E-Sword Topic Books

Using topic notes in E-Sword

Explorations of Faith. Studies in Hebrews 11. Topic note for E-sword. Download and unzip to C:\Program Files\e-sword.
Psalm 50 for e-sword. Topic module. Download and unzip to C:\Program Files\e-sword.

Note: The installation files for both e-sword 8x and e-sword 9x can also be downloaded from e-sword-users.org:


Rocketing Prices Make Vegetables and Fruits a Luxury in India

Prices of agro-products soar higher in India, making fruits and vegetables almost a luxury. The Times of India reports:
"The price of almost every vegetables except onion and potato has gone up to 25 to 30 per cent in the wholesale market and retail price staggering up to 45 to 50 per cent. A random market survey revealed an increase in the price of spinach to Rs 40-45 from Rs 10-15 kg a few days back.
"The price of tomato has gone up to Rs 55-60 from Rs 40 a kg and capsicum to Rs 60-80 from Rs 40 per kg at the start of this month. The price of onion has gone up to Rs 20 from Rs 15-18 per kg but still remained steady in the market.
"Variation between the wholesale prices and retail prices is staggering between 25%-30%." (Lucknow: July 17, 2009).
Lauki (bottle gourd) went from being Rs. 7-10 per kg to Rs. 40 per kg. The price of lentils has shot up to Rs. 85 per kg from Rs. 40-45 per kg. The saying "dal bhat ab ameeron ka khana hei" (lentils and rice are now food of the rich) is gaining popularity; earlier, it was the reverse. Eggs can be bought at Rs. 35 a dozen and local fish prices range between Rs. 40 (or lesser) and Rs. 120. Perhaps, retails of these will increase now, as fruits and vegetables gain the status of expensive dainties. The average class Indian family has a proper income of around Rs. 5500 per month.

Thrifts and shifts are now anticipated as expenses shift with expensiveness.

The Rain

How blissfully dribbles the rain
Fuming over surfaces, flooding the drains.
Drops after drops, their unceasing train,
Make little oceans along the lanes.

Ho! A child darts over the muddy banks
Then sweeps into a messy swamp.
His cries exhilarating draw in the ranks
Of shirtless soldiers surfing the swamp.

What peal of thunder, what cloud now bursts!
The sky's now blistered to heal the earth!
The wind brings shivers, the flood brings dirt!
Yet, all together, they vanquish the dearth!

See, the pearls now glitter
In the shimmering sun;
As colors bend over,
The rain is done.
Well, ask the farmer,
It's not all done, Oh! It's not all done!

"You, O God, sent a plentiful rain.... " (Psa 68:9).

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2009.

1 Peter 3:19-20: Did Jesus Go to Hell?

1. Most scholars such as Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, John Calvin and John Wesley believed that this referred to Christ's preaching to the people in the days of Noah. Through the preaching of Noah, he strove with men (Genesis 6:3; something like in 2 Corinthians 5:19; also see 1Peter 1:11; 1Corinthians 10:4, 9; Hebrews 4:2).
2. Another interpretation, especially by the Roman Catholic Church, is found in the Apostle's Creed affirmation that Jesus descended into hell. It is based on 1 Peter 3:19, 4:6; Acts 2:27; Romans 10:7; Ephesians 4:9; Revelation 1:17-18.

I think the first interpretation is theologically better for many theological reasons:
1. Man doesn't have a chance to repent after death; so, there is no use to preaching to the dead. Both 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6 would refer to those people who are now in prison or are dead. The Gospel was preached to them while they were alive.
2. The passage doesn't say that Jesus went to hell. It says that He went and preached to the spirits in prison, that is, who are still now in prison. If it were not so, Peter would have said "spirits who were in prison".
3. Some think that Jesus went and announced His victory to these spirits, He did not evangelize them. There is no scriptural reference for such idea. Colossians 2:15 refers to Christ obliterating all writ of condemnation against us through the cross. It doesn't mean He went to hell and defeated Satan.

Breaking the Barriers in World Missions

Breaking the Barriers
in World Missions

In Luke 10:2, Jesus made an important statement about our chronological placement in God's missionary plan: we are in the age of harvest - at the ends of time (in the end of times).

The implications of it is that despite the apparent hostility of some mission fields, the fact abides that the world was already ready for harvesting at the time Jesus spoke these words. The coming of Jesus marked the beginning of the Harvest age and the end of times. The missionary has no time for such words as "hostility", "unresponsiveness", "stony ground", "mission impasse", etc. He is not ruled by the anxiety of temporalities and the angst of time. He is called to be an harvester and follows the passion and mission of the Lord of the harvest.

He sees the harvest, comes to the field, and gathers it into the barns. But then, it's indispensably important to remember that the harvester must follow the strategy of the Lord of the harvest to both see the harvest and finish his part in the harvesting mission.

The barriers of missions are considered to be many: cultural, conceptual, contextual, sociological, spiritual, etc. There are certain people groups who have been almost unresponsive to the gospel for the past several centuries. Such unresponsiveness is regarded to be a blockade and some have wondered if it's fair to spend time and resources over an apparently "unbreakable" ground. But, perhaps, the oasis is only a few steps ahead. It would be tragic if one decided to turn back now just because the signs were invisible. Perhaps, the greatest breakthrough is at hand and one more wielding of the spade would open up a fountain of gushing waters!

Some have argued that the work of missions is over since every ethnic group has been reached with the gospel of Christ. That is an amazing optimism - but, hearsay lacks exactitude often times. The Abhuj Maria tribe of central India, for instance, has never heard what the gospel is all about. In fact, no one approaches this tribe for fear of being shot down. I understand that Jesus talked of nations as ethnic groups, but I wonder if it's all very right to limit the terms "reached" and "unreached" to only people groups. Are we able to talk of the Church at Abhuj Maria as Paul was able to talk of the Church at Ephesus or the Church at Corinth? It's important to understand the importance of geographical territory when talking of world evangelization. In Acts 17:26-27, Paul connects ethnos with their historical and geographical experiences. The modern world might be a bit different but not totally distinct from the world of Athens. Let's ask the question, "Is there a witnessing community in this particular village, town, or city" when we are thinking of "reached" or "unreached". It's not just enough to get the gospel to the Greeks; it's important to publish the Goodnews in every Greek city, village, and town. The witnessing community will carry on the work of evangelization ahead.

Let's open the gates rather than attempting to scale insurmountable walls - walls were never meant to be scaled after all. We need the keys after we know the entry points. What was evidence to the wise men (the star) might not be evidence for someone else. What was evidence for Peter might not be evidence for John. What was evidence for Paul might not be evidence for Cornelius. The Spirit alone knows the hearts of men, of communities, of individuals. May the Lord of the harvest give us discernment to find the pillars on which the building stands (cf. Judges 13:29-30). "It is not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). Perhaps, now at these ends of times, we're ready to reap the benefits of what the earlier missionaries have laboured. A closed community, as hostile as it has been, will now see His salvation. He makes us His instruments to first open their eyes so that they are able to experience His light and liberty (Acts 26:18) - and what the joy of knowing it! Wield the spade - it'll finally strike the fountain!

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!"

No Short Road to Success - Sermon


Successful living: What do you dream to be? You must dream to be a man or woman after God’s own heart!

Meaning of Success

  1. Achieving the end, not the means

Not money, etc. which are means not end.

  1. Hinduism – artha (material possessions), kama (pleasure), dharma (duty), moksha (liberation; moksha is final end)

  2. Aristotle would ask: why moksha? To be happy, would be the answer. Happiness. Everything points to happiness, but happiness doesn’t point to any other further state. It is the end. Health, wealth, and relationships are means to the happy life. Now according to Aristotle, happiness is not merely future but present since it is a state of life. It is not found at the end of the road but along the way, since life is continuous. In order to live happy lives, we must function properly. What is our proper function? He said it’s rational living – high morality. A person who lives a high moral life is happy and satisfied. It is so because the rational principle in his life governs the irrational principle or passions that stand against reason. There can be no moral choice if the irrational principle were not there. But, an immoral person is never satisfied because he doesn’t live the fully and properly functional life. E.g. a greedy man will never be satisfied, he craves more; a lustful man will crave for more lust; a jealous man can never be at peace. A moral man is always at peace with himself, because he is right. But this condition is not obtained in a single day; it is obtained through a long time of training, strengthening in the good choices, choosing the morally high objects, and giving oneself completely to truth to the end that it becomes impossible for the righteous man to do evil. The wicked, on the contrary, by choosing evil actions, forms evil habits, traits, and a disposition that cannot be reformed. He lives in a perpetual state of darkness and dissatisfaction. Question: Why should I be good if in the end we all go to the grave? Isn’t there a greater and lasting happiness, a fullness of life, beyond this?

  3. Bible – A successful life is that life that is lived in conformity with the law of God. We’re not talking about the letter of the law but the spirit of the law. For students at College, having a big ministry is not success. It is only a means to success. One can be successful in ministry and yet not succeed in his life. Jesus said “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” John says “The world and its lusts pass away but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Therefore, Jesus said “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (both are involved) “and all these things (food, clothing, etc) shall be added unto you.” Because all these things are not the end of life. God never honors a great man; he honors an obedient servant. You have not functioned well until you have functioned well as a servant of God.

The Road to Success

We’ve seen Aristotle say that happiness is an end within the journey. There was a Greek lawgiver who said that we should only call a man happy after he is dead – that he lived a happy life. Well, that is real amazing for one who is dead cannot be seen as either happy or unhappy. Can you see the dead? But, let’s define this term “end”, since we’re using it in two ways: (1) the end of the journey of life, somewhere just before death (2) a goal that needs to be pursued and reached every moment of life. I want to be happy not in the distant future, but in the present. That can only be possible if I do the immediately right and proper thing now. Doing God’s will now.

That is the reason why Psalm 1:1 says “Happy is the man….” And verse 2 “But he meditates.. Law of God”.

So, don’t just think of the future, things like “I’ll do this after finishing College, or I’ll do it when I go to a different place.” Live it now. Obey God now. The better choices that you make now, the stronger and greater you grow in closeness to the blueprint of the Grand Architect.

Thus, it is both a journey and also a destiny.


Phase #1: The Resources for Journey

Story: Hagar and her son (Genesis 21:9-20)

We all need resources for journey. Hagar got two: bread and a bottle of water. But the Bible says that the water got over.

This is an example of human resources that are just not enough. Because, there are certain situations where they fail.

Ecc 7:20 Surely there is not a righteous man upon earth that does good, and sins not.

That is the reason why God didn’t want Adam and Eve to rely on the fruit of knowledge. He wanted them to rely on Him.

When Hagar cried, God opened her eyes: God’s resources are never far from you, only your eyes need to be opened.

2Pe 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2Pe 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

This is where the nations of the world fail: they grope in darkness (Acts 17:26,27).

Phase #2: The Road – Jesus Christ

John 14:6: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Rom 10:4  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

The Bible is very clear about the fact that there cannot be any righteousness apart from Christ, whether after Fall or before Fall. It is so because Jesus Christ as the Logos of God is the embodiment of divine will and truth. There is and can be no morality apart from Him. Justin Martyr, an early apologist, believed that it was this Logos that illuminated the philosophers like Plato and others who were able to talk about God and truth. The Bible says that the Spirit of Christ was revealing to the prophets things related to righteousness and Christ’s suffering to save the world.

The sin of Adam: rejection of Christ. By choosing the fruit of knowledge he refused the righteousness of Christ – he tried to make reason autonomous and self-definitive, which is impossible. This is moral depravity. That is the reason why Christ became the last Adam and the second Man to bring us back into union with Him. For in Adam all died; so, in Christ all will live – that is those who reject the autonomous false road of Adamic rebellion and bow their knees to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Therefore, He is also called Lord and Savior.

Milestones of Success:

Milestones tell us how far we’ve got.

  1. Conversion – Entry: Repentance, Belief, Commitment

  2. Obedience – knowing and doing His will. If He is Lord, we are servants.

A big church or name and fame is not success – Jesus never had a big church and never has a big following; the devil has more followers than Christ. It might even be possible that you suffer for righteousness’ sake and are all alone in some prison like Jeremiah or Paul were. It’s really excellent if we can save as many souls as possible (witnessing is God’s will); but remember that Saul or David were not rewarded for the battles they won, but for their submission to God’s will. Saul failed and became one of the most unhappiest man in the Bible. But that doesn’t mean that God never called him to fight the battles; it only means that these were not the qualifications for his being successful. Remember God forsook the Temple of Jerusalem when the Israelites disobeyed Him, though they thought that they were safe to do whatever they liked because of the temple there.

Knowing and doing God’s will is success. Are you faithful to His Word? Are you living a good and honorable life in the sight of God? Do you do the thing which Christ would do if in your situation; if not how can you say that you are in union with Him? You are in union with Adam or even the devil in their rebellion? Only the Son is absolutely obedient to the Father; therefore, there is no final walk of successful living apart from the life of the Son. Do we have His life in us?

Now, obedience is not always an easy thing. The Bible calls it godliness and says that it needs exercise like any physical exercise. With more exercise, you become stronger; with more practice, you become expert. Similarly, with each step of obedience and practice of God’s will, we become more mature and perfect.

1 Cor.2:1: The Corinthians were like babes, unable to understand what is right and wrong – so they had all kinds of fightings, competitions, controversies.

Hebrews. 5: Mature know how to differentiate between good and evil. Discernment of right and wrong comes by practice. A detective is an experience person – and because he knows many things, he is able to spot what evidence indicates what. Sherlock Holmes could tell which kind and when a cigar was smoked by looking at the ash. It requires training. We can only be wise when we give ourselves to learning and practicing. But, we don’t need to be over concerned: God’s Book of Law and His Holy Spirit are there to guide us.

Phase #3: The Result – Joy

Joh 15:10  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

Joh 15:11  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Joy is the fruit of the Spirit which we have when we live according to the principles of the Kingdom of God.

Rejoice in the Lord always, can only be possible when we are “in the Lord.”


God bless!



12 Principles of Success (Sermon by Dr. Matthew Thomas)

Message by Dr. Matthew Thomas
Pentecostal Church, Itarsi, India

1. If you don’t use what you got it will rot
2. Don’t let a setback make you sit back, arrange for a come back
3. The seed you sow is the only seed that will grow
4. What you don’t overcome will overcome you
5. You can be exempted, when you are tempted
6. If you need a lift use your gift, if you don’t use your gift, you will drift, sift, rift
7. Change your convictions and make them your addictions
8. You will never survive if you compromise
9. Don’t allow the failures of the past to dictate you future
10. What you feed on in your heart will determine whether or not you will fall apart
11. To prepare God’s way there is a price to pay
12. You will never know what manner of person you can be until Jesus gives you an identity
13. Discover that you can recover

PEARL of Great Price - Sermon Acrostic

Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13:44

P Precious in God’s sight.
E Exclusive by God’s design.
A Anticipated for righteousness
R Redeemed by His blood.
L Listed for service.

Gaudapada's Karika and Christian Theology

Sri Gaudapada, spiritual teacher of Sri Sankaracharya, wrote a Karika (expository treatise) in the early 8th century A.D. It was meant to provide a systematic and rational exposition of the main teachings of the Upanisads. It argues for the doctrine of non-dualism, which basically states that reality is non-dual (the Indian philosophers hesitated to use the term “monism” since they thought that reality can only be talked of via negative). It must be remembered that salvation or liberation in Hinduism is chiefly from the cycle of rebirth; that is one reason why the Christian term “born again” might not be preliminarily understood by certain Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists – since, for them salvation is a liberation from the bondage of being reborn again and again.

In the Karika, however, there is nothing like emancipation from physical rebirth. In fact, all such phenomenal concepts of birth or rebirth are denied as false. Liberation or salvation is synonymous with a renunciation of the empirical outlook and the scientific postulate of causality through realization of the truth of non-dualism. Liberation is not the achievement of physical freedom from the chain of cyclical time, but is the mental realization of empirical negation; in other words of all subject-object, cause-effect differentiations (i.e. of non-dualism).

Everything seems to be born because of the empirical outlook; therefore there is nothing that is eternal (IV.57).

As long as there is mental preoccupation with causality, so long does the worldly state continue…. (IV.56).

There is no dissolution, no origination, none in bondage, none striving or aspiring for salvation, and none liberated. This is the highest truth (II.32).

That highest Bliss is located in one’s own Self. It is quiescent, coexistent with liberation, beyond description, and birthless…. (III.47).

Two chief arguments are as follows (for details please consult my online manuscript Epistemics of Divine Reality, pp. 73-84):

1. Argument from Dream: As objects in dream state can’t be discerned as false, so can objects in the waking state not be discerned as false (Whatever be the arguments, one can’t escape the box of idealism) – Mandukya Upanisad speaks of four states of consciousness: dreaming, waking, dreamless sleep, and pure consciousness (without subject-object differentiations).
2. Argument from Being: Being cannot come into existence (for it already is), neither can non-being come into existence (for what is not cannot be); therefore, being is eternal. Applying the Cartesian principal of doubt here, only the non-dual (indubitable) Self exists, and its perception of all plurality and causal phenomena is false, in the rational sense.

To solve the problem of “causality” (though it is denied in the purest sense) as to how the Self “comes” to be self-deluded, the doctrine of Maya is introduced. Maya is similar to magic, which also means that it “has no reality” (IV.58); therefore, the empirical phenomena it “produces” are also as unreal (as in magic). In fact, in the absolute sense, it does not produce anything – this is only an accommodative explanation; for where an explanation is anticipated, a duality of subject-object is already presupposed; therefore, the answer uses empirical analogies. There is nothing like personal salvation, since “persons” don’t exist; and, there is nothing like the salvation of Brahman (Being), since Brahman can’t be liberated from anything – for It alone exists, then from what would it be delivered; secondly, it is immutable. Therefore, apologists are wrong when they contend that liberation of one individual should mean the liberation of Brahman (cf. Vishal Mangalwadi, World of Gurus).

Obviously, this is too far from common-sense realism and from the practicability of life. Therefore, the Karika confesses:

Instruction about creation has been imparted by the wise for the sake of those who, from the facts of experience and adequate behavior, vouch for the existence of substantiality, and who are ever afraid of the birthless entity (IV.42).

The doctrine of creation and dissolution in popular Vedic religion, however, is not considered to be untrue; it is only relatively true and has its function within the practical game of phenomenal religious life. This is where the Vedic deities in all their empirical plurality, diversification, attributes, and finitudes blend with the realm of humans, animals, and demons. This is the world of causality, naturality, plurality, modality, and immanence. In other words, this is the world of Maya.

Thus, the paradoxical doctrines of non-dualism and pluralism are made parallel.

The Significance of Christian Theology as an Answer

1. It posits God as transcendent and yet immanent in relation to creation – thus, eliminating the ontological problem of being and causality. He is always eternal and created the world out of nothing.
2. It posits God as infinite and yet limited in relation to creation – thus, eliminating the need of a misty doctrine of Maya.
3. It posits God as One and yet a Trinity – thus, eliminating the epistemic problem of rational and empirical truth-conflict. In the non-dualist concept, truth is objectively impossible since the object doesn’t exist as different, while the doctrine of Trinity teaches an eternal subject-object relationship within the God-head. This also eliminates the didactic problem of lesser truths or a need for folk theology.

Faith and Knowledge

From the author's online book Explorations of Faith (2009).

Obviously, one’s way of looking at life is largely determined by one’s pre-understanding. It influences one’s way of thinking.

One’s framework of beliefs, or worldview, determines to a great extent one’s interpretation of reality; for reality is never taken as it is – all belief is interpreted reality since reality by itself and in itself lacks meaning. Meaning is always found in a relation of things; that relating of things is interpretation. But meaning imposed (eisogesis) is not true meaning; for instance, a man may see a man picking a candy from a store and say he was stealing it, when in fact he may be the owner of the store. Meaning discovered (exegesis) is the only true meaning. False beliefs can lead to false conclusions. For instance, to an atheistic existentialist this universe is absurd, human life is absurd, and all toil is an illogical enterprise. However, the worldview of an atheist is itself composed of several beliefs that are the result of interpretation – mainly of secondary information (i.e. chiefly through mimesis, i.e. imitation of popular beliefs or flowing with the cultural milieu). The historical development of the atheistic cultural milieu in the Universities needs no particular reference here. It all took impetus from the Enlightenment as we know. With each new interpretation, the atheistic grid of interpretation was modified. The modifying atheistic worldview took many forms: nihilism, fascism, Marxism, evolutionism, scientism, existentialism, etc. Thus, beliefs determine interpretation until the framework itself is doubted and a revolution in the pattern of thinking is secured....

There are several different worldviews in the world: e.g. Hindu karmic worldview, Hindu reformed worldview, Buddhist worldview, spiritualist worldview, occultic worldview, liberal worldview, Pentecostal worldview, secular worldview, MTV culture worldview, etc. Each way of looking at life is distinct in itself. Each framework has developed its own method of contextual interpretation as well. Here we see two aspects of interpretation: rational and contextual. While rational interpretation is absolute involving the laws of reason, contextual interpretation is relative, i.e. relative to the framework; for instance, the karmic interpretation of time, liberal
interpretation of the Bible, etc.

Such plurality of interpretive grids makes pluralism very attractive. But pluralism, or the belief that all belief-systems are valid ways in themselves, is an interpretive grid that attempts to overrule the others without their consent. Therefore, its ruling is objected by most who deny their way as equal to the others. Test of correspondence, coherence, consistency, and pragmatic value do help to a great extent; however, their significance is overruled by particular world-views; for instance, the non-dualist view admits neither the reality of the phenomenal world nor the effability (able to be expressed in words) of ultimate reality; thus, disannulling all the above stated tests of truth. But none of the views can violate the fundamental laws of logic without violating themselves. For instance, the law of non-contradiction doesn’t exist, I at the same time deny myself the right to make such a statement since by making that statement I assume that its contradictory statement “the law of non-contradiction” exists is false. But to accept such opposites is to assume the law of non-contradiction which was being denied earlier. Thus, this law is inescapable. Even if someone said that knowledge is not mental but transcends the logical limits of the mind and so cannot be expressed in language, such assertion itself assumes the law of non-contradiction; thus, the fundamental nature of rational rules is established.

Inconsistency or incoherence within the framework due to an acquirement or realization of a particular truth can cause doubt eventually leading to a faith-crisis. This faith-crisis is helpful, if accompanied by honesty, to revolutionize one’s way of thinking. However, one may also choose to be committed to the prior belief-system and reject the truth that now presents to him by suppressing it or trying to destroy it. But when mixed with truthfulness (honesty), faith-crisis can lead to truth. Thus, doubt when accompanied by a will-to-meaning propels investigation and facilitates openness to truth.

Rationality of belief is a fundamental responsibility of man. For that determines the nature of his decisions. True faith is never irrational (i.e., in conflict with itself and in conflict with rational acceptability), though not limited by reason. Common faith, however, is quite different from the faith of God as will be seen. In fact, the faith of God is more rational (coherent to one’s framework of knowledge and convincing to the heart) than the rationality of other beliefs. That is the reason why the writer of Hebrews says that faith in God is substance and evidence; not just conjecture and interpretation.

Aristotelian Determinism: A Solution

Rational Analysis

  1. Truth is absolute, unchangeable, final.

  2. Future truth must also be absolute, unchangeable, and final.

  3. Therefore, future truth is necessary truth, not contingent.

Empirical Analysis

  1. In those things which are not continuously actual, potentiality is multi-directional.

  2. Therefore, events don’t occur of necessity.


  1. Truth value in future statements exists as potentiality and not as necessity, since it is quantified by the now.

  2. This means that, future statements are contingent upon time.

  3. Past statements, however, are necessarily true or false, since they belong to an actualized time.

  4. Truth value is inseparable from phenomenon; phenomenon is inseparable from time.


Amazing Love

Amazing love of Jesus
Never minding my scarlet stains,
He holds me up in His arms of glory
And covers my heart with His unfailing grace.

The sun may despise my heart of darkness
The moon from me may cover her face.
But never has His light once failed me,
He holds me up in His heart's embrace.

I'm wrong, not once I've fumed over
My heart in doubt His Name disgraced.
But still can I but love my Jesus,
My Lord, my friend, my only praise?

The stars above me hung in silence
As thoughts confusing marred my face.
Yet, deep within me was His assurance;
He'd love me through the end of days.

I'll doubt myself, my Lord I'll never
Who saved me by the cross of shame.
Each stripe He took, my soul delivered
Each drop of blood, my life reclaimed.

"...having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end" (John 13:1)

Does God Know the Future? Epistemic Concerns and Rational Fideism

From the Appendix of Epistemics of Divine Reality (2007, 2009), pp. 197-199.

Divine foreknowledge refers to God’s possession of the knowledge of future. The problem is whether God’s omniscience entails that He actually knows our future free actions. Rational fideism sees that the paradox is because of the distinct lines of rational and empirical epistemics by which theologians approach the issue. For instance, Norman Geisler in the rationalist way, and appealing to transcendence and infinity, argues that “An infinite, eternal God knows what we know but not in the way we know it. As an eternal being, God knows eternally.’ This kind of an approach, however, bears no meaning for an empiricist, since it refers to a non-empirical way of knowing. On the other hand, in the empirical way, Gregory A. Boyd has argued that God does not foreknow future free actions because there is ‘nothing definite there for God to know’. In other words, knowledge entails a subject-object relation. However, since future free actions do not exist at the present, there is no reason to suppose that God’s not knowing them implies He is not omniscient. He can only know what is really existent and future actions do not exist in relation to the present. This view, obviously, is a purely empirical approach to the problem. Thus, the problem of divine foreknowledge is a result of a clash of methodological perspectives: rational and empirical.

One way of solving this problem would be by asking whether knowledge is, in dimension, rational or empirical. If it is rational, then it must be in non-conflict with unity, transcendence, infinity, necessity, and immutability. However, if it is empirical, then it must be in non-conflict with plurality, immanence, finitude, contingency, and mutation. In the rational picture of God, knowledge is never thought as acquired, which assumes mutation. God doesn’t come to know. Knowledge is static and devoid of subject-object relation; which also means that there needn’t be anything definite there for God to know – He doesn’t come to know in a subject-object relation but as unity. Knowledge, thus, is static and uniform not dynamic and plural. In that sense, ‘foreknowledge’ is with reference to us, humans, and not with reference to the divine perspective. Devoid of the Revelation of God as a distinct reality from this-worldly-reality, however, this rationality of ultimate reality can mean that the Divine has no phenomenal knowledge (or delusion).

It may be noted from the discussion on the rationalist non-dualism that omniscience is not an attribute applicable to the non-dual Self in whom all subject-object distinctions cease; consequently, the delusive influence of phenomenal knowledge is obliterated. From that point of view, then, logically the Absolute can know nothing phenomenal. However, this non-dualistic nature of the non-dual cannot be applied to the Christian notion of the Godhead which, by grace of revelation, has been able to see the divine as triune. Revelation has shown that the Godhead is transcended to and not synonymous with this-worldly-reality. And so, phenomena need not be assumed as an illusion. Thus, as transcending phenomenal reality and yet being the hypostasis of it (of all spatio-temporal existence), it is not irrational to suppose that for God, all knowledge is coterminous. For instance, He doesn’t need to read a book page by page to know its contents: the knowledge of its contents are coterminous to Him.

In the empirical picture, however, knowledge is acquired. God does come to know. Knowledge is dynamic subject-object relation. The researcher believes that the statement ‘God saw that it was good’ (Genesis 1: 10) must be seen in the empirical perspective and not in the rational perspective. Does this mean that God cannot foreknow? Obviously not, for the rational dimension is uniform with knowledge. Then in what way is divine foreknowledge to be understood? How can God know and still come to know? The answer is that God knows in the non-temporal sense (as the transcendent hypostasis of temporality) and comes to know in the temporal sense (as immanent to temporality).

But, it may be argued that time does not exist apart from events; then in what sense can God be the ground of temporality and of the temporal events in a way that the events are coterminous to Him, even before the events come to be? The answer is that since all events, including free actions, are contingent upon the necessary being of God, and the being of God is essentially a unity (spatio-temporal divisibility being inapplicable to it); therefore, at least rationally speaking, contingent reality is never accidental to God. They are only accidental empirically speaking. Thus, from the contingent viewpoint of human reality, all events in the world are accidental. From the viewpoint of divine reality, all events in the world are not accidental. Does this mean that humans do not have freewill? Obviously, not. For contingency doesn’t imply determinism. And of course, in the statement that ‘God knows world-events, including human free actions, as coterminous,’ it is implied that God knows it not as something He determines to be but something as it is, i.e., coterminous. The rational part of the argument may this far suffice.

However, the empirical part of the argument cannot be ignored. God is not just beyond the world but also within the world. Revelation tells us that He is not just immutable but also dynamic. He creates, destroys, informs, interferes, and saves. The biblical God is not the unconcerned, inactive homogenous reality ‘out there.’ He is a God with whom men have talked, walked, and had relations. This God is a person; a tri-personality. He listens to the cries of the poor and answers out of the whirlwind. He is the God of silence and the God of thunder. He is the God of human experience. He knows all things; yet seeks the true worshippers. He rejoices and gets grieved. Obviously, He is the God of paradoxes; but in Him, all paradoxes turn to ‘wonder’ and ‘awe’, into ‘worship’ and ‘adoration’. Because, in His rationality and relationality does one find order and harmony for the human heart, a heart that is torn between the eternal and the temporal, a heart that can only find rest and solace in the arms of the eternal and yet personal and living God.

See Time Theories and the Limits of Reason

Epistemic Foundations of Religious Worldviews

Man's attempt to understand himself and his world around him can be divided into three ways:

1. The way of authority. Much of what we know is based on this secondary source of information. Newspapers, books, teachers, TV shows, social consensus, religious authority, Scriptures, etc are few examples of this. We have epistemic value tags for any given source claiming authority of knowledge. For instance, one might rate a popular newspaper as more credible than a not-so-popular newspaper. Some Indian schools of philosophy do not consider it right for Scriptural revelation to be treated at par with these other secondary sources (some even consider authority as subject to the way of reason for including interpretation, which is a way of reasoning).
2. The way of experience. This refers to sense-experience and also includes the mystic experience in the Indian philosophical classification (the word pratyaksha refers to direct or immediate perception).
3. The way of reason. Arithmetic and geometry as a science do not need an exploration of the world. These are rational sciences which possess the nature of exactitude and universality. 2+2=4 doesn't change on moon and is not expected to change in 2020. The laws of logic, similarly, are examples of unalterable, self-evident truths.

Religious philosophies or perspectives regarding ultimate concerns in the world may be divided into the following three schemes accordingly:
1. Revelational Perspectives that claim to be based on authority and faith.
2. Empirical Perspectives that are based on experience and adhere to the scheme plurality-immanence-contingency-finitude-process.
3. Rational Perspectives that seek for exactitude and adhere to the scheme unity-transcendence-necessity-infinity-immutability.

A detailed exposition of each of these schemes and their foundational contribution to the development of world-views is given in Epistemics of Divine Reality (e-version only, 2007). It attempts to look at the epistemic foundations of religious philosophies and theologies and evaluates the noetic infrastructure of world-views such as polytheism, pantheism, monism, and monotheism.

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