Saturday, January 12, 2008

Axiomatic Foundations for a Faithfully Biblical Systematic Theology - Draft 2

Guiding Bible Text: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6


When it comes to the art and science revolving around the study of Scripture and God, my first passion is hermeneutics, i.e., conservative hermeneutics. It is ironic that today one has to specify "conservative" to connote a system of orthodox rules to the understanding of the meaning and application of any given document, especially historical documents. "Liberal" hermeneutics, if there is such a thing, is a system of rules of convenience. It derives its life, not from original intent or context of the document author, but from the biases and philosophies of the reader. Since this system of pseudo-thought depends highly on the context that the reader wishes to put into the document and not on the author's original intent and context, over time any document becomes meaningless. Were it possible to have several generations of critics alive at the same time to debate the issues on the same historical document,under liberal hermeneutics, one would simply hear a cacophony of arguments where everyone is lost as to a foundational basis for debate or discussion. There is no common ground to start with and such discussions would ultimately have no meaning nor practical value.

Ridiculous as it seems, this is the system of interpretation that liberal "activist" courts and judges use to evaluate constitutionality of laws adopted by legislative bodies and challenged by opposition parties.

Quite unfortunately, liberal hermeneutics has crept into the study of Scripture, which is the main reason that cults and cultic teachings sprout everywhere. It is even more unfortunate that such aberrant approaches have crept into the study of theology. Unless a set of common ground rules are established as a prerequisite to debate or discussion, one would witness the same confusing market of ideas previously described.

This is NOT a treatise or book on theology. If it were, then it would be as good as involving myself in endless polemics about the advantage or disadvantage of one view over the other, or the errors of one thought vs. the other. These discussions are both endless and aimless unless, the opponents agree to be guided by some solid foundational assumptions in their debate. If they agree on a common ground, as I hope they should, then a healthy, productive and edifying discussion is the expected result even if the final outcome does not mean complete agreement. It is my expectation however, that at least one of the contending parties will feel quite uncomfortable with even treasured positions which they may have held forever. But that is the goal of education, of theology, of apologetics, that of either making the mind more convinced of one’s position or that of shaking the minds of those holding untenable beliefs, or beliefs that were built on sandy soil.

If debating parties do not agree to these basic foundations for discussion, then there is really nothing to debate on or talk about unless both desire a complete waste of their time, and it would be more productive to move on and proceed with the rest of the Lord's work.

This treatise has been written with the view of setting a set of axioms or foundational propositions that proponents and opponents in theological discussions should best agree to before proceeding with any meaningful discussion on the subject. It is my hope that these axiomatic foundations be found logical and reasonable and to be agreed upon in order to generate edifying results.

It is my firm belief that disagreement with the axioms proposed makes one's theological framework and the subsequent theology irrational in its essence. The axioms put forward HAVE TO BE (and I state this without any apology whatsoever) so universal that any disagreement puts a pretending theologian on shaky ground, Biblically speaking. The biggest risk of nonconformity to these axioms is losing out on REAL salvation, of course. Why? I would propose that throughout the ages, if one's faith is in the wrong God, then such faith is based on an idol (a god of man's own creation, since it is a god that does not manifest from revelation). Consider the Mormons, for example. They claim to believe in Jesus Christ. But a critical examination of the Jesus Christ they believe in based on their writings and theology is someone else apart from the Jesus Christ of the New Testament and the Bible. Now, isn't this why we condemn the Mormon as heretic and deviant and unsaved?

Now what if some theologian, whether Arminian, Calvinist, Lutheran, Wesleyan, etc would start creating a theology that paints a picture of God that is not exactly the same as what most serious students of Scripture find in the pages of Scripture? Wouldn't this also classify as idolatry or border on it? Think about it! If a classical theologian paints God as timeless and impassable, but we don't see this in Scripture, shouldn't this be the description of a god that is different from the God of the bible? Are they not technically talking about, and most probably, worshipping a different god?

If the classicist now claims that he finds God as timeless, impassable, and immutable in Scripture only after he goes through seminary and several units of philosophy, shouldn't his concept of God still be suspect? What ever happened to God revealing to babes what the wise of this world missed out completely on? Is Christianity only for philosophers and intellectuals, then? Is the bible insufficient for one's edification and some extra-biblical references from some renowned theologian become necessary in order to understand the "simple gospel"?

Although I would think that for the most part, most concepts of God may not exactly be idolatrous but may simply be warped due to an overemphasis on some aspect of deity instead of a denial thereof, a wrong concept of God logically leads to a misguided faith. Misguided faith is faith that is weak but on the right God, or faith that may be strong but on the wrong God. This result into a Christian life that may be far from what we see in scripture, yielding a breed of Christians whose way of life is one that is defeated or ineffective in reaching out to a lost world, primarily because it is focused on the wrong god or a wrong concept of the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob". As a result, it is either unattractive to the observing world or it has little or no difference compared to secularism (or paganism) in both lifestyle and results, precisely because it is modeled after a wrong god!

It is not uncommon to find people who "sound" like Christians because they can articulate their faith and beliefs which seem to be for the most part biblical, but who nonetheless live a life that is no different from the nominal Christian who goes to church, prays regularly (albeit ceremoniously, or under the guise of obedience or submission to God), or knows the Bible very well (Satan is just as conversant as was seen during the temptation of Christ in the wilderness). Such folks may declare that God comes first in their lives, but their lifestyle and goals show more worldly concern. It is my hope that this discussion will somehow lead us into a (if not, the) correct concept or image of God and, as a result of having the correct theology, set us on the right track as far as our priorities and value system in this life. As correct theology lived out yields genuinely transformed lives, it is my further hope that the watching world will perceive the remarkable difference and be drawn to it and to its Source.

With so many variations of theology from the time of Christ to the present, it does not come as a surprise that although every individual practices his own theology, most folks refuse to study this discipline seriously or are simply incapable of doing so for whatever reason. It is also not surprising that there are well-meaning sincere Christians who desire to follow Christ as closely as they could by understanding the philosophical foundations of Scripture and end up not only dropping out of seminary but even renouncing their faith (which used to be "solid") in Christ.

The methods by which one derives correct theology should be no different from the methods yielding correct exegesis of the Word of God. It must start from a correct source and must follow the same rules of solid conservative hermeneutics. To achieve correct theology is to correctly explain by a logical synthesis of the whole of Scripture based on what a normal Koine Greek and/or a normal Hebrew would understand from a plain reading of Scripture as they normally understand it in their language, in the given time (historical) context, as well as cultural and sociological framework it was written (assuming these kinds of folks and languages survive today). This would be easy to see if we all speak and understand both Koine Greek and Old Testament Hebrew. Nevertheless, to arrive at correct theology, one should explain what we read from Scripture and NOT to re-explain Scripture based on some "special knowledge" or special revelation (as in the case of Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Eddy). A theologian cannot propose an impassable and immutable God when there are tons of scriptural references that contradict such a proposition. Declaring such contradictions as anthropomorphisms makes their arguments worse since, they now make a completely arbitrary declaration of which parts of scripture are anthropomorphic and which parts are not!

The rationale of correct theology underscores the hope that as a result of getting to know God better, the believer would not only gain a greater appreciation and faith in the God of the Bible, but that such knowledge will help him live a vibrant, exciting and victorious Christian life. One cannot overemphasize this. If lengthy but intelligent discussion of theology does not help transform lives, they are a waste of time, and most probably based on the wrong "model" or concept of God.

It is therefore imperative in any discussion on theology to lay down the foundations or rules by which we derive our propositions. As in mathematics, I will call these axioms or postulates. These are statements that normally need not be proven but would generally be accepted based on common sense and generic rules of communication and understanding. We will go one step ahead by proposing when necessary, some Biblical foundation for the axiom.

We subscribe to the following definition of axiom from

Definition: Axiom - "A proposition regarded as self-evidently true without proof. The word "axiom" is a slightly archaic synonym for postulate. Compare conjecture or hypothesis, both of which connote apparently true but not self-evident statements."

Definitional clarifications are in order here. We have heard of "theories". How about "axioms". What is the difference? Theories, once proven, turn into "laws", like the law of gravity. Laws are as good as truths. Truths are propositional statements which have no logical "disproofs" against them. Laws, in this context, follow the same line. Theories are intelligent guesses of observed phenomena which do not become law or truth for as long as logical or reasonable contradictions exist against them, e.g., the "theory" of evolution. Axioms, however, are logical truths. They are accepted without proof primarily because there is no logical basis to disprove them otherwise.

Before we discuss these axioms, we need to be explicit that in order to be coherent and intelligible in our theological discussions, we presume that:
  • We have a high view of Scripture, and
  • We agree that the Apostles' Creed and perhaps, the Nicene Creed (although coming at a later time in history), although these are extra-biblical sources, they summarize accurately traditional first-century Christian belief.
A high view of Scripture implies almost complete dependency on the written Word for study, discussion and polemics. The Apostles' Creed, on the other hand, would put in concrete terms our Christian traditional foundations. Note that we do not necessarily honor equally other creeds like the Westminster Confession, Heidelberg Catechism or others that tend to be tainted with flavors or biases conforming to a specific theological thought.

Axiom 1: We can know God only through revelation.

"1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son..."(Hebrews 1:1,2a).

"18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:18-20)

It is but logical to propose that man's limited mind can never have an accurate concept of God when left to its own ability, capability, resources, or creativity. In fact, this is precisely why there are so many religions in the world and none of them exactly the same. Ironically, even the Christian world has variations of the image, character and attributes of God. It therefore logically follows that the only way to have an accurate concept of God is for God to perform the revelation deliberately for He alone has the wisdom and mind to do so in the best possible way. It is also necessary for man not only to receive and understand this revelation but to adhere to strict and conservative rules of hermeneutics and communication as well as the divine quickening of the mind through the Holy Spirit to discern right from wrong as well as gray from white and black. Strict and sincere adherence to these rules effectively abrogates any attempt to read personal biases into the text being analyzed.

The difference between Christianity and other religions highlights the error of idolatry in both a philosophical and practical sense. While other religions propose a concept of a god or gods which turn out to be nothing more than idols according to Scripture (since they create their own god or version thereof), the Judeo-Christian knowledge of God comes through whatever He has chosen to reveal in His Word, the Bible. In this sense, we accept the "Protestant Cannon of Scripture" that has determined the 66 books that compose the post-reformation Bible as the primary, if not sole, basis for the revelation of God to man. The qualification of "primary" means that there may be other forms of revelation (like creation itself according to Romans 1:18-20) but the corresponding interpretation of these alternative sources should never contradict the propositional truth of the primary source.

Karl Barth is quite correct in his latter writings when he proposed that we cannot know who God is until he reveals Himself. He insisted that all knowledge of God is a posteriori. Note that many of classical theistic propositions are a priori. Concepts of God being impassible or timeless have no basis in Biblical literature and are based on misguided a priori concepts of perfection and immutability. I say misguided mainly because, despite the good intentions of many Christian philosophers like Augustine and Calvin, the underlying basis of these philosophical concepts come from Greek philosophy and not solid Biblical induction or exegesis.

Let me explain this further. The Greeks and Hellenists, long before they read even the first word of Christian Scripture, had already philosophically defined or conceptualized attributes of God - perfect, wholly other, the unmoved mover, non-dependent on His creation, immutable, impassable, simple, etc, etc, ad nauseam. If one were to research the history of these concepts, they will sooner than later realize that these concepts have already matured in Greek thought and philosophy long before they made their way into Christian theological concepts. Though most of the Greeks were polytheistic, the school of Plato did not conform to such practice but actually developed their concepts of a monotheistic entity or force and perfection which is not too remote from the theological classicist versions of Christianity.

If that is indeed so, then such concept is not really dependent on divine revelation and this is its major pitfall. What we are trying to state here is really profound. If the Greek concepts of God, (Greek theology or Platonic theology) were formulated sans revelation, are we willing to gamble that they were indeed correct in their concepts? I think not. I insist, like Barth, that all knowledge of God is a posteriori, AFTER He has revealed Himself, AND NOT BEFORE!. Otherwise, we should begin to erroneously admit that there are in fact a group of "special" people (the Greeks) who have no need of God's revelation in order to determine or know WHO God is! God forbid! We claim that the Jews are God's chosen people and vehicle for revelation, yet we contradict the declared concepts of God in Jewish Scripture and downgrade such concepts as primarily anthropomorphisms. We claim that the Hellenistic Greeks were originally and primarily pagans and yet we accept their concept of God!!!

Such theology is obviously arrogant but subtly idolatrous!

Note at this point that although we agree with the concept of immutability as qualified when it refers ONLY to "love-centered" divine attributes, the Biblical record shows that immutability does not apply to God changing His mind on courses of action as a response to the actions of His creatures, especially His children. Hence, we oppose the concept of immutability as unbiblical only as far as classical theism defines it, i.e., as applied to ALL aspects of deity (perhaps, the logical downfall of the classic definition of immutability is due to the lack of differentiation or contradistinction between its application to the divine nature vs. its application to divine behavior or actions, or the lack of distinction between Divine Attributes vs. Divine Rights).

Axiom 1a: God is NOT only the Greatest Communicator, He is a Perfect (in the sense of complete) communicator.

Every exegete accepts this statement but classical exegetes immediately turn around in difficult or contradictory passages and attempt to speak for God by either rewording what God said plainly or excusing the words God used! They do not see the sheer arrogance of that interpretive position. For example, when God says in Jeremiah 9:23, 24 that He has completely revealed everything we need to know about His lovingkindness, justice and righteousness, He means that He has discussed this comprehensively in Scripture and there is no need to surmise that there may be something more that we will never know.

It is important to apply common sense communication rules when interpreting Scripture. An honest and objective exegete has to ask both questions, "What does it say" and "What does it NOT say" in order to prevent cultic or heretical interpretations.

Corollary 1a: No one can claim to know concepts of God nor divine attributes other than what has been revealed in Scripture.

"20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (I Corinthians 1:20-25)

"27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence." (I Corinthians 1:27-29)

No one can claim some "special revelation" now that the cannon is closed. Recall how the first century church and the apostles took great pains in properly addressing and rightfully denouncing the Gnostic heresy, for example. It is quite unfortunate that Neoplatonic philosophy has been formally and institutionally allowed even by highly-educated theologians from the time of Augustine, and staunch evangelicals to creep into our attempts to know the God whom we worship. Intelligent as Augustine was, remember that he defended the concept of purgatory. Well-meaning as Thomas Aquinas was, recall that he defended the practice of indulgences.

Any Christian who accepts neoplatonic classical theology implicitly accepts the opposite of this axiom. They have to erroneously admit that Plato himself can claim to know concepts of God apart from divine revelation.

The lesson we should learn from the history of theology is that even the most intelligent theologians fall by the "biblico-logical" wayside when they defend their views some other way apart from the clear and/or explicit teachings of Scripture or if they are using a wrong cannon of scripture.

As a literal example of "explicit teaching", note that the Bible declares over and over that "God is Love" (this is most evident in the both the gospel and epistles of John). Now, nowhere in Scripture is it explicitly declared that "God is Sovereign". In fact there is not even a close synonym of such declaration. Better yet, compare this to God's self-declared attribute, "I am a JEALOUS God!" This is at best a derivation of what one reads from Scripture, since there are a mutitude of scriptural passages that indirectly propose this. Such an extrapolation is by no means erroneous. In fact, it is by the same method that Christians developed the concept of the Trinity. However, theologians should always be careful not to divorce a particular theological truth from the context of the whole picture of God as declared progressively but completely by Scripture.

Nonetheless, the point of the discussion at this juncture is to address the difference of perception between staunch Calvinists (or more accurately, hyper-Calvinists) and open theists (especially the particular flavor of the Creative Love or Relational Theists). Since "God is Love" is a declared Scriptural truth and "God is Sovereign" is simply derived or a logical deduction, it is imperative for sincere and serious systematic theologians to ensure that God's love always controls the way He exercises His sovereignty and not the other way around. The downfall of hyper-Calvinist thought is the overdevelopment of the concept of the Sovereignty of God at the expense of His Love. [Read, for example p.36 on the chapter on "Attributes of God", from the book, "Summary of Christian Doctrine" by Louis Berkhof of Calvin Seminary, copyright 1938 by Eerdmans Publishing Co: "d. The love of God. This is often called the most central attribute of God, but it is doubtful whether it should be regarded as more central than the other perfections of God. (emphasis mine)"]

In the very first page of the first chapter of the 2nd edition of "Chosen But Free" by Norman Geisler, a moderate Calvinist, he starts early with this particular statement, "When anyone who is thoroughly acquainted with the Bible thinks about God, one of the first things that comes into the mind ought to be God's sovereignty."

Such statement is seriously misleading both Biblically and by experience. When I first got attracted to the God of the Bible, sovereignty was one of the lesser things in my consciousness. It was God's amazing LOVE that FIRST came to my mind! It was only when I started reading about Calvinism that I bothered about sovereignty. Sovereignty was always assumed, but Love stands out and is scripturally declared! ! Note that the gospel of Christ and much of the New Testament came into being because God Almighty wanted to show the world that He loved, He loves, and He is Love. I would venture to propose that if God’s purpose for the gospel was to show or demonstrate His sovereignty, He was wasting the effort to develop His word and He was also wasting our time. The monotheistic world already knew and even accepted that God is sovereign! What was not clear to the world was how He loved! How his plan of redemption extended beyond the Jewish nation and to the ends of the world. Moreover, it was not clear to the world that His great love determined how He exercised and would exercise His sovereignty. If one’s theological model does not give the same emphasis, it is most probably wrong, unless the proponent wishes to declare that his ideas are better than God’s own revelation.

Here are, otherwise, two great theologians who actually miss the point of it all, and I am almost sure it came about less from their plain reading of scripture but more from their readings of classical and Calvinist philosophies.

This is worsened by the influence of Neoplatonic thought which introduces concepts of timelessness, impassability and even immutability that completely demolishes the image of a loving God.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the hyper-Calvinists in their claim that they practice correct biblical exegesis in arriving at their conclusions but that is not all that counts. Adolf Hitler, the Lenninists, the Maoists and the white supremacists exercised both sincerity and commitment to their infamous objectives and the obvious reason I use this analogy is to point out that sincerity does not make up for the error of having a wrong foundation of thought.

The negative repercussions of such an over-extended nth-level-derived philosophy (as compared to original, first-generation Scripture) redounds to a senseless robotical experience as the proponents relate to God. If this is not true, their practice does not match their preaching. At best, they are thoroughly confused as can be seen from some of their book titles (e.g., Read Norman Geisler, “Chosen But Free” which clearly shows how Arminian his rationalizations are despite his insistence that his doctrine is Calvinist.). If God has exercised specific predetermination and does not change His mind, then prayer is meaningless even as an act of obedience. If Calvary was only done to please God, then it was not necessary either since according to their philosophy, God is immutable and perfect and already pleased with everything He created. If God has elected those who are to be saved, then God is a purely ceremonial God who cannot relate genuinely with His creation. If God is entirely and completely timeless and immutable, then He becomes a Thing and not a Person, and a piece of hardware has more personality and hope in itself than this so called "thing".

And if God is all of the above, we might as well throw the Bible down the sewer since it becomes a meaningless assembly of translated anthropomorphic words, lots of "bark" and no "bite". Even worship becomes meaningless, since it boils down to ceremonial symbolism performed by predetermined robots.

Corollary 1b: Anthropomorphisms are the last resort to deriving divine attributes and behavior and should never be resorted to when there are other plausible explanations which do not violate any of the axioms.

"22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man" (Romans 1:22,23a)

Note that if we accepted anthropomorphism as an excuse for some of the human-like behavior of God, then majority, if not ALL, of Scripture would be anthropomorphisms and Biblical interpretation of the attributes of God become vague or meaningless.

Note also that declaring parts of scripture as anthropomorphic is quite arbitrary. Who is to decide which part is anthropomorphic and which part is not. If one dissects this idea completely, the concept of anthropomorphism really adds to the confusion of correct biblical exegesis since the concept itself is isogetic!

Furthermore, God created man in His Own image. It is reasonable to derive that man, even in his fallen state, and much more so in his redeemed state, may exhibit qualities that are derived from the divine. I am fully aware at this point that this corrollary directly attacks the first point of Calvinism which relates to the total depravity of man, but, as we shall see in this discussion, The pseudo-principle of the "total depravity of man" directly violates a declared truth in Scripture, that God created man in his own image. Now, did God create man as totally depraved, or did he become totally depraved after the fall?

If God created man as totally depraved, then that violates immediately the clear declaration of Scripture (unless God has an element of depravity Himself, which is a ridiculous concept). On the other hand, if man became totally depraved after the fall, why is there still good in the non-Christian world? Why does unredeemed man still have concepts of morality and ethics which are mostly correct even if their theological foundations do not necessarily result in these concepts or behavior? Why is the Dalai Lama still so influential. How about Mahatma Gandhi. These are folks who are known to be even more selfless than most Christians or even Christian leaders.

Theologians like Augustine seem to know or claim to know what is fitting for God to be (dignum Deo) and uses this "special knowledge" to filter the biblical message. Thus they tend to resort to declaring as anthropomorphisms those particular metaphors in scripture which do not fit their preconceived (a priori) model of God.
It is amazing to me that no one has taken Augustine to task on this. He has technically erected an idol whose attributes blur the attributes declared (or even assumed) by Scripture.

Axiom 2: God's revelation of Himself through Scripture is "complete" for His purposes and for human consumption. "Complete" means the revelation cannot be any more clearer for a logical conclusion.

This is a clear Biblical declaration from 2 Timothy 3:16,17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Note philosophically that if the Bible were not complete, then the Christian should be a most insecure and confused individual.

Contrary to what the classicists claim, God is NOT a simple being. Such a teaching is not only unbiblical, it stunts man’s ability to see and appreciate various aspects of God dealing with man in a meaningful and cooperative relationship. I am aware that "simple" means indivisible. However, the implications of such a concept limit God's character and limit man's push to explore the Person and personality of God.

How can God be simple and man be complex? Does not that make man superior to God in character, characteristics, experience and abilities? The bible is replete with counterexamples against this concept which the classicist, because of his own limitation, has condemned to the catch basin of anthropomorphisms. Note that if God is indeed simple, how can God be LOVE as declared by scripture? LOVE is simple as scripturally defined but its manifestations are varied and complex and can only be meaningfully exercised by a being with complex emotional and intellectual aspects of personality and character. Simplicity is simply beyond (or way below) what scripture has revealed about God.

Axiom 2a: A good bible interpreter must look at the whole of Scripture first and determine which topics God emphasizes and which ones God just slides over.

This is important in order not to be side-tracked on God's purpose for scripture which is that Scripture is God's written design/plan for relationship between God and man. The whole of Scripture is not about salvation or redemption nor is it keeping one's nose clean so that he can be holy before God although these are elements within the whole context and purpose of Scripture. Let us reiterate - The Bible is God's design for relationship!

Having said that we see volumes of work and so-called analysis on many different Biblical topics which God simply slides over in Scripture. For example, pre-destination and foreknowledge. We have so many presumptuous experts in these subjects and reading their voluminous and wordy discussions leads most Christians nowhere in their relationship with God. Some have even left seminary, yes, and even renounced Christianity because of these non-significant topics which are interpreted erroneously especially by classical theology. A simple, straightforward, logical and easily understood interpretation is presented elsewhere in this site.

Another example of emphatic contrasts to underscore what is important to the heart of God is the creation story. Only one small chapter is devoted to the seven days of creation. However, there is a lot of emphasis on man being "created in God's image" and the circumstances around the fall of man from and despite a "perfect paradise" and the consequences (actually corresponding curse) thereof.

Despite this scenario, it seems that even Christian writers unfortunately gravitate to writing volumes on the possibilities of how creation could be the big bang and whether or not theistic evolution is a possibility, when God simply wants us to realize that man is a special theomorphic creation and endowed with attributes including Free Will that God no longer has total control over, a risk God took because He wanted a world with real genuine love from His creatures.

Axiom 3: When there are many verses that directly contradict one's model of theology, the first recourse/impulse of the honest theologian is to determine if his theological model needs change or modification, but he loses intellectual honesty and hermeneutical integrity when he attempts to re-interpret scripture to fit his model.

Most deviations from the Biblical God is a result of attempts, albeit heroic or fancy, to force one's theological model into their interpretation of scripture or to relegate the scripture to one of mystery. This is a direct violation of 2 Timothy 3:16,17. God's Word seeks to edify and clarify principles to the common man, not confuse or elevate discussions to the realm only of the educated or those who claim special revelations like the proponents of a God behind God. This is elitist and definitely non-Biblical.

Furthermore, technically speaking, this approach has a very low view of Scripture regardless of how they window-dress their claims to a high view of Scripture.

Corollary 3a: When a paradox or contradiction exists between the simple clear meanings of two or more passages of Scripture, it may be the first sign of a wrong theological framework.

The honest theologian has to revisit his model and take a more critical look at that model and examine other models which could be able to reconcile or synthesize the obvious contradiction. One has to revert to the simplicity of language axiom before he attempts any other step.

There is not much need to emphasize this axiom other than to explain that a theologian is first a student and rarely an authority. Most cultic teaching comes from pretenders who believe the opposite and, most unfortunately, most have led their followers to a Christless eternity. Recall Jim Jones at Guyana, David Koresh at Waco, Texas, and many of the popes.

Norman Geiesler himself has this to say about R.C. Sproul in a discussion of the meaning of contending desires in Romans 7, “It is painful to watch extreme Calvinists go through these exegetical contortions in order to make a text say what their preconceived theology mandates that it must say”, (“Chosen But Free”, p.28 footnote #15). After citing this, Geisler, himself, goes through more difficult gyrations to fit biblical record into his Calvinism as he tries to address his disagreements with irresistible grace and other portions of TULIP.

It is at this point that if Geisler were really honest, he has to change his model of theology. He is already convinced that the facts do not fit extreme Calvinism. However, he continues to defend aspects of the same philosophy he is trying to attack like the simplicity of God and specific predetermination, just because he empirically observes a misfit.

Geisler cannot win the argument without intellectual contortions himself, because extreme Calvinism is, in fact, quite a logical and consistent logical system BUT ONLY WITHIN ITS SELF-DECLARED BOUNDARIES OF THINKING. Moderate Calvinism is itself quite contradictory.

Unfortunately, extreme Calvinism errs in most of its presumptions about God's loving nature vs. His sovereignty. It commits the same major error as the story of "The Blind Men and the Elephant". It has grasped the trunk and declared the elephant as a tree without feeling and examining the rest of the elephant. Doing so would lead extreme Calvinism to discover the elephant as an entirely new creature quite different from the their previous conceptions, notions and experience. The Calvinists have discovered sovereignty and by their logical system (which is inherently classical logic) proceeded to declare sovereignty as God Himself (God is simple, right?), thereby limiting Him in terms of Love.

Traditional Arminianism also commits logical gyrations to reconcile foreknowledge and free-will, so this philosophy is not entirely free of inconsistencies. Even traditional Arminianism has to change its model.

Note that a change of model is not necessarily a change based on a new revelation or discovery. It is simply a reasonable synthesis of biblical revelation to accurately describe who God is, what aspects of God are immutable and what aspects are not. To simply declare God as immutable unconditionally as the classicists and hyper-Calvinists do displays a limited knowledge of scripture due to an overemphasis on one revealed truth at the expense of other (perhaps, even more significant) revealed truth.

In the case of the theological disputes between R.C Sproul and Norman Geisler, it seems clear to me why Sproul believes his viewpoint as correct and this is pointed out by Geisler. Sproul sees logical consistency within his premises and presumptions. Unfortunately, it is his very presumptions that contradict much of scripture especially on the relational aspects of God’s dealings with man. More unfortunately for Sproul, he begins to refuse to see scriptural experience and evidence that would shake his philosophy. I think he has reached a point in his theology where philosophy of God begins to be more important than the revelation of God. This leads to a particular kind of blindness. Consequently, the wisdom to explain scripture properly gets significantly eroded.

Geisler, on the other hand, can see the biblical record very clearly, that it goes strongly and preponderantly against the walls and posts of classicism and Calvinism, but he is shackled and limited by his philosophical foundation to explain the relationship of Bible vs. theology. In Geisler’s book, “Chosen But Free”, the fox is guarding the henhouse. Geisler makes an attempt to revise the TULIP doctrines of the extreme Calvinist. Unwittingly, he fails to realize that TULIP is a package (just like the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22). It has to be taken in whole or rejected in its entirety to be logical. Such set of doctrines was formulated by learned and intelligent Calvinists so as to be monolithic and make a denial of one point a denial of all. This makes Geisler look totally confused and playing with words to skirt around the issues. I would dare to say that if Geisler freed himself from his Calvinistic anchor, he may find a firmer anchor with a change of theological model. In his case, I see his sentimental attachment to Calvinist and classical thought simply because it was endorsed by recognized classical theologians, he blindly accepts these theological viewpoints as infallible truth.

Now, I do believe that truth is infallible. However, it is an arrogant presumption to believe that all interpretation of revealed truth has been completed and correctly interpreted and that there is nothing else to dispute or discuss, and that any further data from scripture that show inconsistency with prevailing interpretations may be explained at the very least by logical gymnastics.

Corollary 3b: "No translation (i.e, interpretation) of scripture can be correct that contradicts basic principles of bilbical teaching as a whole". - Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, p.165.

Corollary 3c: Hermeneutics should use the rules of Preponderance of Evidence to determine rules vs. exceptions instead of concluding that there is a contradiction that will just be reconciled in eternity.

Unconditional Election of Israel in Romans 9-11 falls under this category. So does predestination in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1. All of these are exceptions to the norm based on preponderance and should be regarded as such.

Axiom 4: Man need not speculate on what God has not revealed nor taken the time to reveal.

This is a Biblical axiom found in Deuteronomy 29:29. "29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."

Speculating on what or who God might be outside of Scripture or the clear meaning therof and declaring this as part of doctrine runs the risk of possible violation of the 2nd Commandment. We create an idol since we are erecting our own version of God as did the Israelites when they likened Him in all sincerity to a golden calf.

We do not deny the right of any person to speculate on biblically unfounded or dubiously supported fantasies about God. We are simply against formalizing such as part of any sound theology.

Axiom 4a: God, who is wise and just, will not fault man for interpreting Scripture within what He has revealed. He should in fact, fault man, for interpreting Scripture based on extra-Biblical knowledge which do not have clear Biblical foundations.

It is inconceivable to believe that God would judge man for throwing away some immutability theories due to a correct exegesis of 2 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38 and conclude that God can and does indeed change His mind on some things, at least. The same conclusion arises with a simple "local context" reading of Moses discussion with God when God in anger desired to annihilate Israel and create a new chosen people with the seed of Moses in Numbers 14:11ff; and God changing His mind about the fate of Ninevah in the book of Jonah.

Note that I highlighted the term "local context". Although we do not deny that there may be broader and eschatological meanings and contexts to much of verses especially in the Old Testament, we have to admit that God (again in His infinite wisdom and fairness) would not always expect the normal Jewish mind to go beyond the local context.

That being so, why would God fault any reader, including the Christian, from interpretations and applications drawn from a proper exegesis of the OT passages mentioned above if they are a based on correct exegesis based on the local Jewish context? It is absurd even to suggest that Christians and Jews have different accountabilities when it comes to exegesis in these matters.
Otherwise, one should come to a conclusion that almost the entire OT Hebrew population was bound for hell from the very start because they had almost no knowledge of New Testament meanings or clarifications. Such a conclusion is completely ridiculous.

Why do the impassability theories of classical theology overrule the clear reading of God being angry or surprised at specific turns of events? What else does "anger" or "angry" mean whether it be a Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic or even English text for that matter? What does "relent" mean according to Jeremiah 18:5-10 in any language? Why do classical theologians and exegetes feel at liberty to RE-define such terms or downgrade these to anthropomorphisms, and condemn other cults for scripture-twisting with in the same breath? This is sheer arrogance and elitist.

Axiom 5: To know Jesus Christ is to know God.

To restate this axiom: Correct Christology yields correct Theology.

The book of Hebrews starts out with this very clear and direct principle: "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son..." - Hebrews 1:1,2a, and continues, "3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person..." Hebrews 1:3a

Martin Luther, according to his theology of the cross, proposed that there is no God beyond the God revealed in Jesus. Luther turned out not to be exactly faithful to this axiom which created a dichotomy between what he declared vs what he practiced. After Augustine, it was John Wesley, who first came up with a system of beliefs, short of a formal theology, which first showed a great degree of consistency between dogma and practice.

Corollary 5a: To understand the Kenosis is to understand the INCARNATION, a major issue in understanding who Jesus Christ is.

Herein is the stumbling block of Classical Theism. What really occured at the Kenosis (Philippians 2:5-11)? Did our Lord Jesus Christ actually lose or forfeit some of His divine attributes and/or powers? or was He simply playing a role and Paul in Philippians was just playing with words?

The answer to these should not violate the axioms that have been proposed. Hence, without much discussion, we can derive the following truths from the passage.
  1. Christ is fully God and remained fully God even in His incarnation thereby supporting His continued deity.
  2. Christ emptied Himself by His own choice or volition, thereby safeguarding His sovereignty.
  3. Christ took the form of a man (Why else would it be called Incarnation?).
  4. By taking the form of man He limited Himself in space and time. (Pretty obvious.)
  5. He further limited Himself of much of His powers to demonstrate that He did not need these to remain God. (This is not obvious but read on.)
  6. It is a reasonable conclusion that the Kenosis can be defined and qualified as Christ limiting, in fact forfeiting (both words even weaker than emptying or divesting to the point of nothing), much of His powers to assume mortality and place Himself in a REAL position of RISK, in order to model REAL LOVE, to demonstrate REAL SACRIFICE in redeeming man out of eternal death (verses like Romans 5:8 are impossible to appreciate in their fullest sense if the interpretation of Kenosis is any different.)
  7. A logical repercussion of the acceptance of the Kenosis as qualified is the destruction of dignum Deo assumptions of classical theology. Classical theists have theorized divine attributes based mostly, if not entirely (in the sense that everything else in Scripture is beholden to it and is re-interpreted accordingly), on Neoplatonic concepts of perfection and immutability, timelessness, etc. It may come as a troubling surprise to them that Jesus gave these up and still our creeds maintain that He REMAINED DIVINE, even in His incarnation. Conclusion: The traditional dignum Deo (what God is supposed to be) has been wrong, albeit sincere. Divine attributes mainly have to deal with relational concepts and not independent wholly-other concepts, i.e., not impassibility, timelessness, even immutability and perfection as traditionally defined BUT instead Love, Faithfulness, Wisdom, Almightiness (including Omnicompetence), etc.
The following is an extract from a discourse on who Jesus Christ is from my "basic doctrine" blog site at I have pasted it here with a few edits so as not to reinvent the wheel too much.

"Read Philippians 2:5-11. This passage was written by St. Paul and he was trying to explain the circumstances by which GOD could and would become man.
    Paul says that Christ "emptied" Himself. How can God empty Himself? What do you think Christ emptied Himself of (In other words, what part of His being God did he give up to become a man and still be God)?

    When Christ came in human form, was He OMNIPOTENT? Was He OMNISCIENT? Was he OMNIPRESENT? Did He become LESS than GOD???
    OK, for a clarification of terms, by "OMNI" we should mean 100% or it's not OMNI at all. In that case, Christ was not OMNIPOTENT when He came down as man. If Christ were omnipotent when He was a baby, there would have been no need for God the Father to urge Joseph to escape to Egypt. If Christ were omnipotent at birth, He would already have recited from "memory", the whole book of the Psalms, especially when the magi visited. At the garden of Gethsemane, after some time of prayer He uttered, saying, (Luke 22:42). "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." If Christ were OMNIPOTENT at that point, it would have been OK to follow His Own will, since it would have been the will of GOD!!
    Christ was not OMNISCIENT either since he said in Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father". If Christ were omniscient at birth, He would have been the One to exercise omnipotence and declare to his "father" Joseph and Mary that Herod was coming to get slay them.
    Finally, since Christ came in human form, He most definitely was not OMNIPRESENT. He was not and could not be in China and Jerusalem at the same time. Note, however, that according to the doctrine of Kenosis (i.e., Christ emptying Himself of the divine powers BUT NOT DIVINE ATTRIBUTES AS WE WILL LEARN LATER), the emptying was Christ's own volition and He was simply living up to it.
    Note at this point that although we have been quite harsh with the stand of classical theology, we nevertheless do not subscribe fully to some flavors of open theism. For example, the direction I pick up from the writings of Clark Pinnock seem to suggest that God has inherent limited capabilities. When Pinnock suggests that God cannot know what has not yet transpired, there seems to be little or no clarification on his part to declare that this "incapability" is a divine choice. He seems to suggest that God does not have the power to predetermine anything. Further, I sense that his logical support for such concept is close to that of splitting hairs, at which level there is not much spiritual or practical value in the discussion. This is where the value of Axiom 4 comes in, there is no spiritual value in trying to extract what God has chosen not to clearly reveal or discuss in Scripture.

    To Pinnock’s credit, at least he admits that God has some limitation. Hyper-Calvinists on the other hand do not admit that they limit God, but their dignum deo requirement actually limits God, in fact, shackles God to a certain mold with no flexibility. Imagine man’s philosophy enslaving God! That is what classical theism and hyper-Calvinism accomplishes. It is not obvious to them that requiring God to behave only one way as a result of their otherwise erroneous declaration that He is simple IS ACTUALLY THEIR OWN VERSION OF LIMITING GOD!!!
    Since it becomes clear at this point that any theology has its own version of limiting God (i.e., that there are things that God cannot be or actions that He cannot do), then we might as well limit God biblically. Yes, God has biblically limited Himself as we shall see. We add no more, we add no less. God’s limitations are confined only to those that Scripture explicitly demonstrate.
    Now, the logical question in one's mind is therefore, if Christ emptied Himself of many of these powers, DID CHRIST CEASE TO BE GOD???? The answer is, NO WAY, Christ remained GOD, yes, God in the flesh. But one would ask, this seems to be a contradiction. How can Christ remain God and lose many, if not all, His divine powers? Don't despair, Christian, for the answer is actually Biblically simple and logical.

    God is LOVE! Yes, God is PERFECT, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. (John 3:16) This includes God being merciful, God being full of lovingkindness. If God loses the attribute of love, He ceases to be God, and this is an attribute that Christ did not lose at all nor could He give it up. God may willingly lose or suspend all His powers but He cannot lose the attribute of Love. Losing such attribute is what makes Him cease to be God.

    This is quite profound. All over the gospels, even to the point of death on the cross, Christ is love as God is love. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." is a clear expression of love and forgiveness to those who have thoroughly treated Him quite unfairly. It is this attribute of love which makes possible the PERFECT God subsequently forgiving AND accepting sinful man into His loving arms and granting Him undeservedly, ETERNAL LIFE!!! (Romans 5:8)

    God is SINLESS, perfectly SINLESS. God would not be God if He had or committed sin. Christ would not be God, if He were not sinless Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:3,5

    God is constantly Faithful. If Christ lost this attibute, He ceases to be God and Christ did not lose this nor did He empty Himself of this attribute. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful..." (2 Timothy 2:13)

    God is perfect and pure Truth.If Christ lost this attibute, He ceases to be God and Christ did not empty Himself of this attribute.John 5:33, John 8:32, John 14:6 are very solid verses that attest to this. God is full of grace. John 1:14 declared that Christ was "full of grace and truth"

    Note that Scripture demonstrates, contrary to what most theologians believe, that power does not necessarily define divinity. According to the Bible, since God was in Christ and in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, what Christ gave up and empty Himself of were not the essentials of divinity.

    Now, let's discuss the Ascension. What is Jesus' position in heaven after His ascension? Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-22
    This passages describe the opposite EVENTS of what happened at the Kenosis (Christ emptying Himself before or at the Incarnation) which we discussed in the earlier topic on Jesus Christ. Christ has taken back ALL of his powers! Note that He actually forfeited and LOST some of His powers. These passages show how He got them back: "ALL authority WAS GIVEN (back) to Him by the Father; God the Father RAISED Christ up from the dead, God the Father SEATED Christ at His right hand, God the Father PUT ALL THINGS under Christ's feet, God the Father GAVE Christ to be Head of the church.
    Paul was NOT playing with words here, he cannot. Otherwise, the Bible becomes quite vague in many of its wordings. Paul meant exactly what He said and what was revealed to him by the Spirit of Truth.

    One more verse at this point which anti-Kenosis theologians would propose to attack our definition of Kenosis is found in John 10:17,18. Specifically, "No one takes it (My life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again". Note the follow up statement,"This command I have received from My Father". To be logically honest, one must ask the question, "Which sentence is the qualifying or clarifying statement?" True, a declaration of fact was stated by Jesus, but it seems that the Biblical record added a clear qualifying statement.

    So the plain rendition of the text would be something like, "You know what? I have the power to determine my own life. But My Father told me to tell you this." It CANNOT be restated ANY OTHER way without being guilty of manipulating or putting words in Christ's mouth.

    Note also that the passage states a clear reason for the Father's love - BECAUSE Christ willingly and voluntarily lays down His life to complete the salvation plan for mankind with the expectation that He is to take it back after His mission. But that was the essence of Ephesians 1:20-22!

    Now we have a complete definition and picture of the Kenosis.

Corollary 5b: To understand that Jesus Christ can limit Himself is to understand that God can also limit Himself.

This is completely logical and Biblical. Since Jesus Christ is God's ultimate revelation of God to man, and since Jesus Christ Himself is God and was Incarnate, then we learn the deeper attributes of God and the Godhead if we know more of the attributes as well as the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The anti-classical implication of this is quite profound. If Christ has the ability to empty Himself when He wills to, so can the Father. To deny this is to declare that the Father is LESS powerful than the Son since the Son is now able to do something that the Father cannot!

The leading question at hand would now be, has the Father ever emptied Himself of some of His powers? The Bible declares all over its pages a resounding YES! YES! YES! The Father indeed has demonstrated His own "kenosis" and has chosen to "genuinely" limit Himself in the exercise of some areas of His divinity. In and by His infinite wisdom, at least from the time He conceived of the creation, He must have decided to make most of the future open and unpredetermined. Surely, after the fall of man, He predetermined a plan for man's redemption, but even some of the details, He had not fully laid out.

However, He has shown that He chose not to exercise specific predetermination in most, if not all, the affairs of mankind. He has demonstrated that He can be surprised. He can be angered (a response to an undesirable situation or behavior of man, implying that He did not exactly expect such behavior or situation, otherwise, why would He be angered if He expected such a situation from eternity past). He can change His mind! Look at the particulars of the life of Hezekiah, how the pages of Scripture clearly declares a change of mind (or even heart?). Most of God's will on earth can be thwarted! Otherwise, it is ridiculous to pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven"! God is not willing that any should perish, according to Peter, but behold multitudes have perished and gone to hell!

Axiom 6: We have to approach Scripture from the assumption that it says what it means and it means what it says in the most common manner of communication and use of language.

This is a problematic statement since it is still at best subjective. However, there has to be a rule which looks critically on deductive reasoning which cannot be derived directly from the clear statements of scripture. We have to be wary of interpretations that need special education apart from common use of language. The special education needed to understand Hebrew, Aramaic or Koine Greek is not included since this is the language God chose to communicate His message to us. However, once we have derived the common use of the native language and what it means, the attempt to interpret it other the the obvious meaning should be avoided when attempting to extract theological principles."

Corollary 6a: After the close of the cannon, God rarely, if ever, plays with words from the perspective of the redeemed mind.

I Corinthians 1:20-2:16 states our case.
  • "We have the mind of Christ."
  • "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
  • "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God"
  • "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power"
  • "However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
  • "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
  • "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
  • And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
  • "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God"
Paul has wisely and CLEARLY spoken. I credit him for this axiom. I would call this the simplicity of language axiom.

Corollary 6b: No interpretation of Scripture or derivation of principle should be allowed that paints God as a hypocrite, saying one thing but doing another.

Another reasonable axiom. When God declared He loved Jacob but hated Esau, our derivation of who God is should not result in even hinting that God is a hypocrite when He told us in numerous passages that God is Love.

Note that such scriptural statements fly in the face of the concept of the simplicity of God. If this were the only passage accomplishing that it would still be problematic for such teaching. Unfortunately for this doctrine, there are numerous passages in scripture that demonstrate that God is not all that simple. Compare, for example, how many statements in the Bible declare EXPLICITLY that "God is sovereign"? Check your concordance, better yet check including the synonyms of sovereignty and start counting. Now, how about the self-declared attribute of God, "I am a JEALOUS God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers to the third and fourth generation..." How about rechecking your concordance and counting its occurrences. Where is the preponderance of scriptural evidence? Is God still, SIMPLE? Or Mr. Classicist, will we start on a path of philosophical jargon and intellectual calisthenics to force a resolution to our (now, obviously erroneous) premise or presumption? Or shall we launch on a path to intellectual honesty despite the risk of finding out that our otherwise treasured systematic theology just collapsed? Or, perhaps, should we start to redefine what "simple" really means (at this juncture, it is meaningless, or at least, useless for one's edification). It is precisely the complexity of God that requires revelation. Otherwise, man would never be able to comprehend who He is and how He has acted in scripture and history and that his actions are not anthropomorphisms but result from the true nature of God, and man has no right to conclude otherwise.

There is a remote possibility that God is indeed simple. However, it is the definition of "simple" that is not that simple. If simplicity is inidivisibility, what is indivisibility? How does one define this and apply it to God without contradicting the preponderance of Scripture that show otherwise?

Making God simple would make God a simple hypocrite in many passages of scripture.

God says in John 3:16 that "God so loved the world" and in 1 John 2:2, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." The Calvinist interpretation that God only loved the elect or that God loved the world but never intended to elect some should be thrown out as plain and outright ridiculous, illogical and even irrational. Such teaching violates the simplicity of the word, introduces "special revelation" or special understanding of the text, makes God a hypocrite and plays with words.

Axiom 7: The New Testament was inspired not necessarily to prove God's sovereignty, but to demonstrate the Love of God.

Although on the surface, this axiom seems derived and should be considered some kind of corrollary to a higher axiom, it really is a logical summary of the New Testament based on direct revelation (an unbiased reading of the Bible). God did not and does not need to demonstrate or prove His sovereignty to the NT audience. He already accomplished this in the Old Testament. His sovereignty is already clear and assumed. It is the aspect of His Love and what it means to man that is not clear from just reading the Old Testament, and because revelation is progressive, one must dissect the essence of the New Testament. In the process of dissecting its essence, one must ask why the New Testament was a necessary add-on to inspired scripture.

Is it to further prove sovereignty? Far from it, compare the preponderance of verses that talk about the substitutionary death of the spotless Lamb and why? John 3:16 says it is because of God's great love. Romans 5:8 declares that it was a demonstration of God's immense love. Christ Himself talks about "greater love hath no man than this" in John 15:13.

This is where I believe that most Calvinists actually live an Arminian lifestyle.

Corollary 7a: The divine objective for delivering the New Testament is not necessarily directly for the glory of God, but to show man that though he is worthless, God has placed value upon him.

This corrollary addresses those of such theology that dogmatically believes that God does everything for the sake of personal self-centered glory (which we do not deny He deserves). If that is one's derivation of what the New Testament is about, one has missed at least half of it message.

It is quite expected that such faulty theology would proceed to miss out on the other half of the New Testament message, none other than the Christian being identified unmistakably as someone who walks in the power and joy of the Holy Spirit, otherwise the impostor is none of His! Such theology banks on undefined and arbitrary election for salvation and though it recognizes the seal of the Spirit, nevertheless completely negates the life in the Spirit according to Romans 8:9.

Such faulty theology manifests its hermeneutic errors in relying on "implied" parts of scripture which they claim declare that those who are saints automatically persevere but they completely ignore "very very explicit" scripture which declare that only those who persevere to the end will be saved.

Axiom 8: God is a Jealous God. This is a biblically indisputable attribute of God since it is self-declared and declared more than once in scripture.

This is a teaser axiom that puts a troublesome monkey wrench into the comfort zone of classical theology.

Indeed, it is the stumbling block of classical systematic theology: "I am a jealous God!" - Jealous - a self-declared attribute of God flies against the face of "God is simple", "God is impassable", "God is timeless", etc. because all of these quite obviously contradict God's OWN declaration.

Is such statement anthropomorphic? If it does, then one has to submit that every piece of scripture is anthropomorphic since the determination of such becomes obviously arbitrary.

Does this confirm that God is simple? Go figure!

Does this confirm that God is impassable? If so, the classicist now becomes the much dreaded "revisionist" since he starts redefining even universally obvious concepts. Jealousy is one of the most intense passions known. On a human level, it is know to be the alibi for many acts of murder.

Does this confirm that God is timeless? Perhaps He is but not from such perspective. Timelessness would only portray a confused God who cannot come to grips with His own emotions.

Does this confirm that God is immutable? Then He becomes immutably jealous!!!

The classicist can only be at a complete loss for words and definitions, for now he has to revisit his hermeneutics and intellectual honesty. Does the classicist's opinion still count or should we bow down to God's very words and accept this as timeless and universal truth?

Such quandary happens only when one has a faulty model for theology. Interestingly, all of the above seem to be completely explainable under the "Creative Love" relational theology model. Sad to say, due to their faulty model, this is classical "doctorate" material but relational "basic" doctrine.

Let me interject a potential classicist response to this Axiom, "How about God is Spirit? Jesus Christ incarnate was not spirit, right"? This again is an hermeneutic twist. Jesus Christ incarnate was essentially Spirit and definitely had a spirit! Hence, the example of Jesus Christ Incarnate and the Kenosis as proposed here does not contradict such a divine statement.

In contrast, let's talk about omni-presence. Jesus Christ incarnate was definitely, positively NOT omni-present!!!. As far as omniscience and omnipotence, it is true that Jesus incarnate did demonstrate samples of this like the calming of the storm at sea, and knowing Nathanael praying alone before He met the man. But omni implies 100%! Otherwise, omni becomes significantly FALSE by definition. Christ incarnate DID empty Himself of ALL the omni's. The fact that orthodox theology maintains that as Jesus Christ incarnate, He NEVER LOST His divine attributes clearly demonstrates that there are more significant attributes than the OMNI's which really define God.

Axiom 9: What God has foreknowledge of, He has actually predetermined.

A logical stumbling block for the moderate Calvinist or classicist. Foreknowledge means one knows exactly what is going to occur. If it does not occur, foreknowledge has NOT actually taken place. Hence, if it has to be sure that such event should occur, then it is no less than predetermined.

Axiom 9a: God has limited His omniscience NOT to cover ALL of the future. In fact, the Biblical record proves time and again that divine omniscience, as a rule, does not have the future in its scope.

Axiom 9 shows that if God simply "peeped" through the future, it is automatically predetermined. It has to happen, or else, God did NOT see the future at all. A great biblical passage which demonstrates this axiom is 1 Samuel 23.11, 12 as discussed in another blog.

At the expense of hair-splitting from a classical viewpoint, we should treat foreknowledge as different from omniscience. Otherwise, our interpretation on the repercussions of omniscience will be quite confusing and perhaps, utterly misleading. So omniscience should cover only past and present, whereas foreknowledge covers only the future.

Axiom 10: God does predetermine some events. However, His predetermined events should be confined largely to those predetermined in Scripture and should not be extrapolated to conclude that He predetermines everything else.

Our proposed model of theology does in no way at all discount predetermination by a sovereign God. There are, however, countless (perhaps even more examples) of God NOT predetermining every event nor God having foreknowledge of every event.

Axiom 11: God's sovereignty should be subject to God's love and not the other way around. God's love dictates how He opts to exercise His sovereignty.

The bible clearly declares that God is Love. That is the central attribute of God from which all other attributes are subservient. If we start on this solid footing, we immediately resolve debatable issues like "free-will vs. predetermination". God is sovereign but God’s love dictates how God exercises His sovereignty. The bible demonstrates time and again that God’s love necessitates God taking a risk that He would not be loved in return. Such risk would only be true risk if the outcome is not predetermined. Hence, God because of His great love for man has chosen to exercise His sovereignty in such a way that He has kept most of the future open. He has chosen to lock Himself out of much of the future especially as it concerns our personal affairs. He is still omniscient in that He knows everything that can be known. Whatever He has chosen to know about the future, He automatically has predetermined. This is logical and reasonable. If the future turns out to be otherwise other than what God has foreknown, then God did not foreknow this in the first place. Otherwise, His foreknowledge has failed.

The debate on free-will vs. predetermination is never resolved because they both focus on peripheral areas of the divine economy. If God is so "helpless" about how He exercises sovereignty and, like the classical theologians imply, He has no choice about how He exercises sovereignty or He just cannot help but exercise it one way and no other way such that He HAS TO CONTROL everything and thus PREDETERMINE everything, including ELECTING who should and who should not be saved; If this dignum deo concept is not at all flexible and is dictated ONLY by man-made deductions as to how God should "act properly" (perish the thought!), then one has to admit that everything is predetermined but then also admit that God is responsible for everything including evil (so as not to be logically contradictory, c'mon guys, stop playing with words and redefining concepts and illustrations just to preserve an already faulty theological model).

On the other hand, if God is truly and essentially LOVE as the bible declares, then Love is inherently flexible and sacrificial. Flexible in that there is no predetermined way to express it; and sacrificial, so that in the expression of true love, risk is part of the total equation and hence, there should be elements beyond conscious control (Note that God releases total control by His own personal volition. He is in no way forced to do so, in the same way that Christ was not forced to become Incarnate to save man).

Axiom 12: In order to understand who God is in a logical sense without compromise to the truths of Scripture, one has to differentiate between the Attributes of God vs. the Rights of God.

Examples of the Attributes of God are Love, Mercy, Truth, Faithfulness, Perfect, Light, Life, Omnicompetence. These are attributes because God cannot relinquish them and remain God.

Examples of the Rights of God are Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence. Jesus Christ TRULY, GENUINELY, HONEST-TO-GOODNESSLY (if there is such a term) emptied Himself of these rights to the point that even Paul wrote several times in Scripture that God (had to) raised Him from the dead.

Axiom 13: Any interpretation of divine attributes, rights or behavior should never be construed to be a rule in the Divine behavior if there are exceptions to it in the Biblical record. Instead it should be treated as an exception to the rule.

This is the biggest mistake of the classicists, particularly the Hyper-Calvinists. They wallow in footnotes being blown up into major doctrines. See my blog on why TULIP is NOT Biblical.

A good case is Psalm 139:16. Note that the whole Psalm deals with God's Omnipresence as well as Omniscience. Except for this verse, all the other omniscience descriptions have NOTHING to do with the future. Verse 16 seems to describe how God sees the future but based on hindsight. How should such a verse then be interpreted?

To say that this is the rule for divine behavior would immediately put the rest of the Bible record into chaos. Look at 1 Samuel 23, for example. The only correct inductive conclusion is to say that God is indeed capable of knowing ALL of the future but He, in His infinite wisdom and sovereignty made the decision NOT to.

Axiom 14: It is NOT necessarily true that explicit statements in Scripture ALWAYS supersede implied truths.

I cite two cases in point.

First, there are many passages of Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, whose application only is relevant to the Jewish nation. Although there may be universal principles that can be derived and personally applied in these statements, they continue to be obvious that their application is limited. This is especially true of the many condemnations and curses that God prophesied and applied to the nation like "dashing their babies against the rock".

Second, we take the example of David in Psalm 139:16 which seem to declare that predestination or foreordination. In this case, we do not deny that predestination is a possibility with the Sovereign God. However, we should question whether or not this passage applied only to David or does it apply to all men or all creatures. The same is true in the case of Jeremiah 1:5. However, this is definitely one obvious passage where the foreordination is applicable only to Jeremiah for not everyone turns out to be a prophet like he did.

Axiom (in process): When applying OT Theocratic principles in a New Testament context, the overriding tenet for interpretation is that the God of the OT is the SAME God of the NT. It is a distant secondary principle to apply "calling" unless the text makes it obvious.Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, etc had indeed unique calling explicitly specified in scripture. We cannot become kings of Israel like David was. However, the way God dealt with them should be no less different from the way He deals with us today including both blessings and curses.

Axiom (in process): A parable from Christ is a real life analogy of a spiritual concept. It is not an allegory. Contrary to classical hermeneutics which contends that a parable has only one point, a parable is truly and analogy and even minor points should have a consistent meaningful interpretation related to the main theme.

Axiom (in process): The book of Acts CAN be a good source of doctrine.

Axiom (in process): King David is among others, a great theologian. Hence, we must understand and digest his concept(s) of God.

Axiom (in process): If a difficult passage has a simple but rational explanation, it is completely pointless to complicate it's interpretation

  1.  Genesis 6: The Sons of God and the daughters of man. Are the Sons of God angels (a fantastic but ridiculous view, since angels, according to Christ Himself, do not have sex nor perform sex)? or just semantics about where man came from?
  2. Matthew 16:17-19: Is Peter the rock? or is it someone or something else?

Axiom (in process): The spiritual concept illustrated through a parable would not be any clearer with other teaching methods.
God uses real physical analogies to illustrate clearly beyond doubt or question what is spiritual and apparently abstract.

Axiom (in process): The New Testament, especially the Pauline epistles SHOULD HERMENEUTICALLY BE TREATED AS more of a Church "book of discipline" analogous to a denominational manual, than equal to the Law and the Prophets. This simply means, lest I be misunderstood as a heretic, that the New Testament explains and completes the Old Testament BUT SHOULD NEVER CONTRADICT its principles.

Any interpretation of the New Testament that contradicts Old Testament principles should be rejected or ignored as trivial and misleading. Any new principle not even hinted in the Old Testament should be critically interpreted and initially assumed as a personal bias of the "inspired" author until the principle is proven to be timeless.
  1. Jesus Christ authenticated the Old Testament as the Word of God (Matthew 5:17-20). The New Testament did not exist during this authentication.
  2. Jesus Christ authenticated his own words (Matthew 24:35) which authenticates the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
  3. The Apostles doctrine in Acts 2:42 HAD TO BE based on the Scriptures of that time (Old Testament) since it did not exist, AND IMPORTANTLY could not contradict any concept of the Old Testament.
  4. The cannonization of New Testament books were performed by Gentiles, who were mostly anti-Semitic as proven by history. As a consequence, most cultic doctrines spring forth from New Testament teaching especially the Pauline epistles mostly due to a blatant disregard of the Old Testament and its principles.
  5. Even the Councils that cannonized the New Testament books violated church structure in re-creating the priestly class, exclusion of women in leadership (primarily because they were not given formal education at that time and that was because they were considered inferior to men, in fact the wife was the property of the husband, etc.), cathedrals vs. small Book of Acts small churches, etc. and many other practices that pre-empted the principles of even what they cannonized.
  6. e.g. When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 that women ought to wear a headress in worship, he supported it by a theological principle. So does that mean that women with short hair and those who do not cover their heads in worship are in sin??? What is to separate spritual principles from cultural principles, so as not to be arbitrary or selective and biased?
  7. e.g. When Paul says in Romans 13:8 to owe no one except the debt of love, does that mean that because we are paying a mortgage or have credit cards, we are LIVING IN SIN????
  8. e.g. When Paul says that women should be silent in the church....(you know where I'm going with this?), he also invoked a theological principle. So we practice MALE CHAUVINISM in the Church of Christ?????? Doesn't that justify Islam's Sharia practice?
  9. IT IS QUITE OBVIOUS that when the Church Fathers who were 100% Gentile cannonized the books of the New Testament, they basically declared as inspired all the doctrines about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Sin, Redemption, Soteriological principles mainly. I do not think that they assumed that the (scripturally speaking) newly introduced Pauline principles of Christian conduct were "as inspired" in the same sense as the doctrines. In fact, most of them were already violating them. 
  10. The Apostle's Creed which is the main determinant of Cardinal doctrine (vs. Peripheral doctrine) did not even mention the inspiration of Scripture, much less specify what was inspired AFTER the "Law and the Prophets".
  11. When Paul declared in 2 Timothy 3:16 that ALL Scripture was God-Breathed, we have to FULLY and CONSCIOUSLY realize that he referred only to the Jewish Scriptures AND had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA THAT HIS WRITINGS WOULD BE CANNONIZED. At best, it is safe to assume that Paul intended his writings to be merely an articulation of the New Covenant introduced by Christ at the Last Supper and as an explanation of Old Testament principles. As far as the Kingdom of God was concerned he explained the paradigm shift from a physical Kingdom exclusive only to the chosen people (Jews) to a spiritual kingdom where the whole world, which includes the Gentiles, is invited to enter.

Axiom (in process): The New Testament does NOT REPLACE the Old Testament but explains and enhances the substance of its true eternal and universal meaning.
While the Old Testament was illustrative and ceremonial, the New Testament was substantial and focused on the essence of the Old Testament principles. It also emphasized righteousness that exeeded that of the Pharisees.

Axiom (in process): Side-issues may be addressed by parables especially if they relate to the main theme.

Many interpreters deny this and maintain that the parable is limited to only one simple spiritual concept. This directly conflicts with God being THE Greatest Communicator, similar to the use of anthropomorhism as an excuse for how God communicates truths.

The following are to be addressed in the future

1. Inerrancy of scripture relates only to the inerrancy of communicating the redemption plan or model that God designed.
2. Conservative hermeneutics is solid, consistent in its results compared to liberal hermeneutics. Conservative hermeneutics has been loosely (and perhaps, erroneously) called "literal" hermeneutics. Nevertheless, in a practical sense, conservative hermeneutics seeks for original intent or original meaning of the author to his audience in a specific context or environment of place, time, language, culture, idioms. 3C's (composer, congregation, context) or a.a.e. (author, audience, environment)

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