Monday, June 19, 2017

Calvinism?, Christian Hedonism, John 1

The following post contains two conversations between myself and a good friend of mine about some stray thoughts of mine. The conversation got to a point through text that I was not willing to spend 30 minutes using my thumbs to respond, and so I asked him permission to post it on the blog and respond to it here. The context to the first conversation is that we were talking about John Piper and I was pointing out the kind of insane statements that he likes to make (Christ's Fingers as Tornadoes comes to mind). Friend will be characterized as C, and I shall be T.

C: There is no doubt that God will be the cause of the end of evil and suffering. What is God's relationship with its origin and it's activity in the present has always been an ongoing question. Again, the Bible does have to be the primary source on this, and it is actually difficult to sort out. For example, the story of the exodus, God is obviously causing suffering when he sends the plagues on the Egyptians. In fact, God's judgments throughout the Bible up until the cross itself (assuming a doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement) indicate that God can cause suffering. Obviously, in whatever sense God is related to suffering, it is not capricious though - it is founded in his righteous judgment which then, in the gospel, is exhausted on the cross. Think of the warnings Jesus gave Jerusalem that judgment would come upon them, which it then did in AD 70, proving Christ's prophecy (Matthew 24:1-2, but the whole chapter really). But Jesus also weeps over the city, as if they were the cause of their own suffering (Matt. 23:37-24), which shows a deeper reality, that whatever God's relationship to suffering and death is, its reality lies first in human sin. Without sin, how could God stand in any relationship to evil and suffering, since it seems that judgment of sin is the way in which the Bible presents God's relationship to suffering and death (think Sodom and Gommorah, also the book of Lamentations is mournful poem about suffering under God's judgment).

T: If His judgment was exhausted on the cross, then does that mean that He will not longer judge? The idea that suffering and death lies first in human sin does not contend with the reality that evil, in the form of Satan, existed before sin entered the world through the fall. Logically, God existed in some sort of relationship to evil and suffering without sin in the world.

I very easily can attribute John Piper, Peace Be Upon Him, to have mistakes. Fingers of Christ scraping across the land to bring death? He is not immune to replacing logic with emotion, as he explicitly states within his doctrine of Christian Hedonism. Quote: "My shortest summary of it is: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Or: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever."

C: As for Christian Hedonism (CH) there is a theological framework behind the statement you quote. It is somewhat of a paraphrase of the answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism "What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." Also, think of Piper as simply explicating in the modern day the theology of one Jonathan Edwards. If there were a fault in CH it would first be there. The basic proposition of it would be that goodness is the inclination to share happiness with another. God is supremely good and happy (happiness in this sense means something like "blessed" or "completely joyful"). Thus, God will share his happiness, his complete joy, with others, because he is good. It is essentially a Trinitarian logic hidden here. For God has always been sharing his compete joy within himself, between the Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, when God creates and also then redeems, he is drawing up humanity into his own joy by joining people to Christ so that they are "which precisely just is the fact that is conceptually identical to his love for humanity. Read John 17
John 17 is a scriptural portion that provides some of the logical and exegetical force of thinking this way.

T: If the fault in Christian Hedonism lies in Jonathan Edwards, and so Edwards is very misguided, then John Piper would not only be misguided but be unable to properly discern theology. If the Westminster Catechism concluded that which you have told me they claimed, then I would claim that they are wrong. I propose that the chief end of man is to do what man wills to be done. It is the decision to follow God through Christ that is glorifying to Him, and that may mean that we will go through times where we do not enjoy following God. In fact, Jesus says that it will not always be enjoyable to follow God (John 15:20). That is where faith comes into play. It is almost as if the existence of suffering is a precondition to being a follower of Jesus. The basic proposition that goodness is the inclination to share happiness with another is absolutely absurd. If you believe that, then you should consider distributing antidepressants and marijuana to everyone you see. You don't get to use happiness and then obfuscate the meaning of the word. God --->can<--- share His "happiness, complete joy" with others, and that is not dependent on the axiom that He is Good. It is only a factual statement. Hidden logic is not an argument. God has been sharing his joy between his Trinitarian self if you accept that his nature is Trinitarian. John 17 leads me to believe that if Jesus is referring to himself within the context of the Trinity, then that must mean that Jesus is also referring to his followers becoming a part of the Trinity, thus creating a Potential Infininity nature of God, made up of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and You, and I, and Paul, and John, and every Christian who ever existed. We simply must be consistent.

T: Do you have a Greek bible?


T: What does this say?

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

C: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
Of course, that's not what it says per se. It's a translation.

T: So why do people tell me that it means Jesus is God?

C: Because it does, given what the context of the rest of John's gospel and the grammatical construction of the passage. I told you that's not what it said,
 per se, but if you translated that as "the Word was a god," as the NWO translation does (Jehovah's witnesses), then you are most definitely not represen
ting the Greek of the passage.
I could explain it, but look up Colwell's Rule for Greek grammar, that will answer at least the main issue.

T: I accept that the grammar is in reference to a definitive Theos, ergo "the Word was God". What I'm interested in is exactly what is meant by Logos, and if it is in reference to Jesus or to a more complex philosophical idea.

C: There is a complex philosophical background to use of the term logos. It was an ancient technical term, I would think of the Stoics primarily as well as
the Middle Platonists, including the Jewish philosopher Philo.
However, I would be careful looking for a " more complex philosophical" perspective, when John's point is that the logos is Jesus. "The logos became fles
h." In other words, we are to not be informed about Jesus by the ancient philosoher's notion of the logos, but instead about the logos in terms of the Je
sus we see revealed in history, particularly in John's gospel itself.

T: Then what does this say?

θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε: μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

C: No one has ever seen God. The (and here's the tricky part) unique God, who is in the bosom (or belly of you like it literally) of the Father, he has made
 him known (that verb at the end of the verse might be better translated "explained," or "made sense of.")
The reason for the translation of monogenes as "only-begotten" in times past comes from its association with the verb gennetos, or "to beget" "to father.
" It likely rather derives from genos, or "kind," from which we get the word "genus," which has its own technical uses today in different fields. In the
ancient world, it was a technical term of Aristotle's and his followers.

T: And why did you just translate it as "unique God"?
That would indicate there is more than one God.

C: One of a kind.
Nope, what Jesus is he is uniquely would be the only force here.

T: That last text was incoherent

C: The context is key here. The context is that there is no other like with reference to revelation and relationship to God, or "the Father." This does not
mean that Jesus' unique status is in conflict with his Father's. But you do see here the tensions that make trinitarian thought, along the way, become so
 difficult to make full sense of.
John 3:16 is another place where this adjective is used of Jesus, that time with the term "Son" rather than "God." There is actually a textual variant in
 John 1:18 that reads "son" instead of "God" as well.
It most likely is the first variant that is correct still though.
There is a practice among textual critics to accept the most difficult reading. In this case, that means that it is easier to imagine a scribe changing 
theos to uios rather than uios to theos. 

T: All I see is a jump to conclusions which are impossible to conclude from simply quoting the verses literally. I have never met anyone who was able to explain to me the Trinity without using analogies. Now, it is self-evident that Analogies are not a replacement for Logic. They are only useful in explaining to people a concept that they have never heard before, or within the field of persuasion. To respond to this assertion with "Well, we cannot ever fully comprehend God" is a blatant intellectual cop-out, and I can just as easily assert that in the reverse. The fact of the matter is that if we are to take John 1:18 authoritative, we can only conclude that "No one has ever seen God". If the Trinitarian claim is that Jesus was God, and that John is referring to Jesus when he is talking about Logos, then they must also conclude that either all of the people who saw Jesus are classified as theological "no ones", including the Apostles, or that there was no one who saw Jesus, and therefore the Gospel is made up. I propose that those are not good conclusions to draw as a Christian.

To Be Concluded,
Theodore Brave
Twitter: @RealTheoBrave
Gab: @TheRealTheo

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