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Friday, May 06, 2005

You can't account for your use of the Incarnation

There were some comments on a blog some time back where our dear friends talked about the soul. This got me asking the question: "Where do souls come from?" This has deep implications when viewed in light of both the concept of original sin and also atonement through the incarnation of the god-man.

Among Christian theists there have generally been two answers to this question. Creationists say that God creates each soul as the child is conceived - making God a busy deity indeed - and the other view is called traducianism. Traducianists claim that the soul is the product of man and woman - it seems that not only are egg and sperm a means of uniting DNA but also a "half soul" as well.

Most theists are of the creationist bent however many protestant theologians seem to adhere to a traducianist approach. Their argument is mainly philosophical in nature and runs this way:

Where do souls come from? Does god create them? If so does he create them pure or impure? If pure it conflicts with our view of original sin. If impure then God is the author of sin. God cannot be the author of sin and the doctrine of original sin must obtain therefore the soul is the product of reproduction.

Of course this entire line of reasoning is in no way biblically based and any theist claiming that only a Biblical worldview is justified cannot use it. There is no Biblical justification for saying that men's souls are the product of reproduction - in fact there is good evidence from the bible that men's souls are the creation of God.

Eccl 12:7 states "the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it"

Is 57:16 states "I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry, for from me proceeds the Spirit, and I have made the spirit of life." A contrast between the spirit of God and spirit that animates his animals.

Heb 12:9 states "Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?" God as the father of spirits.

Creationists respond to the traducianists by first giving biblical support for their view - like the verses above - and then argue that God creates the soul pure and places it in man where it is immediately corrupted by the flesh. [How this gets God off the hook as I’m not sure.] The justification of this seems to come from David when he says:

Ps 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me”

It seems that the traducianists are relying upon their own thinking to solve this problem when the answer is right before them - creationism. But does creationism solve this problem and more importantly what are the implications for the incarnation?

Christianity unanimously tells us that Jesus was perfect and without sin. The author of Hebrews tells us that he was tempted like us in every way but without sin. And in another place that he was a high priest able to sympathize with our weakness. Somehow the all corrupting flesh of man is incapable of corrupting the spirit of God himself as the god-man.

This is a glaring inconsistency - which should not surprise us at all. How is it that God is able to be placed within flesh and yet remain unscathed by flesh? It does not matter that Joseph wass not the father for the flesh of the mother is still being used. Perhaps God created his own flesh in Mary? Then God is the author of sin again. Perhaps God has some innate quality that keeps him from being tainted? Then he cannot be tempted in everyway as Hebrews tells us. [This is really a non-sequitor in purview of the doctrines of Christianity. Jesus being tempted in every way is irrelevant when taking into account the total corruption of flesh. Temptation would be considered an "empiracal proof" that the flesh is tainted and can't be used as an argument against his soul being corrupted at conception.] Perhaps Jesus just managed to live in perfect obedience which kept him from being tainted... but this would invalidate the claim that the flesh corrupts making it possible for anyone to be a "Christ." Perhaps God just creates men's souls differently than God's own allowing them to obtain a fallen and corrupted nature once put into flesh? Then we are back to God not being able to be tempted as man and also God creating a soul "imperfectly."

Conclusion
There is no way to reconcile a pure man [a god] being placed within an impure body and remain pure. Theists cannot account for their use of the incarnation as a means for the "perfect atoning sacrifice." Of course they can always fall back upon special pleading and the “God’s ways are mysterious” argument… can’t they?

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10 Comments:

At 5/06/2005 8:47 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

This is kind of a tongue in cheek argument and not necessarily meant to be something used.

I have been a bit absent from GTA as I have had to deal with a number of problems lately. I have had some health issues, lack of time due to work, theists knocking on my door aksing me to return to church and teach kids... the list goes on.

I have also spent time on what modern science can tell us about the mind. I have been reading Steven Pinker's book "How the Mind Works" and come to the conclusion that the presuppositionalist argument is a few hundred years too late. Science understands quite a bit about the mind and their argument in light of what we know about the mind makes them look really silly.

 
At 5/06/2005 11:00 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Not at all. A good argument is a good argument, wherever the tongue is placed. Anything to get the Christians thinking, I say.

I've also done some research into the neurobiological contribution to the theory of mind. Even the small amount that we know is so much more fascinating than any presuppositionalist argument from ignorance.

Interest in this topic among those in the scientific field is growing, as well. A good friend of mine with a biological degree has gone back to school to get a philosophical degree in the interest of furthering Mind Theory.

 
At 5/06/2005 11:41 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

I had started an article on the computational theory of the mind - Pinker supports it. It is really interesting that the theory itself fits very snuggly within a conceptualist/objectivist philosophical approach. Our minds are incredible computing machines.

Our minds computational approach is based upon probabilities and not certainty. Our minds are "pre-programed" with "demons" that carry out the task of "making sense" of sensations and perceptions. This fits nicely with the objectivist view that perceptions are somewhat of an "automatic process" and are not in need of justification - it just "is". [See the metaphysical vs the manmade] It is our conclusions that need justification - tracing how one forms concepts and general principles of the world - again an objectivist approach. There are just so many good things in Pinker's book that it has helped to solidify an objectivist philosophical position more firmly in my mind.

 
At 5/07/2005 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

Blogger said:

"Where do souls come from? Does god create them? If so does he create them pure or impure? If pure it conflicts with our view of original sin. If impure then God is the author of sin. God cannot be the author of sin and the doctrine of original sin must obtain therefore the soul is the product of reproduction."

Christian says:

Actually we're mostly traducianist, so study up on our theology bro.

zachary moore says:

"Even the small amount that we know is so much more fascinating than any presuppositionalist argument from ignorance."

Actualy, it's not an argument from ignorance. An argument from ignorance would be like: You don't *know* X therefore X is false. A presuppositionalist is saying that: If your worldview were true X wouldn't exist at all. Mr. Moore, if I could give you some advice? I saw that Paul Manata guy giving you a few lessons in logic over on his blog. You are obviously unequipped to deal with him. I think you are very smart in some areas but I would recommend that you stop acting like you understand logic and argument. So, here's an example:

I listened to that debate between Paul and Derek. Now Derek mentioned that Paul used an argument from ignorance. Did he get this idea from you? Anyway, Paul was arguing a metaphysical point (which Derek seemd to not even get), not an epistemological one. Paul was saying that given Derek's worldview, there would be *no such thing as logic.* Paul wasn't arguing that Derek didn't know about logic.

Anyway, my advice for this entire blog is to study Christian theology because (1) you're bearing false witness against your neighbor, and (2) you keep getting lit up.

 
At 5/07/2005 12:15 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Anonymous wrote: "Actualy, it's not an argument from ignorance. An argument from ignorance would be like: You don't *know* X therefore X is false."

Actually, for the presuppositionalist, it's even more perverse than this. In effect, presuppositionalism reduces to "I don't know how you could account for X, therefore my account is not only superior, but it's the only option." Take for instance Greg Bahnsen's opening statement in his debate with Gordon Stein. Bahnsen asserts "The atheist worldview cannot allow for the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability of the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes." Notice that Bahnsen nowhere presents a proof that seals his universally negative conclusion. What he's really telling us is "I have no idea how an atheist can account for the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability of the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes, therefore he cannot do so." It doesn't follow from Bahnsen's ignorance of philosophies such as Objectivism, which can address these questions (questions which Christianity itself cannot answer without relying on the most ambiguous and superficial understanding of the matters at hand), that such philosophies cannot deal with such issues. In the end, presuppositionalism is nothing more than bullying up on those who haven’t pursued a degree in philosophy (recall that Stein was a science specialist, not a philosopher). It doesn’t follow from anyone’s ignorance that Christianity is true, but this is the presuppositionalist’s only strategy: his apologetic depends explicitly on his opponent’s ignorance, because the apologist himself in the end is ignorant (he tries to compensate for this by dropping names and seasoning his statements with Latin phrases). If the apologist thinks he can show that Christianity is true, he needs to prove Christianity’s claims, not prove that others are ignorant of certain philosophical issues that remain controversial even in the most dedicated philosophy departments.


Anonymous: "A presuppositionalist is saying that: If your worldview were true X wouldn't exist at all."

Exactly - the "presuppositionalist is saying" - i.e., asserting - and apparently expects everyone to accept this claim on his say so, for he gives at best embarrassingly weak arguments to support it. Instead, what we get are caricatures of the non-believer's worldview, and on this basis the presuppositionalist tries to draw the conclusion that the non-believer's premises somehow lead to absurdity (while pretending that notions such as talking snakes, virgin births and dead men coming back to life in their graves are not absurd). In effect, the presuppositionalist has to insert views into his opponent's position - views which his opponent has not affirmed (e.g., "a universe of chance" etc.) and on this basis he proceeds to attack that position. It's just a straw man at this point – pure disingenuousness. And it ignores the fact that the presuppositionalist himself has no choice but to assume the truth of the non-believer's worldview (e.g., the axioms, the validity of the senses, the primacy of existence, the validity of reason and rationality, indeed the validity of the human mind) in order to attack it.

 
At 5/07/2005 12:20 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Anonymous: "Anyway, Paul was arguing a metaphysical point (which Derek seemd to not even get), not an epistemological one."

I'm curious about this statement. Could you elaborate? Specifically, can you explain what you mean by "a metaphysical point" as opposed to "an epistemological one"? Also, what do you think distinguishes one from the other?

Anonymous: "Paul was saying that given Derek's worldview, there would be *no such thing as logic.* Paul wasn't arguing that Derek didn't know about logic."

I haven't had a chance to listen to the entire debate, and I don't know if I will get time to do so for a while. Could you encapsulate the basic thrust of Paul's argument for the conclusion that "given Derek's worldview, there would be *no such thing as logic*"? I'm very curious to see how Paul did this, but it would be better to examine it in writing than trying to find it in an audio clip. Thanks in advance for your help.

 
At 5/07/2005 12:23 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Anonymous: "my advice for this entire blog is to study Christian theology"

How much of "Christian theology" do you think one should study before he has the right to publish his opinion about it on a weblog? Which authors (if not the books of the bible itself) do you think the blogger should study? And how would you measure whether or not he's studied enough? Do you think one has studied enough only if he agrees with the Christian position? Or do you think it's not possible to really study Christian theology and still think it's all wrong?

 
At 5/07/2005 9:23 PM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

Anonymous:
Actually we're mostly traducianist, so study up on our theology bro.

CAD
Well, from the source I got my information from - A Catholic resources page - the people who generally promote traducianist view are of the reformed tradition so it would make sense that you think that most Christians are of your persuasion. However, since the largest group of Christians are the Catholics I think that I am right in saying that the dominant view is that of creationism.

BTW - Since you seem to claim that traducianism is your thought on the matter I wonder if you could tell me how your biblical worldview gets you that position.

Thanks

 
At 5/08/2005 10:54 PM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

So how should I interpret the crickets?

You guys sit back and attack materialism by saying you can't account for X and say your worldview can. Can you please explain how traducianism fits into a biblical worldview. How can you rely on the very reason that you attack? Should you not take a creationist position since THAT is what the bible teaches?

The point that I wish to make is that you say that reason cannot account for materialism and yet you think that reason can get you a particular doctrine regarding where souls come from. How is it that reason can grasp ahold of a spiritual matter but materialists cannot grasp a material world?

 
At 5/09/2005 3:37 PM, Blogger Not Reformed declaimed...

Bahnsen_Burner said:

Exactly - the "presuppositionalist is saying" - i.e., asserting - and apparently expects everyone to accept this claim on his say so, for he gives at best embarrassingly weak arguments to support it. Instead, what we get are caricatures of the non-believer's worldview, and on this basis the presuppositionalist tries to draw the conclusion that the non-believer's premises somehow lead to absurdity (while pretending that notions such as talking snakes, virgin births and dead men coming back to life in their graves are not absurd).

Game. Set. Match. :)

I wonder who 'anonymous' is...who could it be? Whenever people stop talking about him...he shows up. :)

 

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