Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Debunking Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s False Assertions About Jesus – Part 1


About Sadhguru

            Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s website portrays him as, “…a yogi and a mystic…Named one of India's 50 most influential people, Sadhguru's work has touched the lives of millions worldwide through his transformational programs. Sadhguru has a unique ability to make the ancient yogic sciences relevant to contemporary minds, acting as a bridge to the deeper dimensions of life. His approach does not ascribe to any belief system, but offers methods for self-transformation that are both proven and powerful.”1

            Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is one of the leading voices of Hinduism.

False Assertions

            Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev makes many false assertions about Jesus and Christianity per se. Find below, a few:

            1. Jesus’ Existence?

            Sadhguru alludes to Jesus’ nonexistence. He said, “Krishna did not exist. Jesus did not exist. What does it matter to you?”2 By asserting that Jesus’ existence does not matter, he merely stops short of saying that Jesus did not exist. So he could be categorized as a Jesus Myther, though not in its strict sense.

            Jesus’ existence is a matter of great concern. If the historical Jesus3 did not exist, then Christianity cannot exist.

            As to the existence of historical Jesus, there is no doubt whatsoever, not even an iota of doubt exists. Historians are convinced about the existence of the historical Jesus.

            Here are a few testimonies of hostile witnesses about the existence of the historical Jesus:4

The testimony of a hostile witness is very powerful (cf. Criterion of Unsympathetic Sources). Dr. Bart Ehrman is one such hostile witness. He is a much acclaimed and widely respected scholar.
Bart Ehrman is a hostile witness since he does not believe in the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. A hostile witness (in this context) has no bias or no need, whatsoever, to affirm in the existence of the Historical Jesus.
Bart Ehrman believes in the existence of the Historical Jesus. Significantly, Ehrman emphasizes that scholars who have genuinely studied the evidence pertaining to the existence of Historical Jesus believe that HE existed, “Mythicists have often gotten upset with me for pointing out that almost no one with any qualifications in the requisite fields of scholarship agrees with them.  I can see why that would be upsetting.  My sense is that some of them think that I’ve been rubbing their noses in it.  But that isn’t really my intent.  My intent is to point out to anyone who is interested – for example, someone who just doesn’t know what to think – that those who are qualified to speak knowledgeably on such subjects are virtually unified on one view (there was a historical Jesus of Nazareth) and opposed to the other (he is a complete myth).”4
This should do it!
If every serious scholar believes in the existence of the Historical Jesus, every claim that attempts to disregard the Historical Jesus are insincere and hypocritical. Therefore, these hypocritical claims ought to be disregarded.
Bart Ehrman is not the only secular scholar who believes in the existence of Historical Jesus. Here’s more from the website of Answers In Genesis:5
Here is what some scholars have written about the Jesus Myth (these statements are not just from conservative Christians—the first four are critical scholars who have rejected the miraculous elements of Christ’s life).
Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation. No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement whose first distinct stage is represented by the oldest Palestinian community. (Rudolf Bultmann)1
To doubt the historical existence of Jesus at all … was reserved for an unrestrained, tendentious criticism of modern times into which it is not worthwhile to enter here. (Günther Bornkamm)2
I am of the opinion (and it is an opinion shared by every serious historian) that the theory [“that Jesus never lived, that he was a purely mythical figure”] is historically untenable. (Willi Marxsen)3
To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has “again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars.” In recent years “no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus”—or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary. (Michael Grant)4
Contemporary New Testament scholars have typically viewed their [i.e., Jesus mythers] arguments as so weak or bizarre that they relegate them to footnotes, or often ignore them completely. (Robert Van Voorst)5
The total evidence is so overpowering, so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus’ existence. (Paul L. Maier)6
On a side note, do remember that every claim of Jesus Mythers can be rejected by proving them to be incorrect. There’s an abundance of resources [on the internet] to help us achieve this.
Here’s an example: Jesus Mythers contend that Nazareth did not exist, hence Christ did not exist. But Bart Ehrman debunks this contention by ascertaining that [Palestinian] archaeologists believe that Nazareth existed because they have discovered evidence for its existence. He goes on to add that the existence of Nazareth is not even a point of debate among Palestinian archaeologists.6

            2. Jesus a Success?

            Sadhguru alleges that Jesus did not live a successful life! He said, “At the age of 32 you got nailed. Had a terrible death. You call that a successful life? No!” 5

            Sadhguru, evidently, has not understood the Christian perspective of success.

            Success, according to the Historic Christian worldview, is defined in the spiritual context and not the material or the hedonistic:6

For Christians, success can never be measured by money. When people say to me, "That man's worth ten million dollars," that tells me he's wealthy, but it doesn't prove he's successful. In some cases, it could mean the opposite. For instance, if Mother Teresa, whom I consider a tremendous success, confessed she was hoarding a million dollars, I'd think she was a hypocrite. Money would prove her a fraud, not a success.
The measurement of success is simply the ratio of talents used to talents received. What you are doing with what you've got, plus who you are becoming. Are you a growing, maturing Christian? Whether you work in business, or in Christian work, or as a day laborer, professional, or academic, if you are a maturing Christian, using a large percentage of your talents, you are successful. Be glad.
The person doing the most with what he's got is truly successful. Not the one who becomes the richest or most famous, but the one who has the closest ratio of talents received to talents used.
An unsuccessful person, on the other hand, is one who didn't use the chances he or she had. He could have developed himself, he could have made a contribution to life, he could have become a mature Christian, but he didn't.

            In stark contrast to the Historic Christian Biblical theology, Sadhguru’s definition of spirituality attempts to dethrone God from the domain of spirituality, for he claims, “Unfortunately, today, spirituality is the most misunderstood and misrepresented aspect of life. The way it is being presented worldwide, some of it is utterly ridiculous, a lot of it is crooked, much more of it is well-meaning but stupid…Spirituality is not about right and wrong or about God and heaven. Spirituality is about exploring the ultimate limits of who you are.”7

            Spirituality, in the Christian worldview, is all about God. It’s about man’s response to his Creator and Sustainer – the alpha and omega.

            Christ did not offer to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive; this is Ravi Zacharias’ precise reflection of Christ’s mission.8

            Sadhguru does not comprehend this aspect of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is imprisoned in his eclectic new-age worldview.

            The success or failure of God incarnate - the Lord Jesus Christ’s life can neither be measured in terms of his age at the time of his death nor the nature of his atoning death.

            Christ came to save mankind, and save them, HE did (cf. Luke 19: 5,10). If you and I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved. Romans 10:9 says, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (NET).

            Christ’s life was thus a grand success.

            Sadhguru has made a few more false assertions about Jesus Christ. More to follow...

Endnotes:

1https://isha.sadhguru.org/in/en/sadhguru

2https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVmirUq74Lk , 8:24, entitled What Sadhguru Says About Jesus | Sadhguru Ramayana | Sadhguru Latest On Lord Rama; Published Dec 9, 2018.

3The historical Jesus is the Jesus historians can prove with reasonable certainty and apart from faith, says Michael Licona.

4https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.com/2018/08/how-to-communicate-our-belief-in-jesus.html

5https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVmirUq74Lk , 7:14, entitled What Sadhguru Says About Jesus | Sadhguru Ramayana | Sadhguru Latest On Lord Rama; Published Dec 9, 2018.

6https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/bible-answers/spirituallife/christianview.html?start=1

7https://isha.sadhguru.org/in/en/blog/article/hello-interviews-sadhguru-the-material-and-the-spiritual

8https://www.rzim.org/read/just-thinking-magazine/threads-of-a-redeemed-heart

Websites last accessed on 10th September 2019.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Compatibilism Or Theological Determinism?


            My previous article entitled Do We Have Free Will? Is Free Will An Illusion? concluded that free will is in existence i.e. we have free will. You and I have free will to make an independent choice – a choice that is not causally determined.

            So does this mean that we are Libertarians – those who endorse the libertarian free will position?  

            Libertarianism claims incompatibility of free will with determinism. Libertarians believe in free will; they negate determinism. Libertarians could also be termed as Incompatibilists. Libertarians believe that for any choice made, one could have always made another choice or no choice at all. This is called the CDO condition or Could Have Done Otherwise condition.1

            There are sincere Christians who believe that free will is compatible with determinism. They are the Compatibilists. They believe that God’s sovereignty is compatible with human freedom.

            Compatibilism defines free will differently. “Compatibilism claims that every person chooses according to his or her greatest desire. In other words, people will always choose what they want-- and what they want is determined by (and consistent with) their moral nature. Man freely makes choices, but those choices are determined by the condition of his heart and mind (i.e. his moral nature).”2

            Compatibilism believes that man’s choices are not absolutely free. Both the desire and the choice of man are determined by God and the forces of nature and not by man. In this situation, man chooses what God and the forces of nature have already determined for him. This is not absolute freedom.

            A Theological Determinist, however, believes that God’s sovereignty extends absolutely to every event that occurs in the history of this world, which also includes human choice. Theological determinism eliminates human freedom since there are external factors that are sufficient to determine human choices.

            A theological determinist, if he is a soft determinist will be a compatibilist.

            These positions, Compatibilism and Theological Determinism should explain a plethora of theological dilemmas. A few of those dilemmas are mentioned below:

            1. If all our actions are determined, then is God the author of sin? If A kills B, then it implies that God determined A to kill B. So God is the cause of the murder, not person A.

            2. If God is the cause of the murder, how can HE punish person A for murder? Person A did not choose to murder, instead, it was God who determined A to murder. So if A were to be punished, would it not be an unjust punishment? Extending this to the final punishment would pose another serious dilemma. If mankind is not free to make a choice to either believe or disbelieve in God, then how can God send unbelievers to hell? How would it be just/fair on God’s part to send someone to hell despite the fact that that person did not choose to disbelieve in God?

            3. Does this mean that God is evil? If God is the author of sin and if God punishes people unjustly, then HE cannot be a good, loving, merciful, gracious and a just God.

            More such theological dilemmas should be explained by those holding to the viewpoint of theological determinism and compatibilism.

            Whatever be our stance, we need not condescend to the extent of alienating our Christian brothers and sisters holding opposing viewpoints. We could always agree to disagree, yet maintain our brotherhood.

            Christian apologist, Greg Koukl articulates this well:3

I believe that all things are in operation. That there are some things that are determined. Our molecules are like dominos falling in a certain way according to their chemistry and natural law, and we don’t make any decisions about those kinds of things. There are other things that I seem to make decisions on and I could have done otherwise, so I believe that there are libertarian freedoms that we have when we’re trying to make decisions about things.
There also seems to me that there are some things that I do because I want to do them, but I couldn’t have done otherwise. I don’t think it’s possible for us to live a sinless life. I seem to want to sin, and sometimes I want to do right. But even when I want to sin, and I do the sinful things, these are things that are, to some degree, dictated by my nature.
How that all plays out in our theology is a complex kind of notion. But when you’re addressing the question of free will, think of these different categories: strict determinism, strict libertarian freedom, and right in the middle, it’s called compatibilism, or soft determinism. Yes, some of the things are determined by your desires, and in that mix, you’re going to find a place for your particular theology.

            Why am I not a compatibilist? The Consequence Argument, even its non-technical version, is quite compelling against compatibilism. The non-technical version of the consequence argument is this:4

This argument invokes a compelling pattern of inference regarding claims about what is power necessary for a person. Power necessity, as applied to true propositions (or facts), concerns what is not within a person's power. Or, put differently, it concerns facts that a person does not have power over. To say that a person does not have power over a fact is to say that she cannot act in such a way that the fact would not obtain. To illustrate, no person has power over the truths of mathematics. That is, no person can act in such a way that the truths of mathematics would be false.[16] Hence, the truths of mathematics are, for any person, power necessities.
… The argument requires the assumption that determinism is true, and that the facts of the past and the laws of nature are fixed. Given these assumptions, here is a rough, non-technical sketch of the argument:[17]
1. No one has power over the facts of the past and the laws of nature.
2. No one has power over the fact that the facts of the past and the laws of nature entail every fact of the future (i.e., determinism is true).
3. Therefore, no one has power over the facts of the future.
According to the Consequence Argument, if determinism is true, it appears that no person has any power to alter how her own future will unfold.

            Peter van Inwagen is a prominent metaphysician and a brilliant Christian philosopher. He is an incompatibilist. He has written a paper entitled A dialogue on Free Will.5 Read this paper if you desire to dig deep into the subject of the superiority of incompatibilism over compatibilism.  

            I am a libertarian, for I hold to the libertarian free will position. This does not relegate those holding opposing views to hell. Whatever be your position, it does not affect your salvation, unless the extension of your belief motivates you to negate any of the essential doctrines of Historic Christianity. What affects your salvation and mine is our belief in the essential doctrines of Historic Christianity. 

            How do I reconcile my libertarian free will with God’s sovereignty? God has given man free will and God allows man to make independent choices that are not causally determined. So man is free to make his own decisions, and he needs to face the consequences of those decisions (moral responsibility).

            The sovereign God predestines people based on his foreknowledge (cf. Molinism). God knows who will accept and reject HIM. When God predestines, HE does so in the light of HIS perfect knowledge, which includes the knowledge of the counterfactuals as well.

Endnotes:

1https://www.str.org/videos/do-humans-really-have-free-will#.XWjzDOMzZhF

2https://www.theopedia.com/compatibilism

3https://www.str.org/videos/do-humans-really-have-free-will#.XWjzDOMzZhF

4https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/#ThrMajInfConCom

5http://andrewmbailey.com/pvi/Dialogue_Free_Will.pdf  

Websites last accessed on 30th August 2019.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Do We Have Free Will? Is Free Will An Illusion?


            All but one of the ‘Four Horsemen of Atheism’ deny the existence of free will. Dan Dennett is the sole exception. Even the most acclaimed scientist Stephen Hawking considered free will as an illusion.

            So, atheists have no choice but to deny free will!

            An atheist is a materialist. If all there is is nothing more than matter and energy, then strictly, the concept of free will should be negated. If every event is connected to a past (antecedent) event, then any decision cannot be ‘freely’ decided. The materialistic perspective holds every thought captive to things external – the forces of nature.

            Discussing the topic of free will necessitates a brief understanding of free will and its competitors - determinism and compatibilism, at the very least. The definitions found below are from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on Compatibilism.1

            Free Will: “…free will can be defined as the unique ability of persons to exercise control over their conduct in the manner necessary for moral responsibility.”

            Determinism: “A common characterization of determinism states that every event (except the first, if there is one) is causally necessitated by antecedent events.[4] Within this essay, we shall define determinism as the metaphysical thesis that the facts of the past, in conjunction with the laws of nature, entail every truth about the future. According to this characterization, if determinism is true, then, given the actual past, and holding fixed the laws of nature, only one future is possible at any moment in time.”

            Compatibilism: “Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed as a thesis about the compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”

            Since these definitions include the term moral responsibility, here’s a brief understanding of moral responsibility:

            Moral Responsibility: “A person who is a morally responsible agent is not merely a person who is able to do moral right or wrong. Beyond this, she is accountable for her morally significant conduct. Hence, she is, when fitting, an apt target of moral praise or blame, as well as reward or punishment. And typically, free will is understood as a necessary condition of moral responsibility since it would seem unreasonable to say of a person that she deserves blame and punishment for her conduct if it turned out that she was not at any point in time in control of it.”

            One method to ascertain the reality of free will is to think if its archrival, determinism, is real or not. If we are not determined, then the other possibility is that we are free rational beings.

Is Determinism For Real?

            William Lane Craig assaults determinism by terming it as an unlivable view, “A determinist cannot live consistently as though everything he thinks and does is causally determined—especially his choice to believe that determinism is true! Thinking that you’re determined to believe that everything you believe is determined produces a kind of vertigo. Nobody can live as though all that he thinks and does is determined by causes outside himself. Even determinists recognize that we have to act “as if” we had free will and so weigh our options and decide on what course of action to take, even though at the end of the day we are determined to take the choices we do. Determinism is thus an unliveable view… insofar as naturalism implies that all our thoughts and actions are determined by natural causes outside ourselves, free will is an illusion. But we cannot escape this illusion and so must go on making choices as though we had free will, even though we don’t. Naturalism is thus an unliveable worldview.” (Emphasis Mine).2 

            An article entitled Determinism's Self-Destruct Button by Christian apologist Tim Stratton exposes determinism as a self-defeating worldview:3

Those who presuppose determinism have big problems on their hands. Consider the words of Greg Koukl:
“The problem with [determinism] is that without freedom, rationality would have no room to operate. Arguments would not matter, since no one would be able to base beliefs on adequate reasons. One could never judge between a good idea and a bad one. One would only hold beliefs because he had been predetermined to do so. . . . Although it is theoretically possible that determinism is true — there is no internal contradiction, as far as I can tell — no one could ever know it if it were. Every one of our thoughts, dispositions, and opinions would have been decided for us by factors completely out of our control. Therefore, in practice, arguments for determinism are self-defeating.” (Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, 128-29).

            The ironies exhibited by those who negate free will should not be neglected. In an article entitled Atheism & Free Will in the Apologetics Press website, author Kyle Butt exposes these ironies:4

There are striking ironies in the position that Harris and others take as they deny their own free will and their readers’ as well. First, why in the world would these men write books and articles in an attempt to persuade anyone to believe their “no free will” position if the reader cannot decide for himself to change his mind? What is the point of trying to convince a person who believes in free will, if that “belief” is nothing more than the consequence of the cause-and-effect, natural processes that are banging around in his brain? If the reader does not have the ability to choose his or her belief, what is the point of trying to “show” the superiority of the “no-free-will” position? According to Harris and crew, you believe what you believe because of the physics of the Cosmos working in your brain, and how in the world words on a page could change those physics would indeed be a mystery worth uncovering. The fact that modern atheists are writing books to convince people that there is no free will belies the undeniable fact that humans have free will.
Second, Harris’ concluding statement brings to light another glaring difficulty in the no-free-will position. He says, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me.”13 Wait just a minute. Who is the “I” or the “me” in the sentence? If there is no free will, and humans are simply the combined total of the physical processes at work in their brains, then there should be nothing more than the “mind” in Harris’ sentence. The fact that he can differentiate between “himself” and his “mind” shows that there is something more at work than determinism. A purely physical entity such as a rock or atom does not have the ability to think in terms of “I” or “me.” In truth, that Harris is conscious of an “I” or of a “self” contradicts his claim that free will does not exist.14
In addition, it seems humorous and superfluous for people such as Harris to write an “Acknowledgements” section in their books. Why thank people and acknowledge their contributions to your work if they could not have done otherwise? He writes, “I would like to thank my wife and editor, Annaka Harris, for her contributions to Free Will. As is always the case, her insights and recommendations greatly improved the book. I don’t know how she manages to raise our daughter, work on her own projects, and still have time to edit my books—but she does. I am extremely lucky and grateful to have her in my corner.”15 That’s all well and good, but since she has no free will, she didn’t choose to help Sam. It was thrust upon her by the nature of the Cosmos. Why thank a person who stays with you and helps you due to no choice or decision of her own, but due to an unalterable course of cause-and-effect actions in her brain? Why not thank the computer that “typed the words so faithfully as I hit the key strokes,” or the oxygen that “so generously entered my lungs and allowed my cells to function,” or the light that “so gracefully bounced from the screen (or page) to my eye, allowing me to see”? That Harris thanks his wife and not his computer gets to the point that there is something very different about the two entities. You thank a person because that person helped you (but could have chosen to do otherwise).
            These are more than adequate reasons to negate determinism as an existential reality. So free will is not an illusion. Free will exists. 

            We may negate naturalistic determinism, but we need to consider Theological Determinism, which we shall in my next article. (According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Theological determinism is the view that God determines every event that occurs in the history of the world.)

            Compatibilism cannot be ignored as well. The sequel to this article will discuss both theological determinism and compatibilism with respect to libertarian free will. (Libertarian free will is the ability of human beings to make a choice that is independent of being causally determined.)

Endnotes:

1https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/#TerOneForFreWilPro

2https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/calvinism-and-the-unliveability-of-determinism/

3https://seanmcdowell.org/blog/determinisms-self-destruct-button

4https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=5339

Websites last accessed on 28th August 2019.

Monday, August 26, 2019

If We Have Free Will In Heaven, How Can We Not Sin?


            The Bible teaches us that there will be no evil and sin in heaven (Revelation 20:10, 21:4, 8, 27, 22:3, 15 cf. Isaiah 35:8-9). Would the heavenly residents have free will to not sin or would they not have free will at all?

            Those in heaven will have free will, but they will not sin. Norman Geisler explains the notion that heaven will be a place of moral perfection:1

Heaven Is a Place of Moral Perfection
The present world is laden with layers of evil; even the apostle Paul considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). In heaven, though, every believer will be made absolutely perfect, for “when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears” (1 Cor. 13:10; cf. 1 John 3:2).
“Nothing impure will ever enter it [heaven], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). Therefore, we are to “make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Heaven is a place of ultimate and complete sanctification.

            According to Geisler, heaven will also be a place of perfect knowledge: “[Now] we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor. 13:9–12)”2

            Heaven, Geisler writes, is also the place of the Beatific Vision (seeing God face to face):3

Heaven Is the Place of the Beatific Vision
The Beatific Vision is the blessed vision that Moses sought, God forbade, Jesus promised, and John described—seeing God face-to-face.
Immortal Man Will See God
However, immortal human beings will see God face-to-face; John declared that in heaven “they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). Again, Paul explained, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). The psalmist added, “In righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (17:15). As John said, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
The term Beatific Vision, this face-to-face experience with God, comes from the word for beatitude, meaning “blessed” or “happy.” This vision is the ultimate fulfillment of all divine aspirations—it will be a direct, complete, and final revelation of God in which the believer will see the divine essence…

            The Beatific Vision rules out the possibility of sin and fulfills our freedom, says Geisler:4

The Beatific Vision Makes Sin Impossible
Knowledge of God is knowledge of an infinite good;17 once one directly sees infinite good, it will no longer be possible for him to do evil,18 for to be directly informed in one’s mind by absolute good is to become completely conformed to it. Hence, the Beatific Vision makes sin impossible. Just as seeing absolute beauty will spoil one forever from longing for anything ugly, likewise, beholding the absolutely holy will overpower any attraction to or desire for the unholy.
The Beatific Vision Fulfills Our Freedom
Though heaven makes sin impossible, it does not destroy but instead fulfills our freedom. Heaven completes our freedom to completely love God, just as (analogously) marriage here on earth frees us to love the one to whom we belong. True freedom is not the freedom to do evil, but the freedom to do good. The essence of free will is self-determination, and if one’s self chooses to do only the good, then the fulfillment of it in a place where only good can be done is not the destruction of freedom, but the completion of it.19
God is both free and unable to sin; it will be likewise for us when we become most godlike, for the perfection of our freedom is the freedom from sinning, not the freedom of sinning. The best freedom is the freedom to do the best; beholding and loving the absolute best (which makes sin impossible) is the best thing we can ever do.20

            If the Beatific Vision prevents sin in heaven, how did the angels sin in heaven while being in the presence of God? William Lane Craig summarizes an answer to this complex question, “Originally created “at arm’s length” from God epistemically, they had a time to choose either for or against God. Those who chose for God were then sealed with the Beatific Vision, so that no further fall is possible. Fallen angels are Satan and his minions.”5

            Craig also explains that those in heaven will not sin because of the Beatific Vision and that the freedom to sin would cease to exist:6

God has created us at an “epistemic distance,” so to speak, which allows us the freedom to rebel against Him and separate ourselves from Him. This world is a vale of decision-making during which we decide whether we want to live with God forever or reject Him and so irrevocably separate ourselves from Him. As discussions of the so-called “Hiddenness of God” have emphasized, God could have made His existence overwhelmingly obvious, had He wanted to. During this life, we “see in a glass darkly,” as St. Paul put it; but someday we shall see “face to face” (I Cor. 13.12). Medieval theologians liked to talk of the “Beatific Vision” which the blessed in heaven will receive. There the veil will be removed, and we shall see Christ in all of His loveliness and majesty. The vision of Christ, the source of infinite goodness and love, will be so overwhelming as to remove all freedom to sin. I like to think of it like iron filings in the presence of an enormously powerful electromagnet. They would be so powerfully attracted to the magnet that there is simply no possibility of their falling away. So with the blessed in heaven.
…One could hold that God via His middle knowledge knew exactly which persons, if saved and glorified in heaven, would freely persevere in grace, even though they would retain the freedom to sin. It’s not that they have a different nature than others; it’s just that this is how they would freely choose. God has chosen to create a world in which all the saved are precisely such persons. Hence, everyone in heaven will freely persevere. They could fall away but they just won’t. Interestingly, creating a world like this could involve God’s having to put up with a lot of otherwise undesirable features of the world, such as vast amounts of natural and moral evil. Perhaps only in a world like that would all those who come freely to know God and His salvation be a person who would freely persevere in heaven…
…it seems right to think that the unalloyed vision of Christ would be something so overwhelmingly attractive that freedom to resist it would be utterly removed.

Endnotes:

1https://normangeisler.com/norm-theologizing-about-heaven/

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4Ibid.

5https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/can-people-in-heaven-sin

6Ibid.

Websites last accessed on 26th August 2019.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Why Is Biblical Inerrancy Not An Essential Doctrine Of Historic Christianity?


            Historic Christianity is predicated on many essential doctrines. Essential doctrines are those doctrines that affect one’s salvation. Unbelief in any one or more of the essential doctrines will result in a loss of salvation.

            Christ’s bodily resurrection is one such essential doctrine. Christians believe that Christ’s resurrection was a bodily resurrection. Those who do not believe in this doctrine cannot be Christians.

            Similarly, should Christians believe that the Bible has no errors (biblical inerrancy)? If a Christian does not believe in unlimited inerrancy of the Bible, would he/she lose salvation?

            Some Christians believe that the Bible has no errors in its redemptive teaching. They believe in the Triunity of God, the Lordship of Christ, and all the other essential doctrines. They also believe that the Bible is infallible i.e. trustworthy. But they do not subscribe to the notion that the Bible has no errors in all that it affirms. Would such Christians lose their salvation because they do not believe in the unlimited inerrancy of the Bible?

            I do not think so.

            If a person believes that the Bible is not trustworthy in its entirety, then he/she would lose salvation. This situation is entirely different from that of a Christian who believes that the Bible is absolutely trustworthy, but is not absolutely inerrant.

            Why would a Christian, who does not believe in the unlimited inerrancy of the Bible, not lose salvation?

1. Belief in Essential Doctrines

            Christians who do not believe in the unlimited inerrancy of the Bible will not lose salvation if they believe the essential doctrines.

            The Nicene Creed contains the essential doctrines of Historic Christianity:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy universal and apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
            Very minimally, belief in the doctrines stated in the Nicene Creed is sufficient for one’s salvation. 

2. Logical Conundrum in Unlimited Inerrancy

            In order to arrive at the conclusion that the Bible cannot err, unlimited inerrantists believe in the following reasoning:

            Premise 1: God cannot err.
            Premise 2: The Bible is God’s Word.

            Conclusion 3: Therefore, the Bible cannot err.

            This reasoning is not bulletproof.

            Premise 1 is correct. But Premise 2 could be questioned.

            The term God’s Word can offer two meanings. It could either be the spoken word of God or the written word of God.

            In the case of the Bible, although it is God’s word, it is not God’s spoken word. Rather it is the written word of God.

            If the Bible is a voice recording of God’s spoken word, then one plausibly cannot argue against the veracity of the conclusion presented above.

            But human agency/authorship was involved in the creation of the Bible. The Bible was not dictated to human authors. The human authors were inspired by God.

            The presence of fallible human authors and scribes, who were involved in the transmission of the Bible, presents a window of opportunity for errors to creep in. Hence errors cannot be ruled out in the Bible.

            It is not necessary to dig deep into how errors could creep into the Bible. It is sufficient to recollect the results of the textual criticism of the Bible.

            Textual critics have affirmed that the New Testament is 99.5% accurate. It is a well-known fact that the New Testament contains 0.5% errors. It is also a fact that these errors do not affect any significant doctrine taught in the Bible.1

            So, at the very least, the Bible contains some errors. Hence, the conclusion that the Bible cannot err because it is the word of God, can be disputed.

3. Essential or Not?

            Finally, why is the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy not an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity?

            As already discussed, the person who believes in the limited inerrancy (i.e. that the Bible is in inerrant in only the redemptive matters) has the dual option to believe in the essential doctrines of Historic Christianity and reject unlimited inerrancy of the Bible. Rejecting unlimited inerrancy need not affect one’s belief in the essential doctrines of Historic Christianity.

            Christianity’s truthfulness does not depend on an inerrant Bible. As elaborated in my previous blog, the truthfulness of Christianity is independent of the Bible.2 Therefore, the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy cannot be considered as an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity.

Endnotes:

1https://www.str.org/articles/is-the-new-testament-text-reliable#ANCHOR19

2https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.com/2019/08/does-bible-contain-errors-or-not-how.html

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