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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007
Why Godly People Will Always Disagree.
[1] I believe that God knew before He ever created Adam, that Adam would condemn himself by sinning.

[2] I believe that God could have kept Adam from sinning had He wanted to (as God did for Abimilech), but determined beforehand not to.

[3] I believe that there God is not to be blamed for determining beforehand to alow Adam to, that is, I believe that God did not have a moral obligation to stop the fall of mankind even though God could have intervened to do so.

I believe these things because scripture paints that picture for me. God knows the end from the beginning, he isn't surprised by history, it was written in God's mind before He ever created it. I believe God could have interceded and stopped the fall, because God has interceded elsewhere and kept others in scripture from sinning, so I conclude that God allowed Adam to fall by design rather than because God was taken off guard, or because God was whimsical and disinterested in the moment.

If I allow my four year old daughter to take up skating knowing full well that in the course of learning to skate she will fall at least once and probably many times - and I know that any one of these falls will hurt - I don't imagine myself morally responsible for the injuries she receives, even if I know she will receive them. It would be reprehensible and wicked for any father to inflict a similar damage directly, but allowing the daughter to skate and suffer the bruises is not reprehensible nor wicked.

In the same way, God knew that Adam would sin, but is by no means wicked or to be blamed for allowing Adam to do so - even if doing so meant condemnation. Had God created Adam and immediately condemned Adam without Adam ever having sinned - that would be wicked and cruel, but God created Adam knowing that Adam would earn wrath.

That little word "earn" is perhaps one seed reason why there is so much disagreement amongst godly people.

There are some who conclude that if God could have caused Adam not to sin, then God was morally obligated to do so because failure to do so would mean that God was creating Adam just to condemn him. They bypass the idea that Adam deserves condemnation because they reason that God would never create Adam unless Adam had a chance...

This is the root of disagreement: presumption. When we hold an opinion about the character of God that doesn't come to us from scripture, but from our own moral presumption - we are going to disagree with people who have different moral presumptions about God, and we will disagree with those who have no moral presumptions about God.

You see, we are all sinners, and as such although all we receive the same truth, we all filter that truth through our own systems - some of less presumptuous, and some more, some are saturated biblically, some less so - and depending upon how well we navigate through what we know about God from scripture and what have presumed about God because we think God would "be like that" - we end up with the core hermeneutic through which we understand scripture: Our estimation of the Character of God.

If I think that God's sovereignty doesn't include the plan to create sinners and condemn them, my understanding of scripture must reflect that. If I think that God's sovereignty doesn't mean His will is done, my understanding of scripture must reflect that.

To the degree that we believe in God's sovereignty, our conclusions will agree.

That having been said, I believe that no matter how men might disagree theologically, yet truly godly men not only are able to agree in the Spirit, but are even required to do so. If there are five men on a counsel, whatever their theology, if they are all truly Christians, they can be agreed in the Spirit if they are humble men.


posted by Daniel @ 5:50 AM  
  • At 7:41 AM, December 20, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    I would elaborate but I must go to work.

  • At 11:56 AM, December 20, 2007, Blogger Jim said…

    "[3] I believe that God is to be blamed.." ??


    I believe understanding the sovereignty of God is of utmost importance and this is probably one of the things I have appreciated most about the writings of my reformed brethren.

  • At 4:10 PM, December 20, 2007, Blogger mark pierson said…

    Please elaborate... After work, of course.

  • At 6:08 PM, December 20, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, I whistled that off quickly this morning, and didn't proofread it. I changed the points a little to clear it up.

    Mark, I added a paragraph at the end to round it out better.

    The post, in summary, provides an answer to those who would wag a patronizing finger at Christianity because theologians disagree on many points - they would use that disagreement to demonstrate that Christianity is bunk. I would explain these disagreements as weaknesses in our flesh, and not a weakness on God's part.

  • At 8:42 PM, December 20, 2007, Blogger Jim said…

    Just thought I would point it out...figured you missed it.

    Yes, that is a very valid point. Just last week in witnessing to a person he asked why there are so many different denominations. I had to simply tell him that some of it boiled down to petty differences and that they would have to answer to God for their divisiveness.

  • At 11:51 AM, December 21, 2007, Blogger Strong Tower said…

    What does it mean, "agree in Spirit." Doesn't Scripture put both doctrine and Spirit together, as Jesus said, "The Father seeks such..."

    I am just trying to understand. I think you're familiar with Parchment and Pen. This discussion waxed on over there.

    I wonder if you're rightly looking at why we disagree as Chrisistians. Paul said that we should learn from him whaat it means to not go beyond what is written. It seems to me, it is not that we filter the truth through our presuppostitions, but infact do not receieve the truth that we claim to hold. In other words, Paul's discussion of Truth is that which is received, no perceived, 1 Cor 4. The division there were from those who claimed unreceived truth. That is, it was truth that they were saying was of their own reckoning. Paul was clear and was not in disagreement from a personal view with those he contended. His contention was that they had not received what he had. To their disagreement, he responded that they should keep silent or speak only what they receive. So, the disagreements that we have do not come from the Spirit, nor do they come from a text that is not clear. Those who wrote were clear. But, they did not write from what they perceived, but from what they received. That I believe is our problem, we speak opinions which are not Truth. If we were to follow Paul's admonition, we would not have disagreements, for the only things that we would say, would be that Truth which we have received.

  • At 11:21 PM, December 21, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Strong Tower, the Arminian sees a man profess faith, and then fall away from that same profession later to die in that state. The Arminian concludes that the man died "unsaved", having "lost his salvation".

    The Calvinist sees the same man, and concludes that the man was never in possession of saving faith to begin with, and so he too concludes that the man died "unsaved".

    They "know" that the man died unregenerate, that is, they agree in the Spirit about the man's fate. But because they come to scripture with different presumptions about the nature of God, they explain what they see in a way that harmonizes with their presumptions, and in part is filtered through them.

    The Arminian's first presumption is that in order for God to be just, He must try and save everyone. The Calvinist makes no such demand upon the character of God, but agrees that for God to be just he must condemn all men.

    I use Calvinism and Arminianism because they are well known soteriological interpretations of scripture.

    If a person is willing to accept that God is not duty bound to save anyone, and that God does not become obligated to save everyone if He saves anyone, then the person finds no reason to impose a democratic, egalitarian harness on the character of God, and being thus free from reading that into God's character, the person would have no reason to interpret scripture in such a way as to overlook the depravity of man.

    You see, the moment a person presumes that God is obligated to save everyone that person must answer for why God has failed - and the best answer is that God hasn't failed, man has - man has failed to make the right choice with his "free will" - and even though that makes man sovereign in savlation and not God - yet the alternative is unthinkable - because the underlaying presumption leaves no other alternative - "since" God is trying to save everyone, one must conclude that the reason not everyone is saved is because men either never hear the gospel, or they hear it and choose to ignore it. Those who are saved are saved because they made the right decision, etc. etc.

    It is the presumption about God that infiltrates and filters the truth of scripture - at least in this example - and that was the point I was getting at.

    Both the Calvinist and the Arminian can agree about Spiritual realities (the man died unregenerate), but they will disagree (theologically speaking) about how that happened, in proportion to how much presumption they bring to scripture with them.

    I don't believe there can be spiritual disagreement amongst spirit filled Christians - though there can be intellectual disagreement, and theological disagreement. And I think there can be disagreement between carnal Christians, because they are not walking in the flesh and not the Spirit, spiritual people can disagree with those who are not spiritual - that can happen.

    My point was to underscore what happens when you decide who God is and what he is like based on your own cultural and moral presumptions rather than scripture alone. I personally think that cuts deeper into the arminian camp, but there is room in all camps for us to check ourselves.

  • At 11:47 AM, December 22, 2007, Blogger Strong Tower said…

    I see, and agree with the philosophical presuppositional reasoning that will cause disagreement.

    It is often said, "Let's agree to disagree, agreeably." And, I can agree to that, but upon a different basis than most. We are given boundary markers in Scripture, across which we are not venture. It is when we do that we begin to disagree, not amongst ourselves, which is allowable, but with Scripture which is not. The disagreements that Paul was addressing in Corinthians were not just speculative opionating, but were being claimed by some to be inspired to which Paul responds, 1 Cor 1:10, that they are to agree and not let the divisions stand, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:20-40 and esp. 1 Cor 11:18, in which Paul concludes that a clear discernment of the body of Christ is necessary for participation communion.

    Now, if we apply Scripture to spiritual things, as Paul would have us do, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, then the spiritual man is judged by no one, but the Word.

    So, if we take the Arminian presuppostitions and the Calvinistic (I am a fiver), and we find disagreement, the disagreement resides in us, it may be Spiritual or fleshly, and if we are positioning out of our own understanding, we can never come to agreement. However, the Scripture is never wrong, and there, and only there, is found agreement in the Spirit.

    It then resolves to be that the Scripture and Scripture alone is the last appeal. This is were we can still walk as brothers in Christ with those who disagree. But, we must be careful to not say that our opinion is of the Spirit in Truth if indeed we have said that it is only opinion. If it is Truth, it is Truth and varifiable by Scripture. Paul simply put the boundary around received Truth and warned those who build to not go beyond it. There, in the Strong Tower of God's Word is refuge. As is in His Name, also the Word is Authority, and the wise flee to it and are safe.

    Doulous, I have read your posts, and your intellect far exceeds mine. I must then submit that I am not equipped to contend in realms that are too lofty for me. This is a good discussion, and I have enjoyed your comments at Pyro and elsewhere. As you know, the contest between the pomo promoters and those who war for the Truth, war upon the ground of the "knowable". It seems that the Emergents join together with the world in the debatable as reason to condemn those who hold to absolutes. It is the disagreable areas that give them reason. For us then, we must be clearer in our pronouncements of Truth and hold to it with the conviction that condenms falsehood for what it is. To that end, if we agree to disagree, then we must make clear that our disagreable areas are not Truth. And, the converse, when we assert, as I would, that the TULIP or the Five Solas are irrefutable Truth, I must take a stand against what is opposed to them, and not just as mere opinions that I hold, but the very revealed Word of God.

    At the end, it really is pride that gets us into trouble. If we would admit that we are not assured that our opinions are Truth, we would have no conflict even with the Emergents. But, we do hold some Truth and must be zealous to protect it against accusations of opinion. One way that we can do that is to admit in areas of opinion that that is exactly what they are. That removes the weapon from the hand of the equivocator. Then, our stand will be unified upon what we have received and we will boast with one voice that we have received it.

    Finally then, we can agree to disagree in the Spirit, when in Truth, we clearly declare that our disagreements come not from the Spirit, but our flesh. For, if they were from the Spirit, we would not disagree, we would rebuke, reprove, and encourage with all humility toward God.

    It is great comfort that you and I can disagree, and remain brothers, nonetheless.

    Merry worship the messiah day.


  • At 3:39 AM, December 23, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Strong Tower, like yourself, I too am a fiver, and I can't say that I find anything in what you have said that I disagree with.

    I should point out that none of what I am, or have been writing, has been pointed at, or intended to smooth over wrinkles with the postmoderns or their emergent church. To be sure, I have found in my personal dealings with these sorts a whole lot of culturally driven "spiritual interference". They seem far more concerned about making their religion palatable to themselves and others, than they are about anything else, and frankly, I believe it is because they have fallen for that old ruse: spiritual maturity = unapplied academic knowledge. Thus their pursuit of Christ is primarily academic, external, and
    methodological, and it typically takes years of failure in that system before one is willing to see it for what it is.

    I could go on, but my point here was not really addressed that way, rather my point could be summarized by saying that the disagreement we see amongst many Christians is almost always the product of carnal presumptions that are messing up theology. The humble learner is willing to examine himself and see to what extent (if any) his extra-biblical (and typically cultural-moral) presumptions have played into his theology, and to make corrections as needed. But because this sort of introspection is rare, what we see therefore amongst groups who both claim to believe the bible, is that the groups are separated above all else, according to the presumptions they make about the character of God - presumptions which direct their interpretation of scripture.

    That is why "prooftext" arguments are redundant intramurally - if both parties believe scripture to be inerrant, and more or less literal, etc. etc. - how can these be in disagreement? The answer is that they disagree because underneath their declarations about scripture lays their presumptions about God - some informed by the word, and some not.

    I have found that sometimes ignorance really is genuine, that rather than hitting someone with prooftexts you need to show them that their opinion about who God is, could use some polish. When a person get's a hold of who God is, better doctrine follows.

    Thanks for this chat ST.

  • At 12:45 AM, January 01, 2008, Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said…

    Hi Daniel,

    I came to your blog via the TeamPyro blogroll. I really like your post! I think I get and agree with your thesis. Yet I'd like to probe in some areas that I personally am unsure about to gain your insights.

    It is the presumption about God that infiltrates and filters the truth of scripture - at least in this example - and that was the point I was getting at.

    At a certain level of understanding, this obviously is a truism. Yet there is something gnawing, something still unsettled. I'm a little clumsy verbally, so bear with me and a possible unsequenced train of thought.

    Essentially, I think there may be some circular reasoning involved, and I'm trying to escape the circle. And I need your help. Here it is.

    You're saying that our presuppositions about God's divine attributes inform our approach to Scripture. These philosophical presuppositions affect our hermeneutic and exegesis. Which in turn affects our theology and our orthopraxy.

    Now here comes the circle. I approach Scripture to learn of God's divine attributes. To know and worship and love the true God, I must know the true God. My source is the divinely inspired, inerrant, and sufficient Word of God. I don't have a philosophical presupposition underlying my seeking to learn and know of God's attributes through Scripture. I don't claim tabula rasa or objectivity, after all I'm a fallen sinner, but I try not to approach Scripture with pre-existing parameters circumscribing what I think God's Character, Essence, or Divine Attributes are.

    And I think many other honest seekers do the same. Yet there are still theological disagreements between true Christians. Look at apostles Peter and Paul's disagreement. Was it really because they had different understandings of God's attributes based upon their presuppositional approach to the OT? Could you really argue that that is the key underlying diagnosis?

    I could not. I really wish I could say why there are doctrinal and behavioral disagreements among Christians. But I don't know. All I could really say is a platitude: We're all sinners.

    Anyways, thanks for bearing with this stream of consciousness. I hope you'll let me know your thoughts about what I've tried to convey. I would really appreciate your insights.

    Pax. And have a Happy New Year!

  • At 5:03 PM, January 01, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Truth Unites,

    Welcome to my blog, and thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    I don't know that Peter and Paul had a doctrinal disagreement, rather Peter wasn't practicing what he knew to be true (we are talking about the Antioch disagreement I presume). Likewise, I don't think Barnabas and Paul were in doctrinal disagreement about taking John Mark along for the return to the mission field - rather that was a practical disagreement. To be sure, I don't see any examples in scripture of inspired men disagreeing with one another on matters of inspired teaching, if anything I see them everywhere in harmonic agreement.

    I believe that we all, those of us who have been graced with an awareness of just how deep the rabbit hole of sin can go, engage to some degree in examining our interpretations closely - (are we reading this into the text, or is this what the text is saying? etc.) Certainly it is not a question of sincerity, or piety, but rather of discernment and illumination - both being something we cannot claim credit for in my opinion. The bottom line, for me is, that given the same "light", same instruction, and same grace, if two men come to differing conclusions, the most pronounced reason among many will likely be that one or both men has brought something to the text that isn't in the text.

    It isn't that this is the only factor, but one amongst many. The conclusion I draw is that although God gives liberally not all reap abundantly, and the one reason I am suggest (amongst what I suppose to be many) is that we are unable to go beyond presuppositions that we are blind to, that is, we can set aside any presupposition we are aware of, but we cannot set aside a presupposition we are not aware of. This is where other believers are a gold mine for us, for if an hundred men disagree on a thousand things, but all hundred agree on three things, we can be more assured of the three that we agree upon, than the thousand we disagree upon.

    Good, godly men disagree about some serious things, not because one or the other lacks piety or even light, but because each one has premised his end belief upon something foundational, and the foundations can differ. It seems wise to me therefore if two otherwise godly people disagree about a thing, they can argue backwards until one of them runs out of scripture and realizes that he or she is no longer arguing about what God tells us about himself, but is arguing about what he presumes.

    It doesn't always happen this way, and this isn't a blanket that fits snuggly on the whole bed, but it is a good first kick at the cat I think. ;-)

  • At 9:54 AM, January 02, 2008, Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said…

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for your welcoming response. I'm just a lay person who's trying to soak up and absorb everything I can to worship Him more fully and more truly. This topic of disagreements between Godly Christians has been a puzzling piece for me in my journey.

    I agree with you that everything hinges on presuppositions when it comes to differences on serious matters of doctrine and practice. But which presuppositions are they? That's the question. You posit that it's presuppositions that people have about God's attributes as they approach Scripture.

    I certainly think that's part of it, but I'm unsure if it's all of it. In my varied, hop-scotch reading of diverse material, I would like to ask whether differing hermeneutic approaches and the inherent presuppositions therein account for the doctrinal disagreements between believers? I'm thinking of the Antiochian vs. Alexandrian schools of biblical interpretation. And then on throughout the history of hermeneutics which is kind of like the history of theology.

    All that being said, I'm really curious as to your thoughts about this provocative article by the Internet Monk:


  • At 7:37 PM, January 03, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Truth, I want to be clear in that I am not trying to say that there is only one factor (presuppositions about the character God) involved in doctrinal disagreements - rather I am suggesting that a portion of the doctrinal disagreements we encounter are there not because of our adherance to, or straying from some hermenuetic, (though certainly some are), but that at the core of the disagreement we that one or both parties has entered into the fray with an uninformed presupposition about God.

    I think it significant that you mention the Antiochian and Alexandrian schools of interpretation in connection with this discussion. I think the split there is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about. The Alexandrian school was awash in the hellenistic culture of the day, and as such it interpreted scripture through the accepted allegorical philosophical models of its day; be they Oriental, Macedonian, or even neo-Platonic in origin. The Antiochian school didn't have that kind of baggage. If you trace the Antiochian interpretation backwards you come to the Apostle Paul, if you trace Alexandrian interpretation backwards you come to a bunch of pagan philosophy. It should be a no brainer. ;-)

    I read the iMonk article. I think people make assurance more difficult than it needs to be

    If anyone loves not Jesus he is anathema. The acid test is not whether I can remember a date that my mouth said something, or a prayer that I once prayed - the acid test is whether or not I love Jesus Christ. I don't care what kind of pious, epiphanic conversion experience a person can remember - if that same man does not love Jesus he is decieved if he imagines himself to be a Christian.

  • At 8:37 PM, January 03, 2008, Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said…

    Thanks for the response Daniel. I personally prefer the Antiochian school myself.

    Anyways, Godly people having deep, irreconciliable disagreements that are conducted and expressed agreeably used to bother me a lot more before than it does now.

    I don't think I'll ever know all the varied reasons as to why, nor will I ever be able to pinpoint the core reason with any reasonable confidence level. And that's okay with me. It's just the way it is, and I can accept God's providence and sovereignty without too much wondering.

    Going beyond your Calvinistic vs. Arminian example, I'd like posit the following example: A godly Roman Catholic, a godly Eastern Orthodox, and a godly Protestant all have different presuppositions about God, about Scripture, about interpreting Scripture, about the role of "tradition" and "authority", about a lot of different doctrinal matters. Whatever the category (ies) of presupposition it is, I just accept the fact that it will be uncommon for me to see resolutions to those differing presuppositions occurring. That's okay. C'est la vie. Bless the other Godly brother and sister and move on.

  • At 1:16 AM, January 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I never really preferred Reform School, the food is always hard to swallow, filling, and more or less killing in a forensic sense, but not as sweet as I was used to before I was apprehended.

    Marriage, that blessed arrangement...hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us...For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God...so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

    It's that working properly thing that get us. There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end there of is death. Love, that is the love of God is unique, so unique that it cannot be placed within a paradigm, or presuppositions. It does not come from the creation, but is as the Apostle says, from God, spread abroad in the hearts of his elect alone, surpassing knowledge, able to bring us in to a complete maturity in the knowledge of the Son.

    Strong Tower

  • At 7:55 AM, January 04, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Truth - you make the point I am making I think at the end of your last comment - when the final bell rings, it isn't that these three disagree about scripture, it is that they disagree about all the stuff they project into scripture. I am of the opinion that given the various competing philosophies, the closest to the truth is always going to be the one who projects the least of his presuppositions into scripture.

    Thomas - very well said.

    I cannot comment during the days, so I apologize for my tardy replies.

  • At 10:21 AM, January 14, 2008, Blogger 4given said…

    Thank you. I needed to read this today.

  • At 11:33 AM, January 26, 2008, Blogger Unknown said…

    I enjoy reading this and I am glad I found this. You are saying alot what I am familiar with. Christians debating the differences in Christian beliefs and denominations but we have to remember that our faith in Jesus is not commitment to our church or denomination. When we argue and disagree, we will know what kind of a Christians we are and what kind of a heart we are showing. One reason I like about Reformed teachings because I believe that their doctrines have creditbility and accountability than any doctrines. Reformed beliefs are God-centered, based on God's Word, and committed to faith in Jesus Christ.

    No matter how much knowledge we have in the Mystery of God, we will never fully comprehend God until we die. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says, "My thoughts are completely different from yours, and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."

    Our minds could never fathom the awesomeness of God. He is described in the Bible as One with no beginning and no ending, the Alpha and Omega. God is omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, meaning that He has unlimited powers, He is universally present, and knows all things. He is the Author, Creator and Sustainer of all things--animate and inanimate, He made the heaven and the earth by His great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:4-5). God is above all gods in heaven above or earth beneath. Before Him, the nations are as a drop of a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance (Isaiah 40:15).

    In my position, God will not hold me responsible for my lack of understanding in the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these is to look to God in deepest respect say, "0 Lord, You know all."

    Jim :)

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