Paula White and the Bees, Ken Wilson Pumps Up the Dead

No, I am not entering a Really Cool Garage Band competition. Today’s 100 minute long DL starts off with ol’ Paula White buzzing around the stage telling us about bees—you just have to watch. Then we look at something OTHER THAN Ken Wilson’s dissertation, this time his views on James 2 and…Augustine! Yes, poor Augustine takes it on the chin again from Ken Wilson. We spent a good bit of time in the text today, and then watched and listened to Wilson discussing an upcoming article on Augustine and James 2.

Discussing Ken Wilson’s Work, Part 5 – Using Equal Scales in the Discussion

Augustine_of_Hippo

Introduction

Recently, Dr. James White has been interacting quite a bit with Dr. Ken Wilson’s book (and dissertation) regarding Augustine’s “conversion” to a predestinarian. As I have been reading much of Augustine’s work lately as well as other Church Fathers, I felt that I should enter this discussion with a layman’s perspective. Since Dr. Wilson’s dissertation is available to freely view most of it on Google Books, as linked above, I will use that as my source. All of my posts on this topic can be found here.

An Example of Inconsistency

On pages 34-36, Dr. Wilson begins the discussion of the influence of Manichaeism on the discussion of free will and Augustine. Here is a section from page 35:

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Using Different Scales

Originally I intended to make some remarks on Augustine’s Manichaeism. However, I have put that off until the next post. In this post, I want to discuss something that I noticed in Dr. Wilson’s comments above. He stated “The Redeemer commands (an awakening from drunken slumber) and then gives what he commanded by granting grace (in order to gaze upon deity)” (I will note that it appears Wilson is further poisoning the well by using this same phraseology from one of the most famous lines in Augustine’s Confessions where he stated “O Lord, command what you will and give what you command.” This is done in order to associate what Augustine said with what is retroactively attributed to come from Mani’s thought in Wilson’s work.) This statement by Wilson is followed by a quote from Mani in which it was stated that The Redeemer said “awake and gaze upon me!”

If you will refer back to my first post, you will see how Wilson thought that he was able to see and prove “traditional free choice” from the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians. Dr. Wilson stated such things as “Humanity’s creation in God’s image provided current opportunity for moral behavior” and when Clement used scripture’s calls for repentance from iniquity, Wilson stated that such things were only a “rhetorical strategy” which “could only be effective if the author and readers shared [part of God’s Image] retained within humans as free choice.” This meant that when Clement (and by extension God through His Word) exhorted sinners to repent (i.e. awaken) that he was appealing to their free choice to overcome their sin.

Another example from Dr. Wilson’s dissertation can be seen on page 42:

“[Hermas] sternly warns Christians of the dangers of the evil desire leading to death (Herm. Mand. 12.1 [44.1-2]). This and similar admonitions may presuppose some residual ability to respond to God.” (Page 42)

As he stated with Clement and here from the Shepherd of Hermas, “admonitions” by God only prove that mankind has “some residual ability to respond to God.”

However, on page 35 above we come across the same sort of thing here in these statements of Mani. We read there that this “Redeemer” told a person to “awake and gaze upon me”. Rather than being seen as proof of “total inability”, why would Wilson not see that as mankind being “provided current opportunity for moral behavior” or Mani using some “rhetorical strategy” in order to urge on man’s free choice to wake up and come to this redeemer? The answer is rather obvious. Manichaeism, and Augustine afterwards, was deterministic and therefore anything that the Manichaean god was telling man to do meant that there was not anything that man could do to thwart the will of god. That man must wake up because the Manichaean god commanded it.

Jesus The Redeemer?

Also, and I will not pull much on this thread, who was it above that Mani stated was “The Redeemer” who called for people to awaken? It was Jesus who Mani spoke of as the Redeemer, right? Wilson stated right after the quote from Mani about “The Redeemer” that “Manichaean salvation emphasized Christ’s grace”.

But please do not let this slip by you! Mani said that the “Redeemer” was “that just Zoroaster“. Mani was not saying that the Trinitarian God who we follow was the “Redeemer” but rather it was Zoroaster about whom he spoke! Yet we are supposed to believe that Augustine assimilated the beliefs about this false god of Manichaeism into Christianity because, obviously, Augustine’s God was not the God of Scripture. This is what it boils down to – it’s the logical conclusion that Wilson is making.

Conclusion

I hope that you can also see the inconsistency in how Wilson would attribute to Augustine some latent Manichaeism being inserted into Christianity. According to Wilson, when we read about these calls to awaken or repent in Manichaean writings, that “emphasizes Christ’s grace” (even though he was talking about Zoroaster and not Christ!). The theory is that Augustine was promoting the doctrines which he knew as a former Manichaean – ideas regarding God’s determinism in salvation and the loss of man’s will.

However, someone like Wilson has also asserted that Biblical calls to repent or wake up must mean that man has that capability within himself to fulfill that call. Here we have just seen a similar statement by Mani where one is told to awaken. The “traditionalist” would read these statements in Scripture as meaning that man has moral ability to heed the call himself and wake up, but the same person will read some type of determinism into a statement by Mani. I would urge that we try to be consistent with regards to how we interpret passages based off of our presuppositions. I am in no way trying to defend the statement by Mani – he was, as we have seen, not even talking about the Christ of the Bible as the Redeemer but rather was talking about Zoroaster! What I am trying to do is to urge you to consider whether you are using the same criteria when you read traditional libertarian free will into early church fathers but not into what Mani was saying. Either admonishments to wake up “emphasize Christ’s grace” over man’s will or they don’t!

Regarding the statement from Wilson on this same page (that “free will was totally lost after humanity’s fall”), I see that Dr. White has written a post on the inconsistencies in that particular sentence. After reading his post along with what I have demonstrated above, the reader can understand how Dr. Wilson is not using equal scales in his approach to Augustine.

Governmental Authority and the Church

We are joined today by our guest host pastor Robb Brunansky of Desert Hills Bible Church in Phoenix Arizona. Do government guidelines require the church to close during a pandemic, and what will you say to Christ at the Final Judgment about how you responded to this crisis? We also cover a video from the EFCA discussing re-opening churches that closed because of COVID-19, and an apologetics opportunity during COVID-19 based on Romans 1. Early in the program Robb mentions a video that he recently released about how christians should respond to differing views regarding these things from within the church. You can view that short video here.You can check out the Desert Hills website here.

The Dividing Line is on YouTube video. Our YouTube channel also provides videos of most of the debates that Dr. White has done over the years. Take some time and browse it to see if there is something there of interest to you. If you are looking for the next upcoming show be sure to subscribe to the blog as we post show announcements the morning of the show.

Pope Francis, Dan Barker, Bad Bad Twitter Man, Wilson vs. “Augustine Actual”

This will be my only program this week—don’t worry, we have a special guest filling in on Thursday (I have to head out of town quickly). So we went long, a full two hours. Covered a ton of topics from Pope Francis’ call for “believers of all religions” to join in asking God to “help us” with coronavirus, Dan Barker’s bad argument against the Christian faith due to a bad theology of prayer, and another bad, bad tweet from the Bad, Bad Twitter Man (me) wherein I once again failed to buy into the social justice narrative (oh, and one caller who went rounds with Rich showing that, like so many, he is controlled by his emotions rather than his mind). Then the last hour we went back to “Wilson vs. Augustine Actual,” reading comments from Wilson and then going to the cited Augustinian sources.

The Dividing Line is on YouTube video. Our YouTube channel also provides videos of most of the debates that Dr. White has done over the years. Take some time and browse it to see if there is something there of interest to you. If you are looking for the next upcoming show be sure to subscribe to the blog as we post show announcements the morning of the show.

Discussing Ken Wilson’s Work, Part 4 – Athanasius and Original Sin

Athanasius_von_Alexandria

Introduction

Recently, Dr. James White has been interacting quite a bit with Dr. Ken Wilson’s book (and dissertation) regarding Augustine’s “conversion” to a predestinarian. As I have been reading much of Augustine’s work lately as well as other Church Fathers, I felt that I should enter this discussion with a layman’s perspective. Since Dr. Wilson’s dissertation is available to freely view most of it on Google Books, as linked above, I will use that as my source. All of my posts on this topic can be found here.

Athanasius Spoke of Original Sin

Pushing the timeline back half a century from the magical year 412, Athanasius wrote his Discourses Against the Arians around the year 360. Here is his statement and I will follow that with some of my thoughts.

For no longer according to our former origin in Adam do we die; but henceforward our origin and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth, the curse from sin being removed, because of Him who is in us, and who has become a curse for us. And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened; the flesh being no longer earthly, but being henceforth made Word , by reason of God’s Word who for our sake ‘became flesh.’
Athanasius, Discourse Against the Arians, III.33

As I have been reading a great amount of the writings from the Church Fathers over the past 3 years (not just from Augustine) and as I have specifically been focusing in on the topic of original sin in response to Dr. Wilson, I have realized that there is a fatal flaw, if you will, in the way that the “traditionalists” today think they understand this doctrine. This is especially the case when they do not pause to consider the contextual implications of what they have just read. Let us take for instance this above statement from Athanasius. On a quick read, someone might take away the following: “Here Athanasius is clear that when he speaks of death he is referring to our physical mortality since he said something about our deaths and related it to ‘flesh’. It’s clear that he was not referring to anything spiritual being reckoned to us as guilt from Adam.”

But is this a fair reading of Athanasius or any other Church Father who wrote on original sin? Let’s analyze what Athanasius said.

  1. We don’t die according to our former “origin” in Adam.
  2. From now on, as Christians, our “origin” and infirmity of flesh is transferred to Christ.
  3. That being so, we rise from the earth with the curse from sin removed as Christ became the curse for us.
  4. We’re from earth and “die in Adam.”
  5. Being “regenerated from above of water and Spirit” we are “quickened” in Christ.
  6. Our “flesh” is no longer “earthly” but made Word since Christ had become flesh.

What Athanasius was saying here, some 30 years before Augustine’s earliest writings, was not that our death like Adam’s was merely human mortality. He said we do not die like our origin in Adam as believers. But, like Adam, all believers do physically die. If our only death like our origin in Adam was physical, then what Athanasius said would make no sense. Since he wasn’t speaking in this instance of physical death, Athanasius could proceed to say that with sin’s curse removed we then rise from the earth and are “regenerated from above” and “quickened”. Do those sound like statements that can be said of ones mere physical mortality? Hardly. When Scripture speaks of “regeneration from above” we think of, well, regeneration. The new life in Christ here on earth. The heart of stone turned into a heart of flesh. The new birth in which we spiritually are quickened to live our Christian lives here on earth.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude the meat of this post by asking for those who hold to the “traditional” understanding of all of the church, supposedly, prior to 412 AD to give me a consistent response demonstrating that Athanasius was speaking of only physical mortality or just a propensity to sin. He spoke of an origin of death from Adam, a curse of sin, and death being removed through regeneration from above and a quickening in Christ. At the very least, this statement from Athanasius shows that the church before Augustine was talking in ways that sound less “traditional”.

Postscript

The following statement was attributed to Athanasius in Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea (In the section where he was reviewing Luke 1:21). However, I was unable to determine whether or not it was actually from Athanasius’s writings. If anyone can provide me with the source for this following, I would appreciate it!

For circumcision expressed nothing else, but the stripping off of the old birth, seeing that part was circumcised which caused the birth of the body. And thus it was done at that time as a sign of the future baptism through Christ. Therefore as soon as that of which it was a sign came, the figure ceased. For since the whole of the old man Adam is taken away by baptism, there remains nothing which the cutting of a part prefigures.
Athanasius, as cited by Aquinas