Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reply to Steve--Probably My Last Post on the Moral Argument against Calvnism

This is getting silly. These quotes were not designed to show who is right in the debate. They were not appeals to authority at all. They were designed to show that persons who allow a conception of divine goodness to govern their reading of Scripture and even to affect their acceptance of the doctrine of inerrancy can be serious and dedicated Christians, who have a clue as to what it means to be a Christian. I'm sure Calvnists think the Lewis passage and the Wesley passage were wrong. Wesley does engage in inflammatory anti-Calvinist rhetoric. But with him you suggest that he had a bad day, and is a better Christian than that most of the time. My point was not to agree with Wesley's rhetoric but to insist that you can't draw conclusions about someone's understanding of what it is to be a Christian on that basis. Unless you want to go the route of Calvinists who say that, for example, Lewis wasn't a real Christian.

Does Scripture actually teach not only that predestination is true, but also that those who use their conception of God's goodness to influence their theology and their reading of Scripture have no idea what it means to be a Christian?? Are all Christians inerrantists?

There are a lot of people like me. They love God, they are evangelicals, they may be inerrantists. They are energized first and foremost by a vision of God who loves everyone, and by everyone they mean simply everyone. You see, every time I get into an exegetical argument about Calvinism I usually end up saying "All means all," and the Calvinist says "well, it means from all groups, not all persons." To people like us, Calvinists are saying "OK you signed onto following Jesus and you think He loves everybody. But read the fine print." Shoot, a Calvinist can't even walk up to someone and say Jesus loves you and He died for you, because for any random individual person it is more probable that both those statements are false for them. For people like me, we look to Scripture to show us more deeply the loving God who sent Jesus. Believing Scripture isn't an end in itself, it is a means, a means to knowing this kind of a God. To be told that God is running an enormous puppet show with living breathing puppets who are going to be tortured forever at the end of he show, however "just" that may be in some sense, is, for people like me, horrifying. (I know this is not how Calvinists would put it, but that is how the picture appears to me to be, however it might be dressed up theologically). Further, it undermines the very reason we came to Scripture for guidance in the first place.

What you denigrate as mere "intuition" is based on a picture of God that is built up by what appears to be the teaching of numerous passages of Scripture. It also leaves us with a picture of God that resembles to a large extent the way humans ought to treat others. It doesn't use the creator-creature distinction to justify all sorts of conduct on God's part that in human contexts would be considered reprehensible.

If the vision of God's universal love is an illusion, it's nevertheless one that is undergirded, at least on the face of things, by many Scriptures. Just off the top of my head John 3:16 and the Prodigal Son come to my mind. But perhaps, we have been led up the garden path. We didn't do the exegesis, we didn't read the fine print on the Publisher's Clearinghouse letter that said God loves you and everyone else.

I have heard defending this vision of God of God'a universal love ridiculed as "just a gut feeling", as even immature and childish. But God's love, on this vision, is anything but soft. It's tough as nails. But it's one thing to believe in tough love, it's another to believe in selective and apparently arbitrary love. I could fear and perhaps obey a Calvinistic God, but without brain surgery, I don't think I could love Him. For me. God's love for all human creatures and his earnest pursuit of their salvation is what inspires my devotion to Him.

This isn't a point-scoring contest. Although there are some issues related to Calvinism that interest me, (like Frankfurt arguments for compatibilism, and some exegetial matter as well), I am getting tired of this controversy. There are people who like to argue about Calvinism non-stop, on both sides. It's hard to back out and walk away once you start something, but I think maybe other people are better for this debate than me.

I simply think that Calvinists have a mistaken understanding of God. I would never say that Calvinists have no understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

C. S. Lewis rejected inerrancy, did not defend the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement (which, by the way, is hardly the majority view through most of the Church's history), and was certainly no Calvinist. His picture of hell certainly would not pass muster with Jonathan Edwards. It is certainly possible to go beyond just differing with him on these theological points to actually questioning his faith as a Christian.

66 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Shoot, a Calvinist can't even walk up to someone and say Jesus loves you and He died for you, because for any random individual person it is more probable that both those statements are false for them.

Perhaps this is true of some Calvinists, Victor; but not of Calvin himself, nor of myself, nor of many other Calvinists. Let's not get carried away...

Believing Scripture isn't an end in itself

Is that scriptural?

it is a means, a means to knowing this kind of a God. To be told that God is running an enormous puppet show with living breathing puppets who are going to be tortured forever at the end of he show, however "just" that may be in some sense, is, for people like me, horrifying. [...] Further, it undermines the very reason we came to Scripture for guidance in the first place.

Firstly, you admit that the reason you come to Scripture is to find your preconceived notion of God. By definition, you are therefore admitting that you don't come to Scripture to learn about God on his own terms, no matter how disturbing he might be to your humanistic moral intuitions (which many people, particularly in other parts of the world, don't share at all). You just want to find a loving God. In essence, you are setting up an idol. I don't say this lightly, but Victor, you are inventing a religion from the Bible. You are openly unwilling to accept a teaching from the Bible if it contradicts what you want to be true. That is not Christianity, and that is why people are questioning your knowledge of what it means to be a Christian.

Secondly, in line with this, you talk about the "picture of God that is built up by what appears to be the teaching of numerous passages of Scripture". I think it is quite clear to everyone by this stage that you are picking and choosing which passages you use to build up this picture. You conveniently omit passages such as I previously mentioned (Deuteronomy 7 and Joshua 6, for example), where another picture of God is presented just as plainly. You only want to think about the "good" passages. So again, you are deriving your own religion from the Bible and then calling it Christianity. Well, the Jehovah's Witnesses do that. Are they Christians? (Maybe that's not a wise question to ask; maybe you think they are.)

Ultimately, you seem to be saying, "Well, C S Lewis did it, so it must be okay." Well...huh? Do you have an infallible knowledge that C S Lewis was saved? And even if you do, which you don't, how do you know that he wasn't saved in spite of these glaring deficiencies in his faith? Maybe he barely made it because he so badly corrupted what it means to be a Christian. Who is a more influential role model for you; Lewis, or Jesus?

Victor, what will you do if the God of Calvinism is the true and living God? By your own admission you could not love him. By your own admission, if Calvinism is true, you are not saved; you are not a Christian. This being the case, and given how utterly every one of the numerous arguments you've proposed against Calvinism have failed; and given also what you say about how "there are lots of people like you"; I think you should carefully consider what Jesus said—about how there will be "lots of people" who say, "Lord, Lord" on the day of judgment, but to whom he will say, "I never knew you." I would ask you, not in a spirit of judgment or of condemnation, but out of a genuine concern for your spiritual destiny, to consider this very seriously.

Regards,
Bnonn

Victor Reppert said...

Do you honestly thing that anyone comes to Scripture from a neutral perspective? Because your view of God is unpopular in some circles you suppose that you base it on Scripture and only on Scripture. You bring just as many hermeneutical presuppositions to Scripture as I do.

I don't see how Calvinists avoid saying that you can't walk up to someone and say that Christ died for them. Unless you're a four-pointer and not a five-pointer.

What I describe about coming to Scripture just is the human condition.

I don't consider my concept of goodness humanistic at all. Humane maybe. Humanistic, no.

I trust in Christ as my savior. That's supposed to save me. If God wants to alter my viewpoints so as make it possible for me to love a Calvinistic God, you can count on him to get it done. Last I heard, God's grace was irresistible, according to Calvinist theology.

There are lots of holy books out there. What is it about Scripture that makes it authoritative. Leather covers? I take it that it would have to be inspiration by God. What does the word God mean? A being omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. Can Scripture shape my concept of good once I accept it? Of course. Can it appear to teach an immoral conception of God without raising questions about itself? Yes. Fortunately, I think the real God of Scripture really is perfectly good.

Everyone has to interpret their way around passages which are difficult for their own theologies. I don't care who you are. At least I don't have to limit the scope of all when it clearly isn't limited, and thereby do violence to the meaning of perfectly clear texts,

normajean said...

Hooo Ha! Amen!

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, I by no means claim that anyone comes to Scripture from a neutral perspective. But you have refused to engage in exegetical argumentation, and so the best I can do is obliquely critique your understanding of what Scripture is saying. Where have I ever claimed, or even implied, that because my theology is unpopular it is therefore scriptural? True, the Bible tells us that its doctrines will be unpopular, but that in no way proves that my theology is biblical. It might be that my theology is just ass. No, I have claimed that my theology is biblical because it is taught in the Bible. I know this based on exegesis. It is based on the fact that words have meanings which can be determined and understood. It is not based on moral intuitions or anything of that sort. But the only kinds of arguments you're willing to consider are philosophical, extra-scriptural ones. So that is the only avenue of critique you have allowed me.

I don't see how Calvinists avoid saying that you can't walk up to someone and say that Christ died for them. Unless you're a four-pointer and not a five-pointer.

I have been called this. I don't think it's an accurate description, because there is ambiguity in the term "limited". Limited in applicability, or limited in application? I believe the latter; I deny the former. Christ's sacrifice can, in principle, be applied to everyone. It is available. I can say to a man on the street that the payment for his sins is there to be appropriated. But then, you're just assuming that we must be able to say to people, "Christ died for you." Again, you aren't willing to exegetically defend your claim. Why do you think the gospel should be presented in this way? Why do you think this is what the gospel even is? I'm not saying you're wrong, necessarily, but you can hardly criticize Calvinists on this point on the basis of a mere assumption. You have to show that the way you want to present the gospel, the way they cannot do it, is actually the way it should be presented. And your moral intuition about the matter is not a valid basis for this.

Anyway, let it be noted for the record that I affirm that "all" means "all" in most cases; but I am not naive about it. "All" the Jews in Acts 26:4 does not mean all Jews ever, or even all the Jews living at that time, without exception. The word "all" is often quite exclusive, despite being intrinsically inclusive.

I don't consider my concept of goodness humanistic at all. Humane maybe. Humanistic, no.

Then allow me to respectfully suggest that you haven't considered your concept of goodness carefully enough—

humane adj. 1 : marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals 2 : characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture: humanistic [emphasis mine].

Victor, you seem happy to produce arguments against Calvinism. But you seem entirely less interested in (i) answering defenses of those arguments, and (ii) interacting with the many counter-arguments which have been offered. Now, if you just wanted to throw an argument out there and let people debate it among themselves, that would be fine. But you don't; you keep coming back with more material which appears to be intended to supplement or improve on what you've already said, and interact with counter-arguments. But in reality, none of this new material actually does that; and it gets quite frustrating. I presented some fairly thoughtful comments about God and goodness, and how you are mistreating goodness as a category. You don't seem to have any answer except to reiterate your previous statements—which I answered to begin with. Even my post above has been largely unanswered; you haven't actually engaged with many of the points I made, but rather have just posted a general disagreement which substitutes incredulity or irrelevant objections for real argumentation and rebuttal. This seems to be your modus operandi for discussion online, which is very strange for a philosophy professor. Paul has made the same comment, as I recall. You don't seem willing to follow the discussion along the path you've set it on. You just want to reiterate your intuitions as if they constitute sufficient justification for your position. It's like you skim-read our responses and then just jot down whatever general thoughts pop into your head. But this isn't philosophical discourse. To be frank, intentional or not, it's little more than trolling. If you only ever wanted to rant, then I suppose that's your prerogative; but you should have made it clear. You have to understand that when a man in your position presents something which he describes on his own terms as an argument against Calvinism, it is expected that if and when he responds, he will interact with criticisms of that argument, and be willing to refute counter-arguments or adjust his position. To just keep reiterating your general objections in lieu of careful interaction with the specific arguments raised, and quite obviously in lieu of any serious study of the position you claim to be critiquing...well, it's just lazy. It looks bad.

Regards,
Bnonn

Robert said...

I fully expected this kind of response from the calvinists. Bnonn makes statements that are problematic.

“Firstly, you admit that the reason you come to Scripture is to find your preconceived notion of God. By definition, you are therefore admitting that you don't come to Scripture to learn about God on his own terms,”

When I exegete the bible there are not passages saying that God had already predetermined everyone’s eternal destiny. It does say he foreknows everything, but foreknowing is not the same as predetermining. And speaking of taking God on his own terms, it is God who says that He desires the salvation of all men, that the Father gave the Son for the World (which is a group larger than all of those who will eventually believe), it is God who says that he allowed all to sin so that he could have mercy on all, etc. etc. It is because of what God himself says that the noncalvinist rejects calvinism.

“ no matter how disturbing he might be to your humanistic moral intuitions (which many people, particularly in other parts of the world, don't share at all).”

Victor’s intuitions are not “humanistic” but are in fact shared by noncalvinists (which is the vast majority of Christians) and even held by nonbelievers. Both bible believing Christians like myself as well as bible rejecting people like Loftus see the same problem: a person who predetermines eternal destinies of people and intentionally brings about all sin through nonbelievers and then judges them and condemns them for the sins he wanted them to commit and then eternally punishes them is not a good, or loving, or merciful, person. And this “omnipotent fiend” is definitely not the God who reveals himself in scripture.

“You just want to find a loving God.”

That is not hard to find when God himself says he is a loving God, and that He loved the world to give his son Jesus for that world. Jesus himself said he was being given for the world. You have to be blind not to read about it in the bible. Or you have to have a false theological man-invented system that negates what the bible says and forces you to reinterpret bible passages so that you can maintain your system and reject what the bible explicitly says.

“In essence, you are setting up an idol. I don't say this lightly, but Victor, you are inventing a religion from the Bible.”
It is the calvinist who creates a false conception of God, a conception that is thankfully rejected by most Christians across all denominational lines. The God who reveals himself in scripture is loving, merciful, good, just, righteous, holy, kind, etc. But then you see the God as conceived by calvinist theology and the two do not match. The God of calvinism does things the God of scripture would not do. Calvinists sometimes like to claim that noncalvinists invent things or believe what we want to believe rather than what the bible teaches. But this is not true, the bible does in fact include John 3:16 and other passages that support noncalvinism.

“You are openly unwilling to accept a teaching from the Bible if it contradicts what you want to be true. That is not Christianity, and that is why people are questioning your knowledge of what it means to be a Christian.”

The Christian is to submit to God’s word. But if God’s word says that He loves all and desires all to be saved and then we tell that to people, that goes against the calvinistic system where God only loves the elect and only desires to see the elect saved.

“Secondly, in line with this, you talk about the "picture of God that is built up by what appears to be the teaching of numerous passages of Scripture". I think it is quite clear to everyone by this stage that you are picking and choosing which passages you use to build up this picture.”

Again, a person merely reading through the bible will come to noncalvinist conclusions. People “convert” to calvinism after having been taught the system. Once the person holds the system he/she then seeks to prove the system and defend the system.

“You conveniently omit passages such as I previously mentioned (Deuteronomy 7 and Joshua 6, for example), where another picture of God is presented just as plainly. You only want to think about the "good" passages. So again, you are deriving your own religion from the Bible and then calling it Christianity.”

What do you mean “good” passages? It is all good if it is revelation from God which Christians believe it to be. We are blessed and fortunate that God has chosen to reveal himself to us through scripture. Some passages may be harder to understand, but it’s all good.

“Well, the Jehovah's Witnesses do that. Are they Christians? (Maybe that's not a wise question to ask; maybe you think they are.)”

Having dealt with JW’s who deny the trinity and the deity of Christ, etc. There are parallels with JW’s and calvinists. The JW becomes attached to a system of doctrine invented by man. They are then indoctrinated by their teachers to believe and maintain and defend the teachings of the Watchtower organization. Part of this training involves being prepared for what Christians will say about scripture. So the well trained ones already have stock responses in mind when you present bible passages that do in fact teach the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. The well trained calvinist also had stock responses to John 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2, etc. etc. The JW will **demand** a discussion that stays with the bible and nothing else. And yet every time you present the proper interpretation of the bible, they will say that you are wrong and that their interpretation is the right one. I am not saying Calvinists are cult members only drawing the parallel of how they defend their system and are trained to defend their system in a way very similar to the JW’s.

“Ultimately, you seem to be saying, "Well, C S Lewis did it, so it must be okay." Well...huh? Do you have an infallible knowledge that C S Lewis was saved?”

And do you have infallible knowledge that John Calvin was saved? Calvin taught his view of reprobation so it must be okay.

“And even if you do, which you don't, how do you know that he wasn't saved in spite of these glaring deficiencies in his faith? Maybe he barely made it because he so badly corrupted what it means to be a Christian.”

This exact same thing could be said of Calvin as well. To the noncalvinist the teachings of Calvin are evidence of “glaring deficiencies in his faith”.

“Who is a more influential role model for you; Lewis, or Jesus?”

Bnonn who is a more influential role model for you: Calvin, or Jesus?

“Victor, what will you do if the God of Calvinism is the true and living God?”

He could not be as the God of calvinism contradicts what the God of the bible says. Either God is as He says He is in the bible and calvinism which contradicts that is false or vice versa (or there is no God). Noncalvinists take the God of the bible over the conception of God as conceived by calvinists.

“By your own admission you could not love him. By your own admission, if Calvinism is true, you are not saved; you are not a Christian.”

Now here is a place where Bnonn really completely misses it. We are not saved by our beliefs about God’s sovereignty or our beliefs about salvation, we are saved if we are in fact in a personal relationship with the God of the bible and we trust Him to save us. And you can be saved and in relationship with this God even if you have some false beliefs. Bnonn suggests that if the conception of God as believed by calvinists is true, then someone like Victor who rejects this conception must then not be saved. This is false. And this is false from both directions. Say the God of the noncalvinists is the true God and calvinists are mistaken, the calvinist could still be a saved person if he had a personal relationship with the true God (and vice versa). It is really unfortunate that Bnonn could suggest this. But I am not surprised Steve Hays tried to pull this exact same thing with me (i.e., since I reject the calvinist conception of God, Hays says I am a false teacher and hell bound). I could be mistaken about my conception of God but that does not mean that I am not saved. Bnonn challenges Victor about the salvation of C. S. Lewis and the fact is that we don’t know infallibly whether or not another person is saved. We know what the bible says about how a Christian ought to live and if we don’t see them living out these things we have cause to wonder. But we do not, and cannot know the eternal destiny of another person. And those who claim to know and then make pronouncements about me not being saved or Victor not being saved exhibit extreme pride. And God hates pride and gives grace to the humble.

“This being the case, and given how utterly every one of the numerous arguments you've proposed against Calvinism have failed;”

This is an extreme exaggeration the numerous arguments have not all failed. Some are stronger than others, but they have not all failed.

“and given also what you say about how "there are lots of people like you"; I think you should carefully consider what Jesus said—about how there will be "lots of people" who say, "Lord, Lord" on the day of judgment, but to whom he will say, "I never knew you." I would ask you, not in a spirit of judgment or of condemnation, but out of a genuine concern for your spiritual destiny, to consider this very seriously.”

Now Bnonn is misinterpreting the bible and using one of the passages in the bible against Victor. The passage is from Matthew 7:21-23 and I know it quite well as I sometimes use it as my text when filling in for pastors. In the passage Jesus talks about people who claim to do great things in Jesus’ name (v.22), who claim to know Jesus in a personal way (v. 22 they say “Lord, Lord” to Him), and yet Jesus himself says of them that “I never knew you” (not meaning that he had no idea of who they were but meaning he never had a person relationship with them, that they were never saved, they were self-deceived about their salvation believing themselves to be saved when in reality they were not). Two things give them away: (1) they do not do the will of the Father; and (2) they trust in their own works to save them. This is a great passage to preach on because you can make some strong points about how we are saved not by works but by faith, by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross for us, rather than any religious works we might perform. You can also talk about what exactly does God want from people, what is his will for His people. Lots of great material and possibilities in that passage.
One of the points that you can make is that when we get to the final judgment and stand before God, there is only one final answer that will save us. Any appeal to anything we did to earn it, or merit it, will be the wrong answer. The only good and acceptable answer will be that we trusted in Jesus and what Jesus did to save us.

It should be noted that in his response to Bnonn, Victor wrote: “I trust in Christ as my savior. That's supposed to save me.” Wow this calvinistic denying philosopher got it right! That is the answer, when we get before the Lord, there are only going to be two kinds of people those who trust in themselves what they did in order to be saved, and those who had a simple trust in Jesus to save them.

One other point about that Matt. 7 passage. If the calvinists like Bnonn are right and everything is predetermined to go exactly as it does. Then God wanted these people to be self deceived about their salvation. He wanted them to believe they were Christians throughout their lives and then at the end find out that they were wrong, that they were in fact not Christians. And then this same god who predetermined everything they would do including that they would be self deceived about their salvation would then condemn them for believing what he wanted them to believe and then punish them eternally. Reprobation is already bad enough but this would be an even worse form of it. A person like this would be religious do lots of good things, believe they were a follower of Jesus and then only find out they were wrong in the end. Talk about being set up to fail, and who would have orchestrated this whole thing? Again, a noncalvinist looks at this scenario and says this would not be a good person, or loving person, or merciful person. This would be a sadistic and cruel person toying with his human creation like a puppeteer causing his puppets to do things and then condemning them for doing exactly what he wanted them to do.

It is things like this that turn off the noncalvinist because we have no doubts that this god as conceived of by calvinists is not the God who reveals himself in the bible. And even if we are wrong, (which I highly doubt) we are still saved if we have simple trust in Jesus as our way of salvation. And if the calvinists are wrong about their conception of God and they have simple trust in Jesus for salvation they will be saved as well. For some to claim that I or Victor or anyone else is unsaved simply because we reject calvinism is just a lot of sinful pride (in effect playing God) and theologically and biblically off base because they contradict what the bible teaches: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31)

Robert

Anonymous said...

Vic rhetorically asked, Do you honestly thing that anyone comes to Scripture from a neutral perspective?

No one does...NO ONE! And by this I'm not speaking merely about the intellectual presuppositions we have about God and miracles either. I'm speaking about the sum total of everything a person has experienced and concluded about everything...everything.

Such an admission should be troubling to us all about that which we affirm (as opposed to that which we reject) and would lead us all to be tentative about that which we affirm.

But no! The Calvinists are cocksure they are right to the point of being pitbulls with anyone who doesn't agree with every minutia they do. Just seeing them misrepresent Vic and disrespect him is all the evidence I need to see them for what they truly are. How can anyone believe anything with such a ferocity when almost anything can be denied by rational people. It's simply a bizzaro world they live in.

Anonymous said...

Vic unfortunately said..Fortunately, I think the real God of Scripture really is perfectly good.

*ahem* What you believe about God is the conclusion of Anselm after centuries of theological gerrymandering. If you do the Biblical study (as opposed to philosophical studies) you will see the progression of God in the OT from one who fashioned rather than created the earth, who is in a family of Gods who had a body and did evil. This God became a monotheistic God in 2nd Isaiah and was later exonerated from doing evil in the Maccabean period when Satan took on evil characteristics. Then in the NT he became a spirit (the "Father" anyway). Later, between 200 AD to 700 AD this God was thought to have created ex nihilo.

It's all there. It seems obvious. That's one of the reasons I reject your claims.

Do the study. Not which jaundiced eyes of blinded faith, which, as far as I can tell, the Calvinists have cornered that market, but with eyes wise open.

Cheers.

Bert Power said...

I found this from CSL's the Poison of Subjectivism at least an interesting tangent of this exchange:

As regards the Fall, I submit that the general tenor of scripture does not encourage us to believe that our knowledge of the Law has been depraved in the same degree as our power to fulfill it. He would be a brave man who claimed to realize the fallen condition of man more clearly than St. Paul. In that very chapter (Romans 7) where he asserts most strongly our inability to keep the moral law he also asserts most confidently that we perceive the Law's goodness and rejoice in it according to the inward man. Our righteousness may be filthy and ragged; but Christianity gives us no ground for holding that our perceptions or right are in the same condition. They may, no doubt, be impaired; but there is a difference between imperfect sight and blindness. A theology which goes about to represent our practical reason as radically unsound is heading for disaster. If we once admit that what God means by 'goodness' is sheerly different from what we judge to be good, there is no difference left between pure religion and devil worship.

The other objection is much more formidable. If we once grant that our practical reason is really reason and that its fundamental imperatives are as absolute and categorical as they claim to be, then unconditional allegiance to them is the duty of man. So is absolute allegiance to God. And these two allegiances must, somehow, be the same. But how is the relation between God and the moral law to be represented? To say that the moral law is God's law is no final solution. Are these things right because God commands them or does God command them because they are right? If the first, if good is to be defined as what God commands, then the goodness of God Himself is emptied of meaning and the commands of an omnipotent fiend would have the same claim on us as those of the 'righteous Lord'. If the second, then we seem to be admitting a cosmic diarchy, or even making God Himself the mere executor of a law somehow external and antecedent to His own being. Both views are intolerable.

At this point we must remind ourselves that Christian theology does not believe God to be a person. It believes Him to be such that in Him a trinity of persons is consistent with a unity of Deity. In that sense it believes Him to be something very different from a person, just as a cube, in which six squares are consistent with unity of the body, is different from a square. (Flatlanders, attempting to imagine a cube, would either imagine the six squares coinciding, and thus destroy their distinctness, or else imagine them set out side by side, and thus destroy their unity. Our difficulties about the Trinity are of much the same kind.) It is therefore possible that the duality which seems to force itself upon us when we think, first, of our Father in Heaven, and, secondly of the self evident imperatives of the moral law, is not a mere error but a real (though inadequate and creaturely) perception of things that would necessarily be two in any mode of being which enters our experience, but which are not so divided in the absolute being of the superpersonal God. When we attempt to think of a person and a law, we are compelled to think of this person either as obeying the law or as making it. And when we think of Him as making it we are compelled to think of Him as either making it in conformity to some yet more ultimate pattern of goodness (in which case that pattern, and not He, would be supreme) or else as making it arbitrarily by a sic volo, sic jubeo (in which case He would be neither good nor wise). But it is probably just here that our categories betray us. It would be idle, with our merely mortal resources, to attempt a positive correction of our categories--ambulavi in mirabilibus supra me. But it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it never could have been otherwise; it has in it no shadow of contingency; it lies, as Plato said, on the other side of existence. It is the Rita of the Hindus by which the gods themselves are divine, the Tao of the Chinese from which all realities proceed. But we, favoured beyond the wisest pagans, know what lies beyond existence, what admits no contingency, what lends divinity to all else, what is the ground of all existence, is not simply a law but also a begetting love, a love begotten, and the love which, being between these two, is also imminent in all those who are caught up to share the unity of their self-caused life. God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.

Bert Power said...

I incorrectly transcribed:

Our righteousness may be filthy and ragged; but Christianity gives us no ground for holding that our perceptions or right are in the same condition.

CSL actually wrote "perceptions of write."

And I believe the rest is accurate.

Also, I struggled with the latin a bit, so I thought I might say what I ended up with (but am not sure is really correct):

sic volo, sic jubeo :: Thus I will, thus I command

ambulavi in mirabilibus supra me :: to walk upon the extraordinary above me

steve said...

Robert’s problem is that he hates Calvinism more than he loves the truth. So, if it’s a choice between supporting the truth or opposing Calvinism, he’d rather oppose Calvinism than support the truth.

You can see this in his reaction to Dominic. Dominic isn’t making a case for Calvinism in his latest replies to Reppert. Dominic isn’t arguing from his own presuppositions. Rather, Dominic is arguing from Reppert’s presuppositions. Reppert has made various statements, sometimes stating his own position, and sometimes conceding a point for the sake of argument. Dominic is responding to Reppert on his own grounds. But you’d never know that from reading Robert’s hostile reaction.

Or take the business about Deut 7 & and Josh 6. This has nothing to do with Calvinism. It’s about inerrancy—as well as the doctrine of God. He was making the broader point that we should follow the word of God wherever it leads us. Take our doctrine of God from the word of God. Dominic didn’t mention this to score points for Calvinism.

Remember, Dominic is not a cradle Calvinist, or even a cradle Christian. He used to be an atheist.

Robert presumably believes in inerrancy himself. Now, if Robert were a man of honor, he would be even-handed enough to express his agreement with Dominic at those points where he does, in fact, agree with Dominic. He, too, would take the opportunity defend the inerrancy of Scripture against the aspersions of Reppert.

But Robert is so consumed by his hatred of Calvinism that he can’t bring himself to publicly agree with a Calvinist even when it’s about something that has nothing to do with Calvinism in particular. Robert would rather defend a man who opposes the inerrancy of Scripture than support a man who defends the inerrancy of Scripture.

Same thing with penal substitution. I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert believes in penal substitution. This isn’t a Reformed distinctive Billy Graham has been preaching penal substitution for 60 years. Reppert keeps dissing penal substitution.

Does Robert come to the defense of this core evangelical doctrine? No. Because, in Robert’s scale of values, penal substitution is less important than opposition to Calvinism, and as long as Reppert is opposed to Calvinism, Robert will give him a pass on inerrancy, or penal substitution, or open theism, or universalism, &c. For Robert, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Robert is defined by what he hates. Blinkered by what he hates. He only has eyes to see the thing he despises, and he will sacrifice everything else to the destruction of the thing he despises. Single-minded loathing has become his cause in life.

Anonymous said...

If part of this issue revolves around the fear that God would be right in causing people to suffer . . . I have this little bone to pick:

I wonder whether people (like Lofton) who point to world suffering as a reason to not believe in a good God (or god at all) have ever suffered themselves.

As Lewis pointed out, the idea of "world suffering", of pointing to thousands dead here or thousands dead there, does not add up to more suffering than any one of us can experience. Individuals suffer individually. "Society" suffers only in philosophy books.

But what's more important is this: people who have never suffered immense, prolonged physical pain are not in a position to use that pain as an argument for/against God. I wonder if Lofton would ever tell a starving child in Africa, "You are why I don't believe in God. Your suffering proves there is no God, or at least not a good God."

Please post links if I'm wrong, but the only people I've read who bring up suffering as an argument against God are people who have never suffered. In my own experience as a mountaineer, I can tell you that the more you suffer the more likely you are to call on a higher power. Never did I feel more reliant on God than when I was sitting at the base of Mt. Whitney with a sprained ankle, no water, and failing daylight.

The point is this: I rarely see people who decry "physical suffering" as a reason to disbelieve in God actually talk to the people who are suffering about their faith. I'm sure the millions who suffer every day in ways we can never imagine ask themselves, "Where is God?" or "Why, God, why?" But do they ever say, "God must not exist because I am suffering."

That latter statement seems to be something a philosopher says from the comfort of his suburban home. In all my painful experiences on mountaintops, or in soup kitchens, or in poor Mexican villages, or in the homes of severely retarded children, have I heard those who are suffering come to the atheist's conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Last sentence should read: "NEVER have I heard . . ."

Anonymous said...

To sum up my argument in brevity:

I find it a debatable claim, at best, that suffering itself produces disbelief. (Just read Solzhenitsyn.)

So why should the philosophical contemplation of suffering produce either disbelief or the belief that a good God would not allow people to suffer? It sounds like something claimed by people who have never suffered.

Darek Barefoot said...

Dominic & all

I respect the time you and some of your colleagues have spent on your off-site replies, even though I disagree somewhat with your conclusions. I can't help but think that the discussion might be helped in the future if you could boil down your points enough to post them here as a matter of course. Or focus on a smaller number of counterarguments for the sake of brevity and pace.

Is that ideal? No. But we all make some compromises between thorough exposition and the practicality of the medium.

A professional philosopher might criticize someone who finds C. S. Lewis's argument from reason to be persuasive if that person has failed to become conversant first with the breadth, depth and subtelty of epistemology as a historical philosophical topic. Maybe they would have a point. But can the pertinent aspects of epistemology be distilled and then related to what Lewis says? I hope so.

Victor may feel that exhaustive exegetical analysis is not possible in this venue, so he is trying to paint in broad strokes. That may not do full justice to the subject but maybe it can still yield insights.

It's an interesting aspect of the discussion, in fact. Do all Christians need to become biblical scholars in actual fact? All Christians need to be "in the word" regularly and prayerfully, but the erudition of the academically trained exegete requires a lifetime. And scholarship can be bafflingly subtle in comparison with the approach of the average reader.

Anyway . . .

One of your points was that our categories of good and evil are separate from the items we put in them. I agree that these categories go beyond the items they contain for us, but aren't those items necessary to our grasp of the categories? Could we conceive of "good" without any examples of goodness available to us? Aren't we put in touch with the category by means of examples of the good? Our conception of goodness must be a gift from God, a common grace as the saying goes. While none of us has a perfect understanding of goodness, there must be a significant overlap between our categorization of good and that of God in order for his Word to be intelligible.

To put it otherwise, general understanding of terms in human language seems to be a common grace to render revelation intelligible. Finding it intelligible and discerning its value are not necessarily the same, of course (only the spiritual man does the latter). To Victor, following Lewis, Calvinistic double predestination makes revelation unintelligible.

I think that this subject heads into deep waters where razor-thin distinctions seem to take on enormous implications. Caution is in order. We cannot toss aside God's moral commands to suit our tastes. That's a given. But conceptions/confessions of how predestination works are a different matter.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Derek, I don't think our categories of good and evil are a result of common grace. I think they are a result of the imago Dei. They are intrinsic to us as creatures made in God's image. So I would disagree that these categories are defined by what we put into them. As I argued, we have an inbuilt understanding of what goodness is, regardless of what we choose to place into that category.

Regards,
Bnonn

Jason Pratt said...

Dom,

{{As I argued, we have an inbuilt understanding of what goodness is, regardless of what we choose to place into that category.}}

That's interesting; because when I complain that to act to ensure that injustice shall permanently continue is itself to enact injustice, not justice, Calvinists (and Arminians, too, sometimes) have a peculiar habit of retorting that I am only judging things by an inbuilt understanding of what goodness is, usually adding that my inbuilt understanding is totally faulty concerning what counts as enacting justice or injustice. Their point to doing this is to appeal to this against me, rather than accept that I (as I thought I was doing) am making a critique of logical incoherency in a theological claim.

Yet they don't say anything at that time about how my category of good and evil is a result of the imago Dei, intrinsic to me as a creature made in God's image (per Rom 2 for example).

Personally I would rather stick with the logical implications (or disimplications, perhaps); but if a Calvinist can claim the intrinsic advantage of the imago Dei then I can, too.

On the other hand, if the imago Dei is defaced to the point where it has become not only unreliable but pointing in a direction apparently opposite to where it should point, then that is as much true for Calvinists as for non-Calvinists.

On yet the other hand, if repentance and regeneration are aids, before the resurrection, to repairing the defaced imago, then that could in principle be as much true for me (the penitent sinner) as for any Calvinist.

To me it looks as though we're back to logical coherency, or the lack thereof, whether we go the long route or the short.


(Or, if on yet another hand, logical coherency analysis is to be discounted, then neither can I properly critique John Loftus when he tries to avoid being troubled about non-neutral perspectives in what he disaffirms as much as in what he might affirm--though he cannot even do that without affirming something in a fashion which doesn't seem to be troubling him all that much, despite his emphatic NO ONE including himself, too. {g} Or are we supposed to accept logical critique when leveled at John, but not when leveled at a Calvinist?)


{{I believe the latter; I deny the former. Christ's sacrifice can, in principle, be applied to everyone. It is available.}}

Except to the non-elect, who (per Calvinism) never even had an opportunity to receive it.

That's an empty "principle". It's like saying that the American Revolution provided freedom to vote for every adult man and woman in America, except of course for slaves, women, and maybe Indians.

You would have done better (slightly) to say that although in principle Christ's sacrifice could be applied by God to everyone, in fact it is not available to everyone, by God's choice. But then, you, the non-omniscient human, would not be able to say in any meaningful matter that Christ died for the person you meet on the street. Christ might possibly have died for him, is the best you can do. He might possibly have died for you, too. Or not. If Christ didn't really die for you, you'll just have to put up with it; and no amount of apparently Christian activity or belief on your part will make any difference in the end--because He won't have died for you.

JRP

Darek Barefoot said...

Bnonn

>>I don't think our categories of good and evil are a result of common grace. I think they are a result of the imago Dei. <<

Since God graciously made human beings in his image, I don't know that this an important distinction.

>>. So I would disagree that these categories are defined by what we put into them.<<

They need not be defined, strictly speaking, by what we put into them to be incapable of being entirely severed from the items they contain. When God tells us what is good, he gives us examples that clearly lead in a certain direction. That is why the general principle of love of neighbor can be inferred from more specific commands.

Jason Pratt said...

Bert,

Actually, it was "perceptions of right", not "perceptions or right" or "perceptions of write".

And yes, that quote is very pertinent. It's also only one of a couple of times where Lewis seems to find the proper answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma; too bad he rarely ever used it again. (I learned it from Lewis in this and another mention he makes of it somewhere, but was disappointed that it never shows up on a regular basis.)

When I mention this appeal to God's interPersonal coherency, though, in disputations with Calvinists, as my theological ground for positive justice, I tend to get heavily flamed, as though I was not supposed to be appealing to God's intrinsic characteristics of self-existence. (I can't help but suspect that this is because the logical corollary is that we should expect universalism--that God shall always be acting toward saving every sinner from sin.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Darek: {{Since God graciously made human beings in his image, I don't know that this an important distinction.}}

That's a pretty good point, too. {g}

JRP

Paul Manata said...

Jason Pratt said...
Darek: {{Since God graciously made human beings in his image, I don't know that this an important distinction.}}

That's a pretty good point, too. {g}

JRP

6:39 AM

***********

Unless "grace" is strictly a *salvific* term.

Paul Manata said...

Or, at least a *post*-fall term.

Robert said...

I enjoy Victor Reppert’s web site and now see Steve Hays doing the same thing with Victor that he did with me. So I have defended Victor against Hays’ typical personal attacks and verbal insults (now he is suggesting that Victor also is not a Christian). I have seen no calvinists make any attempt to correct Hays or Dominic, so I take that to mean that they are all in agreement with them concerning their **judgments** that Victor is not a Christian.

Steve wrote:

“Robert’s problem is that he hates Calvinism more than he loves the truth. So, if it’s a choice between supporting the truth or opposing Calvinism, he’d rather oppose Calvinism than support the truth.”

Actually this is a false dilemma, one may hate the calvinist system precisely **because** one loves the truth. One may oppose an intruder because they threaten one’s family. Similarly, calvinism is the intruder in Christian history threatening God’s family and maligning God’s character. I love the God revealed in the bible and he has been nothing but good to me and my family. When you love someone you don’t appreciate seeing them being misrepresented before the world based on a man made and false theology. Ultimate truth is God and He is the person who reveals himself in scripture. Calvinism maligns His character and consciously and intentionally reinterprets God’s Word in ways that make it end up denying what God actually says.

To oppose calvinism then, is in fact to endorse and support and love the truth, which is noncalvinism.

“Dominic is responding to Reppert on his own grounds. But you’d never know that from reading Robert’s hostile reaction.”

When did Reppert claim that you calvinists were going to hell?
Or that calvinists were the Lord, Lord people described in Matt.7?
No, Dominic made the same charge as Hays, that Victor is not a Christian, something neither is in the position to make.

I have seen no calvinists publically challenge and correct either Hays or Dominic in their claims that me and Victor are not Christians and are hell bound. Victor has not said that you calvinists were not Christians or were the Lord, Lord people of Matthew 7 (which is what Dominic in fact did). And Steve why don’t you correct Dominic on his use of Matt. 7 against Victor? Silence instead and attempting to defend and justify Dominic.

“Remember, Dominic is not a cradle Calvinist, or even a cradle Christian. He used to be an atheist.”

That does not justify his accusation that Victor is not saved nor his intentional misuse of Matt. 7.

Why don’t you come right out and say that Dominic was wrong? But you can’t do that because you do the same thing and you believe that you are both right.

“Now, if Robert were a man of honor, he would be even-handed enough to express his agreement with Dominic at those points where he does, in fact, agree with Dominic..”

Man of honor? I cannot take Steve Hays seriously here as he has not shown himself to be a Christian gentlemen whatsoever in his interactions with me or others. Guys like you and Dominic have the arrogance and hatred to condemn others as nonbelievers simply because we challenge your calvinism. And you want to talk about being a man of honor? Speaking of being a man of honor, Steve when you start interacting with other brothers in the way the bible demands, then I will take you more seriously. So far, you have not done so, but continue to engage in your arrogant condemnations and insults of other Christians such as myself and now Victor.

“But Robert is so consumed by his hatred of Calvinism that he can’t bring himself to publicly agree with a Calvinist even when it’s about something that has nothing to do with Calvinism in particular. Robert would rather defend a man who opposes the inerrancy of Scripture than support a man who defends the inerrancy of Scripture.”

False dilemma again. This thread as well as others lately have not been discussions of inerrancy, but instead have been typical calvinist attacks against others. And in the case of you and Dominic your condemnation of Victor and claim that he is not saved. For me it is inexcusable for guys like you and Dominic to condemn others to hell or claim that someone is a false teacher because they reject calvinism. Not all calvinists are like you guys, I happen to know Vern Poythress personally, and he is a calvinist, a man of integrity and character, and we get along just fine (though of course I disagree with his calvinism, but I appreciate him and his solid testimony for Christ). And Vern would **never** do what you and Dominic have done.

Perhaps I should put it another way, you keep attacking Reppert for this and that. And perhaps he is an immature Christian or has some false and mistaken beliefs. But there is something more important you completely neglect here: if in fact he is a Christian than your treatment of him has been sinful and unacceptable. You don’t treat him like a brother you treat him like an enemy, and that is your problem.

None of us has got it exactly right when it comes to doctrine, and if you think that you do, then you are just full of pride and in denial. If we are all mistaken in different areas then we shouldn’t be condemning one another to hell. And that is a major difference between you and I. I believe you are mistaken in your calvinism but you may be a Christian so I am not claiming you are hell bound. You on the other hand seem to believe that if someone challenges calvinism they are not only mistaken they are hell bound. I. H. Marshall is a friend of mine and an Arminian who publicly in his writings has said that calvinism is mistaken. Is he hell bound for doing so? J. P. Moreland is a friend of mine who takes the libertarian view of free will and also believes calvinism to be mistaken. Is he hell bound as well? And if they are not hell bound, and hold the same views that I do, then why do you condemn me as a false teacher and claim that I am hell bound?

And what gives you the right to condemn other Christians to hell for challenging your calvinism?

Last time I checked, God is on the throne not you.

“Because, in Robert’s scale of values, penal substitution is less important than opposition to Calvinism, and as long as Reppert is opposed to Calvinism, Robert will give him a pass on inerrancy, or penal substitution, or open theism, or universalism, &c. For Robert, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

You don’t know what my scale of values is. And one of my values is not to condemn others to hell because it is not my place to do so. You on the other hand value condemning others you disagree with to hell. You also seem to talk a lot about **enemies* and **opponents**. Other Christians are neither my enemies nor my opponents. Again, we have different values.

“Robert is defined by what he hates. Blinkered by what he hates. He only has eyes to see the thing he despises, and he will sacrifice everything else to the destruction of the thing he despises. Single-minded loathing has become his cause in life.”

Nice try at psychological analysis, but you are wrong again. Actually Steve you are the one who is obsessed in your hatred of others and this is proved by your constant personal insults against both believers and unbelievers (like this post I am responding to). And speaking of sacrificing, I don’t need to sacrifice any biblical truth or reality to challenge calvinism. The bible speaks quite clearly that God loves the world (though you seem to hate the world), that God desires the salvation of all (though you try to twist the bible into teaching that God only wants to save people like you, calvinists), I joyfully sacrifice myself for Jesus in all areas of my life and follow Him as Lord (though Hays attacks his disciples if they challenge his false theology of calvinism). Presently, I feel a lot of love from many directions in my life, from the Lord, and then from my family, my friends who are all over the place, the people at my local church, the staff and volunteers involved in prison ministry, numerous people I have had the privilege of discipling and mentoring, lots of people who thank me for having taught them the bible and shared the gospel with them through preaching and teaching, lots of people who are glad that I was involved in their conversions to Christ, etc. etc. I really only experience hate from some nonbelievers and from calvinists such as Steve Hays.

Robert

steve said...

Robert says it’s a false dilemma, but notice, once again, that Robert passes up the opportunity to defend inerrancy when Reppert belittles inerrancy, or to defend penal substitution when Reppert belittles penal substitution. Because Robert hates Calvinism more than he loves the truth, he can’t bring himself to agree with a Calvinist about anything. He can’t bring himself to oppose Reppert when Reppert is opposing Calvinism even if Reppert is attacking inerrancy or penal substitution or divine omniscience or everlasting punishment in the process.

Robert is like Nixon: watch what we do, not what we say.

“And what gives you the right to condemn other Christians to hell for challenging your calvinism?”

And what gives you this right to continually peddle this falsehood?

As I’ve pointed out on several occasions now, Reppert has done far more than challenge Calvinism. But you constantly pretend that all he’s doing is to challenge Calvinism. You then pretend that my criticism of Reppert is limited to his criticism of Calvinism. You’re a pathological liar—because it serves your polemical agenda.

I never specified that you or Reppert are hellbound. I have, however, pointed out that Reppert is staking out positions that are increasingly inconsistent with a credible profession of faith.

Paul Manata said...

Robert said: "I have seen no calvinists make any attempt to correct Hays or Dominic, so I take that to mean that they are all in agreement with them concerning their **judgments** that Victor is not a Christian."

(Even though they didn’t make that judgment, liar, I'll give Hays his punishment)

Steve, at our next T-blog meeting in the south of France you may only drink three glasses of our favorite Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Chateau Cazal Viel from the Languedoc region of France, a day for the first 3 days. You must go without our nightly Cuban for two nights, you choose which nights. You must give up one night in your room at the Intercontinental Carlton, instead you will sleep in a hammock at the beach in Saint Tropez.

You must donate 2% of your oil money to a charity of Robert's choosing.

Lastly, I have signed you up for a sensitivity course in Cote d’Azur whie the rest of us go to Noyon, Picardie, France, to visit Calvin's birth place. There you will be taught to contol your anger by Mademoiselle Le Figaro (;-) ). The class will be on the beach, so dress appropriately.

Are you satisfied, Robert?

Jason Pratt said...

Paul,

{{Unless "grace" is strictly a *salvific* term. Or, at least a *post*-fall term.}}

So before the Fall God did not freely give joy to anyone? ('Grace' == 'charis', a simple cognate for 'joy', with contexts routinely indicating the joy is freely given.)

The Father and the Son freely give joy to one another in the substantial self-generating unity of the Trinity (and each to the Holy Spirit, receiving freely given joy from the 3rd Person as well--even though the procession of the Spirit has nothing in itself to do with the self-generation of God.) I'd say that counts as "before the Fall" in any way we care to construe the "before".

God gives grace to all, both in and above creation (to borrow an otherwise inaccurate spatial metaphor). Sin is always an abuse of God's grace; just as sin is always acting against righteousness (i.e. dikaisune, "fair-togetherness") in some fashion. Again, just as only an orthodox trinitarian (or at least binitarian) can coherently claim that God is love, so only we can coherently claim that the way of the Lord is fair-togetherness.

This is why Jesus can exhort us in the great Matthean Sermon to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, by loving and forgiving our enemies. That doesn't mean excusing their sin (Jesus is very clear about that, too, including in the Sermon), but it does mean acting toward completing fair-togetherness with them. Sometimes that may involve fighting and punishment, but the goal is the same either way: which is why Christ wages war in fair-togetherness towards shepherding (the verb is quite clear--though frequently and blatantly mistranslated as "rule" or something like that instead) the final rebel armies in RevJohn 19. (The scene is an application of the end of Psalm 23, and has exactly the same hope in mind. Which is probably why there has been a habit of translating the key verb "ruling" instead of "shepherding". {s})


Anyway; I would have to say from study that {charis} (and its Hebrew equivalent) applies to more than salvation from sin, inasmuch as the grace of God is foundationally and infinitely more important than sin (as I've quipped before, the verse is not that where grace exceeds sin superexceeds, and not as the grace is the sin!)

But I could agree that {charis} certainly has nothing to do with hopeless condemnation; so in that sense {charis} is strictly a salvific term--there is hope for salvation from sin, in the grace of God.

JRP

Bert Power said...

Jason (RE: your reply to me)--

I'm not sure I'm picking up on the logical corrolary you speak of (perhaps you can draw that out), but I have also read on TB some posts to the disputing "that our practical reason is really reason and that its fundamental imperatives are as absolute and categorical as they claim to be" (something to the effect of VR getting his conception of good from growing up in the 'Christian west').

Isn't this the most fundamental distinction between the two camps here? Lewis would say "I believe that nothing short of this can save us," something he would certainly not say about most of these issues.

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

I qualified it to a post-fall context to make it wider than just salvific (so as to head off debates about "common grace", even though the *concept* could remain with a *name* change).

I have read my share of exegetical and systematic looks at 'grace' too.

I make a distinction between *un*merited favor and *de*merited favor.

This issue also spills over broader areas, viz., covenant of works, imputation, active/passive obedience, etc.

I think there is a pre- and post- lapsarian use of the term. if it must be used pre-lapsarain, then grace relates more to God's condescending act of relating covenantally to his creatures (though he is the creator), and to his goodness and beneficence toward those creatures.

I contrast grace and works, or law and gosepl. As I believe Scripture does. Thus I don't find it helpful to speak of grace before the fall.

Also, if you note the context, Bnonn said that inbuilt moral categories wasn't the result of "common grace" but rather the "imago dei," the response that "we were made in God's image by grace" was not only technically false, but an equivocation on Bnonn's use of the term *common* grace.

You should also know that appealing to root words is one of the exegetical fallacies listed in Carson's Exegetical Fallacies.

Anyway, it's more of a technical point for me, even without our debate I don't think the point goes through since Bnonn specifically metioned *common grace*. I would agree with him that our moral consitution is due to our being made in the image of God. This has been a standard Christian position for quite some time. We will still be ethical beings when common grace is removed. People in hell (for arguments sake) will be ethical beings, even when *all* grace is removed. Thus it cannot be as you claim. So I say {g}.

Robert said...

Paul Manata wrote:

“Robert said: ‘I have seen no calvinists make any attempt to correct Hays or Dominic, so I take that to mean that they are all in agreement with them concerning their **judgments** that Victor is not a Christian.’

(Even though they didn’t make that judgment, liar, I'll give Hays his punishment)”

Note what Manata says here: “though they didn’t make that judgment, liar”.

So Manata is claiming that I am lying that Dominic and Steve Hays claimed that Victor is not a Christian. Manata seems to be forgetting Victor Reppert’s own words:

“You see, what Steve keeps forgetting is that he made a charge that goes well beyond the charge of committing an error. Steve had said that in making the move I make I go so far wrong as to not even know what it means to be a Christian. In other words, to not be a Christian. If someone doesn't know what it is to be a Christian, then that person can't possibly be one, just as if I have no idea what it means to be a Democrat, then I can't be a Democrat.

I am asking Steve to accept the logical conclusions of his statements or to withdraw them.”

And notice that Victor is asking Steve Hays for a **retraction of his statements**, and none has been forthcoming. Why is Victor asking for a retraction if Steve Hays said nothing wrong?

Who is not telling the truth here? Is it Manata defending Hays and Dominic, or is it Victor and I, who took their statements to be claiming that Victor was not a Christian?

I don’t agree with Loftus on many things, but I do agree with this comment:

“Vic, as one human being to another it pains me to see you wallow in the mire with the disrespecting people over at Triablogue.”

The Triablogers disrespect anyone who does not hold their views, which amounts to everyone else who does not think like them. They insult and attack both believers and nonbelievers alike, it makes no difference. This is not biblical Christianity and these folks do not properly represent Christ. I have a friend who likes to say: if you get in the mud with the pigs you will get muddy. He is right, that is why I quit posting at Triablogue (they just keep hurling insults and personal attacks at everyone they disagree with). Unfortunately they take their mud and mud slinging ways wherever they go, including here.

Robert

steve said...

"[Robert] And notice that Victor is asking Steve Hays for a **retraction of his statements**, and none has been forthcoming. Why is Victor asking for a retraction if Steve Hays said nothing wrong?"

Notice that Robert doesn't bother to interact with my post, in which I offered a meticulous response to Reppert. Robert never attempts to be honest. He's too blinded by his animus.

Jason Pratt said...

Hey again, Paul. (Busy day on the boards today. {s!})

{{I qualified it to a post-fall context to make it wider than just salvific}}

I’m trying to figure out how qualifying it to a post-fall context makes the resultant notion of grace wider, compared to a context (such as the active interrelationship of the Persons of God to each other and to unfallen creatures) that doesn’t depend on the Fall. But I’m not getting very far with that exercise. {s} Halps?

{{I make a distinction between *un*merited favor and *de*merited favor.}}

I suspect that that word “*de*merit” is somewhere we’ll disagree with each other. But we’ll see. I’m at least 80% sure we mean the same thing by *un*merited, for what it’s worth. And I’m pretty sure that even though you draw a distinction between favor (favors??), you still mean that all God’s favor is *un*merited even if some of God’s favor is also *de*merited.

{{if [grace] must be used pre-lapsarain, then grace relates more to God's condescending act of relating covenantally to his creatures}}

I would certainly agree grace includes this covenantal relationship to His creatures (though I would in some ways go farther and deeper than that, to the essence of creaturely and divine existences themselves); and I would certainly agree that this is a pre-lapsarian application of grace (though I would claim it is a post-lapsarian application, too--God didn’t stop covenanting with fallen humans after the Fall, after all! Nor stop graciously giving us existence.)


We seem to be disagreeing (considering I brought up the topic but you’ve only mentioned relationships to creatures) on whether the Persons of the Trinity give grace to one another. I can think of some ways you might be disagreeing with that, but they all involve restricting the meaning and/or application of {charis} by comparison.


{{Also, if you note the context, Bnonn said that inbuilt moral categories wasn't the result of "common grace" but rather the "imago dei,"}}

I did note that, which (as you might have noted) is why I critiqued his use of the imago dei. I understood quite well (I think) that Bnonn wasn’t thinking in terms of the imago dei being the result of God’s gracious action--my response “we were made in God’s image by grace” therefore wasn’t equivocation on Bnonn’s use of grace (common or otherwise), but a direct counterclaim.

I am not sure how the usage could be considered “technically false”, however, without grace being restricted to only salvific meaning, or at least without denying that creation (if not God’s own existence) has anything to do with God’s grace per se. If it is not by God’s favor, His freely given joy, that we exist (much moreso as whatever the plural of imago dei is {g}), then what constrained God to create us?--or by what, more fundamentally than God, do and did we exist at all? (I answer nothing and nothing; but then I am affirming our existence occurs, including as images of God, by the grace of God.)

{{I would agree with him that our moral consitution is due to our being made in the image of God. This has been a standard Christian position for quite some time. [emphasis original]}}

And was I denying that? Nope, I was affirming it.

I was also affirming that our being made in the image of God was due to God’s grace. Call it “common grace” if you will, though interestingly I wasn’t the one who insisted on using the term (so as to head off debates about “common grace”. {g} But then, it becomes obvious that the debates between us are keyed pretty strongly on how we should most rightly and fully understand common grace.)


{{We will still be ethical beings when common grace is removed.}}

I’m pretty sure that even Calvinists formally believe that we are ethical beings at all in virtue (pun only half-intended {s}) of the action of the Holy Spirit--an action freely given, not extrinsically required by God due to some merit of ours (as if some higher standard was binding somehow on God), and not a capability given by anything foundationally other than God. You seem to be agreeing that this pertains to all ethical beings; and I’m quite entirely sure that I affirm that position, at least.

Our ethicality is a grace on God’s part; and it’s common to us all. If the grace is removed, however (which I don’t think can be done without annihilation of the object, and you and I agree, probably on at least some shared grounds, that annihilationism per se is false), the result will be that the object can no longer be ethical. Unless you mean to be saying that the object will afterward self-attain its own real ethicality or that it will then be truly an ethical creature in virtue of something other than God. In which case we have matters of ontological theology to be discussing, seeing as I absolutely deny ontological dualism and I’m pretty sure you would deny ontological dualism, too--and yet one of us would be claiming that a created object’s ethicality can truly derive from something other than God. (Hint: not me! {g})


{{You should also know that appealing to root words is one of the exegetical fallacies listed in Carson's Exegetical Fallacies.}}

It’s only a fallacy if the result makes no logically (including exegetically) coherent sense. On the contrary, if we don’t start by testing the root meaning (and its composite word-construction, where appropriate), we won’t have anywhere to start.

I find in these cases that the root meanings make fine sense, including (especially!) in context of orthodox trinitarian theism. Obviously, other theologians disagree. {shrug}


JRP

Paul Manata said...

"I don’t agree with Loftus on many things, but I do agree with this comment:

“Vic, as one human being to another it pains me to see you wallow in the mire with the disrespecting people over at Triablogue.”


Funny, two people who got their arguments ruined over at T-blog have a personal problem with T-bloggers.

Anyway, you're the Loftus of Arminianism, Robert. An over-emotional hot head.

"The Triablogers disrespect anyone who does not hold their views, which amounts to everyone else who does not think like them."

You disrespect us just as much, Robert. The pious sanctimony is getting old.

" This is not biblical Christianity and these folks do not properly represent Christ."

You just said we're going to hell!

How is this any different than what Steve said?

" I have a friend who likes to say: if you get in the mud with the pigs you will get muddy."

Robert has no problem calling us pigs.

This is why I don't take you serious, Robert. You're a hypocrite.

" He is right, that is why I quit posting at Triablogue (they just keep hurling insults and personal attacks at everyone they disagree with)."

Not true. You even said I was cool to you at T-blog and that I had good arguments. Last I recall, I gave you some arguments, and you just disappeared. Anyway, if you have figured out how to answer my arguments I'd enjoy picking things back up with you.
Oh, and if you can show where Steve or Bnonn said that Victor was going to hell, I'm all ears.

Last thing, please anwer my question for you. The ones between the *'s

Paul Manata said...

Hi Jason,

I think my point about hell was sufficient to demonstrate my point.

I'm working within a specific tradition here. That's why I said what I said.

ANd, as I said, *even if* you're right, you're not right that the moral constitution is given by *common* grace. Which is what Bnoon said. To say it is "gracious" does not imply that it is *commonly* gracious.

At any rate, I'm convinced by the arguments considering grace in realtion to covenant, works, etc., and so that's where I'm coming from. On this issue, you may want to check the works of M. Kline.

Josh said...

Robert,

I, personally, would be tempted to believe you if I had not seen that Paul and Steve have perfectly respectful dialogues with other Arminians, atheists, etc., than I do. It seems that the rhetoric gets turned up with guys like you, Loftus, and some others. I wonder why it gets that way with guys like you. When I read your posts, my questions get answered. What else can explain it? Maybe you should look to yourself too. Remember, 1 John says that he who says he is without sin is a liar.

Jason Pratt said...

Paul,

So the moral constitution isn’t common to all ethical entities, even ones in hell? Or do you mean the moral constitution, though common to all ethical entities, actually derives for some entities (those in hell for example) from something other than God?

Because you looked like you were affirming the moral constitution is (and will be) common to all ethical entities, even ones in hell, earlier. If it also derives from God, though, then is God forced by some external standard or necessity to be bestowing it? If not, then it must be bestowed freely by God--to everyone.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Bert,

Oy. Trying to summarize it pertinently...

If orthodox trinitarian (or at least binitarian) theism is true (and I do affirm trinitarian theism, btw), then all existence in reality depends upon the eternally coherent interpersonal relationship between God self-begetting and God self-begotten. That includes God’s own existence--a key point typically denied even by trinitarian theologians, historically. (Most Christian theologians are privative aseitists, not postiive ones: God merely exists in a static fashion, not in an actively self-generating fashion. But positive aseity is uniquely connected to the notion of God being a self-begetting and self-begotten singularity of substance. A privative existence God wouldn’t be actively self-begetting; in fact, intentional action wouldn’t be a fundamentally intrinsic characteristic of such a ‘God’ at all. On careful examination, only raw assertion to the contrary would distinguish such a ‘God’ from an actually atheistic reality. I believe this failure to distinguish properties lies at the root of pretty much all our failures as a church, or at least is indicative of why we have such glaring failures.)

Consequently, if any of the Persons of God acted in final contravention to the fulfillment of interpersonal relationships, God would be acting against the action by which He and everything in reality exists. It isn’t strictly impossible for God to do this, but it would be impossible for God to ever do this and for us to still be in existence to discuss the topic (or do anything else). God’s way, intrinsically, is “fair-togetherness” and freely given joy--you may recall Lewis stating in several places that this is also why we, and no other kind of theist, can rightly say that God is love, too (cf his introduction to Athanasius)--which is a key reason why I’m prepared to give Greek words amounting to those notions a lot of headway. (Though not at the cost of exegetical nonsense, of course--but the other basic key reason I’m prepared to give them a lot of leeway is that I find them to make good exegetical as well as theological sense.)

This, not-incidentally, shows why God is so antithetical to sin: when we sin we’re running against the foundational reality of all existence. If God ever did that, He Himself would cease to exist (which obviously isn’t going to happen, ever); if we do that, we would cease to exist, too--except that our existence continually depends upon God in the first place. (I’ve seen Calv and Arm theologians each deny, occasionally, that our existence continues to depend upon the action of God; but that cannot be true if supernatural theism, much moreso orthodox theism, is true.)

God may either grant our wish of non-existence (so to speak) and refuse to keep us in existence; or God may choose instead to keep us in existence. (It’s entirely God’s choice either way.) The former is what annihilationists (including Lewis) believe happens, sooner or later. The rest of us believe God keeps sinners in existence forever. It should be noted that there are scriptural verses which seem to testify in either direction; but I believe we have better theological grounds for accepting non-annihilationism per se. (Annis and non-universalistic non-annis, notably, tend to snipe at one another for so thoroughly dismissing one or the other set of data.)

As far as I’m concerned, precisely as an orthodox theist, the reason God does not annihilate sinners is that if He did so He would be acting in a fashion so as to prevent love and justice from ever being fulfilled to that person. He would be acting to fulfill injustice, not justice--no fair-togetherness could be achieved between God and the sinner, neither between the sinner and the victim of the sin (where that victim is a creature). God would be acting against the fulfillment of fair-togetherness--acting in a fashion contradictory to God’s own intrinsic action upon which all reality, God included, is based.

If He keeps sinners in existence, though (as He obviously does anytime I or anyone else sins without poofing out of existence ourselves), then He has another set of choices: to act or not to act toward saving that person from sin. Arminians (and their non-Protestant analogues) believe God acts to save every person from sin but eventually chooses to stop acting toward this in regard to some (or even most) people. Calvinists (per se) believe God never had any intention to save some people from sin at all--therefore not only is there no failure on His part to save from sin, but we can trust Him to persistantly act to save at least some sinners from sin... whoever they are.

However, if God chooses (either way) not to act to save a person from sin, then He is choosing to act in favor of permanent injustice--for if God refuses to act to save us from sin we have no hope of being saved and so will be permanently enacting injustice ourselves. And since our existence continues nevertheless to depend upon the action of God, God will be co-operating (and primarily so!) in keeping injustice between persons in existence. (This, not incidentally, is a key reason why annihilationists insist upon annihilation of sinners, so that God will not be found to be a doer of iniquity.)

I conclude then that we can expect God to continually act toward saving sinners from sin (just as Calvinists believe and stress--over against Arminians, not incidentally); and to continually act this way toward all sinners (just as Arminians believe--over against Calvinists, not incidentally).

I find that this position follows as a corollary to orthodox theism; and I find that this position has substantial testimony in the canonical scriptures. I also find that the position makes large-scale sense of apparently conflicting soteriological statements in the scriptures. I don’t have to deny apparently annihilationist verses, for instance, because sinners who are saved from sin cease to exist as sinners and have a new life in Christ. In that sense, it is true that sinners cease to exist: annihilationists and I can agree on that, whereas I think non-annis who are also non-universalists have somewhat more difficulty with apparently annihilationistic texts. I can affirm the persistence of God to save from sin, with the Calvinists; and I can affirm the intentions of God to save from sin, with the Arminians. I can affirm the eons of the eons with the libertarians--I am no denier of the free will of the sinner--but I can bet on and hope in God in His omnipotence and omniscience and omnibenevolence. (I’m certainly not going to bet on Satan to outlast God forever!--much less, though, am I going to affirm that he achieves his goal to be like the Most High and be a self-existent entity. Which non-universalist theologians have a peculiar and common habit of tacitly affirming...)


As I wrote near the end of one of the Talbott discussions (the massive Nivlac commentary thread):

I’ve got the love (in spades, it’s central to the whole trinitarian theism claim); I’ve got the justice being fulfilled (and not injustice being permanently sealed into existence, which most people would usually think involves sealing injustice permanently into existence, not fulfilling justice {g}); I’ve got the punishment; I’ve got the salvation; I’ve got the persistence of God in saving whom He seeks to save; I’ve got the intention of God to save everyone; I’ve got the free will of God to choose whether He will ever stop loving; I’ve got the assurance (via trinitarian theism + our own obvious continuing existence) that He will never stop loving; I’ve got the free will of man to choose whether he will ever start repenting; I’ve God as the ontological priority for salvation; I’ve got the sinner’s own responsibility to repent and turn to God, thus making proper use of God’s freely given grace rather than abusing it; I’ve got no schisms between love and justice (which means you’ll never catch me having to say that God is being unjust in His love); I’ve got God being of a single mind toward us, not of two minds; I’ve got the Father, the Son and the Spirit being distinct Persons; I’ve got God being a unity of substance; I’ve got no operational schisms where one Person is in operation without the others; I’ve got no intentional schisms where, for instance, the Father wants to do one thing in regard to us but the Son wants to do something else and so convinces the Father to do that instead; I’ve got the Son Incarnate being the express image of the Father; I’ve got the two-natures doctrine and no schisming between them, docetically or otherwise; I’ve got the omnipotence; I’ve got the omnipresence; I’ve got the omniscience (real omniscience, not wussy-mere-probability-and-possibility omniscience per open theism); I’ve got nothing above or beside God; I’ve got all things existing by Him and in Him and through Him and for Him; I’ve got the real hope of God being all in all and every tongue confessing (a word used for legitimate praise and testimony of God’s mercies and rescues and mighty deeds to save) that Jesus is Lord of all; I’ve got the lake of fire judgment; I’ve got the eons of the eons; I’ve got the eonian fire and the eonian life and the eonian ruination; I’ve got the baptism in spirit and in fire; I’ve got the salting of everyone by the fire in Gehenna; I’ve got the shakable being shaken until the unshakable remains; I’ve got Psalm 23, including at RevJohn 19; I’ve got the final chapter of RevJohn (!!!THANK GOD!!!--I mean really, my job scripturally couldn’t be much easier than that...); I’ve got the wrath of God; I’ve got God saying there is no wrath in Him but that He burns up the thistles and thorns with which others come out to war against Him (so that they will cling fast to His refuge--making Him their friend, making Him their friend); I’ve got the rightful destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; I’ve got the resurrection and salvation of Sodom and Egypt (even if those were meant typologically for Israel and Judah, still the frame of reference is striking); I’ve got Christ waging war in righteousness (i.e. in fair-togetherness), and scattering the bodies of His enemies for the birds of the air to feed on; I’ve got God Incarnate on the cross paying for our sin with His own blood; I’ve got Egypt down in the pit--with the tree of life from the Garden of Eden, with which it will rise again one day...

I’ve got all of that and lots, lots more.

The one, only thing I don’t have--

--is the hopelessness.

(But then, I have these “three things remaining” when all other things have passed away. So I can do without the hopelessness. {s} If agape_ can hope for all things, I can, too.)

Admittedly, the majority of Christians have the hopelessness. But, then I discover they also have to give up some of that other stuff, when push comes to shove, in order to keep the hopelessness. I get to keep it all, though; just not the hopelesness.

JRP

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

It is common to all because all bear the imago dei. But, there is no *grace* in hell.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Jason, I'm not sure I understand your first objection. The argument you make about injustice is not much different than the argument Victor makes about goodness. In both cases, it is not the category itself I am critiquing, but the specific situation you choose to impose on that category. I am simply asking: how do you know that this action of God's goes into the "injustice" category or the "evil" category, rather than the "justice" category or the "goodness" category? You can either argue from intuition, or you can argue from Scripture. I think that in this exchange there have been ample reasons given why intuition fails as a basis for these sorts of arguments. Therefore, whatever arguments about logical coherency are to be made must be made from Scripture. If you feel that it would be unjust for God to send people to hell, you would have to show me this from Scripture. If Victor believes that it is not good for God to reprobate people, he should show us this from Scripture. The Bible is the only place where it is infallibly revealed what actions by whom fit into what categories. Anything else is guesswork. You can't launch an argument on guesswork.

As regards Christ's sacrifice, many of the non-elect have had opportunity to receive it. Everyone we witness to who rejects the gospel has had the opportunity. And those who have not, who have never heard the gospel, are still justly condemned, being sinners. I suspect you have misunderstood my position as regards the atonement. You could check this article on my blog for a glimpse into my thinking, if you're interested, but I'm afraid I haven't written anything really comprehensive or up-to-date at this point; and this comment stream doesn't really seem the place to do it.

Regards,
Bnonn

Robert said...

Josh,

You wrote:

“I, personally, would be tempted to believe you if I had not seen that Paul and Steve have perfectly respectful dialogues with other Arminians, atheists, etc., than I do.”

Did I say they were incapable of having a respectful dialogue with others? No. From my interactions with them as well as friends of mine, they persistently engage in inappropriate comments towards others, both believers and unbelievers. I also believe that this can be easily documented.

In fact Josh, in order to make my point, since you have expressed your concern, let me tell you what I am going to do. Sometimes (because I am not going to spend a lot of time on this) when I see them say something here that I consider inappropriate, I will cite it and then write: “Josh’s concern” after the statement. I might even make some brief comments to show why I believe the comment to be inappropriate.

Let’s take an example from Steve Hays’ lastest comments directed at me:

“Robert never attempts to be honest.” (Josh’s concern).

So according to Steve I never even make the **attempt** to be honest about anything.

First note he did not say that I sometimes attempt to be honest and sometimes do not and blow it (which would be the truth since I am not always honest). No, he said I NEVER even make the attempt to be honest. If I NEVER attempt to be honest than how do I have healthy relationships with my wife and friends and other people that I know?

And Josh why am I not reading your correction of Hays for this comment by the way? It was an insult, an intentional slam, it adds nothing to the discussion of issues, but you didn’t seem to be too concerned about it. You said nothing, just silence about it.

Second, note he doesn’t say that I am never honest, he says something stronger, that I never even make the attempt to be honest. Again, this is clearly false. Nobody always lies and makes no attempt to tell the truth, even con men partially tell the truth. I work with cons in prison ministry, literal cons who spend their lives manipulating people. Do they never even make an attempt to be honest? No, in fact the better a manipulator they are, the more they mix truth with falsehood to reach their desired end. They call it the “hook”. They “hook” in their intended victims and if their “hook” is an outrageous whopper of a lie, no one would ever get fooled.

So thanks for your concern Josh, I will literally keep you posted concerning inappropriate remarks.

Robert

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Robert, your statements seem to be intended to include me. You speak of "Hays and Dominic". If you feel I have spoken "hatefully" or "arrogantly", I am certainly willing to evaluate the specifics and correct them if need be. However, you'll need to show me exactly what I have said that you think is hateful or arrogant, and explain why. Looking back, I agree that I may have been terse, but I don't see that I have been uncharitable or ungracious. Neither have I accused Victor of being unsaved. I have questioned his profession on the basis of certain arguments; some of them ex hypothesi. But that is not the same as denying his profession altogether. Nonetheless, if you feel I have sinned in doing this, I'm certainly willing to listen to your reasons as to why.

My conduct is of great importance to me as a representative of Christ, so if I have indeed spoken sinfully, I am anxious to correct my error. Show us where I have spoken wrongfully, that we may all see whether your charge against me is just.

Regards,
Bnonn

Josh said...

Robert,

You will justify your behavior to the end, I see. And I see you are playing the "But what about them too?" card. I'm not talking about them, Robert.

And, yes, you have repeatedly claim that the Triablogue guys do not respect anyone but those who believe exactly as they do. Your denial of this leaves me, actually, quite speachless.

I can only leave you with what I previously said: I have seen the Triablogue guys engage in a respectful manner with quite a few people with whom they have much disagreement. It is only with people like you, Loftus, and other similar that their posts have a more sarcastic tone. I must ask myself, why is that? My only answer is that how you guys debate might very well draw them into those kind of responses. And, in fact, it is sometimes justified, IMHO. Robert, I have seen _just as much_ vitriol from you as I have them. Don't fool yourself Robert. The heart is wicked and deceitful above all else. FWIW.

Paul Manata said...

Robert,

Someone edited my post above. That's odd.

I'll ask my question again:

If someone claims to be a follower of Jesus, and says that if Jesus taught X, and they didn't agree with X so they will calll Jesus a liar to his face, what do you make of that person? Of that position?

I'd appreciate an honest answer.

Josh said...

I'm interested in hearing Robert's answer too! Somebody pass me the popcorn!

Robert said...

A while back Pepsi had its “Pepsi challenge” where you would be given Coke and Pepsi to choose from to see if you could tell the difference. I loved it as I like both drinks and it was free, so if you were some place and wanted a free drink just take the “Pepsi challenge.” Manata has come up with his own challenge, the “Manata Challenge”. Like the Pharisees in the New Testament he is presenting his **innocent** and innocuous questions. And just like the Pharisees he really isn’t interested in the truth but is more interested to try to trip up his “opponent”.

Manata wrote:

“I'll ask my question again:

If someone claims to be a follower of Jesus, and says that if Jesus taught X, and they didn't agree with X so they will calll Jesus a liar to his face, what do you make of that person? Of that position?

I'd appreciate an honest answer.”

OK, let’s consider the structure of this little set up first. The elements include that someone claims to be a follower of Jesus; Jesus taught some truth, say (X), the professed follower of Jesus does not agree with the truth (X); and so this person will “call Jesus a liar to his face”. The two questions then are: what do you make of that person, and what do you make of that position.

Let’s put in a biblical truth/something Jesus taught, in the slot and see how it works out. One of my favorite biblical texts to preach on is John 6 because the focus is on faith in Christ being the only way of salvation. There is also the clear teaching of the incarnation, that God became flesh, and that person was Jesus. The clear teaching that Jesus is God as he is the one who raises people from the dead (something mere mortals cannot do). In the midst of these great truths Jesus makes this magnificent statement of truth, one of my favorite texts to preach on, in John 6:51:

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven [incarnation], if anyone eats of this bread [in context if anyone has faith in Jesus], he shall live forever [he will have eternal life] and the bread [that’s Jesus] also which I shall GIVE FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD [Jesus/the living and true bread, is given for the world which means more than just people who eventually get saved, compare with John 3:16 where the Father so loves the World that He gives the Son/Jesus for that world] is My flesh [what will be given for the world is the body of Jesus on the cross, cf. Jn. 12:32-33].

So the truth I want to isolate and focus on here is Jesus’ teaching that He will be given on the cross for the WORLD. Without going into a long explanation, Jesus was teaching what is popularly called “unlimited atonement” (that Jesus was given for the sins of the World, for all persons).

Now “Joe Calvinist” professes to be a follower of Jesus, but Joe is not going to agree with Jesus’ teaching that he was going to give Himself for the World. You see Joe Calvinist believes in limited atonement because that is what the calvinistic system dictates (though the bible says otherwise). Joe believes that Jesus was only given for the elect, those preselected for salvation according to the gospel of Calvin (the doctrinal belief of the system called unconditional election). And if Joe is committed to his TULIP doctrines, committed to his calvinistic system, he is going to teach directly against what Jesus said and what the rest of the New Testament teaches about the atonement. So Joe not only does not agree with Jesus, he actively and intentionally and publically teaches contrary to the truth stated by Jesus in John 6.

Now Manata adds the little detail that the person who disagrees with Jesus will call Jesus a liar to his face. I dispute this claim, I do not believe that any true disciple of Jesus is going to call Jesus a liar to his face. In fact, I don’t even think a pretender will say this (cf., Matt. 7 where the pretenders say “Lord, Lord” to Jesus and do not speak negatively to him). Remember that incarnation thing that Jesus also taught in John 6? Jesus is God and he will also be the judge on the final judgment day (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). So I highly doubt that a professing but false disciple or a mistaken disciple (a Christian can be mistaken in their beliefs) of Jesus will ever call him a liar to his face. That is just not going to happen. The biblical texts also seem to suggest that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (and when they do so they won’t be calling Jesus a liar to his face, they will however know that He is God and He may not be the person that you want to be accusing of being a liar!). So Manata’s detail about the professing disciple calling Jesus a liar to his face is completely out of touch with reality. It is however the kind of detail that someone trying to set up others will come up with. So I reject the first question.

Manata’s second question is what do I think of the mistaken person’s position? That can be answered easily: the person is mistaken if he takes any position contrary to what Jesus taught as the truth.

Now when it comes to calvinism and noncalvinism, someone is mistaken here. I happen to believe based on the available evidence that Joe Calvinist and his buddies are the ones who are mistaken here. One of my major problems with calvinism is that as far as I can see they are in fact ***directly contradicting*** what the bible teaches, what specific bible verses say. Or to use Manata’s preferred **racy language**: they are telling Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the writers of scripture that they are “liars” (e.g. the apostle John wrote and taught as the truth in 1 Jn. 2:2 that “and He himself [that’s Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world”, to say that Jesus only died for the elect is to say John’s statement here is false or that John is lying).

Familiar bible verses include verses like John 3:16 which is crystal clear in its teaching that God sent Jesus and gave Jesus on the cross for everyone’s sins (i.e. the unlimited atonement view). There are also clear verses that God desires for all to be saved and that God has mercy on all. It is precisely because most Christians (the vast majority whether they be Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants or Independents) are familiar with these verses and properly interpret them and so they cannot reject these verses (and call the bible writers “liars”) nor can they accept the forced, strained, ingenious but mistaken interpretations of these texts that calvinists have invented to escape the meanings of these texts. These verses are so clear that even so-called 4-point calvinists cannot get around them (people like Bruce Ware and from what Bnonn said recently Bnonn as well). There is also the Amyraldians who also see this (they attempt to combine both universal atonement and unconditional election).

Manata’s challenge then is a set up just like the kind of thing the Pharisees were doing with Jesus trying to trip him up. God has revealed truth to us, He has spoken clearly in the bible about his love for the World and his plan of salvation that seeks to save all persons. As a follower of Jesus and knowing His Word, I can confidently state that it is not Jesus who is the “liar” it is those who distort His teachings seeking to maintain and defend their calvinistic system of theology which contradicts what Jesus taught and would have his disciples believe.

Robert

Paul Manata said...

Robert,

Funny how you had to take this question as yet another chance to attack Calvinism. You're so funny Robert.

Anywho...

Right. So if, per some of Victor's claims, Victor rejected the teaching of Jesus flat out, because they contradicted his moral intuitions, and even said, "Okay, you may be God, but you're an Omnipotent Fiend" then that is *proof* that, as YOU said, someone doesn't understand Christianity and also has deeper issues as well.

So, Robert, you also said of Victor what Steve said of Victor. You must remember that Victor *granted* that Calvinism might come out *true*, but he would *still* reject it.

Now, Robert, how 'bout your Christian "integrity." Will you apologize to Steve and Dominic?

You see, for all your posturing, I AGREE. *IF* your position were true, if I saw that the Bible taught it, I WOULD BELIEVE IT.

Victor took, if even for argument sake (since he's been hopping all over the place), the OPPOSITE position as I would have. If the Bible really taught Arminianism, I wouldn't call God a pansy, but Reppert said he would call our God a FIEND.

Robert's right back where he and I left off. As people can see, *this* is why he quit debating us. No one likes to lose *every* conversation! :-)

Robert didn't even see how he just got set up. Thanks for playing, though.

Robert said...

I took the time to respond to Manata’s set up and questions. I showed how using his own structure his imaginary scenario actually shows problems with calvinism. Manata didn’t deal with any of my points and completely ignored Jesus’ statement of the truth that He came to die for the sins of the world. And note Manata’s response:

“Robert's right back where he and I left off. As people can see, *this* is why he quit debating us. No one likes to lose *every* conversation! :-)”

You don’t “lose” conversations. And if someone likes to play games as Manata is doing here, he becomes a waste of time.

And note his parting line:

“Robert didn't even see how he just got set up. Thanks for playing, though.”

Spoken like a true Pharisee.

And this from a guy who ended his earlier post with: "I'd appreciate an honest answer." I gave an honest answer to what was just a set up, just another con game.

Robert

steve said...

robert said...

“I took the time to respond to Manata’s set up and questions. I showed how using his own structure his imaginary scenario actually shows problems with calvinism.”

Robert took time to duck Manata’s question. Robert habitually lies about his Reformed opponents. He lies about them to make Calvinism look bad. And he lies about them because he’s backed himself into so many corners than he can no longer give an honest answer without losing face.

This isn’t Manata’s “set up.” Manata is merely repeating or paraphrasing Reppert’s “set up.”

Reppert is the one who suggests it would be faithful to take his belief in divine goodness over his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Reppert is the one said that even if the Bible taught Calvinism, such a God would be, for him, the Omnipotent Fiend.

So Manata is simply framing the question according to Reppert’s own framework.

Robert changes the subject by introducing his Arminian prooftexts into the equation. But that’s not how Reppert framed the discussion. For Reppert, it’s what he’s prepared to believe *in spite* of Scripture, based on his extrascriptural preconceptions—and thereby make the God of Scripture a liar.

steve said...

robert said...

“Spoken like a true Pharisee.”

That’s very judgmental of you, Robert. You do think you should call fellow Christians Pharisees? Does this mean you think Manata is hellbound? Who put you on the throne?

Robert said...

Steve Hays wrote:

“Robert took time to duck Manata’s question. Robert habitually lies about his Reformed opponents. He lies about them to make Calvinism look bad. And he lies about them because he’s backed himself into so many corners than he can no longer give an honest answer without losing face.”

I did not answer the one question because it is completely absurd. Sort of like those questions some like to ask such as “Can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it?” A question like that does not deserve an answer, neither does a question about someone telling Jesus he is a liar on the final judgement day. Note again Hays’ reference to “his Reformed opponents.” Perhaps Hays has not noticed but supposedly we are on the same side part of God’s family. But you would not know that by the Triablogers constant personal attacks and insults.

“This isn’t Manata’s “set up.” Manata is merely repeating or paraphrasing Reppert’s “set up.””

Actually it was Manata’s intentional set up of me, perhaps you didn’t read his own words:
“Robert didn't even see how he just got set up. Thanks for playing, though.”

“Robert changes the subject by introducing his Arminian prooftexts into the equation. But that’s not how Reppert framed the discussion. For Reppert, it’s what he’s prepared to believe *in spite* of Scripture, based on his extrascriptural preconceptions—and thereby make the God of Scripture a liar.”

Again, Steve Hays was not reading carefully enough apparently. Manata in his post to me wrote:

“Robert,

Someone edited my post above. That's odd.

I'll ask my question again:

If someone claims to be a follower of Jesus, and says that if Jesus taught X, and they didn't agree with X so they will calll Jesus a liar to his face, what do you make of that person? Of that position?

I'd appreciate an honest answer.”

Manata writes this post directly aimed at me and asks me to answer the questions honestly. He asked me and was trying to set me up, as he explicitly states, and I answered him honestly. He then responds that he is glad that I was set up and that I didn’t even see the set up, but thanks for **playing**.

Robert

Robert said...

Manata had written:

“Robert didn't even see how he just got set up. Thanks for playing, though.”

I had written in response to these words:

“Spoken like a true Pharisee.”

Steve Hays responded with:

“That’s very judgmental of you, Robert. You do think you should call fellow Christians Pharisees? Does this mean you think Manata is hellbound? Who put you on the throne?”

If you read the New Testament you find that the Pharisees were constantly trying to set up Jesus with verbal traps and tricks. They hated him and really did not ask questions to know the truth but simply to argue and prove him wrong. Manata seems to be acting the same way towards me. So I said he was speaking **like** a true Pharisee because that is exactly the kind of thing they were doing. I don’t think “fellow Christians” should be trying to set up other Christians to stumble with verbal set ups and traps, in fact scripture says as much. Christians ought to be having fruitful discussions with each other not setting verbal traps for each other. I don’t play those kind of games though you folks seem to enjoy engaging in that kind of thing with your “opponents”. Do I think that Manata is hellbound? I don’t make that judgment call, the Lord does. And it is a judgment you have made of me and shown no repentance in doing so. We have very different standards on this: you will sit in judgment of people and consign them to hell, I won’t do it. Regarding sitting on the throne, I am very glad to say that it is not me. Though by your behavior you seem to enjoy playing-god as shown by the comments that you make.

Robert

Paul Manata said...

Robert's having trouble following the bouncing ball.

Let's lay it out for him nice and slow:

* Dom and Steve said some things Robbert didn't like. Specifically, questions about his Christian profession.

* Robert demanded an apology from Hays and Tennant.

* I asked Robert a question about how he would interpret some profession Christians claims to the effect that "Even if the Bible/Jesus/God taught X, I STILL wouldn't believe it."

* Robert answered that this would be un-Christian.

* I said Reppert did this. I then asked Robert to apologize to Hays and Tennant for his false accusations.

So, as one can easily see, Robert has been trapped. But rather than fess up and admit it, he just regroups and takes this as a chance to attack Calvinists.

Robert has been shown, by his own words, that Steve and Dominic were perfectly justified in what they said.

Robert attacked them.

Robert did so unjustly.

Robert should, if his lauding his unreproachable Christian character was anything other pharisaical rheotirc, apologize to Hays and Tennant. He should do so even though he hates them. God commands it. And, he commands we love our enemies. Robert can make amends for his repeated violation of those commandments, and ask Hays and Tennant for forgiveness.

And, if more evidence needs to be offered, I offer more:

Victor said:

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/04/answering-back-to-god-or-is-it-fred.html

"But shouldn't I nevertheless accept it because it is taught in God's word? God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God. So if the Bible teaches predestination and reprobation, it is not God's word, but only the Word of an omnipotent Fred.

Note: He didn't say, "If the Bible taught it, then I'd have to change about 10 of my strongly held beliefs." No, you said, "If the Bible ends up teaching Calvinism, then it IS NOT God's word."

I got dozens more like these.

Let's see what Reppert would tell Jesus if Jesus said his moral intuitions were wrong and there was nothing intuitively wrong with God decreeing evil:

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/04/paul-manata-on-calvinism.html

"Paul says he doesn't share my intuitions. Look, given this picture, if you don't have at least notice a prima facie problem with God's conduct from a moral point of view, then you don't need an argument, you need help."

So, if Jesus told Reppert that he didn't share Reppert's intuitions, Reppert would tell Jesus "you need help."

Or,

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2008/05/on-intellectual-humility-and.html

"Even if I had a good exegetical argument that Romans 8-9 is teaching predestination, is that necessarily better evidence that this would not be good for God to do.”

But then we have Robert telling us that the Arminian has the better exegesis and so us Calvinists need to "give in." Reppert has made it hard for Robert to defend him.

I have dozens of other quotes from Reppert. Some aces up my sleeve. But surely such an orthodox believer as Rober is, the above suffices.

To the extent that Reppert can show some more timid claims only shows how he's been hopping back and forth, from pillar to post in this debate.

Anyway, what I have quoted here, esp. the first quote, makes it *clear* that Reppert has claimed that if God's Holy Word did in fact teach Calvinism, then it COULD NOT be God's word. Not "might not." COULD NOT.

So Robert, will you apologize to Steve and Dominic? Given these quotes, it is clear that their observations were "spot on."

Or, perhaps you want to say that a honest *Christian* could say, "If the Bible taught X, and I thought X was immoral, then it IS NOT God's word, and that being IS NOT God?

Is that what you want to say, Robert?

Say you prove Arminianism from Scripture to a Calvinist and he says, "Okay, Scripture teaches it. Fine. Guess it is not God's word then. Guess that kind of God is not God." What would you say, Robert? You'd have a field day.

So, Robert, will you apologize for falsely accusing Hays and Tennant? I saw your bet and I raised you.

You've reached a character defining moment, how will you respond?

Paul Manata said...

Robert said . . .

"If you read the New Testament you find that the Pharisees were constantly trying to set up Jesus with verbal traps and tricks"

i) You're not Jesus.

ii) To act as if you are Jesus opens you up to our treatment of you. We pointed out Jesus harsh treatment of others, and you told us that we weren't Jesus. Can't you even remember your own arguments, Robert.

iii) Traps are perfectly acceptable. Wise as serpents.

Indeed, God made animals with camoflauge.

He's not opposed to traps and surpises, per se.

At any rate, if you could tone done the woe-is-me pity party, and try to actually deal with the substance for once, that would be great.

Robert said...

First Paul Manata acts like a Pharisee, now he is attempting to justify himself, suggesting that setting up traps and set ups of other Christians is perfectly acceptable.

“So, as one can easily see, Robert has been trapped. But rather than fess up and admit it, he just regroups and takes this as a chance to attack Calvinists.”

Manata takes joy out of “trapping” me.

“I got dozens more like these.”

More quotes to set up and trap? I am sure he does have “dozens more like these”.

“I have dozens of other quotes from Reppert. Some aces up my sleeve.”

I am already convinced that he’s got dozens of traps and set ups waiting in the wings. A person with aces of his leave is a cheater at cards setting himself up to win. Now that’s real Christian character, proud to be a cheat and set up other believers. Where does Jesus tells us to do that? Where does Paul tell believers to do that?

I had written:

"If you read the New Testament you find that the Pharisees were constantly trying to set up Jesus with verbal traps and tricks"

And Manata responded:

“i) You're not Jesus.”

No, but I certainly know what he must have been experiencing when the Pharisees were constantly trying to set him up, set traps, pull aces out of their sleeves to attack him.

“ii) To act as if you are Jesus opens you up to our treatment of you. We pointed out Jesus harsh treatment of others, and you told us that we weren't Jesus. Can't you even remember your own arguments, Robert.”

Actually I do remember, you folks appeal to Jesus’ attack of the Pharisees in Matt. 23 to justify your harsh treatment of me. Your argument was that if Jesus could be harsh there, then so could you be with me. Of course that ignores who the Pharisees were as well as multiple NT verses on how Christians are to interact with one another. What Jesus said and how he said it in Matt.23 is not how believers are to be treating each other, or is it Paul?

“iii) Traps are perfectly acceptable. Wise as serpents.”

I would dispute this claim. Manata is proof texting and this can easily be shown. You were also careful not to fully cite the scripture to which you refer. Here let me lay out the passage for you since you intentionally appealed to only part of the verse not the whole verse. The context is Jesus speaking to his disciples and preparing to send them out warning them that they will face persecution:

“Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents AND INNOCENT AS DOVES. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” Matt. 10:16-18

Was Jesus telling his disciples to set up traps and deceive other believers in this passage? In fact if they tried this kind of stuff they would not have been wise as serpents or innocent as doves, they would have made their persecution worse. This is clearly proof texting by Manata as he seeks to find some shred of evidence to justify himself. So he selectively quotes only part of the verse. If we are **innocent as doves** we will not be engaging in the kind of set ups and tricks that Manata prides himself in coming up with.

How does being harmless as doves comport with Manata’s claim that “Traps are perfectly acceptable”? Seems a bit contradictory to me. And how does “Traps are perfectly acceptable” fit with this passage which does directly deal with how believers ought to interact with one another:

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. . . . . Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away form you, with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph. 4:25-32

How does setting up traps and acting like a Pharisee fit with what these verses suggest?
And then there is what Jesus says about causing his disciples to stumble intentionally in Matt.18:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’? And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly I say to you unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kindgom of heaven. Whoever receives one such a child in my name receives me, but WHOEVER CAUSES ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES WHO BELIEVE IN ME TO SIN, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

D. A. Carson and Donald Hagner in two excellent commentaries on Matthew take the “little ones” here to be referring to Jesus’ disciples, not just little children. The passage calls Jesus disciples to humility and warns against causing other disciples to stumble.

Someone who sets up traps for other believers and prides himself on it is going directly against this passage and what Jesus says. Being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” and not causing other disciples to stumble completely contradicts Manata’s attitude concerning setting up and trapping other believers and justifying himself. There is no justification for verbally setting up and trapping other believers.

“Indeed, God made animals with camoflauge.”

Ok, so we are to conclude from that that believers ought to be deceptive and trap one another? Animals have camoflage so Manata is justified in setting up traps and causing other believers to stumble?

“He's not opposed to traps and surpises, per se.”

If he is as you calvinists conceive him to be you are probably right. Steve Hays says God has the character of a cardsharp, so why should I be surprised that you want to engage in this kind of thing and attempt to justify yourself. And no where does the Lord say we should go around setting each other up to fall, deceiving each other, hiding cards in our sleeves so that we can trick each other. In fact he says we ought not be intentionally causing other disciples of Jesus to stumble.

Robert

steve said...

robert said...

“First Paul Manata acts like a Pharisee, now he is attempting to justify himself, suggesting that setting up traps and set ups of other Christians is perfectly acceptable.”

He’s simply responding to your charge on your own grounds.

Actually, Manata hasn’t trapped you. Rather, you have a habit of boxing yourself in. You do this to yourself in a variety of ways. Your own theological position is incoherent. You attack Calvinism when it’s easy to construct parallel objections to your own position. And you’ve been defending Reppert when Reppert has been belittling various evangelical doctrines. So you’re the one who constantly puts yourself in a bind.

“More quotes to set up and trap?”

That’s a palpable lie, but then, you’re a chronic liar. Manata has more quotes to document his interpretation of Reppert. The context of Manata’s statement was self-evident.

But because you’re blinded by your hated, you go out of your way to twist his words.

“I am already convinced that he’s got dozens of traps and set ups waiting in the wings.”

You reiterate your palpable lie.

“Now that’s real Christian character, proud to be a cheat and set up other believers.”

Now you build on your lie to engage in slander. You’re a real tribute to the faith you profess.

“Was Jesus telling his disciples to set up traps and deceive other believers in this passage?”

Where did Manata ever concede that he was deceiving Robert? Can Robert come up with a single quote to back up that accusation? Manata is simply responding to Robert on his own grounds.

Moreover, deception and entrapment are not synonymous. Trapping a person in his own words is not deceptive. Rather, it’s just a case of holding him to what he said. Comparing what he says now with what he said before.

“Steve Hays says God has the character of a cardsharp.”

That’s another outright lie. I challenge Robert to produce a verbatim quote in which I ever said that God has the *character* of a cardsharp.

Rather, I used the gambling analogy to show that a chance outcome can be identical to a predetermined outcome.

I also pointed out that Scripture itself describes divine providence using a gambling metaphor (casting lots, Prov 16:33).

Robert once again demonstrates his penchant for lying lips and hatred of the brethren.

Robert said...

Steve Hays responded to what I had written to Paul Manata.

Note the insults and personal attacks here:

“That’s a palpable lie, but then, you’re a chronic liar.”

“But because you’re blinded by your hatred, you go out of your way to twist his words.”

“You reiterate your palpable lie.”

“Now you build on your lie to engage in slander. You’re a real tribute to the faith you profess.”

My post included:

“Steve Hays says God has the character of a cardsharp.”

Hays responded:

“That’s another outright lie. I challenge Robert to produce a verbatim quote in which I ever said that God has the *character* of a cardsharp.”

Note that Hays says that he wants a **verbatim** quote in which he says God has the character of a cardsharp. Note also Hays is repeatedly attacking me as a liar. Well here **is** a verbatim quote from Steve Hays where he clearly and explicitly says that God has the character of a cardsharp.

A cardsharp is someone who cheats at cards in order to “win” the game. They manipulate the cards and the game so that they or their associates (they usually have others involved in their scam) “win” the game. I actually work with inmates who are real life cardsharps and even know some of their techniques which they have shared with me. They are actually quite clever and it takes some real intelligence and skill to be a cardsharp. A cardsharp since they are lying and setting people up and taking advantage of people does not have good or Christian character.

In the words that follow, ask yourself who is the dealer, is the dealer a cardsharp, and is the dealer cheating? I think the words are absolutely clear and show in fact that it is Steve Hays who is lying here (I add comments in parenthesis to make sure everybody gets it). He demands a verbatim quote here it is:

[[“Suppose we compare predestination to a game of seven-card stud.[the comparison involves a card game] God is the dealer.[note as clearly as can be stated, GOD IS THE DEALER in Hays’ illustration here] One of the players is a believer, the other an unbeliever who tries to cheat the believer at every turn. However, God has stacked the deck [who stacked the deck? God did. The one stacking the deck is the cardsharp] so that his chosen people will win over the long haul.

Now, God is securing the outcome by securing the deal.[securing the outcome further shows that God is the cardsharp manipulating the cards in this game involving a stacked deck by the dealer/God] Yet he isn’t forcing the hand of a crooked player. Since a crooked player doesn’t know that the dealer is a cardsharp,[who is the dealer whom Hays explicitly states here to be the cardsharp? God, GOD = DEALER = CARDSHARP] he bets and bluffs just the same as if the deck were randomly shuffled. He can only play the hand he’s dealt, but that’s true in any poker game, and he enjoys the very same choices he’d have if the cards just happened to play out in that order.

God allows the unbeliever to cheat the believer, but feeds the believer enough winning cards to keep him in the game[the cardsharp aides his associate, common practice among cardsharps]. God then lets the crooked player become overconfident and bet the whole jackpot on a weak hand, at which point the Christian calls his bluff and rakes in all the chips.

To me,[the “me” here is Steve Hays] there’s a delicious irony [delicious irony indicates that Hays likes what is going on in this game and that he approves of what the dealer/cardsharp/God is doing] in this arrangement, for a crooked player [that is the nonbeliever, the reprobate according to Hays’ theology] constantly tries to cheat [what is the nonbeliever constantly doing? Cheating] his fellow player, but all the while he’s being cheated [HE IS BEING WHAT???] by the dealer.[and here is the punchline: the nonbeliever is constantly cheating doing evil, but so is THE DEALER WHO IS GOD WHO IS A CARDSHARP according to Steve Hays; the dealer here who is identified explicitly by Hays is God and he is in fact cheating in this game, he is not an honest dealer with good character but a cardsharp with a lack of character]

Note in Hays’ analogy here that he does not say that the nonbeliever is the cardsharp cheating and manipulating the cards in this game. NO, he explicitly and as clearly as can be said, says that GOD IS THE DEALER, GOD IS THE CARDSHARP, GOD IS CHEATING THE UNBELIEVER IN THIS STACKED DECK OF A “GAME”. This is in fact an apt illustration of the character of the calvinist god that Steve Hays wants us all to believe in. This god is nasty and has bad character, he is just playing games with the nonbeliever, it is all set up like a cardsharp. And it is precisely this lack of character and actually sadistic character that other Christians (thankfully the majority across the theological spectrum) find objectionable and so rightfully reject this “omnipotent fiend”, this “cardsharp” caricature and false representation of the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is not this cardsharp of Steve Hays’ imagination.

And others should note, the public insults and personal attacks that Steve Hays engages in towards me here. This is not the way Christians are to interact with one another. Hays prides himself on being an apologist. His behavior towards others who disagree with him, whether believers or unbelievers does not fit the biblical mandate of what the Christian apologist is supposed to be doing: “The Lord’s bond servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). I said it before and I say it again, compare what the bible says with Steve Hays behavior. If he engaged in this kind of thing one time, we could attribute it to him having a bad or off day. But he does precisely this kind of insulting post as here, over and over and over again against his “opponents”.

Robert

PS - Steve ended with:

“Robert once again demonstrates his penchant for lying lips and hatred of the brethren.”

Hays is the one exhibiting his intense hatred for those who disagree with him and his false theology of calvinism.

Paul Manata said...

Hi-ya, Robert!

I see you're going to great pains to dodge the argument in my post.

Since my argument is clear, and I have laid it out fairly simply, I'm wondering why you won't answer?

Robert, you said a person who said the kinds of things I asked about wouldn't be acting very Christian.

I then proved that Reppert said those things that YOU SAID would make someone unChristian in their word and deed.

Hays and Tennant clearly did what you said was morally acceptible, yet you breated them and called them to repentence.

Robert, are you a man of integrity? Will you walk the walk or only talk the talk? Will you apologize to Hays and tennant for your (proven) uncharitbale and unChristian treatment of them?

It's hard to swallow pride when you're stuffed with sin inside. But the thing to do, and you know it, is ask forgiveness of those you call your brothers.

You should do this if it were a case with your enemy, how much more your brother?

If you don't acknowledge the point I'm making (which is pretty undeniable given the self-incriminating evidence), then you only confirm our own claims about why we treat you harsh. You are a dishonest opponent and you are willfully ignorant. Since you claim to be intelligent, then this can't be a case where you rae dumb. So, you must be playing dumb. People who play dumb rightfully get tougher treatment. So, your non-answers simply vindicate our accusations of you. Either way, you vindicate a T-blogger! :-) That's goot a be rough. I understand your hesitation.

Josh said...

You're right, Paul. Robert did say Doc Reppert acted unChristianly. Robert, that is hateful for you to say to Dr. Reppert. Don't apologize to Steve Hays. Apologize to Victor Reppert. That is what yu told Hays to do. Now tell yourself to do it.

steve said...

robert said...

“Well here **is** a verbatim quote from Steve Hays where he clearly and explicitly says that God has the character of a cardsharp.”

Mark well Robert’s exact words: “verbatim…clearly…explicitly.”

And does he have a verbatim quote in which I clearly and explicitly say that God has the character of a card sharp?

After having said “here is a verbatim quote,” he then spends two more paragraphs on personal exposition. This is a tacit admission that the quote isn’t, in fact, going to make the “clear” and “explicit” and “verbatim” admission he claims. So he has to prep the reader with a lot of prejudicial spin to plant that idea in his mind, since it can’t be found in the actual quote.

He also pads the quote with a certain amount of parenthetical spin, followed by a postscript in which he tries, once more, to equate his tendentious interpretation with my actual words.

He says, for example, “A cardsharp is someone who cheats at cards in order to ‘win’ the game. They manipulate the cards and the game so that they or their associates (they usually have others involved in their scam) ‘win’ the game.”

Of course, I constructed an argument from analogy. Every argument from analogy involves an element of disanalogy. Robert shifts from the metaphor to a literal cardsharp and his associates.

But this is where the analogy begins to break down. What motivates a literal cardsharp? Greed. Financial incentive. He enters into a covert business partnership with one of the players. He will feed the player winning cards in return for a share of the winnings. So he has something to gain. He literally has a profit motive.

But in my analogy, God is not the beneficiary. God isn’t getting anything out of this transaction for himself. This is for the benefit of the elect. And it’s also a judgment on the reprobate. They’re getting their due.

Robert also says, “A cardsharp since they are lying and setting people up and taking advantage of people does not have good or Christian character.”

But this is overstated. It isn’t inherently wrong to take advantage of another person. It depends on a number of other considerations. What kind of person is he? What does he do for a living? Do we have just cause?

Consider counterespionage. During the Cold War we would take advantage of Soviet spies. Pressure them to defect. There was nothing inherently immoral about that. They were in the service of an evil regime, bent on our destruction.

Robert deliberately overlooks some of the mitigating circumstances which I introduced in my illustration. For example, I said that “One of the players is a believer, the other an unbeliever who tries to cheat the believer at every turn.”

So one of the players is a cheat. By stacking the deck, God is evening the score. Restoring fair-play to an unfair game. This is no different than when a team loses points for breaking the rules. The team gained an unfair advantage, and so it’s penalized.

I also said the crooked player “bets and bluffs just the same as if the deck were randomly shuffled. He can only play the hand he’s dealt, but that’s true in any poker game, and he enjoys the very same choices he’d have if the cards just happened to play out in that order.”

That was my main point all along. Libertarians object to Calvinism because it denies the freedom to do otherwise. I simply gave an illustration in which it makes no difference. There are times when, sooner or later, as the odds would have it, a randomly shuffled deck will have the same sequence as a stacked deck. In whichever game you found yourself, you’d play the hand you were dealt the very same way—since it would be the very same hand. The outcome would be identical, whether it was predetermined or by happenstance.

Now we get to the climax of Robert’s grand demonstration. This is what he’s been slowly building up to:

“[and here is the punchline: the nonbeliever is constantly cheating doing evil, but so is THE DEALER WHO IS GOD WHO IS A CARDSHARP according to Steve Hays; the dealer here who is identified explicitly by Hays is God and he is in fact cheating in this game, he is not an honest dealer with good character but a cardsharp with a lack of character]”

Do you notice something a little amiss about the “punch line”? It’s set within brackets. In other words, it’s no part of the “verbatim” quote!

These are Robert’s words, Robert’s gloss. Not my words.

Remember Robert’s original claim? He was very specific about what he was going to prove. “Verbatim.” “Explicit.”

What we get, instead, is Robert’s scribal interpolation. The Comma Robertum.

“This god is nasty and has bad character, he is just playing games with the nonbeliever, it is all set up like a cardsharp.”

I’m sure Pharaoh felt the same way.

“And others should note, the public insults and personal attacks that Steve Hays engages in towards me here. This is not the way Christians are to interact with one another.”

But Robert doesn’t act like a Christian. If you want to be treated like a Christian, then start acting like one. Instead, he hides behind the name of Christ to conceal his disreputable conduct.

Just look at his behavior here. The elaborate preliminaries, as he labored to prime the pump—followed by the dry hole of his actual performance. He was never able to deliver the goods. To redeem the elaborate preliminaries.

“Hays prides himself on being an apologist.”

Can he quote me on that? A verbatim quote? Something clear and explicit, perchance?

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

robert said...

"How does setting up traps and acting like a Pharisee fit with what these verses suggest?"

According to Josh 8, the Israelites ambushed the army of Ai. They set a tap. And God was party to the ruse. I guess that makes God a Pharisee. So Manata can take consolation in the fact that he's in good company.

Unless Robert thinks that Yahweh is mean and nasty. A God who entraps his enemies.

Robert said...

One of the things we were told in seminary in our hermeneutics class is to be careful about CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT.

In my discussion with Paul Manata about his relish for engaging in verbally setting up and trapping people I said that this is not how a professing Christian ought to be interacting with another believer. I gave scripture supporting my view and showed how Manata was proof texting in his partial citation of the verse which says that we ought to be “wise and serpents and innocent as doves.” Manata quoted only the first part of the verse (wise as serpents) and also ignored the context of the passage (it was dealing with how Jesus’ disciples would face persecution by “wolves” and so they should be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”).

I also made the point that Manata’s actions are like the Pharisees in their interactions with Jesus (they tried to set up Jesus with verbal traps as well). The behavior of the Pharisees was wrong. And that behavior is certainly not the way Christians ought to be interacting with each other. So the context was THE VERBAL INTERACTIONS BETWEEN BELIEVERS. In THAT context, Manata’s behavior is clearly sinful and unjustified.

One of my comments was:

"How does setting up traps and acting like a Pharisee fit with what these verses suggest?"

Steve Hays has decided to respond, apparently to defend and justify the sinful verbal behavior of Manata. So Hays says:

“According to Josh 8, the Israelites ambushed the army of Ai. They set a t[r]ap. And God was party to the ruse. I guess that makes God a Pharisee. So Manata can take consolation in the fact that he's in good company.

Unless Robert thinks that Yahweh is mean and nasty. A God who entraps his enemies.”

Excuse me, but isn’t the context of the historical event to which Steve Hays appeals, a situation involving WAR BETWEEN THE ISRAELITES AND THE *****ARMY***** OF AI?

Or put another way, is the Josh 8 narrative intended by God to be providing principles of how Christian BELIEVERS ARE TO INTERACT WITH ONE ANOTHER? Or to put it yet another way, is Josh 8 meant to be a parallel passage with the NT passages describing the interactions of Jesus with the Pharisees?

Besides completely ignoring the biblical context of Josh 8 and the context of my discussion with Manata notice Steve Hays’ bizarre logic that follows from his citation of Josh 8:

In Josh 8 the Israelite engaged in a ruse;
God was involved in the ruse;
Pharisees were involved in ruses;
Therefore that makes God a Pharisee.
And further since Manata is acting like a Pharisee and God is a Pharisee (according to the previous bizarre train of “logic”), that makes Manata’s actions perfectly acceptable and justified.

“So Manata can take consolation in the fact that he's in good company.”

Wow, Steve you are losing it, must be brought on by your intense hatred of me. I must be your white whale, Captain Ahab. In seeking to destroy me you will destroy yourself.

How could you possibly confuse the context of how Christians ought to interact with each other (not act like a Pharisee and set up other believers with verbal traps) with the context of Israel in a war effort against her enemies? I have seen some wild and far out interpretations of the bible in my days, but this has got to be one of the worst examples I have ever seen.

If D. A. Carson needs more material for a future revision of his book EXEGETICAL FALLACIES, this would be perfect. In the future if I want to show to what desperate lengths you will go because of your hatred of me, this will provide perfect proof of it.

Steve Hays concluded with:

“Unless Robert thinks that Yahweh is mean and nasty. A God who entraps his enemies.”

So since God entraps people and is like a Pharisee according to Steve Hays and since the Pharisees interacted with Jesus in this way and since Paul Manata is acting like a Pharisee towards me, then Christians ought to act like Pharisees to one another entrapping one another? Is that what you are suggesting Steve?

So Steve are Christians supposed to be entrapping one another in our interactions with each other? Is that what the NT says about how Christians are to interact with one another?

I don’t think that the God who reveals himself in the bible “is mean and nasty.” But this god as conceived of by calvinism that Steve Hays is so desperate to defend, who produces hateful folks like Steve, “is mean and nasty.” Fortunately he is not the God of the bible. And this god of calvinism that Hays so desperately argues for, **is** “A God who entraps his enemies.” With the character of a cardsharp that he has, he set up all of the nonbelievers to be his enemies, entrapped them from before they were born to ensure they would be nonbelievers so that he could then eternally punish them. Nasty, just plain nasty.

Robert

PS -my best friend in seminary served as D. A. Carson’s graduate assistant while he got his Ph.D. under Carson. He is still in contact with Carson and I am still in contact with him, what da ya say I send my friend this example of an exegetical fallacy and then have him make sure to get it into Carson’s hands? Sound like fun?

steve said...

Oh, so Robert does think it's okay to set a trap for someone as long as he's your "enemy." I thought he took the position that we should love our enemies?

Or does he think that entapment is loving after all? In which case, why is he condeming Manata—assuming, for the sake of argument, that Manata "trapped" him?

steve said...

robert said...

"So since God entraps people and is like a Pharisee according to Steve Hays."

Notice, in his trademark duplicity, how Robert imputes his equation to me, then waxes morally superior. He is the one who equated entrapment with Pharisaism.

"And this god of calvinism that Hays so desperately argues for, **is** 'A God who entraps his enemies'.”

But God was party to the ambush in Josh 8. An ambush is a trap you set for your enemies. So, by his own admission, Robert must now be equating Yahweh with the God of Calvinism—a God he thinks is "gruesome" and "sadistic."

"What da ya say I send my friend this example of an exegetical fallacy and then have him make sure to get it into Carson’s hands? Sound like fun?"

Since I have Carson's email address (indeed, more than one), I could always return the favor by sending him some of Robert's exegetical fallacies (hard to choose from so many examples). Sound like fun?

Paul Manata said...

Notice Robert STILL does not engage the *point* of my post.

This is the problems we had at T-blog.

We made an *argument*

Robert sought out anything he could cling to in order to *turn* the attentions *away* from the actual argument, and then spend the rest of the time spewing his sanctimonious drivel.

Okay, Robert, you got me. I am trash. A pharisee. A loser. A bad bible reader. Worthless. You're better than me. Smarter. Better looking to.

Now, that I have said all of that, conceeded all your points, DO YOU HAVE AN ANSWER YET???

(And, if you must know, I didn't think I was setting a trap. In fact, I thought my play was OBVIOUS. I just said those things because it is easy to get under Robert's skin. He's immature. he gets rattled easily. He acts rude towards us. So I just give it back to him. I just do a better Robert tna Robert and he gets mad about it! Watch, he'll use this as ANOTHER opportunity to EVADE my argument. So predictable.)

Jason Pratt said...

Meanwhile, back to an actual discussion... (Sorry for the delay; I was mostly out of pocket over MemDay weekend, and had to catch up elsewhere first when I returned.)

Paul,

{{[The moral constitution] is common to all because all bear the imago dei. But, there is no *grace* in hell.}} [original emphasis]

Consequently, your position must entail that the moral constitution is not provided by the grace of God. Moreover, due to the necessary connection you agree exists between the moral constitution and the image dei, your position must entail that the imago dei is not provided by the grace of God.

(Those in hell have and continue having the imago dei; there is no grace in hell; therefore the imago dei is not from the grace of God.)

I affirm, on the other hand, that the moral constitution and the imago dei (which I agree are necessarily connected) exist and continue existing only by the grace of God. Which, not incidentally, is directly consistent with orthodox theism.

You could repair your contention by trying to claim multiple very different kinds of “grace of God”. But that will require fixing your emphatic claim that there is no grace in hell. (In my experience, I think it will also require trying to posit a ‘grace’ that is more like anti-grace: a ‘grace’ so totally different from what we would otherwise recognize as ‘grace’ that we would normally call it the opposite of grace--except of course that then we might as well stop calling it grace and affirm its opposite instead. But then, the imago dei and moral constitution goes back to being dependent upon something other than the grace of God.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Dom (and hereafter for a while): {{Jason, I'm not sure I understand your first objection.}}

Could you be more specific? I’ve written a lot in this thread already. Do you mean the first thing I wrote in my first comment?

For reference sake, that was: “[W]hen I complain that to act to ensure that injustice shall permanently continue is itself to enact injustice, not justice, Calvinists (and Arminians, too, sometimes) have a peculiar habit of retorting that I am only judging things by an inbuilt understanding of what goodness is, usually adding that my inbuilt understanding is totally faulty concerning what counts as enacting justice or injustice. Their point to doing this is to appeal to this against me, rather than accept that I (as I thought I was doing) am making a critique of logical incoherency in a theological claim.Yet they don't say anything at that time about how my category of good and evil is a result of the imago Dei, intrinsic to me as a creature made in God's image (per Rom 2 for example).”

This was in reply to your statement, “As I argued, we have an inbuilt understanding of what goodness is, regardless of what we choose to place into that category.”


{{The argument you make about injustice is not much different than the argument Victor makes about goodness.}}

I have yet to see Victor appealing to the orthodox characteristics of God’s self-existence as the standard of justice and, by contrast to this, injustice.

Possibly you haven’t yet noticed what “the specific situation” is that I’m talking about, though. (I am somewhat doubtful you would consider the doctrine of God’s self-begetting existence to have been ‘imposed’ by me into our theology.)

{{I am simply asking: how do you know that this action of God's goes into the "injustice" category or the "evil" category, rather than the "justice" category or the "goodness" category?}}

By reference to what counts as sin compared to the eternal action of God’s own multi-personal self-existence.

I can argue it from Scripture, if you prefer, inasmuch as the way of the Lord is fair-togetherness, and the One Who is good will not be found to be doing non-fair-togetherness (or “unrighteousness”), nor that we should deny the name of Jesus (“The Lord saves” or perhaps “The Lord is salvation”), among many other such references explaining to us what we ought to expect in regard to even the punishments from God.

Seeing that exegetical issues, however, where different interpretations are found, will eventually come back to logical principle analysis, I’d rather start there and save some time. But either way I am not arguing from intuition. This should have been abundantly obvious, including from my first remark in my first comment, where I noted that when I make reference to logical coherency problems in theology it often happens that the retort is that I am only using moral intuition (and inextricably faulty moral intuition at that).

{{Therefore, whatever arguments about logical coherency are to be made must be made from Scripture.}}

Which I have been constantly doing--unless perhaps you think that orthodox trinitarian theism isn’t a doctrine derivable from scripture.


{{If you feel that it would be unjust for God to send people to hell}}

My feelings have nothing to do with it; which is something you should have been able to tell already.

Also, I have absolutely nothing against God ‘sending people to hell’, and on the contrary I positively affirm it; which is also something you should have been able to tell already. (For that matter, I am quite obviously more in favor of re-probation, much moreso re-tribution, than you are. {g})


{{As regards Christ's sacrifice, many of the non-elect have had opportunity to receive it.}}

That depends on whether God ever acted to save them from their sins. They can’t have an opportunity to receive the sacrifice of Christ without that (unless salvation from sin is not primarily and fundamentally from God, perhaps, which I deny.)

I usually find Calvinists insisting that God never even intended to save some people from sin; consequently there is no failure of His if salvation from sin doesn’t happen. (A doctrine promoted as being the flip side of the doctrine of God’s persistence in saving those whom He intends to save from sin, which is very typically--and rightly I would agree--promoted by Calvinists as an issue of God being trustworthy and competent to save, thus being an issue of security of salvation from sin for ‘the elect’.)

Perhaps, though, you don’t promote the notion that God never even tries to save the non-elect from sin?

You certainly promote the notion that God never even tries to save some of the non-elect from sin, though. “Many of the non-elect” have had opportunity to receive salvation from sin. Meaning some of the non-elect have had no opportunity. (And notably, you only mention the action of our witness, when speaking of those of the non-elect who have had opportunity.)

So far you give no evidence that God acts to save the non-elect. Without the action of God toward this, you cannot with any logical coherency maintain that the non-elect have had any real opportunity to receive salvation from sin. Until God gives a real opportunity for salvation, any mention of ‘opportunity’ is a pure and outright sham. We may be honestly ignorant (on the terms of this soteriology) about whether God is really giving an opportunity for salvation from sin to any particular person (including those we witness to), but then we cannot honestly claim that a real opportunity is being provided by God for those people.

{{I suspect you have misunderstood my position as regards the atonement.}}

I suspect I have understood you very well, so far. {s} I appreciate the article link, but it adds nothing substantial to what I’ve already understood your position in regard to the at-one-ment to be. Darryl, in his comment (attempting to argue for 4-1/2 point Calvinism, so to speak), directly contradicts himself in regard to the intentions of God, from one sentence to the next: the intention of Christ’s death is given only to a limited set of people. And yet in the next sentence “salvation is offered to all--the whole world”. Offered by whom?? By Christ?! Then the intention of Christ’s death is not given to only a limited set of people! By us?! Not only is that obv iously not true (concerning the whole world) in practice, any ‘offer’ we make is worthless (maybe worse than worthless!) without the intention of Christ. (Indeed I would be extremely leery about purporting to ‘offer salvation’ at all. At best I am a preacher or teacher, not the 2nd Person of the Trinity.) By Christ but not by ‘God’? Then we’re actually talking about Mormonism or Arianism or some other non-orthodox theology.

Your conversation with Darryl on the topic of his comment, has nothing to do with affirming Christ’s intention to save all--the whole world. It has to do with Christ being punished for everyone’s sins (which itself cannot be justice, for in this two injustices are done: an innocent not only suffers but is punished for evils He didn’t do, and the guilty go free as a result of the injustice done to the first person.)

In any case, in effect your complaint to Darryl was originally that if Christ somehow achieved unlimited at-one-ment, then obviously everyone would be saved from sin somehow. But once Darryl introduced his contradictory claim that Christ’s intention to save from sin was both limited to a set of people and also offered to all--the whole world--then you retracted your complaint. It wasn’t really universal at-one-ment, not really universal reconciliation, he was talking about after all. (He specifically distances himself from that, as you say. {s})

This denial of intention is connected to your federal headship soteriology--for unless Christ restricts His intentions and thus His real offer, His federal headship would trump the sin of Adam in precisely the same way that the sin of Adam is (in your soteriology) imputed to us: universally.

Consequently, as you specifically affirm, you believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was limited only to the elect, both in intention and in application. (Your own original emphasis.) It means nothing that “in principle” it is not so limited--that is only another way of saying that if God’s intentions and applications were different then He would indeed be acting to save everyone from sin. You might as well stop with the affirmation that God does not act to save everyone from sin.

But if God really does not act to do this, then there really is no opportunity for those people to be saved. A ‘principle’ absolutely contradicted by final action is no fallback for preserving this concept--unless you mean to be saying that God is acting in permanent finality against the very principle of His own self-sacrifice and resurrection.

I call no way. {g} And I’m sure you do, too. But then, if we’re going to have a coherent theology, we have to stick to it. Which, by the way, I do.

JRP

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