PAPER NO. 43
MY LAST LECTURE
Focus on Foundation
My Last Lecture reflects my years of teaching in philosophy, religion and the humanities in the academy, in theology at Logos Theological Seminary and pastoral teaching in the church. It calls for a focus on foundation.
The Necessity for Foundation
- In general, foundation is necessary for maturity, fruitfulness, unity and fullness. Without foundation, there is division and apostasy in the Church, and decay and collapse in the culture.
- In Scripture, foundation is called for as first principles (Hebrews 6), for endurance against tempests (Matthew 7), for lasting fruit (1 Corinthians 2), for unity of the faith and fullness (Ephesians 4), for a lasting culture in the City of God (Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 21).
- Current divisions in the Church and decay in the culture show a longstanding lack of foundation and the need to get to bedrock.
- Foundation must get to the certainty of clarity, the cornerstone, from which arises inexcusability. It must overcome skepticism and fideism by faith (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:1).
- Failure to achieve comprehensiveness to attain to fullness of life is not new; it has been recurrent throughout history in the collapse of civilizations. A mere return to the past is insufficient for bedrock.
The Cornerstone: understanding good and evil (and life and death, and heaven and hell); without the cornerstone, the foundation cannot be laid and the worldview cannot be built
- The good is the highest value, the end in itself, chosen for its own sake and not for the sake of something else; it is neither virtue (means to the good) nor happiness (the effect of the good).
- The good is clear: the good for a being is according to the nature of that being; the good for man as a rational being is the use of reason to the fullest to understand the nature of things. The nature of things created reveal the nature of God. It is not a non-cognitive state of a beatific vision.
- The good is one: it is the source of unity in each person and the source of unity among all persons.
- The good must have several characteristics: continuing, inexhaustible, comprehensive, inalienable, corporate, cumulative, communal, fulfilling, ultimate and transformative.
- The good is the first moral concept, depending on one’s epistemology and metaphysics. It is the most basic existential concept that moves a person to or from critical self-examination.
- Moral evil is an act contrary to one’s nature as a rational being; all have sinned, all come short of the glory of God.
- It is to neglect, avoid, resist and deny reason regarding basic things that are clear to reason. Clarity makes unbelief inexcusable.
- Moral evil of not seeking and not understanding is root sin and is the source of all fruit sin.
- Natural evil (toil and strife and old age, sickness and death) is due to autonomy in moral evil; it is a lasting and final call back to stop and think, to restrain, recall from and to remove moral evil.
- The inherent consequence of moral evil is meaninglessness, boredom and guilt; it is not a state that is merely future or imposed.
Common Ground and the Word of God
- Common Ground (CG) is the set of conditions necessary for thought and discourse. It consists of reason (as the laws of thought), integrity (as a concern for consistency), critical thinking (applying reason critically as the test of meaning to basic beliefs/presuppositions) and the Principle of Clarity, that the basic things (about God and man and good and evil) are clear to reason (vs. skepticism and fideism).
- The Logos is the eternal Word of God, Truth in its fullness, who makes God known (John 1:1-18). The Logos, by which all things were made, is in all men as light/reason (4), in creation as general revelation (10), in history, through the prophets (11), in person, incarnate in Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth (14). He sends the Spirit of truth to lead the Church into all truth (16:13), to bring unbelievers into the truth by regeneration (3:3), and to sanctify the believer through knowing the truth (17:17).
- It is self-evident that we think and it is self-evident that there are laws of thought. Reason as the laws of thought (identity, non-contradiction and excluded middle) is the most basic form of the Word of God to all men. Only the Word of God as reason is and can be self-attesting, and therefore authoritative. What is self-attesting does not need justification and cannot be questioned because, as the laws of thought, it makes questioning possible. By reason we understand the clarity of general and special revelation. Reason as the beginning of Common Ground and of the Logos in man is not neutral ground. Any act of thought (including unbelief) assumes reason and the darkness of unbelief cannot withstand the light of reason (John 1:5). One must stop thinking and talking to avoid the use of reason, and no one can stop the spontaneity of thought. The use of reason leads to belief in God, and consequently, in Scripture. And, belief in God assumes reason is ontological, for neither God’s being nor any being can be contradictory (both eternal and not-eternal in the same respect at the same time).
The Clarity of General Revelation: It is clear to reason that God the Creator and Ruler exists
- The concept of God: God is not only a higher being (one among many) but the highest being (above all else). He is not only eternal (uncreated) but the only eternal (the Creator of all).
- It is clear to reason that there must be something eternal (being cannot come from non-being), and that only God is eternal. Matter exists (vs. idealism) and matter is not eternal (self-maintaining). The soul exists (the mind is not the brain), and the soul is not eternal (having all knowledge in infinite time).
- It is clear that creation is revelation, necessarily, intentionally and exclusively. Man is created a body/soul unity, a rational animal, created in the image of God, not in the image of (or from) non-rational animals, to rule over the creation, to know and make known the glory of God. Original creation was very good, without natural evil (toil, strife and old age, sickness and death). The good for man, grounded in human nature, is the knowledge of God.
- It is clear to reason that man is fallen, that God rules over man by an act of special providence, that by covenant the act of one affects all. Since God’s eternal power and divine nature are clear, unbelief is without excuse. No one knows and acknowledges what is clear about God; no one seeks and understands—all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and all are in self-deception and self-justification about seeking and understanding. It is clear that natural evil, which is not original, is now imposed on all (by God, through covenant) to restrain, recall from and remove moral evil, that a call back is not punishment but mercy, that mercy requires special (redemptive) revelation to show how God can be both just and merciful to man in sin and death. Since moral evil is permitted in order to deepen the revelation, it must be removed gradually if the revelation is both to be deepened and be seen. In the conflict between good and evil, belief will gradually overcome unbelief, through another in place of the first covenant head.
The clarity of general revelation regarding God and man and good and evil is necessary metaphysical foundation for the unity of mankind scattered in every form of unbelief.
Moral Law: It is clear from general revelation that there is a moral law which is clear, comprehensive and critical
- Good and evil are grounded in human nature. God, as Creator of human nature therefore determines good and evil for man. Man is not, and cannot be, the author of his being (vs. all forms of autonomy).
- Misconceptions of God arise from likening the infinite (Creator) to the finite (creature), rather than thinking of the finite/less basic in light of the infinite/more basic (vs. all forms of idolatry).
- Lack of integrity (concern for consistency, both logical and existential) empties words of meaning. Hypocrisy is without excuse and leads to mental stupor.
- Man’s work of dominion is based on God’s work of creation. As creation is revelation, dominion brings knowledge of revelation. As creation is completed, dominion will be completed (vs. false and no hope).
- Authority is rational and is based on insight, which is historically cumulative. Authority based on insight must be honored; authority without insight must be changed where possible.
- Human dignity is based on man’s capacity to understand. Human society is a society of rational beings. Participation in human society is based on the exercise of one’s capacity to understand.
- Lack of love in marriage is due to lack of love of the good. Ordinary adultery is rooted in spiritual adultery.
- Value arises from the exercise of talent in pursuit of the good. Talent, given in one’s being, is from God, the author of our being. Only God therefore owns value absolutely; man is steward of the talent given to him.
- Truth is necessary and sufficient for justice. One must know and speak the full truth to attain full justice.
- The good is inalienable. Natural evil is a call back from moral evil. All things work together for good to those who seek the good.
The moral law, given in human nature, is universal, perpetual, total and spiritual; it is teleological (aimed at the good), and defines what love is. It is therefore foundational and the source of unity in all and for all.
Biblical Foundation (Narrative Form): Creation–Fall–Redemption (CFR) (Genesis 1–3)
- Clear general revelation through the problem of evil requires special revelation/scripture.
- Only what is consistent with clear general revelation (4–5 above) can be special revelation.
- Only Biblical revelation (Genesis 1–3 and what builds on it) affirms CFR, as it is understandable from clear general revelation.
- Therefore, only Biblical revelation, and no other text, can qualify as special revelation from God.
- God’s purpose in creation is revelation: necessarily, intentionally and exclusively.
- This revelation is full and clear.
- Man’s purpose, as created in the image of God, is for dominion.
- The good for man, man’s chief end, eternal life, is the knowledge of God through dominion.
- The Sabbath signifies the hope that man’s work of dominion will be completed, that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.
- God relates to man by covenant; by representation, the act of one affects all; the visible covenant of marriage established in the Garden of Eden reveals the invisible covenant of creation.
- In probation, man’s understanding of good and evil is tested—knowing what is the good and the ground of the good is tested by the claim: “you shall be as gods knowing good and evil.”
- Had Adam been seeking God he would have understood that only God as Creator can determine good and evil.
- Adam’s sin revealed that left to oneself no one seeks God and no one understands what is clear about God. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
- God permits the fall of man to deepen the revelation of his glory, especially his justice and mercy.
- Man is called back from sin and death, first through conscience (shame regarding nakedness), which is avoided by self-deception (the covering of leaves).
- Man is then called to self-examination by the question “where are you?” which is resisted by self-justification, blaming the woman and God.
- Man’s final and enduring call back is through the curse (toil and strife and old age, sickness and death) and the promise—“I will put enmity between you and the woman” (through a spiritual war, which is age long and agonizing, good will overcome evil). Through the seed of the woman, Christ to come in the place of Adam, will undo what Adam did (as the Lamb of God signified by the coats of skin) and do what Adam failed to do (make God known by crushing the lies of the devil (the head of the serpent)).
- Adam believes the promise, repents and obeys (he wears the coats of skin—he is justified in being covered through the death of another), and he calls his wife’s name Eve, the mother of all living—he will be fruitful for the work of dominion.
- Adam is to be sanctified by knowing the truth through suffering; he is driven from the garden to live under the curse.
- CFR is a complete summary of the Biblical worldview.
CFR is affirmed in Genesis 1–3, the foundation of all of Redemptive Revelation.
All of Scripture must be understood in light of CFR. If we do not understand CFR, we cannot understand Scripture.
CFR gives unity to all of Scripture and to all who affirm Scripture.
- Biblical Foundation (Theological Form): The Seven Pillars
Foundation has many layers; the City of God (Revelation 21) has 12.
Theological Foundation is summed up in Hebrews (6:1-2) in its assumptions and implications, and in the proclamation of the gospel—repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Repentance assumes sin and death, which assumes clarity and inexcusability.
Faith towards God assumes the promise of redemption, given with the curse as God’s continuing call to repentance.
Repentance and faith is accompanied by justification and sanctification.
A repentant sinner is received by the Church through baptism (signifying regeneration and identification with the work of each person of the Triune God). The Church prepares its members for their particular work (calling) in the kingdom of God, based on God’s work. Commitment to work in the kingdom is renewed in corporate worship each Lord’s day and in the sacrament of The Lord’s Supper until he comes.
Christ returns when all things are subdued to him, consummated by the resurrection of the dead, followed by the Last Judgment and reward, each according to one’s work.
- Clarity and inexcusability
Basic things about God and man and good and evil are clear to reason so that unbelief is without excuse.
If there is no clear general revelation, there is no possibility of meaning or morality, no sin and death, and no need for Christ as redeemer.
All who fail to acknowledge clarity and inexcusability, in some degree, fail to repent of (root) sin and (spiritual) death, and persist in self-deception and self-justification. The Church disciples its members to deepen their faith in understanding the first principles of the faith, and not to remain spiritual infants, unable to teach others.
- Sin and Death
Sin is an act contrary to one’s nature as a rational being. In sin man neglects, avoids, resists and denies reason regarding what is clear about God.
Root sin is universal: no one seeks God and no one understands; all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
The wages of sin (spiritual suicide) is spiritual death: meaninglessness, boredom and guilt, ever increasing in this life and the next.
Root sin is not fruit sin, and spiritual death is not a literal lake of fire.
- Curse and Promise
The curse consists of toil and strife and old age, sickness and death and is imposed by God on all as his continuing and final call back to stop and think, to restrain, recall from and remove moral evil.
As sin increases culturally, the curse increases corporately to war, famine and plague.
The promise, given with the curse, is that through a spiritual war (between belief and unbelief), which is age long and agonizing, good will overcome evil (Genesis 3:15).
Christ, the seed of the woman, in place of Adam, will undo what Adam did (as the Lamb of God he will take away the sin of the world), and will do what Adam failed to do (rule through the work of dominion to make God known).
- Repentance and Faith
Man is called by the gospel to repent of (root) sin and to seek first the kingdom of God by which God is glorified and through which man enjoys eternal life—the knowledge of God now and ever increasing forever.
Repentance in principle must grow in practice: faith grows as man through discipleship becomes more conscious and consistent in understanding and in obedience, putting away all sin, root and fruit.
- Justification and Sanctification
Upon repentance and faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, a person receives forgiveness of sin and is justified solely on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed to him and is received by faith.
This imputation of Christ’s righteousness to those in him is real, even as Adam’s sin is imputed to all in him, and as our sin is imputed to Christ.
Imputation of Christ’s righteousness for justification is once for all and is not by any works or to be confused with sanctification, by which a believer continues to be cleansed from sin throughout his life.
Sanctification comes through knowing the Truth, the fullness of the Word of God (John 8:32, 17:17). Knowing the Truth comes through trials of faith by which we are disciplined through suffering under the curse in this life. Sanctification is completed at and through death and does not continue in the next life through any kind of purgatory.
- Baptism and Calling
Upon a credible repentance and faith, the Church receives a repentant sinner by baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Baptism signifies regeneration, and union with God, even as circumcision under the Old Testament, and is similarly applied, in principle.
In light of the work of the Triune God, each man is called to a particular work in the kingdom of God, recognized, at times, by the laying on of hands.
Commitment to discipleship in following Christ is renewed in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day and in the Lord’s Supper, done in remembrance of him until he comes.
- Resurrection and Reward
Christ returns when all has been subdued to him. The last enemy, physical death, is removed by the resurrection of all, followed by the rapture of believers who remain alive at the time (1 Corinthians 15:51; John 5:28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
In the Last Judgment, believers, separated from unbelievers, inherit, in Christ, the kingdom of God, the City of God with foundations, built throughout history, according to plan, from the beginning (Matthew 25:31-34).
Christ is ruling now through the Church in a spiritual war through history to make God known; there is no future millennium in which he will come to rule from any place.
The reward of believers is the kingdom of God now being advanced on earth, not a beatific vision of God apart from the earth being filled with the knowledge of God.
- The Historic Christian Faith
Christ sends the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all Truth (John 16:12-13).
In response to challenges, the pastor-teachers, building on the work of the apostles and prophets, after much discussion come to agreement, expressed in Creeds and Confessions delivered to the Church for the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4; Acts 15).
This is the holy, catholic and apostolic faith, the basis of the magisterium—the teaching authority of the Church, departure from which divides the body of Christ.
- The Council of Jerusalem (ca. 51 AD)
The Council of Jerusalem addressed the question of sacrament and salvation: must I be circumcised (or be baptized) to be saved?
Since any sacrament is a sign and not the reality of grace, the Church’s answer is no.
The First Council rejected the underlying principle of literalism which confuses sign and reality and both polarizing antinomies of this error: the sign is not the reality, nor is it always accompanied by the reality.
- The Apostles’ Creed (ca. 180 AD)
The Apostles’ Creed rejected Greek dualism which denigrated the reality and value of bodily existence in the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Creation is very good and is revelation and the knowledge of God through dominion is man’s original and lasting calling.
It therefore implicitly rejects celibacy as a regular calling for the priesthood, monasticism as a higher service, and direct, mystical contemplation as the good.
- The Council of Nicea (ca. 325 AD)
The Council of Nicea affirmed the unity of diversity in the Trinity: One God in three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the ultimate reality of personhood; diversity and relationships of persons who are equal in power and glory, and ordered without subordination.
The Word of God (the Logos) is the co-eternal Son of God, who makes God known.
- The Council of Carthage (ca. 365 AD)
The Council confirmed the canon of the New Testament to be all and only the writings commonly received. The Old Testament canon, affirmed by the Hebrew priesthood to whom it was entrusted, consists of all and only the writings commonly received, and excludes all inter-testamental writings.
The canon of Scripture is the Word of God written and is authoritative over all other special revelations of spirits and traditions of men. Scripture itself affirms the authority of the Word of God in its manifold forms in John’s prologue, and throughout Scripture, understood by good and necessary consequences.
- The Council of Chalcedon (ca. 451 AD)
The Council of Chalcedon affirmed the unity of two natures (the Godhead and manhood) united in one person, Jesus Christ, without conversion, composition or confusion.
The infinite (God) includes the finite (man) without contradiction or paradox. The finite cannot include the infinite.
The mysteries of the faith are neither from reason, nor against reason, but in accord with reason, and requires care not to be misrepresented.
- The Council of Orange (ca. 529 AD)
The Council of Orange affirmed the fall of man against all degrees of Pelagianism.
Only sovereign grace can restore man from sin and death.
Man is always free (to seek and to understand) but left to himself no one seeks and no one understands.
- The Westminster Confession of Faith (ca. 1648 AD)
The Westminster Confession (and its Catechisms) builds upon earlier confessions of the Reformation in response to the Church of Rome.
Salvation is by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone, based on Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.
Westminster affirms the earlier creeds prior to the Reformation and represents the current high water mark of the Historic Christian Faith.
From the Reformation to the Present: Challenges from the past continue
- Divisions in Christendom
Divisions among Christians persist since the Reformation, and have increased.
A false magisterium in Rome has been opposed by no magisterium in current Protestantism.
The true magisterium in the Historic Christian Faith, the work of the Holy Spirit leading the Church into all Truth and which is the holy catholic and apostolic faith, is the source of unity for all who believe.
- The Enlightenment
The Enlightenment whose motto was ‘Dare to Reason’ failed to see what was clear to reason, that there must be something eternal, and only some (God) is eternal.
The Enlightenment split into the antinomy of rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) and empiricism (Locke, Berkeley, Hume).
The synthesis proposed by Kant failed and resulted in varying degrees of idealism (Hegel, Schopenhauer, Bradley).
Secularism affirmed the reality perceived through the senses alone.
In the name of naturalistic science it pronounced against the invisible realities grasped by reason alone: essences, the soul/mind, personal immortality, and God (Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud).
Post-Kantian modernism in existentialism (Kierkegaard/Barth, Heidegger, Sartre) and Positivism’s verification theory (Russell, Ayer) or Ordinary Language (Wittgenstein, Moore) gave way to Post-modern pragmatic skepticism (Dewey, Rorty) and its eventual nihilism (Derrida, Foucault and cultural Marxism).
The spiritual war (between belief and unbelief) that is age long and agonizing is currently being expressed in the many dimensions of the culture war today. Response still requires the fullness of redemption through Christ.
Response of the Word of God (the Logos): Redemption from the sin of unbelief and the death of meaninglessness is by Christ through the Church
- The Church is the body of Christ, the Word of God incarnate, who rules to make God known.
- The Church is the pillar and ground of the Truth. It is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, without which the culture decays and collapses. The first principles of the foundation must be in place for the Church to be the pillar and ground of the Truth.
- The Church is for worship and discipleship.
We are to worship God in spirit and in Truth.
Only the psalms for singing in corporate worship preserve pure and entire the biblical worldview of creation–fall–redemption.
- The Church is to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things that Christ has commanded.
Only the Church which holds to the Historic Christian Faith has the authority of cumulative insight to make disciples.
- The Church is to be sanctified by the Truth that it may be one that the world might believe.
The Holy Spirit is sent to lead the Church into all Truth in the Historic Christian Faith, the basis of the unity of the faith.
- The Church is to preach the gospel in the fullness of Truth: repent of (root) sin of not seeking and not understanding what is clear, and seek first the kingdom of God in all relations of life by which God is glorified.
- The Church has and must affirm the promise that through a spiritual war (between belief and unbelief) which is age long and agonizing, good will overcome evil.
- The Church, by the Word of God (the Logos, Truth in its Fullness) is to demolish arguments and every pretension raised up against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to Jesus Christ.
- The Church, under Christ, through the work of dominion, is to fill the earth with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.
- The Church, under Christ, builds the City of God with foundations, and inherits that kingdom, into which all nations flow, and which lasts forever.