairus, Luke 8:50, "Fear not, only believe", was Jesus advocating synergism?

Do you not assert that Faith is a creation of God through the Means of Grace?

If so, does God create something evil? Go back to Genesis. All that God creates is good.

The author of faith is Christ, you should be careful labeling or attributing evil to what Christ calls good.

That is a sad testimony of your position. It is neo-manichaean as well.


Joe Krohn said...

Lito said: "...the fulfilment (sic) of reconciliation of which Jesus was sent to accomplish finds its reality in the one who believes via the Means of Grace."

Oh how deftly we lay ours words...

Again, reconciliation does not find its reality in the believer...

Brett Meyer said...

The Christian Book of Concord faithfully teaches that only those who believe in Christ are reconciled to God the Father through Him:

86] But since we receive remission of sins and the Holy Ghost by faith alone, faith alone justifies, because those reconciled are accounted righteous and children of God, not on account of their own purity, but through mercy for Christ's sake, provided only they by faith apprehend this mercy. Accordingly, Scripture testifies that by faith we are accounted righteous, Rom. 3:26. We, therefore, will add testimonies which clearly declare that faith is that very righteousness by which we are accounted righteous before God, namely, not because it is a work that is in itself worthy, but because it receives the promise by which God has promised that for Christ's sake He wishes to be propitious to those believing in Him, or because He knows that Christ of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Cor. 1:30.

113] But faith, properly so called, is that which assents to the promise [is when my heart, and the Holy Ghost in the heart, says: The promise of God is true and certain]. Of 114] this faith Scripture speaks. And because it receives the remission of sins, and reconciles us to God, by this faith we are [like Abraham] accounted righteous for Christ's sake before we love and do the works of the Law, although love necessarily follows. 115]Nor, indeed, is this faith an idle knowledge, neither can it coexist with mortal sin, but it is a work of the Holy Ghost, whereby we are freed from death, and terrified minds are encouraged and quickened. 116]

16] This righteousness is offered us by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel and in the Sacraments, and is applied, appropriated, and received through faith, whence believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God sonship, and heirship of eternal life.

The gospel of Universal Objective Justification has embraced the mysticism of the New Age religions by teaching that in some reality God is reconciled to those under the Law while they are not in Christ through the righteousness of Christ: faith.

Lito is correct when he states, "It seems in UOJ nothing cosmic happens to the believer, to them faith does not bring a new creation!"

ELS Pastor David Jay Webber showed this in the following statement he used to defend UOJ:
In Christ, as God looks at the world through Christ, all are under divine mercy and are forgiven, and are therefore invited to believe and be saved. But outside of Christ, as God looks at the world apart from Christ, all are under divine wrath and judgment, and are condemned. The same people - namely all people -are under consideration in each case.
David Jay Webber, 6:40am

Begs the question: Exactly where is this comfort the teachers of this Huberian doctrine say is only found in Objective Justification when due to the teachings of UOJ believers are seen by God as being outside of Christ.

LPC said...


You quote Col 1:23 but you do not take seriously all the words that surround it.

The past tense of reconciliation happens to the believer. He gets the benefit of Jesus' atonement, which is reconciliation.

Here it is even from the ESV.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation7 under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

This is the reason we are not able to move forward in conversation, you ignore the text of Scripture. Instead you insists on following the imagination and rationalization of your own mind.

If you stop for a moment and reflect on the above passage may be you will not be so quick to oppose the idea of faith.


Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

I would like to offer some thoughts here, in general, without intending to refer to Rev. Prange's questions nor, especially, intending to infer anything negative about them, nor without intending to refer to anyone's comments here in particular.

Genuine disputants in a matter of controversy -- if the desired conclusion of the matter is agreement -- must needs eliminate from their concern what the conclusion of the matter actually is. That is to say, genuine disputants in a matter of controversy, who desire unity, do NOT start in their argumentation with their preferred conclusions as the basis of their reasoning. They start with common ground. Objective ground. They do not stand on the uncertain grounds which are in dispute.

I, frankly, don't care what the doctrine is. I only care that it is defensible from the direct positive statements of Scripture. If that means that in the end I call myself a Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Lutheran -- I simply don't care. My reading of Scripture, from long before I was finally confirmed as a confessional Lutheran to the present, has me convinced that the Lutheran confession is the teaching of Scripture. So I happily apply the label "Lutheran" to myself. Although not impossible, it would take a theological/epistemological earthquake to move me from it. But in principle, I really don't care what the label is.

Perhaps this has more to do with my education and training than anything else. Although I am not employed as such, I am trained as a scientist. I studied hard science (Physics) and Mathematics for six years as an undergraduate, and then Mathematics and Education for another 3.5 years at the graduate level. Science is an Inductive epistemological process. According to it, one simply follows the data -- individual instances of evidence -- and is happy with the results the data collectively indicate. Mathematics is a Deductive epistemological process. According to it, one follows the course of logic, which begins from established axioms applied to the questions posed, and then proceeds to an incontestable truth from which he is unmovable (lest he be exposed as one who uses false axioms or fallacious reasoning). I have almost ten years of training and, in my field of expertise, employing both of these epistemological processes. In both processes, the conclusion, whatever it may be, is demonstrably founded, though in the case of Inductive reasoning, it is provisional -- it may change with the discovery of new data. So, those who apply this method are forced to be far more humble in their conclusions.

Scholastic theologians begin in their method with a "total knowledge" of Scripture's teaching and of the categories of human thought. The "System" of theology which they develop is, in the words of Francis Pieper, a compilation of the doctrinal statements of Scripture, grouped under their proper heads and arranged according to the relationship of those doctrines (paraphrase from his Dogmatics, Vol1, pg. 52),". Thus, he says, a Systematic Theology is "nothing else than the Scripture itself arranged according to doctrines" (Ibid., pg. 52). Hence, the method of the scholastic is Deductive with respect to the teachings of Scripture. The doctrines of Scripture are known to him and stand as axiomatic. His challenge is to properly arrange them.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...continued from previous comment.

Exegetical theologians, however, begin in their method with a "total knowledge" of language -- specifically, of the grammar and vocabulary of the biblical texts. They apply the powers of deduction to the axioms of grammar in order to determine what the text says in every instance in which it speaks. This is where their certainty lies. Having collected such instances, having "a body of data" in which they have high confidence, exegetical theologians then proceed by a process of Induction, to conclude what the data collectively indicate, to conclude what the statements of Scripture, taken together, in fact teach. Doctrine, for the exegetical theologian, is the conclusion of the process, NOT the axiom which is consulted at the beginning of the process. Thus, this process itself, forces the exegetical theologian, like the scientist, to be humble about his conclusions. Why? Because the process of Induction does not set out to prove any hypothesis whatsoever, but to DISPROVE a hypothesis. If a given hypothesis cannot be disproven, then he has accomplished nothing. If, however, he can disprove it, then he has eliminated one possible outcome, and he is free to accept an alternate hypothesis. Successive inquiry narrows the field of alternatives. In the case of the scientist who studies nature, any given collection of data is but a sampling of the whole population -- he will never have "all data," so he can expect that his conclusions will always be provisional. But in the case of the exegetical theologian, since the number of complete sentences recorded in the Bible is theoretically finite, since the rules of grammar don't change, and since the grammatical constructions of those sentences don't change, he, at least in theory, has at his disposal the entire population of data before him to investigate. His conclusions will always be far more certain than those of the physical scientist. Often, he can be absolutely certain. Nevertheless, his humility is necessary. If evidence is presented which disproves the conclusions he accepts, he must go back and re-examine his data. Perhaps he failed to consider relevant data? Perhaps there is some systematic error in his method of acquiring that data? If it can be shown that his conclusion must stand disproved, then he must consider an alternative. If he refuses, then he is guilty of obstinacy, and is discredited as a theologian, as surely as the scientist who refuses to admit that his theories are disproven by new data. The true exegetical theologian, just like the true scientist, will be happy to conclude what the data clearly shows.

And this cannot pass without mention: the "Simple Layman Armed with Scripture," is an exegetical theologian who works in his own language. Therefore, (a) it is vital that the layman become fully literate, become as capable in his own language as any exegetical theologian is in the Biblical languages. But more importantly, (b) it is of PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE that the layman -- again, an exegetical theologian who works in his own language, who does so because he is called to the noble task of the Berean, of keeping his overseers accountable to sound doctrine -- MUST BE EQUIPPED WITH A BIBLE IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE THAT IS AS FAITHFUL TO THE SPECIFIC VOCABULARY AND GRAMMATICAL FORMS OF THE ORIGINANL TEXTS AS POSSIBLE! Without such a faithful translation, he can never have any real confidence in the "body of data" he collects over his years of study, nor can he at all conclude with any genuine certainty whether the "body of data" he has compiled collectively teaches the doctrine of the true Scriptures or not. Without literacy, and without a faithful Bible, the-layman-who-would-be-Berean is rendered utterly helpless.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...continued from previous comment.

One can always tell when a scholastically oriented individual enters a discussion over doctrine. He cannot countenance the suggestion that one of his doctrines may be in error -- for him, the doctrines he works with are not the humble conclusions of an Inductive process, but the axioms of a Deductive process, and on these axioms rests the entire System of theology that he has constructed. He has a vested interest in maintaining those doctrines as inviolably true, as he, by naming them "axioms" has already declared them "inviolably true" from the standpoint of his System, and utterly depends on them to remain so lest his entire System fall apart. And so, he enters doctrinal disputes naturally assuming that his axioms are true, that his System is sound, and he argues in a circle within that System to conclude what he already accepted as true before he began, while ridiculing his opponents over the fact that his System is wrecked by their "innovations" and on this basis accusing them of being wrong. And round and round he goes. Over and over again. Defenders of Evolution have this problem. So do many theologians. So do many layman. The "trap questions" they enjoy devising, which only have meaning within their System (the system being challenged), are the very same type as those presented to Socrates by the Sophists, are the same as those presented to Jesus by the Pharisees and Sadducees. They are invented from within a system of thought, to protect that system of thought.

The simple fact is, axioms in any Deductive process of consequence are almost never randomly chosen, but are usually arrived at by some prior Inductive process -- whether formal or informal. Though rather lengthy for a blog comment, Euclid's Axioms (the postulates) are prime examples of this (Note that Euclid provided what he called "definitions," "axioms," and "postulates" -- they all function as, and are regarded as "Axioms" from the standpoint of Deductive process, however. I will focus on the "postulates," since they are most interesting). As commonly stated these days, they read as follows:

1. A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points.
2. Any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a straight line.
3. Given any straight line segment, a circle can be drawn having the segment as radius and one endpoint as center.
4. All right angles are congruent.
5. If two lines are drawn which intersect a third in such a way that the sum of the inner angles on one side is less than two right angles, then the two lines inevitably must intersect each other on that side if extended far enough.

The first four of these postulates, by all human experience (i.e., informal induction) in flat, or "Cartesian," space, are obvious. Even the Fifth, called the “parallel postulate,” seems reasonable if one limits himself to the Cartesian space which humans are familiar with according to their limited abilities to naturally observe spatial dimensions, and motion within them. But axiomatic? Mathematicians began to doubt the axiomatic nature of the Fifth Postulate in the 19th Century, and finally tested those doubts -- Lobachevsky developing a "hyperbolic geometry" in which the lines defined in Euclid's Fifth Postulate never meet (i.e., non-parallel lines which remain equidistant), Riemann developing an "elliptic geometry" in which the lines defined in Euclid's Fifth Postulate meet on both sides (i.e., there are no parallel lines). Interestingly, these non-Euclidean geometries were entirely self-consistent, as were the mathematical systems which descended from them (yes, mathematical systems -- remember, geometry and algebra are the same processes, as proved by Descartes and Fermat in the 17th Century).

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...continued from previous comment.

The problem was, these geometries and mathematical systems were inapplicable to any observed phenomenon, as were the non-commutative algebra systems (i.e., linear algebra) developed by Hamilton and others in that same century, who rejected the commutative property of multiplication. These systems had no application, were regarded only as form and, becoming separated from the world of experience, relegated to the status of "formal hypothetico-deductive study." Until the 20th Century, that is. In the 1920's, as our ability to peer into the sub-atomic world began to develop, the research of Heisenberg (of the famous "Uncertainty Principle") revealed what appeared to him to be non-commutative behaviour of sub-atomic particles. Yet, the tools at his disposal were limited to classical Cartesian mathematics -- he had no way of quantifying the behaviour he observed. Noting this in one of his lectures, a mathematician in attendance informed him, "We've had a mathematical system for almost one hundred years, that models that behaviour precisely." Likewise Einstein, who famously relied on Reimannian Geometry in his ground-breaking Theory of General Relativity (which is now fairly-well established after decades of laboratory observation). All of these New Systems of geometry and mathematics, developed by first being willing to identify false or inadequate axioms which had previously been agreed to by a concurrence of what turned out to be insufficient Inductive methodology, have today found wide application in modern sub-atomic physics and mathematics (in fact, the realization that pure reason is reflected in nature has, as I understand it, led to a resurgence of Platonic thinking among theoretical physicists -- an exciting thing, really, compared to the Materialistic Rationalism of last century, and the ascetic Epicureanism that is on the rise among hardened Evolutionists today).

Anyway, there are two points I'm trying to make in all of this. The first point is, without the Inductive process of Exegetical theology which concludes what the Scriptures teach, the axioms of Systematic theology simply don't exist. The over-confident scholastic warriors who ride in on the mighty steed of their System really have no place in a discussion of what the Scriptures directly teach. The second point is, humility in the process is required not just because Jesus and the Apostles said that we ought to be humble or that we ought to be "brotherly" in our conduct (i.e., not just in submission to Law), it is necessary because of the inherent weaknesses of the Inductive process itself. The legitimate participant simply must be one who is willing, in all objectivity, to genuinely re-examine "the data" and follow it to its conclusion.

My Opinion.

LPC said...

I have only one thing to add in all of the posts which is very enlightening specially on the aspect of Platonism ...
except mathematicians have no proof that even arithmetic (which is fundamental to all of the mathematical theories) is consistent. So even mathematicians are operating on faith.

What does it say of physics which uses maths?


Anonymous said...

Faith. It's such a complex thing when we make it to be.

Faith, even as small as a mustard seed saves because it trusts in God's promises.

Someone explained faith as an analogy once (though this will never completely explain it and as analogies go, will fall short) as a water pipeline to your house.

You trust that when you turn on the water, water will be. Yet you did not carry the water there.
Water like God's blessings are there so faith trusts God's promises to be there.

Faith trusts in God, his word, his promises.

It's comfort, because we have no need to trust in men who fail.

It's hope for us that God will continue to carry out those promises.

It's assurance for us that when God tells us that believers will be saved that includes me-a believer.

Faith, such a simple thing as faith can be made complex.

Donald T.

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