Reflections on Biblical and
Christian Philosophy

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Towards a Coherent Biblical and Reformed Philosophy: The Bare Bones, Stark Reality, and Some Whimsey!

 

Philosophy Sets the Agenda, But Scripture Is the Ultimate Authority

 

The following is still under construction, but I wanted to "get it out there," as I develop it...

 

A logically consistent Biblical philosophy is quite simple.  Its foundation is first the Scriptures and from that truth, the character of God Himself.  All the cognitive gymnastics that both Christian and non Christian philosophers go through are doomed to incoherency and irrationality (Bible says “foolish”).

 

Let me warn you, however, that such a system is “harsh” at first glance.  God does what He wants, when He wants, where He wants, and with whom He wants.  From our perspective, He is whimsical!  From His perspective, He is perfectly and logically consistent.

 

The following was intended to be one page.  It rapidly expanded into much more.  It is still under construction, but I wanted to “put it out there,” as one of my major projects.  Comments are welcome.  The format is in outline form.

 

Introduction.  How does a Biblical philosophy differ from Biblical theology?  (1) It seeks to address the priority questions of philosophy, instead of the priority questions of theology or Scripture.  (2) Its format is determined by philosophy.  (3) Revelation is the final and complete authority.  The attempt of philosophy to answer “ultimate” questions apart from Revelation is futile and sinful. (4) It does not use “Christian” or “Christianly,” as a defining adjective, but merely for ease of communication.  (5) It allows the Sovereignty (Predestination) of God in all thoughts and things, including salvation.  (6) It is not an apologetic, but instructive to Christians.  (7) It demonstrates forcefully the superiority of Christianity over all other religions, as the only religion.  (8) It recognizes that “philosophy of religion” is really the “philosophy of Christianity.”  (9) The structure of language and knowledge is founded on God’s mind: Christ as the “Word,” enlightening every man (John 1:9); the Holy Spirit in regeneration; communication within the Trinity; etc.  (10) It is not as concerned with the history of philosophy because man’s mind in philosophy cannot begin to compare with the understanding that God gives in Revelation.  (11) It rejects “classical theism” and any other “theism” that is not Biblically derived ((e.g., as stated by WCF, Chapter 2).  (12)

 

1.  Starting point (arché), first philosophy, first principle, most basic axiom. The Word of God is true and the only source of truth: ultimate and absolute authority, governs every area of study, coherent as metaphysics and epistemology, the only system of noncompeting ethics (individual, family, social groups, and civil government),

 

1.1 Character of God.  God speaks “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  The most important subject to which the Bible speaks is the nature of God and the nature of man.  The first characteristic of God for man is that he speaks The Truth and the only one who speaks truth.  The first characteristic of man is that he is either regenerate or reprobate.  The most central figure in the Bible is the Lord Jesus Christ, as both Savior and Lord.

 

1.1.1 Comprehensibility vs. incomprehensibility.  What is it about God that we do not understand?  His ability to create and sustain… a form of idealism?  We can understand something of creation when we write fiction—creating a world and characters that has details and facts of our own choosing.  See Vincent Cheung.

 

1.1.2 Analogy must have univocity.  For man to have knowledge and truth, there must be univocity of God's words and definitions at some points.  Otherwise, the simple statement, "For God so loved the world..." has no world (the entire Creation, including persons) as a referent ... no world, no Christ to save it.

 

1.2 The axiom and first principle: All the theorems that follow here are derived from this one theorem.  Theology and philosophy are under the highest control.  See Medicine Under the Authority of Scripture.

 

1.3 The law of noncontradiction: derived from Scripture and the test of coherency for one's entire system.  Coherence must be the test of any system of truth.

 

1.4 Epistemology is answered in John 1:1, 9.  The only truth that can be known is that contained in the 66 books of the Bible. We can only know the universe empirically, which is not truth but technical competence.  (See below.) Like the ding and sich, the exact mechanism of knowledge cannot be known.  We do know that knowledge may be innate, acquired from others, learned discursively through reason, or learned mystically.  Christ enlightens all men (John 1:9).  God never intended man to know Him apart from Revelation, Vincent Cheung, page 7.

 

1.5 Metaphysics is answered by Genesis 1:1.  “Ultimate” understanding of the “whys” of the universe (gravitation, laws of motion, chaos theory, quantum mechanics, etc.) is simply that God posited these properties in His creation.  There are no "natural laws," only the regularity in operation of the universe that allows man to develop science in order to fulfill God's Creation Mandate, given to him in Genesis 1.

 

1.6 Ethics is answered by all the instructions of the Old and New Testament.  There is no Euthryphro dilemma: God determines and proclaims what is right and what is wrong according to Himself.  There is no authority higher than God.

 

1.7 Logic is how God’s mind works.  Man can reason because God reasons. Man is made in the image of God.  Without logic (coherence of definitions and grammar) there is no communication.

 

1.8  The Bible is a unity that reflects the unity of God.  There are no true contradictions in Scripture.  Apparent contradictions may be beyond human understanding, but may also be resolved by further study and reflection.

 

2.  Language. Communication is possible by language.   This theorem includes all the standard rules of language that are necessary for understanding and judgment.

 

2.1 Not perfect, but precision is sought.  God developed language.  It is one of, if not the primary, characteristics of man that is the Image of God.

 

2.2 Language requires all the standard rules of definition and logic.

 

3.  God is Sovereign because He is omnipotent.  He predestinates ALL things for His own glory.  He is righteous because everything that He does is “right.”  If everything that He does is “right,” then He is perfectly Wise, as well.

 

3.1 He predestinates all one’s thoughts, words, and actions.  This proposition is the only one that can be concluded from Total Predestination and the control of men’s minds in Scripture (Pharaoh, Potter and clay, crucifixion of Jesus, etc.).  John Frame agrees here.

 

3.2 Men are not robots.  Robots have no self-consciousness.  Somehow, God has created a mind that is contained as the same person through great physical changes: conception, prenatal growth, birth, infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age, and in eternity.

 

3.2.1  Robots do not feel; humans feel, and feel powerfully.

 

3.2.2  Humans experience a complexity that would never be possible for machines.

 

3.2.3  Robots would still inhabit a universe created by God.  Man cannot create a universe for robots.

 

3.2.4 Humans have a physical body far too complex to be created by man.

 

3.3 Men are given the great status of watching God’s Demonstration in history.  It is his “show,” not ours.  We are privileged to experience the joys and sorrows of our part in that Grand Demonstration.

 

3.4 He predestinates the regenerate and the reprobate, sometimes called "double predestination."

 

3.4.1 Salvation is by regeneration which is totally of the Holy Spirit (John 3).  There is no mystery here.  Election is simply God exercising His sovereignty in the salvation of some persons.

 

3.4.2 Regeneration cannot be reversed, as human birth cannot.  The Holy Spirit is omnipotent.  Thus, “perseverance” of the saints is certain.

 

3.5 There are no “second” causes in the universe. 

 

3.5.1 There are subjects and events that act under God’s control.

3.5.2 God is never “passive” or “permissive,” as the universe would collapse at the moment that He became so.

3.5.3 There are mediators (agents, subjects) through whom or which God works.

 

3.6 The “necessity” that men have free will in order to be responsible is a philosophical myth. 

 

3.6.1 The only requirement for men to be held responsible is for God to require it of them.  There is no justice “above” God to whom to appeal!

 

3.6.2 Responsibility does not necessitate ability.  E.g., total depravity (inability)

 

3.7 Supralapsarianism is the only possibility.  Infralapsarianism is contradictory to Total Sovereignty.

 

3.8 All glory is His because He predestines all things and events to which glory could be given!

 

3.9 The cosmos is not mechanistic, it is Personal.  See Gary North, TDC:1-2

 

4. “Evil” does not exist from God’s perspective.  See reference to Frame interview above… then go down to responder “Joshua” below the interview.

 

4.1A “God is righteous by definition.” Cheung, The Author of Sin

 

4.1B God is working “all things for His glory.”  His glory cannot include evil.

 

4.2 Evil is man’s perspective.

4.3 God’s decretive (predestinating) will must be distinguished from His declared (moral, prescribed, preceptive, legal) will.  His decretive will is what actually will occur in history.  His declared will is that attitude and behavior which is His standard for mankind.  Again, responsibility does not require ability. (See 3.6 above.)

 

4.4 “Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.”  

 

4.5 Without sin, how would we understand the grace and mercy of God?  How would the reward of heaven be a better place?

 

5.  God is righteousness.

 

5.1 Traducianism is necessary because creationism would require that He create a sinful soul: guilty in Adam, disposed to sin, and a sinner in action after birth.

 

6.  God is omnipotent

 

6.1  Cause and effect.  All events in the universe are related.  To know one cause, it is necessary to know all causes and events.  Ultimately, God is the cause.

 

6.2  The cause of all human thought and behavior is ultimately from God.  Free will must be redefined to mean that freedom is fulfilling God’s decretive will.

 

6.3 “Free will” in the sense of most philosophers and common parlance would require both omniscience and omnipotence.  Totally free will requires one to know everything in the universe and all past and present things also.  Then, once a decision is made, there must total power to implement it.  Otherwise, the will is limited by limited knowledge and limited ability.  “Free will” then becomes “limited will.”  So, “free will” is really a false understanding of being free.  This position is also consistent with the determinism of nature and nurture.  No one chooses their innate abilities or their early nurture.  Upon those two foundations, all future decisions become necessary and dependent upon those decisions. 

 

 

7.  Soteriology: regeneration, justification, sanctification, and perseverance are all of God.

 

7.1  A man is dead in sin and in regard to eternal life.  This deadness is separation from the life of God by a chasm that can only be bridged by God.  His only faith can be in himself.

 

7.1.1  The Arminian position that man must have saving faith on his own before regeneration is impossible.  The highest good that a person could ever achieve would be to have saving faith in God and His Word.  If he is able to achieve that on his own, why does he need God in the first place.

 

7.2  Justification requires that God’s perfect justice be satisfied.  Only God can satisfy His own justice, thus, requiring that God in Christ be the sacrifice and payment for man’s sins.

 

7.2.1 The Catholic doctrine that nothing that Christ did is sufficient within itself for salvation, merely getting one started towards salvation, makes His work incomplete.

 

7.3  Sanctification and perseverance is all of God.  “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

 

8.  Metaphysics. The physical (material) universe is founded upon the spiritual (immaterial) universe (Acts 17:28; Hebrews 1:3, 11:3)

 

8.1  See cause and effect above.

 

8.2  Kant was right, man can never know the ding an sich (the thing in itself).  Man has not and will not find ultimate answers and understanding.  He has found his search for these ultimates to be frustrated in human DNA, subatomic physics, origin of the universe, the psychology of man, and virtually every other of human endeavor.

 

8.3  Empiricism is valid for that which God intended: The Creation Mandate. 

 

8.3.1  The reasoning of empiricism (including the scientific method) is frequently abused by both Christians and non-Christians.  It is always probability, never certain.  Only faith can be certain.

 

8.4  The great problem with empiricism is that man has tried to find truth with it.  All logic textbooks and professors teach that induction (empiricism) finds probability, not truth.  Anything probable is not truth.  Then, why do so many people say that “science” (empiricism) will find the answers to man’s problems.  Technical competence is not competence in truth.

 

8.5  No “is” can determine an “ought.”  (Hume) Science can only describe what is and make associations that are presumed to be cause and effect.  It can invoke no morality or ethics.  Dynamite can be used for positive ends, as well as murder.  Aristotle’s four causes: material, formal, efficient, final.

 

9.  Anthropology and soteriology: Creation Mandate, The Fall, Preface to Messiah (Old Testament), Life and Work of Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, and Heaven

 

9.1 See above on regeneration and other steps of the ordo salutis.

 

9.2  Christ enlightens the minds of all men, not in regeneration but in common grace (John 1:9). 

 

9.3  The Holy Spirit is the teacher of the regenerate.

 

9.4 Regeneration imparts no knowledge with the act itself. 

 

9.5  Faith is the disposition to act according to some knowledge with an expected outcome that is determined by the truth of the knowledge.  There are two categories: saving faith and generic faith (everyday decisions and the basis of all knowledge). 

 

9.5.1 Rational language structure must be present for faith to occur.  Then, a position of faith is challenge by rational argument.   So, faith and reason are interdependent. 

 

9.5.1 Faith always, necessarily, inescapably precedes rational thought.  One must always start somewhere, i.e., a starting point.

 

 

10.  Definitions: love, faith, gospel… which to list here?  ?? Creation Mandate=Great Commission=Kingdom of Heaven,

 

10.1 Philosophy of religion, natural philosophy, natural theology, etc.  Christianity is the focus, not “religion.”

 

10.2  Definition of religion

 

10.3.  Gods of the philosophers, not the God of Biblical Revelation

 

11.  God’s use of cryptic teaching… what?  Parables, proverbs, poetry, difficulty of words (faith, love, etc.), innate knowledge (Romans 1).

 

 

Resources

 

The following two books approximate and are mostly consistent with my thoughts.  They are also concise. Both are available at www.trinityfoundation.org.   The third resource is described.

 

1. Gordon H. Clark, Biblical Predestination

2. W. Gary Crampton, The Scripturalism of Gordon H. Clark.

3. Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapters, Larger and Shorter Catechism.  The most concise, but comprehensive, systematic theology ever written, and possibly the most complete ethics every written (Q/A on the Larger and Shorter Catechism).  Online at www.opc.org and www.reformed.org.

 


 

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