Certainty is possible

Let’s get right to the crux of the matter with a syllogism.

P1: If it is impossible to be certain of anything, then it is also possible to be certain that it is impossible to be certain of anything.
P2: It is not possible to be certain that it is impossible to be certain of anything.
C: Therefore, it is not impossible to be certain of anything.

The syllogism should help to see that the denial of human certainty entails an absurdity. If we can’t be certain of anything at all, then by inference, we can be certain of this, that we can’t be certain of anything at all.

Premise 2 takes for granted that an absurdity cannot be true. That is necessarily so, because if an absurdity could be true, then it would be impossible to show. It would be impossible to show anything as true, in fact. Thus we outright deny absurdities.

Conclusion

It is most certainly possible to be absolutely certain of at least something. If you think that it might not be possible for you to be absolutely sure of anything, then that right there makes it impossible for you to be absolutely sure of anything. If you hesitate and doubt whether you can be absolutely sure of anything, then because of that, you cannot attain surety. But that will be your own doing, not something out of necessity or impossibility.

Surety can only come without the faintest doubt. After all, it’s nothing more than lack of doubt. The only way you can be absolutely sure of anything is to start with the assumption that you can be. Moreover, you must start with the assumption that you indeed are absolutely sure of something. You can begin, for instance, with being sure that you are sure of at least something, namely that you are sure.

Here on this blog, we are completely sure of a number of things, though obviously not everything. May the Grace of God grant the reader the wonderful blessing of surety!

Proof is for Mathematics

Contrary to this post’s title, proof does not belong solely to the field of mathematics. The proposition that says it does is subject to itself, meaning that itself couldn’t possibly be proved true or false in that case. It’s just an assertion.

Over and against that false proposition (in the guise of an assertion), we have the proposition that proof does not belong solely to the field of mathematics. This is proved by the impossibility of the contrary, that otherwise, nothing could be proved, even the proposition that proof belongs solely to the field of mathematics.

The following is a syllogistic representation of the argument.

P1: If proof is just for mathematics, then it is impossible to prove non-mathematical propositions true.
P2: It is possible to prove non-mathematical propositions true.
C: Therefore, proof is not just for mathematics.

This is true on the basis that God has manifested it as such, unavoidably. And to clarify, I’ve categorized this under ‘Philosophy’, but I hold philosophy to be a category underneath the larger study of theology.

In the Name of Jesus Christ

For a good number of years I was curious as to the precise meaning of the phrase, “In the name of Jesus Christ”. Of course, I’ve always recognized that it’s not some magic formula whereby we utter these simple words with a request and the substance of our request, no matter what it is, will be granted. But I was still confused as to how it is to be understood.

Are we supposed to literally say these words? Or do the words merely carry the traditional Jewish notion of authority behind the name? Looking to Scripture, we see that Jesus Himself notes in John 14 that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

And John later reaffirms that same statement to the church, practically an exact propositional restatement of it.

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

And curiously enough, we have Peter using the words in a completely literal manner when healing a man in Acts 3.

Acts 3:6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

I think it’s clear that, given Acts 3, we can and perhaps even should often use the words in a totally literal way. Though with the assumption that one is praying with the authority of Christ behind one, that in itself may suffice, as Stephen’s prayer in Acts 7:59-60 (arguably through which the apostle Paul was converted) attests.

Incidentally, gotquestions.org has some wisdom to speak on this matter with their answer to the question, “What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?”

Lists of Names

While reading through Nehemiah 10’s list of names included in the document of promise from the people of Israel, I couldn’t help but consider something.

Assuming Dispensationalism is true, is it not possible and feasible that partly the significance of this list lies in the future continuation of Israel in Christ’s earthly kingdom, wherein the saints of yore will have been raised from the dead to serve the Lord?

Thus, the people in the list, Nehemiah, the priests, Levites and leaders, will again serve similar roles in the future, fulfilling the promises of the document.

Just a thought.

Lack of belief in the non-existence of God

I’ve often heard atheists press the point that they don’t make a positive statement about the existence of God, but that they lack belief in the existence of God and therefore they have no burden of proof to demonstrate that He doesn’t exist.

Besides seemingly failing to see that logically, they can’t prove that there is indeed a burden of proof in the first place, they also fail to see that this very point of theirs works equally from the other side of the argument.

The Christian (or the theist in general) could just as easily say that they lack belief in the non-existence of God. Therefore there’s no burden of proof upon them to demonstrate God exists, at least not any more than that of the atheist being required to prove He doesn’t exist.

The Bible forthright declares that all mankind know of God’s existence due to the ever-present evidence of creation itself (Romans 1, Psalm 19). For that reason, I’ve been so bold as to tell certain atheists that I lack belief that they lack belief in God’s existence.

People play silly games to avoid the truth. Perhaps being silly back might help them see the silliness.

Free will in the Bible

This will sound odd to many people, but the words and concept of human free will is nowhere found in the Bible. There is not a single text in the Bible that says that man has free will. Nor is there any statement describing the notion.

What do you mean by free will?

I should be clear that what I mean by free will isn’t relevant here because the Bible doesn’t describe any given definition of free will. We could just use the respective Biblical text as a definition if that were so. But as it stands, there is no such definition provided, so we must understand this all on the basis of propositions, or more fundamentally, presuppositions.

So what is free will?

There are a number of things people usually understand free will to mean. But most commonly, at least that I’ve seen, people assume it is the idea that man is autonomous in his process of reasoning and/or choice. It’s generally a position that man is the highest authority in regard to his choices. No higher authority governs man’s choices, but man individually governs them and/or the process of reasoning that precedes the choice.

While some people accept the idea of autonomy as being synonymous with the concept of free will, there are many others who would argue that its more intricate than that. No matter how the explanation is attempted though, the issue inevitably comes down to man being the highest governor of his choices, or at the very least, some choices.

On the Reformed side of theology, there are those who, like the late Jonathan Edwards, would say that free will is the idea that man chooses according to his desires. And to be clear, while I’m not disagreeing with this idea, I must note that the Bible itself does not state this as well.

Again, I’m not disagreeing with the Reformed understanding of the concept. I’m only saying that it isn’t literally stated in the Bible. But I do believe it’s possible to know whether that understanding or otherwise is true, and that is by testing it all against what the Bible literally does say.

A matter of presuppositions

At the core of the matter, we should see that the concept of free will is a presupposition. There’s not a statement in the Bible affirming any idea of free will, so we can’t derive a proposition from it. Instead, we take the proposition we already hold as true (the definition we affirm) and interpret the Bible in accordance with that proposition. And that is what a presupposition is.

Again, the concept of free will is a presupposition. We can’t directly derive it from the Bible, but we interpret the Bible to be in accord with what we already believe about it.

Why the need for free will?

I believe the reason the notion of free will is so popular is because people don’t otherwise see how people could be held responsible for their actions. Unless people are the highest governor of their own choices, how can they be held responsible for their choices?

Likewise, in the theological realm, if people are not the highest governor of their own choices, how can God hold them responsible for their choices? The philosophical Problem of Evil usually enters the discussion here, which opens a can of worms itself, about why God would create human beings with free will in the first place and how that all meshes with the Bible.

Do we really need it?

It’s not my point to dispute the notion of free will in this article. Instead, I would like to highlight the idea that the Bible does not state a definition of free will, it doesn’t directly affirm any given definition. And something I think is very helpful to consider with all of this is that if we’re concerned about how man can be held responsible for his choices, then we can discuss that rather than getting into the complicated discussion of free will.

Do we need free will for God to hold us responsible for our choices?

The Sower’s Hands International

Having recently been involved with a relatively extensive re-design for a missionary website (good friends of mine), I was again motivated to get the word out about these missionaries and their incredible work. They’re a family of Christians serving in Southeast Asia, living among and witnessing to the native people there. The name of the mission is “The Sower’s Hands International“.

Part of what makes these missionaries so amazing is that they don’t live in modern, fancy establishments. They live immersed among the people they serve and teach, living much as those people live. And while that is noteworthy in its own right, what stands out more prominently in my mind is their deep knowledge of God and the Bible (attested in their thorough Statement of Faith), theology that guides their mission and is manifested in their Christian lifestyle and brings with it, the comfort of knowing that the people they are witnessing to are receiving a full Gospel message.

Besides being well acquainted with one of them through my various endeavors at CARM, I’ve had the fortune to be able to visit with these missionaries in person on two occasions where they made it out state-wide (one of their Dads lives nearby) and I was greatly blessed and encouraged by their Christian demeanor and practices and the depth of their talk about our great God. They loved discussing God and all things related to His Word.

With the greatest assurance, I highly recommend giving donations and/or visiting these particular missionaries in short-term or long-term missions. I don’t recommend giving unless I know the funds are being handled well and with these wonderful people, I know perfectly well they are.

By the way, my work with them on their website was free of charge, as a service I have the ability to provide them. I highly encourage other Christians to give via such services as well, where possible, knowing their service is furthering the teaching of the Gospel of Christ our Lord.

The Sons of God of Genesis 6

There is quite a bit of theological discussion and debate surrounding the book of Genesis, chapter 6, where it’s said that the “sons of God” took as wives, the daughters of men, as they chose.

Genesis 6:1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them,2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.

Who are the sons of God?

Some people argue that the sons of God in question is the godly familial line of Seth, the sons of Seth. They often say this is based on the notion that Seth was appointed as a replacement for Abel, whom Cain had slain, as well as that this context should be considered alongside New Testament teachings about children of God (Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:10). They also generally see the daughters of man as being the daughters of Cain, the ungodly daughters of mankind.

So why can’t they be the godly sons of Seth?

This is an awkward understanding because it is said that man, meaning mankind in general, began to multiple on the face of the land and daughters were born to man, again in general. And yet in verse 2, it mentions, obviously the same daughters of man again, only this time it’s supposedly understood as the daughters of Cain.

On the other hand, if man, in this context, is said to refer to the line of Cain (ungodly mankind by extension) even from the start of the passage, we’re left with the awkwardness of that notion being read into the rest of the passage, where we see that man is definitely referring to all mankind, including the sons of Seth.

Genesis 6:3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

So who really are the sons of God?

I will herein contend for what is arguably the oldest understanding of the phrase (which understanding was held earliest historically by both Jews and Christians), that the sons of God is referring to angels. Job 1 gives us a clear basis by which to say that could be the case, as it uses the phrase, obviously in regard to angels presenting themselves before God.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

However, I won’t be focusing on the bare possibility of the phrase designating angels. I generally dislike such argumentation myself. Instead, I would like to turn to the New Testament, to the book of Jude. In chapter 1,  Jude says that he wants to remind his audience of, though they once fully knew, the things noted in verse 5.

Jude 1:5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

By way of the conjunction, “and”, what is said in verses 6 and 7 also pertain to the things about which Jude is reminding his audience. Again, these are things they once fully knew.

Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Because these things were once fully known to Jude’s audience, we must have a Biblical basis for understanding them. These things are being brought to remembrance, they’re not new teachings.

Among these things is the mention of angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling. Setting aside the note that these angels have been kept in eternal chains (this is clarified in the article linked to below), we see that by way of extension (the “just as” in verse 7), these angels “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire”.

Where does the Bible mention angels doing such things?

So Jude is saying there are angels who left their position of authority and pursued unnatural desires. And this, he is bringing to remembrance to his audience. Yet, we can’t find such a teaching in Scripture unless we understand the sons of God from Genesis 6 to be those angels.

Going with that, the sons of God of Genesis 6 being angels, we see that they pursued unnatural desires, desires for strange flesh, that of human women. And their pursuit was similar to the men of Sodom pursuing unnatural desires for the angels who visited Lot.

Genesis 19:4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”

The word “know” in this context is referring to sexual intercourse, as indicated in the NIV rendering, based on the word carrying that meaning Biblically in Genesis 4:1.

Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the angels. And in that same way, fallen angels had known human women previously, as recorded in Genesis 6.

Conclusion

I’m arguing that the sons of God of Genesis 6 must be fallen angels because otherwise, we’d have no Biblical reference for Jude 1. Yet there must be a Biblical reference because Jude is bringing those the things he’s saying to remembrance.

The argument is summarized thus:

P1: If the sons of God of Genesis 6 are not fallen angels, then it can’t be known what Jude 1:6-7 is referring to.
P2: It can be known what Jude 1:6-7 is referring to (really, it must be known, because he’s bringing it to remembrance).
C: Therefore, the sons of God of Genesis 6 are fallen angels.

I’ve tried to focus on just that argument, but there’s far more to be said of this topic. And on that note, the following article covers that in remarkable detail.

Further reading: Genesis 6 Sons of God

When Jesus’ Time Had Come

Jesus’ earthly ministry reached it’s critical point where the Gentiles/Greeks began to seek Him, as recorded in the book of John.

John 12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks21 So these came toPhilip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Jesus mentioned several times prior to this that his time has not yet come (John 2:4, 7:8, 7:30) and the context of this passage tells us why. It was because the Gentiles had sought Him.

Prayer for the Salvation of All Men

There’s a significant theological dispute surrounding God’s will and man’s will, mainly focused on God’s sovereign governship over mankind. A chief Biblical text referenced in this dispute is 1 Timothy 2, where the Apostle Paul addresses the younger Timothy with words of wisdom as to how he should conduct himself. In verse 1, Paul tells Timothy that prayers should be made for all people, with a further clarification in verse 4 that God desires all people to be saved.

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Does All mean All?

Now, people commonly understand the use of all people in these verses to refer to all of mankind, universally. However, it must be noted that there is a qualification made in verse 2 that is specifically targeting the all people, qualifying the phrase as referring to classes of people, namely kings and all who are in high positions. Because of that qualifier, there are people who believe that the all people in view in this context refers to all sorts of people, rather than all people universally.

It is a fact that the word all can be used in such a qualified manner. One clear example of this is included in the Bible itself. Chapter 2 of Luke begins with a statement that a decree went out to all the world, where the all is obviously not referring to all the world universally, but all the world under Caesar Augustus’ rule.

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

All sorts of people

So we see that even in Scripture, the word all can be used with qualifications. But how would we know for sure that in Paul’s letter to Timothy, the all is meant in such a qualified manner as we just mentioned? Arguably, the best way to know would be to rule out the other possible understanding of the text. And by way of John’s words in 1 John 5, we should be able to rather quickly see how that works.

In 1 John 5, we’re told that if we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears us. And further, if we know that God hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request we’ve asked of Him.

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Taking that teaching alongside Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2, which incidentally is speaking on the topic of prayer as well, we can see that if we pray according to God’s will, and it is God’s will that all people be saved, then we will certainly have our request should we pray that all people be saved.

Should we pray for all people to be saved?

Considering that Paul is urging us to pray for all people in 1 Timothy 2, with the focal point that God desires all people be saved, it follows that we should be praying that all people be saved. Again, we should be praying that God saves all people, with the qualification that we mean all in the sense meant by Paul in this context of 1 Timothy 2.

If we understand that all people in that context is referring strictly to all classes of people, we have no problem seeing that our prayers should address all classes of people, whether kings and others in authoritative positions or otherwise. And God certainly hears our request and grants it.

On the other hand, if we understand all people to be referring to all people universally, we must accept that we should be praying that all people universally be saved. And we should likewise recognize that God will hear and grant that request.

Unversalism or not?

One of the understandings of the relevant text necessarily entails Universalism, the notion that all people universally will be saved. The other simply entails that God will save all sorts of people.

I’m herein arguing that it teaches that God will save all sorts of people, which truth is made obvious by God’s saving a Greek Centurion (Acts 10) and even a convicted thief (Luke 23:43), as just a couple examples.

Over and against that Biblically supported notion, we have the idea of Universal salvation which contradicts direct Biblical statements as well as Biblical theology.

It would be a bit much to dispute Universalism in this article, especially as I’m planning to address it with a full post. But I’d like to close with the notes that Universalism conflicts with the theological notion of God’s righteousness as well as directly contradicting, as clear examples, passages teaching of the sin of the blasphemy against the Spirit (Mattew 12:22-32, Mark 3:29), which passages directly indicted the supposed teachers that Jesus was addressing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, my argument is summarized thusly:

P1: If “all people” in 1 Timothy 2:1 refers to “all people universally”, then Universalism is true.
P2: Universalism is not true.
C: Therefore, “all people” in 1 Timothy 2:1 does not refer to “all people universally”.

All most certainly means all, but in this case, it doesn’t mean all people universally. It means all sorts or classes of people. Otherwise we’re faced with a contradiction.