Van Til and Law

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Theognome

Burrito Bill
But we believe that just for the reason that we cannot hope to obtain comprehensive knowledge of God we cannot hope to obtain comprehensive knowledge of anything in this world. - Van Til, The Defense of the Faith

I do enjoy perusing Van Til's work- it's guaranteed to be a great read. But there is one issue in his work that has always bothered me regarding his treatment of law.

Van Til did write that 'Subordinationism is the mother of heresies', and I don't argue the point (in regards to the Godhead). However, law is a property of said Godhead, and I have found his treatment of that subject to be at odds with his stated positions. When describing the relationships between mechanical and teleological law, he places the mechanical (that which would be classified as 'scientific and particularly measurable') as subordinate to teleological law (that which is moral and spiritually discerned). On the surface, this would seem logical- for any man can observe what is particular regardless of his state of salvation, while the true nature of God and the Law which is demonstrated by His nature is given only to His elect. However, when he gives an example of this, he contradicts both the subordination principle as well as the quotation above.

The subordination of one fact and law under higher created facts and laws appears particularly in the notion of miracle. When Moses commanded the sea to stand aside so that Israel might go through dry-shod, the laws of the physical universe were set aside at the behest pf the will of man. But the subordination of the laws of nature to the will of man was in order to the subordination of the will of man to God. - Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, Pg. 28

Say what? For Van Til to make that statement, he would have to assume that man possesses comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law i.e., since we can't explain what happened through our own understanding of law, it must have been suspended- and thus must be subordinate.

A simple look at the history of science would demonstrate such confidence in man's knowledge of mechanical law to be misplaced. And, as 'enlightened' as we may be scientifically in our present age, how much of what we assume to be 'lawful' fact will be considered hogwash 100 years from now? Just ask your local phrenologist that question.

It seems to me that Van Til broke two of his own rules. First, he assigned to man comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law to the extent that we can declare that a suspension of said law must have taken place in order for the Red Sea to part. Is that really so? Does the finite knowledge of man rule out the possibility of yet undiscovered mechanical law?

Secondly, if all law is of God, then would not the subordination of one type over another constitute a type of subordination within the Godhead? Is one kind of law more pure and holy than another? This idea is illogical if not preposterous to me.

So have I totally misunderstood this particular issue of Van Til's work? Note that I eagerly love his writing, and I'm not trying to disparage him in any way; rather this is one point that I still scratch my head about.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Two quick issues:
1)Can a person ever know that a miracle has taken place? Or does one have to have comprehensive knowledge to identify such?

2)I think you are taking the subordination thing too far. That God decides to deal with a situation in an extraordinary fashion does not imply some sort of subordination in the Godhead. One simply needs to acknowledge that all of creation is "under the thumb" of God.

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Two quick issues:
1)Can a person ever know that a miracle has taken place? Or does one have to have comprehensive knowledge to identify such?

Of course a person can know a miracle without 'comprehensive knowledge'. That really isn't the issue. Identifying the miraculous demands that it be beyond our knowledge. My issue was the assumption found in Van Til's work that man's knowledge of mechanical law is comprehensive, which I believe is false.

2)I think you are taking the subordination thing too far. That God decides to deal with a situation in an extraordinary fashion does not imply some sort of subordination in the Godhead. One simply needs to acknowledge that all of creation is "under the thumb" of God.

On the surface, I would agree. However, if Law, as Van Til defines it, proceeds from the Godhead, then for his method to function, a kind of subordination must take place that borders on Modalism.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Two quick issues:
1)Can a person ever know that a miracle has taken place? Or does one have to have comprehensive knowledge to identify such?

Of course a person can know a miracle without 'comprehensive knowledge'. That really isn't the issue. Identifying the miraculous demands that it be beyond our knowledge. My issue was the assumption found in Van Til's work that man's knowledge of mechanical law is comprehensive, which I believe is false.

Does a person need comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law to determine a miracle? I think the same number of people with comprehensive knowledge is the same number of people with comprehensive knowledge concerning mechanical law.

I know that I do not have comprehensive mechanical knowledge but I would still be able to identify the red sea crossing as a miracle.

Also Van Til does not assume comprehensive mechanical knowledge.

2)I think you are taking the subordination thing too far. That God decides to deal with a situation in an extraordinary fashion does not imply some sort of subordination in the Godhead. One simply needs to acknowledge that all of creation is "under the thumb" of God.

On the surface, I would agree. However, if Law, as Van Til defines it, proceeds from the Godhead, then for his method to function, a kind of subordination must take place that borders on Modalism.

Theognome

Law has to proceed from the Godhead, (where else is it going to proceed)? All that is necessary to make Van Til's case is that God can change the way he interacts with the world at any particular point for any reason of his choosing. All of creation is subordinate to the Will of God.

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Two quick issues:
1)Can a person ever know that a miracle has taken place? Or does one have to have comprehensive knowledge to identify such?

Of course a person can know a miracle without 'comprehensive knowledge'. That really isn't the issue. Identifying the miraculous demands that it be beyond our knowledge. My issue was the assumption found in Van Til's work that man's knowledge of mechanical law is comprehensive, which I believe is false.

Does a person need comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law to determine a miracle? I think the same number of people with comprehensive knowledge is the same number of people with comprehensive knowledge concerning mechanical law.

I know that I do not have comprehensive mechanical knowledge but I would still be able to identify the red sea crossing as a miracle.

Also Van Til does not assume comprehensive mechanical knowledge.

Identifying what is or is not a miracle isn't an issue- we both agree there. However, Van Til does indeed assume comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law. Chapter II, Unit II (Temporal Unity and Plurality) of The Defense of the Faith. His model demands it.


2)I think you are taking the subordination thing too far. That God decides to deal with a situation in an extraordinary fashion does not imply some sort of subordination in the Godhead. One simply needs to acknowledge that all of creation is "under the thumb" of God.

On the surface, I would agree. However, if Law, as Van Til defines it, proceeds from the Godhead, then for his method to function, a kind of subordination must take place that borders on Modalism.

Theognome

Law has to proceed from the Godhead, (where else is it going to proceed)? All that is necessary to make Van Til's case is that God can change the way he interacts with the world at any particular point for any reason of his choosing. All of creation is subordinate to the Will of God.

CT

Indeed, all of creation is subordinate to God. But the question is whether God is performing and internal subordination in order to accomplish His goals within creation. Van Til says yes (in the quoted work), and I disagree (though he also states that such subordination does not occur, which I also quoted). Do you have other quotes or works of Van Til that specifically recant or clarify his position? He seems to be contradicting himself in this.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Of course a person can know a miracle without 'comprehensive knowledge'. That really isn't the issue. Identifying the miraculous demands that it be beyond our knowledge. My issue was the assumption found in Van Til's work that man's knowledge of mechanical law is comprehensive, which I believe is false.

Does a person need comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law to determine a miracle? I think the same number of people with comprehensive knowledge is the same number of people with comprehensive knowledge concerning mechanical law.

I know that I do not have comprehensive mechanical knowledge but I would still be able to identify the red sea crossing as a miracle.

Also Van Til does not assume comprehensive mechanical knowledge.

Identifying what is or is not a miracle isn't an issue- we both agree there. However, Van Til does indeed assume comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law. Chapter II, Unit II (Temporal Unity and Plurality) of The Defense of the Faith. His model demands it.

How does he assume comprehensive knowledge of mechanical law? Secondly, how are you defining a miracle? I am also thinking that we are differing on what a person needs to know to identify a miracle.

On the surface, I would agree. However, if Law, as Van Til defines it, proceeds from the Godhead, then for his method to function, a kind of subordination must take place that borders on Modalism.

Theognome

Law has to proceed from the Godhead, (where else is it going to proceed)? All that is necessary to make Van Til's case is that God can change the way he interacts with the world at any particular point for any reason of his choosing. All of creation is subordinate to the Will of God.

CT

Indeed, all of creation is subordinate to God. But the question is whether God is performing and internal subordination in order to accomplish His goals within creation. Van Til says yes (in the quoted work), and I disagree (though he also states that such subordination does not occur, which I also quoted). Do you have other quotes or works of Van Til that specifically recant or clarify his position? He seems to be contradicting himself in this.

Theognome

There is nothing in the quote that speaks of internal subordination within God.
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Rather than posting the entire chapter, please refer to chapter II of Van Til's Defense of the Faith.

On the first point, I don't think that there is a challenge at all in discerning a miracle. That which the Lord does that is beyond our particular understanding is miraculous. If you observe his explanation of the miraculous (in his example of the Parting of the Red Sea) you will note that he states that mechanical law was suspended to accomplish His goals.

How does Van Til know this? What knowledge of mechanical law does he have that would make him state that it had to be suspended for God to do this? Is it not possible that God, who's knowledge of mechanical law is infinite and perfectly comprehensive, performed an act perfectly within the confines of mechanical law that does allow for such an action? I don't know if that is what God did, but I can assure you that Van Til wouldn't have known either- he just assumed that a suspension of law took place in order to describe what is miraculous.

As far as the subordination is concerned, compare the first chapter of Van Til's work with the second. Logically, he cannot make the mechanical suspension argument and at the same time claim that no subordination within the Godhead can take place- if law in all it's forms proceeds from the Godhead. It is simply not logically consistent.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Rather than posting the entire chapter, please refer to chapter II of Van Til's Defense of the Faith.

On the first point, I don't think that there is a challenge at all in discerning a miracle. That which the Lord does that is beyond our particular understanding is miraculous. If you observe his explanation of the miraculous (in his example of the Parting of the Red Sea) you will note that he states that mechanical law was suspended to accomplish His goals.

If one did not believe that mechanical law was suspended/changed, then why would one call the event a miracle vs. just normal providence. A lot of things are beyond our understanding but we do not call them miracles. For example Niagara Falls is an awe inspiring example of normal providence, but we do not call it a miracle.

A sick person going to the doctor, receiving treatment then returning to health is not a miracle. The woman with an issue of blood being healed by Jesus was a miracle. etc.

How does Van Til know this? What knowledge of mechanical law does he have that would make him state that it had to be suspended for God to do this? Is it not possible that God, who's knowledge of mechanical law is infinite and perfectly comprehensive, performed an act perfectly within the confines of mechanical law that does allow for such an action? I don't know if that is what God did, but I can assure you that Van Til wouldn't have known either- he just assumed that a suspension of law took place in order to describe what is miraculous.

If one did not believe that it was a suspension, then why would anyone call it a miracle?

As far as the subordination is concerned, compare the first chapter of Van Til's work with the second. Logically, he cannot make the mechanical suspension argument and at the same time claim that no subordination within the Godhead can take place- if law in all it's forms proceeds from the Godhead. It is simply not logically consistent.

Theognome

I'll get back to you on this point.

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Rather than posting the entire chapter, please refer to chapter II of Van Til's Defense of the Faith.

On the first point, I don't think that there is a challenge at all in discerning a miracle. That which the Lord does that is beyond our particular understanding is miraculous. If you observe his explanation of the miraculous (in his example of the Parting of the Red Sea) you will note that he states that mechanical law was suspended to accomplish His goals.

If one did not believe that mechanical law was suspended/changed, then why would one call the event a miracle vs. just normal providence. A lot of things are beyond our understanding but we do not call them miracles. For example Niagara Falls is an awe inspiring example of normal providence, but we do not call it a miracle.

A sick person going to the doctor, receiving treatment then returning to health is not a miracle. The woman with an issue of blood being healed by Jesus was a miracle. etc.

How does Van Til know this? What knowledge of mechanical law does he have that would make him state that it had to be suspended for God to do this? Is it not possible that God, who's knowledge of mechanical law is infinite and perfectly comprehensive, performed an act perfectly within the confines of mechanical law that does allow for such an action? I don't know if that is what God did, but I can assure you that Van Til wouldn't have known either- he just assumed that a suspension of law took place in order to describe what is miraculous.

If one did not believe that it was a suspension, then why would anyone call it a miracle?

Ahh... You see the trap. Look again at your response-
If one did not believe that it was a suspension, then why would anyone call it a miracle?

Consider the native in the jungles of wherever that had never seen an aircraft. Such a one would consider the plane a miraculous thing, though we would not; for we built it and understand the principles behind it's workings.

My argument does not in any way deny the miraculous. Rather, I am challenging the need to assume that the miraculous is beyond mechanical law. Mankind may never understand how God does things on earth, and probably will never understand. But that does not mean that God suspends, abrogates or subordinates mechanical law to teleological law in order to accomplish His will. Being finite, mankind simply has not the knowledge or authority to make such a claim about the working of God's universe. We can only marvel at what the Lord has done, and declare his miraculous work through the gift of faith.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Rather than posting the entire chapter, please refer to chapter II of Van Til's Defense of the Faith.

On the first point, I don't think that there is a challenge at all in discerning a miracle. That which the Lord does that is beyond our particular understanding is miraculous. If you observe his explanation of the miraculous (in his example of the Parting of the Red Sea) you will note that he states that mechanical law was suspended to accomplish His goals.

If one did not believe that mechanical law was suspended/changed, then why would one call the event a miracle vs. just normal providence. A lot of things are beyond our understanding but we do not call them miracles. For example Niagara Falls is an awe inspiring example of normal providence, but we do not call it a miracle.

A sick person going to the doctor, receiving treatment then returning to health is not a miracle. The woman with an issue of blood being healed by Jesus was a miracle. etc.



If one did not believe that it was a suspension, then why would anyone call it a miracle?

Ahh... You see the trap. Look again at your response-
If one did not believe that it was a suspension, then why would anyone call it a miracle?

Consider the native in the jungles of wherever that had never seen an aircraft. Such a one would consider the plane a miraculous thing, though we would not; for we built it and understand the principles behind it's workings.

My argument does not in any way deny the miraculous. Rather, I am challenging the need to assume that the miraculous is beyond mechanical law. Mankind may never understand how God does things on earth, and probably will never understand. But that does not mean that God suspends, abrogates or subordinates mechanical law to teleological law in order to accomplish His will. Being finite, mankind simply has not the knowledge or authority to make such a claim about the working of God's universe. We can only marvel at what the Lord has done, and declare his miraculous work through the gift of faith.

Theognome

In my previous post, I asked some questions, to which I would like to see some answers. I think the answers would help the discussion to proceed.

Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."

Lastly, your native example concerning the airplane, simply shows a person/group that misclassified an event as a miracle. That is not an argument against the ability to correctly identify a miracle.

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
In my previous post, I asked some questions, to which I would like to see some answers. I think the answers would help the discussion to proceed.

Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."

Lastly, your native example concerning the airplane, simply shows a person/group that misclassified an event as a miracle. That is not an argument against the ability to correctly identify a miracle.

CT

My apologies if I have not made my answers sufficiently clear. Here are two theoretical examples:

1. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. Therefore, it can never comply with the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

2. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. I cannot comprehend how it would ever fit into the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

Van Til relies upon the first proposition in his work. Position one assumes that the knowledge that the man has of mechanical law is complete- the observed phenomenon can never be understood, period. The second assumes the finitude of man- it is theoretically possible for the phenomenon to be understood (perhaps only by God and never man), but it is none-the-less miraculous.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
In my previous post, I asked some questions, to which I would like to see some answers. I think the answers would help the discussion to proceed.

Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."

Lastly, your native example concerning the airplane, simply shows a person/group that misclassified an event as a miracle. That is not an argument against the ability to correctly identify a miracle.

CT

My apologies if I have not made my answers sufficiently clear. Here are two theoretical examples:

1. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. Therefore, it can never comply with the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

2. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. I cannot comprehend how it would ever fit into the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

Van Til relies upon the first proposition in his work. Position one assumes that the knowledge that the man has of mechanical law is complete- the observed phenomenon can never be understood, period. The second assumes the finitude of man- it is theoretically possible for the phenomenon to be understood (perhaps only by God and never man), but it is none-the-less miraculous.

Theognome

Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
In my previous post, I asked some questions, to which I would like to see some answers. I think the answers would help the discussion to proceed.

Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."

Lastly, your native example concerning the airplane, simply shows a person/group that misclassified an event as a miracle. That is not an argument against the ability to correctly identify a miracle.

CT

My apologies if I have not made my answers sufficiently clear. Here are two theoretical examples:

1. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. Therefore, it can never comply with the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

2. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. I cannot comprehend how it would ever fit into the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

Van Til relies upon the first proposition in his work. Position one assumes that the knowledge that the man has of mechanical law is complete- the observed phenomenon can never be understood, period. The second assumes the finitude of man- it is theoretically possible for the phenomenon to be understood (perhaps only by God and never man), but it is none-the-less miraculous.

Theognome

Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."

It does not. In either case, what is observed would be readily acceptable as miraculous (save perhaps by those that the Lord has hardened to be scoffers).

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
My apologies if I have not made my answers sufficiently clear. Here are two theoretical examples:

1. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. Therefore, it can never comply with the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

2. I observe something that I do not understand. It does not comply with the laws of the universe as I understand them. I cannot comprehend how it would ever fit into the laws of the universe. It is miraculous.

Van Til relies upon the first proposition in his work. Position one assumes that the knowledge that the man has of mechanical law is complete- the observed phenomenon can never be understood, period. The second assumes the finitude of man- it is theoretically possible for the phenomenon to be understood (perhaps only by God and never man), but it is none-the-less miraculous.

Theognome

Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."

It does not. In either case, what is observed would be readily acceptable as miraculous (save perhaps by those that the Lord has hardened to be scoffers).

Theognome

Alright, then the problem with option two is that no one would ever call something a miracle if it just fit the criteria in option two. When the term miracle is used, it is only used if the person using it believes that there is no "natural" explanation. If they believed that it was something too complicated for them to ever find out exactly how it was done, they would say, "cool trick" or "that guy is a genius".

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Next, does your position imply that a normal person watching the myriad of miracles by Jesus could say, "Hey, it could happen by normal chance, nothing special just happened."

It does not. In either case, what is observed would be readily acceptable as miraculous (save perhaps by those that the Lord has hardened to be scoffers).

Theognome

Alright, then the problem with option two is that no one would ever call something a miracle if it just fit the criteria in option two. When the term miracle is used, it is only used if the person using it believes that there is no "natural" explanation. If they believed that it was something too complicated for them to ever find out exactly how it was done, they would say, "cool trick" or "that guy is a genius".

CT

In both cases, the observer believes there to be no natural explanation. The difference is the confidence (on a philosophical and/or theological level) of the existence of an explanation. In option one, this confidence is placed upon man- based upon the knowledge of man, mechanical law must have been suspended by God for the miracle to have taken place. Whereas in option two, the confidence it is placed outside of man, assuming that God's knowledge of mechanical law is greater than man's and thus a suspension may not have taken place; though how God performed the miracle may/will never be understood.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
It does not. In either case, what is observed would be readily acceptable as miraculous (save perhaps by those that the Lord has hardened to be scoffers).

Theognome

Alright, then the problem with option two is that no one would ever call something a miracle if it just fit the criteria in option two. When the term miracle is used, it is only used if the person using it believes that there is no "natural" explanation. If they believed that it was something too complicated for them to ever find out exactly how it was done, they would say, "cool trick" or "that guy is a genius".

CT

In both cases, the observer believes there to be no natural explanation. The difference is the confidence (on a philosophical and/or theological level) of the existence of an explanation. In option one, this confidence is placed upon man- based upon the knowledge of man, mechanical law must have been suspended by God for the miracle to have taken place. Whereas in option two, the confidence it is placed outside of man, assuming that God's knowledge of mechanical law is greater than man's and thus a suspension may not have taken place; though how God performed the miracle may/will never be understood.

Theognome

If a suspension has not taken place then there is a natural explanation (Regular providence). If there is no natural explanation then a suspension has taken place(miracle).

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
So, if a miracle took place (like the parting of the Red Sea) and although we will never know it, God did indeed perform it without suspending His Law, does it by default become regular providence? What if all of the miracles in Scripture were performed by God to conform to His mechanical Law in spectacular ways than puny mankind will never understand- does that make them all regular providence?

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
So, if a miracle took place (like the parting of the Red Sea) and although we will never know it, God did indeed perform it without suspending His Law, does it by default become regular providence? What if all of the miracles in Scripture were performed by God to conform to His mechanical Law in spectacular ways than puny mankind will never understand- does that make them all regular providence?

Theognome

Yes

Let us look at the Red Sea parting. If it was regular providence then it was pure coincidence that when Moses raised his arms, the wind blew and the sea parted. If it was not pure coincidence then the only option is that the normal working of the wind etc was changed.
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
So, if a miracle took place (like the parting of the Red Sea) and although we will never know it, God did indeed perform it without suspending His Law, does it by default become regular providence? What if all of the miracles in Scripture were performed by God to conform to His mechanical Law in spectacular ways than puny mankind will never understand- does that make them all regular providence?

Theognome

Yes

Let us look at the Red Sea parting. If it was regular providence then it was pure coincidence that when Moses raised his arms, the wind blew and the sea parted. If it was not pure coincidence then the only option is that the normal working of the wind etc was changed.

I see your point Brother, though I'll admit I'm not in agreement with Van Til's premise and thus the premise you are espousing. That God can perform immediate changes upon the status quo of creation is a given- Scripture is replete with such examples. Van Til explains that God responded to Moses in that miracle, and thus the Red Sea parted. Yes, it was miraculous. Yes, to us puny humans, it would appear as though God suspended mechanical law to accomplish this, for His work is beyond us. But we have some advantage regarding Teleological law- God has revealed in His word a glimpse of His nature through His law. The Lord did not see fit to do this for us in regards to His mechanical law- he left it to ourselves to discover it within the confines of His creation.

Thus science was born. Without the yearning and calling that God gave to subdue creation, what need would we to understand the depths of mechanical law? As Einstein put it, 'What does a fish know about the water in which it spends all of its life?' We, as mankind, seek to know the universe that God has created.

However, the arrogance of man to assume that we have the ability to completely understand the workings of His universe repels me. When Moses raised his arms, God did something, and parted the Red Sea. Did God suspend mechanical law to accomplish this? No man has the ability to know, for no man knows mechanical law to the extent that God does. The moment we decide how God did a thing is the same moment that we make ourselves like God. Thus I can't say that God suspended mechanical law to do it. Furthermore, no man can ever make that claim without having the level of knowledge of His law that the Lord Himself has.

The issue of suspension of mechanical law seems to be one of convenience as opposed to faith. And unfortunately, there are serious theological consequences involved when this issue is taken to its logic conclusions- indeed, a significant part of the Federal Vision movement can be traced to this very issue (I can provide references to this, but not tonight- it's close to my bedtime).

Theogome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Bill,
I feel somewhat better after finding out from where you are coming. I think you are need to flesh out how the FV is involved, for as long as you believe the FV debate rests on your winning this argument then I do not think I can ever have the possibility of showing that your position is in error.

My main problem is this: As long as one maintains that mechanical law was not altered then one is within their rights to say that nothing "special" occurred. Throughout the Bible, miracles were a sign that something special was at work.

Let us look at a single miracle: Jesus turning water into wine. When you say that mechanical law was not violated/altered what are you even implying?

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Bill,
I feel somewhat better after finding out from where you are coming. I think you are need to flesh out how the FV is involved, for as long as you believe the FV debate rests on your winning this argument then I do not think I can ever have the possibility of showing that your position is in error.

My main problem is this: As long as one maintains that mechanical law was not altered then one is within their rights to say that nothing "special" occurred. Throughout the Bible, miracles were a sign that something special was at work.

Let us look at a single miracle: Jesus turning water into wine. When you say that mechanical law was not violated/altered what are you even implying?

CT

So far, this has been an enjoyable debate to me as opposed to an argument. Like many of the things discussed here, it is not an issue upon which our position before the Lord as one of His elect is questionable. But exploring such things, in fellowship and to His glory, is a good exercise.

This particular issue is one that I pondered very heavily long before I knew that FV even existed. It was later on when I began to read their work (since my wife was, at the time, becoming very interested in their writings) that I saw a connection; and soon after others began to speak against it (it wasn't called FV back then), citing this issue as one possible connection.

Regarding water to wine, I cannot say that mechanical law was or was not violated. To state either is to claim that I have knowledge of mechanical law comprehensive enough to utter such an absolute. It would be more correct to say that I cannot know, for it is miraculous. If I say, "Mechanical was suspended in order for Christ to change the water", I state an absolute. Likewise, if I say, "Mechanical law was not altered/violated in order for Christ to change the water", I also have stated an absolute. Rather, I would claim that it falls under the category of mystery- " I cannot know or state with absolute certainty how Christ worked mechanical law in order to change the water."

To me, the tertiary quote fits closest into my understanding of what God has revealed in His word. I find it highly unlikely that the Lord would subordinate one absolute for another (regarding proceeding Law) based upon what He has revealed to us about His nature, but that does not mean it is an impossibility. But I cannot absolutely declare one or the other without fully comprehensive knowledge of all law that proceeds from Him- something that no one will ever achieve.

Theognome
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
Bill,
I feel somewhat better after finding out from where you are coming. I think you are need to flesh out how the FV is involved, for as long as you believe the FV debate rests on your winning this argument then I do not think I can ever have the possibility of showing that your position is in error.

My main problem is this: As long as one maintains that mechanical law was not altered then one is within their rights to say that nothing "special" occurred. Throughout the Bible, miracles were a sign that something special was at work.

Let us look at a single miracle: Jesus turning water into wine. When you say that mechanical law was not violated/altered what are you even implying?

CT

So far, this has been an enjoyable debate to me as opposed to an argument. Like many of the things discussed here, it is not an issue upon which our position before the Lord as one of His elect is questionable. But exploring such things, in fellowship and to His glory, is a good exercise.

This particular issue is one that I pondered very heavily long before I knew that FV even existed. It was later on when I began to read their work (since my wife was, at the time, becoming very interested in their writings) that I saw a connection; and soon after others began to speak against it (it wasn't called FV back then), citing this issue as one possible connection.

Regarding water to wine, I cannot say that mechanical law was or was not violated. To state either is to claim that I have knowledge of mechanical law comprehensive enough to utter such an absolute. It would be more correct to say that I cannot know, for it is miraculous. If I say, "Mechanical was suspended in order for Christ to change the water", I state an absolute. Likewise, if I say, "Mechanical law was not altered/violated in order for Christ to change the water", I also have stated an absolute. Rather, I would claim that it falls under the category of mystery- " I cannot know or state with absolute certainty how Christ worked mechanical law in order to change the water."

I did not ask was mechanical law abrogated or not, but instead I asked what is the implication of a non abrogation of the regular operation of the world in this situation. To reject or accept something, one needs to know what the proposition that is being accepted or rejected means.

I still see the term miraculous as implying that the mechanical law is abrogated and that if I believed that it was not abrogated then I would not use the term "miracle".

To me, the tertiary quote fits closest into my understanding of what God has revealed in His word. I find it highly unlikely that the Lord would subordinate one absolute for another (regarding proceeding Law) based upon what He has revealed to us about His nature, but that does not mean it is an impossibility. But I cannot absolutely declare one or the other without fully comprehensive knowledge of all law that proceeds from Him- something that no one will ever achieve.

Theognome

If it was absolute with respect to God, then He could not change it. But natural providence is not a case of such. God changing, for example the speed of light for whatever reason, does not imply some conflict or change in the Godhead.

CT
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Bill,
I feel somewhat better after finding out from where you are coming. I think you are need to flesh out how the FV is involved, for as long as you believe the FV debate rests on your winning this argument then I do not think I can ever have the possibility of showing that your position is in error.

My main problem is this: As long as one maintains that mechanical law was not altered then one is within their rights to say that nothing "special" occurred. Throughout the Bible, miracles were a sign that something special was at work.

Let us look at a single miracle: Jesus turning water into wine. When you say that mechanical law was not violated/altered what are you even implying?

CT

So far, this has been an enjoyable debate to me as opposed to an argument. Like many of the things discussed here, it is not an issue upon which our position before the Lord as one of His elect is questionable. But exploring such things, in fellowship and to His glory, is a good exercise.

This particular issue is one that I pondered very heavily long before I knew that FV even existed. It was later on when I began to read their work (since my wife was, at the time, becoming very interested in their writings) that I saw a connection; and soon after others began to speak against it (it wasn't called FV back then), citing this issue as one possible connection.

Regarding water to wine, I cannot say that mechanical law was or was not violated. To state either is to claim that I have knowledge of mechanical law comprehensive enough to utter such an absolute. It would be more correct to say that I cannot know, for it is miraculous. If I say, "Mechanical was suspended in order for Christ to change the water", I state an absolute. Likewise, if I say, "Mechanical law was not altered/violated in order for Christ to change the water", I also have stated an absolute. Rather, I would claim that it falls under the category of mystery- " I cannot know or state with absolute certainty how Christ worked mechanical law in order to change the water."

I did not ask was mechanical law abrogated or not, but instead I asked what is the implication of a non abrogation of the regular operation of the world in this situation. To reject or accept something, one needs to know what the proposition that is being accepted or rejected means.

I still see the term miraculous as implying that the mechanical law is abrogated and that if I believed that it was not abrogated then I would not use the term "miracle".

I feel it not particularly profitable to reduce this discussion to one of mere semantics. If defining the term ‘miracle’ is the issue, then we both have missed the point. That the miraculous involves the unexplainable I think we can both agree upon at some level (correct me if this is not the case); that God can and does do things that man can only throw up his hands and say, ‘there is the pure fantastic work of the Lord’.

However, based on the discussion above, I would say that the two positions presented on the subject of the miraculous have significant differences, one of which being whether a miracle can be explained or not. The position you have been presenting is actually far more restrictive on God, for He must perform an abrogation or suspension of mechanical law in order for a miracle to have been accomplished. Not only do I disagree, but also I shall endeavour to demonstrate in this post that His Word also does not concur with this position.

First, it is important to state that mechanical law is not presented in the Bible in categorical form- only teleological law (as well as ceremonial and civil) is so presented. Thus we can only infer from Scripture the actions of God upon mechanical law based on His declared nature as found in Scripture. Looking at individual miracles will not accomplish this, for they only give the resultant action and not the particular mechanical working of it- we must dive into His word to see His relationship with the particular, and whether such abrogation and/or suspension is normative within the nature of the Godhead.

The creation narrative found in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 does not directly address the abrogation/subordination issue of law, but instead demonstrates that creation exists within the confines of God and proceed from His word. John 1:1-5 confirms this; that the particular is dependent upon the existence of God and that all things proceed from Him. Thus we can state that the teleological nature of God is immutably linked to the mechanical nature of creation, for it was God in His purity that created the particular to exist within His eternal domain.

From here, we must seek examples of the relationship between teleological and mechanical law in Scripture, having established the connection between the two.

A strong connection between teleological and mechanical law is found in Psalm 119:18-19. The psalmist is stating that he seeks the justice of God (an unction of law) and that he seeks the heavenly domain above the
particular. However, the language used here suggests a strong connection between the unity of both aspects of law.
Open my eyes, that I may see wonderous things from Your law. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me. :_I£Z«E¥V¦N I¦p£o¦N X¤x¥Q¢x-L¢@ U£X¡@¡A I¦K«P¡@ X¤e :_£Z¡X]x¦N Z]@¡L¥T¦P D¡HI¦d¢@¥E I¢PI¤R-L¢e Psalm 119:18:19

Note the use of Erets in union with gare in verse 19. The psalmist is acknowledging an inability to understand the workings of God in the particular sense, rather than declaring the ability to decide what is or is not within his understanding of the particular.

Consider Psalm 8:3-5:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.
:hp£C¥W¥T¦Z I¦m M¡C¡@-O£Ah hp£X¥m¥F¦Z-I¦m []Pª@-D¡N :D¡x¥P¡P]m X£[©@ MI¦A¡K]K¥E ¢G¤X¡I _I£Z«R¥d¥V£@ I¤\©R¢N _I£N¡[ D£@¥X£@-I¦m:M¤u¢P¥Z¦Nh A¤I]@ ZI¦d¥[¢D¥L _I£X¥X]V O¢R¢N¥L F«R ¡x¥C¢q¦I MI¦W¥P«I¥E MI¦L¥L]R I¦s¦N

Again, we see the same declaration of man’s inability to declare how God works within His creation. As mentioned in a previous post, God gave to man the commandment to subdue his creation, but said creation is still beyond the total understanding of man- and thus man cannot state what God chooses to abrogate or subordinate within His work without special revelation to the same. The use of Angels in the Hebrew in verse 5 is significant here, for the Hebrew term used is not Malak, but rather Elohim- showing yet again man’s inability (despite being made in His image) to declare his ability to state how God works within His creation.

Though there are more examples of this in God’s Word, I do feel that it is suffice to say that man has not the ability or authority to state how God works within the creation He has made. To state that God had to abrogate or subordinate His mechanical law is tantamount to declaring that man can know how God works within creation- something that the Scripture clearly denies.

To me, the tertiary quote fits closest into my understanding of what God has revealed in His word. I find it highly unlikely that the Lord would subordinate one absolute for another (regarding proceeding Law) based upon what He has revealed to us about His nature, but that does not mean it is an impossibility. But I cannot absolutely declare one or the other without fully comprehensive knowledge of all law that proceeds from Him- something that no one will ever achieve.

Theognome

If it was absolute with respect to God, then He could not change it. But natural providence is not a case of such. God changing, for example the speed of light for whatever reason, does not imply some conflict or change in the Godhead.

CT

This response seems based on a semantic argument and not upon the context of what has been discussed. I have been challenging the ability of man to declare the inter workings of God’s actions, not the outer demonstrations of them.

(Note- I have obviously not figured out how to transcribe Hebrew into this medium. this does look rather silly, doesn't it?)

Theognome
 
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