Thursday, June 29, 2006

arguments from the character of God

I have been going through Old Testament Introduction at the seminary. In light of a recent question regarding the defense of the doctrine of preservation of Scriptures, I just wanted to throw this topic out for discussion, if anyone is still reading this blog. The question is:

To what extent can we use the character of God (or what we assume the character of God to be) as an answer for difficult questions?

If the phraseology of this question seems unclear, let me set it in its context and then provide some other examples of arguments where this answer is undeniably misused.

The Context of the Question
In OTI, we have been discussing the preservation of Scriptures. The argument has been postulated that we appeal to the character of God by saying that the Word must be preserved, because God would not withold anything from us that we need to live and walk with Him. I would agree with this, but only on the basis of what the text actually says about application of God's character. Namely, II Peter 1:3 "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,"

The way I would interpret this is that God has actually said in His Word that He has supplied us with everything we need to be godly, from which you can infer that He has not witheld anything that we need to be godly. Thus, if we need Scripture to be godly (which Scripture says) then everything we need to be godly must be preserved.

Let me point out that I am not arguing this way, "since God is loving, He must preserve Scripture." Rather, I am saying, "Since God said He gave us what we need, He must preserve what we need."

Some Wrong Uses of the Argument from the Character of God
  • God is loving, so He would not allow people to go to hell.
  • God is loving, so He would not allow 9/11.
  • God is loving, so He would not allow the holocaust.
I know that these are extreme examples (unless you are an open theist), but here are some that hit a little closer to home for some:
  • God would not assign a sinful nature to human beings without them having the opportunity to choose sin for themselves.
  • God would not choose some to eternal life and leave others to eternal punishment.

Please respond with your comments and insights. What regulates when we can and cannot say "God's character is ____ so he wouldn't _____ " (you fill in the blanks)?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

is there grace in james?

I just thought I would throw this question out there. Our reformation friend Martin L. would have said no. This is understandable coming from someone who came out of the works-based, Roman Catholic Church through the study of Paul's theology of justification in Romans. Luther firmly believed salvation was by faith alone. He believed the book of James was a straw epistle that should not be included in the canon, mainly because James says that faith without works is dead.

This question comes mostly from my personal study of James as Nate Mihelis and I have been teaching through the book in Sunday School at CBC. Although I am a firm believer that we hold the full canon in our sixty-six books of the Bible, I will have to admit that previously I did not have much appreciation for James because I did not see it as a gracious book.

My view of James has changed somewhat. The readers of this blog can tell me if this is a stretch or not. The book is undoubtedly a practical book describing perseverance in the life of the believer. But I have come to find it full of grace...what I mean is that I don't do these works to persevere, God accomplishes these works in me as I seek His grace in a right relationship with Him.

I find grace in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." This wisdom parallels the works that faith produces found in James 2:14-26. I find this grace further described when James says in 3:17, "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peacable, etc..." This is wisdom that must come from above. Sourced in myself, this wisdom/faith-produced works does not exist. But James further comments in a section of the book calling the reader to repentance, "but he gives more grace..." (4:6).

A song says:

Grace paid for my sins and brought me to life
Grace robes me with power to do what is right.

I desire for others to see the grace of God that produces perseverance as is taught by James.