Saturday, August 25, 2007

Assurance: The Basics

Helping People Have the Assurance of Salvation

By John Piper August 5, 1999

FULL ASSURANCE IS GOD'S WILL FOR US. "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end." Hebrews 6:11

ASSURANCE IS PARTIALLY SUSTAINED BY OBJECTIVE EVIDENCES FOR CHRISTIAN TRUTH. "To [his apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days." Acts 1:3

ASSURANCE CANNOT NEGLECT THE PAINFUL WORK OF SELF-EXAMINATION. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" 2 Corinthians 13:5

ASSURANCE WILL DIMINISH IN THE PRESENCE OF CONCEALED SIN. "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long." Psalm 32:3

ASSURANCE COMES FROM HEARING THE WORD OF CHRIST. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Romans 10:17

"These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." John 20:31

REPEATED FOCUSING ON THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS CRUCIAL FOR ASSURANCE. "Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith." Hebrews 10:21-22

WE MUST PRAY FOR EYES TO SEE THE TRUTHS THAT SUSTAIN ASSURANCE. "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." Ephesians 1:18-19

ASSURANCE IS NOT EASILY MAINTAINED IN PERSONAL ISOLATION. "And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you.'" 1 Corinthians 12:21

ASSURANCE IS NOT DESTROYED BY GOD'S DISPLEASURE AND DISCIPLINE. "Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness." Micah 7:8-9

WE MUST OFTEN WAIT PATIENTLY FOR THE RETURN OF ASSURANCE. "I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD." Psalm 40:1-3

ASSURANCE IS A FIGHT TO THE DAY WE DIE. "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life." 1 Timothy 6:12

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

ASSURANCE IS FINALLY A GIFT OF THE SPIRIT. "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." Romans 8:16

"The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself... And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." 1 John 5:10-11

Longing for your assurance,

Pastor John

© Desiring God

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HT: Centurion


Vic Reppert makes a good point about a popular approach to atheologetics, especially as employed by those adhering to "the new atheism."

Basically, the objection goes like this. "Telling us 'Goddidit' explains nothing (whether that be creation, basis for morality, etc). So, saying 'Goddidit' isn't really an explanation at all."

But, frequently, atheists will tell us that they "really want to believe." That, "If God would just write in the sky that he exists, that would be enough for me to believe." Etc.

Reppert points out:

In fact examples like these are often used as a basis for challenging believers to provide evidence for belief in God. But why demand that theists provide evidence, if, whatever the circumstances, there couldn't be enough evidence. If "God did it" explanations are really verboten, then it hardly makes sense to complain that theists haven't provided evidence for their position. By definition, that's the one thing they can't do.

So, when the atheist makes claims like the above, saying that "if and only if God would do something like this I would believe" (even though we know this is just a bogus rationalization for their absolute refusal to trust in and believe in God due to their love affair with sin), we must ask him why that would constitute evidence for explaining how the smoke words got in the sky in the first place. To reply, "Well because Goddidit!" isn't an explanation at all.

So, if "Goddidit" isn't a good explanation of how something happened, even if God did indeed do it, then isn't the atheist really just pretending that "evidence" would change his mind? Isn't it more likely that he has a presuppositional bias against God (or, the idea of God!) in the first place? That is, the atheist says that "Goddidit" isn't a good explanation, but he turns around and says that the only evidence that he would accept is evidence where one could only say of it that, "Wow, must be Goddidit!"

The Rehabilitation of Heresy: "Misquoting" Earliest Christianity

A critique of Ehrman by Rodney Decker.


Ben Stein has a new blog:

Expelled, the Movie.

From Tom Ascol:

Ben Stein chronicles the experiences of scientists who have been blackballed by the academy for questioning the ideologies of Darwinism, global warming and the like. Stories about such leftwing fundamentalism have been accumulating through the years, but no one has ever attempted to weave them all together and portray them on the big screen. Evidently, that is exactly what "Expelled" attempts to do. It ought to be fascinating to watch antics of those who, while screaming for academic freedom and ideological pluralism, militantly cut off dissident voices that dare question current scientific dogma.
I might add that it might help to shed some serious light on "peer review." It's high time it be exposed for the farce that it is. It's mighty easy to say somebody hasn't produced a peer reviewed work when the establishment is using the process to keep dissent out. Personally, I find it highly ironic that those who talk about religion stifling free inquiry and calling on the days of the Inquisition are the ones today practicing the same tactics. I'm reminded of how this works even in biblical scholarship. One need only thumb through the index of a standard liberal commentary and compare it to a standard evangelical commentary to see who is interacting with the other side.

One can already see the Darwinian Fundamentalists in action in Mr. Stein's first post.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Christians: See any EMERGENT problems here?

While currently doing a study on the emergent/emerging church movement(s), I found this video clip of "Solomon's Porch" rather interesting.

HT: Steve Camp

Evolution à la Carte

Fossil find pushes human-ape split back millions of years.

This sort of thing always amuses me. You see, we are told that evolutionists have figured out the vast majority of issues already, and that the rest of the problems are intermural, minor details. Creationists are told to shut up and accept the theory of St. Darwin, else they are little more than flat earthers. Evolution is as certain as Einstein's theory of gravity, say the Darwinists (who never seem to realize that this illustration only goes one way; a physicist will never say Einstein's theory of gravity is as certain as Darwinism).

So there haven't been fossils found in Africa from the millions of years range that was needed for human-ape evolution to occur. Never mind that--we can use molecular clocks to figure out when the split should have occured. We get our answers and tell the Creationists who question the validity of molecular clock results that they are not real scientists, that they can't get peer reviewed, that no one takes them seriously.

Then along comes this new study:
The most startling implication of the find, the scientists agree, is that our human progenitors diverged from today's great apes -- including gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees -- several million years earlier than widely accepted research based on molecular genetics had previously asserted.
Don't worry. We will ignore the fact that this find, if accurate, calls into question all molecular clock dates for this range of time. Further, we will ignore the fact that molecular clocks, if right, call into question the dating of this fossil for this particular time. With evolution à la carte, we can just pick and choose which evidence for the theory we want to accept.

In fact, despite the fossil's date throwing molecular clocks into disrepute, molecular clocks are still used to determine that:

There is broad agreement that chimpanzees were the last of the great apes to split from the evolutionary line leading to man, after gorillas and, even earlier, orangutans.

Conventional scientific wisdom, based on genetic "distances" measured by molecular geneticists, had placed the divergence between chimps and humans some five to six million years ago. Orangutans are thought to have parted company with our ancestors 13 to 14 million years ago.

What's interesting about this is that Jeffrey H. Schwartz, who believes in the orangutan-human split instead of the chimp-human split, stated:

If we are going to accept an exclusive human-chimp association, then we are going to have to accept the consequences that go along with it. The most profound consequence is, I think, that morphology has to be viewed as unrevealing when it comes to resolving the evolutionary relationships of organisms. Otherwise, the uniquenesses shared by chimps and gorillas, especially in their forearm anatomy, provide overwhelming evidence of their close evolutionary relationship. If we accept molecularly based phylogenies exclusively, and not as potential alternative hypotheses, we must reject fossils as being informative sources of data, because fossils are known only as preserved morphological entities. And, thus, because fossils cannot be placed reliably in schemes of phylogenetic relationships--that can result only from a morphological analysis--they cannot be used to provide dates from which to calibrate any evolutionary clock, molecular or otherwise.

(What the Bones Tell Us. 1993. New York: Henry Holt & Co. p. 262)
But we can ignore that a Darwinist pointed out the same flaws 14 years ago. We can pretend that new finds that show our previous results to be wrong by millions of years are no big deal (what's a few million years amongst friends anyway? Come on, it's a baseball season for cryin' out loud). We can pretend that this "startling" bit of data only confirms Darwinism yet again!

One must wonder how it can be that Darwinism is proven by evidence that is contradictory, and that the same theory "predicts" and "explains" results of data that are millions of years in conflict with one another. I wish I could get this kind of number crunching at Vegas.

On the other hand, don't wonder about that at all. Anything is better than letting those grubby little Creationists look respectable...

The Ugly Duckling of Orthodoxy

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays and Gene Bridges. Perry Robinson's words are in blue and indented. Steve's words are in plain text. And Gene's words are in green.)

Perry Robinson has responded1to something I previously wrote.2
I generally like Monty Python. And of course I dig the Holy Grail. It’s a hoot. The Black Knight is especially funny. Ever major wound is “Tis but a scratch!” No arms? I’ll kick you to death! No legs? No problemo. “Ill bite your bloody knee caps off!” The man doesn’t known when to quit. So it seems with Steve Hays and Gene Bridges over at Triablogue.
And Robinson is the Ugly Duckling of Orthodoxy. He never felt at home in the Protestant roost, meandering from one pond to another until he at last beheld his own reflection in the bejeweled chalice of Orthodoxy. To paraphrase Frank Loesser:

There once was an ugly young churchling
With feathers all stubby and brown
And the other churchlings said in so many words
Get out of town
Get out, get out, get out of town
And he went with a quack and a waddle and a quack
In a flurry of eiderdown
That poor little churchling
Went wandering far and near
But at every place they said to his face
Now get out, get out, get out of here
And he went with a quack and a waddle and a quack
And a very unhappy tear
All through the wintertime he hid himself away
Ashamed to show his face, afraid of what others might say
All through the winter in his lonely clump of wheat
Till a flock of Oriental swans spied him there
And very soon they agreed:
You’re a very fine swan indeed!
A swan? Me a swan? Ah, go on!
Yet they said yes, you’re a swan
Take a look at yourself in the chalice and you’ll see
And he looked, and he saw, and he said
I am a swan! Wheeeeeeee!
I’m not such an ugly young churchling
No feathers all stubby and brown
But downy brocade and a glittering crown!
For in fact these swans in so many words said
The best tailor in town,
The best, the best
The best tailor in town!
Not a quack, not a quack, not a waddle or a quack
But smells and bells and a snowy white throwback
And a head so noble and high-churchly
Say who’s an ugly churchling now?
Not I!
Not I!

Steve’s comments even if correct still give us no example of where the Bible uses the method.
I gave examples from Carson.
Second, I am not assuming that we must be able to exegete the resurrection from the passage in isolation, but that we must do so primarily on the basis of the grammar of the text. Pull in the grammar of any other text if you like. The literal meaning of the text is primary, is it not?
And how does the interpretation of R. T. France, which I quoted, depart from the grammar or literal meaning of the text?
Yet Jesus doesn’t interpret the passage based on those considerations.
This is misleading. For one thing, it jumbles two different questions into one: (i) How does Jesus exegete the text, and (ii) How do we exegete the text?

Jesus is addressing fellow Jews who already understand the background of Exod 3:6. By contrast, the job of a modern commentator is to bring the modern reader up to speed by filling in the blanks. What was common knowledge to the original audience isn’t common knowledge to the modern audience.

The grammatico-historical method isn’t operating with a different set of principles. Rather, it spends a certain amount of time explicating the unspoken assumptions of the text, since the original audience brings a broad preunderstanding to the text which, at our cultural distance, a modern audience doesn’t share.
To appeal to the idea that the function of a citation is to act as a trigger for associations is just to capitulate that something else other than syntactical/semantical considerations are sufficient to give the literal sense of the passage.
One of Robinson’s problems is that he equivocates. He originally asked how the grammatico-historical method would justify this inference. But now he’s substituting “literal” for grammatico-historical, which exposes the fact that he doesn’t understand what the grammatico-historical method amounts to.

The GHM is a hermeneutical method, not a type of interpretation (i.e. literal). It doesn’t prejudge whether any given passage will yield a literal or figurative sense.

So, let’s take a look at the text itself before moving on, just for Perry’s benefit to illustrate how this works.

One of the problems with Perry is that he doesn't do an exegesis of the text to know if what he's saying is correct or not, and where he has in this cased made an attempt it is patently false.

The issue isn't whether or not the GHM can produce the Resurrection from the dead from Exodus 3:6 in isolation without reference to other texts or “the Church” or “Christologically.” The issue is very simply "Why did Jesus cite Exodus 3:6?" and "What associations does that text trigger? - For that exegetical conclusion is derived from several texts, not 3:6 in isolation." For our purposes, from our vantage point we also need to consider the Jewish understanding in that century – which, I might add Perry glosses right over and does not address at all.

Did the Jews believe this text taught the resurrection? Yes.

37. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

[He calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, &c.] "Why doth Moses say (Exo 32:13), Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? R. Abin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, 'I look for ten men from thee, as I looked for that number in Sodom: find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people.' Then said Moses, 'Behold, here am I, and Aaron, and Eleazar, and Ithamar, and Phineas, and Caleb, and Joshua.' 'But' saith God, 'these are but seven; where are the other three?' When Moses knew not what to do, he saith, 'O eternal God, do those live that are dead?' 'Yes,' saith God. Then saith Moses, 'If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.'"

One need only thumb through Judaica to know that.

God is not the God of the dead.] Read, if you please, the beginning of the chapter Chelek, where you will observe with what arguments and inferences the Talmudists maintain the resurrection of the dead out of the law; namely, by a manner of arguing not unlike this of our Saviour's. We will produce only this one; "R. Eliezer Ben R. Josi said, In this matter I accused the scribes of the Samaritans of falsehood, while they say, That the resurrection of the dead cannot be proved out of the law. I told them, You corrupt your law, and it is nothing which you carry about in your hands; for you say, That the resurrection of the dead is not in the law, when it saith, 'That soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity is upon him.' 'Shall be utterly cut off'; namely, in this world. 'His iniquity is upon him': when? Is it not in the world to come?" I have quoted this, rather than the others which are to be found in the same place; because they seem here to tax the Samaritan text of corruption; when, indeed, both the text and the version, as may easily be observed, agree very well with the Hebrew. When, therefore, the Rabbin saith, that they have corrupted their law, he doth not so much deny the purity of the text, as reprove the vanity of the interpretation: as if he had said, "You interpret your law falsely, when you do not infer the resurrection from those words which speak it so plainly."

With the present argument of our Saviour compare, first, those things which are said by R. Tanchum: "R. Simeon Ben Jochai saith, God, holy and blessed, doth not join his name to holy men while they live, but only after their death; as it is said, 'To the saints that are in the earth.' When are they saints? When they are laid in the earth; for while they live, God doth not join his name to them; because he is not sure but that some evil affection may lead them astray: but when they are dead, then he joins his name to them. But we find that God joined his name to Isaac while he was living: 'I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac.' The Rabbins answer, He looked on his dust as if it were gathered upon the altar. R. Berachiah said, Since he became blind, he was in a manner dead." See also R. Menahem on the Law.

Compare also those words of the Jerusalem Gemara: "The righteous, even in death, are said to live; and the wicked, even in life, are said to be dead. But how is it proved that the wicked, even in life, are said to be dead? From that place where it is said, I have no delight in the death of the dead. Is he already dead, that is already here called dead? And whence is it proved that the righteous, even in death, are said to live? From that passage, 'And he said to him, This is the land, concerning which I sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob'...He saith to him, Go and tell the fathers, whatsoever I promised to you, I have performed to your children."3

(I do so enjoy Lightfoot, as he knew his way around Judaica so well).

I'd also point out the notes on this from John Nolland's commentary (NIGTC), where he discusses Philo's allegorical interpretation in a footnote and then points to other sources for rabbinic attempts to deduce resurrection of the dead from Moses. (See footnote 92 on page 906).4

See also, his citation of Dreyfus.

And note too that 4 Macc. 7:19; 16:25 (which one would think Perry would know about) support the conviction these 3 live on.
4Mac 7:19
they who believe that to God they die not; for, as
our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, they live to
4Mac 16:25
And they saw this, too, that they who die for God,
live to God; as Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and
all the patriarchs.

Jesus is not inventing a new interpretation of this text. Rather, He is setting the religious leaders at odds with each other. He's appealing to one side over the other and starting an argument to confute them for trying to confute him. This is not at all a new interpretation. This is, of course, the way the Synoptics regularly portray His interaction with them.

The citation of Exodus 3:6 would, of course, trigger theses associations in the minds of the teachers and those in earshot. Perry also forgets that this text (Mt. 22:30) alludes to Dn 12, where very plainly the resurrection is taught.5 Jesus is linking Daniel (like the angels in heaven). Jesus is taking the Pharisees side on the Scriptures too, and he's doing it in front of the people. Jesus is, thus, in line with the GHM here, for the GHM is sensitive to this kind of intertextuality.

And the issue is one of inference, for that was the position of the Pharisees at this time. They did not argue that the Law could directly teach the Resurrection and that isn’t Jesus argument here, nor is it ours. Rather, they taught it inferred the Resurrection. Jesus takes that position too, for he links the plain text of Daniel with the inference of Exodus. That, for Perry, is how grammatical-historical exegesis works. One interprets the unclear by the clear.

Here is sample from Judaica regarding the Jewish understanding of these issues.6

For more on the Resurrection and the Pentateuch in Jewish rabbinical thought see Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and Torah: A Second Look.7

Moreover, even if this idea were to be let through as supporting the grammatical-historical method it bumps up against the text itself since plenty of people had those background associations and yet couldn’t seem to derive the interpretation that Jesus gives, which explains well why they were “astonished.” What’s there to be “astonished” about if they all pretty much had the same background data and the literal sense already?
i) To begin with, Jesus has more than one audience. He’s responding to a challenge posed by the Sadducees. The Sadducees denied the afterlife, even though there are OT passages that explicitly affirm the afterlife. Their precommitment to mortalism precluded them from inferring the afterlife from this verse of Scripture or any other.

But Jesus is also speaking for the benefit of other onlookers. The crowds that followed him from place to place. And most of them were dependent on the religious authorities for their knowledge of Scripture, and interpretation thereof.

They knew the narrative contours of Scripture. But this doesn’t mean they thought through the interpretation of every verse. On the other hand, they wouldn’t have found his interpretation persuasive unless it dovetailed with their general knowledge of Scripture.

There’s nothing the least bit surprising about this. Christians who know the basic storyline of Scripture are often startled by a novel interpretation. They hadn’t heard it before, or thought of it before, but as soon as someone draws their attention to it, it falls right into place.

ii) However, that isn’t necessarily the point of Mt 22:33. Perry is evidently assumed that they were astonished at the content of his teaching. But they were more likely astonished at his ability to go head-to-head with the Jewish authorities and beat them at their own game. “The multitudes are again astounded by Jesus’ quick wit (22:33; cf. 7:28; 22:22,46),”8

Again, let’s spend some time here.

Were the people astonished because that isn't the literal, plain meaning of the text? Where does Matthew talk about them being astonished for that reason? Where is Perry getting that information? It clearly isn't from the text, for it is nowhere in it.

Matthew is bookending 22:32 with 7:28. The crowds are amazed not because "that's not the plain, literal reading of the text," but because Jesus speaks as one in authority - and able to silence the Sadducees, something even the Pharisees were unable to do with them. The text goes on from there to talk about the Pharisees, having now seen Jesus silence their opposition, challenge him themselves. He then silences them. Afterward nobody dared to ask Him another question. The astonishment of the crowd is clearly over Jesus ability to confute their teachers - not the interpretation He gives. It appears to me that Perry is the one who is "unable to understand spiritual things." For one who talks about us needing to quote sources, Perry would do well to crack a few commentaries himself.

The point is that the background data wasn’t sufficient to get you to the true meaning, which isn’t the literal meaning. If you do think that Jesus’ interpretation is the plain and literal meaning of Exodus it’d be nice for you to show me that it is so.
i) Perry needs to define his terms. What does he mean by “plain and literal”?

ii) As I’ve said before, Perry is shifting gears. He originally posed the question in terms of the GHM. Now, however, he’s recasting the question in terms of the “plain and literal” meaning. But “plain and literal” are hardly synonymous with the GHM.

iii) ”Literal” in contrast to what? Figurative? Is Jesus teaching a figurative resurrection of the just? No.

iv) The real question is whether Jesus drew a valid inference in light of Pentateuchal covenant theology. I answer in the affirmative.
The people were astonished because it wasn’t the literal meaning of the text. They didn’t understand the true meaning because natural men do not understand godly things. So while it is true that knowledge of the patriarchs is a necessary condition for understanding the passage as Jesus does, it isn’t a sufficient condition, which implies that the grammatical-historical method is inadequate. So in no way does any of this show how you could get that meaning from those words in that context by linguistic analysis alone. The Spirit blows where He Will.
i) Perry is now confounding the objective sense of the text with the subjective mental state of the audience. Even if we accept his explanation that the crowd didn’t understand the true meaning of the text because they were “natural” men, lacking spiritual illumination, that wouldn’t add anything to the meaning of the text. Rather, that would create a mind receptive to the meaning of the text. So Perry is committing a category mistake.

ii) And his argument either proves too much or too little. If the reason they didn’t grasp the true meaning of the text was due to a spiritual impediment, then Jesus’ explanation would fall on deaf ears. As long as they’re in their “natural” state, godly things will continue to elude them even when their attention is drawn to godly things—just as pointing a color-blind man to a rose garden doesn’t make him see shades of red.
The France citation simply begs the question for he wishes to claim it is by some implication that Jesus shows that the relationship between God and the patriarchs still holds good. But what implication would that be? By what rule of reasoning does one get from, God had this relation to, God still has this relation?
i) Notice that Perry sounds just like the Sadducees. “Resurrection? What Resurrection?” Perhaps Perry can’t grasp the true meaning of the text because he remains in his natural state.

ii) The whole point of a God who binds himself by covenant, as a covenant-keeping God, is that God is always faithful to his promises, to which the Patriarchs were party. He maintains his end of the bargain.
The same could be asked concerning Paul’s use of “seed” in Gal 3:16 or Gal 4:21ff with respect to the two women. To note that the way that the NT writers use OT material forces us to think “afresh” is just to note that the meaning is spiritually discerned and not accessible by the grammar of the text.
i) I’m not going to play a game of car-tag with Perry, in hot pursuit of every prooftext he throws out the window. I’ve seen more than enough car chases in my time, and Hollywood does it better.

Perry is now dusting off stock objections as if no one had ever dealt with these before. If you want to know how a practioner of the GHM would answer your questions, try reading their commentaries, viz. Bruce or Longenecker on Galatians.

ii) It doesn’t require spiritual discernment to discern the true meaning of Scripture. It only requires intellectual discernment. It’s quite possible for an unregenerate commentator to discern the true meaning of Scripture. For the unregenerate, the spiritual impediment is not with the meaning of Scripture, but with the authority of Scripture. Indeed, it’s because the unregenerate are in a position to know better than their unbelief is culpable.

A liberal Bible scholar can have a better understanding of exegetical theology than a regenerate layman. He understands much more, but believes far less.

iii) Incidentally, Perry’s reasoning is reversible. Given the way he misinterprets Scripture, we should conclude, by his own logic, that Perry is unregenerate.
The Jews were competent users of the grammar as well as being well aware of the historical facts and yet they got the interpretation wrong.
Fallacious. That would only follow, at best, if the Jews offered a contrary interpretation of Exod 3:6 wherein they denied its implications for the resurrection of the just. That would be a misinterpretation. But merely failing to see its bearing on the afterlife is hardly the same thing as “getting the interpretation wrong.” Not perceiving something is different than misperceiving something.

And let’s remember, once again, what “Jews” we’re talking about. In context, what we have, on the one hand, are the Sadducees, along with the “crowd” (i.e. Jewish laymen) on the other.
It would be nice if Hays could use his imagination and anticipate how I might answer these questions rather than pretending that he actually has an argument here by merely asking a question.
What would be nice is if Perry were to present his alternative exegesis, using something other than the GHC to get from Exod 3:6 to Mt 22:32. Appealing to “spiritual discernment” does not chart a course from Exod 3:6 to Mt 22:32.
I think that the OT Scriptures testify to Christ (Jn 5:39) and so it is only by seeing the scripture theandrically or Christologically, as the Apostles were trained to do by Christ that they understood the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27)
i) This is so amorphous that it could either be true or false depending on how he applies it. Does Perry interpret 1 Sam 24:3 theandrically and/or Christologically? Does spiritual discernment elicit the true, theandric meaning of this verse?

ii) In addition, Robinson is erecting a false dichotomy, as if a theandric reading of Scripture is one thing, while a grammatico-historical reading is another.

But if Scripture is objectively Christocentric, then the GMC will uncover its Christocentricity. To deny that a grammatico-historical reading is Christocentric denies that Scripture, itself, is Christocentric.
If Scripture is the rule and everyone’s application of the rule possesses the same degree of normativity, then it seems that no one is obligated to adhere to any other interpretation than their own in the absence of reasons they judge to be sufficient to alter their judgment.
A straw man argument since the Protestant rule of faith does not entail the thesis that “everyone’s application of the rule possesses the same degree of normativity.” So Perry is getting off on the wrong foot.
The judgment of the church seems to carry a sufficiently higher degree of normativity than any individual.
Any individual? What about an apostle? Mt 18:17 is only as reliable as the Apostle who recorded it for posterity.
Much the same could be said for Paul’s actions in 1 Cor 5:5 and 1 Tim 1:20.
Isn’t Paul an individual? And isn’t he issuing orders to the church? So this isn’t emanating from the church.

(Actually, there’s nothing about the church in 1 Tim 1:20.)
We would need something with a greater degree of normativity than knowledge to match the kind of normativity that the NT ascribes to the church’s ministerial judgments.
We do? Is Perry claiming that church discipline is predicated on infallible ministerial judgments? Is every instance of church discipline in the history of the Orthodox church infallible?

And if it’s fallible rather than infallible, then how is Orthodox church discipline any more or less normative than Protestant church discipline?
That kind of normativity is sufficient to bind not only the conscience of another person, but their body and soul with respect to eternal destiny apart from their assent and that level of normativity seems greater than that found at the level of knowledge. Secondly, on epistemological grounds, given fallibilism, for any knowledge claim of contingent agents there will always be a sufficient amount of epistemic distance between thinking that we fulfills the conditions on knowledge and actually doing so (See Greco, Putting Skeptics in Their Place). So knowledge claims won’t be sufficient to ground the kind of normativity necessary to map the biblical view on the ministerial authority of the Church.
i) Where is this coming from? Is this an allusion to something like Mt 18:18?

If so, is Perry claiming that every instance of Orthodox church discipline in the whole history of Eastern Orthodoxy was ratified by heaven? Are there no examples in which Orthodox church discipline was a miscarriage of justice? No cases of church authorities abusing their authority?

ii) Perry is also guilty of acontextual spooftexting. As one scholar has noted:
There is an inevitable tension between these two factors, the frightening responsibility of passing on the decrees of heaven and the all to clear fallibility of the actual people to whom this responsibility is delegated. Matthew does not offer a direct resolution of this tension, but the fact that he allows the two factors to stand side by side suggest that we should be cautious of assuming that he held so naïve of view of the church of the church that he saw no problem in endorsing any and every pronouncement made by a group of disciples. The ideal of the clear communication of the will of heaven through the presence of Jesus among his people must always be balanced by the fallibility and self-interest to which those people continue to be prone, and the recognition that it is not always easy in practice to discern where the true people of God is to be found (a problem of which Matthew was well aware, as we shall see later in this chapter.9
iii) You have a parallel to church discipline in the OT penal code. Yet, as the OT prophets constantly complain, there were many miscarriages of justice in the actual enforcement of the penal code by corrupt judges and perjurious witnesses. Indeed, the trial of Christ is the supreme case in point.

The OT penal code was normative, even though its concrete implementation was fallible as well as vulnerable to grave injustice—in the wrong hands.
Moreover, the Protestant position on the canon necessarily and functionally relegates divine revelation to the realm of a pragmatic or provisionally adhered to body of documents so that what counts for divine revelation becomes a function of provisional judgment.
i) Even if this were the whole story, what it would mean is that our canon is provisional insofar as the evidence for our canon is provisional, which is, in turn, contingent on the state of the evidence that God has chosen to preserve for his people. If our judgment is provisional, that is due to the fact that we form our judgment on the basis of the provisional evidence that God has supplied us with. If he wanted us to form a different judgment, it was within his power to supply us with better or more abundant evidence.

Is the evidence inadequate? That’s not my claim. But if it were inadequate, then we are having to form a provisional judgment on the basis of the inadequate evidence that God has left at our disposal.

Assuming that worst-case scenario, why is that my problem? Why should I fret over circumstances beyond my control? God could prevent the worst-case outcome if he wanted to. If he did not prevent this outcome, then why should it bother me if it didn’t bother him?

ii) As usual, Perry theological method is aprioristic. He stipulates that a given outcome is unacceptable, then he invents a theological system to yield the desired result. (More precisely, he piggybacks on someone else’s theological invention.)

iii) There’s also a difference between the evidence we adduce to make a public case for the canon, and our spontaneous faith in the word of God. Many Christians believe the Bible because they find the Bible believable. That’s a reflexive effect of regeneration. Our faith in Scripture is not provisional in the same sense that our arguments for Scripture may be. But religious experience doesn’t figure in the public evidence for the canon.
As James White never tires of harping, “Words have meaning.” Of course White doesn’t show any proficiency in being able to say exactly what meaning is or how he found that out. I suppose some conceptual apple of Newton’s just fell out of the sky giving him a full blown theory of meaning which he is yet to grace us with.
White can speak for himself, but since you choose to drag him into this debate, permit me to point out that one doesn’t need to have a prefabricated theory of meaning to know what something means. Unless we had a pretheoretical grasp of meaning, we couldn’t even formulate a theory of meaning. And unless we had a pretheoretical grasp of meaning, we couldn’t grasp the meaning of the competing theories of meaning.

Perry is falling into the Socratic gimmick of supposing that you can’t know something unless you can define it. Does Perry think the OT prophets had a theory of meaning? Does Perry think the apostles had a theory of meaning?

For that matter, how many Orthodox laymen or clergymen have a sophisticated theory of meaning at their fingertips? Must the readers of Perry’s blog submit a theory of meaning for his preapproval before they’re entitled to agree with him? What ecumenical council has formally defined the correct theory of meaning?
Hays states that the Protestant position isn’t claiming to be superior. Well that is certainly news to me since Protestant apologists like Hays never seem tired of claiming so. In fact, the Protestant position is proffered as superior which is then employed as a reason for preferring it to its competitors. If Hays wishes to concede that it isn’t in fact a better position, and its consequent that it lacks warrant on that point to justify someone believing it over its competitors, I am all too happy to concede that point.
Perry is either a demagogue or deficient in mental concentration. In context, I was discussing the rule of faith. Protestants don’t adopt sola scriptura on pragmatic grounds. Rather, we adopt sola scriptura because it’s true. This is the rule of faith which God has imposed on the church. Indeed, I was quite explicit on that point.
And Hays makes the claim too strong. He writes, “The Protestant position would only need to be problem-proof if we made that a criterion for the true rule of faith.” If a position has conceptual problems that it cannot address, that seems to be grounds for rejecting it or at least not adhering to it in the first place.
Once again, Perry is either a demagogue or deficient in mental concentration. In context, I was discussing the rule of faith. The point at issue wasn’t “conceptual” problems, but the common claim that sola scriptural is a false rule of faith because it allegedly generates practical problems (i.e. religious uncertainty), whereas the Orthodox rule of faith allegedly confers an immunity to said consequences.
If those problems undermine its justification for consistently adhering to its rule of faith in the way that it claims to do so, then the problems again undermine the Protestant position.
The Protestant rule of faith is both self-consistent and consistent with the outcome.
And I would think that Protestantism would not only be concerned with the correct rule of faith but also a normative application of it.
i) What we’re concerned with is discharging our duties to God to the degree that God has enabled us. We do not stipulate to some abstract level of certainty, and then intuit a corresponding theological system.

ii) Incidentally, I don’t deny that a Christian can attain religious certainty in various respects. And I’ve argued for that elsewhere.

But it’s wrong to lead with the question of certainty, as an a priori stipulation, and then concoct an ecclesiology that will make good on you’re a priori stipulation.

Perry has made a token gesture towards spooftexting his stipulation, but as I’ve demonstrated, his appeal to church discipline is exegetically ill-founded.
Second, it does prima facia certainly seem to be a problem, given that comparably intelligent users of the rule should converge on their interpretations, but for 500 years the major Protestant traditions have been producing more divergence than convergence with no end in sight.
i) Perry doesn’t bother to explain how he reckons divergence. What is he counting? Theological traditions? Denominations?

ii) As scholars like Jacob Neusner have documented, there was no lack of “divergence” in 2nd temple Judaism. If God could live with that arrangement—which is ultimately his arrangement, why can’t I?
Such facts raise questions in other disciplines such as normative ethics between Utilitarians and Kantians for example and one wonders why Protestants just schlep off the increasing divergence.
i) Simple: I’m content to schlep off whatever God is content to schlep off, and I’m not responsible for divergence. I’m not auditioning to play God. I have no control over what other Christians believe. That’s not my problem. I’m not a theological busybody like Robinson. I state my opinion, and give my reasons, but beyond that, I’m answerable to God and you’re answerable to God. I’m not answerable for you.

ii) Now, if God had said in his Word that he disapproves of all this divergence, and if he had mandated some enforcement mechanism or quality control mechanism to contain or constrain theological divergence, then that would be a different story. But there’s nothing like that in Scripture, which is why high churchman resort to tradition to pad out their high-church pretensions.

iii) Eastern Orthodoxy is not as monolithic as it appears to be. That’s because, in the past, Orthodoxy was culturally isolated. In addition, living under dhimmitude necessarily fosters a ghetto mentality.

But Orthodoxy has liberalized from exposure to the West. So you have your own divergence to deal with.
That all by itself seems to be sufficient to raise concerns that Protestantism can meet the demands of the Biblical description of the degree of normativity attributed to the ministerial authorities. If Hays were correct, Acts 15 should have been re-written along far more eclectic and individualistic lines. I suppose the Holy Spirit didn’t have a good enough argument yet. I for one would think that we should be concerned that our formal theological systems do in fact map on to the Bible’s teaching and that if they don’t then that is a problem that we need to solve and so it is a problem that Protestants need to solve.
This looks like as good a place as any to quote an Orthodox analysis of the elusive locus of authority in the Orthodox church:
The appeal to the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) as paradigmatic for church decision-making procedure is frequently made by those emphasizing the importance of the hierarchy in the process of defining the faith…seemingly a perfect example.10

On closer examination, the example is problematical. Did the hierarchy really make the decision? First, Peter makes a speech and in it takes responsibility for the Gentile mission; but then James, the brother of the Lord, speaks and states, ‘I have reached a decision…’ Next, we find that ‘the apostles and the elders with the consent of the whole church decided…’ (v22); and again, when we read Paul’s account of what is ostensibly the same council (Gal 2:1-10), he states that he is the leader of the Gentile mission and the meeting in Jerusalem added nothing to his message or method.11

Finally, the Council was not really about orthodoxy at all, but about orthopraxy: The decision did not involve theology (q.v.) or the content of the faith, but only whether circumcision and certain types of abstinence would be practiced.12

The appeal to ecumenical conciliarity (sobornost, in Russian) and the emperor are frequently taken as normative for the Eastern Church’s self-expression. Certainly the Seven Ecumenical Councils (q.v.) have unique authority in the East, and the emperor was looked upon as blessed by God to enforce secular, if not religious, justice.13

The problem with the councils and the emperor, briefly put, is that terrible difficulties in the conciliar period began immediately with Constantine the Great (q.v.). Councils were convened that attributed ‘ecumenical authority’ to themselves, but which were subsequently judiciously overturned.14

Similarly, the emperor soon showed himself capable of being as much a hindrance to the faith as a help. Heretical laws were passed and enforced. The state inferred in the Church and itself created new martyrs (q.v.)—most recently with Soviet sovereignty.15

One of the worst conciliar debacles occurred with the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-1439) wherein all the sitting hierarchs except Mark of Ephesus (q.v.) capitulated to Rome; and on returning to their dioceses they met any angry reception—and most swiftly recanted in order to hold their sees.16

The appeal to Holy Tradition (q.v.) (including Scripture and/or the Councils [qq.v.]) is recognized as of ultimate authority…The primary hurdle in appealing to Holy Tradition as an authority lies in the selection of appropriate sources, applicable to a given situation.17

Similarly, precedent is difficult to establish quickly, since the selection of sources itself is a matter of interpretation, and the question raised might not have been asked previously.18

Everyone agrees that Holy Tradition is authoritative, but which beliefs and practices truly manifest Holy Tradition is open to a variety of interpretation.19

Various appeals to the authority of ancient patriarchates, especially Rome and Constantinople (qq.v.), have been made throughout history. During the later Ecumenical Councils (q.v.) the Roman Church had a remarkable record of protecting orthodoxy from heresy (q.v.), less so Constantinople.20

Unfortunately, dominant heresies occurred in each of these centers; so, one finds Hippolytus’s papal adversaries and Honorius I in Rome, and Theodore of Mopsuestia and Cyril of Lukaris (qq.v.) in Constantinople, as notable, fallible examples.21

Holy Tradition (with a capital ‘T’) is to be distinguished from tradition (with a lower case ‘t’) or custom…The distinction is firm in theory, although its precise application in practice is often thorny.22
Doesn’t sound like Perry can offer us benighted Evangelicals much by way of a practical alternative.
I for one would think that we should be concerned that our formal theological systems do in fact map on to the Bible’s teaching and that if they don’t then that is a problem that we need to solve and so it is a problem that Protestants need to solve.
i) Which misses the point. We work with the tools that God has given us. I happen to think that God gave us the tools we need. Otherwise, it was within his power to give us a better toolbox.

What I’m not going to do is to reify a “better” toolbox out of a figment of my imagination because I believe on a priori grounds that the status quo is unacceptable. Certainly the OT status quo was far from ideal, yet the Mosaic covenant was a divine institution.

Either God is unable to ensure a particular outcome or else he’s unwilling to ensure a particular outcome. As a Calvinist, I deny that he’s unable to ensure the outcome, so he must be unwilling.

ii) The fact that some theological systems deviate from Scripture does nothing to impugn Scripture as the rule of faith. Indeed, the objection is muddleheaded, for you can only say that they deviate from Scripture if Scripture is the benchmark—in which event, deviation from Scripture presupposes that Scripture is, indeed, the rule of faith. That’s is what makes unscriptural deviations deviant in the first place. They reflect a declension from the gold standard of Scripture.
As for Hays’ basic principle that something is a problem for us if it’s a problem for God and since God doesn’t consider the situation a problem then presumably we shouldn’t either, here is what I have to write. This is simply question begging.
It’s fine with me if Perry admits that God doesn’t share his concerns. I’ll side with God and Perry can side with his denomination.
Second, there are obvious cases where something isn’t a problem for God but a problem for humans, namely when our ideas don’t match God’s in the appropriate way. God never seems to have a problem with that and yet we do.
How is that at all obvious? Why should that be a problem for us unless it is a problem for God?

Incidentally, I’m not denying that we are in the wrong when our ideas don’t match God’s in the appropriate way. It is wrong to entertain wrong ideas—ideas that are false because they don’t correspond to God’s.

However, a fallen world is full of falsehoods. And much of this is humanly insoluble. God hasn’t put us in a position where we can eradicate all or even most falsehoods.

We can correct some errors, but not others. We have very limited control over what other people believe. Yet it was within God’s power to empower some individuals to preempt certain errors. But he did not exercise his power to so empower us.

So why decry theological diversity or disunity as if there’s something we’re supposed to do about it? We should do whatever we can, but pointing to a problem like heresy is no reason to postulate an infallible church—any more than pointing to the problem of crime is a reason to postulate an omnipotent police department; or pointing to the problem of disease is a reason to postulate an omniscient medical community; or pointing to the problem of sin is a reason to postulate Wesleyan perfectionism.

The world is full of moral and natural evils. Some of these are preventable or soluble, but many others are not. They are part of God’s plan for the world—as a means to a higher end. There wouldn’t even be a church apart from the Fall.
Some of the objections turn on the assumption about theoretical, explanatory and justificatory convergence. If the theory were correct it should lead to greater agreement and not less.
Sola Scriptura is not a theory or problem-solving device. Theology is not a scientific hypothesis.

God could forestall all divergence by the individual and immediate inspiration of every Christian. He could also make us impeccable in this life, instead of the next. But he has chosen to refrain from taking the preemptive actions.

Robinson’s armchair conjectures are wholly out of touch with God’s governance of the world. Indeed, his theology is a form of insanity, for that’s the definition of insanity: to lose touch with reality.
Anglo-Catholic divines historically just didn’t argue like that.
Since I’m not Anglo-Catholic, what’s that to me?
And if anything, the line of reasoning that Hays outlines seems to be exactly the Protestant line of reasoning, namely that the pre-Reformation history of the church showed that the way things went wasn’t in fact part of God’s plan for the church. So much for trust in providence. I suppose all that abosolute predestinarinism doesn’t extend to bodies so Hays must have a ‘heathen” attitude when it comes to providence.
Either Perry is a demagogue or else he can’t distinguish between God’s decretive will and his preceptive will. So his objection shipwrecks on an elementary equivocation.

God “plan” for the church can either denote his decree for the church or else his law for the church. There is an exacting match between predestination and providence. Providence is predestination in action. The temporal execution of God’s timeless decree.

By contrast, it is possible to defy the law of God. Even that does not by any means represent a frustration of God’s will for the world. God decreed every violation of his law, as a means to a higher end.

And it is also God’s will that, in many cases, his law shall be upheld. We only know what’s doable by doing it—or by failing in the attempt.

As a former Calvinist, Perry should be able to draw these distinctions. Of course, he has long since repudiated the doctrines of grace, but for purpose of critiquing Reformed theology, there’s no excuse for him to be so sloppy.

But maybe his grasp of Reformed theology really is that clueless and superficial. I don’t know which is the more charitable interpretation: mendacity or ignorance.
Certainly Hays doesn’t think that all Christian traditions handle that problem equally well and so I see no reason why, even if true (it is not) it can’t function as an objection to the “no-church” position.
Remember the distinction between decretive and preceptive. No, not all Christian traditions handle the problem equally well. And in some cases we can limit the damage or nip certain errors in the bud.

But there’s a continuum, ranging from fatalistic pessimism, at one end of the spectrum, to utopian optimism, at the other end. In opposition to either extreme, we can solve some problems, but not all problems.

Just pointing to the problem of heresy or diversity is no justification for postulating an infallible church—whether you situate the locus of infallible guidance in the papacy or the councils or the sobornost. That’s a daydream.
As for textual corruption and other kinds of error that could become enshrined in Protestantism, dismissing them doesn’t do any argumentative work. Hays poses the possibility of tradition being corrupted as if the Orthodox have neither thought of this nor have a mechanism for identifying it and rooting it out (just like with textual corruption-we’ve done that too btw-your welcome). That by itself is rather strange as Hays should know better knowing the history of the church. What he needs to do is not pose questions but arguments as to why those mechanisms have in fact failed or are likely to do so.
I’m merely answering Perry on his own grounds by countering one hypothetical with another. If he chooses to float a hypothetic defeater to the Protestant rule of faith, I can float a hypothetical defeater to the Orthodox rule of faith. And it’s no answer to a hypothetical defeater to say that Orthodoxy has a mechanism for identifying and rooting out corrupt traditions; it’s child’s play to pose a hypothetical defeater for his corrective mechanism. How does he know that the mechanism to identify and root out corruption is not, itself, corrupt?

He is the one who began by proposing hypothetical defeaters, not me. If he now wants to switch from hypothetical defeaters to those mechanisms have in fact failed or are likely to do so, we can change course, but let the record show that he has abandoned his original argument.
Moreover, the possibility that error can be just as easily enshrined in texts and Protestant Confessions, which Hays thinks, as a Baptist, is in fact the case, would function as just as much a defeater for sola scriptura as it would for thinking that scripture is part of the tradition of the church.
How is the possibility of error in a Protestant confession a defeater for sola Scriptura? Does sola Scriptura posit that Protestant confessions must be inerrant? Hardly.

Incidentally, I’m not a Baptist. If you must know, I’m a Welsh-Methodist Anglo-Bapterian.
Not to mention the fact that providence has allowed textual corruption to occur and that on no small scale.
Now he sounds like a Bart Ehrman book cover. The vast majority of textual corruptions are either trivial, easily detectable, or both.
As well as corruption of the canon for long periods of time.
As in the OT canon of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches? Agreed.
In any case, Hays confuses our belief in the theological and spiritual perfection of Christ’s body as a whole with the personal failings of its members. (ya just got to love that fallacy of composition.)
No, the question at issue is how this idealized abstraction cashes out at the concrete level. Answer: it doesn’t.

Perry has two different ecclesiologies: there’s the theological and spiritual perfection of Christ’s body as a whole, which he keeps under glass, in a state of incorruptible preservation, like a mint condition museum piece—and then there’s the ecclesiology he’s taken out of the airtight glass case, which immediately begins to decay when brought into direct contact with the natural elements.
Moreover, given that the Orthodox are a species of Libertarians, we have a nifty explanation of why the world isn’t perfect without making God the ogre who causes and ultimately sanctions that imperfection out of some dependence via legal relationships on it.
I see. The “nifty explanation” of the Orthodox is that God stored plastic explosive in a kindergarten cupboard, then went on vacation. If the kindergarten goes up in smoke because a little tyke mistook some plastique for silly putty …oh, well…accidents will happen.
Of course Hays may be implicitly admitting that he doesn’t have an answer-I don’t know. In any case my position wasn’t that if Hays doesn’t have an answer that his position is wrong.
Robinson finds it difficult to keep track of his own argument, in part because he oscillates from one argument to another, as if these are interchangeable. What I said, in context, is that I don’t have to rebut every hypothetical defeater to my position, any more than Perry is able to rebut every hypothetical defeater to his own position.

As a practical matter, I don’t need to know all the answers as long as I know God, and God knows all the answers.
As for “speculations” Calvinists in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones with doctrines like the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism. They aren’t exactly jumping off the surface grammar of every or any page.
i) A theological construct needn't “jump off the page” to be exegetically well-founded.

ii) A supralapsarian theodicy is well grounded in Scripture.

iii) Notice that he’s playing a game of bluff. He double-dares the Calvinist to question some aspect of traditional Reformed theology, like the covenant of works.

As a matter of fact, covenant theology underwent extensive reexamination in the 20C. Reformed theologians were prepared to scrutinize the traditional synthesis in light of modern exegesis (e.g. Beckwith, Murray, McComiskey, Robertson). So, yes, we take sola Scriptura seriously. Reformed tradition did not get a free pass.
In any case, this is simply a sidestep for Hays offers no reason to think that it is any more plausible that Protestantism won’t in fact get it wrong and enshrine large scale error or that this hasn’t in fact happened.
i) This is irrelevant to the status of sola Scriptura as a true rule of faith. 2nd temple Judaism “got it wrong” on many things and managed to “enshrine large scale error.” Is that an argument for an infallible Jewish church? But there was no infallible Jewish church. God never instituted an infallible Jewish church, which is one reason you had so much “divergence” in 2nd temple Judaism.

It was the will of God that no backup mechanism would be in place to prevent his covenant community from going astray to one degree or another. In the OT, we have the spectacle of national apostasy. In the NT we have the execution of the Messiah by his own people. Each outcome is a worst-case scenario.

ii) At the same time, you also have a remnant. Not all OT Jews were apostates. Not all NT Jews repudiated their Messiah.

There’s a difference between general providence and special providence. God has decreed that he will bring his elect to a saving knowledge of the truth. So there are limits to the possibility of error. We’re not in a state of freefall.
Why think that Protestants are guaranteed to get it right or even likely?
Perry always circles back to his systemic error. God never guaranteed that his people would always get it right. The status of sola Scriptura as a true rule of faith doesn’t turn on having a guarantee that we will always get it right.

We can live with the guarantees that God has actually given us. But God hasn’t issued a blanket guarantee that would immunize us from all possibility of error.

We live by God’s promises. But we don’t invent divine promises.

This is Perry’s fundamental failure. He lives in a world of make-believe. A world of counterfeit guarantees.

He turned his back on the Reformed faith because the Orthodox church has a vending machine in the narthex dispensing money-back guarantees. Well, that’s a wonderful sales pitch, but when you try to track down the company headquarters for a refund, all you turn up is a post office box.
Have they managed convergence on say baptism?
Why should we? The reason for the lack of agreement on baptism is because the Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say on the subject. It doesn’t answer all the questions that some Christians demand answers to.

The problem is not with the rule of faith, but with the questioner. If you keep asking questions for which there are no clear-cut answers, then you’re asking the wrong questions—because you have the wrong priorities.

If convergence on baptism was a divine priority, then it was within God’s power to anticipate our questions by revealing more information on the subject. So we go with whatever God has told us. If he wanted us to know more, he would have told us more.

Our duty is to stay faithful to what God has told us to think or do—not to stay faithful to what God has not told us to think or do. Ironically, the high churchman is faithful to many things God never told him to do, and faithless to the many others things God told him to do.
Once you start off taking up ministerial offices upon yourself without biblical license, that is without being ordinarily or extraordinarily commissioned, (Calvin was never ordained by anyone)
The “biblical license” is given in 1 Tim 3 and Tit 1-2. It requires no “commission.” Only that you meet the stated qualifications for ministry.
I would think that it is all the more plausible to think that you are going to get other things wrong as well. In any case, if people truly believed semper reformada, I don’t think they would reject revisionary projects like the NPP out of hand or treat them dismissively as they have by and large done.
Do Reformed scholars like D. A. Carson, John Piper, Tom Schreiner, Mark Seifrid, and Guy Waters reject NPP “out of hand”? Please give us the titles and page numbers where they are guilty as charged?

Every theological tradition has its share of blind partisans. Company men. This phenomenon is prior to any particular tradition. It’s often an accident of birth that said individual is a partisan of, say, Orthodox theology rather than Catholic theology or Baptist theology or Anglican theology or Lutheran theology or Presbyterian theology, &c. And if that’s a problem, then whatever’s a problem for one is a problem for all.

Once again, his objection is wholly irrelevant to the status of sola Scriptura as a true rule of faith. I have no control over this phenomenon, and neither do you. What someone else believes is not a problem for what I believe. I am not responsible for what they believe. God has not made me their spiritual guardian. If the teenager next door becomes a skinhead, is that a problem for my rule of faith? And how does your rule of faith solve that particular problem?
As for controlling the future, certainly this is a claim you don’t truly wish to proffer for comaptibilists have usually claimed a kind of “guidance control” in genuinely contributing to future events so as to secure human agency.
i) Calvinism is not interchangeable with compatibilism.

ii) It’s one thing to have faith in the future because Scripture warrants a measure of faith in the future—specific to specific divine assurances—quite another to intuit a whole ecclesiology out of thin air in order to issue you a set of comforting, albeit counterfeit, guarantees about the future.
And as I have pointed out previously, why think that God is going to save your theoretical arse?
A straw man argument:

i) This is irrelevant to the status of sola Scriptura as a true rule of faith.

ii) Likewise, I don’t have to be one of the elect for election to be true.
Since God has predestined the corruption of the canon in the past (not to mention the corruption of the Presbyterians and Lutherans), which you readily admit, how does it help matters, even in terms of assurance, to bring in divine providence which can for “hidden reasons” determine you to not only think that you have the correct canon but also determine you to corrupt it?
i) Special providence exists to provide for the needs of God’s people. So, although both true and false beliefs are the providential instantiation of God’s decree, God has different purposes for the elect and reprobate.

ii) Moreover, not all errors are damnable errors.

iii) Furthermore, I’m not attempting to “help matters.” I don’t subscribe to a pragmatic theory of truth. I don’t judge theological claims by their imagined utility. The Bible is not a hardware store.

iv) Finally, if you want to play that game, then Cartesian demons are highly contagious. They can infect Orthodox theology as easily and fatally as they can Reformed theology.
Hays could have saved us all a bunch of time in addressing my objections instead of asking why he needed to answer these objections with simply saying “I don’t know.” The two answers are functionally equivalent.
To the contrary, it’s entirely valid to identify some “problems” as pseudoproblems.
As for Hays not dealing any of life’s cards and just playing the part, it is amazing to me how much convergence there is between Calvinism and Stoicism.
So Perry doesn’t believe that God is the cosmic card-dealer. Rather, he believes in a happenstance universe where the deck is randomly shuffled, and it’s a question of good luck or bad luck whether you draw a winning hand or a losing hand.
I am asking him to show that his account is rational and well founded and not to show the reasons why God permits this, that or the other.
It’s rational and well-founded because it’s founded in divine revelation. By contrast, Perry’s alternative is irrational and ill-founded because it’s founded in wishful thinking.
If the high church position is interchangeable with the mentality of the psychic in fear of the future as Hays claims, then certainly the Protestant position is interchangeable with the Gnostic who fears the past and the idea that God unites himself to creation intrinsically.
Notice that Robinson is reverting to the tu quo que argument, despite his prior disapproval:
As for tu quo que arguments, showing that your opponent has the same problem doesn’t answer the opponent on his own grounds. It just extends the scope of the problem.
This is why Baptists like Steve view the sacraments as nothing more than signs.
No, I take this view on exegetical grounds.
I am sure Jason’s a nice kid, but a BA in English doesn’t exactly encourage me to think that he is worth talking to.
i) Did Perry suffer from this degree of overweening spiritual pride back when he was still a Calvinist? If so, it would help explain why he abandoned the doctrines of grace for Orthodox synergism.

If not, then the Orthodox means of grace haven’t done much to advance his sanctification. I guess the sacraments are nothing more than signs after all.

ii) This all has reference to the canon, about which Robinson made the following claim:
As for Orthodox disagreeing on the canon, I think you might be thinking of the Ethiopians. We accept the canon as defined by earlier synods ratified at 2nd Nicea in 787 and re-affirmed at the 8th Council in 880 A.D. Since they were busy being monophysites and weren’t there, we don’t have the same canon. Go figure.
Okay, I’ll take you up on your advice. By all means, let’s “go figure.” In particular, let’s see how Timothy Ware figures the canon:
The Hebrew version of the Old Testament contains thirty-nine books. The Septuagint contains in addition ten further books, not present in the Hebrew, which are known in the Orthodox Church as the “Deutero-Canonical Books. These were declared by the Councils of Jassy (1642) and Jerusalem (1672) to be “Genuine parts of Scripture”; most Orthodox scholars at the present day, however, following the opinion of Athanasius and Jerome, consider that the Deutero-Canonical Books, although part of the bible, stand on a lower footing than the rest of the Old Testament.23

Some Orthodox editions of the Bible also contain 4 Maccabees.24
Sounds like the Orthodox canon remains in an unsettled state. It was defined by two councils, neither of which is ecumenical, and “most Orthodox scholars” today merely pay lip-service to that conciliar declaration. In addition, there’s no uniform edition of the Orthodox OT canon.

And yet, as Robinson would undoubtedly be the first to say say, “I am sure Kallistos Ware is a nice kid, but a metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as the Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford University, not to mention the chairman of the board of directors of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, doesn’t exactly encourage me to think that he is worth talking to.”
As for divine simplicity, Hays simply stalls. I challenge him to support the doctrine using his exegetical methods and Scripture alone and he responds that I am assuming he holds to it. I wonder if he holds to the London Baptist Confession of 1677/89, chapter 2, article 1? Or I wonder if he thinks that standard Reformed Baptist theologians who interpreted it it got it all wrong and on the doctrine of God no less? Put up or shut up here Steve. Is practically the entire Protestant tradition wrong in its doctrine of God at this point or not? (Can he produce a single representative Reformed baptist theologian who denied it? Same with the Filioque?) Hmm, would that be a case of enshrining serious error? Ya think? I would pay money (not a lot) to just watch Steve defend his rejection of divine simplicity or the Filioque before his congregational elders. In any case, Steve’s profession matters not since the doctrine is enshrined across the board in Baptist, Reformed and Lutheran Confessions and all of their major systematic and biblical theologians who exposit those confessions, thereby fixing the meaning in a sufficiently rigid fashion for my argumentative purposes. The doctrine takes a variety of shapes either a more Thomistic (Turretin, Gill) or Scotistic (Hodge) form, but all of them are Platonic and not derived from Scripture alone. It is a feeble argument in deed to argue that the authors and interpreters didn’t have the Platonic doctrine in mind since their reasoning follows point for point the Platonic reasoning, not to mention the fact that the historical use and derivation of their choice of terms is from the Platonists, through the Scholastics and on to the Anglican Divines and the 39 Articles into their own Baptist confession demonstrates otherwise. Tis grasping at straws. Nor does it do any work to claim that the philosophical theology is merely ancillary since you don’t require subscription and profess as doctrine ancillary speculations.

It seems funny to me that rather than admit the point, Steve has to condemn his own church, confessions and major theologians, either explicitly or implicitly in order to condemn Orthodoxy. Hmm, looks like an inconsistency there. Might that be an internal critique maybe? And of course he completely ignores my question of justifying the Filioque on biblical grounds. Is that just another doctrine he conveniently and rather on an ad hoc basis rejects? Better start talking to your elders there Steve about all these doctrines from your Confession that you deny and that your church has enshrined.
i) Sealing his reputation as the consummate demagogue, Perry now resorts to blackmail. He certainly has a flair for melodrama.

But the problem with blackmail is that you need some sort of leverage to put the squeeze on the victim. Perry’s heavy-handed attempt to exhort a damning admission from my lips is comical because I have nothing to lose one way or the other. Unlike Perry, I’m not a company man—so I can’t be intimidated by his sociological threats and blustery strong-arm tactics.

ii) I reject his paternalistic polity. I reject a church polity in which some adults play the role of grown-ups while other adults play the role of children, subject to the adult supervision of the official grown-ups. Rather, every Christian is answerable to every other Christian. The accountability system is horizontal rather than vertical. A two-way street.

Some Christians are wiser or more mature than others. That, however, is not an official trait. And the authority of a church officer is in direct proportion to the degree in which his judgments are authorized by Scripture.

iii) In addition, I also regard formal church membership as an optional, extrascriptural development. In the NT, baptism is the rite of church membership. And there were no denominations in the 1C.

iv) Creedal subscription (a la WCF) is a requirement of church office, not church membership

v) And even for purposes of church office, the required level of subscription is systemic subscription rather than strict subscription.

Didn’t Perry used to be a Calvinist? How did he manage to forget so much Reformed ecclesiology?

Taking Perry’s two questions in order:

1.Divine simplicity

i) I think one can establish on exegetical grounds that God subsists outside of space and time. That, of itself, would make him ontologically simple since there would be no spatial or temporal subdivisions in the life of God.

That is also entirely consistent with the immanent Trinity, since space and time do not individuate the members of the Trinity.

ii) Beyond this we’re transitioning from exegetical theology to philosophical theology. There’s nothing inherently wrong with philosophical theology. We can arrive at reasonable judgments on the basis of philosophical theology. But it doesn’t enjoy the same authority as exegetical theology.

So, for example, the Mandelbrot set is an abstract object. As such, it is ontologically simple. And yet, in another respect, it is infinitely complex (an actual infinite).

One can use examples like that as theological models. But it doesn’t rise to the level of dogma.


Historically, this has its Scriptural appeal in certain Johannine statements. And,traditionally, these statements are understood as having reference to an ontological subordination within the immanent Trinity.

But, in context, they actually refer to the economic Trinity, not the immanent Trinity. When I recite the Filioque clause, I do so in the Johannine (economic) sense. This may or may not be in line with the original intent of the creed, but unlike the original intent of Scripture, which is divinely authoritative, creedal intent is not inherently authoritative.

Indeed, to take a different example, the Westminster standards say that God made the world in the span of six days. After consulting the words of those Westminster Divines who spoke to the issue, I think it’s generally admitted that this phrase means just what it seems to say.

However, the OPC and PCA have chosen not to enforce that particular article of the Confession. And this is consistent with Presbyterian polity, where it’s ultimately up to the session, Presbytery, and General Convention to determine the outer bounds of Confessional conformity for purposes of ordination or church discipline.
The problem is that Steve is cherry picking through handbooks, dictionaries and on line pieces by popular authors, who are incidentally often criticized by members of their own tradition, rather than showing any real familiarity or grasp of the system from the inside out.
Here’s a challenge for you, Perry. Why don’t you write an open letter to the editors or contributors to these reference work in which you accuse them of incompetence. Publish that on your blog. Then publish the replies you receive. We’ll pick up the discussion from there.
Nonetheless, Steve’s question of why he should take the word of a Layman over a bishop says a lot. First, we don’t have the same ecclesiology as Rome, let alone the same methodological outlook. Consequently, some of the best theologians of our church were laymen-Maximus is a prime example.
Two problems:

i) I’m aware of the role of lay theologians in Orthodoxy. But this exposes a fundamental tension in Orthodox polity. If the opinion of the bishops can be rightly dismissed by a layman, then why not be consistent and join the Plymouth Brethren?

ii) Perry is mounting an argument from authority. He’s demanding that I take his word over the word of the editors or contributors to these reference works. If Perry is going to dismiss Engwer’s documentation out of hand, why shouldn’t I dismiss Perry’s claims out of hand when it comes down to choosing between a lowly student and the highly credential scholars I cited?
As for Gene’s statement that he has “cracked the books” his reading activities leave a lot to be desired. The fact that you guys are spoof texting from popular dictionaries and authors says it all, not to mention the fact that you can’t see glaring historical and theological errors in the sources you cite.Good thing Steve is in seminary and Gene wishes to go.
Notice here that Perry doesn't deny what they say, he just tries to blunt their force by calling them "popular," and he doesn't tell us where the historical and theological errors are. No, he's just an educated layman.

Is Perry concerned for the laymen in his own Communion? This objection cuts the ground out from under the average Orthodox layman, who is by no means a Patristics expert or Orthodox historian.

Florence, ROCOR and other tidbits. And so goodie for Steve that Steve was citing from a dictionary.
Fine, if he doesn’t like my reference works, let’s try another source:
A second reunion council was held at Florence in 1438-9. The Emperor John VIII (reigned 1425-48) attended in person, together with the Patriarch of Constantinople and a large delegation from the Byzantine Church, as well as representatives from the other Orthodox churches…Eventually a formula of union was drawn up, covering the Filioque, Purgatory, “azymes,” and the Papal claims; and this was signed by all the Orthodox present at the council except one—Mark, Archbishop of Ephesus, later canonized by the Orthodox Church…Thus in matters of doctrine, the Orthodox accepted the Papal claims (although here the wording of the formula of union was in some respect vague and ambiguous); they accepted the doctrine of the Double Procession of the Holy Spirit, although they were not required to insert the Filioque into the text of the Creed at the Divine Liturgy; they accepted the Roman teaching on Purgatory (as a point of dispute between east and west, this only came into the open in the thirteenth century).25
i) And yet, as Robinson would undoubtedly be the first to say, “I am sure Kallistos Ware is a nice kid, but a metropolitan of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as the Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford University, not to mention the chairman of the board of directors of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, doesn’t exactly encourage me to think that he is worth talking to.”

ii) But beyond Perry Robinson’s unrivaled standing as the world’s greatest living authority on all things Orthodox, suppose we play along with his claim that
not all delegates signed, some of those that did, did so under duress, simony and bribery, not to mention the fact that the Emperor played an ipso facto negating role in the council by excluding certain theological issues and ideas.
This only pushes the problem back a step, for it raises the question of what authority authorizes an ecumenical council.
In any case, the previous ROCOR accusations only do work for you if they were true and I don’t think they were.
And by what authority does Robinson render that value judgment? Perry said the problem is that Steve is cherry picking through handbooks, dictionaries and on line pieces by popular authors. But Perry is cherry-picking his own authorities. “Normativity” is in the eye of the beholder.
And I know plenty of Presbyterian, Lutheran and Baptists ministers who have in the past and in the present preached on Mark 16.
Which doesn’t make it right. And the problem is not with preaching on Mk 16:1-8, but with preaching on the long ending of Mark (vv9-20).
In any case, I don’t see why the fact that you cut out Mark 16 from your Bible precludes me from keeping it in and exegeting it differently.
If you keep it in your Bible, but proceed to negate the signs through a “nifty interpretation,” then this is clearly duplicitous. But Perry needs to be duplicitous to maintain his faith in Orthodox tradition.
Protestant Bible society that I know of has removed it from the text or relegated it to an appendix.
Bible societies are interdenominational organizations that seek consensus and avoid controversy. That’s irrelevant to the question of truth, i.e. is the long ending original or spurious?

This is the best he can do?

I own several Bibles in several translations, and they actually state or note that the longer ending is not part of the earliest manuscripts. Perry acts like a Bible society must produce a critical text with all the notes or remove it for people to understand it's not in the best MSS.

And how does this statement absolve him of his own problems within his own Communion regarding the longer ending?

So is the long ending of Mark inspired Scripture or not Steve?
In all likelihood, uninspired.
If it isn’t, why do you attend a church which includes it as the inspired word of God?
Do I? What contemporary Reformed denomination continues to make that claim? OPC? URC? PCA?

3 Lightfoot’s commentaries on Matthew and Luke
4 J. Nolland. New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Eerdmans, 2005). 906.
5 Ibid., 905.
6 Rodkinson,, (The Babylonian Talmud pp.148 -153).
8 C. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans 1999), 530.
9 R. T. France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher (Zondervan 1989), 250-51.
10 M. Prokurat et al. Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church (Scarecrow Press 1996), 49-50.
11 Ibid. 50.
12 Ibid. 50.
13 Ibid. 50.
14 Ibid. 50.
15 Ibid. 50.
16 Ibid. 50.
17 Ibid. 50-51.
18 Ibid. 51.
19 Ibid. 51.
20 Ibid. 51.
21 Ibid. 51.
22 Ibid. 323.
23 T. Ware, The Orthodox Church (Penguin Books 1997), 200.
24 Ibid. 200n1.
25 T. Ware, The Orthodox Church, 70-71.

The Case Against Touchstone

Someone who goes by the moniker "Concerned Christian" (but who never posts anything except to defend Touchstone when he gets his wittle feewings hurt) has challenged me to document my assertion that T-Stone is a fraud and a liar when T-Stone claims to be a theist. Once more, I am forced to begin with an apology for having to state the obvious for readers who have actually spent the time to read T-Stone’s diatribes in the past.

By the way, it is not only my claim that T-Stone engages in such poor behavior. For instance, Phil Johnson writes:
And Touchstone: Although I have cautioned you repeatedly before, your comments continue to be overtly and unstintingly insulting, and you regularly impute the most sinister possible motives to me. Since you have never first bothered to e-mail me for "clarification" about anything I have said, and you haven't even acknowledged the inappropriateness of the accusation you made at the end of your first comment in this thread, you don't get to pretend to be morally outraged here. Moreover, since it's my blog, you don't get to use a taunting tone again unless you want to be consigned to the penalty box for a few months or possibly even permanently banned.
Now let us provide the history of all our interactions with T-Stone here on the T-Blog. Later, if needed, I will subject myself to more torture and parse through his words in a detailed manner. For now, the general gist and the links provided should be sufficient.

(By the way fellow T-Bloggers—I should mention that I want a 10% raise to recompense for the hassle of doing this post. I’ll put it on Patrick’s Visa for the moment, so you’ll need to work out the details with him later.)

Anyway, as near as I can recall, T-Stone’s first appearance as a commenter in the T-Blog combox was on November 14, 2006. Further note that his own blog, located at, began in November 2006 too—in other words, at nearly exactly the same time as his first foray into the T-Blog combox. Coincidence? Who knows…

T-Stone’s first response is found in Divorced From Science, which was a response to Steve’s post Adam and Evolution. Interestingly enough, in the comments on T-Stone’s own blog (the Divorced From Science post), T-Stone wrote:
One major problem for Christians looking at this issue, though, is the implications of evolution even being *possibly* true. If a Chrisitian [I am merely copying and pasting comments, so all spelling/grammar errors will be in the original throughout – ed.] allows the possibility of evolutionary theory being valid, then major adjustments to many conventional Christian theological understandings have to be reworked, and I’m not just thinking about young earth creationism; it goes well beyond that.
Note that it is T-Stone himself who brings up the differences between his view and "conventional Christian theological understandings," and this on his very first post regarding the T-Bloggers.

In any case, Steve responded to T-Stone with The Evangelutionist, the title of which referred to T-Stone’s website. T-Stone responded with Steve Hays Takes Me To Task On Early Man, although this is basically just to inform both readers of his blog that he had left comments on Steve’s Evangelutionist post.

In any case, Steve responded with Unequal Bias (the section dealing with T-Stone’s arguments begins at the point where Steve writes "Moving along:"). Interestingly enough, this is the post where I first began to interact with T-Stone. At the time, I was not a member of Triablogue, and thus was posting under my own moniker, CalvinDude. Also interesting is to note that our original point of contention remains the same point of contention today (that is, T-Stone doesn’t understand the Scientific Method and confuses it with scientism).

In any case, Steve responded to T-Stone with "Mainstream Science", the name in quotes referring to a comment T-Stone made. Steve pointed out then what T-Stone modus operandi is: "Throughout his commentary the Evangelutionist will resort to the sophistical tactic of labeling as a substitute for argument." You’ll note he does the same thing to this day. Surely Solomon was correct when he said there is nothing new under the sun…

In the "Mainstream Science" comments, T-Stone seeks to establish his credentials as a Theistic Evolutionist (TE). It is important to note this because of the fact that later on, T-Stone doesn’t hesitate at all to criticize other TEs (most notably is T-Stones utter disdain for Michael Behe). In any case, in the "Mainstream Science" comments, T-Stone enters into a discussion with Scrape and in this post, he actually presents several arguments that make it look as if he really does believe in the Bible and that he really does believe in God. We will see a remarkable change once he is challenged, however.

Steve responded to T-Stone in his post The argument from authority. In this post, Steve notes: "Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I don’t see much evidence that you’re ‘committed to the authority of the Bible as God’s special revelation to man.’" (Note that this is still November 2006, specifically it is now November 18, 2006.) Already, you can see that questions about T-Stone’s claims to believe in the Bible have been raised—in essence, the challenge has been offered to T-Stone to document how his position stands up to Biblical theism. Further, note Steve’s complaint:

To repeat myself— which, unfortunately, I have to do a lot of the time in responding to you because you raise the same objections ad nauseum as if I hadn’t already addressed your objections—when I raise questions about ice core dating as a relative dating technique, I referred to *secular* sources of information regarding the vicissitudes of ice core dating.
Note also that Steve points out here:

If theistic evolution doesn’t treat God as a factor in the evolutionary process, then the cash-value of theistic evolution is indistinguishable from naturalistic evolution. As such, the role of God is relegated to a deus otiosus.
It is also interesting to read T-Stone’s response—it begins by mocking the Grammatico-historical method of exegesis:

Grammatico-historical exegesis. Steve, it's the "historical" part of grammatico-historical exegesis that wreaks havoc with YEC interpretations. If we look at literary forms and devices, then work in our historical knowledge -- WHOOPS! that's where the YEC train jumps the tracks, as the overwhelming witness of God's creation paints a picture that invalidates a YEC view as sound grammatico-historical exegesis.
Now while this alone would not validate my claims that T-Stone is not a theist, let alone a Christian, it does show us the beginnings of the pattern of behavior that T-Stone will engage in. Already (just four days into interaction), T-Stone has set up two competing realms of belief: science and theology. With this statement, he demonstrates that his views on science will overrule the Bible every step of the way. His dogma is his version (warped as it is) of the scientific method, and nothing the Bible says matters in that regard. Again, this can be explained by theological liberalism too and is not indicative by itself of T-Stone’s false profession of faith which is why at this point in time I took him at his word.

Thus we continue. Steve responded to T-Stone’s claims with his post Dodging the bullet. The first thing Steve does is point out the errors in T-Blogs understanding of the GHM.

Also of particular interest in this are Steve’s comments:

Yet again, you’re unable to keep track of your own argument. I didn’t volunteer this material.

Remember what you said? I always have to remind you of what you said because you have a habit of forgetting what you said from one post to the next. Here it is again:

"Science is agnostic with regards to metaphysics. It doesn't affirm the existence of God. It doesn't deny the existence of God. If you doubt this, then I'd ask you to produce some scholarly work that suggests that science includes any assertions, or even guesses about metaphysical truths."

So that’s exactly what I did, in compliance with a very specific request from you.

But when I do as you ask, you’re reaction is to engage in evasive maneuvers.
Again, we see the same behavior that T-Stone has always exhibited, his constant gelatinous flow from comment to comment, his utter disconnection to the reality of what has preceded.

Also interesting is Steve’s comment:

Is this a sincere question? Are you genuinely interested in my answer?

Or do you plan to automatically dismiss any answer I give unless I blindly submit to every sentence in the article?
It is important to note that the reason Steve had to make this comment was due to T-Stone’s continual evasions. Those interested in historical "firsts" may note that this was the first time that T-Stone referred to a Google search: "I now understand you are fully capable of doing a Google search for 'metrical conventionalism'."

T-Stone responded as foreseen, prompting Steve to post Sneak-n-retreat. In this post, Steve pointed out:

You have a habit, throughout this thread, of making claims, which I challenge, which you then back away from, complaining about the irrelevance of the issue you yourself chose to raise, to which I merely responded.
T-Stones comments resulted in Steve’s post: Backwards reasoning followed by To be or not to be. At this point, Patrick Chan joined the conversation (which up until that point had primarily been between Steve and T-Stone).

In any case, following responses from T-Stone, Steve wrote The faith of an Evangelutionist. In this, Steve offers an examination of T-Stone’s beliefs:

The conundrum facing the Evangelutionist is that he is a man who suffers from divided intellectual commitments. On the one hand, he finds the case for evolution to be convincing.

On the other hand, he wants to cling to some semblance of Christian orthodoxy. And theistic evolution is the only mediating position available to him.

The best explanation I can offer for his systematic inability or unwillingness to accurately reproduce the opposing position—whether it’s YEC, or OEC, or ID—is that if he allowed himself to even acknowledge the opposing position, that would place unbearable pressure on the rickety compromise of theistic evolution.

So his only refuge is to repeatedly caricature the opposing position, or ignore the repeated answers to the questions he asked, or ignore repeated distinctions, or demand "more."
By the way, of Steve’s posts regarding T-Stone, this is the first one that T-Stone did not respond to. It’s probably because Steve also posted Double-tongued theistic evolution which demonstrated in T-Stone’s own words how T-Stone was playing both sides of the field (it’s a very revealing post and I recommend to all involved that they read this one again).

In any case, one of T-Stone’s arguments involved the apparent age of the universe, thus prompting Steve’s response, Apparent age. After T-Stone "responded", Steve noted:

I must say that in all the interactive blogging I've been involved in, the Evangelutionist has the unique distinction of being the only person I've dealt with who never misses a chance to miss the target. He's infallibly fallible in his inerrantly errant ability to misconstrue whatever his opponent said.

All you have are a set of prepared answers. When you come up against an opponent whose arguments are new to you, you're lost. Totally lost. Without map or compass on the open sea.
Better words to describe T-Stone’s normal methodology have yet to be penned! Interestingly enough, in the comments on this post we have an anonymous poster who wrote:


Easy buddy, you sound as if you are about to blow your top! It's hard standing up for something (6 literal day creation or YEC) when even the majority of conservative Reformed seminaries aren't even teaching it anymore. You are truly a dying bread, Steve, but your demeanor is what really worries me. As a Christian, your not supposed to resort to name calling and insults.
This individual then quotes 1 Peter 3:15-16 and 2 Timothy 2:24 before ignoring his interpretation of them completely by saying:

That's just not very professional, oh, I forgot, your not a professional at all, you like pasting these huge theological commentaries and articles that you think support your view, as if quantity=truth. Remember, though, this post started off dealing with science, not theology. You do claim correctly that you seek to prove your point by philosophy, well Steve, that's a one way street going nowhere. It doesn't explain flap doodle, but only presents your presuppositions.

Basically Steve, I find it a waste of time to read or participate in debates with you. Your mind is made up, and no matter what, you will twist everything you can to fit your position. If the evidence doesn't fit your position, then the evidence is just wrong and that's it. After that, there is really no point in continuing the debate.

Not that it matters to you, but I will no longer come to this site. I just about find myself stooping to your level whenever I do, and I refuse to be a part of that. Oh,

God Bless.
I suspect that this anonymous individual may be none other than "Concerned Christian" rising in defense of T-Stone for the first time on November 21, 2006.

In any case, back in the comments on "Double-tongued theistic evolution", T-Stone argued with Patrick Chan that Genesis is ahistorical. This prompted a response with the following posts too:

The days of creation, written by Gerhard F. Hasel and including 123 footnotes with it. This was followed by Biblical chronology, which was some quotes from liberal James Barr. And finally Patrick Chan’s post, An argument for Genesis as historical narrative. This post was actually just a reposting of comments that Patrick had made with T-Stone before.

Steve responded once more with Mystical dreamers, which is actually a response to quotes from the "Apparent age" post. Then, due to the responses on the various Genesis posts, Steve wrote Shop talk, stating:

When a theistic evolutionist simultaneously claims to honor the authority of Scripture while, at the very same time, allegorizing Scripture whenever it comes into conflict with the scientific establishment, then it’s entirely legitimate to discuss the correct interpretation of Gen 1-3 or whatever else is on the table.
This is important because of the dealings with T-Stone up to that time. T-Stone had claimed to be a believer, yet he was treating the basis of his belief as a lump of clay he could mould. This statement by Steve on November 22, 2006 began a sort of turning point. Up until that moment, the issues of evolution had been discussed in the main, but now more and more questions regarding T-Stone’s belief in the Bible were coming into play.

Patrick Chan continued this line when he posted Picking and choosing. Patrick concluded with:

To be honest, at this point it seems to me like you're picking and choosing when to allegorize and when not to based on whether it fits with the theory of evolution. The common denominator in your Biblical interpretation seems to be the theory of evolution; the Biblical text is thus rendered malleable to the theory of evolution while the theory of evolution is a fixed, unchangeable constant. But as a professing Christian shouldn't it be the reverse? Shouldn't the Bible be the final arbiter of truth?
After T-Stone’s attempts to dance around the issue, Gene Bridges weighed in, noting that T-Stone had not done any of the prerequisite exegetical work to come to a conclusion that Genesis 1-3 was allegorical. Gene’s comments are especially relevant as they deal specifically with what must be done by someone who wishes to maintain his theistic credibility.

After T-Stone responded, it’s interesting to note how the atheists responded:


Touchstone, you are really putting these neanderthals in their place.

This is the most telling moment in your post above...

"So my rationale for my "higher criticism" is this: YEC theology is cyanide for the spread of the Gospel. It’s Dawkins most powerful asset. He’s got nothing, nothing close to the powerful argument he has in merely pointing reasonable, honest folk at guys like Steve, and you, from what you’ve said here."

These guys, with their dogma, their cultish 'covenant' pronouncements, their ad hominems, smug demeaners, and silly sola scripture commitments, absolutely create a chasm between rationality and their worldview. This drives all but other members of their cult, the easily impressionable, and people looking for a hate group to join running for the door.


(This last one was especially wonderful since the original post was written by Patrick and only Patrick and Gene had responded in the comments—Steve had nothing to do with anything there!)

In any case, Steve responded with Touchstone or Wishbone? In this post, he concluded with the statement "You’re a professing Christian on Sundays, but an honorary atheist on Mondays." As you can see, the interaction with T-Stone has, by November 22 (just eight days after T-Stone first began to comment) already lead more than one person to point out where T-Stone’s thinking goes. Of course, Steve doesn’t actually say T-Stone is an atheist here. But there is obviously something about T-Stone that leads one to wonder…

Likewise, Steve continued with Mediating theologians where he compared T-Stone’s theological positions to the path of apostasy.

Patrick then responded with Fern-seed and evangelutionists. One interesting comment Patrick made was:

It seems that you have a proclivity for putting words into the mouths of others or attributing to them positions they have never clearly defined themselves.
Oh, if only I had read more clearly these posts before I started to engage with T-Stone myself…

In any case, Steve responded to T-Stone in Pander Bear meets Groucho Marx and "Cosmic" trees. Here Steve engages yet again with T-Stone’s hermeneutical methodology, or rather the lack thereof.

Now at this time, Paul Manata wrote Pretty Clearly, Christianity is True. In this post, he took exapologist to task. In the process, since exapologist resorted to ad hominem, Paul retorted in a reductio ad absurdum. T-Stone decided to weigh in on the post, and shock of all shocks did so by attacking Paul Manata’s reductio ad hominem instead of exapologist.

Moving on, Patrick wrote Smoke and mirrors which responded to T-Stone’s previous comments on Patrick’s previous post. Patrick was dealing with T-Stone’s allegorical understanding of Genesis.

Steve once more provided evidence for T-Stone’s duplicity in his post The two faces of Touchstone. Interestingly, in this post T-Stone first gives us his touchy-feely version of apologetics. We’ll come back to it in a later post.

In any case, since there had been so much criticism by Concerned Chri—I mean, the anonymous poser, Steve wrote False teachers to examine some of those claims. Note that in all these instances, it was once again people playing the heartstrings to poor, suffering T-Stone. This is why Steve’s comment, after quoting the vicious statements T-Stone had made about YECers, was so appropriate:

So don’t rewrite the history of the thread and cast the Evangelutionist in the role of the lamblike victim of an unprovoked attack. He initiated the attack on YEC.

There was nothing in my original post on "Adam and evolution" that couldn’t be written by an OEC.

He chose to turn this into a debate over YEC, and he uses a number of choice words to characterize the ramifications of that position: "It’s a ‘flat earth’ or geocentric astronomy equivalent"; "It scoffs at God’s Word"; "cyanide…a cynical hoax…and a lie."
Again, T-Stone shifts the debate into a personal attack against Paul Manata in the comments. This resulted in Paul writing Gird Up Thy Loins Like A Man, which T-Stone immediately responded to by calling Manata unregenerate:

You're thinking everyone's offended. I don't see that as the case. I'm not offended. Instead, I think your tone and style says "unregenerated" even as you paste bible passages and other people's quotes in with your commentary.
So clearly, T-Stone was the first to bring up the unsaved aspect to the debate, when he accused Paul’s style (but later insisted not Paul himself) of being unregenerate. Somehow, Concerned Christian missed all this…

And thus far we’ve only gone through the first two weeks of interaction that T-Stone had on T-Blog.

Steve’s next post that mentioned T-Stone was The "immanent" return of Christ. Here it was a somewhat satirical use of T-Stone’s support of exapologist against both of them at the same time.

About the only good that came from this is the shift moved away from T-Stone for the next several posts. Then, Evan May posted a response to DagoodS’s post about Job’s miserable comforters entitled: Miserable Comforters. In the comments on this post, T-Stone opined:

I see a lot of parallels between the "miserable comforters" in Job and conservative evangelical theodicy. You sort of make fun of how stupid these guys are for thinking that Job's suffering is related to sin.
Again, we can see T-Stone’s disapproval of "conservative evangelical" beliefs, this time when it comes to theodicy. Patrick later responded to T-Stone in this same post, although T-Stone did not respond to that and it is very possible that he missed the response, buried as it was in the midst of all the atheists responding to Evan.

Later, the threads moved on to the subject of religious experience. Steve wrote a post entitled The varieties of religious experience. Once again, T-Stone displayed where his loyalties lied (er, lay, I meant lay) by immediately attacking Steve:

I get the distinct impression now after reading a lot of your posts that you use technical/philosophical language to obscure your arguments. I don't know whether that's a conscious choice or not, but this post is a good example of needlessly ornate forms getting in the way of an idea.
So now we have seen that in posts not dealing with evolution, T-Stone has immediately taken the stand with the atheists and against both Steve and Paul, and he tried to do so with Evan too (although Evan avoided it easily enough by pointing out that T-Stone’s statements had nothing to do with what Evan had posted in the Miserable Comforters post).

In any case, Steve responded to T-Stone’s personal attack with "Distinct impressions":

I get the distinct impression now after reading a lot of your comments that you use impressionistic language to obscure your poverty of arguments. I don't know whether that's a conscious choice or not, but this comment is a good example of needlessly impressionistic verbiage getting in the way of an idea.
More importantly, Steve diagnoses the problem: "What the Evangelutionist is really attempting to do is to play both sides of the fence. He is raising an intellectual objection to my position, but he’s also retreating into an anti-intellectual bunker." This is indeed the common thread to all T-Stone’s comments so far.

What is really interesting about this particular post is that now T-Stone defends Mormonism. Indeed, he argues that there is no way for a Christian to say that a Mormon’s religious experience is actually false. So now we have T-Stone not only defending atheists, but he’s defending Mormons as well. We are glad he can follow his ABCs—Anything But Christianity should be defended! By the way, Patrick also noted in the comments on this post that T-Stone was taking the position of the atheist, so it was not just my observation.

Steve responded to T-Stone’s complaints with Knowledge by acquaintance. Interestingly, when Paul Manata asked T-Stone point-blank whether he believed Mormons were saved (since he was defending Mormons and all), T-Stone responded with:

For the record, I don't claim to know if Mormons are saved or not. I don't know enough, and am not an authority on the subject. I love and respect my Mormon friends, even though I think they are seriously mistaken on many issues. My Mormon friends think I'm similarly mistaken, and love me right back, all the same. We are on equal footing in that regard.
In any case, this is the point where I finally entered the fray on a consistent basis (my previous comments being fairly limited). After using a reductio against T-Stone, I pointed out that his subjectivism was a fatal flaw to his belief. T-Stone challenged my assessment, but I think everything I said in response still stands to this day. T-Stone would do well to read this section, IMO. (I would ask him to re-read it, but he has difficulties with reading something the first time through so the "re" wouldn't apply.)

T-Stone’s subjectivism also resulted in Steve penning It’s all relative—relatively speaking. Steve then responded to Jon Curry with his post Unreasonable reasons. In the comments, Curry responded by stating:

I think Touchstone is right. The more a person brags about how he's refuted all of his opponents the more he demonstrates that he really doesn't understand what he's talking about. You are locked in a world where everyone is answered. Everyone is stupid but you. Not just skeptics, but even old earth Christians, Arminians, theistic evolutionists, and pre-millenialists. You simply do not internalize and truly comprehend the views of your opponents.
It’s quite something to see who endorses T-Stone and who T-Stone will defend, isn’t it?

In any case, Patrick responded with a satirical post about T-Stone’s defense of Mormonism and his assertion of subjective truth in A generous heterodoxy. And with that post….

We finally leave November. Thus, from November 14 – November 30, T-Stone managed to attack conservative theology, the Grammatico-Historical Method, and the idea of objective truth; he defended atheists on at least two different occasions, as well as defending Mormons; he attacked Steve, Paul, and tried to attack Evan; he was defended by John Loftus, exapologist, and Jon Curry; and the anonymous poser who always manages to show up whenever T-Stone gets offended made his first appearance. Not too shabby for half a month.

Let’s move on. The first post for December 1, 2006 was Steve’s post entitled: Insiders & outsiders, wherein Steve examined T-Stone’s inability to understand an internal critique. Steve then posted The Hermetic Order of the T-Blog wherein Patrick Chan was ushered in as a T-Blogger. Ironically, one of my comments was: "The Latin imprecations are why I'll never be a T-blogger...." Hey, I can admit I was wrong there. All my imprecations were in Greek.

Anyway, Steve also posted Something from nothing? which has uncanny relevance to my most recent post. Steve’s post was not about T-Stone; he was dealing with an e-mail correspondent.

Nevertheless, T-Stone commented and once again tried to take Steve to task. This time, I pointed out that T-Stone was working with a flawed understanding of science (since he was trying to assert his scientism without any kind of philosophical underpinning). Ironically, T-Stone responded to my comment by stating: "I think you *do* understand Hawking, then. Thank you." I think this is the only time T-Stone has ever agreed with me. Of course, I wasn’t a T-Blogger back then, and he tried to use his faulty understanding of my comment against Steve, so we have to consider that.

In any case, our discussion was deeply involved with the idea of scientific positivism, scientific control philosophy, and the like. I highly encourage everyone to read it to get a flavor for how the original discussion between us went.

In any case, Steve’s response was found in his new post, "It could be right". T-Stone never responded to these comments. Instead, when Steve posted The joy of rape, robbery, murder, and mayhem in response to a Debunking Christianity blog article, T-Stone weighed in…once again on the side of the atheists. Indeed, T-Stone defended the moral virtue of atheists quite virulently in this post, attacking myself, Paul, and Steve continuously. By the way, T-Stone’s comment prompted Charlie Sebold to state:

I know this is going back a bit, but if there is anything that Touchstone has said to demonstrate that he is "out of touch" with Christianity, it would be this question. Meriting grace? That's like asking a parent to list the hours that his child worked to merit a Christmas present.
My response to that quote was to state:

Thus far, Touchstone has given me absolutely no reason to believe he is a Christian. I have more reason to believe he is an atheist pretending to be a Christian. He spouts atheist arguments on every single issue, and thus far has demonstrated no ability to grasp basic Christian concepts.

Sorry if I don't buy the whole: If it looks like a goat, sounds like a goat, eats trash like a goat, but says it's a sheep, then we must believe it's a sheep. So until Touchstone can show me evidence that he actually believes the Gospel (a good way to start demonstrating this would be if he stopped attacking it), I'm going to label him as a non-Christian.
Needless to say, Steve’s post generated a lot of controversy. It continued in his next post, addressing T-Stone’s claims, entitled: Debate-stoppers. Once more, T-Stone attacks me in the comment section on that post as I demonstrate atheists have no basis for morality and T-Stone just can’t help but defend atheists.

Continuing in the same theme of morality, Steve wrote Morality & criminality. Then Steve wrote The faith of a militant fideist. His finishing paragraph is quite germane:

One wonders where you [T-Stone] will be 5 or 10 years from now. Given your abusive treatment of someone as customarily charitable as Calvindude, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if your current position isn’t a transitional phase on the way to atheism or agnosticism.
I quote this not for the comment about myself (which Concerned Christian, T-Stone, and other atheists will reject anyway, cuz...well, Steve said it so who needs a reason?), but for the fact that Steve is also observing T-Stone’s trend toward atheism as well.

Of course, at this point Daniel Morgan weighed in saying that in his opinion I had been rude to T-Stone from the start, but mysteriously couldn’t provide evidence for this when I asked him to demonstrate it. I also pointed out in those comments:

As to accusing him of being an unbeliever, I still do. He's given me no reason to change my mind on that issue. As far as I can tell, Touchstone is gonna get up to heaven and say, "Lord, Lord, didn't I do all this awesome equivocating and fuzzy feel-good sessions with atheism in your name?" And Jesus will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you."
These comments also illustrate the complete inability of T-Stone to grasp presuppositionalism, but that’s another story.

Steve then wrote Bread & circuses, after which T-Stone bowed out of the morality thread. Steve continued with It’s all subjective—subjectively speaking and Abstract objects & Abstract universals.

After this, Steve wrote a critique of Richard Dawkins: Richard Dawkins: Man of Faith. To no one’s surprise, it is to be noted that T-Stone immediately rushed to Dawkin’s defense. I mean, that’s obviously the "Christian" thing to do—defend the guy who wrote The God Delusion. I’m sure God felt honored.

In any case, this resulted in Steve’s: Touchstone’s broken record. T-Stone didn’t respond to this.

What he did respond to was Steve’s later post: "I’m the ultimate arbiter!" which was a response to Jonathan Prejean, a Roman Catholic. As was par for the course, T-Stone took the position of…Prejean. In the process, he attacked not only Steve but Eric Svendsen as well. He would later accuse Gene of being a hypocrite (but of course no anonymous Concerned Christians popped up to critique T-Stone then…how amazingly odd).

Here T-Stone attacks sola Scriptura, stating:

I don't know Mr. Prejean might state things any more clearly. Here and in his blog he has supplied his reasons that a sola scriptura starting point makes an exegetical exercise completely pointless for him. Both Mssrs. Hays and Svendsen appear (reading back to exhanges from 2005 between Svendsen and Prejean) to be unable to think outside their own presuppostions.
This resulted in Prejean stating:

I'm glad to see that someone here knows the score. I'm sure we have some major disagreements, but we're at least on the same planet.

Again, T-Stone always manages to garner such loving endorsements, doesn’t he?

In the same comments, T-Stone claimed:

Mr. Svendsen, I'm a Protestant, and on the whole I think I would reject Mr. Prejean's thesis. Your attitude in your above comments bring shame on your faith. If this is what your theology produces, it's not worth very much, is it?
While we could point out the ad hominem, let it suffice to point out that T-Stone’s claim to be a Protestant comes in the exact same thread he defends a Roman Catholic e-pologist, just as his claims to being a theist come in the exact same threads he defends atheists. Were it not for his claims to be either theist or Protestant, there would be no way to differentiate T-Stone from atheists or non-Protestants.

In any case, this resulted in an anonymous poster by the handle John Paul II stating:

Ooooh, a stinging indictment from someone who wants to call himself a Protestant but denies most of the tenants of Protestantism. It seems to me Touchstone will align himself with anyone who disagrees with the T-bloggers.
Patrick also chimed in:

Hm, I agree, it is pretty weird how often Touchstone seems more than willing, and at times even going out of his way, to disagree with what Steve says, for example. But maybe that's because one of his presuppositions is nothing on this weblog could possibly be right. Which stands right next to everything Paul says is mean. And evolution is true ipso facto. And a few others.
This is, indeed, the methodology that T-Stone has resorted to. In fact, Patrick’s later characterization needs no further elaboration:

Generally speaking, the problem is as follows:

1. Touchstone brings up certain arguments against a position.

2. Steve, for example, shows him how his arguments are incorrect.

3. Touchstone then resorts to tactics rather than argumentation. These tactics include personal attacks (such as against some of the T-bloggers), poisoning the well (such as by implying that YECs are hardly different from flat earthers before hearing out the argumentation), hasty generalizations (such as by attributing YEC to those who do not find evolutionary theory compelling), and shifting the burden of proof (such as when he wanted me to come up with an heuristic for allegorical myth by which to read Genesis when I never made the argument that Genesis should be read as allegorical myth in the first place). And several others.

4. Steve shows him that he's resorting to debating tactics rather than honest argumentation.

5. Touchstone proceeds to impute vague ambiguities to Steve. Such as he (and the other T-bloggers) can't think outside his own box. Yet without ever specifying the particularities he has in mind in such a broad-brushed statement. For instance, what "paradigm" does he believe we, the T-bloggers, are working with in Steve's exchange with Prejean?

6. And/or, alternately, Touchstone begins to play the victimization card. He'll cite how mean and unfair the T-bloggers have been to him, with the implication that he is the victim of their verbal abuse. He'll make an emotional appeal for "understanding" and "sympathy," because, after all, when it's all said and done, it's not about winning or losing (truth or falsehood?), but it's about "getting along well with others." Of course, I don't disagree with the sentiment to be respectful and courteous in discussion and debate -- although that's not exactly what Touchstone has in mind -- but I do find it odd in light of the fact that Touchstone has been at least as harsh towards those with whom he disagrees.
All this was stated by December 22, 2006. Nothing much has changed in T-Stone’s tactics.

Steve’s next post was entitled Common design, in which he critiqued T-Stone’s blog entry. In this post, Steve points out:

Notice how t-stone, who poses as a Christian, never takes into consideration the possibility that there are times when, in fact, "Goddidit" is the correct answer. He's a functional atheist.

He doesn't ask, "What is true?" but only "What is scientific?"

He'd rather believe something that's "scientific," but false over something that's true, but "unscientific."
T-Stone and I go back and forth a bit on the concept of Natural Selection as a tautology here too, well worth looking at.

Steve then wrote Richard Squawkins. The next post related to T-Stone occurred when Patrick wrote Theistic devolution. T-Stone responded on his own blog. This lead to Patrick’s response, Imposing upon the text and Picking up the pieces.

In the meantime, Steve wrote "A carefully crafted illusion" which T-Stone comment on, leading to Caponizing physics. This, in turn, lead to To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, wherein Steve dealt with many objections from various posts. And that brings us up to the end of 2006.

Amazingly, T-Stone was blessedly silent until January 11. At that point, Paul Manata wrote Atheist Eschatology and the False Prophets. Once again, T-Stone went out of his way to criticize the atheists.

Just kidding. He ripped Paul again, as you knew he would. After he was finished, T-Stone fell silent. Until Steve wrote Sunday school atheism against John Loftus. If those ignorant of T-Stone can sense the trend—he defended Loftus. Thus, Loftus responded:

Touchstone and David; You two are the voices of Christian reason, and it's a real joy to read what you write. I won't engage you here. You two don't belong here. You are both a cut above the rest. Excellent arguments! Kudos.
Yes, that ringing endorsement from the guy who owns Debunking Christianity surely must swell God’s heart with pride for what T-Stone has accomplished.

I pointed out in the post that T-Stone’s argument relies on his complete subjectivism, a point we will return to later. When Patrick chimed in, he pointed out:

Before I address this, and as has been noted before, it is striking how often Touchstone takes the opportunity to misrepresent and/or argue against Biblical Christianity.

And although he's been corrected on several accounts by Steve, CalvinDude, and others, it just doesn't get through for some reason. Not sure if it's because he's intellectually incapable of following an argument or if it's because he'd rather be unfair than to concede he's wrong? Both?
In any case, after this T-Stone dropped off the map for a while again. He didn’t even respond to Steve’s post, Arguments for evolution (February 4, 2007) unless he did so anonymously. The next major event in our discussion here occurred on February 17, when I became an official T-Blogger. Still nothing was heard from T-Stone. He didn’t even comment on my own Stephen Jay Gould’s Consilience Argument post of March 2, 2007.

In fact, T-Stone’s next comments would not appear until April 8. Then, in response to Paul Manata’s Would You Chuck The Bad Arguments? he, as usual, goes after Paul Manata instead of the atheists that Paul was critiquing. (Would you expect any less?) Included in the critique was John Loftus, who once again had nothing but a glowing report about T-Stone: "Who are you, Touchstone, to be so reasonable? Wow. You amaze me, even if we disagree."

Yeah, utterly amazing that T-Stone, after vanishing for three months, would return to defend an atheist. Who woulda seen that one coming?

In any case, at this point T-Stone engaged not only with Paul but also with Jason Engwer, meaning thus far Steve, Patrick, Paul, Jason, Evan, Gene, and myself had all dealt with T-Stone at some point or another.

On April 11, I then posted A Question of Logic which was met with T-Stone’s brilliant response: "How about letting sik90 and others know you are just recapitulating the TAG here (the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God, which, of course, is paired with the TANG (the Transcendental Argument for the Non-existence of God." It should be noted that once again, T-Stone took the side of the atheists in a discussion, thus my response: "How about you letting everyone know you're not really a theist, T-stone? Seriously, is there any issue that you won't take the atheist's side on? I certainly haven't found one yet."

And I should note having now gone through the archives, I STILL haven’t found an issue that T-Stone commented on where he actually agreed with any argument a T-Blogger put forth.

In any case, in this post T-Stone offered the gem defense that: "It doesn't follow if you exist-not-exist in a state that defies the Law of Non-contradiction." Yes, just take everything you know about logic and chuck it out the window there.

In any case, by this point given the weight of all the above evidence, I issued An Open Challenge to Touchstone:

T-stone, I challenge you to present a positive argument for the existence of the God you claim to believe in. If you've already done so on a different site, feel free to provide a link; otherwise, please comment below.
In any case, T-Stone did reply. He gave a…well, it was an "answer" I guess. Read it for yourself, as there is no way that I could summarize it here. In any case, as I pointed out then:
However, I have to say that when I read what you wrote here and compare it to the arguments you've presented against Steve, Paul, and myself, I find glaring inconsistency. In other words, your arguments against Christian apologists in no way reflect your claim that "the Bible represents both a plausible history and a compelling love story", for instance. Instead, I find you dismissing whatever the Bible says in every instance.
Paul also weighed in here. The net result was Paul wrote Touchstone’s Pickle, illustrating the logical problems that T-Stone had fallen into. Here, Manata showed explicit contradictions in T-Stone’s own beliefs (which should come as no surprise, given the past posts Steve wrote on T-Stone’s duplicity).

After this, T-Stone once again faded away until May 10. Then, in response to my post Thoughts on Modern Evangelicalism, T-Stone returned with a completely ad hominem attack against me. After an anonymous poster quoted Scripture to him, T-Stone mocked:

There you go -- Psalm 119 as the rebuttal of the post-modern epistemology. Wisdom literature as the refutation of the geological strata.

It's this kind of holier-than-thou pretense that has Evangelicals wondering "Hey, what's happening?"
Yeah, that’s the sound of the Bible believer for you.

In any case, this post also began T-Stone’s decent into another anti sola scriptura rant, where he claimed "orthodoxy" was linked to the Apostle’s Creed instead of Scripture. The result of this would be that soon T-Stone would be arguing on behalf of Orthodox too.

Anyway, in response to T-Stone here, Steve wrote The real me, which was a satirical response that garnered T-Stone’s comment: "Well, what can I say? Surely, this is one of your best posts, ever!" Of more substance was Patrick’s response, A disingenuous orthodoxy.

In those comments, T-Stone asserts Orthodoxy is affirming four creeds: the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Confession of Chalcedon, and the Athanasian Creed. In this post T-Stone also states: "A trivial Google search or two should provide more than you need to convince yourself this is not a controversial view of creeds or orthodoxy" (which is exactly how he came up with the list, IMO).

In any case, this continued with Patrick’s post, A few questions for Touchstone. In this post, T-Stone’s responses alternated between his subjectivism and a Catholic Answers tract.

Steve then posted Arkeology 101, which T-Stone (obviously) immediately had problems with. This despite the fact that Steve argued, via the GHM, for a localized flood. T-Stone didn’t even grasp this, and instead went flailing away at Steve, assuming Steve was holding to typical YEC views.

Dusman then wrote A Friendly Critique of the Cameron and Comfort vs. Rational Responders Debate Part I to which T-Stone replied, "Ugh. Really, this is more disastrous than Cameron and Comfort at their worst." He then proceeds to attack presuppositionalism, which he obviously detests—yet he can never form arguments against it (indeed, he cannot even accurately represent it). Read the comments and see for yourself.

As a result of his attitude, Patrick wrote Sola Touchstonia, after which I wrote The Radical Skeptic.

T-Stone responded by giving a statement with every sentence beginning with "[I subjectively hold that]", and later gave a "cleaned up version" for "those that aren’t hung up on the ‘objectivity’ thing." Which only demonstrated that T-Stone is a radical skeptic like I claimed.

After this, I wrote Touchstone’s Subjective Objective in Being Objectively Subjective, which further critiqued T-Stone’s radical skepticism when it comes to epistemology.

After this, Dusman wrote Responding to e-Hecklers. In his comments on that post, T-Stone assures us:

I'm not an atheist, but having debated them at length many times over many years, I can give you a rendering of the argument.

In any case, with T-Stone commenting the discussion quickly went downhill. Read for yourself his continual logical blunders.

Next up, Steve wrote Townes on ID theory, which T-Stone actually said was a good article (Townes’ article, not Steve’s blog post) before saying: "It's unfortunate that ‘Intelligent Design’ has been co-opted as a synonym for ‘anti-evolution’."

This, however, is nothing of the case. In fact, Michael Behe is an ID and a TE…and T-Stone still despises him. What are we to think of that?

Patrick next wrote A failure to miscommunicate, which T-Stone never responded to. T-Stone was, in fact, very quiet until I wrote On The Debunker’s Bigotry and Hatred.

This was a rather special post, seeing as how it was merely a direct quote of Joe Holman from the Debunker’s site with the subjects changed from theists to Debunkers. T-Stone, of course, missed this and immediately attacked me for posting it. In this case, I didn’t have much of a problem with his attack per se—after all, my post was done deliberately to demonstrate the fallacy of Holman. But despite the fact that I even told T-Stone that he’d been punk’d by the post, he persisted in making a fool of himself, and even attacked sola fide in the process.

In any case, I let T-Stone know the details with He Done Got Punk’d! Mathetes provided a brilliant comment right off the bat: "Apparently Touchstone believes the case for atheism is so strong that it necessitates his rushing in to rescue it every time it comes under attack."
And this also provides us with my favorite John Loftus quote:

Peter, in my opinion you misled Touchstone, and other potential readers. Knowing his ability to understand what someone writes, his was almost certainly an honest mistake. I personally have not read through what you wrote, but I have a strong hunch Touchstone was misled because you didn't provide the proper clues to understand what your intent was. I guess we all do that from time to time. But you share the blame.
In any case, on June 3, Steve and I co-wrote YEC & Flood Geology. T-Stone, naturally, was not pleased, as you can determine by reading the comments yourself. Part of T-Stone’s tactic was to say Steve wasn’t peer reviewed. As a result, Steve responded with Peer review. Additionally, T-Stone claimed I didn’t understand the scientific method, so I wrote Falsifying Touchstone.

After the comments on those two blog posts, Paul Manta offered Josh McTouchstone’s Evidence Ad Infinitum That Demands A Verdict. Followed immediately after by Dumb and Dumberer. In these two posts, Paul systematically destroys T-Stone’s concepts of logic, but just to really settle it, Paul also gave us Evidentialism and Touchstone’s Evidentialism, Weighed and Found Wanting.

Meanwhile, Steve asked What’s an atheist?, which T-Stone responded to in his characteristically flawed philosophical manner. Due to this poor handling of philosophical data, I accused T-Stone of Intellectual Laziness, backed up with evidence showing T-Stone wasn’t even reading what he was responding to.

Paul then issued his own challenge: Challenge: Throwing Down The Guantlet. This satirical post was actually designed to show T-Stone’s many self-contradictory statements, and as you can read for yourself it worked perfectly.

I then provided The Touchstone Fossil, which demonstrated (as per Gee) the impossibility of inferring lineage from fossils. T-Stone’s comments in response serve to highlight his inability to read yet again.

Steve then posted Pining for Darwin, a review of Philip Kitcher’s book Living With Darwin. As per usual, T-Stone was quick to defend Kitcher, who was vigorously attacking Christianity with his book. Par for the course for T-Stone, naturally. As a result, Steve posted Truth By Stipulation, demonstrating T-Stone’s blindness here. Steve also wrote Instant apostate: just add water, looking at how T-Stone’s path is headed toward apostasy.

Steve also gave us a review of Ridley in "The Evidence for Evolution" and finally In Search of Evolution, a critique of Futuyma. The comments on those posts again demonstrate T-Stone complete lack of reading comprehension. Indeed, T-Stone simply begins with a "Witness the annihilation of science at the hands of the special creationist!" on the second post, and keeps digging from there. One of the things he emphasized was parsimony.

This lead to my posting The Entropy Paradox. This later lead to Unprobable Evolution (which was about Wonderful Life by Gould). The errors T-Stone made in those comments lead to I Apologize In Advance For This Post, which was a reposting of the original post but with my extra added logical analysis of the claims I made (since I perceived that T-Stone couldn’t grasp it). This lead to Concerned Christians first attempt to rebuke me (unless that was also him previously as anonymous). As further evidence to bolster my previous claims, I provided What Does An Unscientific Imbecile Know?

After this, I reviewed Stenger’s latest work in the post Stenger’s Failed Hypothesis, and T-Stone still had to respond in this, once again taking the side of the atheist.

This brings us finally to A Teapot In Space, which again T-Stone decided to take the side of the atheist on, and again Concerned Christian popped up to rebuke me (necessitating this post).

So, here we have it. I spent the last ten hours going through the archives to cull this material. I will provide more later, but since I stayed up all night to provide this to Concerned Christian I won’t do so now—I need to get some sleep (this is the benefit to currently being on vacation, and still being under 30 years old—I can stay up all night doing research and it won’t kill me).

But before I do that, allow me to summarize some points.

A) None of my statements are unique to me. When I doubt the validity of T-Stone’s profession of faith, I am not the only one who does so. I am probably the only one who speaks as definitively on it (that is, I’m probably the one with the least amount of "tact"), but others have brought up their doubts several times.

B) I am obviously not the person who has responded the most to T-Stone throughout his time here. Just in terms of posts posted, by my rough count Steve had 56.5 to my 16.5 (the 0.5 represents the post we co-wrote); further, Patrick wrote 12 posts, Paul wrote 10, and Dusman had 2. Evan (unintentionally caught up by T-Stone’s zeal) can be counted as having 1 relevant post here. That gives us 97 posts total that have dealt in some manner with T-Stone, or that T-Stone has responded on. Of course this doesn’t quantify the word count in the comments, but for the entire first three months I only said two things to T-Stone, so again there is no way that I was the most verbose in communicating with him.

C) Simply reading T-Stone’s comments demonstrates he is hardly "innocent" in this himself. He slings mud; he should expect to get it in return. As I said before, if you throw mud expect to get hosed.

D) T-Stone has disagreed with Steve, Paul, Jason, Patrick, Dusman, Charles, Evan, Gene, and me. We are not monolithic here. While we share many beliefs in common, we do not all agree 100% on even such issues as presuppositionalism or YEC (in fact, my own view allows for the possibility of non-Darwinian "theistic evolution" to a limited extent). Yet T-Stone has found reason to disagree with all of us. Further, he attacked Eric Svendsen and he has expressly placed himself against conservative Christianity (which would not mean he’s an atheist, but would call into question his Christianity), the validity of logic (which does make him irrational), and the ability of language to communicate (which makes him a hypocrite every time he writes anything).

E) On the other hand, T-Stone has argued on behalf of Jon Curry, John Loftus, Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, exapologist, Daniel Morgan, and interlocutor, evolutionists Kitcher, Ridley, et al.—not to mention providing Catholic Answers tracts and agreeing with Orthodox in an attack on sola scriptura, as well as denying sola fide, he defended Jonathan Prejean, and Mormonism in general.

F) T-Stone has, however, said he’s a Christian, specifically a General Conference Baptist.

G) Given D, E, and F, what reasonable person would conclude that T-Stone is a theist? What reasonable person would conclude that T-Stone is an atheist? What evidence has T-Stone given to determine which way we should choose on this? Does T-Stone’s mere statement that he believes in God counterweigh all the times he argues against theistic positions and all the times he bends over backwards for atheistic positions? I’ll let you be the judge.

Concerned Christian, you now have before you the entire list of every post that ever dealt with T-Stone, as well as all the posts that I could find that he commented on (there may be, I concede, one or two that I missed). Ignorance is no longer an excuse for you…if it ever really was one.