Sunday, July 29, 2018

Feinberg on Kaufman in Light of Kant

I've been reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason this summer with a friend.  We are especially interested to see Kant's influence on theology.  In light of that, I came across this footnote in John Feinberg's No One Like: The Doctrine of God (Crossway, 2001), 804.

“Gordon Kaufman is another contemporary theologian who has argued that God is an immaterial being, although he claims there isn’t much more we can say about God in himself.  See Kaufman’s The Theological Imagination: Constructing the Concept of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981).  Kaufman distinguishes the word ‘God’ and the reality God (p. 21).  Relying on Kant, Kaufman explains that the reality God is not something we can know by inspection; we depend instead on “the image of God” (“God”) that our mind puts together (p. 21).  Whereas in his earlier work he claimed that theological construction is a combination of the imagination working with divine revelation, in this book Kaufman argues that the concept of God is purely a product of imaginary construction.  In fact, Kaufman believes this has always been so, but contends that theologians should recognized this and continue the task of constructing the concept of God with their eyes wide open to what they are doing.  Though this sounds like God is nothing more than a concept, we must remember Kaufman’s distinction between “God” and God.  There is for him evidently an extra-mental reality that is God, though we are only in a position to construct imaginatively our notions of what that God is.”  

* I have interacted with Kaufman's thought in this post: Liberal Theology and Its Pantheizing Tendency.

Jesus and Jonah Parallels

Jesus and Jonah

*Comparing Jonah and Jesus in Luke 8.22-39

Point of Comparison
Both in boats during a storm and asleep.
Jonah is fleeing from God.
Jesus is in the will of God.
Response of others in boat.

“feared the Lord greatly”
Jonah 1.16
“They were fearful and amazed” Luke 8.25
Both go to Gentiles.

Jonah commanded to go.
Jesus is going for rest but ministers as need arises.

Response of Gentiles.

Nineveh repents.
City/region asks Jesus to leave.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Jesus' Use of Reason in Matthew 12.22-29

Matthew 12.22-29: Jesus’ Use of Reason

1.     Setting the scene

a.     There is a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute.

b.     Jesus responds by healing the man “so that he spoke and saw” (v. 22).

c.      The crowds are amazed and begin to draw the explanatory conclusion that Jesus might be the Son of David—the Messiah.[1]

d.     The Pharisees offer another causal explanation—Jesus’ exorcistic power is from Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.

2.     Jesus begins to reason about why their explanatory cause makes no sense.  He points to their (a) inconsistency and (b) arbitrariness.[2]

a.     Inconsistency:  Jesus points to an internal inconsistency in his opponents argument in verses 25-26.  Essentially Jesus argues that if Satan is casting out Satan this creates a divided kingdom.  If Satan is casting out Satan and in the process is drawing people’s minds to think of God’s promises—namely the Davidic Messiah—then is a stupid plan.[3]

b.     Arbitrariness: In verse 27 Jesus points to a reality the Pharisees accepted—exorcisms by their “sons.”  Jesus is asking if their causal explanation of his exorcisms is consistent with the fact of other exorcisms they do accept.  Jesus is thus demonstrating that their causal explanation is arbitrarily applied.[4]

3.       Jesus continues to draw out his reasoning about the situation in verse 28: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” 

a.     This is an example of modus ponens:

                                               i.     If P then Q
                                              ii.     P
                                            iii.     Therefore, Q

b.     In Jesus’ argument:

                                               i.     P = I [Jesus] cast out demons
                                              ii.     Q = the kingdom of God has come upon you

c.      Jesus had defended P in verses 25-27 against the counter-explanatory claims of the Pharisees

4.     The Pharisees can irrationally hold to their inconsistent and arbitrary explanation or they could attempt to take Jesus’ modus ponens argument and turn it into a modus tollens argument.

a.     modus tollens

                                               i.     If P then Q
                                              ii.     ^Q
                                            iii.     Therefore, ^P

b.     They could deny that the kingdom has come (^P).  Therefore, whatever the explanatory cause of the exorcism it is not the case that the kingdom has come so they reject Jesus’ reasoning.  It is to admit that they do not have an explanation for Jesus’ power but they refuse to give credence to Jesus’ explanation.

5.     Why does Jesus draw the conclusion about the relationship between exorcism by the Spirit and the coming of the kingdom?

a.     Jesus’ words in Matthew 12.29 help us to see the background of Jesus’ reasoning.  Matthew 12.29 states: “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man?  And then he will plunder his house.

b.     This language of Matthew 12.29 is an allusion to Isaiah 49.24-25:

24”Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?”  25Surely, thus say the Lord, “Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, and the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; for I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons."

c.      Larger context of Isaiah 49 is about the “Servant.”

                                               i.     Servant is both corporate (Israel—verse 3)

                                              ii.     And an individual—the Servant brings back Israel (Jacob) to God (verse 5-6)

d.     “Servant” language in Isaiah 49 is part of larger Servant imagery in Isaiah that Jesus also appeals to in his teaching.

                                               i.     Isaiah 42.1 “Behold, my Servant, whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom my soul delights.  I have put my Spirit upon him…

1.     Isaiah 42.1-3 is the passage quoted by Jesus in Matthew 12.17-21—the pericope immediately prior to the passage under consideration about Jesus’ exorcisms!

2.     The Servant who has God’s Spirit upon him is linked in Isaiah with the Spirit-anointed One in Isaiah 61.1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;…

                                              ii.     Isaiah 61.1-2

1.     “This individual parallels in the servant figure of Isa. 40-55.  The anointment of the Spirit recalls 42:1…” 

2.     “Thus Beuken (1989) is correct in understanding Isa. 61 as an ‘interpretation’ of Isa. 40-55.”[5]

3.     Isaiah 61.1-2 is quoted by Jesus in Luke 4.18-19

e.     Jesus is utilizing the background material in Isaiah regarding the Spirit-anointed Servant who brings God’s kingdom.[6]

6.     Jesus and the Pharisees hold certain background assumptions in common.  They both formally affirm the Old Testament perspective on God, his covenants, his promises in Isaiah, etc.  Jesus reasons from within these shared assumptions to show the inconsistency and arbitrariness of the Pharisees.  Their explanation does not fit the evidence as situated within their shared background assumptions.

     [1] “The question is worded in such a way as to indicate a measure of perplexity, but also to open the door to an interesting possibility.”  Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992), 314.
     [2] Douglas Groothuis sees Jesus’ answers here in verses 25-27 as an example of Jesus using a reductio ad absurdum form of argumentation.  On Jesus (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth-Thompson Learning, 2003), 34.
     [3] “It is not be presumed that Satan is stupid: the Pharisees were taking up an impossible position.  Theoretically, of course, it might be argued that Satan could allow the expulsion of one demon in order to effect some diabolical purpose, but this would be met by the fact that Jesus kept on expelling demons; he carried on an unrelenting war against all the demonic forces.”  Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992), 315.
     [4] “The only possible logic behind the Pharisaic position was that a mere human could not overcome a demon.  If Jesus did have such a victory, therefore, it would show that he had aid from a superhuman source, and in their hostility their logic led them to hold that the source could only be Satan.  But they had spoken hurriedly; they had not stopped to reflect that some of their own people claimed to cast out demons.  The Pharisees would have vehemently denied that their sons were in league with the evil one, but they had not realized that such exorcisms said something about Jesus also.  Therefore they will be your judges; your own sons will prove you wrong!  The logic of a Pharisaic denial that their followers cast out demons through the evil one meant that Jesus did not use the powers of evil either.  The sons would be able to testify to the fact that casting out demons was not a work of Satan.  They would ‘judge’ them for ascribing to Satan what they, the exorcists, knew came from God.”  Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992), 316.
     [5] David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2007), 288.
     [6] “In making this unique claim—in the light of the expectation that in the last time God’s Spirit would rest on the Messiah (Isa. 11.2)—Jesus was almost certainly claiming that in his exorcisms it was evident that he was endowed with the eschatological Spirit and therefore an eschatological figure himself.”  Graham H. Twelftree, “The Miracles of Jesus: Marginal or Mainstream?” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 1.1 (January 2003), 119.

Epistemology and the Bible: A Bible Study

* The following is a Bible study I wrote up regarding some biblical passages that have epistemological relevance.

Biblical Passages Relevant to Epistemology

The following biblical passages are relevant to a Christian approach to epistemology.

1.    Romans 1.18-32

a.     Read the passage and note Paul’s use of epistemic language (e.g., know, knew, acknowledge, mind, etc.)

b.     Considering verses 18-23 answer the following:

                                               i.     What is known?
                                              ii.     How is it known?
                                            iii.     When is it known?
                                            iv.     What is the response to this knowledge?
                                              v.     What is the result of this knowledge and response?

c.      What is “exchanged” in verses 23 and 25?

d.     Notice the language of “God gave them over” in verses 24, 26, and 28.

e.     State the epistemic dynamic of verse 28.

f.      What does verse 32 state is “known?”

2.    2 Timothy 2.24-26

a.     According to verse 25 what is needed to come to “the knowledge of the truth?”

b.     According to verse 26 what other spiritual agent is involved?

3.    Ephesians 4.15-24

a.     Note the use of epistemic language in this passage.

b.     How is the “Gentile walk” (way of life) described in verses 17-19?

c.      What does it mean to “learn Christ” (verse 20)?

d.     Where is “truth” found (verse 21)?

e.     What does verse 23 says needs to happen to mind?

4.    Colossians 2.1-8

a.     How is Christ Jesus described in verse 3?

b.     Why is this description (of verse 3) important (see verse 4)?

c.      What is verse 8 saying?  Is this a passage that is “anti-philosophy?”

5.    1 Corinthians 1.18-2.16

a.     Note the use of epistemic language in this lengthy section.

b.     From 1.18-25 describe the relationship between God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom.

c.      In 2.4-5 what is Paul’s argument?  What is needed for Christian preaching to be effective (verse 5)?

d.     From 2.10-16 describe the importance and function of the Holy Spirit for knowledge of God.

e.     According to 2.14 why does the natural man not accept the things of God?

f.      What do you think it means to “have the mind of Christ” (2.16)?

6.    2 Corinthians 4.3-6

a.     How is the unbelieving mind described in verse 4?  Which spiritual agent is involved?

b.     What brings about “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ” (verse 6)?

7.     Look up the following passages from the book of Proverbs and state how they are individually relevant to the issue of epistemology:

a.     Proverbs 1.7
b.     Proverbs 2.6
c.      Proverbs 9.10
d.     Proverbs 21.30
e.     Proverbs 28.4-5

8.     In the book of Acts there are a number of accounts of the apostle Paul engaging with various kinds of unbelievers.  Look up each of the following passages and write down the epistemic language used:

a.     Acts 17.1-3
b.     Acts 17.10-11
c.      Acts 17.16-17
d.     Acts 18.1, 4
e.     Acts 18.19
f.      Acts 19.8-10

9.     Acts 17.22-34 describes Paul’s teaching in Athens before the Areopagus court with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers present (verse 18). 

a.     Note any epistemic language used.

b.     What do we learn about the object of knowledge (God)?

c.      What do we learn about the subject of knowledge (the knower; the audience to whom Paul is speaking)?

10. Matthew 11.25-27

a.     Note any epistemic language.

b.     Notice the contrast between “hidden” and “revealed.”  Who is doing the hiding and revealing?

11. Luke 12.54-56

a.     How does Jesus affirm empirically based inductions in his statement here?

b.     What is Jesus’ larger point in this passage?

12. Matthew 12.22-29

a.     Try to outline the argumentation Jesus uses in this passage.

b.     Notice that verse 28 has the form: If P then Q  [modus ponens]

                                               i.     P = “I [Jesus] cast out demons by the Spirit of God”
                                              ii.     Q = “the kingdom of God has come”

c.      Jesus has defended P in verses 25-27 against the counter-explanatory claims of the Pharisees.  What is the Pharisee’s interpretation of Jesus’ power and what are Jesus’ counter-arguments.