Monday, November 29, 2010

Salvation: Justification, Sanctification, or Both?

“At the heart of the debate is whether or not all the promises of security (listed above) are conditional---that is, conditioned on the believer continuing in the faith. Colossians 1:23 is often used in connection with this: ‘IF YOU CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.’...First, THE ‘CONTINUING IN THE FAITH’ IS NOT FOR SALVATION (JUSTIFICATION), WHICH IS INSTANTANEOUS, BUT FOR SANCTIFICATION, which is a continual process until death” (Norman Geisler, “Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will,” Third Edition. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2010, page 323).
I realize that the title of this post may raise a few some sense, the title may make some shrink back from reading what I have to say. Usually, when I write on subjects like the one above, I have a set agenda for doing so. I tell no lies---I always have an agenda when I write on something (even if that agenda is never made clear in the post itself). And that might make some uncomfortable with this post.
Well...for those of you who are fearless when it comes to theology and love the debates (as I do), thank you for not turning away. I will now proceed.
Today’s post will tackle Dr. Norman Geisler’s quote above from the newest edition of his “Chosen But Free.” For those who are looking for an inexpensive book, this is it. I only paid $16 for the book at LifeWay; buying the book reminded me of Udo Middleman’s “The Innocence of God,” which I also highly recommend. Middleman’s book is all about the troubles with Calvinism. That is a book that I will have to blog about sometime in the new year.
Geisler refers to Colossians 1:23 as “not for salvation...but sanctification...” This is a puzzling statement indeed. Let’s analyze Geisler’s remarks about salvation.
From first glance at his words, we see that sanctification has nothing to do with salvation. And this statement is terribly flawed; what about verses of Scripture such as 2 Thessalonians 2:13?
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because GOD from the beginning CHOSE YOU FOR SALVATION through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13, NKJV).
Salvation does not come apart from sanctification; rather, sanctification, like justification by faith, is a part of the salvation process. It is “for salvation”, “through sanctification...and belief”, that we enter eternal life. The goal of both justification and sanctification is salvation itself.
Next, what about Paul’s words at the end of his life? As he wrote one of his final letters to Timothy, he wrote about continuance in the faith:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day...” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
In Paul’s final evaluation of his life in Christ, he mentions that he has “fought the good fight” and “kept the faith.” If continuance in the faith bears no importance at all, why would Paul write that “I” (referring to himself) “kept the faith”? It seems that keeping the faith and finishing the race go hand-in-hand in Paul’s theology. In Dr. Geisler’s attempt to be true to his own personal beliefs, he has overlooked Paul’s own words about his own life.
Sanctification cannot be separated from salvation itself. There are numerous verses of Scripture that argue against Dr. Geisler’s view. One such verse is Hebrews 12:14 which says “Pursue peace...and HOLINESS, WITHOUT WHICH NO ONE WILL SEE THE LORD” (Heb. 12:14). If one cannot see the Lord without the pursuit of holiness, then one cannot see the Lord without actively pursuing sanctification in the Christian life. This makes sense when one considers that issues such as the man sleeping with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5) was an issue of sanctification that could rupture the man’s salvation. This is why Paul told the church, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that HIS SPIRIT MAY BE SAVED IN THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS” (1 Cor. 5:5). Paul’s biggest concern for the man was not his physical body, but his soul and its eternal destination. “The day of the Lord Jesus” tells us that Paul’s concern was eschatological in nature (the end judgment).
Another such passage that discusses holiness is 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul discusses the importance of sanctification at length (vv. 1-8). In verse 3, Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, YOUR SANCTIFICATION.” God desires that we be sanctified, just as He desires that we be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). In verse 7, Paul tells the Thessalonians that “God did not call us to uncleanness, BUT IN HOLINESS.” God called us to live a life that is “sanctified,” or “set apart,” for His service...and this should be evident in our daily walk with the Lord.
In verse 8 of 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul writes, “Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, has also given us His Holy Spirit.” The issue of sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 4 is abstinence from sexual immorality (vv.3-4); however, the point emphasized is holiness--- that is, that holiness is crucial to life in Christ, that one cannot be saved without sanctification. And to reject sanctification is to reject the Spirit (since according to 2 Thess. 2:13 sanctification occurs by the Spirit). Ultimately, more than rejection of the Spirit is rejection of God the Father Himself. It is a “slap in the face” to God for someone to reject God’s work in his or her life. One cannot desire to be saved and yet still choose to live like the world. As Paul writes in Romans 6,
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so WE ALSO SHOULD WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE” (Rom. 6:4, NKJV).
The purpose of our symbolic burial and resurrection (via baptism) is so that, rising from the baptismal waters, we would commit ourselves to living out the profession we made when we went down into the water--- that we will no longer live our lives for ourselves, but for God and His glory alone.
The father of the Remonstrants, James Arminius, had the following to say about justification and sanctification:
“The spiritual benefits which believers enjoy in the present life, from their union with Christ through communion with his death and life, may be properly referred to that of Justification, and of Sanctification, AS IN THOSE TWO IS COMPREHENDED THE WHOLE PROMISE OF THE NEW COVENANT, in which God promises that He will pardon sins, and will write his laws in the hearts of believers, who have entered into covenant with him” (James Arminius, “Works” II: 406; references Jer. 31:31-34).
According to Arminius, both are a result of “union with Christ” (salvation), and both comprise the whole of the New Covenant made in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.
Back to the question: is salvation just 1) justification? 2) sanctification? Or 3) both? The answer is “both.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 provides both as processes leading to salvation. So the next time you see someone write something that separates sanctification from salvation or say something to that effect, please refer them to the Scriptures.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Faith and Reason: Spock In "Star Trek, The Future Begins"

This past Tuesday I decided to have a “pre-Thanksgiving” get-together with friends. I live next door to a couple that I’ve adopted as my brother and sister-in-law. That’s right: they have become family in such a way that I feel as if I’ve been part of their lives (and they part of mine) for the last twenty-six years. It’s pretty weird when you consider that my adopted brother is 31 and his wife’s 25...
In any case, we spent the evening eating some Sonic food (which is always good) and watching the new Star Trek film, “Star Trek: The Future Begins.” Chris Pine plays the young James Tiberius Kirk, the son of the “late” James Kirk who died above the starship during a Romulan attack while his wife gave birth to their son. According to the movie, the last words the father James said to his wife were, “What are we gonna name him?” Her response? “We’ll name him Jim after your father.” Years go by, and all of a sudden, the viewer is taken to a young boy driving a crazy car on the highway. He is stopped by an authority and asked his name. “James Tiberius Kirk,” the boy proudly responds. It is this James Kirk Jr. that grows up and becomes all and more his father could’ve ever wanted him to be.
But the focus of the movie seemed to use James Kirk’s existence (and the death of his father) as a second source of action. The main character seemed to be Spock, who is both Vulcan and human. According to the movie, even when Spock was a child, there were moments when he would fight with other boys, angry over the things they said about him and his father (whom they called a traitor). Spock’s father revealed to him that because he is both Vulcan and human he would have to learn how to tailor his emotions. Over time he went on to achieve more as a child of the ship than anyone ever dreamed. His problem was that he was completely rational to the point where he could easily shut out all emotion. With Spock, the viewer sees the atheistic view of “Non-Overlapping Magisterium” (NOMA), in which faith and reason are two completely distinct concepts. In other words, faith goes to the left, reason to the right; faith is “just a blind leap into the dark” while reason is “based on empirical analysis and scientific observation.” This is why Spock’s personality is so rational without emotion.

The only trace of emotion that is seen in Spock occurs when he attempts to get his mother off planet earth (the planet attacked by the Romulans) and his mother gets killed and the planet dissolves in a black hole. Then and only then does Spock express anger over his mother’s death. While in secret quarters with his father, Spock tells him, “I am angry about what happened to mother, I am angry at those who killed mother.” It is at this moment that Spock seems most “human.”
While Spock is dealing with his emotions, James Kirk is thrown off of the ship into a future world where he meets an older version of Spock (the Spock of the future). The older Spock tells Jim (James) that the younger Spock is vulnerable because of his mother’s death; Jim’s goal would be to cause Spock to show his emotions before all, which would disqualify him from serving as captain. James returns to the ship and provokes Spock to anger such that Spock attempts to strangle James Kirk. Once he realizes he has “compromised” his role as captain, he surrenders his post and retreats to his quarters.

The end of the movie finds Spock debating whether or not to stay with Starfleet. As the older Spock departs, he tells James to tell Spock to stay; “for once,” the elder Spock says, “tell him don’t trust his logic, just have faith.” Here we see that to be logical (at least in the minds of the movie producers) goes against faith (belief).
Why such a division between faith and reason? The presupposition of faith and reason divided is a component of contemporary culture and its existentialist theology. William Lane Craig writes the following about Rudolph Bultmann, a proponent of existentialist theology:
“Bultmann construes faith in epistemological categories, opposing it to knowledge based on proof. In the existentialist tradition, he considers it ESSENTIAL TO FAITH THAT IT INVOLVES RISK AND UNCERTAINTY. THEREFORE, RATIONAL EVIDENCE IS NOT ONLY IRRELEVANT, BUT ACTUALLY CONTRARY TO FAITH. Faith, in order to be faith, must exist in an evidential vacuum. For this reason Bultmann denies any significance for the Christian message to the historical Jesus, apart from his bare existence. Bultmann recognizes that Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 does ‘think that he can guarantee the resurrection of Christ as an objective fact by listing the witnesses who has seen him risen.’ But he characterizes such historical argumentation as ‘fatal’ because it tries to produce proof for the Christian proclamation. Should an attempt at proof succeed, this would mean the destruction of faith. Only a decision to believe wholly apart from evidence will bring one into contact with the existential significance of the gospel” (William Lane Craig, “Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, Third Edition.” Wheaton: Crossway, 2008, page 37).
To have evidence for Christianity, then, according to Bultmann, would be to possess evidence “contrary to faith.” How can support for faith be contrary to faith? In Bultmann’s view, the answer is found in the fact that faith needs no reasons at all for belief. Faith involves belief, and only belief.
But is this the view of the Scriptures? Do the Scriptures tell us to have blind faith and believe irregardless of the evidence? Not at all. If Bultmann is right, why does John the Beloved disciple write his Gospel containing the words
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31, NKJV)?
Notice in Craig’s quote above that Bultmann seems to agree with Paul’s intentions regarding his apologetic in 1 Corinthians 15. But why, then, does Bultmann go on to disagree with Paul? The answer is found in the fact that for Bultmann, existentialist philosophy (i.e., truth is subjective) means that there is no inherent truth in anything! With regards to Christ, the truth of Christianity hinges not on whether or not Christ really did rise from the dead (i.e., the death and resurrection’s historical veracity); rather, what makes it true is IF YOU BELIEVE IT TO BE TRUE. “That which a person believes to be true in their heart, so it is,” Bultmann would say. The problem with this however, is that, if I believe in anything, it can be true merely because I believe in it! For example, if I believe that I own someone else’s car, I own it (because, in this system, I believe in it). But if there is truth, then truth is liveable; and somehow, when I go to steal that person’s car, I will find myself arrested behind bars; while I own someone else’s car (in my mind), I do not own that person’s car in reality. And in society, to take something that does not belong to you is stealing and is subject to local, state, and federal punishments.
If truth is based on faith and emotion, then what’s true to me may not be true to you...and what’s true to you may not be true to me. Is there not objective truth in the world, such as laws against rape and murder, stealing, etc.? If there is objective truth, then certain principles must be established as truth on the basis of something OUTSIDE of the human self (which means that emotions as the ground of truth are disqualified).
Even Star Trek has a bit of an existentialist feel to it. But for most, Star Trek is just a great motion picture with great cinematic effects. I think the cast is phenomenal and the graphics are great in the movie; however, I think the movie is also portraying a “faith vs. reason” agenda...and I think that when the cinematic effects are pushed aside, one will find existentialist philosophy at the heart of the new motion picture.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Irrational Multiverse, Pt. II: Why Molinism's "Possible Worlds" Assumption Is a Spin-Off of the Multiverse Theory

A few days ago, I wrote up an analysis on “The One,” a movie starring Jet Li and Jason Statham that entertains the idea of the multiverse: that is, that there is not just “one world,” but many. In case you don’t believe me, I’ll reprint the opening words of the movie itself:
“There is not one universe; there are many. A multiverse. We have the technology to travel between universes, but travel is highly restricted and policed. There is not one ‘you,’ but ‘many.’ Each of us exists in present time in parallel universes.”
The multiverse theory, then, gives us a few propositions: (1) there are many universes (hence “multi” verse); (2) there are many versions of each individual in these “many” worlds; (3) each world is happening all at the same time. The last proposition, that time is passing in all worlds at the same rate is what I deem to be the scariest part of it all. Somewhere in another universe (according to this theory), you and I are living in other lives, distinct from the actual life of the here and now. This is why in “The One,” Jet Li (playing Hiu Law in one of the universes) is a prisoner in an orange suit in a prison cell, whereas, in another universe, Law is a member of the multiverse authority. To use an example in our present world, a professor (in this world) could be a student in another world.
Well, what do I have against the multiverse theory? To be honest, I simply don’t have reasons to logically believe it to be true. Call me an “enemy of the state” like Hiu Law was, but I just think that the multiverse theory is “irrational” (to use Hiu Law’s term). It doesn’t make sense to argue for many worlds when one world is all that can be seen and scientifically empirified. Does not the Bible teach us that God’s invisible attributes have been revealed in the things that He has made (Romans 1:20)? If this is true, then why is it that science has not discovered these “many universes”? Why is it, that with all our technological advancements (even exploring conditions on mars and traveling to the moon), we still have failed to find “other worlds”?
I think that the multiverse theory itself is another part of the evolutionist agenda to find life on other planets. Surprisingly, Australian mathematician Michael Denton opened my eyes to the scientific mentality in looking for other life on other planets. In his book “Evolution: A Theory In Crisis” (1986), he devotes an entire chapter to the subject of other life, titled “The Enigma of Life’s Origin.” Within this chapter Denton provides some startling quotes that I think reveal what the “multiverse” theory is all about:
“...the discovery of life on one other planet—--e.g. Mars---- can, in the words of the American physicist Phillip Morrison of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ‘transform the origin of life from a miracle to a statistic” (Carl Sagan, “Intelligent Life In the Universe”; quoted by Michael Denton, “Evolution: A Theory In Crisis.” Chevy Chase, MD: Adler & Adler Publishers, 1986, page 252).
Denton refers to this as “the possibility of life on other worlds”---which I think aptly describes the need to find aliens or some other form of life on other planets.
Not only have evolutionists looked for life on Mars, to which they found none, but they have also looked for “intelligent signals” in the sky. One such case was “Project OZMA,” performed at the National Radio Astronomy observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. Two hundred hours were spent looking in a dead sky for signs that would never come (Denton, 253). In addition, there were the spacecraft explorations, such as Mariner II and IV; one of the most important spacecraft explorations was the Viking mission. Denton tells us about the significance of the mission:
“At issue was the fundamental question as to whether life is unique to Earth. SCIENCE CAN ONLY DEAL WITH REPEATABLE OR RECURRENT EVENTS. A UNIQUE OR VERY IMPROBABLE EVENT CAN NEVER BE THE SUBJECT OF SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION. If life is unique to Earth then this means that it has only arisen once in all cosmic history, which would essentially exclude any sort of scientific approach to the problem of its origin. Before the study of the origin of life can be put on a serious scientific footing, the possibility that life is unique to Earth has to be excluded” (Denton, 255).
If life can be found on other planets, then it would be a “repeated” experience that could be subject to purely naturalistic explanation. The fact that life hasn’t been found elsewhere leaves us with only one answer: that life is unique to earth. If there is uniqueness to human existence and the planet itself (according to the “fine-tuning” theory), then our planet is tangible evidence of intelligent design (which is completely antithetical to the evolutionary theory).
Christians could easily say, “I don’t believe in other worlds or life on other planets”; however, what about “possible worlds”? If other worlds are not “actual,” could they be “possible”? Now before I go any further, let me say that the possible-worlds theory differs from the multiverse theory--- multiverse theory says that the worlds are “actual,” while possible-worlds theory says that they are “hypothetical.” But what is the dividing line between the two views? One says that other worlds do exist, while the other says that they “could” exist. Both agree that the theory is possible--- that there “could” be other worlds out there.
Sadly enough, possible-worlds theory seems in many ways to be a “Christian multiverse” theory. The Christian recognizes that there is one God and hence one world...but will not go so far as to say that “only” one world exists or could exist. I will affirm that God could have (so He desired) created many worlds; however, the current universe we have exists in the state it does to reflect the Creator (God). Think about it: there are three persons in the Trinity but one God; there are many creations but one Creator; there are many ethnicities but one human race; many nations but one world, etc. The fact that all of life consists of “diversity within unity” testifies to the “diversity within unity” theme that we find in existence within the Triune Godhead--- “diversity (three persons) within unity (one Lord).” God made all of creation to reflect Himself, so this should be no surprise to His children.
It is because of the reason above (the universe reflects the oneness of God) that multiverses (or possible worlds) do not exist. If we apply this within Molinism, possible worlds does not just involve the notion of other also involves the idea of libertarian freedom--- that is, I chose to do one action but I also had the choice to do other actions. For example, when I registered for classes for Spring 2011, I registered for certain classes based on graduation requirements; but in the possible-worlds theory of Molinism, I also had the choice to register for other classes that I did not register for in reality. Were those classes still available? Yes, even though I may never have registered for them. They were still options I could choose from.
When one gets to the subject of possible choices within the possible-worlds theory, the discussion becomes even more entangled. I have revealed in this post that I think “possible-worlds” comes rather close to “multiverse.” However, there is a Christian brand of “multiverse,” which I label “possible worlds.” In my next post, I will deal with my rejection of “possible worlds” in concept and terminology. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Irrational Multiverse: Philosophy In "The One"

“This butterfly-effect notion of many worlds is also apparent in ‘The One,’ where characters interact with 124 different parallel universes...” (Brian Godawa, “Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment, Second Edition.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009)
Recently I watched the movie “The One,” starring Jet-Li and Jason Statham. The movie itself is all about, as Godawa notes in the quote above, “many worlds.” Specifically, within the movie, there are 124 worlds, to be exact.
The opening scene of the movie gives away pertinent information that one needs to know while viewing the rest of the movie:
“There is not one universe; there are many. A multiverse. We have the technology to travel between universes; but travel is highly restricted and policed. THERE IS NOT ONE ‘YOU,’ BUT ‘MANY.’ EACH OF US EXISTS IN PRESENT TIME, IN PARALLEL UNIVERSES. There was balance in the system, but now a force exists who seek to destroy the balance so that he can become ‘The One.’”
In the movie “The One,” there is a “multiverse,” which simply means “many worlds.” When it is written that “each of us exists in present time in parallel universes,” this means that all of the worlds are in existence running at the same time, marking each passing moment. Because there are many worlds, the movie assumes that each individual exists in every world created. If there are many worlds, then there are many “YOUs”.
The rest of the quote above tells us about the plot of the movie itself: there is a person who desires to combine “himself” in all worlds into one person. He desires to be not just one person in each world, but to unite the “divided” persons and make them one whole self. This is why the movie is called “The One”: because the main character of the script desires to make himself into “the one” person (the only person who is whole in one world).
The multiverse theory seems to be the assumption of the movie---there is a “multiverse authority” that exists to deal with “multiverse” crimes. In addition, the multiverse authority accuses Hiu Law of killing 123 versions of himself. They list the “selves” that have been killed on the screen:
“Victim 117 of 123 (Ufouk Law; Monoseris Universe); “Victim 118 of 123 (Sven Law); Victim 119 of 123 (Ni Dilaw of Canopus Universe); Victim 120 of 123 (Hia Jilaw of Serpens Universe); Victim 121 of 123 (Seth Law of Procyon Universe); Victim 122 of 123 (Ferun Law of Shaolin Universe); Victim 123 of 123 (Law Less of Anubis Universe).”
Notice that the victims all had a similar last name: “LAW, Law, diLAW, jiLAW, Law, Law, LAW less.” In addition, the screen also revealed the differing appearances of Hiu Law: Sven (Victim 118) had blond hair, while Victim 119 (Dilaw) had short, dark hair; Victim 120 (Jilaw) had long, dark sideburns in his photo; Seth Law had long hair, etc. There was something in the appearances that was altered, while keeping the same face and “similar” names. The only thing that changed in the photos was the hair.
But the movie also seems to point out that the multiverse theory is irrational and mere speculation. As Hiu Law stands condemned for killing the “multiselves” (123 versions of himself in many worlds), he gives a speech that attempts to evaluate the multiverse theory and provide sympathy for the criminal:

“The multiverse, every universe in it, is IRRATIONAL, SLOPPY. I just tried to make it call it “murder”; how could I murder myself 123 times? I just took those wasted energies and put them into one container--- me.”
Hiu Law then went on to say that everyone desires “to unite with our other selves, to be unified forever, to be one. I will be ‘the one’.”

Hiu Law claims that the multiverse theory is “irrational” and “sloppy,” which shows his disdain for it. Since humanity desires to be unified, to be “one,” Hiu Law takes the desires of humanity upon himself. What we find in the movie is that the multiverse theory (a scientific theory) becomes the reality of the film, and Hiu Law (by arguing for a “uni” verse, one world) is attempting to violate the multiverse authority and its laws. Those who argue the multiverse are those who “presume” it exists, and those who agree with Law are skeptics who simply want to have more and more power (which grows their desire to unify the many worlds into one). In other words, those of us who believe that the multiverse theory is unproven are just “enemies of the state” who insist on proving that multiverses do not exist. In the end, Law can only kill 123 of his own “selves”; he stops short of killing self #124 because he is caught and confined to the “Stygian Penal Colony of Hades Universe.” There, Law must fight for the rest of eternity against those who seek to harm him...while the one “self” of Law’s that remains alive is allowed to go on and live his life. In the end, Law is stopped short of his desire to unite the “selves” into “The One,” all because to destroy all the other “selves” would offset the balance of parallel universes. As the opening scene stated, “There was a balance in the system, but now a force exists who SEEKS TO DESTROY THE BALANCE...” Hiu Law is the force that seeks to destroy the balance of the multiverse. To destroy one, however, is to destroy them all (leaving us with no world whatsoever). Jason Statham (actor) says to “Gabe” (Hiu Law’s “good” self in another world), “If we kill him, there’s a chance some say this whole universe could go with him” (01:01:59).
Why bring up a movie like “The One” at the Center for “Theological” Studies? I discuss this movie because it is my conviction that the multiverse theory is the parent philosophy of Molinism’s “possible worlds” postulate. What brings me to this conviction? I’ll reveal my reasons in my next post. For now, I suggest you watch the movie and enjoy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Resolving the Tension, Pt. I: Tension As A Philosophical Presupposition

“Against this background, PAUL APPEALS TO TIMOTHY TO HOLD FAST TO THE FAITH, IN THE SENSE OF PROCLAIMING AND TRANSMITTING IT FAITHFULLY, and especially of standing up to the corrupting influences within the church. AT THE SAME TIME, HE CAN BE TOLD TO ‘BE STRONG IN THE GRACE THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS’ (2:1). THERE IS AN IRREDUCIBLE TENSION BETWEEN THE APPEALS TO HUMAN FAITHFULNESS AND THE PROMISES OF DIVINE EMPOWERMENT...there is a further appeal to the pattern of Paul in his suffering and commitment, so that God’s people may attain to salvation without falling away...those who are prepared to suffer with Christ will share in his resurrection and reign. This trustworthy statement also warns against the consequences of falling away and again insists that even if some of God’s people are faithless, he will continue faithfully to uphold them, since that is his very nature (2:11-13). Further reassurance is provided by the fact that, despite the activity of false teachers, the church has a firm foundation laid by God Himself. HERE AGAIN THE TENSION RECURS. GOD KNOWS HIS PEOPLE AND (IT IS IMPLIED) WATCHES OVER THEM; AT THE SAME TIME IT IS THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO TURN ASIDE FROM WICKEDNESS. Even if people do turn aside, nevertheless, the opportunity for repentance and escape from the shackles imposed by the devil remains, and the faithful pastor will continue to persuade them to repent” (I. Howard Marshall, “2 Timothy,” from “Theological Interpretation of the New Testament” by Kevin Vanhoozer, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009, pages 171-172). 
Starting today I am gonna tackle a subject here at the Center for Theological Studies that is very near and dear to my heart: that is, the philosophical presupposition of “tension.” I have noticed this word (“tension”) is used in many theological-academic works today. As you all just read above, Arminian Greek scholar I. Howard Marshall holds to “an irreducible tension”--- one that can never be resolved; D.A. Carson calls the seeming conflict between divine preservation and human perseverance “a Gordian knot” that he claims can never be done away with (see D.A. Carson, “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension”). Thomas R. Schreiner of Southern Seminary believes the same. He writes in his “The Race Set Before Us” regarding election:
“Election is not conditioned upon perseverance, nor does election nullify the necessity of perseverance. Rather, Jesus fully intends for us to understand that God, who elected his own for salvation, secures them from apostasy and preserves them through afflictions by use of warnings that caution watchfulness, wariness and vigilant steadfastness” (Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday, “The Race Set Before Us: A Theology of Perseverance and Assurance.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 159).
The problem with Schreiner’s thought here is that he seems to entertain the idea of the necessity of perseverance, but forgets that perseverance is necessary only if it is a condition that one must meet in order to receive final salvation. What about Paul’s words to the Thessalonians when he wrote that “God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV)? Those who are elected to final salvation must believe on the Son of God and persevere with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Both portions are necessary. God chose the Thessalonians “through” faith and sanctification. These are the conditions by which one’s election is secured. It is the same thing as saying that “by grace through faith you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8a). How does salvation come? On the conditions of “grace” (unmerited favor) and “faith” (in the merit of Christ’s atonement and resurrection). Both of these conditions are necessary in order for one to be saved. Without grace we could not be saved; and without faith we could not be saved. Both are required for initial salvation. This same thought can be applied to the issue of election for final salvation. Schreiner creates the idea of tension here (that election is unconditional but perseverance is necessary), but what this does is create a contradiction (how can one be elect without condition but must meet a condition to be saved?). If the elect are “unconditionally” elect then nothing (not even perseverance) is necessary. This poses problems for Schreiner’s view.
In this series to come, I intend to tackle the philosophical presupposition of tension in the Scriptures. For this post I will first tackle I. Howard Marshall’s passage of 2 Timothy 2; the other passages I desire to address will be analyzed in posts to come.
When Paul tells Timothy “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1), this does not conflict with Paul’s words in verse 13. Let’s start with verse 1. To be strong in grace means to have confidence in the grace of our Lord and Savior. This means to have confidence in God and trust Him that He will provide the strength to withstand the persecution that Timothy is facing in the church at Ephesus. This is why Paul goes on to say, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:2, NKJV). Timothy needs to be strong in the grace of Christ because of the hardships he must face on a daily basis. If we must have grace in order to serve God in an acceptable fashion (Heb. 12:28), then we cannot serve God acceptably without grace. Timothy must have confidence in the grace of God because without God’s grace he cannot have any confidence in himself to endure as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3).
When we get to 2 Timothy 2:11-13 however, the question becomes “Do we, like Marshall, see a tension in the words of vv.11-13 and verse 1”? This is all based on what we think verses 11-13 say (for one cannot have tension if both verse 1 and 11-13 are saying the same thing or emphasizing different portions of the same thought). Verse 11 says that on the condition one “dies with Him,” meaning that we experience suffering as He did, we will live with Him (Romans 8:16-17). Verse 12 says that the condition of endurance is necessary if we are to reign with Him. Jesus endured His cross (Hebrews 12:2-3) and if we are to follow Christ we must endure our own crosses (Luke 9:23-24). Not only must we endure, but we must not deny Christ---or He will deny us in return. Jesus also says this same thing in Luke 9:26 and Luke 12:9 as well as Matthew 10:33. One will not be accepted by Christ who denies Him as Lord, Savior, and the Son of God (“Immanuel,” our “God With Us”). Verse 13 therefore, must affirm what verses 11 and 12 have affirmed: that is that suffering, endurance, and to not reject Christ are all required of the one who desires to be with Christ forever. When we get to verse 13 we find that the verse is not saying “no matter what you do God will preserve you until the end.” Rather, what Paul is doing is contrasting mankind with Christ in terms of character. Mankind can change from one day to the next---he can be loyal today, disloyal tomorrow, a friend one day, and an enemy the next. God, in contrast, is not like man; HE NEVER CHANGES! As Paul states in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” His character is the same and we can always trust His Word. When He tells us that He will reward the one who endures to the end and deny the one that denies Him, we can be sure that God will do these things. No one has to “second-guess” the actions of God because in His justice, He will reward those who do what is right and punish those who do wickedness (Rom. 2:6-11).
Last but not least, when doing sound biblical theology we must always ask ourselves “How does this passage fit in with the rest of the passages of Scripture that are clear to understand?” If we compared 2 Timothy 2:11-13 with the rest of Scripture, 2 Timothy 2:13 cannot be saying what Marshall says it does; for, if it does, how do we place it side-by-side with passages like Hebrews 10:35-39? The Lord states in verse 38 that “if anyone draws back” from his faith “My soul has no pleasure in him.” What do we do with these words, if Marshall’s view of Scripture is correct? To be brief, we can’t do anything; rather, we have to wonder if God will punish individuals who give up their faith...and what does this do for the believer who is wavering in his or her faith? How does Scripture serve as a firm warning to encourage the believer to grow in their faith, if we can’t decide whether God will eternally condemn those who fall away?
The philosophical presupposition of tension sounds pious and humble on paper; but for all the humility and meekness it provides, it cannot be lived out. And one of the characteristics of truth is “liveability”--- that is, theory can be put into practice. The idea of tension is all theory with no practice. How then can we label tension as truth?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"A Cooperative Union"

Today, my theology class studied 2 Timothy. The professor recommended that we take time to read through it at least once a year from here on out. In his words, it would “aid you greatly in your ministry.”
The most interesting thing about his read of 2 Timothy was his commentary on 2 Timothy 1:12-14. I’ll place the text here:
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:12-14, NKJV).
For many, these verses have been used to argue for eternal security. Molinist author Ken Keathley writes:
“Paul gives the two aspects of assurance of salvation when he states, ‘For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day’ (2 Tim 1:12 KJV). The apostle affirms that (1) A PERSON CAN KNOW WITH CERTAINTY THAT HE IS PRESENTLY SAVED (‘For I know whom I have believed’), and that (2) HE CAN KNOW WITH CERTAINTY HE WILL REMAIN SAVED (‘and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day’)” (Ken Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, page 165).
It is not the first fact Keathley quotes regarding Paul’s affirmation that I disagree with; rather, it is the second fact he deduces from Paul’s statement. Now before I go further, let me state that I too, as did Arminius, affirm that a person can have assurance of their salvation, that someone can know they are saved. Regarding assurance of salvation, Arminius himself had this to say:
“With regard to the certainty [or assurance] of salvation, my opinion is, that it is possible for him who believes in Jesus Christ to be certain and persuaded, and, IF HIS HEART CONDEMN HIM NOT, HE IS NOW IN REALITY ASSURED, that he is a Son of God, and stands in the grace of Jesus Christ. SUCH A CERTAINTY IS WROUGHT IN THE MIND, AS WELL BY THE ACTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT INWARDLY ACTUATING THE BELIEVER AND BY THE FRUITS OF FAITH,---AS FROM HIS OWN CONSCIENCE, AND THE TESTIMONY OF GOD’S SPIRIT WITNESSING TOGETHER WITH HIS CONSCIENCE. I also believe, that it is possible for such a person, with an assured confidence in the grace of God and his mercy in Christ, to depart out of this life, and to appear before the throne of grace, without any anxious fear or dread...” (James Arminius in his “Declaration of Sentiments,” from “Works” I: 667).
Yet and still, the same Arminius that affirmed such a strong assurance of salvation also wrote the following after the above statement:
“...and yet this person should constantly pray, ‘O LORD, ENTER NOT INTO JUDGMENT WITH THY SERVANT!” (Arminius, “Works” I: 667).
The first portion of Arminius’s quote above shows what factors (for Arminius) combined to produce a certainty of one’s salvation: (1) one’s heart does not condemn the individual; (2) the conscience is certain of one’s salvation before God; (3) the Holy Spirit testifying with the conscience of the individual; and (4) the fruits of faith. It is the last one of the four (the fruits of faith) which is where Calvinists, Molinists, and Arminians find common ground. We all believe that fruits are necessary for one to have any assurance of salvation whatsoever. However, I’ve not seen a Calvinist or Molinist write regarding the individual conscience and heart like Arminius did. Calvin and Luther had things to say about the heart and mind toward God, but few Calvinists and Molinists do today.
Back to the point of the Arminius quote regarding assurance of salvation: one can be assured of his salvation, but not one-hundred percent guaranteed. In other words, “assurance” and “guarantee” are two different things in Arminius’s theology. And I agree with him. The Bible speaks plainly of assurance...but never do we ever find the word “guarantee” used in the Scriptures. Those translations that attempt to substitute the word “guarantee” for the Greek word “arrabon” do a great injustice to the biblical text. The word “arrabon” means “down payment” in Ephesians 1:14. The New King James Version is guilty of this, as are other translations out there. If you know of any, feel free to comment on them in the comments section. That would help me further my theological studies.
Molinists use 2 Timothy 1:12 as a way of arguing a “guarantee.” In Keathley’s quote, however, he substitutes the word “certainty” for “guarantee.” How can I know this? Look at the second fact he believes Paul affirms: “he can know with certainty HE WILL REMAIN SAVED” (Keathley, 165). How can one know this? Because, to Molinists and Calvinists, God “unconditionally elects” individuals to salvation. In other words, one can know they will remain saved because God picked them; God is the one who decided they would go to heaven against everything their actions say to God. All that matters is that God decreed their election. They are guaranteed final salvation because of the eternal decree. But once again, I ask, how can we know of an eternal decree when the Bible never speaks of such a decree? Eventually, it becomes clear that many believers advocate eternal security because of philosophical notions about God which may or may not be true. But I would love to see them admit their philosophical notions and stop planting them onto Scripture.
In any case, I was pleased to hear that my professor espoused an awesome interpretation of 2 Timothy 1:12 in class today. My professor read verses 12-14 and then responded in the following manner:
“Notice that prior to it [verse 14] Paul expresses confidence in God regarding ‘guarding’ or ‘keeping’ that which Paul committed to Him. There are several places in the New Testament where GOD AND MAN WORK TOGETHER IN A COOPERATIVE UNION. It’s not an ‘either’ man ‘or’ God situation. It’s not either man working or God zapping us. It’s God keeping what we give to Him, and us keeping what He has entrusted to us. He gives, we keep; we give, He keeps.”
These words were like music to my ears because they are the words of Classic Arminian theology. We hold to the same notion of both God and man working in salvation: that is, that God purchases our salvation but we must receive it by faith. Arminius goes on to comment on this cooperative union of God and man in his Disputation XLII:
“The Antecedent or Inly-moving Cause is, the grace, mercy and philanthropy of God, by which He is inclined to succour the misery of sinful man and to bestow blessedness upon him. But the Disposing Cause is, the wisdom and the justice of God, by which it is proper for this vocation to be administered, and by which He wills to dispense it as it is proper and right” (Disputation XLII, Sec. III, “On the Vocation of Sinful Men to Christ, and To A Participation of Salvation In Him,” “Works” II: 396).
God is the first cause of salvation. It is because God desires to save us from our sins and eternal damnation that He bestow His kindness upon us through grace. Grace itself is a condition, without which, no one could come to faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
However, there is a second cause, which is the acceptance or rejection of such grace via the sinner:
“The accidental [per accidens] issue of vocation is, the rejection of the doctrine of grace, contempt of the divine counsel, and resistance manifested against the Holy Spirit; of which the proper and per se cause is, the wickedness and hardness of the human heart: and to this not unfrequently is added the just judgment of God avenging the contempt shewn to his word; from which arise blindness of mind, hardening of the heart, and a delivering up to a reprobate [sensum] mind, and to the power of Satan” (James Arminius, “Disputation XLII: On the Vocation of Sinful Men to Christ, and To A Participation of Salvation In Him,” II: 397).
Arminius’s last words reveal that, although the grace of God desires that all be saved, God will not save the person WITHOUT THE PERSON! Grace itself can be rejected, and the individual can resist the Holy Spirit and the grace that the Spirit provides. Arminius stated that the direct result of the sinner’s rejection of the Spirit and His grace is “blindness of mind, hardening of the heart, and a delivering up to a reprobate mind, and to the power of Satan.” Arminius’s words here refer to Paul’s words in Romans regarding those who have knowledge of God but do not give God the glory that is due His name: “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and THEIR FOOLISH HEARTS WERE DARKENED...and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, GOD GAVE THEM OVER TO A DEBASED MIND, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:21, 28, NKJV).
The goal of this post was to show that Scripture itself attests to the nature of God’s grace as wooing or cooperative, not overwhelming or irresistible; and to also point out that God and man work together, as my professor said, in “a cooperative union.” When will Calvinists and Molinists learn that, whenever they find the sovereignty of God, Arminians will continue to find divine sovereignty and human responsibility side-by-side?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Lord of Seahaven: The Return of Kirk (The Truman Show)

Today’s post is titled after a “Lord of the Rings” movie. Of those that are out there, I went to the movies to see “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” It was a good movie, I thought then. I have few memories of what actually happened in the movie...but I remember my feeling when the movie was over. I thought it was marvelous to see the good triumph over evil. I think that Christians love such stories. Despite the evil that exists in our world, we look forward to the day when the Lord Himself will destroy death, sin, sickness, tragedy, sorrow, and will wipe away every tear from our eyes. However, “until that day comes,” as Matt Redman says, “Still I will praise you.” That is my desire (and prayerfully yours); that we will praise the Lord until He returns for His Bride, the Church.
In this post, I will grant what I promised; that is, to talk about “The Return of the Kirk.” From my last post, I stated that Kirk was the supposed “father” of Truman Burbank. Let me state this at the outset, though: Kirk is not the biological father of Truman, but he’s the only father Truman has ever known. Truman, according to Christoff in his television interview, is the first child to ever have been adopted by a corporation. Therefore, Kirk is the only father Truman could ever call his own. He never met (doesn’t know) his biological parents. The “mother” character he runs to is also not his biological mother either. Even Truman’s very family is “determined” by Christoff (except Truman’s true parents are never brought up). Truman doesn’t even know the whereabouts of his biological parents. He’s never been told he’s adopted, never had anyone try to contact his real parents, etc. And, as a result, Truman assumes that “mom” and “dad” are his true parents. In the television interview Christoff was asked “Why do you think that Truman has never ever come close to questioning the truth of his world until now?” Christoff responded, “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented, it’s as simple as that.” In other words, because things “seem” to be one way, we accept them as such, never questioning them, never investigating to discover why things are the way they are.

Now, let’s get on with “The Return of the Kirk.” One night Truman is out with his best friend from childhood (Marlin, who is also an actor in the whole drama of Truman’s life). While out, Christoff plans to return Kirk to the show (although Marlin claims he brought Kirk back for Truman’s sake). Truman sees his father and then begins the dramatic moments between father and son:
(Christoff speaking to his crew as Truman walks toward his dad on the bridge) “easy on the fog; stand by green cam...button cam 3...quiet, curb cam 8...fade up music (music starts)...and now...(camera zooms in to Truman crying while hugging his dad).”

At this point, Christoff’s face shows intense joy as his “dramatic success” has unfolded. All the crew are happy and rejoicing, telling Christoff, “Bravo.” For Christoff and crew, the Return of the Kirk was not about right or wrong or how they played “God” with Truman’s life; rather, it was about themselves. Christoff decided he wanted to bring Kirk back after 22 years, so he did...and what he got out of it was how “dramatic” and emotional it all was. There was no thought given to how morally repulsive such an act had been.
In the last few posts, I’ve attempted to be truthful to the events in the movie (as well as the quotes). The point of discussing the movie is to see what theologically we can learn from it. It seems that “The Truman Show” gives us a man who lives in a dream world (Seahaven) and does not know the truth of his environment or world. “Truman” (not even the character’s real name; name given by the corporation) assumes the physical reality he sees without question. And who is responsible for all this? Christoff. Christoff is the great controller of Truman’s life, dictating not just events and family but even Truman’s emotions (placing items in strategic places that make him think about his father and then reuniting him with his dad after 22 years of absence). Christoff seems to be bent on making Truman stay in his world, ignorant of the world outside of Seahaven. His goal? Deny Truman knowledge and Truman will simply assume the world in front of him. Keep Truman ignorant and he will not use his freedom to leave. And yet, Christoff could actually point to Truman as the blame: “If his was more than just a vague ambition...if he were absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him. I think what distresses you, caller, is that ultimately, Truman prefers his cell.”
I think the movie presents an atheist theme: that the Christian God (or at least the God of Classic Theism) is the God that is bent on keeping people ignorant of the truth, forcing them to assume an imaginary version of reality, even toying with the emotions of human beings for His own sick enjoyment. But the bright spot in all of this is that although the atheist does not know it, he is not raging against the God of the Bible; rather, he is raging against a “notion” of what the God of the Bible is really like. It’s one thing to dislike something as it truly is; it’s another to dislike something “as you perceive it to be.” The atheist believes that God is like Christoff in the movie (which explains why God in this movie is deceptive, cruel, and revels in His own glory at bringing Kirk back after 22 years without giving thought to Truman’s emotions). However, God is not like this at all. Sadly enough, I think that the atheist picture of God is what Calvinists and Molinists (to a lesser extent than Calvinists) have painted. Atheists today are railing against this notion of divine sovereignty that “does whatever He pleases,” as the Calvinists say--- that freely chooses some and freely damns others...and does so for “His greater glory.” This is the God that atheists despise.
But there is hope...I think this movie is a great one for evangelism. If you ever get a chance to witness to an atheist you know, sit down and show him “The Truman Show.” Show him that you honestly desire to understand his grievances against the “God” he thinks exists. And then when the movie ends and he explains, “That’s the God of the Bible,” you can turn around and say “No--- that’s your notion of the God of the Bible. Now let me explain who God really is.” Show him that our Lord is not malicious, not deceptive, does not toy with our emotions, does not get pleasure out of our pain, etc. More than being consumed with His own glory, God is for our development as believers, our conformity to the image of His Son. He is more concerned with disciplining us and remolding and reshaping us, than He is with toying with us. And why? Because God desires to inhabit eternity with us, not apart from us. When we awake to the new heavens and the new earth, it will all become clear that although He was not forced to, He loved us because He chose to. Sadly enough, I think it’s a misunderstanding of the intensity of God’s love that makes Calvinists and Molinists paint Him the way they do on film, in theology, etc. As for the atheist? It’s the picture painted by the Calvinists and Molinists that make him hate God all the more.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Christoff's Control: Truman, Kirk, and The Water Phobia

In my last post, I talked about how the movie “The Truman Show” is Molinist in its theological outlook---in the sense that, although “God” (Christoff) controls the world in which Truman leaves, Truman “is free to leave at any time...if his was more than a vague ambition...if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, then there’s nothing we could do to prevent him” (words of Christoff to Sylvia on the radio talk show). Although the life of Truman is predetermined, he still “freely chooses” to live in it. As Christoff says, “Ultimately, Truman prefers his cell.”
In this post, my task is to discuss more about how Christoff controls the world in which Truman lives. If the things I’ve yet to mention in the last few posts have not convinced you, I think the things I mention in this post will.
First, Christoff plays on Truman’s fear of water. Truman is sent for a business deal to Whales Park, which required him to take the ferry across the river.

Truman goes to the harbor, pays for a return ticket back, and then walks the plank down to the plank’s edge where the ferry is waiting. While walking down the plank, Truman looks to his right and sees a sunken boat in water. He is so afraid of drowning (the boat is drowning) that he decides to walk back to the harbor booth where he paid for the ticket. The ferry men ask, “Sir, can we help you?” Truman replies, “I’m fine. You guys go ahead.” He turns around and goes back to his car.
Now, to show Christoff’s manipulation, I must discuss Truman’s fear of the water. When Christoff appears before a television interviewer, he states the following:
“As Truman grew up, we were forced to find ways to keep him on the island.”

The first example was to deny him the opportunity for exploration. The screen then shows a younger Truman telling the teacher that he wanted to be “an the great Magellan.” His teacher’s response? “You’re too late; there’s nothing left to explore.” Next, as an older child, Christoff and his crew used rottweilers to force Truman to stay on the island, barking and scaring him off from escaping by way of the bridge. Last but not least, Christoff decided to drown Truman’s father, Kirk, at sea. Truman and his father went sailing in the sea, and one night, the weather took a turn for the worst. Kirk wanted them to go back but Truman encouraged his father to go forward. While out at sea, Christoff and his crew made it look as if Kirk drowned in the water. Since the water was the only way to escape from Seahaven (Christoff’s dream world), drowning Kirk in the water would scare Truman from ever wanting to enter the water again. As a result, Christoff easily scared Truman away from leaving the island, while making Truman feel as though he was truly responsible for his father’s death.
Truman himself felt guilty for what he believed was the death of his dad. However, it was really Christoff behind the scenes who was determining every little event of the script. Christoff noted that when Kirk found out he was “written out of the script,” he was not happy, “which explains why he broke back onto the set.” Christoff reveals here that Kirk made his way back on to the set by sheer wit (not that Christoff designed it). One day, after Truman buys a fashion magazine and heads to work, he notices a somewhat poor, helpless man who looks like his father (Kirk). Truman stops in his tracks, turns around, and watches as his dad removes his cap to reveal his identity.

As he does so, two people (a man and a woman) see his father, run to the man, and haul him off. Truman then runs after them, knocking his papers out of his briefcase to chase after the pair and his father. Eventually, the two haulers take his dad onto a bus and the bus pulls off, leaving Truman in the street alone...while the rest of Seahaven acts as if nothing happened.
Truman decides to approach his mother about what he saw. He says, “I think I saw dad dressed as a homeless man.” He asked her did his father have any other brothers, to which she responded “Truman, you know that your dad was an only you.” In her eyes, what’s wrong with Truman is that “you’re just feeling bad because of what happened, you sailing off into that storm...but I’ve never blamed you Truman, and I don’t blame you now.” The words of Truman’s mother indicate that what bothers Truman most is his sense of “blameworthiness” and responsibility. He feels guilty for what happened out at sea. And the worst part is that his “mother” (who really is just an actress) is in on the scheme with everyone else to make him feel responsible for a death that never happened!! It’s all manipulation, all part of the game. Even in the case where the “Kirk invasion” was never planned, it fits perfectly into the manipulation whereby Truman attaches his water phobia to his guilt (images of Kirk drowning), to the man who looks like his father, which then drives him to his mother (who is sure to plant the stinging word of “blame” in his ear).
The Kirk invasion is just one of a few invasions made by those outside of the cast who simply wanna warn Truman that he is living inside a fake world. When Truman was a child, a man came out of a present box at Christmas announcing that “it’s television” (telling Truman that he’s being televised). As an adult, Truman is reading a newspaper one day when all of a sudden, a man in a black parachuting outfit comes down to the ground with a sign plastered to his chest: “Truman, you’re on TV.” It seems however, that, no matter how much outsiders try to warn Truman and help him escape, Christoff always manages to eliminate them with people on the street who are constantly watching everyone who even gets close to Truman. So Christoff doesn’t want Truman to know the truth: and yet, he can claim that Truman can escape at any time. How does this work? How can Truman escape if he possesses no knowledge that he is living life as a “prisoner,” not as a “performer” like the rest of the cast?
What about Kirk? Since he really didn’t die off the show, what happens to him? On the interview of the Truman show, the interviewer asks Christoff, “How will you explain his 22-year absence?” Christoff replies, “Amnesia,” to which the interviewer says, “Brilliant.”
I intended to demonstrate Christoff’s control over Truman; and it can be clearly seen. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Christoff, in making it seem that Truman killed his father, is manipulating Truman’s emotions and thoughts and is playing with his heart and mind. Christoff’s control here is beyond just controlling his’s also about controlling the part of him that cannot be seen. Eventually, Kirk will re-enter the show...but how? For that, you’ll have to tune in next time to see Christoff’s dramatic write-in of Kirk’s return.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Freely Choosing the Divinely Predetermined: More From "The Truman Show"

Christoff: “I have given Truman a chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place. Seahaven is the way the world should be.”
Sylvia: “He’s not a performer; he’s a prisoner. Look at him! Look at what you’ve done to him!”
Christoff: “HE CAN LEAVE AT ANY TIME. If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him. I think what distresses you, caller, is that ultimately, TRUMAN PREFERS HIS CELL.”
My last post introduced “The Truman Show” to many who may not have ever considered watching the movie. I had never watched the movie until last week; and once I watched it, I couldn’t stop watching it. In fact, I’m dying to see the movie again. To you, my readership, I recommend the movie. Please watch it, buy it, show it to those who may never watch it otherwise. I think that the movie itself poses some serious questions about God and theology (the study of God) to us who believe.
The above quote is a small portion of the telephone conversation between Sylvia and Christoff on “The Truman Show.” Sylvia, one who played on the “cast” of the show itself calls in to confront Christoff about what he’s doing to Truman---how Truman has no idea that his entire life’s been on a manufactured stage. For those who have never watched, let’s just say that Sylvia tried to warn Truman earlier in the movie that everything happening around him was “part of the script.” She told Truman to run, escape, try to get away. Instead, Truman just stuck around and merely accepted the life he had been given, marrying and settling in Seahaven.
Christoff responds by saying that his invented world, however manufactured it may be, is better than Sylvia’s world: “The world, the place you live in, is the sick place. Seahaven is the way the world should be.”
Now, before I go any further, let me just say that the movie seems rather Open Theistic in its outlook: after all, the “God” character, Christoff, attempts to shelter Truman from the real world, creating a seemingly “perfect” world where no evil and tragedies occur. God Himself attempts to prevent Truman from experiencing sorrow, pain, suffering, tragedy, etc. The God of Classical Theism does not do this; rather, He allows both the just and unjust to suffer in this world because God designed the world to include choices. The fact that Christoff wants to “cage in” Truman from living a life that involves tragedy shows a commitment to sparing Truman from evil. But to do this also means that God would prevent us from choice and decision. You cannot have one without the other. Secondly, Christoff has to create another world because the real world is so different than what he thinks it should be. Christoff (the “God” character) creates a second world for Truman’s dwelling, showing that God has somehow given up hope on the actual world He made. Does God lack in power and sovereignty, so much so that He is forced to retire from the real world (because evil is beyond His control)? I think not. As I said, the movie itself seems to be rather Open Theist in its outlook.
However, the movie takes a turn for a more Molinist position when Sylvia tells Christoff that Truman is a prisoner in Christoff’s cell. Christoff responds:
“He can leave at any time. If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him. I think what distresses you caller, is that ultimately, TRUMAN PREFERS HIS CELL.”

Now, these are interesting words indeed. But before we tackle Christoff’s response, let’s look at the history of the Truman show.
First, in Christoff’s interview, he gives details about how the show started. One viewer, supposedly from “Charlotte, North Carolina,” called in and asked Christoff about how many cameras were guarding Truman. Christoff answered that five-thousand cameras were guarding Truman, “although we started with just one.” The camera then showed a picture of Truman when he was still in the womb, still to be born. Christoff responds that Truman was a candidate (along with five unwanted, unborn children) for the show itself; Truman’s birth “just happened” to be on the air he was the lucky one. The interviewer said to Christoff, “He was elected,” to which Christoff responded “yes. His birth, premature by two weeks is what made him elected for the script.” More pictures are then shown of Truman as a little boy, one of the first being in his crib, with a camera above his head (he looking up at it in wonder).
Cameras have surrounded Truman all his life. But, even though the world has always had insight into Truman’s life, he has never been given a glimpse of the true nature of reality (i.e., the world outside of Seahaven).
And yet, despite his enclosure in this manufactured world ruled by Christoff’s every arbitrary decision, Christoff could tell Sylvia, “He can leave at any time. If his was more than a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him.” Is this true? Did Truman really have a choice?
Molinists would say that Truman did. Ken Keathley writes,
“...God predestines all events, yet not in such a way that violates genuine human freedom and choice. God meticulously ‘sets the table’ so that humans freely choose what He had predetermined” (Ken Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, page 152).
William Lane Craig writes:
“It might seem that foreknowledge, explained in this way, smacks of a divine ‘sting operation’---it could sound as though God manipulates people by leading them into situations in which they are induced to act in a certain way, even if the circumstances in which people find themselves, they are genuinely free to choose opposite courses of action. That God knows what they will do in any set of circumstances does not mean that they are compelled by the circumstances to do what they do. God does not determine their choice; they can choose freely between alternative courses of action. It is God’s will and desire, moreover, that they always choose for the good” (William Lane Craig, “The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom.” Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2000, page 134).
Craig’s beginning words are right: If God chooses a certain world, and an individual could choose either good or evil in all possible worlds, then God determines the choices of individuals. He determines, for example, whether someone will receive Christ or not (whether someone will be elect or reprobate). How could the person choose differently if God has determined what choice will actualize in time? As Ken Keathley writes, “God sets the table” for us so that He has picked the exact choice you and I will make in every choice that lies before us. As I just mentioned, salvation falls into this discussion: God has predestined by selecting the world that you and I would be saved...but He has also consequently selected a world where Joe will be an unbeliever. And God puts us in circumstances where we are the ones who choose it (in time). But how does this get God off the hook? Is God not the one leading individuals into sin? But does He not “lead us in the paths of righteousness for His name sake” (Psalm 23:3)?
The movie seems to assert that we can “freely choose” the divinely predetermined. In Truman’s case, even though he was shut off from the real world all his life, he could choose to walk away at any time: “If his were more than a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him.” But how can one act upon a choice one never knew he had? How can one act upon something in sheer ignorance? It is simply not possible. In my next post, I will further detail other factors of Truman’s life that Christoff controls. Stick around for more Molinism discussion.