Saturday, March 24, 2007

Logical discord, Spiritual Harmony

This rather long post ties together a few topics under one conceptual umbrella. I had considered breaking it up, but the application would be lost because topics subsequent to the underlying concept would hardly stand alone. Therefore, I came up with a composite title that simply doesn’t fit in the title fields most blog hosts provide. Let me apologize at this point for such a long post. It is hardly exhaustive and provides only a few areas where the central concept is applied. I have made reference to the scriptures and haven’t as of this writing provided book, chapter and verse references. I may add some in the near future. On to the body of the post…

Logical Discord, Spiritual Harmony, Reformation Theology, Confession and Baptistic Baptism

There is a concept on which I’ve posted before in my original blog at blogspot. I have referenced it in a few posts since, but I want to refine and expound on it here. When I talk about the bivalence of temporal reason and the univalence of the eternal God, these are very specific terms that I’m about to explain to you. I’ve never precisely named this concept. I’ll call it “Logical Discord”.

Consider who God is. We observe a natural order of cause and effect. If something happens, something else happening caused it. Since this something else is a happening, something else happening caused it. It is inconceivable that this chain of causes and effects goes back infinitely. The scientist may seek to trace the cause of everything known back to the big bang and then plead ignorance as to what caused the big bang. Without knowing for sure the precise chain of causes and effects, the concept that an uncaused cause must exist. Since this cause is uncaused, it is indicative of something substantial that is foundational to the world we know, but doesn’t carry the same rules. This something we’ll call “Eternity”. We’ll call the uncaused cause the “First Cause”. Because the First Cause is substantial and foundational, the First Cause isn’t confined by Eternity, but rather defines it. We’ll give another name to the First Cause: “God”. (There is a way to derive qualities or attributes of God, but this isn’t pertinent to this discussion.) This is called the cosmological “proof” of God. It is not a proof of the existence of God, it is a proof in the sense that is a temporal definition of God.

Since God is substantial, He is the source of existence and it is invalid to ask whether or not He exists. Given the flow of thought through history, the terminology I’m using is with respect to, and contrary to, the broad philosophy of existentialism. In general, existentialism holds that existence is foundational to substance. Here, I’ve derived a quick apologetic for the notion that substance is foundational to existence. If I didn’t think that this post wasn’t going to be long enough already, I’d go into some theoretical physics and demonstrate the continuity of this foundation inherent in the very physical structure of the temporal cosmos. But this would be an unnecessary digression.

I’ve mentioned Eternity. Here’s a shocker for most people: Eternal does not mean “infinite time”. Time is “Temporal”. Eternity is timeless. If the Eternal God is foundational to Temporal Creation, then infinite time is a temporal manifestation of eternity. Ahh, but I’m jumping ahead.

Temporality is, by nature, “Bivalent”. Bivalence is the quality of having two values. In logic, these two values are “true” and “false”. Existence, the temporal quality of being, is not absolute. It has boundaries. If I look at myself, I can see a fairly distinct edge to my body that demarcates where my existence ceases. If I were truly absolute, my existence would continue infinitely in all directions, including through time. This is impossible since existence is temporal. And eternity is the cosmological center of absolute. There is a questionable disunity to my existence in that I am not the same person I was years ago. I have eaten and breathed. I have cast waste off from myself. The molecules that comprise my existence have changed themselves constantly since my birth. Nevertheless, there is continuity to my existence that I owe to God. Therefore, while my body is physically different, there is a pattern that has followed. I look about the same. I have scars where I had injuries although the molecules are different. I have memories and cognitive abilities that demonstrate this continuity. I have a beginning that was caused by my parents. The beginning of my existence was construed from the existence of genetic material and cellular matter from each of my parents. Did that separate genetic material and cellular matter cease to exist? No. It became me. What was it before it became me? It was my mom and dad. Therefore, my continuity is of my parents and their continuity is of their parents. This is traced back to a single set of parents. If we accept the veracity of the Bible, which I do, those parents are Adam and Eve. This continuity is a manifestation of the Absolute.

But the fact that we have bounded existence is bivalent. Inside the boundaries, existence is true. Outside the boundaries, existence is false. Since God is eternal and absolute, there is no boundary to His substance for there to be a “true” or “false”. Therefore, God is single-valued or “Univalent”. (Univalence is most often used as a descriptor in chemistry. However, its usage is valid outside of chemistry.) The problem with univalence is that it is impossible for us to grasp. It would seem simple since it only has one value. Consider this: if everything in the world were precisely the same hue of green, we would have no concept of color in general or green in particular. As temporal creatures we require the contrast of false to comprehend the true. There would be nothing that was not green against which to compare the green.

Given the discourse to this point: while creation is temporal, God’s creating is eternal. Since God is substantially outside of time there is no “time” for God when creation didn’t exist. Consequently, there is no “time” for God where our future doesn’t already exist. The six days of creation were created as a demonstration for us.

This takes an interesting turn when we consider that God, being eternal, created something that was not. Effectively, God creates that which is not He. This is the incomprehensible (to us) bifurcation that establishes the bivalent pattern of existence in the temporal cosmos. Consider that the incarnation of God in the person of the Son as the man, Jesus the Christ, took the form of a temporal creature. His death is after the form of God creating that which is not God and His resurrection is after the form of the eternal relationship between God and His creation. After all, does God give us temporal life? Well, yes. However, God also gives us eternal life. In a fallen world, is it better to pursue a good temporal life at the expense of eternal life or to acknowledge Christ’s gift of eternal life at the expense of our temporal life.

Lest you balk, consider this statement made by me to you: If I’m going too quickly for you, just stop me. Well, you can’t stop me, because I’m already finished. The end of the article is written. You just haven’t gotten to it yet. And at what would you balk? You may be thinking, “Jim, you’re a hyper-Calvinist! That’s heretical!” Let not your heart be troubled. A discussion of Calvinism from this quasi-philosophical framework is the next section of discourse.

But first I need to mention a few more things by way of approach. First, while we have Logical Discord between temporality and eternity, there is Spiritual Harmony in the manifestations of the Eternal in the Temporal. With regard to the human psyche, the seat of the will, the manifestation of the Eternal is evidenced in our motivations, our inclinations. I’ve written before that the human psyche is comprised of competing inclinations. These inclinations are fed from various sources such as sociological context and stimulation; diet, past experience, etc. The strongest inclinations are the ones that inform our behavior. Inasmuch as we identify with one inclination or another seems to be an inclination in and of itself. However, this sort of inclination normalizes the inclinations with which it identifies thus strengthening them. Paul seems to convey this concept in his letter to the Romans when he denigrates himself for not doing what he wants to do and doing what he doesn’t want to do.

For humans, one other factor remains. This is our receptiveness to the spiritual. This is to say that we can gain information from… what? What is the spiritual? If God is absolute and eternal, then does the absolute and eternal constitute the whole of the spiritual? Are angels and demons part of the eternal or part of the temporal? Is the physical world we are familiar with the only temporal cosmos? Is the spiritual world some relatively imperceptible integrated aspect of the natural order? Is this part of what “the heavens” are? The fact is that we don’t know exactly, and this exercise is mere speculation. We argue from ignorance. All that is reasonable to conclude is that God is spirit and the spiritual is also the medium by which the Absolute is manifest in the patterns of the Temporal. This information is available to us through God’s revelation in the scriptures. What is also available to us is that the fruit of the spirit speaks to our motivations and only our behaviors indirectly. Where we temporally view and judge behavior, God judges our motivations. We can do the right things for the wrong reasons. We can do the wrong things for the right reasons. What is true from the previous paragraph is that we have a combination of right reasons and wrong reasons and an overarching inclination (our identification) toward one set of reasons or another according to what we know and assent as true.

This is the harmonization of the spiritual where the logic is discordant.

Consider the debate between Reformed theology and autonomous free will. There are three positions in this debate, although too often only two are characterized. There is the position, as I have mentioned, of autonomous free will. This position doesn’t necessarily deny the sovereignty of God. However, there is no general consensus on how precisely God’s autonomy squares with our autonomy. The second position is authentic Reformed theology characterized typically by John Calvin’s five points. This position accepts that God is absolutely sovereign while maintaining that free will is compatible with God’s sovereignty. This is why a good descriptive reference to this position is to call it “compatibilism.” True Reformed theologians, while assenting to free will, do not, however, believe this free will to be “autonomous.” That is, there is nothing that informs our decisions that God has not created realizing the impact that such would have on our decisions. Because the logic becomes discordant at this point, the Reformed position is often mischaracterized as a third position. This third position is often called “Hyper Calvinism” or “Fatalism”. This position denies that humans have any free will at all.

The spiritual harmonization of compatibilism lies in the motivations of human beings. If our motivation is to exert our free will over and against the will of God, then God acquiesces inasmuch as He leaves us to our own devices. Since we are temporal, we essentially live the balance of our temporal lives yet on the foundation of the Eternal. While the existence of such a one may perish, his spiritual substance remains paradoxically separate from the Eternal. Since eternal life comes from God, this substance is eternally (timelessly) dead.

However, if our motivation is to relinquish our right to will freely, then we rightly attribute this motivation to God. We acknowledge from this that our will is free from sin, although we yet struggle with sin from within throughout the temporal process of sanctification, and this through internal confession (not to deny the necessity of external confession). Our motivation is to assent to God’s worthiness of His sovereign control over our lives (worship). We therefore become free agents to bear His will. Once again, the logic is discordant because we cannot approach a univalent God with a bivalent understanding, but the spirit is in harmony because we have negated the paradoxical effects of a fallen world by submitting our will to God.

I offer myself humbly as an example through confession. If you have skipped to this point without reading the above, what I am about to say will not be fruitful. For it is in confession that spiritual harmonization is realized through submission. This is not a confession of a behavioral sin. This is a confession of a spiritual struggle – a temptation. Some of you who have read my writings for some time may recognize a certain lack of focus or a meandering thought. My confession is that I have been distracted. I won’t get specific as to what has been distracting me, but suffice it to say that it is a spiritual battle. Inasmuch as I must rely on God for strength in the battle, I have been successful in remaining faithful. The stakes are very high and God is faithful in His providence. There are very few with whom I have trusted even this scant information. There is only one to whom I have disclosed the particulars of the battle. There is none aside from myself who understand the full import of the battle.

One solution to the culmination of the battle is that I find a way to meet certain sociological needs. I have many acquaintances, some of which are among my fellow bloggers. It has come to my realization, however, that I have no close friends. I work in virtual solitude, eat alone, read alone, write alone and often rehearse alone. When I am privileged to converse with another, I typically submit to conversation that revolves around their interests. (Kim at Xanga has been a recent exception to this. I am acquainted with a good friend of hers who lives in my area and Kim, during her solitary work life, has been good company via the Internet lately. Thanks for hanging out with me, Kim. I very much enjoy your company.) To date, God has not provided a close friend. This is one I’ll connotatively define as someone who knows where you hide the key to your back door, and knows he (or she) is welcome to use it – and this both figuratively as well as literally. However, God is with me Himself. His presence and my consequent submission to Him have strengthened my faith if by fire. Therein is His provision and spiritual harmony in the midst of logical discord.

To restate, internal confession negates the paradoxical effects of a fallen world through submission. This happens certainly to the believer who ascribes such a state of affairs to the work of God through His Holy Spirit. The justification of such a one is temporally eventful and eternally absolute (timeless). However, the fact that God’s Spirit works in the heart of the believer to achieve a submission of will is indicative of something else we learn from God’s revelation in holy scripture. This is that the believer is “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit.

It can be argued, yet seldom is, that paedobaptism (infant baptism) is practiced because of the eternal state of the believer over and against the mere act of manifesting this faith. However, since the faith is not manifest in this infant, it is disingenuous to assume that it will be. One must develop some theology that assumes either universalism or the insecurity of the believer, neither of which is Biblical.

Instead, it is prudent to pray for and profess the faith to those who have not confessed and manifested submission, withholding baptism until such a time as they do so and consent in obedience to the rite of baptism ordained by Christ as the method for demonstrating the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Where “baptism” is a transliteration of the Greek word meaning “immersion”, the reality of the spiritual harmony is that the individual is immersed in the work of the Holy Spirit and His teaching through the discipleship offered through the Body of Christ. This is evident in the great commission. Baptism itself, being representative also of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, is therefore doubly a representation of the logical discord of God’s bivalent creation and the spiritual harmony of His univalent provision of eternal life.

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