Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Postmortem on Holding-3

ii) But let us play out Holding's contention to its logical conclusion. According to Feinberg, who is cited in this debate--although Feinberg never exports his interpretation of Jer 7:22 to Rom 9:16--"the idiom does not intend to deny the statement but only to set it in a secondary place," Jeremiah: A Commentary (Zondervan 1982), 75.

So assuming for the sake of argument that Feinberg's interpretation is both correct and portable, how would this cash out in application to Rom 9:16? The only effect would be to subordinate the force of the first clause to the second. It would still be true that election and reprobation (v15-16a) are not dependent on human participation. And this secondary fact would hold true due to the primary fact that election and reprobation are, instead, entirely dependent on the sheer mercy of God.

So even if we play along with Holding's misguided application, the predestinarian force of Rom 9:16 remains undiluted.

Since Holding continues to harp on Jer 7:22, as, I guess he must, having so little on which to build his case, it is worth pointing out that his interpretation of Jer 7:22 is not the only viable option or even the best available interpretation of the text. The issue raised by Jer 7:22 is how to square Jeremiah's statement with the divinely ordained sacrificial system in the Mosaic law. A couple of harmonizations are offered. One is the grammatical solution "parroted" by Holding. However, another solution draws attention to narrative sequence and relative chronology:

"In point of fact, then, God never said anything to them at the beginning--'in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt'--about offerings or sacrifices," G. Archer, Bible Difficulties (Zondervan 1982), 272.

"At the time the Sinai covenant was instituted, God required His people Israel to be obedient and to worship Him alone. Only when these prime stipulations were promulgated did God prescribe a developed sacrificial system," R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah & Lamentations (IVP 1973), 87.

"A reading of Exod 19:3-8 makes it clear that the first step in the covenant ceremony was Yahweh's demand for the unconditional acceptance of the covenant. The Decalog is spelled out in Exod 20:1-17, but at no point is the narrative concerned with cultic details. It was only after the covenant has been ratified (24:1-8) that the cultic details of the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices were declared," J. A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah (Eerdmans 1987), 287-88.

"Jeremiah is engaged not in a wholesale critique of the temple, but specifically of certain burnt-offerings and sacrifices that the people brought to the temple, which in turn were not a part of the specified public ritual established at Mount Sinai," P. Craigie (Nelson 1991), 124.

It is odd that Holding, who brags of having "cracked more commentaries than Hays has sat on to reach the dinner table in his lifetime," seems to wholly ignorant of this major exegetical alternative--offered by a number of "credentialed" scholars.

And if we favor that interpretation, then Holding's argument, such as it is, collapses like the proverbial house of cards.

He said: "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.

I said: "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."

He said: "A blatant dodge. Hays can now find only one item in the list that he thinks works."

Don't you just love the way Holding's mind works? He said that "none of the items" count. Well, it only takes one exception to disprove a universal negative, does it not? He issues a challenge; I rise to the challenge, he calls it a dodge. In other words, whenever you call Holding's bluff, he moves the goal post.

BTW, I never said I could only find one item. But one good counter-example will do.

"And even it, he must admit, is followed on by concrete expression."

This is just a bald-faced lie. I said "may" well issue, not "must" issue. And I went on to note unconsummated attitudes.

"But the issue is once more than I am asking not about attitudes, but about decisions."

Notice that he's moving the goal post again. What he said was "decisions or thoughts." Now an attitude is a thought. An attitude is an intentional state, taking an object. It's an attitude about/thought of something or someone. But Holding didn't anticipate this--which is why he suddenly ditches his own choice of words and confines himself to "decisions," although that is not how he originally posed the question. Did he think no one would notice his switcheroo?

"Chances are he had no expectation of a reply from me, and now that he has one, is scrambling for some cover upon his ample posterior."

Yet another instance of Holding's anatomical fixation. When a man conjures up the mental image of another man's rear-end, you've got to wonder about his orientation. Let us hope that Mr. Holding didn't pick up any nasty habits working in prison.

"It is still not explained how this is so. Nothing of what I said makes a logical order an 'abstract object' and it really would not make an ounce of difference if it was or not. I write down a logical sequence; is it now concrete or abstract? Hays needs to stop playing semantic games to cover his inadequacies."

Whenever Holding gets caught in a trap of his own making, a favorite fallback is to complain that I'm "playing semantic games." To collapse a logical order into a causal order is more than a semantic game. To further confound a logical sequence with a verbal token only befuddles the distinction all the more. Once again, Holding has no doctrine of creation. And it won't do for him to don these airs of intellectual superiority if he's going to commit such elementary blunders.

"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."

Exactly, as in bold. Hays said it, obviously and explicitly, that it what I argued was so, there would be no detraction, and now he wants to backpedal."

Once again we have to treat Mr. Holding to a little primer in elementary logic. Any first year philosophy major can tell that my argument takes the form of a contrapositive proof, known in predicate logic as modus tollens. The abstract schema takes the form of:

If P, then Q.
Q is false.
Therefore, P is false.

Fleshing this out, the argument has two premises. The first premise takes the form of an if-then clause. The second clause, which negates the first, naturally begins with an adversative conjunction like "but"--as in, "if God could P, then Q; but Q is false; therefore P is false. Paul uses a contrapositive proof for the Resurrection in 1 Cor 15:13ff.

"Oh! So now he wants to add "deistic" to his little explanation in order to account for his huge bungle in agreeing I was correct."

At the risk of having to state the obvious and thereby insult the intelligence of the average reader, deism is implicit in Holding's idea of a painting that could paint itself once the painter gets it started and leaves the rest to a nanorobotic apprentice.

" Since Calvin knew his way around the Hebrew Bible, if he new nothing of Hebrew block logic, then that's only because there was nothing there to know.

Let the viciously circular ostrich mentality speak for itself. Will Hays insult Wilson again by saying he does not know his way around the Hebrew Bible?"

Let the viciously circular ostrich mentality speak for itself.
Will Holding insult Calvin again by saying that he does not know his way around the Hebrew Bible?

"Hays is out of touch with the conception of fictive kinship in the ancient world, upon which all covenant and patronage relationships were grounded. There is no confusion except by Hays, in his ignorance of the social world of the NT: Note that my words come from a scholarly source, with which Hays once again does not deal seriously. Compassion" DOES "select for" kin in the ancient world -- there is always a kinship relationship of some sort, whether Hays likes it or not. If he thinks not, let him provide examples to show otherwise. It ought to be worth some yuks, since being unfamiliar with ancient principles of kinship he will no doubt unwittingly pick examples that only prove my point."

i) Notice how Holding takes the Biblical category of "covenant," and stretches it out of all recognition to apply, without distinction, to social bonding throughout the ancient world. This is not inductive exegesis.

It isn't? What Hays does is create ad hoc some special "Biblical category" of covenant as though it could be divorced from the other covenants of contemporary cultures. This is the sort of thinking that refuses to see Deuteronomy as modelled on an ancient suzerainty treaty and pretends that, again, the Bible was written in an intellectual vacuum, protected from all undue influences."

i) Holding is now trading is yet another equivocation, as if analogy were the same thing as identity. To say that Deuteronomy was "modeled"--note the weasel word--on a suzerain treaty is not at all to say that a suzerain treaty is synonymous with a Biblical covenant--much less the amorphous category of "fictive kinship" or the generic concept of a "patronage" system, or the even vaguer notion of "collectivism." Notice how Holding jumbles all these things together as though they were one and the same thing.

ii) Suzerain treaties were international treaties--treaties between respective heads-of-state. But it hardly follows from that one culture-bound example that every "collective" or "fictive kinship" "always involved reciprocity of some sort" or bilateral "contractual obligations."

One of the distinguishing features setting apart the Jewish monarchy from the neighboring nations is that the Jewish king was a constitutional monarch (Deut 17:14-20), whereas the Egyptian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian kings governed their own people as absolute monarchs. There was no Magna Carta under oriental despotisms.


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