drawing an inference from a lesser case with even greater force or conviction when applied to a greater case.
knowledge formulated after experience or observation. Reasoning which starts with observed facts and reasons to general conclusions. See comments under “inductive.”
a kind of knowledge which is before “experience” and forms the basis for deductive reasoning; innate, intuitive or revealed knowledge. Reasoning which does not depend upon sense experience. The Christian’s a priori is the set of propositions given in the Scripture which corresponds to the innate knowledge of God and law within man.
to abolish or nullify a law.
without limitations or qualifications. An “absolute standard” is a standard that applies universally.
Abusive ad Hominem Argument
A logical fallacy in which negative character traits in a person are used as reasons for rejecting the person’s argument. Example: “You shouldn’t believe x, because y, who believes x, is a murderer.” This is sometimes called “ad hominem,” and ad hominem is divided into that which is logical and that which is not. See ad hominem.
applies only to the particular case at hand or for this particular purpose.
Ad Hominem Argument
an argument which starts by accepting the propositions one is opposing in order to demonstrate to the person holding those propositions the contradictions or unacceptable conclusions that would result if one were to accept those propositions.
Ad Populum Argument
Latin meaning “to the people.” It is an informal logical fallacy which involves appeal to popular opinion to settle an argument.
“Altruism is to act with regard for others as a prime and consistent principle of action, in contrast to egoism which is to act systematically with regard to one’s own interests.”1
A word or phrase that can have more than one meaning.
the eschatological view that sees a parallel growth of Satan’s kingdom and Christ’s kingdom, and believes that before the return of Christ there will be no literal or non-literal millennium of world-wide peace, prosperity and success of the Gospel. Like Postmillennialism (but unlike premillennialism), there will be a general resurrection at the end of history and a general judgment of all mankind.
the theological view which holds that no one is obliged to obey the moral law.
The theological discipline which seeks to give a rational defense of the Christian faith and world and life view.
the ethical view that holiness is achieved by abstinence from bodily comforts and pleasures (such as sex, sleep, food, etc.).
Describes the fact that God is not dependent in any way upon the created order. He is wholly self-sufficient and independent. This has a bearing upon ethics because holiness and justice must be defined by who God is or else God becomes dependent upon something outside of Himself. God does not command x because it is holy independently of Him. He commands x because of who He is, and x reflects His holiness or justice.
independence for outside authority.
A first principle or premise (in Greek - stoiceia), which, because it is first and is being presupposed, does not need to be demonstrated. It is the basis for all argument and demonstration. Every system of ethics has axioms. Christian ethics starts with all the propositions of the Bible as its set of axioms. We have the advantage of having infallible axioms given by God Himself.
A truth which is so fundamental, that it doesn’t need demonstrating; it has the character of an axiom.
an approach to theology which asks, “What can we learn about ‘x’ from the history of God’s dealings with man from creation to the closing of the Canon?” (By way of contrast compare systematic theology, exegetical theology, historical theology.)
(synonyms or closely related terms: typological law, restorative law, redemptive law, laws of separation)
Those Old Covenant commandments which taught Israel about redemption and separation from the world. None of these commandments are intrinsically moral, even though it is a moral imperative to obey anything that God commands. Whereas moral law is eternal and reflects God’s holiness and justice, ceremonial law pictures God’s redemption, mercy and grace.
As used in this course, the lack of change between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Contradiction, Law of
The foundational principle of rationality which says that a proposition cannot be both true and untrue at one and the same time. “A” cannot be both “A” and “not A” at one and the same time.
In non-Christian systems it is anything which the state forbids or enforces by way of penal sanction.
In Biblical ethics it is a sin to which the Bible attaches a penal sanction.
Governments are not authorized to make all sins crimes. See penal sanction.
God’s mandate that man take dominion over the earth by replenishing and subduing and ordering all things to His glory.
The view that ethics is continually changing with the culture, and that ethics is determined by a society’s attitudes. Thus right and wrong, justice and injustice cannot be defined cross-culturally, but must be seen as unique to a given culture at a given time.
Reasoning which begins with a premise and logically deduces the conclusions from the premise.
The view of ethics that is concerned with rules. This is an ethic of duty and law. These rules may be derived from the “forms” above history (Plato’s Formalism), from our conscience (Butler), from Reason (Kant’s Rationalism), from intuition (Reid’s common sense school) or from an inspired source book (Biblical ethics). But in each case the desire is to have a universal standard that can be appealed to, and deontological ethics stresses the self-evident nature of what is right as revealed by reason, intuition or moral sense. Typical language that is found in such systems: “You ought to do x.” “I am obliged to do x.” “It is our duty to do x.” These ethical systems will contend that it is possible for an action to be morally right even if it leads to disastrous consequences.
In Biblical ethics, there is a recognition that more than abstract norms are given by God. God’s ethics is broad enough and specific enough to be able to take into account the individual and his unique environment but still be universal in applicability. This is a feat which no non-Biblical system can do. For a definition of this perspective, see Normative Perspective.
the belief that there are no contingent events in the universe. In non-Christian philosophy the view that all reality is determined by some law or principle in the universe. For the Christian it is the view that all of reality is determined by God’s predestination and Providence.
As used in this course, it applies only to changes that have been made by God as the church moved from the Old Testament period to the New Testament period. We are not using the term in its philosophical sense of indeterminism or contingency.
a unique administration of God’s covenant with man in a particular age. Old Dispensation and Old Covenant are used interchangeably even though covenant refers to the mutually binding compact between the Sovereign Lord and His people, and dispensation refers to the administration of that covenant.
a modern system of theology which holds that God has two distinct peoples, and two distinct purposes in history: an earthly people (Israel) with an earthly purpose, and a heavenly people (the church) with a heavenly purpose. This sharp cleavage means that ethical principles from the Old Testament (and for some even in the Gospels) are irrelevant to the Christian since they were addressed to a different people and had a different purpose. This theory radically affects not only ethics, but one’s view of church, culture, eschatology, and other theological issues.
An ethical theory that is concerned primarily with the intent of one’s heart, with whether a person has acted sincerely or acted in freedom. The focus is on the person rather than the rules or the results. It has to do with motives and attitudes. Dispositional theories will often stress that the rules obeyed and the results achieved are immaterial (and even wrong) if I am an inauthentic automan in the process. This is sometimes called existentialist ethics. Ethical behavior is seen as an expression of human freedom (Jean-Paul Sartre; M. Heidegger, K. Jaspers)
(synonyms used in this course: personalist perspective, existential perspective, motivational perspective.) In Biblical ethics the dispositional perspective does not determine the norm (as in non-Biblical ethics), but is one facet of ethics that the Bible informs. The Bible tells us what our motives and attitudes should be like. It describes man’s moral make-up (such as conscience, natural revelation, etc.). It tells us the relation of the Holy Spirit to our being. It describes man’s bondage and freedom, and other moral categories.
The three Persons of the Trinity considered in their relationship with the creation. Contrast this with the Ontological Trinity.
equivalent to order, administration or function. “The old economy” is often similar in denotation to “the Old Covenant.”
“Egoism is the theory that one’s own good either is or ought to be the sole motive operative in human choice.”2
The theory of knowledge which holds that all knowledge is based on the data acquired by the senses. It denies the possibility of innate knowledge.
the investigation of the origin, structure and validity of knowledge.
- ambiguous in meaning.
- a logical fallacy in which the same term is used in different ways in a syllogism.
In apologetics there are some (like Van Til) who say that all knowledge is equivocal (different from Gods). They argue that the same predicate cannot be attributed to both God and man in the same way. The ability to communicate and to reason is lost if equivocism is affirmed. See univocal.
From the perspective of the Old Testament, it is God’s plan for the future (“last things”) which can relate to redemption (the establishment and administration of Christ’s present mediatorial kingdom), to judgment (Christ’s return, the resurrection, the final resurrection and the eternal state of punishment or reward).
the study of standards of conduct and moral judgment; the study of right and wrong. Biblical ethics is “The study of what God’s Word says about ‘x’ (‘x’ being any topic) and deducing good and necessary consequences with the view to determining what past and present persons, acts and attitudes receive God’s blessings through obedience and which ones receive God’s judgments through disobedience”
the system of apologetics which believes that Christians should prove the existence of God (or the resurrection, or that Scripture is the Word of God, etc.) using an empirical method. The argues from sensory experience to God by various theistic proofs (such as the cosmological argument).
Ex Post Facto
applied after the fact. An ex post facto law would be a law that was made and applied to a crime after the crime had been committed. (The Bible forbids such an injustice.)
An approach to theology which asks, “What can we learn about ‘x’ from this passage?” This deals with the detailed study of the linguistic and grammatical meaning of specific texts in their context. By way of contrast, compare systematic theology, biblical theology and historical theology.
see dispositional ethics.
the saving grace which enables the elect sinner to understand, believe and appropriate the Word of God.
a mistake in reasoning. There are formal and informal fallacies. See a logic text book for a listing of fallacies.
God’s knowledge of all things before they happen. Since God does not grow in knowledge, this is a knowledge of His plan. Reformed theologians have traditionally distinguished between God's knowledge of the possible (sometimes called scientia intelligentiae or scientia simplex) and God's knowledge of the actual ( sometimes called "free" knowledge or scientia visionis). Both of these forms of knowledge can be seen to be based upon the nature of God Himself. God knows all things actual because He knows what He has decreed or purposed (Acts 15:18; Job 28:26-27 - "When He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning to thunder: then did He see it, and declare it... [KJV]; Psalm 139; ). God knows all things possible because He knows what His power and other attributes could effect (Jer. 38:17-20; Ez. 3:6).
God’s sovereign and eternal decree concerning all things in creation.
General Equity of the Law
As used by the Confession of Faith, it refers to the underlying principle or intent of a law minus its cultural expresion.
The innate knowledge of God and His law given by God to every man, woman and child. This axiomatic knowledge of God’s existence and attributes, including His holiness, justice and goodness, leaves men without excuse.
the final stage of salvation by which the sinner passes into the very presence of God and is forever freed from every vestige of sin.
a particular method of interpreting Scripture. Not all hermeneutics is Biblical.
a study of the development of the church’s understanding about ‘x’ over the course of history. By way of contrast compare systematic theology, biblical theology and exegetical theology.
studying particular evidences one by one in order to arrive at a generalization. Unless a person was omniscient (knowing every fact) he could not arrive at a valid conclusion from induction. But if he was omniscient, he wouldn’t need induction.
the Biblical teaching that the Word of God is free from all error. "Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives."3
the teaching that the Bible is without any defect; that it is inerrent; that it always accomplishes that which God intended it to accomplish.
that knowledge which is inborn.
a Jewish heretical group that sought to bring the church into conformity with the ceremonial law and/or sought to impose ceremonial and moral law as a means of salvation.
those moral laws which reflect God’s justice as it was supposed to be administered in the political arena.
the act of God by which He declares elect sinners to be innocent of sin and having the full and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ which is imputed to them.
Laws of Separation
see ceremonial law.
The view of ethics which says that all laws are merely the commands of the state. Something is evil simply because the state forbids it. By definition, no law can be immoral if the state imposes it.
- the view that one is saved by the merit of law keeping
- ethical systems that add to God’s law
- the view that one must keep the ceremonial laws today
the science of necessary inference. Logic is not an arbitrary convention, but is part of the mind of God and is imbedded in Scripture and in the image of God in man. To the extent that we are illogical, we are not thinking God’s thoughts after Him. See “Logos.”
A Greek word meaning “word,” “reason,” “ratio,” “logic,” “speech,” and “communication.” Scripture affirms that the Logos enlightened every man who comes into the world (John 1). This is the explanation of why logic is a universal, and why babies appear to use the same rules for language acquisition in any country. This explains why men are able to communicate with each other and to understand the language of Scripture. Apart from innate knowledge and abilities, these things are a mystery.
in logic this is the premise of a syllogism that contains the major term.
In logic this is the predicate of the conclusion of an inference.
The branch of philosophy which deals with a theory of being or existence.
In logic this is the term that appears in both premises of a syllogism, but is not in the conclusion.
In logic this is the premise of a syllogism that contains the minor term.
In logic this is the subject of the conclusion of an inference.
see dispositional perspective.
that theory of evidentialist apologetics that says there is a true general revelation of God “out there” that it is possible for man to discover without the aid of innate knowledge and without the aid of special revelation.
relating to the intellect. The “noetic effects of sin” or “the noetic effects of the Fall” are those ways in which man’s rationality has been corrupted. This includes man’s ability at self-deception, man’s willful unbelief as well as mistakes that are made in math and logic.
The normative perspective of Biblical ethics complements the dispositional and teleological perspectives. The normative perspective answers questions such as: Is ethics independent of God? What is the nature of authority and obligation? What constitutes revelation? Are the Scriptures sufficient for ethics? Are ethical norms immutable? How does God’s sovereignty relate to ethics? Thus it looks at the nature of norms.
A Standard that is independent of our thoughts or feelings.
the three Persons of the Trinity considered in their inter-Trinitarian relationship apart from any relation to creation. Contrast this with the “Economical Trinity.”
the traditional doctrines of the church as expressed in the creeds.
a contradictory or seemingly contradictory statement. There are no truly contradictory statements in Scripture. Dr. Gordon Clark defined the so-called Biblical paradoxes as “a charley-horse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage.”4
characterized by an ability to teach, instruct, educate or direct a person to Christ.
a coercive civil punishment. In Biblical ethics, this threat of punishment is imposed upon those who violate God’s civil statutes, and it reflects the justice of God. Not all sins are crimes. See crime.
the study of or the theory of punishment, especially the penal sanctions of the state.
a Jewish cult which prided itself in strict adherence to Biblical law and (more importantly) to rabbinical tradition. Pharisees tended to focus only on the external and trifling details of the law and to ignore the Personalist and Teleological dimensions.
a view of civil policy that seeks to protect the rights of all conflicting viewpoints in a society, and seeks not to favor any one particular philosophy, religion or party-line. By nature complete pluralism is impossible since the “rights” of one party frequently conflict with the “rights” of another party. For example, if the rights of Molech worshippers to worship freely were granted, then one would have to remove from the books laws banning child abuse and child murder. The rights of the child would conflict with the so-rights of the Molech worshippers.
the eschatological view that Christ will return “after the millennium” (whether the 1000 years of Revelation 20 is viewed literally or figuratively); during this millennium Christ’s kingdom will progressively grow and Satan’s kingdom will diminish through the evangelization and discipleship of the world until there is a visible, world-wide success of the Gospel before Christ comes at the general resurrection and judgment of mankind and ushers in the eternal state.
“Pragmatism is a behaviorist theory of thinking and knowing.” (Dewey) Moral principles exist, but they are not absolute or universal. Rather they are evolving ways of problem solving. The only justification a pragmatist needs is that the method works.
God’s sovereign and eternal purpose by which He chose some to eternal life and reprobated others to hell.
the eschatological view that Christ will return before a literal 1000 year period of Christ’s reign on earth; the resurrection of saints will occur before the millennium, and the resurrection of unbelievers after the resurrection. Immediately prior to the millennium there will be a seven year period of tribulation, after which Christ will destroy the rebellious nations, usher in a time of military rule over the remaining nations, with Israel having the ascendancy and Christ ruling from Jerusalem.
the system of apologetics which takes the existence of God and all the propositions of the Scripture as the axiomatic starting point for all proof and all knowledge. All systems of thought are presuppositional in nature, but not all are willing to acknowledge their presupposition. Presuppositionalism does not seek to prove the truthfulness of its axioms (by definition impossible). Rather it seeks to argue both the consistency of Biblical Christianity and the impossibility of any other starting point than the Scriptures and the impossibility of any other system of thought than Biblical Christianity.
on first appearance.
a declarative sentence; a verbal expression by which the predicate affirms or denies something about the subject.
the sovereign work of God by which He governs, sustains and preserves all things for His glory.
those ceremonial laws that mandated outward cleanliness (e.g.., rituals related to defilement by blood, etc., disfigurement laws, leprosy, etc.). These were not abiding moral principles but taught Israel about the redemption of Christ and the purification of believers from sin by His grace. See ceremonial law.
non-Biblical rationalism is a method of philosophy based upon the self-sufficiency of reason. While Biblical Philosophy is not irrational, it is not rationalistic in the sense that logic is all we need. Logic is important, but without the revelation of God, we do not have sufficient axioms to develop a comprehensive world and life view. Biblical philosophy is Biblical and rational.
The historical events which prepared for, accomplished, and applied the redemption of Christ. This occurred provisionally in the Old Covenant and will be fully and finally realized in the new heavens and new earth. Thus redemptive history covers the whole span of history viewed from the perspective of Christ’s redemption.
see ceremonial law.
Characterized by agreement with the teachings of the Protestant Reformation. However, the term is often used to distinguish Lutheran teachings from Swiss and Calvinistic teachings of worship, polity, civics, ethics, etc.
the work of the Holy Spirit by which He changes and prepares the heart of the elect sinner to understand, believe and appropriate the Scriptures by faith. Regeneration is described in Scripture as a new creation (Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 4:6), a new birth (John 3:5; 1:3; Tit. 3:5), replacing a stony heart with a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26; Jer. 24:7), opening the eyes of the blind (2 Cor. 4:6), and translation out of dark and into light (Col. 1:13).
the view that what is right and wrong is not absolute, but changing. See cultural relativism.
God’s sovereign and eternal decree to condemn some to hell. (This is one facet of predestination.)
see ceremonial law. This label emphasizes the purpose of these ceremonial laws to restore people to a right relationship with God and to keep them in that right relationship (separated from the world).
Retribution (retribute, retributive)
Deserved punishment for an evil that is done. This punishment can be in this life (civil penalties) or in the life to come (eternal punishment).
those ceremonial laws which regulated temple sacrifices and offerings by which atonement and cleansing was made by the priest. See ceremonial law.
God’s gracious work in the elect sinner by which he is enabled to progressively die to sin and live to righteousness.
Those ceremonial laws which symbolized the need to separate from sin and from the world. See ceremonial law.
- A synonym for Teleological ethics.
- A label for Joseph Fletcher’s system of ethics by which “love” (undefined) is the only norm, and all ethical decisions are made upon the determination of what would be the loving thing to do for another person. Unfortunately, “love” is not defined as the Bible defines it and thus situational ethics has been used to justify every imaginable form of evil.
A Latin expression meaning “faith alone.” This is not affirming that God’s Spirit does not give any other graces, but that the gift of faith is all that is required to receive our justification.
A Latin expression meaning “grace alone.” God’s grace is the only ground for salvation in all of its dimensions.
A Latin expression meaning “Scripture alone.” The Scriptures are sufficient to make the man of God complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Soli deo Gloria
A Latin expression meaning “to God’s glory alone.” There are many things (including ethical systems) which seek to rob God of His glory. All of life (and all of ethics) must glorify God or it is in rebellion to God.
A Latin expression meaning “Christ alone.” We need no other mediator than the Lord Jesus Christ. His work is a sufficient ground for salvation.
see contrast with standing law.
In contrast to natural revelation (which is implanted in every man woman and child) special revelation is God’s verbal communication by means of vision, dream, prophetic utterance and Scripture. This came to man over a period of some 1500 years, but now that the canon of Scripture is closed, the Bible is the only form of special revelation we have today.
Laws which were intended for Israel’s normal course of affairs (such as “do not kill,” “the sorceress shall be put to death,” “by the hand of two or three witnesses,” etc.). This is in contrast to special law which gives particular directions to an individual or nation for a specific period of time (God telling Moses to go up Mount Sinai, God telling Israel to exterminate the Canaanites without trying them in court, etc.).
an ethical theory built squarely on the logical fallacy of the ad populum argument: moral values are based on what the majority think.
the view of ethics that says that truth or morality are an individual’s personal feelings and that they therefore do not have an objective character and cannot be imposed upon others.
an argument composed of a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion, with the predicate and conclusion in one, the subject of the conclusion in another, and a third term in the two premises. There are 256 syllogisms. (See Gordon Clark, Logic., pages 59-60 for a more complete definition.)
see ceremonial law.
an approach to theology which asks, “What does the whole Bible teach me about ‘x’?” By way of contrast compare biblical theology, exegetical theology and historical theology.
(Synonyms used in this course: situational ethics, consequential ethics.) The non-Biblical theories of ethics which are most concerned with consequences, and what facts in a situation will determine a course of action. Considerations of moral value carry more weight than moral obligation. The statement that “x is good” means that “x is most likely to produce the best consequences.”
(Synonyms used in this course: situational perspective, consequential perspective, the goal of ethics.) In Biblical ethics the teleological perspective does not determine the norm (as in non-Biblical systems), but is one facet of ethics that the Bible informs. Teleology is the Bible’s description of our situation, our goals and the consequences of our actions which gives specificity and context to the norms of Scripture. It gives us hope for example, by proving that God’s providence is always consistent with His commandments (1 Cor. 10:13) and by explaining that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). It integrates the norms with God’s descriptions of our environment, the unseen realm of angels, eschatology and other teleological factors.
the systematic study of the doctrine of God.
Literally it means “God’s law,” but has come to describe a particular view of God’s law. Traditional Reformed thought (such as the Westminster Confession of Faith) is theonomic in the sense that it 1) affirms God’s Lordship over every area of life, including the state, 2) denies any area of neutrality, 3) affirms the continuing normativity of all moral law, both Old Testament and New Testament. However, this term has come to mean different things to different people. In this course, “Theonomy” refers to the views of Greg Bahnsen and R. J. Rushdoony where they overlap. (There are differences amongst many who label themselves “theonomists.”)
the Biblical teaching that man’s total being has been corrupted by sin (not that man cannot get any worse than he presently is). Man apart from grace cannot please God in anything that he does. He is spiritually dead and unable to respond appropriately to God. He is a slave to sin and to Satan.
that which goes beyond the created order (including man) and which is above time and history. God is transcendent in that He has no need of us, is separate from the creation, is unique, and is sovereign. I sometimes use the word “transcendent” to refer to pagan thought that makes something outside of our sensory experience and which exists above history the basis for ethics.
see ceremonial law. Typological law was law that was intended to foreshadow (foretell by way of type or picture) a later historical situation.
having one meaning.
- Those who have not been born again or spiritually renewed by God’s grace.
- Anything that pertains to the natural man who is lost in the bondage of sin and unable to understand the things of God.
“Utilitarianism is a system of ethical philosophy in which the moral order is based on the useful as the source and standard of good, law, and virtue...From the aspect of the subject to which the useful is directed, utilitarianism may be egoistical (individual) or altruistical (social)... From the aspect of the type of good which constitutes the useful, a vast array of utilitarian systems corresponds to the diverse scales of human values as they are generally sought for in life... Strict utilitarianism limits the useful to the present life and economic order.”5
a logically sound argument by which the conclusion necessarily results from the premises. For details on what makes for a valid argument, see Gordon Clark, Logic, or some other Logic text book.
The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechism, the drafting of which was requested by the English parliament, and which were composed in 1643-1647. These have served as the “subordinate standards” for Presbyterianism.
R.K. Harrison, ed., Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), article “Altruism.” ↩
Gordon Clark, Essays on Ethics and Politics (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1992), p. 48. ↩
Statement at Council on Biblical Inerrancy signed by all evangelical participants in October, 1978. ↩
The Atonement, p. 32. ↩
Msgr. Pietro Pavan, in Roberti, Palazzini, Yannone, eds. Dictionary of Moral Theology Westminister, MD: The Newman Press, 1962), pp. 1262-1263. ↩