Oliphint — Vantillianism Unleashed
The attack on the logical harmony of the teaching of Scripture by Vantillians seems never ending. I think what bothers me most is not the fact that these men have a low view of logic. Nor is it their belief in the paradoxical or assumed contradictory nature of the teachings of Scripture. After all there are plenty of liberal and neo-orthodox theologians and pastors who share their view. Rather, what bothers me most is their complete lack of integrity when it comes to informing their respective Presbyteries about their defection from their vows of ordination. For example, in the PCA every would be elder (ruling or teaching) and deacon is required to vow in the affirmative that they:
… sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures….
They must also promise
…that if at any time [they] find [themselves] out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, [they] will on [their] own initiative, make known to [their] Presbytery the change which has taken place in [their] views since the assumption of this ordination vow.
Assumed in the above is an adherence and fidelity to the fundamental of fundamentals; the complete and sole authority found in the Scriptures alone, a position summarized in WCF 1, “Of the Holy Scriptures,” from which every other truth of the Christian faith is deduced. This includes the belief that in Scripture there is a logical “consent of all the parts” (1.5). There is nothing in the Confession that asserts that the Scriptures contain apparent contradictions or insoluble paradoxes in anything it teaches and to which we must submit. Instead, WCF 1 asserts that the meaning of Scripture is one (1.9), and that the “infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself” (1.9). You will not find in the Confession the notion that Scripture teaches apparently contradictory and conflicting “truths” that can command our assent.
Instead, what we find is the belief that the Scriptures present to the mind a harmonious system of doctrine that includes those things set down in Scripture along with everything that can be validly deduced from Scripture (1.6). Biblical Christianity is a deductive system and all the doctrines of the faith must be validly inferred from Scripture alone and this constitutes the “whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life.” In short, the Christian system is totally self-contain to the point where “nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men…”(1.6). Notice, neither the esteemed findings of science, assumptions derived from so-called “common sense,” observation, sensation, experience, new revelations (Charismatic “prophetic” delusions or papal so-called “ex-cathedra” pronouncements included), even long held and beloved traditions can never challenge or undermine the sole authority of Scripture. Every thought must bow to Scripture alone. As Gordon Clark argued:
Archaeology, of course, can contribute little or nothing toward proving that the doctrines, as distinct from the historical events, of the Bible are true . . . The literary style of some parts of the Bible is majestic, but Paul’s epistles are not models of style. The consent or logical consistency of the whole is important; for if the Bible contradicted itself, we would know that some of it would be false. – What Do Presbyterians Believe p. 17,18.
Which brings us to the most recent attack on the logical coherence of Scripture and God Himself by Scott Oliphint professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Interestingly, Dr. Elihu Carranza (who wrote the companion workbook to Gordon Clark’s Logic) recently alerted me to a piece by Oliphint that appeared in the June edition of Reformation 21 (the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals);, “Thought Thinking Itself?: Christianity and Logic.” I invite people to read Oliphint’s entire article, but I just want to highlight a few quick gems to keep in mind while reading it:
“… it is Scripturally mandatory for us to affirm the paradoxical…”
Notice, for Oliphint it is not mandatory for us to affirm that in Scripture there is a consent of all (and not just some) of the parts. Has he informed his Presbytery?
“Before creation, there was no logic.”
“He uses language, and He uses logic, to communicate truth to us. They are, we could say, built in to His creation. But, in terms of His essential Triune character, he is bound by neither….”
According to Oliphint God is irrational.
”In the Christian faith, there are basic and foundational truths that are and remain paradoxes for us. The Triunity of God is one of those truths. But when we say that they are paradoxes, we are saying more than simply that our minds do not have the intellectual resources to put these truths together.”
In Oliphint’s mind perhaps, but what he assumes (and it’s not very becoming) is omniscience and that if he cannot formulate the doctrine of the Trinity in a non-contradictory manner than no one can.
And, finally, this bit of incomprehensible nonsense:
“So, for example, I have been asked on more than one occasion, something like the following question, “If you accept that God is One and Three, or that Christ is fully God and fully man, and you cannot reconcile those truths, why can you not also accept that Christ died both for His own people, and also (in the same way) for all people?” The response to a question like that, which moves toward a fuller answer, is that the extent of the atonement in Scripture is not taught as a paradox, such that “death for His people” and “death for the world” imply, entail and require each other, but rather is meant to be understood non_paradoxically. So also for other incompatibilities and supposed contradictions that we think we find in the Bible. The coherence of the paradoxes taught in Scripture, in other words, are meant to move us toward understanding how, and that, the rest of what Scripture teaches coheres”
According to Oliphint the Scriptures logically cohere except where they don’t — and evidently he’ll be the one to tell us which is which. Unbelievably he asserts irreconcilable truths of Scripture are to “ move us toward understanding how, and that, the rest of what Scripture teaches coheres.” But how is this possible? First, if the paradoxes of Scripture logically cohere then they are no longer paradoxes. Instead of tensions in Scripture there is harmony. Second, if the Scriptures teach truths that cannot be reconciled (i.e., the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.) and that it is “Scripturally mandatory for us to affirm” — and not resolve — “the paradoxical,” then it follows that the Scriptures do not cohere.
Now compare Oliphint to Clark:
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Logic is fixed, universal, necessary, and irreplaceable. Irrationality contradicts the Biblical teaching from beginning to end. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not insane. God is a rational being, the architecture of whose mind is logic. – God and Logic