Saturday, December 08, 2007

Time, tense, and freedom

Libertarian freedom is commonly defined as the freedom to do otherwise in the same situation. On that definition, it assumes that an agent has the power to access and instantiate alternate possibilities.

But even if you agree in principle, there are some severe restrictions on this principle. And they are related to the divisions of time. We make decisions about the future in the present (or specious present). So we only have the freedom to choose between A and B. Either A or B. We cannot choose both. Hence, simultaneity imposes a limitation on libertarian freedom—even if you grant the principle.

Turretin Fan just did a post on this subject:

I’m taking the occasion to generalize this argument, and pull together some other things I’ve said.

This is a metaphysical restriction on libertarian freedom which is imposed by the nature of time. Libertarians have to accept this restriction because they have no choice in the matter!

Indeed, there’s even a coercive element to simultaneity. It forces you to choose between one thing and another.

But in that respect it’s an ad hoc restriction on the libertarian principle. Ideally, the libertarian principle would unconditional. The freedom to do otherwise without temporal impediments.

If libertarians could make time more flexible, there are occasions in which they would surely prefer to choose both A and B. It’s rather than ordering from a menu at a gourmet restaurant. It’s hard to choose because there is more than one equally delicious entrée, but you can’t eat them all at one sitting.

Or, to take a more serious example, a single Christian may be in love with more than one woman. And he may be in a position to marry either one. And he could make a wonderful life with either woman. But he has to choose. And each choice presents mutually exclusive goods. The goods unique to one marriage aren’t interchangeable with the goods unique to another.

Life confronts us with certain tradeoffs. That’s a large part of what makes fiction appealing. We can vicariously lead more than one life. Imaginatively exercise another option. The road not taken. In fiction, we can go down both roads.

But if the present limits our freedom to do otherwise, the past imposes a far more draconian restriction. The technical term for this is the accidental necessity of the past. And the necessity of the past is implicit in the restriction on simultaneous choice.

Even if you had the freedom to do otherwise, once you go through one door, all the other doors lock behind you. Once your present decision is past, it is unchangeable. Sometimes you can do something to reverse the effect of your decision, by you can’t reverse your decision. And, oftentimes, you can’t do much to reverse the effect of your decision.

That’s a major source of human regret. And the older you get, the more likely you are to say to yourself, “If only I could go back in time and do it all over again, I’d give anything to take that back!” The lost opportunities begin to accumulate.

And it isn’t always a regret over having made the wrong choice. In many cases, I may be happy with the choices I made.

The source of my discontent lies with my having had to make those choices. Even if they were good choices, they were not the only good choices. Libertarians like to talk about alternate possibilities, and this includes alternate goods. But you only get to choose one set of goods over another.

Once again, this limitation is not a logical implication of libertarianism. Left to its own devices, libertarians would probably prefer retrocausation. But time’s arrow is irreversible.

And this also reflects on our future limitations. Even if you suppose that the future is wide-open, in the sense of being indeterminate, such that human agents are co-creators of the future, the freedom to affect or even effect the future is of limited value unless you know in advance the future consequences of your present choices.

That, too, is a major source of regret. If we had known the outcome, we would often have chosen differently. That’s why we rue the necessity of the past. It’s locked in place before we have a chance to size it up.

We can speculate over the consequences of a given course of action, and choose accordingly, but this is—at best—an educated guess. In many cases, if we could actually foresee how each domino would fall, we would have chosen a different course of action.

But, by definition, an open future is a conjectural future. Unless and until it eventuates, the outcome is unknowable. And because it’s unknowable, you don’t know what’s in store for you further down the line. Each choice forecloses prior possibilities and generates a new set of possibilities (if you accept the libertarian premise).

And that’s the temporal paradox of libertarianism. You may have power over the future, but you don’t know what you’re getting into. You don’t know what future you’re ordering until it’s too late to put it back in the box and return it to the future for a refund.

Once more, this is an ad hoc restriction on the libertarian position. If he had his druthers, a libertarian would either like to test the consequences of each choice, or foresee the consequences of each possible outcome, and then finalize his choice, forearmed with a knowledge of what that choice was going to entail. But the metaphysical structure of time doesn’t respect his libertarian sentiments or scruples. The libertarian is not at liberty to do a test run, to experiment with each option, and then actualize the best option.

Time is the human agent’s field of action. Yet the past, present, and future all conspire to circumscribe the human agent’s field of action in ways that drastically truncate the libertarian impulse.

I’d add, on a final note, that a Calvinist who takes his theology to heart is not as regretful about the past. He knows that, in the providence of God, as long as he made conscientious decisions, he’s not going to ruin his life. And even if he made some sinful decisions, God will work all things together for the ultimate good.

Cartesian windowpanes

“You cannot have a choice unless you can genuinely actualize alternative possibilities.”

Robert has no experience actualizing alternate possibilities. He only has the experience of doing one thing at a time. He has never had the opportunity to test or experiment with each alternate possibility.

“So he was ‘debating’ between responding to me or not responding to me. If both of those options were real he was deliberating about a choice he was facing. This experience is itself an indication that in contrast to his espoused philosophizing (in his philosophy and theology he argues for exhaustive determinism) he operates in his daily life as if choices are real. And he does so because choice are real, and his philosophy/theology of determinism is false.”

This does absolutely nothing to advance the argument. It is simply a question-begging appeal to his pretheoretical notion of “choice.”

“But these actions are not really “options” unless each of them can be actualized by the person. Running as fast as a cheetah is not an option for me because it is not an option that I can actualize. Only actions which I can actualize are (or should be designated as) options for me. It is misleading and goes against the way we speak of ‘options when in fact they are impossibilities for us to actualize. “

This is equivocal. If I attempted to exercise a particular option, and couldn’t carry out my intention, then I didn’t have the freedom to exercise that option.

But this is a debate over abstract, unexemplified possibilities.

“When the ordinary person on the street speaks of his options he means not only that he believes these options exist but that each one can be actualized by him. If he cannot actualize it he does not call it an option.”

That’s wholly irrelevant to whether determinism is true or false. The man on the street may hold many false, pretheoretical beliefs.

Robert’s appeal to the man on the street is a backdoor admission that his position can’t withstand philosophical scrutiny.

“If I go to Baskin Robbins 31 flavors and because of some equipment malfunction only one flavor is available most of us would not say that I ‘picked’ it, we would say something like ‘I was stuck with X,’ or ‘I had no choice so I had to take X’.”

If he tried to pick a flavor that was unavailable, then, no, he couldn’t pick it.

But suppose the one flavor which was still available was the flavor he intended to pick all along?

“Then Manata says that due to God’s decree in reality he could only have done X and that that does not bother him. Well it may not bother him if the selection is just ice cream. But let’s up the stakes a bit. According to Manata it does not bother him that he has to do the one thing decreed by God. So I guess when he commits a serious sin, that does not bother him nor does he express remorse as he is only doing what God decreed and that does not bother him. It bothers me and many other Christians to have a view that results in every evil that occurs being decreed by God and being the only thing we could do, with it being impossible that we do otherwise. God predetermining my every sin so that I had to sin and could not do otherwise is not the God of the bible. It also means that our deliberating and planning and thinking about various ‘options’ is all illusory.”

Now he’s resorting to emotional blackmail and rhetorical extortion. If the Bible teaches predestination, then Manata isn’t responsible for the consequences of what the Bible teaches. God is responsible teaching predestination in Scripture. Manata is responsible for his fidelity to the teaching of Scripture.

Robert hasn’t offered an exegetical disproof of Manata’s position. To the contrary, he’s trying to nullify the witness of Scripture by this demagogic blocking maneuver.

Speaking for myself, I’m not bothered by what God teaches. I’m not bothered by what God does.

But, to answer him on his own level, many other Christians are bothered by the idea of horrendous evils that happen for no good reason. God didn’t plan it to happen that way, for a higher end.

“We think we have ‘options’ but if everything is decreed then we never have ‘options’ nor do we have choices as ordinarily understood. That may not bother Manata but that bothers a whole lot of other people. I do not believe that God created a world where our actions are decreed and options and choices are all illusory. That would make God into something more like Descartes demon than the God of the bible.”

i) Once again, he’s simply demagoging the issue.

ii) Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that our choices would be “illusory” if predestination were true. How does that consequence falsify predestination?

Unless you’re a naïve realist, you had to admit a gap between appearance and reality. There is an illusory aspect to human experience. It isn’t pure illusion, but there are illusory elements to our experience of the world. Here’s an example:

“An assumption implicit in the argument from experience is that there is a direct correspondence between the perception of change and the objective passage of time, or its consequences. Change and motion are out there, and we just register them. But as perceivers are we really so passive? Is there not an element of the mind’s construction in what we experience? According to a very influential theory of motion perception, proposed by Herman von Helmholtz, what we see when we see motion is in part due to the mind’s telling us what we see. We see motion when we keep our eyes still, and a moving object produces a shifting image across our retinas. But we also see motion when we track the moving object with our eyes, so that the retinal image stays constant. These systems responsible are known as the image/retina system and the eye/head system. These systems have to cooperate all the time. For, as we take in a static environment by sweeping our eyes over it, as we often do, our retinal images are constantly shifting. But the world outside does not appear to move. Why? It seems that information from the two systems can cancel each other out: the brain registers the changing image, but attributes the shift simply to the fact that the eyes are moving, so we do not register motion,” R. Le Poidevin, The Images of Time: An Essay on Temporal Representation (Oxford 2007), 93.

In this case, we’re dealing with a necessary illusion. The mind must override and reinterpret the sensory impute to prevent the percipient from becoming disoriented.

So even if, for the sake of argument, our freedom of choice were illusory, it might be a necessary illusion—in the same sense that certain optical illusions are necessary for us to function in the world.

Likewise, we can imagine alternative courses of action and their respective consequences. That’s a necessary condition of moral deliberation. This would true even if we didn’t have metaphysical access to alternate possibilities. As a practical matter, we can only do one thing at a time.

“If God kept going back to the moment before the choice to create the world, could God have picked to not create the world? Or was God’s action of creating the world necessitated? He had to do it?”

There was no moment before the creation of the world. And there was never a time when God was undecided.

“I don’t chastise a compatibilist for being a compatibilist. I chastise them when they take words from ordinary usage and then use them with very different meanings attached. Wittgenstein made this point very well, about how philosophers use ordinary terms with different meanings and it leads to all sorts of nonsense. That is misleading and deceptive, similar to what some groups do when they take Christian terms and operate according to a different meaning.”

This is irrational. Philosophical and scientific terminology are intended to be more accurate, not less accurate. Robert can only defend his position by retreating into these anti-intellectual, ad populum appeals.

It’s only self-deceptive if you’re a naïve realist who insists that mountains grow larger or smaller in relation to the observer. Pretheoretical impressions are not infallible. And language doesn’t give us unmediated access to reality.

Robert is like a bird that keeps crashing into a window because it can’t tell the difference between a windowpane and thin air. The transparent glass is “illusory” and “deceptive,” ya know. Only a hard-hearted Calvinist would believe in a world where birds smash into Cartesian-demonic windows. Such a conception violates the ordinary meaning of avian discourse.

In a libertarian world, birds can fly through windows. And if you don't know which world is the real world, just ask Robert.

“A text discussed here recently was 1 Cor. 10 and the nature of temptation. The bible says that God provides a way of escape from temptation. So the believer facing temptation is also facing the reality of choice (he can choose to resist the temptation or choose to give into the temptation).”

No, the text is stronger than that. The text includes a divine promise of preservation. Cf. T. Schreiner, The Race Set Before Us, p266.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Diversity Thesis

Some have said that the "Diversity Thesis" DT is a strong reason to accept moral relativism. DT states that it is an empirical fact that different cultures (or people) have different morals. This shows that ethics are relative.

But it so happens that relativism is also compatible with a Unification Thesis UT. Say that the world evolved to such a point that everyone held to the same ethical principles. That's the UT thesis. Would this prove ethics were not relative? No, the relativist could say. An example might be helpful: Currently there is a DT about which side of the road is the correct side to drive on. But we could easily become unified on this - bringing about a UT. Would this mean that there was some objective fact about the correct side of the road to drive on? No. Likewise, even if we were in an empirical situation where the UT held, the relativist need not be refuted. Relativism is compatible with both the DT and the UT.

Moreover, the DT can be accepted by the non-relativist too. Say that a secularist maintains that we need to be taught the correct ethical position, just like we are taught about math. But, due to any number of various factors, societies have slacked in their teaching duties. Or, take the Christian theist. If one combines the fallen nature of man with the creative nature of man, one could point out that not only is the DT true, it would be expected to be true in this postlapsarian state.

Thus the DT is consistent with both ethical relativism and ethical objectivism. And, it's contradictory doesn't negate either relativism or objectivism.

It seems like the DT is consistent with contrary positions.

The DT has been put forward as an argument for relativism, but we saw that its negation need not count against relativism.

And, the DT could be put forward as empirical confirmation of a system of thought that entails ethical objectivism too (in the above case of Christian theism, for example).

It seems to me that the DT can't do the work the relativist wants it to do. The DT doesn't deny ethical objectivism or ethical relativism. And, it doesn't affirm it either (i.e., since people may be mistaken; e.g., wrong answers on a math test don't prove that math is relative).

Maybe Flew, "in his prime" ;-), offers something helpful here: "If there is nothing which a putative assertion denies then there is nothing which it asserts either: and so it is not really an assertion. [...] A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications."

White elephant theology

“[Matt Bathome] I for one, have never heard Chris L claim that he knew the entire truth.

I see the elevator didn’t make it all the way to the top floor. I guess we need to explain the obvious.

The parable only works because both the narrator and the reader know what the animal really is. They have inside knowledge. Their perspective is the true perspective.

So the parable suffers from an internal contradiction. If it were realistic, then the narrator would be in no position to know that the animal was really an elephant. Therefore, the narrator is assuming a privileged viewpoint which he denies to the blind parabolic characters. He is exempting himself (and his readers) from his own parable.

If the parable were realistic, the narrator couldn’t even tell us the parable since he would be just as blind to the true nature of the real world as the blind parabolic characters. And if it were realistic, then the reader would be out of the loop as well.

[Joe C] “Yeah, him knowing ‘all he truth’ or ‘seeing the whole elephant’, was NEVER a part of his article that Manata is doing a critique of. And I’ve never seen him claim that either. I think this was dishonest reporting/reviewing, and an apology should be made for making a bad straw-man against Chris Lyons.”

i) How does Joe know that Manata was guilty of a straw man argument? How does he know what a straw man looks like, anyway? If three blind men tried to describe a straw man, they might come up with three different descriptions. It all depends on which “part” of the straw man they feel, right?

ii) I agree with Joe that an apology is in order. I think Chris, Matt, and Joe owe the Christian community an apology for slapping a Christian label on their theological ineptitude and intellectual incompetence.

[Chris L] “One need not see the entire whole to know that one experience of it is not its entire nature. Your analysis of my article a) is flawed in the very logic it tries to use; and b) completely ignores the heart of the thesis around the dimensionality of God.”

i) In that event, the analogy with the parable breaks down.

ii) And how does Chris know that God is a hyperdimensional being? He can’t successfully appeal to science, for science is ultimately grounded in our timebound experience of time and space.

iii) For that matter, does he experience God as a hyperdimensional being? How many dimensions of God does he experience? 10 dimensions? Does he experience God at the Planck scale?

iv) Is God in a state of superposition before the collapse of the wave function? Remember that, according to Chris, God actually occupies space and time. BTW, is there a God for every parallel world?

“In the case of the nature of God, we already know from Job (and elsewhere) that we cannot fully comprehend the nature of God, and we know from Genesis (and elsewhere) that God exists apart from time.”

How is that analogous to the parable? Who corresponds to Job? The narrator? Or the blind men?

“Therefore, when we examine Him only within time, we start from a basis of admitted ‘blindness’, and this then slips into arrogance when one of us ‘holds his trunk’ and declares it to be a snake (or a sola)…”

How does that relate to his comment about what we know via revelation? Is revelation timebound? In that event, it doesn't tell us anything about what God is like outside of time.

If, on the other hand, revelation supplies a timeless, God’s-eye view of himself, then our knowledge of God isn't limited to our timebound viewpoint.

“Rather than play the part of a blind man in denial of his blindness (which is what these systematic theologies do when they exclaim exclusive definition of the nature of God), I am just suggesting that we admit our blindness…”

I'm more that willing to stipulate to Chris's theological blindness.

“…- our inability to see time beyond our own limited experience - and accept that God’s Word is true and that we don’t need to make it uncontradictory when it deals with the nature of time (ex. predestination and free will).”

True of what? Does the Bible reveal timeless truths or timebound truths? Is freewill a timeless truth or a timebound truth? How does he know that freewill is true if it's just a timebound category?

[Joe C] “Metaphors aren’t perfect Paul [Manata]. Don’t miss the big picture (lol the irony!!) because you’re trying to take small parts of the metaphor literally and apply them to real life.”

i) Now Joe is trying to distance Chris from his own illustration. If the parable is inapplicable to real life, then what does it illustrate?

ii) How does Joe know when to differentiate what is literally the case from what is figuratively the case? How does his timebound horizon permit him to do that?

“All Christians will never have the full picture of God (The super infinitely huge Elephant).”

How does Joe know what lies on the other side of our temporal horizon? Can he see on both sides of the limit?

New Testament Worldview

New Testament Worldview by Vern Poythress

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney's sophistries

I’ll quote some passages from Romney’s recent speech, interspersed with my own comments:

"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers - I will be true to them and to my beliefs.”

Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? He’s making religious identity a question of social loyalty rather than allegiance to the truth. He’d rather be true to his Mormon ancestors than be true to the true God.

This reflects poorly, not only on his spiritual priorities, but on his intellectual discernment. Mormonism is not a difficult religion to falsify. He lacks judgment.

"There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.”

Of course, Mormonism apes Christian terminology, but uses that terminology as code language to launder a heretical belief-system. Mormon Christology bears no resemblance to Biblical Christology.

“My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.”

But Mormonism isn’t tolerant of other faiths. Mormonism was founded on religious intolerance. On the presupposition that Christendom was apostate, and it was necessary for Joseph Smith to restore the long lost Gospel.

Romney himself, like all observant Mormon males, was a Mormon missionary. Missionaries aren’t tolerant. They are promoting their own faith, at the expense of the opposing faith.

And I don’t have a problem with that. I do have a problem with Romney’s duplicity.

"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith.”

I believe that Romney is twisting this clause of the Constitution. In England, at that time, you had to be an Anglican to hold elective office. You had to pay lip-serve to the 39 Articles.

And some of the 13 colonies had the same sort of policy—which would have been divisive at the Federal level.

So, as I understand it, this clause prohibits a religious oath of office. If you’re a duly elected candidate, you cannot be disbarred from assuming office on religious grounds.

But this in no way prevents a voter from taking a candidate’s religious identity into consideration. A voter is entitled to treat that as his sole criterion if he wants to. He can vote for or against him on religious grounds.

By Romney’s logic, if a jihadist ran for president, promising—as a matter of solemn religious duty—to use his top-level security clearance to leak all our classified military secrets to the enemy, the electorate would have no right to discriminate against that candidate on religious grounds.

"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God.”

Does that include Bin Laden?

BTW, which God is he referring to? Mormonism has a pantheon, not a God.

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion.”

I think that overstates the scope of the Establishment clause. It forbids a national church. It doesn’t forbid Federal patronage of Christianity in general, and it doesn’t forbid the states from establishing sectarian churches.

"We believe that every single human being is a child of God - we are all part of the human family.”

Which God? He talks like a monotheist, but he’s a polytheist.

“The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world.”

Thousands of American women died in combat in the 20C?

Half-baked science meets half-baked relativism

I’ve been asked to comment on something by Chris Lyons.

Paul Manata has already weighed in.

“My church background is with the Restoration Movement churches of Christ, which has taken an anti-systematic theology stance for going on two centuries now.”

It’s fine with me if Lyons opposes systematic theology. That greatly simplifies my task. The alternative to systematic theology is incoherent theology. In that case, an outsider like me doesn’t need to refute his theology, for his theology is self-refuting. I can stand back and watch his mutually refuting beliefs negate one another.

“Additionally, I wonder if White understands the difference between postmodern thought and modernist thought.”

Of course, postmodernism has fuzzy boundaries, and it inclines to global scepticism—except that it conveniently exempts itself from its own critique.

“As an engineer/scientist, I tend to approach most issues from a modernist perspective, but both the Christian faith and the ever-increasingly revealed limitations of scientific understanding have led me to believe that even though there is an absolute truth behind everything, we, as humans, may very well not be able to fully understand this truth because of our very nature.”

This is Lyons’ in his mock modest, sceptical pose. Observe, as we continue, how he oscillates between rationalism and irrationalism.

“Interestingly, though, he takes issue at my referencing the real and actual roots of Calvinism in Greek Fatalism, studied by St. Augustine and included in his writings, and further incorporated in Calvin’s understanding of predestination…”

i) This is a tactic to sidestep the exegetical basis of Calvinism.

ii) Calvinism is obviously different from fatalism since, in the latter, the outcome is irrespective of the means—which is hardly the case in Calvinism.

“The arguments of free will vs. predestination were never considered all that important by Hebrew scholars prior to Jesus, nor within the church for the first many centuries of its existence.”

Josephus discusses different Jewish schools of thought as they ranged themselves along the determinist/indeterminist continuum.

“What forced these viewes against one another was primarily the fuel of the Age of Reason, which pitted apparently conflicting scientific views against one another. If we’re going to use Church history as an argument, then one has to wonder how it got along for the fifteen centuries before Calvin wandered along.”

I thought the “Age of Reason” was synonymous with the Enlightenment. Therefore, it’s anachronistic to place Calvin within this period in the history of ideas.

“There are numerous examples of Christian and Jewish scholars who have reconciled the notion of free will and God’s omniscience over the centuries.”

Notice he doesn’t give a single example of how that reconciliation is achieved in terms of a detailed argument—whether exegetically or philosophically.

“To begin with, I am not asking anyone to 'take my word for it' - I am asking the reader to examine the scientific truth (our inability to understand how time works beyond our own dimension of time - one way, one dimension) and our trying to reconcile this with religious truth (that God has preordained certain events, that God has granted man the ability to choose to obey Him).”

i) Whether it’s a religious truth “that God has granted man the ability to choose to obey Him” assumes the very thing he needs to prove.

ii) If we are unable “to understand how time works beyond our own dimension of time,” and this is the source of the tension between predestination and freewill, then the tension is irreconcilable—so we shouldn’t even try.

“When we pit free will versus predestination, we end up deciding that our limited scientific understanding of time has rendered an aspect of religious truth to be false or misunderstood.”

i) Once again, he begs the question of whether libertarian freewill is a religious truth.

ii) The Bible is prescientific (which is not to say, unscientific). It is written in prescientific language to a prescientific audience. The Bible doesn’t offer a scientific theory of time. Therefore, the Biblical doctrine of predestination isn’t predicated on a scientific theory of time.

What it takes for granted is a pretheoretical understanding of time. Of time as we experience it. The phenomenology of time.

“ I, on the other hand, am suggesting that we KNOW that our human, scientific understanding of time beyond our own dimension is (and always will be) insufficient because of our own physical limitations - limitations not ascribed to God (with evidence in Genesis 1:1 and elsewhere). Because we KNOW that we can’t fully understand the scientific truth, why on earth should we discount religious truth, based on our limited scientific knowledge?”

i) Continues to beg the question.

ii) Continues to play the sceptic.

iii) Our physical limitations do not, of themselves, imply a limited understanding of time. A guy in a wheelchair can understand the game of football even if he can’t play a game of football.

“Rather, the ‘box’ these systems try to force God into is a scientific one made up of time and space, specifically time, which we do not (and can not) understand beyond our own sphere.”

His tactic here is to nullify the statements of Scripture by running them through this extrascriptural disclaimer.

“While I suspect that White would agree that God exists beyond His own creation, I would just point out that in Genesis 1:1, God already exists (i.e. 'before the beginning'), and that when God gives His name ('I AM'), he also gives us a glimpse into His nature.”

i) Of course, the Bible is written in popular language rather than philosophical language. The idea in Gen 1:1 is that God exists apart from the world whereas the world does not exist apart from God, and—indeed—had a temporal point of origin due to divine agency.

ii) He gives us absolutely no reason to suppose the name of Yahweh is a metaphysical statement about God’s relation to time.

“If physicists are correct that there are dimensions of time and space beyond our own (for which there is ample evidence), then it is not putting God in a box to suggest that He is in any and all dimensions which exist beyond our own.”

Several problems:

i) Notice that after playing the sceptical role, he dives into the nearest phone booth, rips off his sceptical garb, and emerges in his rationalistic spandex. Thanks to modern physics, we do have a correct understanding of what time is really like.

ii) Aside from contradicting himself (i), this assumes that physical theories are true. He needs to offer a supporting argument.

iii) It would be grossly anachronistic to reinterpret the predestinarian statements of Scripture in light of modern physics. The target audience was utterly ignorant of modern science. To suppose the correct interpretation of Scripture hinges a knowledge of modern science would mean that the audience to whom the Scriptures were originally addressed was bound to misinterpret the Scriptures.

iv) It also renders the meaning of Scripture fluid from one generation to the next. By Lyons’ logic, Medieval Christians should interpret Scripture in light of Aristotelian physics, 18C Christians should interpret Scripture in light of Newtonian physics, while 21C Christians should interpret Scripture in light of Witten, Einstein, and quantum mechanics.

v) Ample evidence for what? String theory? Parallel worlds?

vi) Even if you assume that string theory is true or the megaverse is real, it hardly follows that God occupies space and time—regardless of how many dimensions or timeframes you postulate.

“It is, however, putting God in a box to suggest that He sees and interacts with time in the same way that we do.”

That’s a straw man argument, since predestination makes no such assumption.

“In fact, it is much easier to argue that God purposely put himself ‘in the box’ in the form of Jesus.”

Classical Christian theism can account for the Incarnation without resorting to pantheism.

“And that Jesus’ limitations to our dimensions would explain many of the differences in aspects between Father and Son,”

Is Lyons a modalist? Is the Trinity reducible to the economic Trinity? Does time and space individuate and differentiate the members of the Trinity?

“And to why Jesus couldn’t know “the day or the hour” of his return.”

Why not chalk that up to the limitations of his humanity—in distinction to his divinity?

“With the concept of Trinity, there are systematized understandings which go beyond scripture, but the concept of Trinity within scripture is pretty clear, though indeed not fully understood.”

Of course, the Calvinist would make the very same argument for predestination.

“Genesis 1:1-3 identifies the three parts of the Trinity,”

The members of the Trinity are “parts” of God? Is each member of the Trinity 33.3% divine?

“What is sad is that they are each only aspects of the truth, not the entire truth.”

i) How is Lyons in a position to say to that each theological tradition is partially true unless he has a corner on the entire truth? Only if you know the whole truth can you say to what degree this or that approximates the truth.

ii) And doesn’t that also commit him to systematic theology? He knows that they are only aspects of truth in relation to a larger truth.

“The tragic thing occurs when White, Mike Ratliff (‘There are two views concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. First, there is what we call Calvinism. Then, there are varying degrees of unbelief’), Spurgeon (‘Calvinism is the gospel’) and others raise their systematic theologies to the level of scripture.”

i) This is duplicitous since Lyons is being just as judgmental as Spurgeon. He simply tries to play both sides of the fence—by turns a rationalist and then a sceptic, or vice versa.

ii) Yes, Calvinists think that Calvinism is correct. Lutherans think that Lutheranism is correct. Catholics think that Catholicism is correct. And Lyons thinks that he is correct.

“It is at this point that Calvinism (or any -ism) truly is ‘another gospel’ all together.”

Notice that he just went back to the phone booth. Right before this he played the ecumenical card. Religious pluralism. Now, however, he’s being an intolerant dogmatist.

“First off, I would note that I said that the bases for these different views (particularly free will vs. predestination - which, no matter how you slice it was developed from Greek fatalism - and the logical inconsistencies around prayer.”

Calvinism doesn’t have any difficulty accommodating prayer. This is been discussed by various Reformed theologians like Paul Helm.

“And God changing His mind).”

This assumes that God changes his mind. Why would God change his mind? Does God make mistakes?

“Do not have to be contradictory if you remove 1-dimensional, unidirectional time from the equation.”

Meaning what? That God believes one thing in one world, and the opposite in a parallel universe?

“Just to delve briefly into the nature of time and string theory - If God exists beyond time and space - i.e. apart from His creation (and I believe that he does, and that there is scriptural evidence of such) - then time does not work the same for Him (as implied in His very name).”

String theory is a very controversial theory.

“As such, when we use words like “predestined” and extrapolate this concept - as we understand it - we are placing God within the sphere of time.”

No, predestination places God outside the sphere of time.

“However, if you can grasp the concept of 3-dimensional time (and not many folks can - it escapes my understanding very quickly, though I know physicists who can grasp the concept better than I can), ‘predestination’ no longer holds the same meaning.”

The question we should be asking ourselves is not what meaning it holds in string theory, but what meaning it holds in Scripture.

“If God can move forward and backward at will, along with moving from side to side in time, then there are a myriad of potential pasts and futures.”

i) Notice that he’s resorting to a spatial metaphor. God can move forward and backward, or side-to-side, in time. How does he propose to translate that picturesque imagery into a literal concept of time as well as God’s relation to time?

ii) What reason has he given us to believe that God moves “forward and backward or side-to-side” in time? Sounds like a complicated dance step. Is he getting his theology from Hairspray or Step-Up?

“However, we know from scripture that there are certain things (X) that God predestines (like giving Hezekiah 15 more years of life). When He does this in 3D-time-space, it is basically like He is closing off all potential futures in which X doesn’t happen. However, this still leaves room for man’s free will (the limited futures within the bounds of God’s will).”

What leaves room for man’s (libertarian) freewill? Scripture, or Lyons’ quasi-figurative, quasi-scientific theory of time?

“But wait - does that mean that God does not know what man will do? Not in 3D-time-space, because He knows all of the futures, because He can see all of them.”

This is inept, in part because it trades on an equivocation. The future is what will be, not what might have been. To know what a man will do is not to know what a man would have done in a multitude of potential, but unrealized, future outcomes. Knowledge of the possible is not knowledge of the actual.

“But what happens when the future becomes the past? If God sits beyond time and space, then even the past does not have to be static (to Him), even if we perceive it to be so.”

This tacitly assumes the A-theory of time. Lyons has offered no defense for the A-theory of time. And, to my knowledge, many modern physicists subscribe to a block theory of time.

“If you have a basic grasp of quantum physics, then it should be obvious that using words like ‘predestination’ in relation to God and then trying to apply our limited working knowledge of time (one-dimensional, one-way) to that same definition is like trying to explain how to stop a 3-dimensional soccer ball with the goalie bar in Pong.”

A couple of basic problems:

i) There is nothing resembling a scientific consensus on the correct interpretation of quantum mechanics. The ontological status of quantum mechanics (i.e. is it descriptive of reality?) is a matter of ongoing dispute.

ii) Lyons offers no explanation as to how quantum mechanics would harmonize predestination with libertarian freewill.

“Additionally, when you remove our limited box of “time” from God, the manifestation of Jesus - God in human form, limited in dimensions and time - and his relationship to God, including his praying in the garden for God to change His mind, begins to make sense, as well, without having to apply limited logic of free will or predestination to the equation.”

i) But the Father didn’t change his mind in answer to Jesus’ prayer.

ii) Why, moreover, is Lyons trying to harmonize predestination and prayer? The harmonistic principle is a principle of systematic theology. If you deny the legitimacy of systematic theology, then it’s illicit to logically relate all these revealed truths.

“In a nutshell - if you remove the one-dimensionality of time from the equation, then there is not a contradiction of free will and predestination, because they are literally two aspects of the same phenomena.”

Reading Lyons is like reading Chopra. He has a dilettante’s command of scientific lingo, and he sprinkles scientific verbiage into his discourse as if using scientific words is the same thing as using scientific concepts, or developing then into an actual argument.

“How can I have certainty that none of the systematized views of God in relation to time is true to the exclusion of others? There, I would go to the Bible. There are examples of places where God has predestined things (like with Hezekiah), and there are examples of places where God makes it apparent that people must make a free-will choice (like with Esther).”

This is philosophically amateurish. He shows no grasp of the literature on compatibilism.

“There are also places where men choose to go against God’s will, but end up being forced in that direction anyway (like Jonah).”

This is exegetically amateurish. Jonah resisted the command of God, but not the decree of God. Indeed, God’s decretive will foreordained his resistance to God’s preceptive will.

“When any of these views (all of which are man-made extrapolations as to the nature of God) are taken to the extreme, then they have to come up with contortionist reasoning to explain away contradictory passages in scripture.”

Adjectives in place of arguments.

“On the other hand, if you accept that each view contains a part of the truth because of the nature (or super-nature, to be accurate) of God, then you are not stuck trying to make less-than-convincing eisegeses of scripture.”

Notice that he’s talking like a systematic theologian.

“In practice, though, one should live like you have free will to choose - how would you know the difference? One should act like God knows everything that you do and think - in view and in secret - because He does. One should pray like your petitions matter to God and that, like with Hezekiah and Moses, He might have mercy and change His mind - because we have these examples in the Bible.”

He says he rejects neotheism, but he operates with a neotheist hermeneutic.

“Trying to separate ‘true’ Christians from ‘false’ ones based on a dominant view of systematic theology is unscriptural and does not edify the body of Christ.”

If you reject systematic theology, then you can’t declare anything unscriptural.

“As for the passages you cite, some of them (though not John 6) indicate some level of predestination.”

Levels of predestination?

“When you suggest that they are the ONLY way of examining time in relation to God, you have just built an extrabiblical ‘system’.”

This is pretty funny coming from a guy who thinks we should filter the witness of Scripture through such extrabiblical prisms as string theory and quantum mechanics.

Lyons is a standard issue relativist, and like all his ilk, he speaks with a forkéd tongue.

The admonitions of Scripture

Libertarians commonly charge that Calvinism renders the warnings of Scripture “meaningless.” There are a couple of initial problems with this charge. They don’t define their terms, and they don’t bother to mount an actual argument.

Instead, we’re treated to bare, blustery assertions. The critics don’t feel the need to convert this into an argument since their position is “obviously” true.

Of course, this is rather like a naive realist. Isn’t it obvious that objects are smaller at a distance? After all, they look smaller at a distance? So the most obvious explanation is that they seem smaller at a distance because they really are smaller at a distance.

1.What do they mean by “meaningless”? This is a word with more than one sense:

i)”Meaningless” could signify that something is unintelligible. Gibberish. The sentences make no sense.

Clearly, though, that is not what the critics have in mind. Rather, they think that Calvinism is clearly wrong. So they regard Reformed theology as presenting a set of intelligible propositions. Otherwise, the critics couldn’t even say that Calvinism is mistaken. You don’t say that gibberish is wrong. Gibberish has no truth-value. It doesn’t assert or deny anything. Only an intelligible proposition can be wrong.

2.”Meaningless” could also signify that something is pointless. It serves no purpose.

This seems to be what the critics have in mind. Notice, though, what this objection amounts to.

Many libertarians contend that Calvinism is unscriptural. The Bible “obviously” teaches libertarian freewill.

But if you’re going to say that, according to Calvinism, the warnings are pointless, then this is not, in fact, an exegetical objection, but a philosophical objection. So the libertarian is guilty of a bait-and-switch scam.

He begins by claiming that our position is unscriptural. We then defend our position on exegetical grounds. And, frankly, that should suffice for a Christian. There are only two necessary conditions for Calvinism to be true:

i) Scripture is true;

ii) Calvinism is Scriptural.

Calvinism is concerned with being faithful to the meaning of Scripture. When, by contrast, the libertarian says that Calvinism renders the warnings “meaningless” in the sense of “pointless,” that’s a backdoor admission that he’s lost the exegetical debate, and must downshift to a philosophical objection. He can’t take issue with our exegesis, so he can only take issue with the consequences of our exegesis.

3.For the sake of argument, let’s pursue the consequences. The argument goes something like this:

If it’s impossible for a Christian to commit apostasy, then the warnings serve no purpose. The libertarian regards this objection as intuitively compelling. But is it?

i) Suppose a bridge is washed out. The police place a barricade across the bridge, with a warning sign.

Suppose, as a result of the warning sign, no driver dares to cross the bridge. Wouldn’t it be quite counterintuitive to say the warning sign was pointless because it successfully deterred drivers from attempting to cross the bridge and drown in the river? To the contrary, wouldn’t that consequence show that the warning sign had, in fact, served its purpose?

ii) Suppose, though, the libertarian will object that while, as a matter of fact, no driver disregarded the sign, that unless a driver was free to disregard the sign, then the sign would be pointless.

But how does that follow in the least? Suppose the drivers have been brainwashed. Their psychological conditioning is so overpowering that every time they see a warning sign, they take the warning to heart. They are unable to resist their conditioning.

Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume that the warning sign has this coercively deterrent effect on the drivers, how would that render the stimulus pointless?

It is dangerous to drive across a washed out bridge. The police place a barricade across the bridge, along with a warning sign, knowing (let us say), that if a driver sees the warning, he will invariably heed the warning due to his psychological conditioning. He has been brainwashed to respond that way to that particular stimulus.

Even in that limiting case, the warning sign serves a purpose. Indeed, it serves the very purpose it was intended to serve. It successfully deters the driver from crossing the bridge. The fact that it cannot fail to succeed scarcely renders it pointless. To the contrary, what would be more purposeful than something that invariably performs its appointed function?

iii) And there’s nothing the least bit arbitrary about the sign. The sign effects a result which would not otherwise obtain apart from the sign. If there were no warning sign, some drivers would attempt to cross the bridge. Their cars would plunge into the river below, and they would drown.

So it does make a difference whether or not the sign is there. This isn’t fatalism. Absent the sign, you would have a different outcome. So the sign is instrumental in determining a particular outcome. If you take the sign seriously, then it will deter you from attempting to cross the bridge. And that’s what the sign is for. Its fundamental value is a deterrent value.

iv) So what, if anything, would render the sign pointless? Well, suppose that you drove through the barricade and magically transported over the gap where the missing span used to be to the other side of the riverbank.

Levitation would render the sign pointless. If you can flout the sign with impunity, if you can disregard the sign without suffering the stated consequences, then—indeed—the sign serves no purpose. In that event, the sign is simply false. But, of course, Calvinism doesn’t say that you can flout the warnings with impunity—quite the contrary.

v) Or, to consider another scenario, suppose a driver tried to crash the barricade, and discovered that the barricade was impenetrable. If it’s physically impossible to crash the barricade, does that render the barricade pointless?

Hardly. Isn’t the purpose of the barricade to impede traffic? If the barricade presents an impenetrable barrier, then it serves it’s purpose—does it not? It successfully prevented any foolhardy driver from attempting to cross the bridge. If the barricade is so strong that it’s impossible for any vehicle to crash the barricade, then the barricade is doing its job. It was designed to hinder access, and it does what it was design to do.

vi) Does the barricade make the sign superfluous? Depends on what you mean. Every analogy has its limitations. In this case, I’m introducing both the sign and the barricade to illustrate different kinds of impossibility. The sign illustrates psychological impossibility while the barricade represents physical or metaphysical impossibility. If each is sufficient to prevent a given outcome, their combination is a form of overkill. You don’t need both. But it’s useful to have both so that we can examine the libertarian objection from every angle.

vii) Even in this case, the sign is still meaningful. Indeed, what the sign says is true. If you were in a position to disregard the sign, and you did so, you would suffer the stated consequences. Conditional statements can be true statements, even if they’re counterfactual statements.

The fact that a hypothetical may never be realized hardly renders it either unintelligible or pointless. Indeed, counterfactuals are a basic feature of moral deliberation. It’s because a hypothetical course of action has certain consequences that we avoid it.

I’d add that libertarian schemes (e.g. Arminianism, Molinism, open theism) are up to their nostrils in hypotheticals and counterfactuals (e.g. sufficient grace, future contingents, potential universalism—via unlimited atonement]).

viii) So what we have here is a distinction between psychological possibility or impossibility and metaphysical possibility or impossibility. The fact that it is psychologically impossible for the regenerate to disregard the warnings and thereby commit apostasy doesn’t make the warnings the least bit pointless, for the aforementioned reasons.

What would make them pointless is if it was physically or metaphysically possible to disregard the warnings without suffering the consequences—which Calvinism denies.

Pachyderm Theology

Chris Lyons has a beef with systematic theology. His post critiques the project of systematic theology by appeal to that old story about the 6 blind men and the one elephant. You know, they each felt a part of the elephant and thought that their experience of the elephant constituted the whole truth of the matter (one felt the trunk and said it was a snake, another, the tusks, and said it was a spear, etc.,) when, really, there were many truths of the matter; so goes the story...

Lyons states:

The jist of the story [...] was that the elephant was too big for any one man to comprehend, and that the collective view of the elephant was much closer to right than the individual viewpoints of the elephant.

The collective view was closer to the right (or, true) view. Note four things:

1) This assumes one has the truth and so can say when something is closer to the truth, or not. The story actually presupposes, for its force to work, that one has the entire truth. If this were not stated then the story wouldn't be all that interesting. Let's re-tell it without revealing the whole truth: 6 Indian men were told to report what they were holding. One said a snake. The other, a spear. The other, well he felt a wall. One said he was holding a rope. Another reported that he was feeling a large fan. And the last one said he felt a bush. Now, is there anything here problematic? No(!), it's only when we know the whole entire truth that the story makes an impression.

2) The collective view was not closer to being right than any one particular view. Put the above together and you have a single entity made of wall, spear, rope, snake, bush, and a fan! Call this being a whatchamacallit. I dare say that if any of us saw an elephant standing next to a whatchamacallit there would be no mistaking one for the other. Or, stated another way, say that there was a math test. The teacher only asked one question to his students. That question was, "What does 2 x 2 =?" Now, say he received 6 answers: 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, and 22. Would anyone say that these combined answers were collectively closer to the truth that one wrong answer? (There were some similarities, just like with the elephant. For instance, all the answers were even - so was the correct answer, etc.)

3) Another option has not been presented, namely, they were all wrong. Now, one could say that they were correct metaphorically, but then this would remove the critique against truth and objectivity, which this argument serves to attack. But, I doubt even this move. At best, they were correct metaphorically about part of the elephant. If they were to say that their metaphor was in line with the whole enchilada, they'd be mistaken.

4) This is the moral attempted to be drawn from this poem:

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,

Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,

And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

But notice that the author can only make this critique (about others being wrong, etc.,) because he has knowledge (or has seen) the entire elephant. So, it is he who has the entire truth. If the moral is intended to critique those who say that they have the whole truth, it is self-refuting. Or, perhaps it is the critique of a man who believes that only he possesses the whole truth of the matter and all of the other people (theologians) in the world are blind to the truth, merely acting a fool. In this case, the one who uses the critique is something of a megalomaniac. A narcissist.

In other words, systematic theology asks what the entire Bible has to say about the various loci. That is, the systematic theologian asks, "What does the entire Bible teach about X," where X is a biblical concept: God, man, ethics, salvation, eschatology, etc. Thus the elephant story only makes sense because one has the whole picture and can put the facts together and see how each one makes sense and fits together within the whole. And so it appears that an appeal to this story is actually self-refuting!

Moving along...

"Each of us can interact with the elephant to feel and experience it, but we also have a very limited frame of reference. Unfortunately, like the blind men in the story, we treat our frame of reference as the only valid frame, where everyone else is mistaken and must be feeling something other than the real elephant.

The key mistakes that each of us tend to make are 1) assuming we have the only valid frame of reference, and more importantly; 2) we place the entire elephant inside our frame of reference! We then build our entire systems of theology around our single view of the elephant, all the while mocking/cajoling/condemning the other blind men who are busy doing the same thing with their limited view."

Here we see that Lyons just misunderstands what the systematic theologian is doing. Systematicians do not say that they know the entire truth of the matter. Rather, they take only what the Bible says about a matter and seek to show what the whole Bible says about the matter. Surely Lyons doesn't disagree that we do have Bibles! So we take them (our Bibles) and seek to see what it teaches us about the loci presented therein. Also, note my point above: The story works because we do have access to the whole. If we didn't, the story wouldn't work. So for Lyons' critique to be consistent, he must say that he has access to the whole of the matter! I should also point out that there are Reformed theologians who agree that we need to make sure we are looking at doctrine from all angles. Vern Poythress' Symphonic Theology is case in point. Men like Poythress and Frame have sought to point out that Arminians, Dispensationalists, etc., make some valid points that we would do well to incorporate into our system. Similarly, I, as a Presbyterian, have learned much from my Reformed Baptist brothers. Some of their ideas have been invaluable to my theological development. So Lyons is simply inconsistent with the facts, here.


"Some of us, primarily of the Calvinist persuasion, read parts of scripture which emphasize God having foreknowledge and predestining people or events. Everything else about God and time is then forced through this filter of ‘preknowing’. This ends up ignoring or reinterpreting other wide swaths of scripture which make it evident that God allows man to choose certain things, or that show that God has changed His mind (I guess He was just fakin’ it), or - worse yet - having a man, be it Abraham, Moses, Hezekiah or other prophets/kings, convince Him to change his mind. It also puts Jesus in a bizarre kabuki dance in the garden of Gathsemene, in which Jesus is God but he prays to God to change His mind, but He does not. In the end, God comes out being something much less than God, where fatalism trumps love."

I'll end with this one since I'm not here to defend Arminianism or Open Theism (his next targets).

For someone who rails on making sure the whole truth is represented Lyons sure revels in his ability to misrepresent a position. No Calvinist I know would give Lyons' characterization of our position their seal of approval. We don't recognize ourselves in this critique. Perhaps rather than railing against systematic theology (which he has clearly misrepresented their project), he should spend time studying his opponents' position. Surely proper representation is just as important at not putting the facts of the Bible into a "box?"

Furthermore, having read countless books by Reformed theologians, I have not noted that "everything is filtered through this preknowing." Now, it may be true that everything is filtered in though soli Deo gloria. Or sola Christo.

I also have no clue why he believes that Calvinists think men don't choose things. We don't believe men are forced, against their will, to select the options that they do. It's not as if the Calvinist thinks that, say, a man really wants an apple pie but as he reaches his hand for it an invisible hand comes down and forces his hand towards the rhubarb pie, a brief struggle ensures, the mans hand shakes, but ultimately it is forced to grab (and eat!) the rhubarb pie.

As far as God changing his mind, that would depend on what Lyons means by that claim. We certainly allow for and can explain the biblical data that represents God as "changing his mind." One example can be found in Pratt: Historical Contingencies and Biblical Predictions. Another sense can be found in judicial categories. Many times "forgetting" and "remembering" have reference to God delaying or fulfilling the terms of his covenant (whether blessings or curses). Much of the so-called "Divine ignorance" passages appear in judicial contexts. When God asked Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" he was not admitting ignorance, as if he couldn't see them hiding behind that bush (or was it an elephant leg!?), he was asking for an admission of guilt.

It seems that Lyons thinks he can just assert that some passage which teaches ignorance should be taken literally (for that's the only way we have a problem). But then if this is his approach, then why stop with Christian theologies? What about Christian heresies like Mormonism? Maybe they have a corner on truth too. When Genesis 11:5 teaches us that "the Lord came down to see" the building of the tower of Babel, why not take this as Scripture teaching that God bodily descended to earth? Walked down from heaven. Perhaps if Lyons wasn't so reticent or hostile towards systematics, he wouldn't make these blunders? And, yes, Jesus, the Son, prayed to the Father. Lyons' critiques are based on lazy reports of half-truths which aspire to draw a whole-truth contradiction.

Moreover, fatalism teaches that the ends happen regardless of the means. This is not the Calvinist position. To call it Greek fatalism is to simply slander a fellow Christian.

Lastly, let me point out a main error in Lyon's thought. People cannot both be right about contradictory things (save the dialetheism discussion fo another time!). So, it is not as if we deny choice qua selection from options, we deny libertarian choice. Thus it cannot be that the libertarians and the Calvinist each have a corner on the truth in this instance. If the Calvinist holds to something that contradicts, say, PAP, then it cannot be true. If ~PAP is the case, then PAP is not the case. What sense would it be to say that we have libertarian free will, and that we never have it too, at the same time and in the same sense, and both are true? If that is possible, then why won't God send us to both heaven and hell at the same time and in the same sense?

I thus judge that Lyons' critique fails miserably.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Turn on, tune in, drop out

I'm curious about why an old geezer like Ron Paul has such a fan base among some of the younger voters. It reminds me of the position that Timothy Leary occupied in the Sixties’ youth culture. Young people naturally value their independence. And they like it when a titular grown-up like Leary (Harvard prof.) gives them permission to do their own thing. An authority-figure who tells them it's okay to question authority.

I wonder if Ron Paul's seniority and libertarianism isn't the contemporary counterpart. Yes, he's a social conservative, but what does that really amount to if gov't has no right to legislate morality? Isn't this ultimately just another appeal to personal autonomy? "Don't tread on me!"

Bauer on Huckabee on immigration

Although Huckabee is my current preference (and at this stage of the process, I don't see a viable alternative), I agree with Bauer on this issue:

Election & Calling

Election & Calling: A Biblical / Theological Study by Dr. Greg Welty

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Endangered Theological Blogger #546: The Thibodaux-daux Bird

The Thibodaux-daux Bird

Thibodaux's latest Jambalaya (On The Bayou) is simply the desperate bleatings of a dying species. From now on, if someone is philosophically or theologically exterminated, it will be known as "going the way of the Dauxdaux." After this post, Josh will be "as dead as a Dauxdaux." Much like his cousin, the Dodo bird, Thibodaux's etymology is not clear. It may have reference to the repugnant sound the Dauxdaux makes as it constantly repeats its shrill cries. It may refer to the psychological trait that manifests itself in the assumption that repeating yourself more than once magically makes your original assertion that much more credible. Or, it may be related to dodaars ("plump-arse"), the Dutch name of the Little Grebe. The connection may have been made because of similar feathers of the hind end or because both animals were ungainly. However, the Dutch are also known to have called the Mauritius bird the walghvogel ("loathsome bird" or "nauseating fowl") in reference to its taste. Whatever the etymology, it is unimportant for our purposes. The bird has been fatally wounded. The humane thing to do now is to put it out of its misery.

Anyway, for those who want the entire context, here it is:

* 1. Thibodaux's challenge

* 2. My answer to 1.

* 3. His response to 2.

4. My response to 3.

* 5. His response to 4.

Thibodaux's comments will be in red.

My response to 5:

"You know, I've been in several informal debates now, and I can honestly say that this is the first time I've ever had a male opponent even mention the prospect of (putting 2 and 2 together from the title) tickling my tummy, or offer any commentary concerning another man's anatomy for that matter."

I wasn't even thinking along those lines. Well, we all know where Thibodaux's head is. Anyway, I hope to take another first. I bet this is the first time you've been referred to as a Dauxdaux bird. Also, I now think I know what Thibodaux's problem is. His father never tickled him as a boy. And, he also mentioned that he has children, if they are male then I assume that he never says that he's going to tickle them. If he says that that is acceptable in the context of the father/son relationship, then I wonder what his beef is? I'm just showing him who is daddy is. (Note: Thibodaux will probably complain about this too. Note that he tries to use sophistic rhetoric (e.g., implying I have homosexual motives), but complains about my rhetoric. Either Thibodaux is so self-deceived that he doesn't see that he does the same thing his opponents do, or he's jealous of my superior rhetorical abilities. Either way he shouldn't act so upset, it simply makes him look desperate. Makes his sarcastic rhetorical devices appear forced. Seeing how manly he is, I'd advise him to quit acting like a cry-baby when we are both obviously playing by the same rules.) For example, in his first ever post to a T-blogger, he writes,

"Must have dispelled one too many of the widespread misconceptions they spread about Arminian/Synergist theology. Militant Calvinists hate that. So now one of the headstrong Triabloguers has decided to open fire on my article, but as I'll demonstrate below, it would certainly help his case if he could aim in the right direction." Or, take this gem, "Why this assertion is necessarily so or where any inherent problems lie he never really specifies, but blindly he ploughs on...." Or, what about this, "I love rabid Calvinist logic?" SOURCE And this was just in the first few paragraphs of his first post. I could cite myriad others.

Thibodaux has no problem maligning those he debates with as "militant" and "headstrong" and "bad aims" and "blind" and "rabid" etc., etc., etc. Apparently when Thibodaux tries to use a little rhetorically flare, it's okay. Apparently when he likens someone with the name "militant" (especially useful as rhetoric these days with terms like "militant Muslim"), and seeks to poison the well against them, he's okay since he's "one of the good guys." Or, to refer to someone as "blindly ploughing on" is just an honest and non-emotive laden comment. Used in a purely objective way. Likening us to dogs (i.e., rabid Calvinists) isn't pejorative at all, is it? Thibodaux's hypocrisy has only served to show just how seriously one should take him and his holier-than-though attitude. All his comments about how he's debating with integrity serve to undermine him and sully his character. Perhaps he can lay off the "I'm so better than you guys approach" and just fire back with his rhetoric (or don't use any at all if he's not mature to get back what he gives), and then get on with the debate? Perhaps not, because what then would he have to blog about? Surely nothing substantive.

I had said, "Also, note that Thibodaux tries to appeal to the pity of his audience. He can't be a bully because he's outnumbered 8 to 1." He responded,

"'Pity?' Interesting thought. Of course I would technically have to be losing for that to work...."

First, a fallacy is a fallacy whether you're "winning" or "losing." Second, you are technically losing. In fact, Arminianism has already lost. Welcome to reality.

I pointed out that Thibodaux had no room whining and moaning about being up 8 to 1 considering he leveled the challenge, he replied:

"The challenge, if you recall, was issued as part of my response (in case anyone wanted to take up a real debate) to a critique written against a post I made on Arminian Perspectives, which was not addressed to or aimed at anyone from Triablogue. In other words, Triablogue came to me. Forgive me for standing up to you and meeting you head-on."

Maybe one or two T-blog members came to you, but you are the one who made the challenge a blank check for any T-blogger to cash in. Let us recall the words of the Dauxdaux bird:

"In any case, the Challenge I issued to Triablogue still stands open, are any of you up for it?"

See, you said it was YOU who issued the challenge to ALL OF US even though not ALL OF US responded to you. In fact, I never even heard of you until I read one of the posts on T-blog. So, my point stands. Don't try to gain pity when you are the one who challenged all of us. Don't whine about it being 8 to 1 when you're the one who asked for it to be 8 to 1! That just makes you look pathetic.

I had written, "I wouldn't feel sorry for someone who tried to mess with a bunch of bayou gators, I'd call him stupid." Thibs responded:

"Oh yeah, 'stupid.' There's a big touche' if I've ever heard one. Did he come up with that one all by himself? Now if we can dispense with the revisionist history and ad hominem, we can move on to more substantial poin-- never mind, let's just work with what he's got. He actually argues quite a few ridiculous concepts, which I'll list further below for strictly comedic purposes; for now let's stick with his comments that resemble meaningful."

I already showed that there was no revision on my end. There is on Thibodaux's end, though. Apparently Thibodaux is allergic to the facts and so takes offense at my referring to him as stupid (for issuing a challenge to 8 people, all of whom can eat him for lunch). He also wants originality (but above I was chastised for my originality when mentioning my touching his doughy tum-tum, causing him to say, "Hee hee," so he's not very consistent). Hopefully he likes being listed on the endangered theological bloggers list as the Dauxdaux bird. He should have no complaints with anything I've said above, then. Granting me that point, I'll now move on and clean up all the debris left from him stepping on the land mines that littered the landscape of my last post.

Now we can get into the material. As I did last time, I'll follow Thobodaux's headings.

The Purpose of the Warnings

I have been pointing out that the warnings (among other things) serve as means to bring the elect to glory, to final salvation. Thibodaux doesn't like this, he thinks we can't provide any useful reason for the warnings. I take it that this is a sound argument:

[1] If some X is a means in bringing some Y to an end, then X is not meaningless.

[2] The warnings in the Bible are an X (a means of God to enable the elect to persevere).

[3] Therefore, the warnings are not meaningless.

We are to "tremble at the threatenings." Indeed, Reformed theology has always taught that if you don't "tremble at the threatenings" then you don't have saving faith: "By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come" (WCF XIV:II). Therefore, not taking the threatenings seriously, but presumptuously thinking that we are set, that we have already taken hold of the prize, is an evidence-indicator (a fruit --> root inference) that we never had saving faith in the first place. The threatenings cause us to grab hold of Christ. Holding on to Jesus is the only way to heaven. Thus the threatenings are means of salvation (or, of reaching glorification).

To this Thibodaux responds:

"If you say "tremble at the threatenings," then try to explain that the consequences of threatenings could never actually occur to whom they were delivered, then you have produced dissonance aplenty, as you are in effect telling us to tremble at a sheer impossibility. So reformed theology yields a rather confusing view that despite its noble sentiment in commanding to heed the admonitions of God, its cardinal doctrines undermine them by leaving no real reason for those that are not elect to tremble at the warnings given (as the consaeces already irrevocably apply to them, the heeding of any warning being unable to reverse it), nor the elect to do so since it also holds that the consequences of such warnings could never apply to them at all. So whether you're elect or not, Calvinist doctrine still renders them void of any real meaning."

This is simply to repeat his original claims. I take it that his argument can be expressed thusly:

[4] If someone S makes a hypothetical statement H such that it is impossible for the antecedent to become instantiated, then S has made H meaningless.

[5] Calvinism implies that God gives an H in the warnings passages such that it is impossible for the antecedent to become instantiated.

[6] Thus on Calvinism's assumptions God makes meaningless assertions.

I countered this by [1] - [3] above. Second, [4] is an unproven assumption. It's certainly not an assumption he can derive from the Bible. Third, given what he's claimed elsewhere, he shouldn't associate himself with [4] since: "Though our viewpoints do often overlap, I prefer not to associate my doctrinal beliefs with the name of a mortal man." Is [4] a "doctrinal belief?" If not, then how does he critique perseverance of the saints (POS, hereafter) with it? If it is, then let him show it in the Bible, or else he must disassociate himself from [4]. Third, we can show the unbiblical nature of this extra-biblical assumption ([4]) thusly:

In Genesis 15 Abraham wants to know how he can trust God's promises. God tells him to get some animals. Abraham knows what to do, he cuts them in half. It is then God who walks through the carcasses. As virtually every biblical scholar agrees, what is being performed by this act is God declaring that: "If I violate my covenant promises, then I will be like these animals." That is, God says that IF he were to violate the terms of the covenant, he would put himself to death.

But if Abraham were Thibraham, we would hear him say, "That is meaningless, God! You can't kill yourself, so why say that if you violated the terms of the covenant you would kill yourself. Don't you know that if someone makes a hypothetical claim in which the antecedent is impossible to instantiate, he has made a meaningless claim?"

Next, take this text from Jeremiah 32:20 "This is what the LORD says: 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, 21 then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne."

Here Jehovah is stating that the Davidic covenant will never fail to have a king sitting on the throne of the house of Israel. To show that a king will always persevere on the throne Jehovah states that: If my covenant could be broken, then a king would not persevere. The obvious implication is that it is impossible for this covenant to be broken. Is this a meaningless claim?

As we read one we see: 23 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 24 "Have you not noticed that these people are saying, 'The LORD has rejected the two kingdoms he chose'? So they despise my people and no longer regard them as a nation. 25 This is what the LORD says: 'If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, 26 then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.'" Again God offers a hypothetical with an antecedent that is impossible to instantiate, yet we would hardly say that this is a meaningless text in Scripture.

Furthermore, we note another argument implicit in the quoted portion:

[7] If the elect will persevere, then there is no need to take heed of the warnings; no need to tremble at the threatenings.

[8] Calvinism states that the elect will persevere.

[9] Therefore there is no need for us to take heed of the warnings; no need to tremble at the threatenings.

But we can see that this denies the means argument. It is as if the Dauxdaux bird thinks that we teach that the elect persevere no matter what they do or what happens. But this is fatalism. We teach that the ends do not come about (generally) without the means. My argument has been that this trembling is one of the ways true believers are strengthened. Only those who trust in Christ will be saved. The warnings serve as means to keep us trusting in Christ! Just like hearing the word, partaking of the sacraments, and fellowship of the saints are all means God uses to strengthen us in the faith, so are the warning passages. Those who don't fall away will reign with Christ. The warnings serve as one of the very means God uses to keep the elect from falling. They incite us to greater prayer and watchfulness. To say that if POS were true, we would not need to be watchful is to beg the question. If one is not watchful, one is giving an evidence-indicator that he is not a saint. I just reverse his argument, then:

[10] If the elect will persevere, then they will take heed of the warnings; tremble at the threatenings.

[11] Calvinism states that the elect will persevere.

[12] Therefore there we will take heed of the warnings; tremble at the threatenings.

The minute you don't think you need to take heed of the warnings is the minute you provide evidence you may not be a saint. Thus I'd argue that POS presupposes taking the warnings seriously.

As I said last time: Lastly, the purpose of the warnings for believers is that they are means to keep them in the faith. Keep them trusting in Jesus. Take them in a nonchalant way, provide and evidence-indicator that you're not saved. Saved people trust in Christ. Saved people believe that if we do X, then Y will happen. So we don't do X, thanks be to God.

But Thibodaux responds:

"But concerning warnings with a damning consequence written specifically to the saints, you believe that Y can't happen, which drives your belief that X can't happen either. So Calvinists end up making the possibility of an apparently possible condition contingent upon its consequence. Interesting logic."

The warnings are given specifically to the entire congregation, first off. To the saints and the false professors. Second, Y can't happen because we will not X. Means, Thibodaux, means. Third, the only reason Thibodaux thinks we have a problem is because of his belief in [4]. That assumption remains an unproven one. Fourth, had Thibodaux been on the boat with Paul in the first century, he would have stopped doing anything!! We read:

Acts 27: 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

21 After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.

27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." 32So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away. "

Given Thibodaux's rather unbiblical logic, he would have just put his feet up, refused to do any rowing, hoisting, bailing, etc., and said, "Paul, to tell me that if I don't do X we will not make it is ridiculous. Indeed, you have promulgated the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Sailors (POS!), hence to warn me that if I do not cut the lines, etc., we will be destroyed is to speak incoherent babble."

It is thus clear that Thibodaux's ideas are out of accord with the worldview we see held to in the Bible. All of his points crash upon the rocks of the myriad arguments I've lobbed which I have received from the text of Scripture and from sound reasoning.

I said, "Thus we do not "mess around." We do not "take things lightly." We "cling to Jesus Christ." We pray that he will keep us in the faith. That we would not deny him. That our profession would be genuine." And Thibodaux responds,

"I didn't say that you did, but neither should you make the word void by writing off the warnings that God gives to the saints as impossibilities."

Well then, if we don't, and if you didn't say we did, then you admit that we take the warnings seriously. That they serve as means for holding on to Christ. If you admit that we take them seriously, then you admit that we don't make the word of God void. All you're saying is that we have to take the warnings the way you do. But Thibodaux is not my standard. Its not solo Thibodaux daux. If you admit we do the above, then you admit we do them (in part) because of the warning passages.

For any true believer, in and of himself, it is a possibility. It is only impossible because God will not let us fall. WCF XXVII: II. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

Moving along....

"Mr. Manata imports false assumption into his argument, as I do believe that the warnings are a means of salvation, the problem with his view is that they can only be so effectively if one believes them to be genuine and possible to violate."

And we are going to get proof for this assertion when, exactly? It doesn't justify your tendentious claim to simply announce it, again. And, how's this: The commandments of God serve as means by which to judge the unregenerate. They are commanded to BE PERFECT. But, it is not possible that they could be perfect, especially given Thibodaux's affirmation of total depravity. Does he reason that they are not genuine since it is not possible for any merely human being to keep all of them? Furthermore, we do believe them genuine and possible to violate. But if we violate them we only prove that we were never joined to Christ in the first place. Thus we endeavor to trust in Christ and plead for his spirit to strengthen us until we cross the Jordan. Lastly, you last sentence assumes a position not found in the Bible. But, you claim that POS contradicts the Bible. You furthermore said that you won't associate yourself with doctrines of men. But if your last sentence is a doctrinal position, and you cannot find it in the Bible, then you need to disassociate yourself with it. At the very least you need to provide a cogent argument for your assumption. It surely isn't a truth of logic. It surely isn't an obvious claim - not to me or thousands of other people. And I've argued that it is contradictory to what we find in the Bible. So, you have nothing by way of a "challenge" at this juncture. (Read that last line with a Bush the elder accent.)

Moving along...

"Indeed Christ is telling us how and to what extent to battle sin, but there's no indication within the text of a contrast between differing types of people here. The nature of His warning,

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

is such that it could only be specifically addressing those who believe, since the issue of battling sin is irrelevant for those who have no saving faith, and would have no bearing on their escaping hell. It is not a contrasting description, but a prescription, as well as a powerful warning to those faithful to Him."

And of course "it is better that one of thy members should perish and not thy whole body should be cast in hell." So what's the problem. How do you get from that, to this: "POS is false, therefore." It's not an obvious implication. It's not like: "John is in California," so, "John is in America." You're going to actually need to put forth an argument rather than assuming libertarianisms ought-implies-can assumption. Their "inability limits responsibility" assumption. We're not Arminians here. So we don't get bothered when we read "arguments" that simply preach to the choir.

He continues,

"He tried to answer me on Hebrews 4,

'His assumption that they are "sincerely following Christ" is vague. People can be sincerely wrong. But, if he means that they have genuine saving faith, let him show it, not assert it.'

Which I already did, in that the author of Hebrews is addressing those who have believed (vs 3), and have Christ as their High Priest (vs. 14)."

Those who have believed "enter that rest." Those who have Christ as their high priest are those who have intercession made for them. Those who have intercession made for them are those who will be saved completely (7:25). This high priest actually saves his people. Anyway, Thibodaux has not proven anything. There is not one instance where we ever read of an apostate as one who ever had true faith. Hebrews says that THEY ARE OF A DIFFERENT KIND OF SOIL THAT THE SAINTS WHO PERSERVERE. It's not as if they were of the same kind, but one just persevered whereas the other didn't. The saint and the apostate are of different natures!

Hebrews 6:4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Do you get that Thibodaux? The apostate - land which was burned - was a DIFFERENT KIND OF LAND that the believer - land that drinks the rain often and produces crop- who made it into heaven. One NEVER produced crop. One DID. Thus apostasy is an evidence-indicator (a root to fruit inference) of NEVER HAVING BEEN A TRUE BELIEVER IN THE FIRST PLACE. Thus NO ONE who have ever produced fruit can be said to be an apostate! The Reformed doctrine is that only those who produce fruit will persevere. You CANNOT show that ONE OF THEM apostatized since I JUST SHOWED that apostates NEVER DID produce even ONE STINKEN BLUEBERRY.

This is why we can say of the apostate that, 1 John 2:19 "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." The apostate was NEVER "of us." Had they been "of us" then they WOULD HAVE CONTINUED WITH US! Continuing to the end is proof of being a true believer. An "us."

Thus in Hebrews the apostate is never viewed as one of the elect, a true believer.

The Father, Christ, believers, and salvation are described differently by the author of Hebrews than by you. So says Dr. Roger Nicole:

"Hebrews describes God as all-powerful (1:3; 2:10) and fulfilling the designs of his will (2:4). His counsels are immutable (1:12; 6:17, 18) and his faithfulness is the ground of the confidence of believers (2:17; 6:10; 10:23; 11:6, 11). These are precisely the divine perfections in evidence in the doctrine of sovereign grace!

Hebrews describes the ministry of Christ, not in terms of what it might perform if only men should be willing, but rather in terms of what it does and will certainly accomplish. Christ is viewed as the one who leads his sons to glory (2:10), who brings to naught the devil (2:14), who delivers all ... the seed of Abraham (2:15), who propitiates for the sins of his people (2:17, 12:24) so that no divine wrath remains against them. He is the surety of the better covenant (7:22; 12:24); the perfected of the faith (12:2); the shepherd of the sheep (13:20) - and what shepherd worthy of the name would feel that all his job entails is to protect the sheep from enemies on the outside, but he is not responsible for sheep slipping away from the flock?; the High priest, representing his people and interceding for them (7:25) - and what kind of intercession would this be that would not even protect them from ultimate apostasy?

Hebrews describes believers in terms that imply permanent status: those who shall inherit salvation (1:14), God's sons (2:10; 12:5-11), Christ's brethren (2:12, 17; 3:1), God-given children (*2:13; cf. John 17:2, 6, 9, 11, 12), the seed of Abraham (2:16), God's people (2:17; 4:9; 8:10), the partakers of the heavily calling (3:1) and of Christ (3:14), Christ's house (3:6), the heirs of the promise (6:17; 8:6; 9:15), those who have been sanctified once for all (10:10, 14; 13:12, 21), the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven.

Hebrews describes salvation in terms that do not admit of defection or termination: the sons are brought to glory (2:10), the people of God enter God's rest (4:3, 9), the hope is well-grounded (6:18, 19), the new covenant is one where members do not fail (8:10, cf. 10:15-17), the saints are perfected forever (10:14; 12:2), the kingdom cannot be shaken (12:28), the salvation is to the uttermost (7:25), eternal (5:9; 9:12) and marked by endless life (7:16)." -- Roger Nicole, "Some Comments on Hebrews 6:4-6, And The Doctrine of The Perseverance of God With The Saints," in "Standing Forth: Collected Writings of Roger Nicole," p. 441-42.

Indeed, who are those addressed? 10:39 "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved."

I had wrote, "Those who believe WILL take hold of that final rest. The only ones who failed to enter were people who heard the good news. There is no argument that a true believer could fail to enter forthcoming." And Thibodaux thinks this a counter:

"As I pointed out, many who heard the good news also drank of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4), yet they did not enter into His rest. If it is speaking of eternal rest and also speaking to we who have believed that are entering, then such a warning against falling after Israel's example is a powerful argument."

Yeah, and their livestock "drank of Christ" too! Do you think cows will be in heaven, saved by the blood of Christ from their fallen bovine nature? Anyway, no one doubts that some people who partake in external graces which are given to God's people may apostatize from their profession of faith. And my particular tradition recognizes the existence of an external covenant community, just like that within Israel. Thus not all who are Israel are Israel. A true Jew is one who is one inwardly. So, at best you show that external covenant members fail to enter into God's rest. This says nothing of the elect, though. Remember, the elect and the apostate are not even in the same league. One is revealed to have never been in possession of what the other had.

I wrote of Thibodaux's reversed problem, "But how could God say this if it was possible that each and every single person saved could (contrary to the decree) all deny him?" Thibodaux gives away the farm:

"Because He already foreknows that such will not be the case."

See that. Thibodaux says that God can guarantee THESE PEOPLE that they will make it into heaven because God KNOWS THAT THEY WILL. But, Thibodaux's argument rears its ugly head and bites Thiboduaux in the rear toe. The warnings are ADDRESSED TO EVERYONE. So, as Thibodaux has pointed out more than once, "For the warning to be real or genuine, those to who it is given have to be able to actualize the state of affairs warned against. It is a real and genuine live option." But this could not be if God KNOWS that they will not fall. For if God knows that P, then P is true. And so Thibodaux has God saying, "I know that not-P, but watch out for P anyway!" But according to Thibologic, "this is meaningless."


Thibodaux takes a cheap shot now and attacks one of my claim without the support I provided. He says,

"When he asked about Hebrews 10:13-14, I responded, This text is often misinterpreted as saying that once sanctification is done, it cannot be undone because we've been made 'perfect forever.' This was not what the author was saying, he was indicating that Christ's sacrifice only needed to be performed once as opposed to the yearly sacrifices made under the old covenant (see the preceding context, note verses 3 and 11). [He responded:]

'This is extremely simplistic.'

Wow, that's a brilliant objection, which I would thank our astute detective for pointing out. Did he think I was giving him a short answer, or writing a commentary? I don't recall parsimony being a major exegetical error."

Of course I pointed out what was simplistic in his statement. I wrote:

This is extremely simplistic. It is true that the author is referring to the one-time sacrifice of Christ as opposed to the yearly sacrifices by the OT high priests, but what do we draw from this? The OT sacrifices could never save, "because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (v.4). This is contrasted with Christ's. For, "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (vv. 12-14). Thus we see that the death of Christ took away the sin of those it was made for. He therefore continues, "The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

"This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds." Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more."

And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin."

What, does God write his law on their minds, and then erase it, and then write it, and then erase it, and then write it, and then erase it, ad nauseum. This is where Thibodaux's position leads.

Those who "have been made perfect" is in the perfect tense, the present passive participle is used. Thus the status of God's people (this is the covenant I will make with THEM) is expressed in timeless terms (see France, 247). The "emphasis is being laid on the fact that by the same sacrifice those who have been cleansed and 'perfected' are now eternally constituted God's holy people" (ibid). What we have here is the fulfilling of Jeremiah's prophecy. The bringing about of the Covenant of Redemption. God's plan to save his people, who He foreknew and loved from the foundation of the world. Those who the lamb was slain for from the foundation of the world. The OT law and sacrifice was a "reminder of sin," this sacrifice is the "removal of sin." He remembers their lawless acts "NO MORE." This is why there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

But then he doesn't even respond to hardly any of this! He just picks on my claim that his comment was "simplistic." And it was. He pointed out a truism, but he shows he hasn't wrapped his head around its full and glorious meaning. One even wonders how Thibodaux thinks this new covenant is a "better" covenant? One wonders why the Bible makes all thus hub-bub about a "better" high priest. The old covenant couldn’t secure salvation and final forgiveness of sins, and apparently neither can the new covenant!

I said "hardly." Here's his response to all I wrote:

"More of the "saved, unsaved, saved again, unsaved again" canard. He continues, Those who "have been made perfect" is in the perfect tense, the present passive participle is used. Thus the status of God's people (this is the covenant I will make with THEM) is expressed in timeless terms (see France, 247).

That argument from tense is fraught with problems, since the present participles only indicate presently ongoing action, not irrevocably ongoing action, Galatians 1:4being a good example.

Uh, the "perfect tense" and "present participle." A.B. Davidson says of these present participles "the words are timeless designations of the two parties, taken from the part characteristic of each." "He has perfected" (v.14) is perfect tense. The link is between the SACRIFICE and being made perfect. The sacrifice of Christ was a one time, timeless, once for all, unrepeatable, sacrifice. Anyway, I'll side with eminent scholars Bruce and Davidson over you.

I wrote: The "emphasis is being laid on the fact that by the same sacrifice those who have been cleansed and 'perfected' are now eternally constituted God's holy people" (ibid). What we have here is the fulfilling of Jeremiah's prophecy. The bringing about of the Covenant of Redemption. God's plan to save his people, who He foreknew and loved from the foundation of the world. Those who the lamb was slain for from the foundation of the world. The OT law and sacrifice was a "reminder of sin," this sacrifice is the "removal of sin." He remembers their lawless acts "NO MORE." This is why there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

Thibodaux responded:

"Through such lengthy discourse my answer of what being made 'perfect forever' means still meets no real objection, nor has he made any headway in his points, since simply citing evidence for the covenant of grace between God and man does not constitute evidence that it is unbreakable."

This is simply sophistic rhetoric intended to put his own side at ease. Surely he notes he has dropped the ball in trying to respond to my argument. But, he just has to "say something." Furthermore, Thibodaux gives us more evidence of the question begging nature of his challenge. For THE REFORMED doctrine of the covenant of grace DOES provide evidence for POS. WCF Ch. XXVII II. "This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof." And the LBC, XVII II. "This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof."

Thus Thibodaux's critique simply TAKES FOR GRANTED that the majority of reformed theology is wrong. But if he's going to do that, why bother typing up a "challenge?" What Thibodaux is effectively doing is saying, "Pretend that all your other doctrines are wrong, and then try to answer this challenge." Thus his challenge is only a challenge if we leave out THE REST of our system of thought. But GIVEN THE TOTALLITY of Reformed thought, there is no challenge to be had. It's would be like if I made a challenge which denied libertarian free will, assumed determinism, and ask Thibodaux to show how all men were able to genuinely actualize alternate possibilities.

Thibodaux now argues that God's will can be thwarted:

[Manata writes], He cannot demonstrate the possibility of an elect, regenerate Christian falling away since the Bible says this won't happen:

John 6:38-40, 44 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Jesus says everyone who comes to him, who believes on him, will have eternal life.

"Yes, provided we remain in Him. It is indeed not God's will that He lose any, but this does not preclude men from acting out of line with God's will and displeasing Him."

Notice the failure god Thibodaux serves. Jesus says this:

38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

The Father sends the Son to earth on a mission, but Jesus fails. Notice that the Father "gives" a people to the Son. So, what does the God-man say about those the Father "gives" Jesus?

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

So, EVERYONE given by the Father comes to Jesus. What happens if you come to Jesus?

44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

Thus if one comes, one is raised. Jesus tells us that IF ONE COMES, then he will raise that one. There is no warrant to draw a disjunct between the HIM who comes and the HIM who is raised. Thus, ALL the father gives will come, and ALL who come will be raised.

This was a statement of fact. Jesus didn't say, "My Father really, really, really, really, no, I mean, REALLY, wants all of you he gave to me to be raised to everlasting life on the last day, but that's just his wishes, he actually wished that on his 1,000,000,000,000th birthday. He closed his eyes and everything. So, he's up there a wishin, and I hope he gets his wish, but it's ultimately up to you and your freedom."

Thibodaux's eisogesis is plain for all to see.

Thibodaux just doesn't "get it:"

"It is not a nonsensical statement to tell someone that they will never perish in the strongest possible terms if the understood condition of remaining in Him is currently being fulfilled. The difficulty Mr. Manata is having is in his view of assurance and conditionality. When faced with statements of both assurance (definite statements of "I will" or "I will not"), and condition ("if you"), the statements of promise and assurance don't render the conditions void, they are contingent upon fulfillment of the conditions. So if Christ says "you will never perish," it does not nullify the conditions He also states such as "abide in me," nor the consequence of not fulfilling the stipulations. A good example of this sort of guarantee to a promise with an understood condition is found in Deuteronomy 31:8,"

Right, and Reformed believe that Christ will grant all of his the ability to abide in him. YOU JUST ANSWERED YOUR OWN CHALLENGE!! Quit beating a straw man.

LBC XVII I. "Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity."

The Reformed position is that the conditional is true. That is, anyone who does instantiate the antecedent, the consequent will surely come true. So, only those who abide in Christ will persevere. The Reformed faith states that God will cause all believers to abide in Christ. To always trust in him. He uses the warning passages as means to bring about this end in terms of the historical outworking of the decree.


"Next Paul tries to hit me with Romans 8 [SNIP vv. 28 - 39]

'Thibodaux needs to square his doctrine with Scripture. After all, I'm just squaring his hypothesis with the indisputable and clearly established facts of Scripture.'

To which I replied, "Of course no created thing can separate us from Christ." To which he retorts,

'Thibodaux can't follow out his syllogism:

[1] No created thing can keep us from attaining everlasting life as found in being united to Christ.

[2] True believers are created things.

[3] Therefore, true believers cannot keep us (themselves) from everlasting life as found in being united to Christ.


Perhaps he missed the point of my citing John 15 and Romans 11. It does not say, as premise 1 of Paul's syllogism states, that "no created thing can keep us from attaining everlasting life as found in being united to Christ," but that "no created thing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord." Thus a true believer being a created thing cannot of his own power force God to void His love and favor, but if he violates the terms of God's covenant and despises His goodness, the Sovereign God Himself will cut the offender off, the result being that he won't obtain eternal life."

I didn't miss your point. I've already argued against the assumption that apostates and believers are cut from the same mold. Recall that we have proved that apostates NEVER BORE FRUIT and that true believers YIELDED A CROP. Now, with that in mind, let's look at John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

So, Thibodaux, I'm still waiting, hello (echo, crickets chirping, baby cries in the background and makes the long silence that much more uncomfortable) ....






Are we ever going to get an argument that apostates were ever BELIEVERS, true believers, the elect, the SAINTS in the phrase "Perseverance of the Saints?????"

The point of Romans 8 is that NOTHING can keep those called from reaching the end.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Thus we have:

[13] All those justified will be glorified.

[14] All saints (elect, true believers, fruit bearers) were justified (upon their placing faith in Jesus Christ at a moment in time).

[15] Therefore, all saints WILL BE glorified.

[16] If all saints will be glorified, then all saints will persevere.

[17] All saints will be glorified.

[18] Therefore all saints will persevere.


Will any (internal) New Covenant member break God's covenant? Let's see what Hebrews states,

Hebrews 8:6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said:
"The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful [they broke, says Jeremiah] to my covenant,
and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.

10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."

It appears that the members of THIS COVENANT cannot break it. It will not be like the last one. Why? Because they BROKE that one. It is GOD who keeps this new covenant. Jesus keeps and fulfills the terms of it. This is imputed to those who have faith in him. God then causes them to walk in his ways. What do we read of the new covenant members?

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.


Faith is indeed given by God, though there is a synergistic aspect to holding to it, for it is also written,

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

and warns,

But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. (1 Timothy 5:11-12)

and yes, it even cites examples,

Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:19-20)

Boy, I sure hope you can "hold to it" by your strength. You're a better man that I.

Anyway, the reformed have always said that God does not guard is APART FROM our faith, but only working THROUGH our faith so that he enables us to continue to believe in him. Also, the apostles addressed groups of people in the churches, and throughout the world. There was no way to know if every single member of the audience ws saved. Thus they took their PROFESSION of faith in the judgment of charity, telling them that they needed to always profess faith in Jesus. He also does not want to give false assurance to those who may be unregenerate and self-deceived. Lastly, the Bible makes a distinction between saving faith and a non-saving faith (cf. James). So, just because someone is referred to as "having faith" that doesn't mean that they have "saving faith." A faith the produces, what(?), FRUIT! If one has a faith that produces FRUIT then what have we seen? They are pruned to bear more fruit (John 15). They receive the blessings of God (Heb. 6). Thus if someone has saving faith they will have fruit and if they have fruit the CANNOT BE an apostate, as I have proved above.

In response to my argument from the land in Hebrews 6, Thibodaux offers this pittance:

Oh I followed the argument, fortunately plenty of light spilled in through the many holes. Proving that some supposed believers are false professors (which is doubtless true) does not preclude the possibility of true believers falling away.

I proved that EVERY apostate is referred to as BARREN LAND. I proved that if one is of the fertile ground then he CAN NEVER be said to have been the other kind of ground; because, that ground was NEVER fertile. So, I ask again, can Thibodaux give any example or argument, from the Bible, which treats those who fell away as those who truly believed? Can he? Even one?

Thibodaux offers more sophisms:

"Next we learn that I can't possibly be right because the facts I present would contradict their premises,

'Salvation is 100% of God. We maintain that the denial of the perseverance of the saints is due to holding to a synergistic model of salvation. We maintain that those who have once been united with Christ, will always remain united. Your argument must assume an Arminian theory of the atonement, which we reject.'

So now what I say can't possibly be true because it might contradict other premises you hold? The solution isn't difficult: Some of your premises may be incorrect."

No, son, what you say HASN'T BEEN PROVEN since you're resting on premises NOT ARGUED FOR in this debate. You challenge ASSUMES premises for it to work. Have you a clue how argument are supposed to work? Try this one on for size:


>>Since it is true that God determines every jot and tittle of his universe, and since it is true that he determined who will be saved and who will not, then I challenge you to show me how all men have the genuine possibility of actuating the state of affairs by which they would be heaven bound.<< Continuing...
'You thus have disputed and hotly debated hidden premises upon which your
argument rests.'

"Hidden premises? All I'm doing is making a case, I
can't help it if the facts happen run over your premises. I have presented the
fact that Christians are warned against falling away and the implications
thereof as evidence against a specific doctrine. If my point is indeed valid
evidence against that doctrine, then the premises and/or reasoning the doctrine
was derived from must yield to fact, not vice-versa. "

Thibodaux just doesn't get it, does he? His entire challenge is predicated upon the assumption of the falsity of OTHER reformed doctrine. If those are TRUE then they will inform him on how he must INTERPRET (because he IS interpreting, make no mistake) the warning passages. Here, maybe this will help show you how your "challenge" looks to us:

[19] Calvinists believe in the POS.

[20] The Bible has warning passages.

[21] Those just have to mean what I want them to because if not, then it makes them "silly."








[30] Therefore, Calvinism's POS is inconsistent with the Bible.


Thibodaux now proves that his parents need to sue whatever college he went to and ask for a refund.

Then he tries to tutor me on logic. When he used the syllogism,

1) If you tell someone the truth, you have been sincere with them.
2) When Jesus says what will happen to someone IF they do such and such, he is telling the truth.
3) Therefore, When Jesus says what will happen to someone IF they do such and such, he has been sincere with them.
4) If you've been sincere with someone what you've said isn't pointless.
5) Jesus was sincere.
6) Therefore what Jesus said wasn't pointless.'

I replied,

'There's a problem with premise 4, if one impossibility based upon another is sincerely stated, it's still pointless. One could sincerely (albeit absurdly) and truly warn another that if he were to hit the ground hard enough with a hammer, the very globe could be split asunder. While such a statement is technically logically sound, it is devoid of any worthwhile signification as such a condition is impossible for a human being to fulfill. For Christ to be sincere, accurate, and meaningful, the warnings He gives must be possible to violate.'

Let's note that his first sentence isn't a verse in the Bible,

Neither were any of his premises...we'll see more on this topic further down.

So what? Thibodaux is the one who said that he was critiquing POS against what the Bible clearly taught. He said,

"The Holy Bible. And just as in any other field, any doctrine that arises among us must fit the facts that are clearly established (from the word of God in our case), else be rejected as errant."

But if his idea that "if one impossibility based upon another is sincerely stated, it's still pointless," isn't in the Bible, then he's not proving that POS doesn't "fit the facts that are clearly established (from the word of God in our case)."


I had asked him why he thinks P.4 is problematic. His reason why was based on his extra-biblical premise; he said it would be like warning someone not to hit the earth with a hammer because it would split asunder. I said that this was disanalogous because this would have a true antecedent and a false consequent, giving his condition a false truth value. He responded:

"He misses the point again, for if enough physical force of impact were applied to the earth, it would indeed be split. I also did not state that one could not hit with a hammer at all, but if one were to hit it hard enough that it would split. He misunderstands the parallel I'm drawing."

This is wild. There have been meteors that have hit the earth and not split it asunder. I know of no hammer in existence that could do what he says, and I know of no human that could muster a force stronger than the meteors that have collided with earth. Not even the A-bomb we dropped on Hiroshima split the earth, yet Thibodaux things that a mere man could take a Stanley Fat Max hickory handled hammer and split the earth asunder! Perhaps he would respond by saying, “Yes, but if such a man and such a hammer existed, then…” But then if such a man and such a hammer existed we would have a disanalogy. This would be a real possibility, he could instantiate the antecedent of the conditional: If you hit the earth with this hammer, then it will split. Our position is that no saint will instantiate the antecedent of a warning. His counter is disanalagous. Furthermore, what purpose would his hammer warning serve? I’ve already given a reason for the warning passages. His counter-argument is simply disanalagous.

I asked what his problem with premise 4 of my 6-premise argument above was. Usually if someone has a problem with an argument, they critique its validity or its soundness. What’s wrong with premise 4? I asked if it were false and he responds like a Douxdoux bird:

It's a not necessarily true premise, which does not necessitate that it be false. Pretty basic logic.

So what? We want to know if it is false or not. If it is not false, and if the form is valid, then one must accept my conclusion.

If he says that P.4 is usually true, except when giving a warning to someone, how does that follow? Let's re-phrase 4:

4* If the warning you give someone is true in that if they did X, then Y would indeed happen, then it isn't pointless.

What's wrong with 4*? Is it false? How so? Does the Bible teach that it is false? If not, then how does POS contradict "the facts that are clearly established (from the word of God in our case)?" That is what YOU SAID you were going to prove. Is your position doctrine? If it is not found in the Bible then it is a mere "mortal's" doctrine and you must disassociate yourself from it. Or, perhaps you take it to be a truth of reason? How so? Offer an argument. And, I have already shown that your assumption doesn't square with the facts of the Bible. If your assumption were true, then if you were on the boat with Paul, and he gave you a warning after he had just told you that God promised that you would make it through, you would have to laugh at him and tell him that his warning was pointless!

He continues...

"Not analogy, parallel, for the exact same form of warning that he contends the biblical warnings constitute is employed, i.e. a pointless warning against a theoretically possible event conditioned upon the ridiculous."

Not analogy. Disanalogy. Not parallel. Unparallel. The exact same FORM was used, yes, but the CONTENT and PURPOSE of each is RADICALLY different. Furthermore, the possibility of an elect falling isn't a "theoretical possibility." It is flat out impossible, given the decree of God and his persevering work and salvific promises. Now, it may be that I am not one of the elect. I can only know that I am so long as I persevere, and hence the warnings are used by God as means to keep me trusting in Christ. If I continue to trust in Christ, I will achieve final salvation. We don't "let go and let God," though. God brings us there by using means that play our providentially in the historia salutis.

Thibodaux spouts heresy. I asked him what of the commands to never sin once. Be perfect. This is impossible to keep in this life time. Thus on Thobodauxian assumptions, it is meaningless. He retorts:

[Manata said] 'We cannot do this in this lifetime. Only when we are glorified. But on Thibodaux's assumptions, it is pointless to command these things since it is impossible for us to obey them! Might as well talk to a rock.'

"While there is no one who never sins, such a command is not impossible for a Christian to presently keep at any given time, hence it's relevance is still very great. It's not impossible for the condition of fulfilling the command to be true, but rather for it to be always and invariably true."

I'll just let John speak for me: 1 John 1:8 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." No one can be PERFECT at any given time. Only when we are in heaven. And, the command is to ALWAYS be perfect. We CANNOT do this. Therefore on Thibodauxian assumptions, Jesus' claims are meaningless. Pointless.

Secondly, unbelievers are commanded to be perfect, right now. They cannot. Hence the command is pointless. Thibodaux has lost. It's over. Rosanne Bar is singing the National Anthem.

Thibodaux cuts his throat some more:

It was actually a clarification against Paul's misguided argument, stating that (hearing a warning = impossibility to persevere), which I did not argue for since it is logically invalid.

Right, so the MERE FACT that warnings are EXPRESSED in the Bible DOES NOT lead to Thibodaux's conclusion. Good one! To get to his conclusion he needs his extra-biblical assumption. We will label Thibodaux’s Assumption TA hereafter:

[TA] "Rather, a sincere warning addressed to the saints does indicate that it is possible to not persevere."

Can he prove TA? Is it a biblical doctrine? Further, we grant that it is possible to not persevere if God does not give us this persevering character by his grace.


"We also go on a fun series of why I must be wrong because if I my assertion were correct, it would (gasp!) contradict other stuff in their doctrine!

'And so we see that, again, you simply assume non-reformed categories. You must deny our conception of covenant, atonement, regeneration, faith, justification, God's sovereignty, etc., for your argument to work.'


No, not wrong. I've shown that elsewhere. The function of this current critique of mine is that your "challenge" is a petitio principii. It would be like if I offered this challenge to you:

CHALLENGE: Given that anyone who believes must be regenerated first, and given that if one is regenerated one cannot fail to become unregenerated; i.e., one doesn't revert back into a conceptus after he is an infant or older, and given that those who believe are justified and hence declared forever righteous, and given that if these things are true one cannot fail to reach the end - which is glorification, how could you deny perseverance?

Now doubt you'd deny my question begging assumptions! Get it now, Thibodaux? Or are you about as deep as the water my 2 month old bathes in?

Moving along...

Mr. Manata also pushes his arguments into the realm of utter ludicrousness. Never mind the fact that an impossible condition renders a literal warning logically meaningless,

Oh really? Care to show how this LOGICALLY follows? What law of logic are you referring to? Give a criterion for logically meaningless statements. One might be:

* I am and am not in Barcelona.

Furthermore, they serve a function, a purpose. One what theory of meaning is something like this meaningless?

I said, "The warning passages don't say "the falling away of one of God's elect can be actualized." This is an assumption you're adding to the Bible."

Thibodaux responds via an argument from incredulity:

Yeah, God's giving us some warnings of the highest possible magnitude with the worst consequences imaginable, and here I go just blindly assuming there's danger involved -- silly me! Chalk that up there with, "the word 'Trinity' isn't even in the Bible!" and, "where's the verse that mentions offering plates?" I could just see this kind of logic running rampant in the garden of Eden:

There is danger involved. If you do X, then Y will happen. And, if you do X, you show yourself to be an apostate. I have proven that ALL apostates were NEVER believers. They NEVER abided in Christ. So, if you want to avoid apostasy, heed the warnings!


"But ever the superficial debater,

'One could "be with God" from the standpoint of man, from the standpoint of his profession of faith. Indeed, Hebrews says that the believers "stand" by their "profession" and so to "fall away" may very well be to "deny your profession." Phenomenological language may also be employed (cf. Schreiner, etc). So, it is not at all clear how you meant your phrase.'

Which is why I was doubly clear by stating that they fall into condemnation, as opposed to remain in it. I could just see this guy in the first century: "What do you mean by 'believers' in Acts 5:14, Luke?!? Are you speaking phenomenologically or not?!?!?"

Thibodaux is ever the superficial thinker. Of course Luke didn't speak in Husserlian terms, but the IDEA was there. For example, we read:

Matthew 13: 24 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

28" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

29" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

Note first we have the affirmation of MY argument - that is, apostates and believers are DIFFERENT KINDS. They are not THE SAME yet one just persevers and one doesn't. They are fertile ground or thorny ground. They are wheat or tares.

Second, note the phenomological aspect of this verse. The tares and wheat APPEAR to be very similar, such that trying to remove the tares would open the possibility of pulling the wheat too! So, Thibodaux is showing just how minor league he is. How bush league he is. He simply gets by on sophisms. He's all bite and no bark. All talk and no action. His entire line of argumentation consists in saying things like: "What do you mean by 'believers' in Acts 5:14, Luke?!? Are you speaking phenomenologically or not?!?!?" This is not substantive. He's trying to get by on looks and not talent.

Thibodaux’s challenge has been answered. He can not bother himself with the facts all he wants, but that doesn’t change the fact that his argument has not persevered. The saints will persevere, not Thibodaux’s “But your doctrine doesn’t fit with an assumption I want to make” argument. Here’s a hint for Thibodaux: Reality doesn’t bend to your assumption. And, one more for good measure: if you’re going to respond, post an actual argument. We all know what you want to be the case, but if you put poop into one hand, and you put wanting in the other, guess which one fills up first?