“I don't see how Witherington is committing the NTS fallacy. He is responding to someone who is giving a real life example of another person, and rightfully so, he states that it is nearly impossible to say anything about the person's salvation.”
No, he seems to be saying more than that. If a putative apostate returns to the faith, then either he was never truly saved in the first place or else he was never truly an apostate.
That’s a much stronger stance than merely claiming that it’s “nearly impossible to say anything about the person's salvation.”
To the contrary, he appears to be claiming that it is possible to say something quite definite about a person’s salvation; namely:
i) That a true apostate has lost his salvation in the irremedial sense that he can never regain it;
ii) That someone who returns to the faith after leaving the faith never had a salvation to lose.
So Witherington is drawing some lines in the sand. That’s quite different from taking an agnostic position about someone’s state of grace.
Now, perhaps you take him to mean that when he says these are “possible” explanations, he is using that as a disclaimer to indicate that he’s noncommittal on these explanations as the best available explanations.
However, I think the more likely interpretation is this: he is claiming that these two explanations are the only two possible. He’s just not sure which of these two explanations is correct in the case of someone who left the faith and later came back.
He is ruling out other explanations. These are “possible” because other explanations are impossible, given his theological framework.
I think that’s clearly in view when he talks about apostasy as a “soul destroying act.” That’s a very firm statement. So he seems to have very definite views about what is possible or impossible in this situation. The only ambiguity is regarding the which of the two explanations is the best explanation in any given case.
He may not know how they apply at a concrete level, but at an abstract level these two explanations delimit the boundaries of an acceptable explanation. One or the other.
“His response then is keeping to the exegetical basis that he holds to (you can disagree with him if you want on that) in Heb 6 and listing out the possibilities that are applicable to this real life friend that Aleksandra has… I dont see how this is a problem. His theological precommitments are based on his interpretation of Heb 6. An application of one's scriptural/theological understanding to a hypothetical model (which in this case is extended to a friend that is briefly described by "Aleksandra") would be what everyone should be doing...Catholic, Jew, Jehovah Witness, Reformed, Arminian. Agree or disagree with Arminianism, I dont see the problem here.”
i) I’m not sure what you mean by a “hypothetical model.” This is not just a thought-experiment like the proverbial brain-in-the-vat. This is something that actually happens on a fairly regular basis. A man (or woman) is raised in the faith. At some point turns his back on the faith. At a later date, returns to the faith.
ii) More to the point, how do you think your statement avoids the charge of the NTS fallacy? Yes, his answer is conditioned by his theological precommitments. Even if you think they *derive* from his interpretation, rather than *drive* his interpretation, that’s irrelevant to the NTS fallacy.
I take it that Flew’s fallacy is a throwback to the verification principle. Remember his famous parable of the invisible gardener?
“But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?…A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications…What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence, of God?”
I view the NTS fallacy as a variant on the verification principle. What real world evidence would ever count against Witherington’s Arminian interpretation?
How don’t see how Witherington’s explanation escapes that charge. The only way to disprove the fallacy is not to deny that it is valid, but to deny that it is sound. To challenge the criterion of falsifiability.
But if an Arminian does so, then so can a Calvinist.
iii)” He is not creating an exception with a different piece of scripture.”
Where did I say he was? Or are you claiming that the Calvinist is creating such an exception?
“It is a different thing to say that one's theology is dictating another piece of scripture somewhere else. If you want to show that, then the parallel would work, but you'd have to find another citation where the same special pleading is found.”
Same issue as above. How do my comments on Witherington depend on my having to find another citation where the same special pleading is present? How does the NTS fallacy hinge on that condition?
“Yeah, but my point was that the parallel doesn't really work.”
Why not? What have you said about Witherington that a Calvinist couldn’t say for himself?