Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Euthyphro Dilemma and the Nature of God

Lets think about philosophy for a minute because I think there has been some confusion over some key metaphysical issues in theology.  In Plato’s Euthyphro a dialogue takes places between Euthyphro and Socrates over the nature of piety.  Euthyphro begins throwing out different definitions for piety which Socrates socratically dismisses in a way that only Socrates can.  For our purpose we want to focus in on the second definition that Euthyphro gives.  Here he says that “piety is what all the gods love, and impiety is what all the gods hate.”  What is interesting is what Socrates says in response, “do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?”

Socrates’ question is one of those locus classicus questions some times referred to as the “Euthyphro Dilemma.”  What Socrates is getting at if I might amplify is:
Q.1 God command X because it is morally obligatory.
Q.2 X is morally obligatory because God commanded it. 
How one answers these questions has much to say about her understanding of God.

Q.1 assumes that X is independent of God.  That is to say that moral actions are right or wrong in themselves.  This was the understanding that both Socrates and Euthyphro both agree on, the gods love piety because it is pious.  Having made their appeal for Q.1 necessarily means they must reject Q.2 on the basis that the god’s loving the pious does not explain why the pious is the pious.  Or in our example above God commanding X does not explain X.  Lastly, both Q.1 and Q.2 cannot both be true because to say that “God commands X because it is morally obligatory and X is morally obligatory because God commands it” is circular reasoning.  In either case Socrates’ initial question goes unanswered.  Namely, what is the nature of moral laws?

The problem is in Socrates’ question itself “do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?”  It creates an either / or situation or false dilemma without the possibility of a third option.  Namely, that the nature of morality is God Himself.  God is moral and is the standard of morality therefore when it comes to moral laws He looks only to Himself.  Q.1 fails to answer the question because it assumes moral laws are independent of God.  If moral laws are independent of God then they exist outside of God requiring God’s obedience.  Thus these moral laws would be deified above God and command His obedience.  Moreover he would then lose His God like qualities and cease to be God.  This latter view of the problem as a false dilemma was articulated early on by Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas.  The bottom line is that God does not conform to nor does he create moral laws.  Rather His very nature stands for them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Who's Testimony; Ours Or Christ's?

I get the impression that contemporary evangelicals are at a loss for words when it comes to sharing with the unbelieving world. Aside from the various understandings of what exactly the Gospel is, there seems to be a lot of conversation that leans toward personal testimony. There is nothing wrong with giving ones personal experience however it is a bit problematic when that becomes the emphasis.

Why does this happen? That is to say why would anyone place emphasis on their personal experience as an evangelistic tool. Many have found that offering up the objective content of the Gospel is typically met with some sort of refutation. Not being able to respond results in an embarrassing situation. Or the exact opposite could happen where the refutation leads to a rebuttal then further refutation, add some emotions and now we have a heated debate, also another embarrassing situation. As a result many have come to believe that personal experience is a better way of going because "its unassailable". "It happened to me, I know it, therefore it cannot be refuted".

There are a couple problems with this. The first and vary obvious is someone might want to believe their personal testimony is irrefutable, after all it was their experience so it happened to them and no one else can refute it. If that is true and religious experiences are validated based on the individual having experienced it then that standard must be applied across the board to all religious experiences such as adherents who claim to have experienced a blue skinned Krishna.

Those who advance these type "irrefutable subjective truth statements" are not willing to extend the application to other religious experiences that do not line up with their belief system.  This reduces the nature of truth to a stipulated standard which is not characteristic of the nature of truth.  Any proposition is open to critique. This is especially the case if it is being used to advance some other proposition like Christianity is ultimately real/true. We must keep in mind that God is a rational God and is the standard for right reason. He creates on a representational model therefor all men are created in His image possessing among other things powers of reason. Therefor believers have no reason to shirk from responsible reasoning.

When our Lord left his disciples he left them with explicit responsibilities to disciple (or evangelize), Baptize in the Trinitarian formulation, and to teach them all that He commanded (Matthew 28.16-20). When we evangelize we are sharing the “good news” that is what the word means. What is the good news of all scripture? Paul says,

[15:1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV)

Why do we share the “good news”? Paul explains that it is the power of God for salvation. My personal testimony of how I received God’s grace might be useful in a cumulative case for Christianity but the means by which hearts are changed is Christ’s testimony the Gospel of Christ. If we are going to use “evangelistic tools” to win people to Christ, it is important that we use the tools that we have been given.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

ESV Online Bible Steps Up Its Game

If your a fan of the ESV you are really going to like esv.org.  The folks at Crossway have added more tools to its online Bible making it a top notch resource for online Bible study.  Take a few minutes and check it out.  Tell me what you think.  It does require an account but set up is free.  I think you'll really like this.