Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More J.P. Moreland musings

From J.P. Moreland's answer to comments on the CT blog on his ETS paper, "How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It":
"Does anyone seriously think that non-Christians who have never seen a Bible have no knowledge of God or the moral law?"

Which moral law?

Knowledge gained from archaeological digs is in now way the same as the knowledge of how to be saved. Archaeology (or whatever hard experimental science) will only give you interesting facts. The framework in which they are put comes from somewhere else. You won't get this framework experimentally. Neither will you get a salvation framework experimentally.


Brian said...

But knowledge need not be gained only experimentally or directly from Scripture. Paul points out in Romans 2:
14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

I don't find any issue with saying that the relationship with Christ and the Father is the important thing, not the Scripture qua Scripture, but only the Scripture in that it leads us to God. Is it harder to get there without a map? Fer sure. But don't deify the map.
Even if it does have a self-deifing song. ("I can get you there I know, I'm the map..")

John said...

I agree that knowledge can be gained otherwise than by experiment or by Scripture. In fact, I disagree with Aquinas and Aristotle that in order to get to the mind something must first pass through the senses. That is the source of Natural Law, which the Catholic Church puts almost (maybe strike that word out) at the same level as Scriptural Revelation. And I would argue this is the fountainhead of Naturalism, since you can't have two masters. So, yes, the Gentiles have the law written on their hearts.

My point is that only Scripture has the right instructions on how to proceed. The point of Chapters 2-3 of Romans (which you cite) is that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" so that all are under the curse. Some sin having been given the law in a special revelation (the OT), others sin not having been given this law. What's the prescription? It's in Scripture. Scripture (2 Tim somewhere) says of itself that it is God-breathed and able to fully equip the man of God. It says this about nothing else. This does not mean that I'm deifying the map--it means I'm glorifying God, who gave me the gift of the map, by sticking closely to it. For salvation knowledge. Not necessarily experiential fullness of life (abundant life, etc.). I view Scripture as RISC.

Are you agreeing with the Catholics that some Hindus may be following Christ without knowing it, thereby are saved by Christ without knowing it? I don't know where I stand on this. I'm very uneasy about it.

Brian said...

I guess I see salvation knowledge in Scripture as "if" not "if and only if." We are told what to do to be saved, but it's also clear that we are not given the complete set of salvation information -- not all who cry "Lord, Lord" will enter.

I guess I do agree with the Catholics on that point. Certainly, if God wanted to grant salvation to any person, it would be his prerogative to do so.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that God sets down "salvation rules" in Scripture that 1) he is utterly bound by and 2) we have the capacity to completely puzzle out for ourselves. That limits the sovereignty of God, and it also encourages us to do too much puzzling about the details of the rules -- the error of the Pharisees.

The traditional interpretation of "No one comes to the Father but by me" is that acceptance of Christ is the necessary ingredient for salvation. But I've always been partial to another interpretation, that says no one comes to the Father but because of the actions of Christ, reconciling humanity to God.

In the end, I'm convinced that God's salvation judgement on every person will be simultaneously more just and more merciful than anything we would think of.

John said...

The Pharisees also had a bunch of traditions that they added to the Word of God.

Of course there are a millions things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that aren't dreamt of in my philosophy, but God gave about 500000 words to us to figure out. It isn't Pharisaical to try to be true to everything He revealed to us, and to think that concrete statements can be made from them.

How do you deal with this: "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24)? Or this: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9)? The second one looks sufficient, but not necessarily necessary, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the NT that says there are people who don't know Christ who know Him. And, in fact, the first one shows the necessity of conscious belief.

About God setting down rules that He is bound to, you then have to ask if Jesus meant what he said in John 8:24. If not, what else did he not mean? It makes me uncomfortable, too, but there are somethings we must nail down in our understanding. You may not like that you can't say log(a+b)=log a + log b, but you still can't.