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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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Friday, January 23, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part VIII - Putting Some Things Together
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, and VII.

In my first post in this series I spoke of about "reductio ad absurdum" - a form of argumentation follows a premise through to its logical conclusion, and demonstrates from the absurdity of that conclusion, the not-so-blatant error of original premise. I think this is we are seeing in Hebrews 6:4-6, and I will explain why I believe that beginning in this post and concluding a few posts from now.

In my last post I mentioned how my first impressions of this passage were influenced by my growing concern that sin in my life was in fact evidence that I wasn't "really" saved, and therefore when I read this passage, and/or others like it, I was inclined (by fear and ignorance) to see my own damnation in it. I want to set all that aside as I look at the passage, and pretend with you, that I have never read it before, and draw some conclusions from the text without reading any of my theology into it.

I favor the NASB because it is the most literal translation of what I regard to be the most reliable manuscripts, in other words, I have more confidence in the precision of the NASB than I have in other translations. It is for this reason that I am using the NASB in our considerations, and I hope that isn't a problem for anyone.

The first question I think we need to answer is, "Who is the author talking about here - Christians or non-Christians?"

Let's look at the passage together then start putting together some thoughts that will help form our answer. The passage reads this way: For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

First the passage doesn't name an individual - it isn't saying, for instance, "for in the case of Jonas Barsimeon, who was once... yada, yada" which is to say that the author is creating a hypothetical situation for the sake of making his point. That doesn't mean that we can toss out anything just yet, but we want to be sure we understand the structure of his argument as we come into it - he presents an hypothetical person in an hypothetical situation. The hypothetical situation is that this person "falls away" - we will get to that, but let's look at the character of this hypothetical person so that we can answer for ourselves whether this hypothetical person is supposed to represent a believer, or a non-believer. These are the characteristics of our hypothetical person:

  1. He or she was (or at least had once been) enlightened

  2. He or she had tasted the heavenly gift (whatever that is)

  3. He or she was *made* a partaker of the Holy Spirit (whatever that means)

  4. He or she had tasted the good word of God (whatever that means)

  5. He or she had tasted the powers of the age to come (whatever that means)

I want to examine each, one at a time, and being as sober and as honest with myself as I can, I want to assign to each point one of the following three labels: Wheat, Tare, or Inconclusive. Once I have done that I will look at the group collectively and make the best call I can from the evidence I find.

I plan to do the examination in the next post - but first I want to explain the categories a bit(wheat/tare/inconclusive). If I say "wheat" I mean that there is no way this can be anything other than a true believer. If I say "tare" I mean that there is no way this can be anything other than a false convert, and if I say "inconclusive" I mean that only a dishonest, or clumsy person would insist on one or the other, given the scope of what is said.

All that begins in the next post, it'll take a couple of posts.


posted by Daniel @ 7:48 AM  
  • At 10:59 AM, January 23, 2009, Blogger David said…

    Are you sure you couldn't have squeezed this into one post? You're barely over 4000 words so far.

    Anyway, I'm anxious to see the next couple.

  • At 12:05 PM, January 23, 2009, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, it seems to me that the hypothetical person here has participated in every category the writer is mentioning; therefore you cannot label one as wheat and the next one as a tare.

    I look forward to your take on this.

  • At 12:58 PM, January 23, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim, My next post is already written but not scheduled for posting till Monday morning.

    I agree with you, it seems that the hypothetical person here has been written by the author into every category - the categories themselves being mentioned only because the hypothetical person is a participant in each.

    What is being asked, and hopefully will be answered, is whether these categories as penned by the author of Hebrews, can be said to unambiguously describe either a tare or a wheat. If the way the category is expressed leaves no room for doubt as to the identity of the hypothetical participant, then we shall label that category as definitely describing either a tare or a wheat. If there is ambiguity, we shall describe it as inconclusive.

    Without getting too far ahead of ourselves here, what we are trying to do here is gauge the merit of our presumptive interpretations of the text based upon how well this prosumption plays out in the individual categories.

    Our hope is that in doing this we will have an internally consistent opinion of who the author is describing with these categories, a tare or a wheat.

    Let's hope we do our job well.

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