Sunday, February 20, 2005

Holding v. Hays-2

"No one said anything about 'earning' God's covenant promises."

Really? Let's go back to back to my verbatim quote of Holding: "To say, 'Lord, have mercy!' (Matt. 20:31) means, 'Lord, pay up your debt of interpersonal obligation to us.' Far from being a plea of the hapless, it is a request to pay back previously earned favor from our client (God) whose patron we are."

There you have it. Earning God's favor and thereby casting God in the role of debtor. And this line of reasoning runs directly counter to Rom 4:1-4. If that's a representative slice of sociorhetorical criticism (Pilch & Malina), then so much the worse for sociorhetorical criticism. I choose to line up behind Paul, not against him.

Or is Holding going to stake out the compromise position--a la Rome, Sanders--that we're saved by grace, but kept by works?

"Beyond this I will claim responsibility for an error: I did mix up client and patron in the last sentence. This is now corrected."

Okay, so Holding now admits he misspoke. Fine. That can happen to anyone. But a reader can only judge him by what he actually said, not what he meant to say but failed to say. Why take such umbrage when a reader takes him at his word? If he mispoke, is that the reader's fault?

"That's nice. So what? As noted, I had no idea that I was offering Molinism when I first wrote this. The key issue is, can Hays (or anyone) show that the illustration is wrong? What does he deny? Does he deny that God was free to choose among possible worlds to create? Does he say that God's knowledge forces us to do things? What is it he wants to actually criticize? Is he indeed capable of more than throwing around vague references?"

The illustration is wrong on many counts, but let's confine ourselves to four:

i) Even if Molinism were true, toying with Molinism is not the same as doing exegesis on Rom 9. Let Holding cite even one of his precious sociorhetorical critics who uses Molinism to exegete Rom 9.

ii) Rom 9:11 rules out the possibility that election and reprobation are based on what the objects of election and reprobation would or would not have done.

iii) If you posit libertarian freewill, then God cannot know what an agent will do in any given situation; for if an agent has libertarian freewill, then he can do otherwise in any given situation.

Incidentally, libertarian freewill is scarcely compatible with an Evangelical doctrine of sin--to which Holding is nominally committed.

iv) Holding is acting as though possible worlds were a mail-order catalog from which God makes his choice. This conjures up the specter of preexistence, as if God inherited this catalog as a family heirloom. These possible persons already exist, apart from God, like autonomous storybook characters. God's job is simply to choose which ones to activate--based on what they would freely do, given the chance.

But that is highly unorthodox. A possible person has whatever properties that God mentally assigns to him. God knows what "it" would do because God knows what "he" would do "with" it. This is not, then, a model of libertarian freewill.

"Sorry, but John and Romans were written BY Hebrew-speaking Jews, and Romans was written to a mixzed [sic] audience of Jews and Gentiles, and the matter of bilingual interference makes it Hays' burden to show a disconnection. We have already answered this point above, and vague references to a huge book are not answers."

i) No, the burden is not on me, but Holding. Holding is the one who is making breezy generalizations about the linguistic culture of the NT writers, and, furthermore, extrapolating from that to specific points of exegesis. In order to make good on this claim he would need to do the following:
a) Establish his general claim
b) Establish his specific application.

ii) Holding does neither. Referring the reader to a standard reference work on the diverse linguistic milieu of 1C Jews is certainly germane to the general claim.

iii) Incidentally, Holding is quite willing to make vague references to book-length monographs when he happens to think it serves his own purpose.

iv) In addition, let the reader note that Holding cites no sociorhetorical commentator, or any other commentator, who applies the grammatical analysis of Jer 7:22 to Rom 9. All that Holding has done is to prop up one unsubstantiated claim by another unsubstantiated claim.

"Even multi-lingual persons retain the affectations of their native tongue."

This assumes that multi-lingual speakers have a single native language. Some do, some don't. Some grow up in homes where more than one language is heard from the cradle.

Some emigrate at an age where they're too young to have fully mastered their mother tongue, but too old to fully master a second language. Some emigrate at an age where they become more proficient in a second language than their mother tongue.

"The same for Paul, though the degree of interference would vary, and be in accord with factors about the life of Moses and Paul about which we have little information."

Let the reader take careful note of this admission. Holding had just said that "John and Romans were written BY Hebrew-speaking Jews, and Romans was written to a mixzed [sic] audience of Jews and Gentiles, and the matter of bilingual interference makes it Hays' burden to show a disconnection."

Now, however, he is forced to backtrack with the admission that he knows nothing about the particulars of Paul's linguistic formation--or, for that matter, that of Paul's audience. So Holding's interpretation of Rom 9 turns on a very specific claim of linguistic interference for which, by his own tardy admission, he has, and can have, no specific evidence whatsoever.

"How this works out is not explained. Hays is obviously oblivious to the virtues of native informants to say nothing of being pompously denigrating to the work of scholars like Wilson."

Holding said this in reference to the following comment of mine: "Holding's thesis is self-refuting. If it's impossible for one linguistic community to get inside the mind of another linguistic community, then it is impossible for Holding to get inside the 'block-logic' of a 1C Jew."

i) Actually, I thought my statement self-explanatory. Holding insists that Paul cannot think outside the box of his linguistic culture--such is the power which Holding attributes to social conditioning. Yet Holding magically exempts himself from social conditioning. He is confident that he can think outside the box of his own linguistic culture--that he, as a native English-speaker, can comment objective on the linguistic box of a Hebrew speaker, or Greek speaker, or Latin speaker.

ii) Let us add that Wilson is the product of a very different linguistic culture than a 1C Jewish native of Tarsus who was educated in pre-70 AD Jerusalem.

iii) This is not the first time or the last that Holding will take refuge in an argument from authority. His appeal to Wilson is a classic argument from authority. Yet Holding himself brands such an appeal to be a logical fallacy. So my "pompous denigration" consists in not committing a logical fallacy.

Incidentally, if Holding is going to indulge in so much invective, he could at least learn a few synonyms so that he doesn't draw attention to his limited vocabulary. Instead of using "pompous" so often, why not vary the invective a little with such synonyms as "stuffy," "pontifical," "inflated," "swollen," "bloated," "turgid" and the like. That way, what he lacks in logic, he makes up for in style.

"So how does Hays explain the "not" in Jer. 7:22?"

i) I don't have to explain the negation in Jer 7:22, because that is irrelevant to the interpretation of Rom 9:16. I could stipulate to Whitney's interpretation of Jer 7:22 without assuming that this in any way colors the usage of Rom 9:16.

ii) But suppose, for the sake of argument, that we did apply it to Rom 9:16? To what would the first clause be relative? What would supply the comparative? Why, the second clause, of course: "So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." The Reformed interpretation remains totally intact. Nothing is changed by this maneuver. No theological readjustment is required. Things stand exactly as they were before. So all of Holding's house-that-jack-built reasoning is still for naught.

"Yet another misplaced answer. Gal. 5:19-21 refers to the 'works of the flesh' and therefore would be referring to the outworking of a decision, not the decision or thought itself which takes place in the mind. Which of these items Hays has in mind as 'mental acts' I can only guess but none are merely decisions or thoughts.

Oh, what about "jealousy" (Gr.=zelos), for one. That's an attitude, a mental act--not the outworking thereof. It may well issue in some concrete form of expression, but that is not the essence of it. Indeed, it is just because a sinful attitude need not translate into a sinful deed that the NT warns the believer that even unconsummated attitudes can still be sinful.

Holding said: "Since a linear or logical order requires the passage of time to exist and be enacted."

To which I said: "A logical order is an abstract object, not a concrete, spatiotemporal object."

To which he said: "What the point of this was I do not know. I say nothing of the sort."

Holding has a problem connecting his own dots. He said that a logical order requires the passage of time to exist. I countered that a logical order is an abstract object; as such, it subsists outside of space and time. He then says: "What the point of this was I do not know. I say nothing of the sort."

The point of all this is that he made a claim about a logical order--to whit: it requires the passage of time to exist. This I denied by pointing out that a logical order is an abstract object. That is directly responsive to his claim.

Now he says he said nothing of the sort? To what does the negation now apply? Does he affirm or deny that a logical order is a temporal order? If he denies it, then he denies his own statement to the contrary. If he affirms it, then he needs to explain how a logical order is and must be a temporal order--and how that related to God. Is Holding a nominalist? Does he deny the existence of abstract objects like the laws of logic? If so, then there are no universals, including logical relations.

This came on the heels of his statement that "'To speak of God doing A "because" of B implies a chain of causality that would be impossible for a being who transcends time."

But this confuses causes with reasons. Scripture often says that God does A because of B. That doesn't imply a causal chain. It just means that God is an agent who has reasons for what he does.

"There's no 'trick question' here, Hays' paranoid suspicions notwithstanding. But at least he does admit that there is no detraction from sovereignty."

Sometimes you have to wonder of Holding is uncomprehending or unscrupulous. Did I admit there's no detraction from sovereignty? This is what I said:

"If God could accomplish his purpose by merely setting up the initial conditions, then that would not detract from his sovereignty. But this assumes the very answer at issue. You might as well ask if a painter can paint part of the canvass, then let the canvass fill in the gaps. A painting doesn't paint itself. Holding has no doctrine of creation. If a painter leaves the canvass half-finished, it stays half-finished."

What I obviously and explicitly said is that God's sovereignty would not be compromised if, in deistic fashion, he could accomplish his purpose by merely setting up the initial conditions. I then proceeded to argue that this proviso would not suffice to accomplish his purpose. I proposed a hypothetical in order to debunk it. Is Holding unable to grasp this standard form of argument? I think Holding is smarter than that. The alternative explanation is that Holding, in order to seize a specious tactical advantage, pretends that carefully caveated reply amounts to the tacit admission that his position is basically correct.

"In the meantime Hays' own answer assumes the very answer at issue, that we are equitable to a canvass. What if the painter used a canvass that was partially composed of nanobots that finished the painting for him?"

So Holding concedes that a painting doesn't paint itself. And he retreats into the postulate of nanorobotic painters. But that is just a shell-game which only pushes the original problem back a step and proceeds to camouflage the evasion with a proxy painter. So he still has no doctrine of creation.

"A long quote follows from what I say about deSilva, grace, and faith. Hays' first reply speaks for itself:

i) I've only read the first chapter of DeSilva's book. The experience did not inspire me to intensify my acquaintance. There is nothing revolutionary here. It's a rehash of commonplace sociological concepts like shame culture/guilt culture, ascribed/achieved status, &c. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's hardly breaking any new ground.

The ostrich mentality requires no further comment. This also bespeaks the ostrich mentality."

Notice that Holding does absolutely nothing here to rebut my summary of DeSilva. In the absence of a rebuttal, my summary stands unchallenged.

I said: "Claims that the shame culture rubric represents the 'primary axis of value' among 1C Christians and Jews. He offers next to nothing to substantiate this claim. He cites all of three little verses from Proverbs, plus a lot of stuff from the OT Apocrypha. Most of his supporting data comes, not from Scripture, but Greco-Roman writers."

Holding answers: "In other words, Hays wishes to promulgate the asinine supposition that Scripture existed in a vacuum insulated from its primary culture and context. Let that speak for itself."

Notice how this begs the very question of what constitutes the "primary culture and context" of Scripture, as if the OT as a whole were secondary to the context of the NT. You only have to run through all of the quotes and allusions to the OT in the NT to discern the fatal inadequacy of Holding's preemptory dismissal.

"Nothing is done here but an enormous begging of the question, one that refuses to accept the definition of "grace" as it was known by contemporaries of the text. Beyond that it is too non-specific to reply to."

i) When NT writers like Paul define the nature of grace, they go back to OT models.

ii) Notice, on Holding's reckoning, how the NT is unable to challenge prevailing pagan mores. For, from Holding's perspective, the NT is dependent on the contemporary culture to supply the conceptual framework.

I said: "A client-patron paradigm is so generic that it would be an easy matter to formulate a Reformed client-patron model, or a Pelagian model, or Deist model, or Muslim model, or Hindu model, or Catholic model, or what have you. A patron can make a donation, demanding nothing in return--or a loan, demanding repayment with interest."

Holding said: "If it is an 'easy matter' then let's see Hays work each of these out. Merely bragging that it can be done is just bluster; even more so to claim it and not make any sort of application."

Why should I reinvent the wheel? It's already been done. I was assuming that Holding, as a Christian apologist, would know enough comparative religion that he could fill in the blanks for himself. For example, Hinduism has its patron gods while Catholicism has its patron saints. Indeed, the cult of the saints, with Mary as Mediatrix, and the whole indulgence racket, is a classic example of a patronage system. And it dovetails perfectly with Holding's idea of earning spiritual bonus points. If Holding really believes that salvation is a quid-pro-quo, then he's a stranger to grace.

"The matter of guilt of innocence in clients is an irrelevancy in context; it has to do with the reason and basis for the offer of patronage, not with the structure of the relationship itself."

The matter of guilt or innocence is highly relevant if, as Holding does, you define "mercy" as "a request to pay back previously earned favor."

Sinners cannot earn God's favor because…well…because they are sinners. That's why grace is unmerited favor.

I said: "To talk about degrees of regeneration evinces conceptual confusion."

Holding said: " Why this is so is not explained."

I didn't explain it because Holding, as a Christian apologist, ought to know the basic meaning of stock theological terms. Holding is, of course, at liberty to redefine terms and invest them with an idiosyncratic meaning, but dogmatic usage uses words in a well-entrenched sense. Unlike ordinary usage, technical usage is loaded.

I said: "Yes, you can redefine faith as infused grace ('the gift of fidelity'). This is Romanism. And it fails to do justice to the vicarious character of justification, as articulated by Paul.

He said: "If it is Romanism, so be it; nevertheless applying tags of bigotry and buzzwords guaranteed to upset the Calvinist is not an answer. The remainder is yet again non-specific and deserves no answer."

I said: "No, a human patron cannot engender faith. News flash--God can do things man cannot!"

He said: "News flash in reply: If this refers to Eph. 2:8-9, then the 'faith' there is not ours, but God's loyalty to us."

Okay, let my confess that I may have misjudged Holding's position. I was assuming all along that Holding is an Evangelical Christian. Hence, I was assuming some measure of common ground. That is what one tries to do in dialogue. You use certain shared beliefs as a benchmark.

Now, Holding has offered, with a few codicils, the doctrinal standard of Campus Crusade for Christ as expressive of his own personal creed:

Now, this is what it says in matters of soteriology:

"He [Christ] lived a sinless life and voluntarily atoned for the sins of men by dying on the cross as their substitute, thus satisfying divine justice and accomplishing salvation for all who trust in Him alone.

"The salvation of man is wholly a work of God's free grace and is not the work, in whole or in part, of human works or goodness or religious ceremony. God imputes His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, and thereby justified them in His sight."

Here you have a classic restatement of classic 16C Reformation theology: of vicarious atonement, penal substitution, sola gratia, and sola fide.

This is all directly and deliberately opposed to synergism; to mercy as "a request to pay back previously earned favor"; to faith as "not ours, but God's loyalty to us"; to guilt as "irrelevant" to the way in which the relation between God and man is structured; to God as our "debtor," and we his "clients;" to grace as obligatory "beyond the first round of 'gracing,'" &c.

So I publicly apologize to Mr. Holding for besmirching his character by giving him by benefit of the doubt, by assuming that he says what he means and means what he says, that he doesn't palter in a double sense or affirm an Evangelical statement of faith with fingers firmly crossed behind his back.


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