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Ultimate Questions

Discussion in 'Reformed Book Review Room' started by Jon_, Aug 8, 2005.

  1. Jon_

    Jon_ Senior Veteran

    Ultimate Questions, by Vicent Cheung of Reformed Minstries International (RMI: www.rmiweb.org), is one of the best books I have ever read. Ever. It should, then, come as a surprise that this book is a quick read at only 70 pages. It should not be assumed to be an easy read, however, as Cheung has many profound and mediatory things to say. One read will likely not be enough to fully grasp the whole of what Cheung delivers. The book can be downloaded for free here: http://www.rmiweb.org/books/ultimate2004.pdf.

    The entire book reads like a script for Reformed apologetics. Not only does Cheung incorporate rock-solid presuppositional apologetics and the transcendental argument for the existence of God (TAG), but he also establishes all of the necessarily philosophical components to validate God and Scripture as the first principle of the Christian faith.

    He begins with a treatise on Scripture and it's unyielding infallibility. He asserts that Scripture is the only just basis we have for believing anything, and that this is true not only of Christians, but for non-Christians as well. Most of what is written in this regard will sound familiar to presuppositionalists, but it should be noted that Calvin echoed many of Cheung's same sentiments in his Institutes.

    From here, Cheung launches into the thrust of the book's material, which is the philosophical basis for Reformed theology. Since our philosophical system determines our theology, it is natural that Cheung should start here. He first begins by justifying the application of philosophy in an environment were "Christian Philosophy" is viewed as a contradiction in terms. He then launches into an attack against anti-intellectualism and the irrational conclusions it necessitates. He rounds out the section and transition into his logos doctrine by affirming all Christians that they needn't fear the wisdom of the world because such "wisdom" is foolishness when faced with the Lord's truth.

    Cheung's logos doctrine is as good as any summation I have seen and probably even more so because of the brevity and magnificence with which it is presented. Not only is Cheung biblically correct with his arguments, but he incorporates them into the apologetic's arsenal very well, by expounding on the core relationships between the logos and things such as metaphysics and epistemology.

    On metaphysics, Cheung delivers an invincible argument against atheistic and non-Christian arguments. The Gospel of John provides all the evidence necessary, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (1:3 KJV). All created (God alone being uncreated) things--material and immaterial--were made through Jesus Christ, the Logos. In Greek, logos not only means "word," which is how it is traditionally rendered in these passages of John, but it also means "logic, reason, wisdom," etc. It is just as faithfully correct to translate v. 1, "In the beginning was the Logic, and the Logic was with God, and the Logic was God." Though the poetic effect of the verse is a bit lost in this rendering, the truth it conveys is nevertheless uncompromised. God, by way of his Logic (his Son), created everything. Furthermore, these things are also sustained by God, and therefore operate logically. Man, in receiving the image of God, receiving the ability to think logically, though this finitely. And while the noetic effects of sin have distorted man's ability to accurately deduce the source of this blessed gift, he is nonetheless bound to the innate knowledge of reasonability, even when he outright denies it.

    In metaphysics, Cheung has built the foundation for Christian epistemology, and while many of his arguments may seem radical (for instance, his denial of empirical observation as being in anywise conclusive), they are in fact, quite logical. For example, Cheung argues that nothing can be proven by empirical observation. A man may point at an apple and say "apple," but how should this be understood philosophically? The act of pointing at the apple and saying "apple" could be construed to mean an infinite number of things. It might mean the act of pointing means "apple." It might be that all fruit is an "apple." It might be that all things red are "apples." It might be that pointing is an "apple." It might be that an "apple" is the act of pointing at the apple, instead of the apple being the thing itself. In short, there are an infinite number of inferences that can be made from empirical observations. Since it is impossible to prove an infinite number of things, it is impossible to prove anything empirically. Instead, Cheung argues that knowledge is obtained solely through God and is conveyed to the immaterial soul (which, Cheung argues, is the same as our mind and our "heart") by occasion of sensation, and not by the senses themselves. That is, the material body reacts physically to the senses, but it is in fact God that conveys finite knowledge of what those sensations should mean. In this argument, Cheung completely addresses the age old philosophical problem of how an immaterial mind can interact with a material body. Applied in the reverse, we see that God actually facilitates the actions of our bodies by occasion of our thoughts as explained in Cheung's metaphysical argument. So, in both cases, we think and God enables us to act, and we feel (or sense) and God imputes to us knowledge of the event.

    The section on ethics is one with which every Christian reader will identify. It argues that God alone is the source of moral obligation and this because God is a moral entity. God is good and as such, he requires that we also be good. Every man since Adam inherently knows right from wrong, although the noetic effects of sin occasionally dampen or outright deaden this sensitivity, this in nowise exempts the man from responsibility for his actions.

    This then leads to Cheung's section on soteriology. Of course, none of these biblical arguments will work for any unbiblical soteriological system. Therefore, Cheung argues from an orthodox Calvinist position, the only logically possible soteriological system. By showing that it is by God's grace that all things were created, are sustained and facilitated, and by his grace that men are able to know anything, including himself, and that all men have inherent knowledge of good and evil, but nonetheless choose only evil, Cheung concludes that it is only, again, by God's grace, that men are saved. The illogical arguments of the Arminians are easily smashed in showing that their god cannot be sovereign for his will is frustrated by his creatures. The arguments of agnostic humanists that God cannot exist because sin exists are smashed in showing that God is willing that the reprobate should exist, so that his mercy toward the elect should be much more magnified. The charges of God being evil for such a demonstration are thoroughly repudiated in that God is justified in doing whatsoever he pleases, and that since the humanists deny the very basis upon which any knowledge concerning God can be found, viz. the Scriptures, they have no logical right to even make such an argument because their moralistic codes are unbiblical, and thus, unapplicable to God. The same arguments can be used against the Arminian detractors that say the Calvinist God is not loving. These Arminians do not appeal to the biblical love of God, but to an humanistic presupposition of what love should be.

    Cheung then finishes his work by stepping through the dynamics of Calvinist soteriology, outlining the definition of the elect, and the processes by which they are summoned and preserved. Most of this will be familiar territory for Calvinist readers.

    In all, I found this book to be thoroughly educational and Scripturally sound, which is, of course, the most important aspect of any book. Readers are encouraged to consistently verify Cheung's arguments against the Word because he makes many radical revelations that could soon be dismissed. Nevertheless, these "radical ideas" are in fact presuppositions that we have taken for granted as Christians. The mere fact that they are being addressed directly is simply startling at first.

    The foundational knowledge that Cheung provides will help the Reformed to establish a solid foundation for the application of apologetics to their faith. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, summed up all the commandments in this way, "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength. . . ." In loving God with our minds we should endeavor to always seek to know more of him and more of his sovereign plan for our lives. In studying apologetics, we learn ever more the logical and rational basis for our faith that we were incapable of accepting before regeneration by the Holy Spirit. These arguments, while in and of themselves are incapable of converting the unregenerate, are nevertheless effective in silencing the critics of Christianity, or at least in embarrassing them for their worldly "wisdom." In solid Christian philosophy we have the capability of revealing the wicked for their folly and we should do precisely that, for it is sinners to whom the Gospel message is extended, and those who do not first acknowledge themselves as sinners will not hear the Words of Christ.

    Soli Deo Gloria

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