Does Paul offer a classical apologetic in Romans 1?

Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by Monergism, Jul 30, 2004.

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  1. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman

    Could you qualify this statement for me? In the examples that you give, it seems to accurately portray what I am saying. In our understanding of the Trinity we describe it as being 1 God and 3 Persons. Are these divisions in God? The council of Nicea est. that it was not. God is 1 in a and 3 in b. He is not 1 in a and 3 in a (1 God and 3 Gods).

    To confront the rest. I would say that you are on for the most part, but let me say this. Fallen man is totally depraved, born with a hate for the good. The good for a rational being is to use reason to the fullest, which would lead a rational being to the Christian God. Man is born in this hate, unwilling to use reason to the fullest, thus not having a knowledge of the Christian God. He lives perfectly evil by willingness, not by inability. Man is unable b/c he is unwilling, it is not that he is unable and thus unwilling. It is his heart's depravity, not his heart's disability.

    God is not subject or lesser than reason. Reason is not God. God is not subject or lesser than love. Love is not God. Love and Reason are only properly and infinitely established in the nature of God. However, if God was not infinitely loving, he would not be pure in nature (Evil is concrete to one's nature), and therefore would not be God. If God was not infinitely reasonable then He could not be known, and would not be God. God is not subject to reason as this phrase has bad conotations, but He is necessarily perfectly reasonable.

    Let me know what you think.
  2. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You continue to say that, but with no evidence whatsoever. I am saying that man's problem lies in both his impaired ability to properly reason and his impaired willingness to do so, which are both a result of sin. You are saying that man's problem lies only in the latter of these, but Scripture simply and plainly disagrees, as I think I have abundantly demonstrated above. Where from Scripture can you support your view that sin did not impair man's very ability to reason properly along with his willingness to do so?


    But that is not altogether consistent with your previous statement with which I agreed. The issue of disagreement here is not whether He is in fact infinitely "loving" or infinitely "reasonable" - we all agree on that. The issue is the ontological order of those things. In other words, you are inevitably saying that love and reason define God, whereas I am saying that God defines love and reason.

    [Edited on 3-11-2004 by Me Died Blue]
  3. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The Athanasian Creed makes it a little more acute for us. In reference to the Father, He is a; in reference to the Son, He is a; and in reference to the Spirit, He is a. In reference to the Three individually they are also each b. Yet they are one God. But they are not confused in their nature.

    It can also occur that the best reasonable thing to do is not to do the best reasonable thing that we think. That's because we have made mistakes in retrospect, even though we were certain that we were doing the best we could do. We just didn't know as well as we could have. And so our own limitation puts us in subjection sometimes to submit against our reason, submitting to those who bear the responsibilities of it. Such as the Church heirarchy.

    Only after all these years do I find that what I thought was a mistake by my parents was in actuality the best answer. I just didn't have the facts like they did. And they too look back and say they could have done it better. We have to remember that limitation in our reasoning. Putting all our ducks in a row doesn't always account for all the ducks that are really there, beyond our sight.

    I think I see what you mean. Allow me to paraphrase. In the sense that love reflects the nature of God, love is God. Love without reference to God's being is nothing. Yet love itself, as an ideal, is not God, but as a ray of light from the sun, so is love from God. So also with reason. Is this what you mean? Is it similar? Or is is beside what you are saying?

    Let me ask you, is evil the privation of good, or is it an entity on its own? How is evil concrete to one's nature?
  4. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Just so you understand the reason for the question, I am leading to asking if reason and love, which are not privations of good, are entities on their own. Are they qualities that exist apart from God, even though subject to God? Or are they qualities that must exist in any act of God, because of God's character, and therefore are dispays of His character?

    But first, is evil the privation of good, or must it also be brought into existence?
  5. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman


    Man, according to your understanding of scripture, has an inability to properly reason as a result of the fall. I understand that this is a concern for you. I did not mean to fail in giving an answer to this question.
    In order for God to communicate to a rational being, that being has to have an understanding of what is being communicated. It is my belief that this cannot be done apart from reason, and thus reason must necessarily be existent and unmarred in man after the fall in order for God to communicate to him. Adam had to use reason to name Eve. When did he name Eve? After the fall. The Scripture says that Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead. He knew that Isaac was the seed through which the promise would be fulfilled, yet he was ready to kill him. Why? Because he knew that God couldn't lie and that if necessary God could reconstruct Isaac's body from the ashes if needed.
    It is my contention that reason is the light that shines in the darkness, though our darkness has not understood it (John 1). It is in each man as he comes into the world. If we say that man's ability to reason is marred we are not dealing with the heart, we are dealing with an inability to function. It would no longer be immorality and evil, but a disability. Also, if we say that man's ability to reason is fallen, rather than the heart itself being fallen, then we must ask how Paul can say what he does. Paul states that it is made clear to them. But if the tool given to the rational creature, which enables him to communicate or receive communication is fallen, then how can it be made clear to them. There is nothing by which to receive the clear communication.
    God created man a rational creature. Because man does not function properly as such does not make him arrational, but irrational. He still has reason, and all the abilities that come with it, but his failure and unwillingness to use it is what holds him inexcusable. Man will not use reason until he has been regenerated, and made willing. This is nothing unorthodox. It is simply a more clear statement of what the Lord has been revealing all along. Man is inexcusable because God has made His divine attributes and eternal nature clear to them, and man IS able to see it, but will not.

    Yes. Evil is not a being and is not brought into existence. It is only manifest in beings. Good is concrete to one's nature b/c good is what is determined to be good by the infinite. Man was created and God saw that it was good. Good is perfected and infinitely expressed in God's being where as evil is not expressed in this way. In this way, good is different from evil. Evil is manifested in whatever sets itself against God's determination of good and evil.

    We have to remember that reason necessarily applies to all being. If it didn't then that being could be both non-existent and existent in the same sense, at the same time. This is absurd. R.C. Sproul stated that if the Trinity contradicted the law of non-contradiction then he would not believe it. Because it is a mystery, or a paradox at first glance, does not in any sense mean that it is a contradiction. I can apply raseon to what I finitely know. This does not confuse clarity. If I look at this doctrine and cannot see it or understand it and thus reject it, it would be due to my sin. God must give grace that I might be willing to use reason and see that it is not contradictory and that I should trust Him with all that which He has not chosen to reveal.
  6. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Again, I'm not claiming that reason is unexistent in unregenerate man, nor is any presuppositionalist. We simply hold that man's reason is impaired to a certain degree. Theoretically, unregenerate man could not know anything, since all knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord, Whom they reject and suppress. However, since each man has an inherent knowledge of God deep in them simply because they are created in His image and there exists common grace, man is not able to be consistent in their ignorance and lack of knowledge and reason. That is the point Bahnsen was trying to make. It's just like sin - Romans 2 lets us no that "there is no one who does good," and yet all men are not as sinful as they possibly could be, for the simple fact that they have an inherent knowledge of God that they suppress, are made in His image, and have common grace. It's the same way for man's reason - with a full suppression of God, man could not know anything. However, because of common grace and man's image after God, man is not able to be consistent in his suppression of God, and can thus attain limited knowledge and reason.

    You still have not dealt with any of the Scripture I gave (such as Titus 1:15), nor given any direct Scriptural evidence for your own claim that man's ability to reason logically was not directly affected in any way at the Fall.

    [Edited on 4-11-2004 by Me Died Blue]
  7. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    OK, now I know what you mean by 'concrete'.

    The next question I was going to ask was, is reason an entity? Is it created? If so, then does it exist apart from God necessarily? If no, then does it exist apart from created man necessarily? (c.f. Prov. 8)

    I think that you anticipate my intended end already. But all the same, I offer the succeeding question just for your benefit: How does man apprehend (lay hold on) reason in either case? Or is it that reason (possibly uncreate in God, but create in man) is also created in man as an image-bearer of God? (c.f. the Athanasian Creed for the use I make of the word 'uncreate', from which I also get the word 'create'. )


    I tend toward believing that evil is the privation of good. It satisfies the basic need to keep God apart from sin in the creating of all things. I also agree with your contention that reason itself did not fall, but man did, even in his faculty to reason. Reason itself is the full sophy of truth, so to speak, to which man can aspire in his bearing of God's image. Yet his fallenness (i.e. rebellion) keeps him from aspiring to that in which his ultimate happiness is rooted, namely God's glory.

    Sanctification, then, includes, among other things, the redeeming of the faculty of reason as sins in the soul are conquered and evicted. As we are unable to conquer sin completely, or even to begin to conquer sin without Christ's work on the cross, then it follows that sanctification upon justification is an infusing of righteousness that comes not from us. And the redemption of the faculty of reason, which depends upon that infused righteousness, then, has its origin outside of us, or apart from us, but is effected within us. Suddenly we can reason reasonably again, poor though the efforts are, as opposed to using the faculty of reason against reason when under the bondage of sin.

    Man fell, but his reason for rebellion was to his own ends, apart from the glory of God. So man is never without reason. But the privation of the good in his reasoning turns that fuculty into inertness at best, but the means to further sin in actuality. ("Let us build a tower...," etc. ) So reason can be used corruptly, as man having a corrupted reason. I think that man is plagued with both the corrupted use of reason, as well as a corrupted reason, yet all the while, reason itself, the sophy of truth, is not at all damaged by man's fall.

    How does man, then, apprehend reason? It is both by grace alone, and it is by faith alone. The one is an act of God upon man, the other is the result in man of God's act of grace upon man. In this way faith as a fruit of grace is upheld, as all the while we confess grace alone and faith alone.

    Man does reason, and it is the freeing from the privation of good that opens the door to reasoning as he should. As his faith grows, so does his reasoning as he should. The initial parts of reasoning are revelation, both in the Word and in the creation. In this sense the Presuppositionalist is right, and this is also the confession of the Ontological Argument (Pros., ch. I, I think, On Christian Doctrine, bk. I. ) But what springs from there is the (I think, anyways) Classical argument (*see note) from Paul's letter to the Romans, that all men are without excuse as to the knowledge of the deity and power and the being of God.

    The bottom line is, Christ is our epistemology. Though the bottom line is right, that doesn't mean that the lines I used to get there are all right. I make no such claim to absolute soundness in my reasoning. We have a right to ask all the way through how I made such leaps of faith in my reasoning. And I guess that's what this thread is all about, trying to get those lines above the bottom line in the right shape.

    Just because I think it is a Classical argument, that does not mean that I think it is a result of Classical Era philosophy upon the Bible. I think, rather, that it was the other way around, that Classical thinking was effected by the Bible, even in the OT times. It is by grace that the Greeks developed their systems that bred the culture in which God chose to authorize His inerrant Word to us in Christ.

    Augustine suggests (and refutes it later) that perhaps Plato was a contemporary of Jeremiah, and that it was possible that the two met. He also suggests that Daniel's influence could also have been possible. Plato made his world travel at that time, Augustine thought. Later he realizes that Plato was not a contemporary of Jeremiah, and that a meeting of Plato and Daniel is mere speculation. But, all the same, it is possible that Hebrew philosophy could have made an impression upon Plato.

    All this is mere speculation, and I may not even have it right. I am going by memory. But it is still a most curious thing that God chose to use the Greek language and culture to propagate His gospel, and to leave us the testimony of the Apostles. I think that the Bible underlies the Classical era of philosophy, even though the names of Plato and Aristotle often appear secularly as the originators of it. So I don't think it is a contradiction to say that Rom. 1 is a Classical argument, in that sense. However, I would agree with any criticism against a notion of the Bible being subjected to human standards, as if Paul could not think outside the Classical sphere of influence. He was inspired to write as he did, but God used the means which He Himself providentially planted.
  8. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree to the gist of Paul's statement.


    I believe I have responded to the verses that you gave. Please direct me if I have not made my understandings clear. I have stated that man's being is corrupt. The vs. in Titus refer's to man's being and his conscience. I will not argue against your notions, but I believe that I have shown what problems arise when we also state that man's ability to reason is marred rather than correctly diagnosing that his willingness to reason is marred. What is necessary in order for God's communication to be clear and for the unbeliever to be inexcusable? This is the question that should guide us. I believe that PS falls short in this. It is not that He ceases in being a rational creature after the fall, it is that his being is unwilling to serve it's original purpose. This is a quick response. I will come back and elaborate later.
  9. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    If you agree with his statement (which says "man's mind is depraved") then you agree with me.

    Do you believe that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of true knowledge, or a result of it?

    Then why does it say his mind? They are very different things, and interpreting it as one when the other is what is plainly in the text seems like eisegesis to me.

    What is necessary for God's communication to be clear and the believer inexcusable? Some ability to properly reason. And presuppositionalists hold that man has some knowledge and logic as such, but only because of common grace and the remains of what he has lost, which remain simply because he will always be in God's image, no matter how else his mind is affected. So because unregenerate man does indeed have some ability to reason soundly and attain true knowledge, he is inexcusable. That is a far cry from saying that his reason must have been completely and totally untouched at the Fall in order to render Him inexcusable, and you have presented philosophical reasons why you believe that to be necessary, but still no real exegetical reasons.
  10. knight4christ8

    knight4christ8 Puritan Board Freshman

    I think that I may have failed to clarify some things. Reason is not something in man, as you might attribute it to the mind. It is a faculty. Man uses reason, but it is not in the man at the fall to be marred. It was b/c of his failure to use reason that he fell. As a result of the fall man was completely marred under the power of sin. But, reason is a faculty that exists outside of man, which he can be willing to use or not use. The fallen man does not utilize love b/c he cannot within the realms of his autonomy and sin. He is unwilling to give these things up, but if he became willing he would use love. It is not an unwillingness due to an inability; it is an inability due to an unwillingness. The redemption of man is offered to all men and, if they are willing, is open to them. But, they will not be willing without God's regenation to accept what is offered. It is not a physical or spiritual disability, but is a spiritual unwillingness and stubborness. They are unable to come b/c they are unwilling, not the other way around. Reason stands in man without the ability to be marred by man's disobedience. Man may be unwilling to use reason, but his ability to use it is not affected. This is why he is inexcusable.
    Another point I made earlier may help. We all agree that man is totally inexcusable and that the unbeliever will be punished Maximally (in spiritual death for all time). If he is to be punished Maximally, what is necessary for this just punishment? Man must be maximally inexcusable for his sin against God. What is necessary for man to be Maximally inexcusable. God's revelation of himself must be Maximally clear to man. If M clarity > then M inexcusability; if M inexcusability > then M punishment.
    If man's ability to reason is marred, then I would contend that God, in His perfect justice, would not punish man maximally. If man's ability to reason can be marred at all then the revelation cannot be concieved of as being maximally clear. God will punish man maximally, leaving them in their sin for the rest of time, so God must have made the revelation clear, and left reason to be used and abandoned at man's will. It is the light in all man that leaves him inexcusable (John 1). It shines perfectly bright and clear, but man, in his darkness of autonomy, has not understood it. He does not know it because in order to do so he would have to give up his autonomy, which he is unwilling to do.
    Man's ability to jump was not marred in the fall, yet we do say that his entire being was marred as a result of the fall. He is unwilling to use his jumping ability to glorify God, though he still has the full ability to jump that he had before. It is his willingness to use his ability to the glory of God that is marred, not his ability itself.
    Let me know if this helps.
  11. interested_one

    interested_one Puritan Board Freshman

    Well, this seems to be a very interesting conversation. I would ask Greg the following: If you identify reason as faculty of the mind then it would seem to me that you cannot seperate reason (at least if I agree with how you worded it) from the mind. It seems to lack the "seperation of entity" (reason being apart from the individual) at that point when you concede to the statement made before and after the sentence of faculty. I think when the questions are asked we want to ask: When we say that man is totally depraved, what does that mean? When we say that man is "completely" effected by sin, what kind of effect does sin play in the depravity of man? It looks like to me, Greg, you are making a concession here and cannot agree to " As a result of the fall man was completely marred under the power of sin." What do you mean by this statement?

    You state:

    It is not an unwillingness due to an inability; it is an inability due to an unwillingness.

    How are you defining "inability" this seems to hinge if this statement makes any sense. If we speak of inability as man not having the power or capacity to carry out what is required then the fault is in the man's ability to reason and not the person's willingness. Willingness implies that a choice to do or not do is present, but as for the first statement it speaks more of man's not willing because man is not able. The second does not make any logical sense to me if it is ment to negate the first part of the statement, it says "reasoning" is not in man's ability (power or capacity) because of his unwillingness. If we agree with the definition of inability being that man cannot do because it is not in his power or capacity to do then what needs to be done is rephrase the statement. I think the word "inability" is being used differently in both instances (you might have to correct me on this). I would ask Greg to clarify his use of it.

    Again Greg, you need to be consistent in wording. When I read your past postings you seem to state that men can come to an inexcusable idea of God through reason. However, you state two things in your posting that reason is either a inabilty or a disability (this being different from inability as defined).

    "It is not a physical or spiritual disability, but is a spiritual unwillingness and stubborness."

    You also state:

    "Reason stands in man without the ability to be marred by man's disobedience. Man may be unwilling to use reason, but his ability to use it is not affected."

    I think that Thomas Aquanis would have loved you. When I read that statement it seems to me that reason is taken as a universal principle. The second speaks of man's application of the principle. I think it would be helpful for you to explain to us what effects sin would have on the mind, does sin effect the mind, when you confess total depravity what do you mean? St. Thomas Aquanis believed that the faculty of the intellect was not fallen and was different from St. Augustine who claimed that the whole man was fallen. We know from St. Thomas Aquanis that it led to scholasticism in the church. There seems to be a fine tension between both parties, but at the outset how is depravity being confessed by someone who holds your view?

    The first statment is very interesting and seems to proceed too far. Why would God have to provide clear reasoning in order to justify passing judgment on His own creation? I am sure you would contend by saying that it proceeds from God being good, but I don't see this as being a sufficient answer. Maybe because of God being good, he shouldn't send people to hell eternally or at all ( know you would disagree with that). You require that God make himself maximally clear in order to do maximal punishment, but why does this have to be the case? I do not deny that God reveals himself, but to say that man has to be aware of it seems to lower the bar of man in his depravity (speaking of inability as man lacking the power or capacity to do such things). The second statement about "so God must have made the revelation clear, and left reason to be used and abandoned at man's will. " I do not deny man's ability to use reason generally, but in matters of spirituality it can be said that man does reason but does so incorrectly all the time. This is the reason for necessity of the Holy Spirit and regeneration. If we are speaking of man's coming to an awareness of a greater being through natural theology, then I would ask to what extent does natural theology reveal a higher being. I am not conceding to say that it reveals particularly the Christian God, but a supernatural being in general. So what is the scope of natural revelation and can reason give us a Christian conception of God?

    Lastly your analogy is not a very good one. If you are tying this into man's ability to reason then it is a categorical error. You are trying to link a physical action on the part of man to a mental faculty (which has more complex considerations than mere jumping). These are my present thoughts... I know you will reply.

    God Bless,

    P.S. I was interested in your algebraic representation of the Trinity. I would not agree that it speaks of the distinctions of the persons. You stated that God is 1 "a" and 3 "b"'s . To be correct you would have to say the following:

    G= a (b1+b2+b3) or 1*1*1=1

    This makes the distinctions in the b's, if not, it is fallacious because it is saying that God is three b, but without distinctions. Sadly even these fall short of explaining the Trinity. (Just a silly side not... sorry). ;)

    [Edited on 6-11-2004 by interested_one]
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