Saturday, September 17, 2005

Theology on the fly


He's basically arguing here that the orthodox concept of "person" is inherently modalistic, which is insane; it would leave the Trinity as an incoherent antinomy between modalism and tri-theism. But the reason they can't get their heads around the concept of "person" (which is what this would require) is that they can't conceive of "person" except in anthropomorphic terms, even though equating divine personhood with human personhood generates an absurd tri-theism.


Because Prejean just isn’t up to the task of answering the real arguments, he is now taking refuge in straw man arguments.

No one is equating divine personhood with human personhood. A person of the Godhead differs in fundamental respects from a human person, just as a theanthropic consciousness is not the same as a merely human or merely divine mind.

On the one hand, revelation assigns personal traits to divine subjects (Christ, the Trinity)—traits we designate as personal precisely because they are analogous with human experience.

On the other hand, revelation also assigns to divine subjects certain attributes which are disanalogous with human experience, viz. omnipotence, omniscience, eternality, triunity.

In framing our doctrine of God and Christ, we make full allowance for the revealed discontinuities as well as the revealed continuities.

The same interpretive methods disclose both the analogous and disanalogous attributions. No arbitrary gear-shifting to the silly putty exegesis of the allegorical method is required.

All this is quite different from Prejean’s merely made-up distinctions and fictitious definitions—superimposed upon the inkblot of a selective and opportunistic allegorism.

Get Off His Back

Get Off His Back (Updated)
By Ben Stein
Published 9/2/2005 11:59:59 PM

***UPDATED: Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005, 2:13 p.m.***

A few truths, for those who have ears and eyes and care to know the truth:

1.) The hurricane that hit New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama was an astonishing tragedy. The suffering and loss of life and peace of mind of the residents of those areas is acutely horrifying.

2.) George Bush did not cause the hurricane. Hurricanes have been happening for eons. George Bush did not create them or unleash this one.

3.) George Bush did not make this one worse than others. There have been far worse hurricanes than this before George Bush was born.

4.) There is no overwhelming evidence that global warming exists as a man-made phenomenon. There is no clear-cut evidence that global warming even exists. There is no clear evidence that if it does exist it makes hurricanes more powerful or makes them aim at cities with large numbers of poor people. If global warming is a real phenomenon, which it may well be, it started long before George Bush was inaugurated, and would not have been affected at all by the Kyoto treaty, considering that Kyoto does not cover the world's worst polluters -- China, India, and Brazil. In a word, George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane. To speculate otherwise is belief in sorcery.

5.) George Bush had nothing to do with the hurricane contingency plans for New Orleans. Those are drawn up by New Orleans and Louisiana. In any event, the plans were perfectly good: mandatory evacuation. It is in no way at all George Bush's fault that about 20 percent of New Orleans neglected to follow the plan. It is not his fault that many persons in New Orleans were too confused to realize how dangerous the hurricane would be. They were certainly warned. It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people and old people and people without cars in New Orleans. His job description does not include making sure every adult in America has a car, is in good health, has good sense, and is mobile.

6.) George Bush did not cause gangsters to shoot at rescue helicopters taking people from rooftops, did not make gang bangers rape young girls in the Superdome, did not make looters steal hundreds of weapons, in short make New Orleans into a living hell.

7.) George Bush is the least racist President in mind and soul there has ever been and this is shown in his appointments over and over. To say otherwise is scandalously untrue.

8.) George Bush is rushing every bit of help he can to New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as soon as he can. He is not a magician. It takes time to organize huge convoys of food and now they are starting to arrive. That they get in at all considering the lawlessness of the city is a miracle of bravery and organization.

9.) There is not the slightest evidence at all that the war in Iraq has diminished the response of the government to the emergency. To say otherwise is pure slander.

10.) If the energy the news media puts into blaming Bush for an Act of God worsened by stupendous incompetence by the New Orleans city authorities and the malevolence of the criminals of the city were directed to helping the morale of the nation, we would all be a lot better off.

11.) New Orleans is a great city with many great people. It will recover and be greater than ever. Sticking pins into an effigy of George Bush that does not resemble him in the slightest will not speed the process by one day.

12.) The entire episode is a dramatic lesson in the breathtaking callousness of government officials at the ground level. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way and they were in charge of your health care.

God bless all of those dear people who are suffering so much, and God bless those helping them, starting with George Bush.

UPDATE: Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005, 2:13 p.m.:

More Mysteries of Katrina:

Why is it that the snipers who shot at emergency rescuers trying to save people in hospitals and shelters are never mentioned except in passing, and Mr. Bush, who is turning over heaven and earth to rescue the victims of the storm, is endlessly vilified?

What church does Rev. Al Sharpton belong to that believes in passing blame and singling out people by race for opprobrium and hate?

What special abilities does the media have for deciding how much blame goes to the federal government as opposed to the city government of New Orleans for the aftereffects of Katrina?

If able-bodied people refuse to obey a mandatory evacuation order for a city, have they not assumed the risk that ill effects will happen to them?

When the city government simply ignores its own sick and hospitalized and elderly people in its evacuation order, is Mr. Bush to blame for that?

Is there any problem in the world that is not Mr. Bush's fault, or have we reverted to a belief in a sort of witchcraft where we credit a mortal man with the ability to create terrifying storms and every other kind of ill wind?

Where did the idea come from that salvation comes from hatred and criticism and mockery instead of love and co-operation?

Fact: Katrina was a devastating storm. It left terrible damage to innocent people's lives and to property throughout the Gulf South.

Fact: There have been other storms as damaging and some far more damaging. What, then, is different about this storm? Here are a few tentative thoughts.

First, the incompetence of the local and state authorities in Louisiana and especially New Orleans was breathtaking. To issue a mandatory evacuation order without providing means of transport is almost criminally irresponsible. To take citizens to shelters where they would be beaten, robbed, and raped, and to provide no police protection for them was astoundingly incompetent. To allow armed gangs to shoot at rescuers was almost beyond belief.

Second, the response of the federal government is described as slow, and it was slow at first. But can anyone name a natural disaster in which more federal troops, supplies, and money have been dispatched as quickly as they have been done in this disaster? Bush's response has not been unusually bad, but amazingly powerful and swift. In other hurricanes, survivors have been left for weeks on their own. In Katrina's case, the whole affected area has been covered with money and aid and troops to restore order on a scale and with speed never seen before.

Third, the networks and newspapers have been quick to cry racism because so many of the victims were black. This is total nonsense. New Orleans is a mostly black city. Obviously, most of the victims of the storm would be black. No one has been able to point to a single instance in which black victims were mistreated because of their race by whites. In fact, just the opposite has happened. The whole story is of rescues and salvation by people of all races aimed at people of all races. In a gesture never seen before, the whole heart of the nation has taken in poor, bereft black families and sheltered them absolutely without regard to race. This is a mirror of the basic goodness of Americans and the disappearance of racism as an acceptable action basis of American life. It is also a measure of the total absence of racism in the heart of George W. Bush. The media may play this as a story of race versus race, but that is pure incendiary fantasy, and dangerous nonsense.

What is the real story of Katrina is (I suggest) not so much that nature wrought fury on land, water, people, property, and animals, not at all anything about racism, not much about federal government incompetence. The real story is that the mainstream media rioted.

They used the storm and its attendant sorrows to continue their endless attack on George W. Bush. Wildly inflated stories about the number of dead and missing, totally made up old wives' tales of racism, breathless accounts of Bush's neglect that are utterly devoid of truth and of historical context -- this is what the mainstream media gave us. The use of floating corpses, of horror stories of plagues, the sad faces of refugees, the long-faced phony accusations of intentional neglect and racism -- anything is grist for the media's endless attempts to undermine the electorate's choice last November. It is sad, but true that the media will use even the most heart breaking truths -- and then add total inventions -- to try to weaken and then evict from office a man who has done nothing wrong, but has instead turned himself inside out to help the real victims.

In the meantime, George Bush does not lash out, does not attack those who falsely accuse him of the most horrible acts and neglect. Instead, he doggedly goes on helping the least among us. I don't know how he does it, but we are very lucky he does. As for truth, it eventually may be salvaged from the flooded neighborhoods of The Crescent City, but not as long as there is a lie to use to hurt an honest man trying to do the best he can, and hundreds of thousands of brave, tireless men and women who do more than point fingers and tell tales. The Katrina story is a disgrace to the people who are "reporting" it while pouring gasoline on a fire. They and their crusade against George Bush are the real stories, and they are dismal ones.

Friday, September 16, 2005

There is no "argument for" Catholicism


There is no "argument for" Catholicism, because Catholicism is not a subjective belief; rather, it is an objective reality. It is the objective reality, not one's own imperfect perception of the reality, that is the ground of unity.


For some time now, Jason Engwer and I have been asking Prejean why he doesn’t mount an argument for Catholicism—especially since he demands of us an argument for Evangelicalism in general and the grammatico-historical method in particular.

Jason and I have been more than willing to accommodate his demands, yet he has never reciprocated the challenge.

Now, however, we finally know why. He never mounted an argument for Catholicism because, in his own words, there is no argument for Catholicism.

His argument for there being no argument is that “Catholicism is not a subjective belief; rather, it is an objective reality.”

It’s hard to see how this amounts to much of an argument. Can you not argue for an objective reality? If, say, someone challenged the election of Ratzinger to the pontificate, couldn’t the cardinals who cast their vote for Ratzinger testify to that fact?

Perhaps, though, this misses the point. If there is no argument for Catholicism, then I suppose there’s no argument for there being no argument for Catholicism. Who am I to argue with his non-argument?

In any event, Prejean could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by admitting right up front that there’s no argument for Catholicism. Now that he himself has disposed of Catholicism as a serious contender for our intellectual allegiance, we can move on to the other contenders.

Oh, just in case I’ve mistaken his meaning, Prejean is more than welcome to clarify matters by offering his argument for Catholicism. Otherwise, I’ll take him at his word.

BTW, Enloe, for one, thinks that Prejean's non-argument is just swell. He's boarding the burning ship just as the rats are diving overboard.

Nestorian Christology


I don't think that you realize that people are calling Nicene Christology "subordinationistic" and arguing that Nestorian Christology is orthodox. Lots of Evangelicals stopped being "Christian" in the sense of the "core" Christian doctrines a long time ago, except perhaps in nominal profession. You don't know how bad it is in "conservative" Evangelical scholarship. They're no better than liberals in terms of Christology.


i) Speaking for myself, I have never endorsed Nestorian Christology. For one thing, scholars disagree on what Nestorius really believed. They also disagree on what Cyril really believed. There’s more than one extreme to be avoided here.

Beyond what they individually believed, such terms are apt to take on a life of their own. What position is designated by these terms? What position is attributed to Cyril or Nestorius, whether accurately or not?

So there are several questions which need to be sorted out. The average theology textbook gives one a cartoon version of Nestorian Christology.

ii) My basic contention is that we should not be dogmatic about things we don’t know to be true, and have no way of knowing to be true. Let us not affect a microscopic knowledge absent a God-given microscope. The church cannot conjure up certitude out of thin air.

iii) It’s odd that Prejean’s dander is up over my description of Nicene Christology as subordinationistic. He himself reserves the attribute of “autotheos” for the Father. Thus, his own position is simply a modification of Origen’s modalistic template, which was Origen’s harmonistic device for preserving monotheism. In that respect, Prejean is no better than the liberals with respect to the Trinity.


The reason that it's important is that the absence of the reliance on Antioch significantly undermines the rationale for Evangelical exegesis and the presuppositions brought to the text. The Antiochene method of exegesis is inexorably tied to reading Scripture in anti-allegorical moral/ethical terms rather than metaphysical terms, which is why Nestorius, like Theodore Mopsuestia before him, misreads the hypostatic union as a moral/ethical union of grace by divine will, exactly what Chalcedon rejected. It makes for good homiletics but bad theology, because you invariably end up anthropomorphizing God in moral/ethical terms or endorsing Pelgianism (historically both). The entire motivation for the Calvinist/voluntarist reading of the text, particularly justification being perceived as moral/ethical rather than metaphysical, turns exactly on this point (combined with ignorance about Augustine's use of Platonism, but that's another subject). Note well the importance of the analogy between Christology and hermeneutics; the view of the content of Scripture in purely moral/ethical terms corresponds with the view of Scripture as a purely immanent document (something that Athanasius noted in his dispute with the Arians). Deny the allegorical, and you deny the transcendent as well; it's no coincidence that Calvin preferred the Antiochene Chrysostom above all others.


i) This is pure intellectual rubbish. The GHM does not prejudge one’s theology or Christology or soteriology.

It is simply bound to principles of original intent and logical implication. We then listen to what the Bible writers have to say. If they make moral assertions, the GHM respects their moral assertions. If they make metaphysical assertions, the GHM respects their metaphysical assertions.

The GHM in no way hinders a Bible writer from making a metaphysical claim. Prejean has his wires crossed.

ii) If Prejean’s Christology is leaning on the broken reed of allegorical exegesis, then so much the worse for his Christology. He has erected his faith on a foundation of sand.

And allegorical exegesis is not the least bit finicky about how you shape or reshape the sand. Arius can use allegorical exegesis to shape an Arian sandcastle. Valentinus can use allegorical exegesis to shape a Gnostic sandcastle.

iii) The Calvinist takes justification as forensic rather than metaphysical because Paul framed his doctrine of justification in forensic terms, which are taken over from the forensic categories of OT law.

iv) As to anthropomorphizing God, Prejean is confusing the literal sense with the GHM. These are not interchangeable. The GHM is perfectly at ease with idiomatic imagery and varieties of literary genre.

v) Augustine’s Platonism comes as no surprise to Calvinism.

vi) I do not regard the hypostatic union as merely moral rather than metaphysical. But that doesn’t commit one to a particular model of theanthropic psychology.

vii) There is no internal relation between allegorism and transcendence. This is yet more of Prejean’s nonsense on stilts. In the nature of the case, allegorism is a blank slate. It’s consistent with anything and everything, whether immanence or transcendence, Arius or Athanasius. With Prejean, the more he says, the less he means.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Brothers Grimm

Another interesting movie review:


Brian Godawa's 2005 Movie Review Blog

The Brothers Grimm

This Terry Gilliam creation has a fictional version of the brothers who created the famous somewhat gruesome fairytales, as charlatans who exploit the superstitions of medieval peasants to make money. So, they manufacture a fake witch with middle ages technology and then vanquish her, knowing that since witches don’t really exist, there won’t be any real trouble and it will appear that they stopped it all. UNTIL THEY MEET REAL SUPERNATURAL magic and witchcraft and haunted woods. One brother is a “true believer” whose belief in magic beans ruined his destitute family’s life, and the other brother is the consummate materialist who quotes the infamous Hobbesian dictum, “life is short, brutish struggle and then you die.” He is certain “there is a rational explanation for everything.” This is a great set up for the materialist brother by the end to humble his pride and acknowledge not merely the existence of the supernatural, but also the reality of the things that go with it, like love and honor and courage. And he learns it from his naïve brother who keeps seeking the magic and its origins. So their redemption lies in being forced to save a small community haunted by monsters. Their charlatanism is cured and they find true love as well as save a group of about 12 children. They have some great subtle lines that recall famous fairy tales but worked within the story, like “Who’s the fairest of them all” and “huff and puff”. The whole point of this story is the Romantic notion that the onset of rationalism and science stole the mystery out of life, and that has blinded the eyes of the modernist who cannot see the evan vitale, the magic, the supernatural of life. A rather noble sentiment, coming as it does, from one of the atheist Monty Python gang. But then again, his view is more likely to be that of Bruno Bettleheim and the Jungian belief in the archetypes of the collective unconscious. And fairy tales tap into that collective unconscious and unite us in humanity rather than in God and his image. But alas, I do not think that Jungian analysis is the last word in the interpretation of fairy tales. In the tale, the witch must have the blood of others to maintain her eternal life or she returns to her corpse self. Well, that is clearly a substitutionary atonement theme that also reinforces the belief that evil people will consume or kill others in order to benefit their own future and hopes. Kinda sounds like abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research doesn’t it? Consume and kill the young, the old, the less fit and helpless in order to advance your own interests and survival. So the story, like a dark version of Shrek, begins as a deconstruction of fairy tales, but ends up a rather traditional fairy tale.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Below is part of an interesting movie review:


Brian Godawa's 2005 Movie Review Blog

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Please go see this in the opening weeks to help the box office of this movie written and directed by a Christian, Scott Derrickson. This is a story based on an allegedly true story that occurred in Germany in the 1970s. It’s been updated to today and place in America. It’s the story of a trial of a priest charged with negligent homicide in the death of a young girl, Emily Rose, in the midst of her exorcism. I heard that the NY Times called this propaganda. Well, anything the NY Times hates as propaganda, has to have some truth in it, since the Times is an organ of deception that has been proved a liar itself in its pursuit of agenda. Who is propagandizing whom? Anyway, in our modernist world of naturalism that presupposes the negation of the categories of the supernatural, this movie is a welcome counterbalance to Enlightenment pseudoscientific bigotry. I enjoyed the unpredictable mixing of genres, horror and courtroom drama. A legal and logical examination of the issues punctuated with the terrors of supernatural experience. Which makes this movie very postmodern. A story that counters reason with experience, and experience is forced upon the rationalism of modernity as something that CANNOT be ignored any longer. Our precious naturalistic assumptions about reality and proud rationalism are just not adequate to address all of reality. This is of course, the good side of postmodernism in challenging modernity. The dark side of the pomo worldview, well, I’ll talk about that in a moment. I know the director and he has said he is a postmodern Christian. So this is a conscious attempt to break through the ignorance and prejudice of modernity. The heroine, played by Laura Linney, is the attorney who defends the priest and she is an agnostic who decides to use demon possession as a defense in a court of law, not because she believes it to be real, but because her client does, and that this is, in an HONEST court of law, a legitimate consideration, the sincerity of the believers. To assume that the girl’s death (by self-inflicted and other bodily injury) MUST be negligence because “as we all know” demons are simply religious fairy tales, is itself a monumental ignorance of prejudice. And this is exactly what the prosecutor embodies when he claims that a witness’s testimony of demonic possession should be struck down on the basis of “silliness.” And of course, most audience members at that point would agree with the prosecutor. How can we allow this kind of “faith” testimony in to our system that is supposed to be based on fact? And that very assumption is perhaps the most revelatory ignorance of the modernity we are current victims of: The assumption that EVERYTHING has a natural cause in physical chemicals. As the defense lawyer proves, even science itself is based on faith. The very claims of Emily’s demonic symptoms being reducible to psychotic fits of epilepsy are shown to be NOT FACTS, but beliefs or guesses of so-called medical scientists. Because the fact is, science and medicine are not only based on faith commitments, but they are merely observational interactions with symptoms. Much of the time, they have no clue how or why a drug is working, they are merely creating explanations that they BELIEVE is the reason. Thomas Szaz has written extensively on the fraudulance of the medical drug culture as well as psychotherapy in The Myth of Mental Illness and Pharmocracy. So the doctors notice a certain drug results in suppression of symptoms, so they theorize that the problem is therefore reducible to physical origins or causes. But the defense gives an entirely legitimate counterfactual that the drugs suppressed Emily’s mental and physical capacity to withstand the demons, thus contributing to her death. What Derrickson does extremely well here is to fairly portray both sides in the courtroom. In fact, he does this so well, that when each side presents its case, you find yourself changing sides in what you think the answer is. This makes for truly good drama. What I absolutely loved about the demon possession was how “realistic” it was. That is, it was not driven by gory special effects but more accurately the kind of effects that have historically been connected with real possessions. And that could be explained through medical physiological explanations as well. Even though there are the usual multiple voices, strange contortions, etc. Scott does the opposite of typical demon possession movies. Rather than the white eyes with a tiny pupil, he has an enlarged pupil which was totally scary in a new way. Surprisingly, there are no foul cuss words that I remember coming from the demons, as is the usual fare with horror movies of demons. Thus proving you can be scary without the foul language. Scott’s scare tactics were all based on simple old techniques of suspense, the shadow we barely see, the noise in the hall, whispering voices. But he does it so well that once again it proves we don’t need more gore and pushing the envelope of impropriety to be scary. Thank you Scott for being able to convince the studios to do this. It must have been difficult. The whole moral of this story is simply spoken through the agnostic lawyer’s summary that this is a story about “possibilities.” A story that makes us consider the reality of the supernatural to widen our understanding of reality. It is not the “believers” who are blind to reality, it is the proud anti-supernaturalist, who assumes so much by faith that he doesn’t even realize it. That he doesn’t see the demon right in front of his face. Of course, this isn’t presented with a propaganda approach because in fact, most every demonic encounter is presented in flashback, testimonial form, complete with some variation, thus reminding us that even this is not absolutely certain. Although I would argue that experience gets a stronger edge here. Which is of course the weakness of postmodernism. The strength of the modernist prioritization of rationality does prove the fact that experience can be interpreted differently depending on one’s worldview, AND ALL PRESUPPOSITIONS ARE NOT EQUAL. Some are provably wrong. And that people can be deceived because of their presuppositions. Let’s face it, the history of medicine does show that certain religious beliefs DID blind some people to the truth of infectious diseases etc. So the good that anti-supernaturalism brought was the unveiling of much superstitious ignorance and even charlatanry. But of course, two wrong extremes don’t make a right. The sword cuts both ways in blindness, and Christianity is the only true balance that started modern science and medicine by acknowledging the lawlikeness of God’s ordered universe without ignoring the spiritual side. But I digress. I like the idea of via negativa, “way of the negative,” that is, proving God’s existence by proving the existence of evil supernatural. If there is an antichrist evil spirit, then there is the ultimate Good Spirit of God. One Roman Catholic nun reviewing the movie said that this fear orientation is a medieval means of getting people saved. But of course, this is more autobiographical of that nun and her postmodernity than it is the Bible. So Jesus was medieval when he used fear to scare people into the kingdom? (Matt 10:28; 5:22; 5:29; Luke 12:5) In fact Jesus used fear so much as a motivation in his parables about wailing and gnashing of teeth and eternal darkness etc. that I would wonder if this nun, and those like her, even read their Bibles (assuming she even has one.) And was God himself an irrelevant medieval peasant when he commands us to FEAR him over 200 times in both Old and New Testaments – more than he commands us to love him? Well, I would certainly NOT say that fear is the only draw to salvation, but it is certainly a part of the BIBLICAL GOSPEL, though it is not a part of the modern or postmodern gospel. We SHOULD fear hell and love God. Both fear and love are equally ultimate truths in the Bible (sometimes described in the same paragraph or sentence – Matthew 10:26-31). But at the end of the day, one simple movie CANNOT CONTAIN the entire Bible in it’s theology. There are plenty of movies available that do express love as a motivation to salvation (Bruce Almighty). We need some that deal with fear too. So there.

Hurricane Hysterics

Hurricane Hysterics

— Michael Novak

My first recoverable memory is of sitting on the back porch under candlelight in the spring of 1936, the evening after the flood of that year, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This was not the first Johnstown flood (there were six or so before 1889), nor the last (1977), nor the biggest (1889), but my father had been downtown at work when it hit, and he was missing. I remember the feeling of worry among the adults on the porch. I was not yet three years old.

In 1889, when downtown Johnstown was a city of 12,000 people, a wall of water 30-feet high hurtled down the Conemaugh valley with a horrible roar and smashed the entire flatlands on which the city stood, between two rivers, hemmed in closely by steep, towering hills. At a narrow neck between two huge hills where the two rivers converged, a strong stone bridge held, and formed a dam against which huge mounds of broken houses piled up, and after a few hours burst into flame. Many-ton railroad cars, trees, and other unbelievable flotsam were borne along on the raging waters and kept slamming into the burning heap. Between water and fire there followed a night of terror. The tower of St. John Gualbert Parish Church burst aflame against the night sky.

When at last the waters subsided a week or so later, some 2,280 dead bodies had been counted, 777 of them never to be identified. These Unknown Victims now lie under diagonal rows of markers, up on the dominating hilltop on which Memorial Cemetery silently thrusts its tombstones to the sky. The departed of many of Johnstown's families lie buried there, and so these graves are visited often.

For this reason, never far from my consciousness has been the power of nature's fury to take away an entire city's life in an instant. (The flood of 1889 may have had some human causes, in neglect of the huge earthen dam at South Fork; but earlier and later floods did not.) You learn about the fragility of life just from growing up in Johnstown.

That may be why I have been thinking, during the hysterical media tirades since the hurricane struck New Orleans at the end of August, that the media may be exaggerating almost everything. They certainly did in Johnstown in 1889. Many rumors then reported as fact that "Hungarians" (read immigrants) were cutting fingers bearing wedding bands from the dead; which, like other things, turned out to have been fevered imaginings (perhaps partly malicious).

My main reason for suspicion is that most of our television reporters may possibly be too highly educated, hothouse protected, delicate, and inexperienced in the horrors of our world, to maintain a hardened eye on dreadful events. They are too easily shocked, too easily blown away. Maybe it is only a matter of appearances, but they seem to me not to have been permanently toughened by such horrors as World War II and so many other hellholes of our lifetime. One feels they actually believe that this world is a benign and kindly place, arranged with lawns behind neatly clipped hedges, and seem surprised that a Hobbesian world waits explosively, just below its skin — here in America, just as in any other place human beings live.

New Orleans seemed to threaten the illusions of some. To ward that off, they sought out somebody they didn't like, to blame — making the horror manageable, projecting it away.

Paul Owen: pseudo-Calvinist

Paul Owen’s essay on Jn 6:37 could just as well have been penned by Grant Osborne or I. H. Marshall. It is clear that Dr. Owen is no Calvinist. It is less clear what he is, since he camouflages his position. That position has affinities with Luther. For Luther, the assurance of salvation was grounded in the objectivity of grace, which was, in turn, grounded in the sacraments as the means of grace.

Given his evident fondness for Luther, it wouldn’t be surprising if Dr. Owen were more Lutheran than Presbyterian in his theology. However, traditional Lutheran theology is just as anti-Catholic as traditional Reformed theology.


One of the most enigmatic aspects of biblical interpretation is trying to figure out when a particular text is referring to salvation in the covenant, or salvation according to God’s secret election.


That’s an odd way of putting things. Either you’re saved or you're not. You cannot be saved according to election, but not saved in the covenant, or vice versa.

Of course, his whole essay will fatally equivocate over the meaning of salvation, over the meaning of the “covenant,” and what it means to be “in” the covenant.


The tension is illustrated in Romans 9:4-6, where Paul simultaneously holds together the secret purpose of God in predestination with the reality that the soteric blessings of the Church belong to the entire covenant community. Paul says that the blessing of adoption, and the promises sealed in the covenants, belong to Israel as a whole in verse 4. Yet in verses 6 and following he insists that only the elect are predestined to receive the true benefit of those promises which belong to the entire Church.


Where’s the tension? What we have here is a distinction between a necessary and sufficient condition. All who were saved were in the (Mosaic) covenant, but not all who were in the covenant were saved. There’s no tension there. All dogs are quadrupeds, but not all quadrupeds are dogs.

Dr. Owen is generating an artificial tension of his own making by his equivocations. In what sense do “soteric” blessings belong to the entire church? If they are truly “soteric” in the sense of saving blessings, and everyone is not saved, then clearly then do not belong to the entire church--or else they belong to the entire church, but are non-soteric.

Again, do these promises belong to the entire church? And how do we define the “church”?


John 6:37 is usually read by Calvinists as a statement about predestination. Yet to be honest, there is no mention of predestination in this passage. The sort of clear language which one encounters in Ephesians 1:4-5 and Romans 9:23 is absent from John 6. Could it be that we should not presume such categories in reading this passage? A number of questions need to be asked in settling this matter.


i) Note that Dr. Owen is prepping the reader to break with the traditional Reformed reading of Jn 6:37. Now there’s nothing necessarily wrong with bucking tradition, but he is making an allowance for himself that he does not make for a Reformed Baptist.

ii) There is a danger of importing or imposing extraneous categories on a text of Scripture. Keep in mind, though, that Dr. Owen is guilty of this himself. He uses the category of “the church” as an interpretive grid to filter verses in which no mention is made of “the church.”

iii) The question is not whether the word “predestination” is present in Jn 6, but whether certain predestinarian concepts are present—predestinarian in the sense of salvation by God’s sovereign grace alone.


1. Who is meant by “all that the Father gives me”? Does this only refer to the elect who are predestined to glory? Or might it include them, as well as a larger circle? It would seem that it would include a larger circle, for it includes all those who “come” to Christ. We are told in verse 45 who these people are who come to Christ: “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father.” That would appear to include the entire Church, all those who enter into the covenant. This is confirmed by John’s citation of Jeremiah 31:34 in this same verse: “They shall all be taught of God.” The word “all” in its context in Jeremiah clearly refers to everyone in the covenant. It is equivalent to “the house of Israel” in 31:33, and includes “the least of them to the greatest” (v. 34). This is simply a figure of speech for the entire nation, the people of God, the Church as a whole.


i) It is not clear that v45 is a citation of Jer 31:34. It could just as well be a citation of Isa 54:13.

ii) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the reference is to prophecy of Jeremiah, observe how Dr. Owen ignores what the prophecy promises, and confines himself to whom it is addressed.

But doesn’t the prophecy promise a new heart and the remission of sin (vv33-34)? And is this applicable to elect and reprobate alike? Are the hell-bound forgiven? Do the hell-bound receive a new heart?


And we know that in Johannine theology, the identity of the people of God is not identical to the elect who are predestined to glory. John 15:1-6 clearly speaks of some who are “in Christ” (15:2), who are already “clean” (v. 3), but who fail to abide in the vine, and so are cast away and burned (v. 6).


Let us remember that this is a metaphor. One cannot simply equate being in the Vine with being in “the covenant,” or equate the branches with “the church.” For those categories are not present in Jn 15. The question is what the metaphor stands for.


This leads to the second question. What does Jesus mean in 6:37 when he says that he will “not cast out” the one who comes to him? Does this mean that they are automatically eternally secure? Not at all. The point is simply that Jesus will not turn away those who seek membership in his community. Anyone who believes (v. 35) will be granted access to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. They will neither hunger nor thirst (v. 35). And please note that in Johannine theology, not all who believe in Jesus continue to be his disciples. John 8:31ff. makes it clear that some who believe later fall away. So the point is simply that all who profess the faith which unites the Christian community are accepted into the Church and given access to the Sacrament of Communion.


i) Talk about importing or imposing categories! The chapter says nothing about coming to the communion rail, or church membership. Rather, it talks about coming to Christ.

ii) The point is not simply that Jesus will not turn away those who come. The point, rather, is twofold:

a) Those who come are coming because the Father brought them to Christ (vv44-45,65).

b) Those who come to Christ will be kept in Christ (vv39-40,47,54).

iii) It is quite true that in Johannine theology you have a distinction between nominal and true believers. 6:39,44-45 have reference to true believers (the elect), while 6:66,70 have reference to nominal believers (the reprobate).


But do verses 39-40 not say that it is the Father’s will that none of those who have been given to Christ will perish, but be raised up on the last day? Of course. This has always been true. God is never willing that any of his people, any of the members of his Church, to whom belongs the covenant promises (Rom. 9:4) should perish. He wants all those who belong to him to be raised up to eternal life at the last day. But this does not mean that in fact none of those who belong to the Church will ultimately perish. John 6:39-40 is no different in its intent than Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:37, and Ezekiel’s sentiments in Ezekiel 18:23, 32. These are expressions of God’s good will towards his people, who are adopted sons (Rom. 9:4; Deut. 32:19; Exod. 4:22). God does not want any Christian to perish, but in fact, he does allow some Christians who belong to the number of his people, to perish. Again, John 15:1-6 is explicit on this point.


i) This is the classic Arminian gloss. God keeps those who keep themselves. Christians can lose their salvation.

ii) Notice that he doesn’t interpret 39-40 in light of Johannine usage or Johannine theology. Instead, he hauls in a few prooftexts for the universal offer of the gospel. But that's sloppy exegesis. It isn’t exegesis at all.

You don’t construe Jn 6:39-40 in light of Ezk 18:23 or other suchlike. You construe John in light of John: the flow of argument in chapter 6 as well as related chapters.

iii) 39-40 aren’t talking about those who resist the preaching of the gospel. What is in view here is not the outward preaching of the word, but the inward action of God.

iv) Yes, in Jn 15 you have the possibility of apostasy. If you don’t persevere, you will not be saved. But the question is why some persevere while others don’t. And the answer, in John, has to do with God’s preservation of the elect. Ditto: Paul.


But what about John 6:44? Does this not refer to the effectual call of the elect? In light of all we have said up to this point, it ought not to be limited to the effectual call of the elect. This drawing of the Father includes all those who are brought to the point of professing faith, and seeking the benefit of the Sacrament of Communion. In other words, it refers to all who are “called,” whether that call results in permanent discipleship and salvation, or whether its results prove to be only temporary. Reformed theology has no problem accomodating a temporary call of non-elect people into the grace of the Church. (See Calvin, Institutes, 3.2.11; 3.21.6-7; 3.24.8).


i) Observe very carefully with bold break with a classic Reformed prooftext for effectual calling.

ii) Notice that he’s assuming a Eucharistic interpretation of Jn 6, for which he’s laid no exegetical foundation.

iii) Notice that he’s splitting up various promises in the text and pitting them against each other. The promises in Jn 6 are not limited to conversation. They cover conversion and perseverance alike. In this very verse (44), those whom he draws he will raise up on the last day.

iv) Dr. Owen is deliberately and deceitfully conflating the inward, effectual call with the outward invitation.


Finally, what about 6:51? Does this not say that the person who eats this bread (whether or not this is taken as a reference to the Lord’s Supper) will live forever? Of course. This is a promise to the Church, just like the promises given to Israel (Rom. 9:4). But this is a promise with conditions according to John 15:1-6. In fact, we need look no further than 6:70, which includes Judas among those who were chosen. Judas was one of those to whom it was granted by the Father to come to Jesus for a season (v. 65). And yet Judas did not persevere. The covenantal promises to God’s New Testament Church always contain abiding conditions, as is clear throughout the New Testament (Heb. 3:6; Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 15:2; Col. 1:23; 2 Pet. 1:4-10).


i) Actually, the terms of 6:51 are unconditional.

ii) This is not a promise to “the church.”

iii) 6:70 is not a promise. 6:66 is not a promise. Dr. Owen is mixing promises with indicatives, and using indicatives to dilute promises.

iv) Salvation is not unconditional (Jn 15:1-6). But the point of a promise like 6:51 lies in the assurance that God will, indeed, preserve the elect.

Again, Dr. Owen is mixing promises with conditions, and using conditions to water down the promises. But that is not the proper relation. The point of the promise lies in the assurance that the conditions will be met, by God’s invincible grace.

v) God did not empower Judas to answer the outward call of Christ. That’s something the natural man can do. Judas was chosen to be one of the twelve, not one of the saints.

In order to extend the promises to the visible church, elect and reprobate alike, both heaven-bound and hell-bound, Dr. Owen must thin out the promises. The promises of God and the actions of God no longer ensure the salvation of anyone in particular. By applying them to everyone in the church, they can be certain for no one in the church. They lose their saving force. They lose their element of assurance.

What we end up with is the classic Arminian compromise of lesser grace for more people. Dr. Owen should be ejected from the Presbyterian church and become a Methodist minister.

Paul Owen is a snake. He blends in nicely with the leaves, but the fangs are tipped with venom.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Your cheatin' heart

Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep,
You’ll cry and cry and try to sleep;
But sleep won’t come the whole night through,
Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you!

--Hank Williams

Since some people continue to twist and distort my words in public forums, let me AGAIN clarify my views on Baptists.

--Paul Owen

Dr. Owen is so misunderstood. It’s enough to make one weep. And he’s not the only one. No one’s more misunderstood that Tim Enloe—unless it’s Kevin Johnson.

Dave Armstrong’s another tragically misunderstood individual. Just lately his fellow Romo-bloggers have been beatin’ on him somethin’ terrible. Yes, Dave is the Grand Mufti of Martyrdom.

What could these lovable and loving guys done to be so misunderstood? Couldn’t just possibly be anything they said?

Continuing with Dr. Owen:


I have stated more than once in this forum that I am a great admirer of Charles Spurgeon, John MacArthur, and John Piper.


Yes, he has. And that’s not all he’s said. Why, only the other day he also said:


When Baptist sectarians (even those disguised as Presbyterians) declare that the Church of Rome is not to be viewed as Christian, they are simply showing their true identity as illegitimate children, who were not born of the Protestant Reformation.


In Classical rhetoric this is known as the captatio benevolentiae: “to curry favor.” You butter up your audience with a throwaway argument, with ingratiating pleasantries to soften them up.

The idea is to anesthetize the patient before inserting the needle. If your audience should take offense, you revert to the initial disclaimer: “Oh, but didn’t you hear me say all those swell things before?”

If you want to know where some men really stand on an issue, you need to listen for one particular word. It all turns on where that one word appears in the sentence or the paragraph. I’m referring to that all-purpose conjunction otherwise knows as “but.”

Everything before the “but” is just so much static. The “but” has this wonderfully retroactive power to negate everything said before the “but.” The mark of an agile politician is the strategic placement of the “but.”


My polemics are focused upon those who claim that Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Anglicans who were baptized as infants have not yet truly received Christian baptism.


Actually, this is the very first time I’ve seen his polemics “focus” on that claim. Every other time the focus of his polemics was on those who deny the validity of Catholic baptism, period.

In my experience, the argument is not that Catholic baptism is invalid because it’s infant baptism, but because it is administered by an apostate church. That was the argument of Southern Presbyterians--who obliviously believed in the general validity of infant baptism.

Now, it’s possible that some Baptists also regard infant baptism as invalid, but when they’re arguing against the validity of Roman baptism, that’s not the argument I’ve head them use.


4. There is a big difference in my view between Evangelical Baptists and Mormons. Orthodox Baptists profess the faith of the visible Church, as it is summarized in the Nicene Creed and other accepted symbols. They do not reject the doctrine of the Trinity, as it has been maintained in the Catholic faith through the ages. Their baptisms are therefore true baptisms, which bring them into union with the visible Church. Whether they like it or not, when a Baptist is validly baptized, they are not baptized into their local congregation, they are baptized into the Catholic Church. Mormons do not receive a baptism which brings them into unity with the Catholic Church. So I have sufficient warrant to identify Baptists as fellow Christians (i.e., members of the visible Church), whereas I lack such a warrant in the case of my Mormon friends.


Note, once more, the skewed emphasis. For Dr. Owen, the only value of an evangelical profession of faith is that it validates baptism. Saving faith is not the thing; ritual is the thing.


5. My polemics against Baptists in various essays, are directed at their maintaining of certain views that I believe to be serious errors: 1) the sectarian rejection of the validity of Roman Catholic baptism, and usually all infant baptisms;


How is it sectarian to reject the validity of Catholic baptism? As a church officer in the PCA, Dr. Owen is a sworn subscriber to the Westminster Confession. When this 17C document says that “some church have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan” (WCT 25:5), are we to suppose that the church of Rome was not in play?


2) a pietistic approach to spirituality which places the emphasis upon a person’s level of sincerity when professing the faith for the first time, as opposed to the objective promises of God sealed in the sacrament of baptism;


The promises are promises made to believers.


3) the disregard for the Fathers, Creeds, and collective wisdom of the Catholic Church through the ages which is characteristic of many Baptists;


I don’t know of any Reformed Baptists who disregard the collective wisdom of the Catholic church. What they disregard is its collective folly.


4) the ugly manifestations of spiritual pride and superiority which seem for some reason to be especially characteristic of Baptists who call themselves “Reformed,”


Not to mention the ugly manifestations of spiritual pride and superiority which seem for some reason to be especially characteristic of those who call themselves “Reformed” Catholics.


and which often leads to an obsession with attacking fellow believers in the Arminian and Roman Catholic traditions.


Not to mention the “Reformed” Catholic obsession with attacking fellow believers in the Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian traditions.

Dr. Owen is also assuming that Catholics are fellow believers.

As to Arminians, Arminians attack Reformed theology while the Reformed attack Arminian theology. If Dr. Owen finds theological debate so very distasteful, why does he himself indulge in it with such intensity and frequency?


This obsession is plain for all to see in the blogs of certain persons, and gives the distinct impression to many of us that in “Reformed” Baptist theology the Five Points of Calvinism, more than the Nicene Creed, summarizes the heart of our Faith.


Since Presbyterians don’t content themselves with the Nicene Creed, but have the Westminster Confession; since Lutherans don’t content themselves with the Nicene Creed, but have the Formula of Concord; since Anglicans don’t content themselves with the Nicene Creed, but have the Thirty-Nine Articles and since Roman Catholics don’t content themselves with the Nicene Creed, but have councils and encyclicals without end, why should Reformed Baptists content themselves with the Nicene Creed?

The Bible, and not the Nicene Creed, is our rule of faith. The Nicene Creed is no substitute for the Psalter, or Romans, or Isaiah, or Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—to name a few.

The Land of Oz

Tim Enloe has proposed a thought-experiment for our consideration:


Option I

1) There is a doctrinal controversy.

2) A synod of learned leaders is called to discuss the issues. These leaders represent something called "the Church", which is a real entity that, speaking ministerially in the Name of Christ, has publicly-binding power over its members.

3) At the synod, the leaders hash out Scripture and other relevant angles on the issues.

4) A consensus opinion is reached, and the leaders collectively speak through the single voice of the synod: "By the ordinance of Christ provided in his Word for the better ordering of the Church, this holy synod declares, consonant with the Word of God, that ___________."

5) A degree of peace is had in the Church, because the Church has declared the Word of God with publicly-binding force.


Option I raises some practical questions:

1.What authoritative body or authority-figure convokes the synod?

2.What authoritative body or authority-figure chooses who will sit on the synod?

3.What is the sectarian or ecclesiastic pool from which the members of the synod are drawn? Are they Catholics? Orthodox? Lutherans? Arminians? Fundamentalists? Open Theists? Universalists? Charismatics? Baptists? Presbyterians? Anglicans? Plymouth Brethren? Copts? Armenians?

4.Are members recruited from more liberal or more conservative denominations? Who decides?

5. Is this synod more like the National Association of Evangelicals? Or the World Council of Churches?

6.Assuming a consensus of opinion is reached, what is the enforcement mechanism?

7.Since Tim has a problem with propositional truth, what is the content of the synodical declaration?

8.What is the hermeneutical grid by which the declaration is interpreted?

9.Is Tim Enloe volunteering to spearhead this effort? He spends all his time talking about how things should be done differently. Isn’t the time past due for him to show us by example how it is done? The best argument that something is doable is not to argue about it, but to do it.

To make any progress at all, Tim would have to be a coalition-builder. But Tim is not a coalition-builder. He’s much better at burning bridges than building bridges. He has a track-record of alienated former friends.

Tim talks about a societas Christiana, but he goes out of his way to give offense and use the most divisive rhetoric at his command. He only likes like-minded people.

Now, his excuse is that he’s been mistreated. Maybe so, maybe not. But if he’s the least bit serious about all this talk of consensus, then he’ll have to put away the flame-thrower.

So far, all he's accomplished is to marginalize himself. He's so angry because he's so irrelevant.

Option II

1) There is a controversy over the inerrancy of Scripture.

2) In response, The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy is formed.

3) This is a transdenominational body, consisting of Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Calvinists, fundamentalists, and Messianic-Jews, among others.

4) A consensus opinion is reached, and the leaders collectively speak through the single voice of the Council, issuing the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

5) A bunch of autonomous, unregulatable self-satisfied Munchkins, who all learnt them a smattering of medieval Latin and medieval church history all by their lonesomes and who think there is no "the Church" outside of Moscow, Idaho, all retreat to their private studies and do some unscientific work with Latin participles and semantic domains.

Since there is no publicly-binding arbiter for such conflicts, a condition of reactionary obscurantism prevails in the loose semi-affiliation of Reformed Catholics.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Dereliction of duty


As a retired structural engineer who has done exhaustive work on bulk liquids retention structures, including dams, dykes and levees; also having audited engineering schematics on the New Orleans levees in the 1994-1996 era, rest assured that federal officials were properly concerned about that situation. The problem was that they were the only ones. We bucked and kicked local officials for years throughout the entire project. The municipality demanded the money, and received millions, but repeatedly, they had more pressing uses for expenditures. The optimal, shear-sloped design for the levee reinforcement was approved in 1995. I tell you truly that in my 40-year career as an engineer, the local authorities in our New Orleans levee project take the prize in the area of callous disregard and their bungling remains notorious to this day. Truly, it was scandalous. Consequently, I find it hard to cast a major portion of blame for this disaster on any other entity than the local representatives of those unfortunate people in New Orleans. The truth is, at least the last three mayors of New Orleans are grossly negligent and in dereliction of duty in regards to repeatedly skimming federal funds allocated for their levee fortification.
Allan McIsaac


The two faces of Moroni

Ever since assuming the presidency of the LDS, Gordon B. Hinckley has been on a charm offensive.

The strategy is been to present the two faces of Mormonism. There’s the real Mormonism, which is what it’s always been, and then there’s the prime time version, crafted for public consumption. To see the two faces of Mormonism on display, just compare two books by Robert Millet. The first, pre-Hinckley era version, written for insiders, presents the old us-v-them face image of Mormonism, playing up the differences between Mormonism and Christianity.

The second, Hinckley era version, written for outsiders, presents the kinder, gentler face of Mormonism, minimizing the differences. It’s all based on a big misunderstanding, you see. Yes, differences still exist, but these can be overcome through talk and more talk.

Sustaining and Defending the Faith
by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet

Sustaining and Defending the Faith forthrightly presents fundamental principles of truth that stand untouched by the slander, misrepresentation, and ridicule hurled by the enemies of God. Indeed, as the book illustrates, opposition from the adversary is one way to recognize the Lord's true church. Another way is by the witness of the Spirit. The authors stress the importance of accepting modern-day prophets, prophecy, and scriptures; for there are many critics who claim that the Bible alone is sufficient revelation for all time, or that the words of a dead prophet take precedence over those of a living prophet. Such people, the book points out, have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Line-upon-line growth through the revealed word, then, is another characteristic of the Lord's church.

Different Jesus
by Robert L. Millet

Are Latter-day Saints Christian, or do they worship a different Jesus? In this engaging book, Robert Millet clearly explains why Latter-day Saints claim to be Christians and compares their understanding of Jesus with the views of traditional Christian believers.

A leading Mormon scholar who has spent much of his career in conversation with traditional Christians and their writings, Millet discusses what constitutes Christianity and examines how the Latter-day Saints fit or do not fit within that rubric.

Intended to inform rather than to convince or persuade, "A Different Jesus?" clears away misconceptions and doctrinal distortions that characterize more polemical works about Mormonism. Millet points out the many beliefs that Latter-day Saints hold in common with traditional Christians, yet he also emphasizes differences where they exist.

"A Different Jesus?" initiates and will foster a significant dialogue between Latter-day Saints and traditional Christians. Of special value are a lengthy chapter that answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Mormonism, a glossary showing how key theological terms are defined by Latter-day Saints, and evangelical scholar Richard Mouw's foreword and afterword, which help set an agenda for future discussions between these religious traditions.

Now, you’d expect Mormons to refashion their public image. But they have some outside help from the likes of Paul Owen and Richard Mouw.

This raises the question of who speaks for Christendom, and who speaks for Mormonism. No one ever elected Dr. Mouw to speak for us.

Dr. Mouw’s chief distinction has been his promotion from serving as a college prof. at liberal Christian college (Calvin), affiliated with a liberal denomination (CRC), to the presidency of a liberal seminary (Fuller).

For some of us, this is more of a disqualification than a qualification.

As to Dr. Owen, he would have you believe that you’re not qualified to judge Mormonism unless you have some cutting-edge, insider knowledge of the LDS.

However, Dr. Owen doesn’t speak for Mormonism. Neither does a BYU professor. Owen has no official position in the hierarchy, and Mormonism is more hierarchical than a wedding cake—what with the “prophet,” the “Twelve Apostles,” the Quorum of Seventy,” &c.

Generally, Christian cults and heresies don’t try to change everything about the Christian faith. They mess with one or more central doctrines, but not the whole belief-system. That would be just too audacious to sell.

But it’s remarkable just how systematically unchristian the Mormon faith really is. In its doctrine of God, predestination, providence, creation, man, sin, salvation, Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology, &c., absolutely everything is alien to the Christian faith, from beginning to end, bold print to the fine print.

It’s as if Joseph Smith and Brigham Young took a popular, dog-eared anthology of Greek mythology, and simply substituted King Jamesean place-names and proper-names for the Zeus, Aphrodite, Olympus, and so on. Well, maybe that’s not quite fair. At least Homer had a sense of style.

How would you know if the LDS ever went Evangelical? Would you depend on late-breaking news reports from Paul Owen?

First, you have to hear it from the hierarchy.

Second, there would be a bitter, sensational schism. If Mormons split over the successor to Joseph Smith, and if they split over polygamy, just imagine the split if the LDS really did turn its back on all that neopagan mumbo-jumbo.

However, Mouw and Owen may be on to a genuine trend. You see, all that Mormonism had to do to become more Evangelical is to stay put and wait for Evangelicalism to become more Mormon. When “Evangelicals” like Mouw and Owen become honorary Mormons, Mormons become honorary Evangelicals. See how easy that was?

Because men like Millet and Robinson are not the official voice of the LDS, Hinckley & Associates are free to capitalize on the propaganda value of the charm offensive while retaining plausible deniability.

The real motion is all coming from the “Evangelical” side, while the LDS sets up some pretty strobe lights to create an optical illusion of apparent movement from its own side.

All they need are a few dupes on the other side to take the bait and play the chump. And, in a fallen world, they can always count on their imported court-preachers to spread the word.

For further reading:

Evil genies

It’s hard to keep track, but I think this is a surrejoinder to Perry’s rejoinder to my reply to his response to something I wrote in answer to a question by a Triablogue lurker.

Let’s begin by putting this debate into perspective. Calvinism affirms sola Scriptura as its rule of faith. And it rests its claims on exegetical and systematic theology.

Both exegetical and philosophical criticisms are raised in objection to Calvinism. For example, it is said that Calvinism has a particular difficulty with the problem of evil.

These generally take the form of rationalistic objections. There are different ways of responding. There’s a voluntarist reply such as you find in Gordon Clark. There’s a fideist reply such as you find in Hoeksema and Berkouwer—not that Berkouwer was really a Calvinist by this time.

A more mainstream line of reply appeals to compatibilism. The classic exposition is found in Jonathan Edwards. Theologians like Paul Helm and John Frame make use of it as well.

There is also a younger generation of Reformed philosophers who operate within this framework, but their discussions are thus far confined to private chat rooms.

This is a philosophical reply to a philosophical objection. It is not a strictly ad hominem reply. It is believed to be true in its own right. But it’s in the nature of defensive apologetics or philosophical theology. We are simply answering the critic on his own grounds.

Our own deeper reasons for what we believe remain exegetical. Anything beyond that is gravy.

To disprove Calvinism, you either need to disprove its rule of faith or else its use of its rule of faith.

For the time being I’m going to confine my surrejoinder to the more theological aspects of his rejoinder, because that is what happens to be of more personal interest and pertinence to me. I may revisit the more philosophical speculations at a later date, where I was responding to a question posed by someone else. I have my own priorities.


The problem of God determining someone to believe that they are a true believer and elect is a distinctive problem for Calvinism for the simple reason that while self deception is a possibility in other theological systems as Hays notes, the deception is attributable to the freedom of the agent and inattentive use of their cognitive and moral faculties rather than to God planning and rendering their deception inevitable. While every theological system has a distinction between real and nominal believers, that is certainly not co-extensive with the idea that God’s determining activity is the explanation for why people end up in one group or another. The latter idea is fairly distinctive to Calvinism (Even contradicting the 2nd Council of Orange). So on distinctively Calvinist grounds Hays has the same kind of defeater for his views on assurance or just about any other belief as the libertarian has for his beliefs concerning freedom.

The fact that on a Calvinist reading the same God who predestines people to think that they are elect when they really aren’t also determines that some people have grounds for thinking that they are elect when they are is of no help. If the agent in question is determined to think that they are elect when they are not then no evidence can function as defeaters to that belief, making cases of people having grounds for assurance and being elect indistinguishable to the agent from cases where people have apparent grounds for assurance and think that they are elect when in fact they are not.

The question is not whether God is conferring the same experience on both groups, elect and reprobate. The question is how is one to discriminate between being only apparently elect and actually being so. If God determines you to think you are elect, then it is inevitable that you think so. If God determines you to take your experience as confirming that you are elect, when in fact you are not, then it is inevitable that you think so. How then, if your beliefs are determined by God can the evidence function to discriminate between the two cases? Simple. It can’t. This is why we have a parallel case to the one that Hays provided-an agent has a belief but is in fact determined to be deceived such that the evidence for their beliefs doesn’t imply the truth of those beliefs and hence fails to amount to knowledge. There doesn’t have to be the same experience, just a covert controller and the distinction between appearance and reality.

For example, when I was Reformed I knew many people who were sure that they were elect. They were quite dogmatic on the point. Most of them ended up falling away and/or dying in unbelief to my knowledge. They thought that had confirming evidence of their own election. They thought that they had the self attesting witness of the Spirit. Now can someone be wrong and think that they have the self attesting witness of the Spirit and not actually have it? I see no reason to think that this isn’t possible. If God determines them to have that belief then this is the same circumstance as the individual who thinks that they have free will when in fact they don’t. Under the influence of covert controllers the justification of any belief can be undermined. It would be a silly mistake to take this as an indication, as Hays seems to do, that the problem is with the belief or the evidence for it. The problem is with the epistemological theory which falls prey to skeptical arguments. Hays is confusing epistemology with metaphysics.


i) First off, Perry is acting as if this were an open question in theology. It is not. It we have a problem here, it’s not with Calvinism, per se, but with the witness of Scripture. The Bible says that God deceives the reprobate (e.g., 1 Kgs 22:23; Ezk 14:9; 2 Thes 2:11). The Bible says that God hardens the reprobate (e.g., Exod 4:21; 7:3; Isa 6; Jn 12:37-40; Rom 9-11).

This is not an inference from Calvin’s doctrine of reprobation. Rather, it’s the sort of primary datum from which a doctrine of reprobation is inferred. A Calvinist is simply playing the hand he was dealt.

ii) Now, you always have Christians who, at this point, censure the Bible. They rush in to muzzle its mouth and put their hand over the lips of Scripture. They exercise prior restraint. For them, this is not even a live option.

iii) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we adopt the worse case scenario. Well, if we can’t help ourselves, then there’s nothing to fret over. Things will either turn out well or badly. If I’m self-deluded, then I have nothing to lose since I’m damned anyway. The illusion is no worse than the reality.

iv) This partly goes to the burden of proof. How do I know I’m not a madman? After all, one mark of insanity is self-delusion. If I was sane, I’d think I was sane; and if I were insane, I’d think I was sane.

There are some folks who work themselves into a state of existential panic over the abstract possibility of doubt. The abstract possibility of doubt becomes a source of doubt, feeding on its own tail.

But this sort of doubt, the capacity for doubt, is merely a side effect of our imagination, of our ability to contemplate alternative scenarios. That is, I suppose, a precondition for moral deliberation. It’s also a source of artistic ability.

But when it’s misused to generate an artificial state of doubt, that’s an abuse of a God-given endowment. To doubt simply because I have the ability to pose hypothetical traps for myself.

Can I prove that I’m not a brain-in-a-vat? Who cares? No one lies awake at night over this conundrum. I doubt that even Hilary Putnam has lost much sleep over it.

The reason we pose these thought-experiments is precisely because they’re so far removed from reality. We like to explore limiting-cases, and where experience doesn’t supply us with limiting-cases, we invent them. But their value, if any, is several steps removed from the limiting-case.

We ask ourselves how much we can know in the most extreme case under the assumption that we have less reason for doubt since ordinary experience is not that far out. The limiting-case was never postulated as true, but as a convenient device for working our way back to the truth by something that isn’t true, but lies at the outer boundaries of what’s possible.

v) It isn’t clear to me if Robinson’s objection is to the potential for skepticism, or divine complicity in evil.

Regarding the latter, if we regard Scripture as divine revelation, then we have to take our point of departure with what God has said about himself. Only God knows what he is like, and only God can tell us what he is like.

This sometimes poses a challenge for apologetics, but apologetics cannot rewrite the story if it doesn’t like the ending.

A major reason for the appeal to compatibilism is to neutralize the issue of divine complicity. But removing compatibilism would not remove the witness of Scripture, which compatibilism was designed, in part, to defend.

vi) Regarding skepticism, it isn’t clear to me why Perry thinks the source of self-delusion is all-important. We all know, or know of, individuals who are so deeply immersed in self-denial that they are unreachable. Any outside effort to correct their self-deception is self-reinforcing.

vii) In addition, my defeater for LFW and Perry’s defeater for the contrary are not symmetrical. For both defeaters assume the truth of determinism. My defeater assumes that it’s possible for an agent’s actions to be predetermined even though he delusively believes in his possession of LFW.

Perry’s defeater assumes that it’s possible for an agent to delusively enjoy the assurance of salvation even if he’s hell-bound, because God has determined both his ultimate fate and his immediate state of mind.

But what Perry needs for a true parallel is not a defeater for the assurance of salvation, but a defeater for divine determinism.


Hays claims that the argument for predestination unlike the argument for libertarian freedom is not an argument from experience but from revelation. Certainly for some that is so, but for example it wasn’t so for Luther, who availed himself of arguments from Stoic determinism and other venues to prove his necessitarianism and Luther was not alone in making these kind of arguments from experience of the physical world and philosophy to establish his predestinarian views.


That may be of some value as a supporting argument—especially in apologetics, but in terms of Reformed theology, Scriptural warrant is sufficient warrant.


Moreover, one can make a case for libertarian freedom from revelation and libertarians have historically done so. Very simply put God has libertarian freedom and we are made in God’s image and granted a measure of that freedom. The same language that is applied to God regarding choice and making judgments is equally applied to humans and other moral agents. There is no reason to think that the latter have some other *kind* of freedom than God even if God has it in greater measure.


I deny most of the assumptions. I affirm that God has counterfactual freedom, but deny that he has libertarian freedom.

Moreover, at what point does Perry’s appeal to revelation kick in? The fact that Scripture uses the same language to describe God and man as moral agents? Or the preliminary assumption that God is a libertarian agent?

Perry is arguing: given that God is a libertarian agent, if Scripture applies the same language to God and man alike, then man is also a libertarian agent. But even if the inference were valid, what supplies the premise?

Also, it will not suffice to say that Scripture describes divine and human agency in the same terms. That is true up to a point, but there are major discontinuities as well. God foreordains the future—man does not; God foreknows the future—man does not. God’s choices preselect for human choices. So there is a great deal of asymmetry which Perry’s comparison skates over.


I agree with Hays that the exegetical case for Calvinism has been made repeatedly. But not much follows from this fact. What Hays needs to show or at least refer to, are cases where it has been successfully made. Plenty of advocates of positions can refer to exegetical cases made for their positions. Just pick up a slew of commentaries on any particular book of the Bible and one will see exegetical cases made for a variety of positions.


True enough, but only Perry knows what Perry finds unsatisfactory in the traditional case for Calvinism. So he will have to be much more specific in his criticisms for me to be much more specific in my answers.


I gave a rough sketch of the argument one could make for libertarianism from the Bible. That is hardly a display of my theological method. It is quite true that I didn’t make any effort to exegete various texts to support the basic argument, because as I said I was giving a sketch. I was trying to motivate my readers thinking more than produce a full length treatment of the subject. The exegetical case has been made elsewhere.


“The exegetical case has been made elsewhere.” Now he’s doing what he accused me of doing only a paragraph before. So where’s the exegetical case to pencil in his sketch?


It shows rhetorical flare to say that I use a “Biblical category as a cipher to plug in a totally extraneous concept” but it does no argumentative work. Hays has yet to show that the concept of libertarian freedom pre se is not a Biblical concept and so he is begging the question. Certainly, plenty of Calvinists historically have thought it was attributing it to at least God. At best Steve’s rhetorical comments beg the question and certainly his own tradition has ended up on my side on that point.


Again, Perry needs to spell out what he thinks would count as evidence against LFW. Traditional Reformed objections would include predestination, providence, moral/spiritual inability; perseverance, and the final state.

To say that plenty of Calvinists historically have attributed LFW to God strikes me as anachronistic. Can we map contemporary models of action-theory back onto historical theology in one-to-one correspondence? Seems to me that Perry has overspecified the evidence.

In addition, is this attribution based on exegesis, or more philosophical trains of thought like Stoic determinism? There’s some slippage in the argument here.


The example Hays gives is of no help because it doesn’t exemplify the swath of cases of biblical usage but only one case, which is hardly adequate. Certainly the phrase “the image of God” is used in other contexts, specifically Christological ones. What is worse is that the example that Hays gives doesn’t actually give a lexigraphical basis for understanding the phrase in a specific way but rather falls back on a sociological analysis in place of exegesis. If meaning is use then appealing to how the Hebrews saw their kings, especially when many of the key texts were written long before Israel even had kings, let alone a priesthood, doesn’t tell us how the text uses the term. At best it tells us how they saw the text in light of their cultural views. Hays doesn’t give us what he promised, namely an example of the “right way” to “interpret the key term” because the example isn't doing exegesis.


What I did was to redirect the analysis to a standard reference work. Clines is arguably the world’s foremost Hebrew lexicographer.

Gen 1:26 is the paradigm-case. All other references to the imago Dei are secondary to, and parasitic upon, this programmatic statement.

It is not sociological rather than exegetical, for it tells us what sociological model the inspired text chose to codify as the preferred frame of reference.

Provision for the kingship was already made in the law of Moses (Deut 17:14-20), so this is part of the Pentateuchal outlook.

The Christological occurrences are only germane if you univeralize the Incarnation such that the Logos unites himself, not to a particular instance of human nature, but generic human nature, and thus to humanity in general. What is the exegetical justification for that extension?

In addition, must we not, therefore, extend the anhypostatic union, divorcing human personhood from human nature generally, such that no human being has a human consciousness since all that was subsumed in the person of the Logos?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Nature & person

Perry Robinson has offered another reply. To his credit, he is arguing for his position. Since he goes into some detail, I’ll pull his comments out of the obscurity of the comments box and address them here.

I think the question of where to range Toon along the checkered spectrum of the Anglican communion has received sufficient attention. The dilemma for folks like Toon is that it’s hard to be a traditionalist about the institutional church when the institutional church pulls the rug out from under the traditionalist.


Historically the idea of theosis is an essential part of Athanasius’ defense of the deity of Christ such that a denial of the idea of union with Christ and becoming transformed into the image of Christ would be a repudiation of a long held Christian teaching.


That may all be true, but it isn’t a fixture of Catholic theology or Evangelical theology in, say, the confessional sense.

Again, remember the context of my comment. Prejean, a Roman Catholic, was acting as if to deny the Greek Orthodox interpretation of 2 Pet 1:4 amounted to a denial of 2 Pet 1:4, period. I’m not aware that the Greek Orthodox interpretation enjoys that same precedence in Catholic dogma, and it is certainly not axial to Evangelical theology.

One of the problems, though, is that Catholic theology is more eclectic that Orthodox theology. Catholicism is like a vacuum cleaner that suctions up a whole lot of stuff in rather syncretistic fashion. So you can find a little bit of everything in Catholicism--like an Arab bazaar.

Orthodoxy, by contrast, due to its semi-Platonic cast, has certain unifying principles, a certain aesthetic elegance and economy of motion lacking in Catholic theology and art.

Aquinas is a perfect example. Although he’s associated with the Aristotelian turn in theology, he is also, as you know, in dialogue with Augustine and Boethius and Pseudo-Dionysius and Maimonides and Averroes and Avicenna and so on. The architectonic unity of the synthesis owes less to the raw materials than to the raw power of his magnificent mind.

As to Starr, it isn’t very useful to discuss this in a textual vacuum. It seems to me that you’re still guilty of mirror-reading. If we read “divine nature” as defined in Greek Orthodox terms, then the limitation of imitability to moral qualities would generate the difficulty you raise. But that begs the philological question.

From this you go to the general principle of imitability. Even if what you said on that score were altogether unobjectionable, it is getting ahead of the discussion because it marks a premature jump from exegetical theology to systematic or even philosophical theology. But until we know what the words mean in the text and context and intertextual and extratextual lineages, we are not ready to raise the discussion to a higher level of abstraction. We need to nail down the linguistic analysis before we can graduate to a higher-ordered conceptual analysis and synthesis.

On the question of lexicography, we’re stuck with whatever has survived. It may or may not be especially representative, but that’s what we’ve got to go on.

Within that general pool we then have to make a judgment call regarding what would be most relevant, taking into consideration, on the one hand, the linguistic culture of a given Bible writer and, on the other hand, the period, place, and genre of the extrabiblical sources.

Yes, a non-Christian writer can be misleading, especially if it’s a question of technical usage over against ordinary usage.

But the danger of a Christian source is, of course, linguistic contamination, in which a Greek Father’s usage is, in fact, colored by Biblical usage, as well as having taken on a more specialized meaning, so that we end up with a semantic anachronism. That why, in lexicography, one rule of thumb is that the best meaning is the least meaning. When in doubt, play it safe.

As to created grace, I deny the Athanasian presupposition that we are ontologically united to God or Christ. We are accounted righteous in Christ, and renewed by the Spirit. Therefore, the Anathasian consequence doesn’t ensure.

It is not a choice between God’s righteousness and something merely like it. It is God’s righteousness, because it is not our righteousness. To take a trivial example, it’s like doing a favor for a friend of a friend. My friend has earned it. His friend has not. But for the sake of my friend, I’ll do his friend a favor.

Now, you will say that a different result ensures. We end up with a merely nominal relation, a mental or conative act.

Well, here we have a difference in theological method. You begin with what you think the answer should be, and work out your soteriology or ontological accordingly. I’m not that aprioristic. I begin with revelation.

Oh, I know, you lay claim to revelation, and we disagree over the interpretation of revelation. But one reason for the disagreement is, again, a point of theological method—of dogmatic exegesis.

And, when it comes to morality, it comes down to moral intuitions. Some folks will always find the idea of a vicarious atonement artificial or even immoral. I don’t. Even if I did, I’d accept it on divine authority. But, to me, it’s just as natural as family and friendship, patronage and favoritism.

So what if we’re saved by a divine effect? We are divine effects! We are creatures. We’re the result of a creative fiat. God often operates indirectly through natural media.

Conversely, God is a mental entity. All his attributes are mental attributes. All his “acts” are mental acts. And if we construe divine eternality as timeless, then, although the consequence is effected in time, as a delayed result (as it were), the originating cause is timeless.

Again, I’m not the one who’s trying to erect a whole soteric edifice on the foundation of one isolated and rather obscure verse of Scripture.


The Incarnation. I quite agree that we don’t find the divine nature apart from persons. From this I don’t know how it follows that we don’t find human nature apart from human persons. To insist on this would be at least question begging. I do agree that we don’t find instances of human nature apart from personal existence.


You seem to be drawing a distinction between human personhood and a personal existence for human nature which is not, however, a human personal existence.

That’s a very demanding claim. Quite counterintuitive. Requires a lot of imported metaphysical machinery. And does it do justice to the biblical concept of a human being?


And Christ is personally united to his humanity thereby humanizing his hypostatic existence (as well as enhypostacizing his human existence) which is the basis for thinking of his post incarnational hypostasis as composite. The humanity is taken up into the divine person. In this way generally I don’t think any personal existence in terms of Christ is lost and continuity with humanity is maintained. Christ’s humanity is enhypostacized in the divine person of the Son.


That’s the classic formulation. Entitled to a respectful hearing.

Again, though, the question is not necessary one of ruling out every theoretical option until, by process of elimination, we arrive at just one model. The grosser Christological heresies can be dispatched quickly enough, viz., Docetism, Arianism, Monophysitism, &c. But you’re still left with some very subtle models which may be underdetermined by revelation. One can say that a number are clearly wrong without saying that only one is clearly right. All this must be submitted to the verdict of Scripture. Otherwise, our Christology is not a revealed Christology.

And let us keep in mind that there is more than one error to be avoided here. There is a fine line between right and almost right, and there’s an equally fine line between what is nearly right and what is fatally wrong. Is the classic formulation right or nearly right? Or is it just a highly refined and disguised version of Apollonarianism?


Person and nature are inseparable in the Deity, but they are distinguishable. One could think of humanity in terms of the divine ideas, if one believed in the Neoplatonic notion of the divine ideas that are identical with the divine essence. Generally the Orthodox do not and as a consequence I don’t either. (The Neoplatonic idea was condemned by the Orthodox Church as heterodox.) Perhaps you have a Biblical basis for such a speculative notion, but I don’t see it here. It seems to me that you need to be consistent at this point. To complain that such notions of theosis, the divine energies, etc. are speculative and outrun divine revelation and then bring up Neoplatonic notions of the divine ideas or imitability (regardless of the motivation for bringing them up or their possible argumentative employment) is at least seemingly inconsistent.


Well, divine ideas are divine. There are different ways of parsing that, but they are divine rather than something anterior to or subsequent to God.

As to the rest, you don’t seem to have kept up with some of my recent replies to you. To recap and take it a bit further, there is room for speculation, if we’re clear on what we mean.

When fielding speculative objections to the faith, we can offer speculative replies. At the most noncommittal level, this may be an ad hominem exercise in which we argue the opponent down on his own grounds.

Or we may genuinely feel that our own speculations are just as reasonable if not more so than the disputant’s.

Moreover, we don’t have to know everything we believe. We can settle on probabilities much of the time. But that doesn’t rate the same dogmatic status as revelation.

Furthermore, there are only so many possible answers in ethics and ontology and epistemology. So even the unbeliever is going to hit upon something close to the truth from time to time—even if he’s in no position to know it.

Hence, it’s not surprising if philosophy sometimes intersects with revelation. But the intersection has to be clear to achieve dogmatic status.

Scripturally speaking, the very fact that many of the same words and concepts are applied to God and man in Scripture implies an analogy between God and man. And since God is the Creator, he would be the exemplar of any such relation.

There are also verses which tell us that the natural world exemplifies certain divine attributes (e.g. Ps 19:1; Prov 3:19; Rom 1:20; Eph 3:9-10).

“Personhood” is a many-layered construct. It’s a way of capturing certain traits we associate with ourselves and others of our kind, and which we see on display in Scripture, in relation to God and man alike. The question is whether we can do without the concept, however we parse it or label it.

Yes, the divine Logos or Eternal Son was and is and always remains a person. And, yes, that could supply a principle of personal continuity. But in terms of hypostatic union or theanthropic individual, can it simply co-opt a human consciousness and still to justice to the Scriptural conditions and consequences of a divine incarnation?

Again, we want to avoid Sebellianism, but that is not the only thing we want to avoid. And is the proposed alternative anything other than a highly refined and disguised version of modalism?

You see, there’s a lopsided character to your objections--as though the danger were not equal on either side. Or as if we could make everything fit into our box by performing some theological gene-splicing—peeling and prying, slicing and excising—then stitching it back together into a smaller, neater, tighter package. This operation looks to me, not like a revelation from God, but a mad scientist in his laboratory. Isn’t intellectual impatience the mother of heresy?


As to analogy, the problem is that our own self understanding seems only to make sense in light of God so that human person is to be understood as analogous to divine personhood and not the other way around.


According to the order of being, yes—but not according to the order of knowing; in the latter case, the reader sees his own reflection in revelation.


On theological grounds, it is the idea that Jesus is a divine person, the person of the Logos that secures for the Reformed the impossibility of Christ sinning. To give up the idea would seem to attenuate that belief.


Yes, divinity secures impeccability, but that does not, of itself, necessitate an anhypostatic union.


By complex or composite I do not mean that Christ’s hypostasis consists just in the volitional union of two nous or minds under a single appearance.


Agreed, the Incarnation has to run deeper than a merely conative relation.


The views of Cyril and later theologians have by and large been taken up into the Reformed confessional and theological tradition.


True, but sausage doesn’t grow on trees. Much as we may enjoy our pork links, we can’t turn a bind eye to the process.

We’re no wiser than the church fathers, but they’re are no wiser than we. They had to think long and hard—had to work through the issues as they saw best. So we do. We’re not toddlers. We have to see that the doors are locked and the alarm is set before we go to bed.

No, we don’t get to stash in contraband in granny’s wheelchair as we pass through customs. Each generation is answerable to the word of God.

Moreover, it is not as though the church fathers were disinterested, carefree theologians on a spiritual retreat. They were responding to outside pressures.

Furthermore, we all know how institutional inertia sets in. It’s the path of least resistance.

What is more, you yourself, in your spiritual pilgrimage, have not been content to live with the first answer you learned.


I for one can’t see on a Penal Substitutionary model how if the divine person doesn’t suffer and die, but only a human person, how such a death can be propitiatory and expiate sins. How can the suffering of divine wrath of a human person be of infinite value?


Yes, it takes more than a human person. But does it take less than a human person?

The atonement is a divine condescension because only a divine person can condescend. We are sinners; our lives are already forfeit to God. And even if we were sinless, we could never merit God’s favor, for we already owe everything to God. But God loves the elect for the sake of his beloved Son—just as a father will befriend the friend of his son. Redemption is God’s adoptive nepotism.