January 2012


To Love and Cherish

Doing Apologetics

Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible

Archive for January 14th, 2012

The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 1:9-2:1

Saturday, January 14th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week 16:  Jan  8, 2012

We return to the study of First John. Having refuted the second claim, John now turns to the correct teaching.


ii.            Three Proposition Refuted (1:6-10)

1:9 –  If we make it our habit to confess our sins, in his faithful righteousness he forgives us for those sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

–          confess here is present active, which indicates an ongoing process. Confession is not just something we do when we are saved; it is something that we continually do as we seek forgiveness for sin.

in his faithful righteousness

–          The forgiveness that follows confession stems from both the faithfulness of God and his righteousness.   He is faithful, and so forgives us because he said he would.   That he is righteous shows that he can, as Jesus paid the price for our sins.

he forgives us for those sins

–          Some see a significance in the word Forgives (ἀφῇ).  It basically means “to leave” but takes on a variety of meaning depending on the context.   In terms of locations such as a city, it means to leave that location.   But when used of an object such as a book, it means to leave it in place.  In reference to people it means to send them way or to let them go.  For financial transactions it refers to canceling, or forgiving a debt.   In terms of sin, it means simply to pardon or forgive.  But his range of meaning does show why context is so important when determining the meaning of a word.  One certainly would not want to use the meaning for objects, i.e., to leave in place, in this context.

cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

–          The passage says that God not only forgives us, but that He also cleanses us.   Most commentators see cleanse and forgive as the same.   If so then the use of both in this passage is a form of emphasis

I, however, think there is a distinction here. John’s key premise is that God is Light and can have no darkness.  God not only forgives us, he cleanses us and it is this cleansing that allows us to have fellowship with him.  This is why confession of sin is so important.

I also think there is an implied argument here:

Since the opponents did not think that they had sin, there was no confession

Since there was no confession, there was no forgiveness

Since there was no forgiveness, they were still in darkness

Since they were still in darkness, they had no fellowship with God.

How does the teaching of Light and darkness line up with the modern Churches view of sin? This is one of those balancing acts.  Sin is a serious matter, yet the ability to confess and be forgiven has lead some to the false belief that it is no big deal.  Yet if we focus too much on sin, we miss the blessings of forgiveness.  Only though constant pray can we keep the correct balance.

1:10 –  If we say that we have never sinned, we make him a liar and his word has no place in us.

–          John now moves on to the Claim #3 : we have never sinned

With this claim, it is unclear whether this is an actual claim made by John’s opponents, or if this is a summary of the other two claims.  In support of it being a summary, the claim we have never sinned is very close to Claim #2 that we do not have any sin. On the other hand, it could be a response to the implied argument;  I need no forgiveness because I have never sinned.  While the distinction would have been important to the people to which John wrote,  it is largely irrelevant to us.  We are not caught up that particular controversy, and instead are looking for the universal applications that apply to us and this is the same for both understandings.

–          Refutation #3: we make him a liar

The him here is God.  To say that we have never sinned is to call God a liar.

1 Kings 8:46   When they sin against you—because there isn’t a single human being who doesn’t sin…

Isa 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, each of us, to his own way;

Rom 3:23  since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God’s glory

his word has no place in us.

–          One cannot be in fellowship with God and deny his word.   To deny sin is to deny the need for forgiveness and to deny the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross.   For someone to do this, it is no wonder that John would say that his word (λόγος)  has no place in them.

b.      Expansion: Keep His Commandments (2:1-6)

i.            Jesus the Messiah is our advocate (2:1-2)
2:1 – My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you might not sin. Yet if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus, the Messiah[1], one who is righteous.

My little children

–          John seems to mark transition/emphasis with such phrases, as he does here.   Before going on to give the third counter teaching, he wants to make sure that he is being clear about the nature of forgiveness.

I’m writing these things to you

–          Note the change from 1:4 – We are writing these things. While 1 John 1:4 referred to the writings of the eyewitness, i.e., the New Testament, here these things, is referring to what he has just written.

so that you might not sin.

–          One possible conclusion of the teaching John has just given is that it is ok to sin; after all we can always seek forgiveness.  Paul realized this as well after giving similar teaching to the church at Rome.  Thus in Romans 6:1-2 Paul rhetorically asks,  What should we say, then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Of course not! Likewise, here, John points out that forgiveness of sin is not a license to sin, and this would run counter to the teaching of God’s Word.  We do not have forgiveness so that we can sin.  We have forgiveness of sin, so we can have relationship with God.

Having clarified that this is not a license to sin, John proceeds on to Counter – Teaching #3 :

Yet if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus, the Messiah

–          The word for advocate (παράκλητον) here is the same word as in John 14:16 referring to the Holy Spirit.  It literally means to call alongside, to encourage, to exhort.  It is one of those words for which there is no single English word.  It can refer to a lawyer, but the concept here is far more than just legal counsel.  It refers to someone who really cared for you well-being.   It can refer to a counselor, or a comforter, or helper, but these are likewise too limited.  You can think of this a as dear friend who is your lawyer, who counsels, comforts and helps you. In the context here, the lawyer/advocate part has the primary the focus.  As Jesus will argue for our forgiveness before the Father

one who is righteous

–          Jesus can take this role because he is righteous. We are unrighteous and have no basis upon which to ask forgiveness, but Jesus can ask on our behalf.   Jesus died for our sins, and yet remains righteous because he is infinite.  Regardless of how many people will have ever lived, or how much sin they have committed, it will in the end be finite amount.  When heaven and earth pass away, there will have been a certain number of people who committed a certain number of sins.  However big it will be, it will be finite, but Jesus is infinite.  However big humanities sin, his righteousness will overwhelm it as drop of black ink, dropping in a white ocean the size of the universe.  Thus he can bear our sins and still be righteous.  It is on this basis that he will ask for our forgiveness and we can be assured that we will be forgiven.

Next week will pick up with 1 John 2:2.

If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

See here for references and more background on the class.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


1 2:1 Or Christ

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Saturday, January 14th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue


“Elgin, you’re a bright fellow, so if you will select what you think is your best and most devastating argument against my position, I’ll give you a response along the same lines. Feel free to reference your argument by date and time of your post.”

Well the refutation of naturalism rests on several points.  One line of argument is it’s many internal inconsistencies that I and others have pointed out.   Another is the very practical one centered on the numerous errors and fallacies of its defenders, not only here but elsewhere.  At my blog (www.consider.org/blog), for example, I did extensive reviews detailing the errors and fallacies of the Neo-atheist books of Hitchens (www.consider.org/blog/?p=152), Dawkins (www.consider.org/blog/?p=45) and Harris (www.consider.org/News/2007/2.htm).  If the supporters of a position cannot put forth a rational defense of  that position, why should it be accepted?

Still if I had to pick just one I guess it would be the argument based on origins that I laid out early.  This is because; it depends on the framework of naturalism.  For convenience, I will repeat it here and expand a bit.

The current evidence supports that the natural universe as we know it had a beginning and could not have existed forever. If our current evidence is correct, then either, the natural universe came from something, or came from nothing. If it came from something, then this something would be non-natural, and this is evidence of a non-natural explanation that naturalism denies.

Granted the first premise is provisional given the advancement of science, but for some time this has been the scientific position and seems pretty sound. The point here is that for the naturalist to question the validity of this premise would be to question the validity of science; something they cannot do and remain consistent.

As for the two options this is simply an expression of the law of the excluded middle. To question this would be to call the entire foundation of science and thus naturalism into question.

Now the naturalist could just accept that the universe came from nothing, and some do. But this explanation would conflict with the scientific method. It is basically magic.  If “it came from nothing” were to be seen as a legitimate explanation for events, it could explain anything, and there would be no need for science. Naturalists could argue that this was a special case, but that would only be an admission that the rules they use elsewhere do not apply here, i.e., that naturalism does not explain everything.

So that leaves the claim that it came from something.  But if this is true, this would only demonstrate that there was something else beyond the natural world, and that naturalism is not the complete description that naturalists claim.

Again this is a deductive argument, which means that if the premises are true, and naturalism would have to say that they are, and the structure is valid, which it is, then the conclusion must be sound, or in other words, the conclusion is obvious, and it no matter how you go about it, it refutes naturalism.

Thus for me, it is no wonder naturalists refuse to face squarely this argument. They can’t and remain naturalists, at least not in any universal sense.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Saturday, January 14th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue


“Your emperor has no clothes. You keep insisting that I should debate with you about the intricacies of his magnificent garments.”

What I have done is ask that you respond to the irrationalities of your argument. You want to talk about reason, yet you refuse to acknowledge that reason has anything to say about your position. It would appear that you have fallen into what I call default thinking.  This is where someone assumes that their world view is by definition correct and then demands that anyone who disagrees prove them wrong within their framework.

For example, a theist who had fallen into default thinking, might take as their starting point, or default, the belief that God exists and is the foundation of everything, and then demand that critics point to something that was beyond the realm of God. I know that you would disagree with such a view, but I hope that you can also see the rational errors in this view.  It is ultimately a tautology.

“To be more specific, a debate over whether and how a Great Unicorn might relate to a God would be comically and exclusively academic, since neither entity is known to exist.”

Even scientifically this is incorrect.  For example, if science restricted itself only to entities known to exist, it would vastly limit its reach.  For example, the sub -atomic particle charm was ultimately postulated because someone did not like the idea of only 3 particles and figured 4 was better number. They were wrong on the ultimate number but this only demonstrates that even errors can be useful at times. In any event, they postulated what a fourth particle might be like. Once they had an idea of what it might be like, they set out to look for it and eventually found it.

Still, none of this affects, the two fallacies I pointed out with your argument, and as such your earlier argument remains irrational.  Your questions in this note are irrelevant, given this underlying irrationality, except that you have simply added additional errors to the previous fallacies.  None of it actually addressed the linguistic point that I was making and the fallacy of equivocation that I pointed out.

“Notice how this takes us back to a naturalistic framework, where we insist that fact claims be verified.”

A nice example of your default thinking.  I have no doubt that viewed from within your framework, your framework looks fine and theism doesn’t.  However, you claim that in your framework facts must be verified, but what I, and others have been pointing out is that you simple ignore all attempts to apply the same standards to your framework itself, and to the arguments you use.

“We’re saying there’s nothing else beyond what we can verify but we’re only saying it provisionally, just as we say everything in science provisionally”

The core problem is, that this is a statement that you cannot verify. It is a statement that must just be accepted.  You make your assumptions, others make theirs and come to different conclusions. The real problem is that you then attempt to ridicule those who do not share you assumption, demanding that their assumptions be verified.  Thus in short you are holding those you disagree with to a different standard than that to which you hold yourself. You demand that their assumptions be verified, when yours cannot.  So just who is the emperor with no clothes?

“if you provide us with more evidence, then we’ll expand our conception of the universe”

Yet, I provided evidence, in the form of a rational argument, that reality consisted of more than the natural world, and thus, that the claims of naturalism were false.  Yet you basically ignored it.

“It’s a practical philosophy, in other words, a philosophy that guides us toward living more productive and useful lives.”

Again you assume that only your worldview does this. Yet all the productivity and usefulness that you claim as the benefits of naturalism fits equally as well in my world view. In short I see “naturalism” as a subset of my views, and that naturalism ultimately only artificially limits and restricts for no rational basis. I would add to this the numerous studies that show that practicing theists tend to lead longer, happier and more fulfilled lives. Given the evidence, why would I ever want to restrict my concept of reality?

“Notice also that I didn’t say that God does not exist, only that God is not known to exist. Therefore, any fact claim about “God” lacks the necessary framework for reliability” and “every fact claim about God is a fact claim about something no one knows anything about.”

These are arguments rooted within the framework of naturalism. The structure and logic of the arguments are ok. It is the underlying premises of naturalism that I would reject.   Thus from my point of view, I not only believe in God. I believe there is considerable evidence that He does exist, and that we can in fact know something about him. I understand that you disagree with these statements.  The big difference between us from my point of view, is that you artificially, and irrationally, restrict reality to the natural world, and given your presuppositions, are thus incapable of acknowledging any of the evidence for God as long as you stay within your framework.

Before you revert back to your arguments grounded in culture to explain my views, I would point out that again not only are they irrational, they are very unlikely to be persuasive in my case because I grew up as an atheist and opponent of my current views.  My journey to my current views certainly has a spiritual component, but it also has a significant intellectual component, where I found the argument I used to defend my beliefs simply did not stand up to the same sorts of critical analysis I was using on those with whom I disagreed. In short culture had very little to do with my current views.

“The point of the Great Unicorn example is not to get into the internal logic of your enterprise but to illustrate its absurdity”

This is really turning things on their head.  The principles of logic are not tied to any particular framework, but instead rest on 3 fundamental laws: the laws of Identity, the Excluded Middle, and Contradiction which is also sometimes called the Law of Non-Contradiction.  Granted, not all world views accept these laws, but they are accepted by most theists, and are key to the scientific method and thus to naturalism.

While these must operate within a framework such as theism or naturalism to reach a sound conclusion, errors that result in fallacies or invalid arguments are often independent of the framework. Thus the errors I have pointed out in your argument are not based on my framework, but ultimately go back to violations of these fundamental laws of thought. This is why I, and others, have pointed out that naturalism is self-refuting, for these laws form one of the foundations of naturalism, yet naturalism violated these laws.  Thus it is internally inconsistent and thus self-refuting.

I will handle you specific argument to me in a separate post.