[Book Review] Square One: The Foundations of Knowledge (Steve Patterson)

Patterson doggedly stays on one issue throughout this short book: At the bottom of everything, there are inescapable truths that are discoverable and you can be certain of them. While it could have easily been a confusing mess to read, he works many relatable examples throughout to explain what he means.

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It is a short book: if it were longer, Patterson would have simply repeated himself as the topic is narrow and quite obvious. Patterson points out that restating the self-evident and obvious is necessary when we start denying the undeniable. The entire book deals with such basic ideas that it is hard to believe we need this book. Here’s the entire book summed up:

  1. Things are what they are and aren’t what they are not.
  2. This is implied by simply existing; thus, logic is inescapable.
  3. Contradictions cannot exist.
  4. Truth exists.

Square One is largely a compilation of Patterson’s blog and podcast with edits to make it flow. I found the book useful because it brings together all of these topics in a cohesive mannerthe blog covers many other subjects.

It is also noteworthy the book is under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, meaning anyone can freely use the material as long as they give credit. I like it. More people should do this and escape the endless copyright. I’m considering applying it to all of my work.

Patterson does an excellent job of what he claims to do at the outset:

The reader can rest assured: this book is not a work of academic philosophy. It’s not incomprehensible or irrelevant. It doesn’t try to sound profound by hiding behind opaque language. It is meant to be read and understood. (page i)

Short, concise, and without unnecessarily complicated languagewho can possibly find fault with this? Many topics in philosophy require sophisticated language, but this is not one of them, although it could be obfuscated easily.

I found the discussion about existence implying the Law of Identity (A = A) and Law of Noncontradiction (A != not A) to be enlightening. I had not thought about how if something exists then “it is surely what it is and not what it is not”. Of course, it is obvious once we say it out loud, but such is the nature of self-evident truths.

As a Christian, it was surprising to me to see Patterson claims the Law of Identity and Law of Noncontradiction cannot be created by God. “If a God exists, then he exists, and therefore he too is bound by the laws of logic.” This goes against the usual conception that God created everything.

Patterson wisely doesn’t go any farther than stating this. There are a few ways to understand this while keeping to the orthodox tradition. It most definitely does not mean we get to say, “Aha! We have found something God did not create! Therefore, he is not Almighty and the Bible is not true!”

Patterson notes logic and existence are inseparable (page 41). Each implies the other and each is not a property of the other. You cannot have logic without existence (because then logic doesn’t exist) and “existence without logic would be existence without existencei.e. non-existent.”

Understanding that God is a necessary being means logic necessarily exists. One could say since God is necessary and the uncaused cause, he brought logic into existence, even if saying he “created” logic would be somewhat inaccurate. The usual verbiage is that logic is an outflowing of God’s nature. This is still accurate as God exists and existence cannot be separated from logic. (See also Is God Subject to Logic?)

Patterson goes into many more implications of the certainty of the existence of logic and truth. I’ll leave you to pick up the book or read his blog to see what else he draws out.

Overall, I found the book to be edifying and enjoyable. One might wonder if $10 is a bit steep for a book that says Things are most certainly the way they are, but such is the nature of The Foundations of Knowledge.

Truth is discoverable.
It’s not popular to say.
It’s not popular to think.
But you can be certain of it.

 – Steve Patterson

Square One: The Foundations of Knowledge by Steve Patterson (2016) Amazon

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Freshmen Not Caring About God

There’s a new group of people Christians and apologists aren’t talking about: apatheists.

Apatheist (apathy + theist): A person apathetic about god(s).

The campus apologetics group I’m a part of participated in freshman orientation. We had a table on a sidewalk beside a large green space and the new freshmen could walk around and talk with the various organizations. We struck conversation with the freshman by asking their religious background. (Side note, while many find the question a bit unusual, no one has found the question offensive. So, ask your friends and neighbors!)

We got the usual bunch: Christian, Catholic, Hindi, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, etc. But we also had several who said they have thought about the question of God’s existence and they don’t care. And they use those exact words: “I don’t really care.

As one who interacts daily with philosophical and theological issues relating to God and Christianity, I can’t fathom not caring about this. For someone to state this and truly mean it brings me to ask: why do I care?

I’m fairly informed on most of the main areas of debate in apologetics. God’s existence, theodicy, the Resurrection, inspiration of the Bible, age of the Earth, soteriology, etc. I have yet to come across a concise argument for caring about God, his character, and the moral duties we have towards him.

Even if an argument can be presented, we must jump from the academic quest of finding a sound reason for caring to the real world of caring daily. It’s one thing to say you care about something, it’s another to shape your life around such a conviction.

We also need to be mindful a full explanation of why we care may not be possible in a single conversation, even if such a conversation is long and detailed. Yet, to talk to a stranger who doesn’t care, you need to capture their attention (make them care) in less than ten seconds. It’s a tall order—one I’m not sure is possible.

This is why it is so important for Christians to reach out to their friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Not “reach out” as in the usual “share the Gospel” meaning—most people have such a twisted view of Christianity they will derisively dismiss traditional quick presentations of the Gospel. We have to forge friendships with unbelievers so we can have enough time with them to show how much we care about our belief in Christ. This is especially true for reaching Millennials who are much more focused on relationships than previous generations.

We can’t stay in our Christian huddles and expect the world to come to us. The world doesn’t care about God or Jesus or heaven or hell. They don’t care. We need to show them why we care and why it matters to us. This takes time and effort. It takes constant vigilance to ensure our lives actually reflect Christ and what we believe about him. It will require being available to talk about your belief at a moment’s notice and being able to respond to the typical criticisms with contextualized explanations of why our worldview makes sense.

Apologist: My Calling?

Being involved with apologetics for several years now, I’ve had several people suggest I should seriously consider making it a career. What truly excites me is when a person whom I respect suggests this.

I’m graduating this December with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, specializing in Information Networks and Artificial Intelligence. With this milestone comes the question: Now what?

I always thought I would get a well-paid position with a cool company and produce high-quality software making the world better in some way. Or, creating my own company and solving problems that are interesting, highly marketable, and make life easier for the world. Most of those product ideas revolve around automating some aspects of regular life. I’m highly influenced by the Minecraft mod scene where the motto is “Automate ALL the things!”66722167 When I see some task a robot could do, I want to create a robot that actually does that task and sell it to the world.

In Minecraft, I create these incredibly complex bases where every material is automatically farmed, mined, created, or what have you. The only problem I have to solve is how to further automate things. Raw materials and survival is quickly not an issue in-game. In fact, one of the largest issues is dealing with the sheer quantity of raw materials that the machines produce. Even the process of creating items is automated, so I only have to concern myself with teaching my machines how to create new items. Think of the replicator from Star Trek: it can replicate anything so long as it knows the design and has the raw materials.

Back in the real world, my question is: why can’t a machine automatically do X? Where X can be anything from mow the lawn, wash clothes and dishes, and make dinner? Now, we have many machines to make these tasks easier for us humans, but I am referring to full automation. I should not have to think about the grass getting too high. I should have a robot that takes care of it and lets me focus on other things. Like making more robots to automate other things, so I can make more robots.

I’d be rich, I’d have tons of free time, and I’d probably be somewhat famous (due to everyone buying my robots). Not a bad career path/dream, right?

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I’ve always been a big believer in being a Christian as you lived your life. Full-time pastors, evangelists, and church staff usually came off as a bit fake to me. They also usually struggled with having enough time, money, and resources to do whatever they were trying to do. The people I most respected had full-time jobs, were fairly successful in their field or business, and devoted time to learn and teach Christianity and lead their church. If I ever had a question regarding Christianity or life, I went to those people.

I’m also a big proponent of doing things with excellence. Not doing many things decently, but a few things with excellence. It really isn’t worth doing if you aren’t going to do it well. In my experience, doing something to a high standard usually means a spending lot of these things: time, thought, effort, and money.

Now, when was the last time a full-time pastor, church staff member, or evangelist encouraged you to spend a lot of time, thought, effort, or money on an endeavor?

So, why would I ever want to become one?!


While on an internship in Westin, FL, I gave a presentation on creationism to the local church college group I was part of. Creationism is an integral part of my Christian testimony and I had studied on my own extensively for about five years before giving this presentation.

The presentation proper lasted about 50 minutes. It wasn’t the best I’d given, but it was one of my better presentations. Then came the question time. There’s always a few questions in these kinds of presentations. However, I was blown away at the engagement of my audience and how many questions they had. The Q&A session lasted over 40 minutes.

I loved every minute of it.

It was like God was saying, all of that time spent studying Genesis and science is valuable and people have questions they need answered. This can be fun and it is needed more than you know. I wanted to do more! Months after, I still found that presentation filled me with a sense of purpose and meaning.

Fast forward a year or two. I’m back at Georgia Tech, getting ready to graduate in about a year. I’m heavily involved with Why Should I Believe, an apologetics organization on campus. I’m using my technical skills to help promote the group. I’m helping lead as a club officer. I’m giving more presentations. Then the founder of the organization takes me aside and asks, “Have you ever considered doing this full time?”

Why, no, I haven’t, but that sounds interesting. Tell me more!

His vision of full-time apologetics ministry looks something like this: graduate from Georgia Tech, enroll in graduate program in an apologetics-related field (philosophy, biblical studies, etc.), and I basically become the leader for a new chapter of Why Should I Believe at another college campus in Georgia.

This sounds awesome! I get to do what I love and change the world? Sign me up!

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But, I don’t get to make robots. Not professionally, at least. Full time ministry plus graduate school means not a lot of time left over for much else. Certainly not time for a full-time job. A master’s and then a PhD from a good school isn’t cheap—and I have to eat and put a roof over my head—so I’ll have to find donors to fund my ministry, further cutting into my time. Oh, and there aren’t any particularly good philosophy programs in Georgia.

Okay, that’s not what I was expecting. Was this what those spiritual people meant by God asking for his children to give up something for him?

Dear God,

Is this what you meant by becoming a full-time apologist?

  • Not make robots
  • Not have a $100k+ salary with plush benefits
  • Spend ~10 more years in school
  • Move—possibly across the world—to go to graduate school
  • Go from a profession that your family and friends would say, “That’s a great field. You’ll be able to great things and make a lot of money with computers.”
    To a profession that people don’t understand?
  • Rely on family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and anyone-I-can-convince-to-give-me-money for my income?

Yours Truly,

– Aerom Xundes

Each of those bullet points goes against many things that have been integral to my life so far. It would take several paragraphs each for you to understand the depth of what is being asked here. Suffice it to say, this list represents a radical shift in both the direction I’ve been heading and where I’d ever thought I’d go. It’s more than a career change. This asks me to give up things I’ve dreamed about for my entire life.

Now, I’ve heard plenty of sermons and personal stories how God called them to do something radical and it turned out better than they could have imagined. I’m not dismissing the benefits of doing the work of the Kingdom. I know if this is truly my calling, nothing else will be more fulfilling. Perhaps not the rock-star life of a cool, hip programmer with tons of money, but a fulfilling life with purpose and meaning.

Yet, I don’t know if this is actually what God wants me to do.

Ever the analyzer, optimizer, and questioner, I wonder if it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Can I be the rock-star robot-builder at the same time as an apologist? There’s plenty of examples in the Bible of people having their regular job and also being a prophet or evangelist for the Lord.

Could I build a robot-making business for a year or two then go to graduate school once I have a study income from my business? Perhaps go work for IBM, Google, Microsoft, or some other tech giant and help create an amazing artificial intelligence? It’s every geek’s dream to create an AI like Cortana from Halo, Jarvis from Ironman, or even a (friendly) GLaDOS from Portal. The list of AIs in popular fiction is nearly endless. Just being on the team to create a self-driving car is a highly coveted position among computer scientists. Can I do that for a bit?

I can even provide reasons why doing something like that would be beneficial to my apologetic career. Likely just rationalizations, but they sound good!

  • I can make $100k+ a year as a software developer. I have no debt and no family (yet), so I can save a lot of money for those 10 years of school.
  • At the moment, I want to research the philosophy of information. I believe there a new argument for God’s existence in the form of a generalized design argument based on the properties of information. Experience with real-world artificial intelligence systems and information networks should help me with my research.
  • If my robot business is successful, then that adds to my credibility. Think Elon Musk who goes around talking about information theory and Christianity.

I could continue to add to this list, but I think I’ve made my point. We could also then make counterpoints to each and debate each of its validity and my underlying motivations. The point is that it makes good sense to not give up my computer science career. Yes, you immediately come back with, “God’s plans don’t always make sense to us.” Then why did I spend the last 13 years working with computers? My resume literally has a line that says “10 years programming experience”. Why spend 5 years in college to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the #5 ranked program in the world?

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A portion of my skills list on my resume.

Yes, I hear you. Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 3:5, and all the others. Is it so bad to ask the question?

Apologetics is all about answering the question “How do you know that?” So, how do I know that this is God’s will for me?

I need an answer quickly. Career fair at Georgia Tech happened last week. I have multiple companies pursuing me. Big companies. Respectable companies. Companies that tell me they will pay me a lot of money to do what I have wanted to do since I was 13. These companies won’t wait for long. I’ll be the rock-star developer. I’ll have more money than I’ll know what to do with. Can I have it all?

Something tells me there will be some kind of sacrifice in all of this. There aren’t many Bible stories where God’s man gets everything he wants here on Earth. I’m (somewhat) okay with that. It’s the not knowing that gets to me. Can you tell I don’t like uncertainty?

It’s not that I don’t want to become an apologist. I really want to. I do believe God has called me to be an apologist. However, I want to be a computer scientist too!


 

Post Script:

In the course of writing this piece, I’ve moved a bit on this subject. However, it still gives a good overview of the different issues that I am dealing with as well as a glimpse into my emotions.

World Dumb

O temporas! O mores! Oh the times! Oh the customs! People just can’t think these days! They skim a Wikipedia article and think they know everything! People can’t tell you why they believe what they believe—they believe something on a whim! Idiot Trump, socialist Bernie, and liar Hillary each have real shots at being president. Christians seem to check their brain at the door when they go to church. Scenarios we used to use in our reductio ad absurdum arguments are now sincerely held positions. What happened to the times when people were more thoughtful, cared more about what they believed, and were sensible?

How many times have we heard this? In particular, how many times have we heard this and not moved any closer to a realistic solution? It is good to mention a problem that has not been mentioned before, but it is not good to continue to bemoan the state of affairs without attempting to do something about it. We cannot remain in our cliques and persist with our complaining about how the world can’t think. To do so is to be complicit in the crime. In our inaction, we allow harm to come to humanity.

Insurmountable

But, World Dumb is an insurmountable problem! No one has come up with a cure!

To this objection, I respond with the word yet. No one has come up with a cure yet. It has not been demonstrated that it is impossible, so we should carry on with the assumption that it is possible. Doing otherwise is to admit defeat and to damn untold millions to ignorance and perhaps even hell.

Even if some clever person were to construct a proof of some sort that World Dumb is incurable, we still must not surrender. There are still a great many ways we can approach the problem. But, since we aren’t there yet, I’m not going to dwell on those. (Prevent spread, reduce symptoms, or change the rules so that the limitations of the disease are irrelevant.)

I do not deny—for it is as obvious as can be—that this is a hard problem. If it were easy, we would not complain about World Dumb, we would simply solve it.

Defining the Dumb

What is the Dumb? When we say someone has the Dumb, how do we arrive at that conclusion? Are there different flavors or colors of the Dumb?

We need to define what it is. Perhaps we don’t know and need to think, research, and survey. There are probably multiple reasons, causes, and contributing factors. I don’t know how to define the Dumb, but here are some thoughts I had. They are almost certainly wrong, but maybe someone else will connect the dots with these jogging their mind.

  • Apathy
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Different approach than we take (think Enlightenment vs Romanticism)
  • Different conclusions than we make

There must be a better definition than, “People can’t think.” Use the Five Whys or other analysis tools to find the real reason people have the Dumb.

Changing Approach

Currently, much of our approach to solving World Dumb is to merely lament about how the world does not think, how little they care, and how they don’t even know any better. This is not good. We are better than the proverbial grumpy old men grumbling about today’s youngsters with no realistic progress made or attempted.

I propose we change our approach. Clearly, trying to solve World Dumb in one fell swoop is nigh impossible. Still, we can make progress by transforming the problem.

As we all learn in our math classes (particularly for me Calculus III, Combinatorics, and Algorithms), changing the form of a problem is often a good way to make progress. There are many integrals that can’t be evaluated without changing the coordinate system or order of integration. Similarly, many mathematical algorithmic proofs rely upon showing an unsolved problem is equivalent to a solved problem by changing the formation of the problem slightly.

Of course, the types of problems mathematics addresses are quite different from the problem we are trying to solve, but the techniques are used in many varied fields. I don’t expect all of these techniques to apply. The expectation is that by changing the approach, we will arrive at new ideas to combat World Dumb.

Solve a Single Case

Perhaps the lowest hanging fruit is to merely show the simplest case of Dumb is solvable. Take a single example of Dumb with a single individual and propose a method to cure the individual. The proposed method doesn’t need to solve every strain of Dumb, merely show that Dumb is curable. With a simple case solved, we can move to more complicated varieties.

If we get no farther than this, we have found a method to save one person from the Dumb. That is one more than would have been saved. With more resources, we can duplicate this and save more. With more time and practice, we may be able to optimize our technique and become more efficient.

Split Into Smaller Problems

A related problem solving technique to solving a single case is splitting a large problem into multiple smaller problems. I personally use this quite often when developing software. For example, building a autonomous automobile is a huge problem, but it can be solved if we break it up into smaller problems. Some of the smaller problems related to building a self-driving car are:

  • Determine which roads to take to arrive at the desired destination (path finding).
  • Detect the road boundaries, other vehicles, and obstacles to avoid (computer vision).
  • Build a control mechanism to control the various automobile systems like the steering wheel, engine, transmission, and lights (robotics).

By solving each of these sub-problems (which each may be split into further sub-problems), the self-driving car project comes closer to a reality. Relating this to our endeavor, by solving the various contributing factors to Dumb, we can reduce or eliminate World Dumb. Perhaps apathy, lack of knowledge, and alternate conclusions—or whatever we identify as sub-problems.

Reduce the Unsolvable to Solvable

Say we have problem A. We don’t know how to solve A. However, we notice we know how to solve problem B. If we can find a way to reduce A to B, we then solve A. The trouble is to find B and the reduction method. This method is used frequently in computer science with advanced algorithms.

As a potential example, we have the problem of Apathy and we don’t know how to make people care. However, we are quite good at giving arguments to (hopefully) change the conclusions of our interlocutors. If we can find a way to reduce the problem of Apathy to the problem of giving arguments, we make progress. Of course, Apathy is a fairly complex problem, so we may need augment our arguments with something else to fully cover Apathy.

Simplify the Problem

What if we don’t need to do everything we think we need to do? We often overestimate what we need to do when faced with an unfamiliar scenario or when the task is large.

A small example is given in Don Norman’s classic Design of Everyday Things. Norman was annoyed with the many different locks in his apartment complex and he never knew which way he needed to turn the key. Instead of trying to change the direction of the lock mechanism, he simply added small stickers on each lock to indicate the direction. Problem solved. Instead of standardizing all the locks, it was sufficient to merely indicate the direction of turning—a much simpler problem.

Turning to the problem we are discussing, what if we only needed to make thinking valuable? (At least the type of thinking we desire for others to exemplify.) Then, regular people would naturally seek to think for themselves. It may be the case that we only need to teach a small population how to think. Perhaps we only need to teach key people—leaders of some sort—who will then go out and do more than we can alone.

In general, “make population x do y” would be a simplification when x is a population less than “the world” or y is something simpler than “think”.

When All Else Fails… Throw More Resources at the Problem

Can’t figure out how to solve a computer problem fast enough? Throw more computers at the problem. Don’t know how to make an efficient pulley to hoist the load? Get a bigger engine. Have an unfavorable tactical position in a key battle? Overwhelm your opponent with a sea of soldiers. Can’t figure out how to balance the budget? Add more money.

Some problems simply require more resources. Other times, we are not clever enough to find an efficient use of our resources to solve the issue. It is perfectly acceptable to add more resources to the mix and solve the problem. After all, the goal is to solve the problem, not do it with some arbitrary number of resources.

In our particular circumstance, we can choose to wait until we have enough resources to solve the problem. World Dumb is not going anywhere and we can use time to our advantage to maneuver into a position where we can effectively accomplish our goal.

Bringing It All Together

World Dumb is hardpervasive, and people seem to actually like it. It won’t go away quickly, cleanly, or cheaply. It is, nonetheless, an important problem that needs bright minds, brave leaders, and steadfast supporters.

Once we move beyond complaining, we can begin to recognize the problem is not impossible. We can then start to define the problem. Finally, changing our approach can yield success.

Response to Defenders of Biblical Dispensational Premillennialism

I was recently invited to a Facebook group called Defenders of Biblical Dispensational Premillennialism in the 21st Century. Having heard about dispensationalism and premillennialism here and there, I saw this as an opportunity to learn about the view in the best possible way: going straight to those who hold it. I asked them this:

I don’t hold to Dispensational Premillennialism because I really have no understanding of it. As far as I know, I was never taught it and none of my pastors or teachers believe it. Can someone explain or link an article about the basic beliefs? How does this differ from any other eschatological view? (I haven’t seriously studied the end times.) After that, why is this important? You might be correct in your viewpoint, but why does it matter and why should I care?

To which they responded with over two dozen responses and links to various articles. I read every one of the responses and articles they posted. I also performed my own research. All the relevant articles I read are listed in the Sources section below. When I started, I intended this to be a simple response on a Facebook group, but this quickly became a summary of the dispensational premillennialism (DP) viewpoints and a discussion of what I thought about it. I thought this would be a great post for my blog. Besides, I wasn’t sure how well Facebook would handle over 2,000 words in a comment…


The Response

After reading through the multitude of posts and links, I have realized I was taught a premillennial view on the end times (although, I wasn’t taught too much, admittedly). Dispensationalism, I was not taught at all. Here is my summary of what DP is from the posts from the members of Defenders of Biblical Dispensational Premillennialism in the 21st Century.

Summary of Dispensationalism

1) A consistent, literal interpretation of the Bible.

This was mentioned in virtually every article. Literal to the grammatical and historical context of whatever passage being dealt with at the time. In particular, prophecy should be taken as literal statements, unless there is significant evidence literary devices are in use.

2) The literal interpretation implies a premillennialist view.

3) A clear distinction of the different periods of the Bible.

Pre-Fall Age, Post-Fall Age, Israel Age, Church Age, Tribulation Age, Millennial Age, Eternity Age

4) A clear distinction between Israel and the Church

The NT never equates the Church and Israel and always refers to them as separate entities.

5) Many OT prophecies apply only to Israel

As the Church is not Israel, Israel is the only group that can fulfill them.

6) The Church will go away and Israel will return to fulfill OT prophecies.

The rapture is the primary method of accomplishing this.

End Times Beliefs

A brief summary of the premillenialism part of DP.

1) Church Age

We are currently in this age.

2) Rapture of the Christians

This happens at an undetermined point in the future. There will be no warning.

3) Tribulation

This is most of the bad things listed out in Revelation.

4) Christ Returns

This is where the “pre” in “premillennialism” comes from. Christ returns before the millennium. There will be many signs.

5) Christ rules on the Earth for 1000 literal years

6) Judgement

7) Eternal Age

Is this an accurate summary? Did I leave anything significant out? Click here for a visual summary of the premillennial view. For an overview of some of the other views on the millennium, see Four Views on the Millennium by Blue Letter Bible.

Difficulties With Dispensationalism

Now that I understand the DP position much better now, I have several questions, along with some disagreements with the view. Hopefully, someone can provide answers.

Questions

Does DP change the way we live practically?

It seems to me it would not change anything about how I live, tell the gospel, or live as a Christian.

Does DP affect other parts of theology?

I mean outside of the specifically DP doctrines. If we hold to dispensational premillennialism, does that change or inform other parts of theology? (E.g. soteriology, theology proper, etc.)

How do we know the prophecies haven’t been fulfilled already? Or, that some of them are not dual soon-and-later prophecies (as several prophecies are in the Bible)?

Why is there such an emphasis on the different periods (dispensations) of the Bible?

What does this explain? Why is this required? It would seem only natural for there to be different periods of the Bible and wouldn’t need a full doctrine. It seems almost as obvious as Jesus existing—there’s no reason to have a doctrine saying, “Jesus existed”, because it is so obvious from the Bible, history, and other doctrines.

The Rapture

There seems to be very little support for the rapture

Within the DP viewpoint, it seems to be simply assumed. As this is the main method to move the Church out of the way of Israel’s restoration, the lack of defense here is surprising. While I was raised Southern Baptist and have been taught the rapture, I have never had someone lay out why we should believe such a thing. Notably, Dr. William Lane Craig has stated there is no scriptural support for this doctrine and that it was invented in 1827 by John Darby. (Doctrine of the Last Things (Part 2)) I should note that I am speaking of the rapture itself, not the pretribulational rapture. One must determine a rapture will take place before determining the hour. This entire topic is one I wish to study further in the future.

Distinction between Israel and the Church

I have serious difficulty seeing the distinction claimed. Many of the verses claimed as evidence for this distinction are easily refuted by looking at the context. In fact, many of passages cited are actually evidence for a unified Israel and Church, not separate. Here are some clear passages for the unified view. Some are cited by the dispensationalists as evidence for their view, but it is clear from the context their interpretation is in error.

Romans 11:17–24

Shows Paul considers the Gentiles and Israel to be the same tree, though Israel has been cut off because of their unbelief and will eventually be grafted back in.

Ephesians 2:11–22

Thomas Ice cited Eph 2:15 as an evidence that Israel and the Church are separate.

The fourth evidence that the church is distinct from Israel is the unique relationship between Jews and the Gentiles, called one new man in Ephesians 2:15″ (118). During the current church age God is saving a remnant from the two previous entities (Israel and Gentiles) and combining them into a third new object-the church. This unity of Jews and Gentiles into one new man covers only the church age, from Pentecost until the rapture, after which time God will restore Israel and complete her destiny (Acts 15:14-18). 1 Corinthians 10:32 reflects just such a division when it says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.” — Thomas Ice, Israel / Church Distinction: The 4th Foundation [Emphasis original]

However, Ice completely misses a few verses later where Paul states we have been built on the foundation of Christ and now the whole building grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Eph. 2:20–21) Clearly, Paul is making the point we are united in Christ, not divided.

1 Corinthians 10:23–11:1

Ice also asserts 1 Cor. 10:32 is evidence of a division, but the context tells another story. Paul is discussing food practices relating to various cultures. The Greeks ate food sacrificed to idols, Jews would not. Obviously, the new Christians had some questions whether they should eat the food sacrificed to the idols. Paul tells them to not worry about it unless someone else does: “Everything is lawful, but not everything is beneficial.” You, as a follower of Christ, have this freedom of eating anything, but do not upset or destroy your friendships over this freedom. Don’t offend others with this freedom: “Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in all things. I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.” Paul’s point is to not offend needlessly: the ones you offend with your freedom may reject Christ because of you.

Galatians 3:28–4:7

Galatians 3:28–4:7 is a particularly damning passage for the view that there is a separation between Israel and the Church. Galatians shows we are considered descendants of Abraham and full heirs of God. If we are descendants of Abraham, how are we not Israel? Israel is made up entirely of descendants of Abraham via Isaac, and Christians are children of Sarah (Gal. 4:21–31). Ice tries to dismiss this point by saying Gentile believers only “participate in the spiritual (i.e., salvation) blessings that come through Israel (Rom. 15:27; 1 Cor. 9:11, 14).” However, Romans 15:27 has no bearing here: the text is talking about providing for material needs. 1 Cor. 9:11 also is talking about material needs (such as helping the poor and hungry), but 1 Cor. 10:1 says “our fathers” are Israelites. If this isn’t proof enough the Church are now considered descendants, I don’t know what is! The amount of cherry-picking in dispensational articles is disturbing. I’ve only bothered to write out a refutation of a single point of a single article, I could go on a lot more, but I think my point has been established by now. For a group to so passionately say they are for the literal interpretation of the Bible, they consistently take single verses out of context, read their own beliefs in, and get their preconceived conclusions out. It’s eisegesis, plain and simple. All one needs to do to see this is take the verses cited and read the paragraphs before and after. You can do this in any translation, too—it’s not a matter of a more modern translation or anything of that sort.

NT Never Equates the Church with Israel

Much emphasis is placed on word studies where the NT “never equates the Church with Israel”. Given that Christians were attempting to differentiate Christianity from Judaism and show there is now a new way of operating, wouldn’t the distinction be natural? E.g.: That’s the old way of doing things, this is the new way of doing things. Besides, a good portion of Israel were set on destroying Christians, so it would make perfect sense to maintain an “Us vs Them” nomenclature.

Prophecy and Rapture

Without the preconceived notion that the Church is not considered Israel, we can now easily say the OT prophecies can apply to the Church. Furthermore, if there is a distinction, the prophecies could apply only to ethnic Jews or Israel as a nation-state. Even if the prophecies do distinguish between the Church and Israel, there is no reason to suppose the Church must be raptured away to allow Israel’s restoration, if indeed there will be such a thing. Now, there is the possibility for the rapture to be necessary to call the saints away before the tribulation so they avoid God’s wrath. This view relies on the premises that A) the tribulation is God’s wrath (as opposed to other parts of the end times or hell itself) and B) that Christians are to be spared from the tribulation wrath. Do we have evidence these statements are true?

Findings

Literal Interpretation of the Bible

Considering that I have found many of the verses to be taken out of context, I question how important the dispensationalist’s most important doctrine is: namely the historical-grammatical-contextual literal interpretation of the Bible. I’m very much concerned with what the Bible actually says, regardless of whether it fits with whatever theory we may or may not have.

Distinction Between the Church and Israel

The evidence for a NT distinction between the Church and Israel is tenuous at best, and flat-out against it at worst. All the other dispensational beliefs are constructed on this one; with this distinction having no solid evidence to stand on, everything else comes crashing down.

Prophecies Applying to Israel

With the distinction between Israel and the Church gone, we no longer need to strictly hold OT prophecies apply only to Israel. The Church can fulfill these prophecies as we are now considered full heirs to Abraham.

The Rapture

The rationale for the rapture seems to be based on very ambiguous passages, problematic premises, and have a questionable history. I find it hard to agree with a view with such dubious support, though it is a topic I need to research further before I take a hard stance against all versions of the rapture view.

Christ’s 1,000 Year Reign

I tentatively agree with Christ returning before the literal 1000 year reign, although I need to study Revelation more before I would describe myself as a premillennial.

Conclusion

I disagree with dispensationalism. Of this, I am quite certain. Separation of Israel and the Church is the linchpin of the view and the evidence is simply against it. There will need to be considerable new evidence to persuade me otherwise; as I have examined the scriptures and found passages clearly denying a separation, I seriously doubt such evidence can be gathered.

I do not favor a pre-tribulational rapture, but I am not certain. I favor premillennialism, but I am not certain.


Sources

Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved. http://netbible.com

Discussion from the Facebook group “Defenders of Dispensational Premillennialism in the 21st Century”

Matthew Allen, Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and Their Views of Eschatology Baptist Bulletin, Why Dispensationalism Still Matters Blue Letter Bible, Four Views on the Millennium William Lane Craig, Doctrine of the Last Things (Part 2) William Lane Craig, Doctrine of the Last Things (Part 3) Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Dispensations of God Arnold Fruchtenbaum, The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Messiah Grace Thru Faith, Are God’s Wrath And The Great Tribulation The Same? Middletown Bible Church, Dispensationalism: A Clarifying Statement in View of the Confused Theological Climate Thomas Ice, Dispensataional Hermeneutics Thomas Ice, Futurism: The Third Foundation Thomas Ice, Israel/Church Distinction: The 4th Foundation Thomas Ice, The First Foundation: Consistent Literal Interpretation Thomas Ice, Premillennialism: The Second Foundation Thomas Ice, What Is Dispensationalism? Nathan E. Jones, Why I Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture: 11 reasons why Jesus will come back before the Tribulation Michael J. Vlach, Various Forms of Replacement Theology Michael J. Vlach, Zechariah 14 and the Coming Worldwide Kingdom Michael J. Vlach, Zechariah 14 and the Timing of the Kingdom Michael Vlach, Three Categories of Supersessionism Michael Vlach, Theological Implications of Zechariah 14 Andy Woods, Dispensational Hermeneutics: The Grammatico-Historical Method Andy Woods, Dispensational Hermeneutics: The Matter of Genre Andy Woods, Israel-church Differences

Reflecting on Aerom Xundes

I’ve wanted to start blogging again for some time now. I had been holding out trying to find a nice name I liked, but all the names I came up with sounded pretentious, negative, or egotistical. I really liked Reflecting. The English word has many qualities I appreciate:

  • It is a verb, implying the action continues, unlike reflections, which implies a finite number of items that are final.
  • Upon reflection, it has the meaning of thoughtfulness and serious consideration.
  • The act of reflecting has the connotation that anything I write will reflect in some way my own thoughts and beliefs. As in, my works reflect myself.
  • A reflection is not the real thing, but you must have a real thing to have a reflection. A reflection is grounded in reality, though it can become quite distorted.
  • I am experimenting with photography as a serious business and income stream. Photography reflects the subject in a (hopefully) favorable manner.

Alas, reflecting.com is being name squatted and the squatters want $20,000 for the name… I considered thinking of another name, but I came back to my original problem: they all sounded like I was declaring my superiority over anyone who dared to read my articles. Not a good way to start a blog if I hope to garner a readership. Therefore, I settled on my name. Not that it is my legal name, mind you, but if I were to change my legal name (not that I am thinking of doing so), I would use Aerom Xundes. It’s just cool.

Originally, the full name was two names from two of my World of Warcraft characters. Aerom was a paladin tank I was quite fond of. Xundes was a warrior; I didn’t do much with him, though. One day, I put the two names together and thought it sounded pretty nice. Later, I realized it made a really good name for my online identity as it is completely unique. Before I began using Aerom Xundes as my online identity, Googling gave no results with those words together. Now, there’s several pages of my questions and contributions to the Internet over the years.

I should probably mention my previous blog: Rampant Intelligence. See what I mean about my names? It’s negative, and more than a shade pretentious and egotistical, although I was quite fond of it. I gave it a read through before creating this site. I must say my writing skills increased significantly over the years I posted there. The first two pages of posts are what I would consider decent; most everything else isn’t up to my standards anymore. I did enjoy reading through my thoughts again. It is nice to see how far I have come since then.

My intention for this blog is to be a place were I can muse about things. I take a very philosophical approach to most topics. This typically annoys most people I spend any time around as I’m constantly discussing topics they find to be “too deep”. This is a response I find to be quite deplorable. Not that I consider a particular person’s response to my actions to be deplorable, but that the vast majority of people consider my topics are “too deep”. I don’t even feel as if I am delving especially deep (most of the time); most philosophic works are orders of magnitude “deeper” than the questions I ask.

While this is a public blog, I’m not so naive to think or hope this will ever go past my friends. I might dream of having thousands of people reading the thoughts I put on the Internet, however, there is so much better content on the Internet that I’m not hopeful.