Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8).

Speaking of damnable lies:

robert said...

“The Triablogers, especially Steve Hays, repeatedly attack and ridicule persons, not arguments.”

That’s a demonstrable falsehood. In my response to Reppert and others, I’ve gone into great detail attacking their arguments. This is not a case of attacking the person instead of the argument.

But this is my general policy. I begin by attacking the argument. I then see how the opponent responds.

If the opponent is evasive, I continue to attack his arguments, but I also point out that he is not an honest opponent. And that’s directly germane to the debate.

It’s far more time-consuming to debate an evasive opponent. You have to spend a lot of time rehearsing what you said before to remind the reader that he ignoring what you already said. The character of an opponent can get in the way of a constructive debate.

“We all understand that attacks against an argument are OK, but that is not what the Triablogers repeatedly do.”

The same damnable lie. I repeatedly attack arguments. My replies to Reppert have been far more detailed and substantive that his replies to me. Same thing with Manata.

“The Triablogers are in fact mean and nasty and repeatedly violate biblical standards of how we are supposed to interact with each other.”

What about Biblical standards?

One Biblical standard is to be truthful. Robert regularly violates that biblical standard.

Do ad hominem attacks violate biblical standards? The Bible itself can get very ad hominem. Look at what Isaiah says about the king of Babylon (Isa 14), or Ezekiel says about the King of Tyre (Ezk 28).

The Bible is chock-full of ad hominem attacks. So commenting on the character of your opponent is by no means a violation of biblical standards. As usual, Robert picks and choose what parts of the Bible he is going to obey.

Notice, too, that Robert is doing the very thing he denounces as unbiblical. Instead of attacking our arguments, he is attacking us.

On the one hand, Robert tries to impose an unscriptural “standard” on his opponents. On the other hand, he refuses to hold himself to the same standard he urges on his opponents.

And notice the way he goes about it. First of all, he uses guilt-by-association. He tries to tar Manata with something I said. Attempting to discredit Manata’s arguments as if any “sinful” statement I make rubs off on him. Not only is that an ad hominem attack—which he supposedly deplores—but a classically unscrupulous form of the ad hominem attack.

Robert professes to take the moral high ground while he wallows in the gutter.

Then there’s his stalking horse tactic. He uses a second party to attack a third party. He attacks Calvinism by defending Reppert. This makes Robert seem magnanimous. Like Bill Moyers interviewing Jeremiah Wright. You use the second party as a shield behind which you lob bombs at your opponents.

And this ploy is designed to make you look like Mr. Nice Guy since you’re just coming to the aid of someone else. If you were attacking your opponent directly, that would be “mean and nasty,” but this way you can attack your opponent indirectly by oozing sympathy for the “victim.”

Robert’s calculated performance may be convincing in front of the bathroom mirror, but not everyone in the audience is taken in by his thespian exploits.

“But even then, if you are talking with another Christian brother or sister.”

This involves a presumption about Reppert’s Christian identity. Given the number of heterodox positions he deploys to attack Calvinism, I wouldn’t presume anything one way or the other on that score.

And I also don’t regard one’s Christian profession as a flack-jacket to deflect moral or intellectual scrutiny.

“You don't attack them as not pursuing the truth because they think differently than you do.”

What are some of the strategies that Reppert uses to attack Calvinism? We can never be sure what Scripture teaches. Even if we were sure, Scripture may be wrong. Even if Calvinism is correct, God may be the Omnipotent Fiend. Maybe God doesn’t know the future.

Sometimes deploys universalism against Calvinism. Sometimes he deploys open theism against Calvinism.

In the past I’ve let a lot of things slide where Reppert’s concerned because he’s useful on other issues. But when he keeps pounding away at Calvinism, I can’t very well ignore him. And, in order to pound away at Calvinism, he must pound away at other evangelical doctrines.

Notice how quickly this discussion moved from a debate over reprobation to a debate over hell itself.

So Reppert has now worked himself into the position where he’s defending the Christian faith on some fronts while attacking the Christian faith on other fronts. And it tells you something about Robert that he rushes in to defend a man who’s taken a chainsaw to core planks of the Christian faith.

Reppert has a do-it-yourself theology. He only believes what he can intuit. Throw everything else to the sharks to lighten the load.

“Since when is an argument personal enough to designate it as a **simpleton**.”

Because it’s Reppert who originally cast the issue in “simple” terms. Remember what he said:

“Go ahead and believe it if you want to, well, to avoid begging the question, if God predestines you to do so, or because you think that Bible teaches it. Just don't tell me that God is not the cause of sin. On a counterfactual analysis of causation, God's decrees cause sins. It's that simple.”

Notice how Robert drops the context of my remark. That would require a modicum of honesty on Robert’s part.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Paul Helm, for one, has explained in some detail why it’s not that simple.

When Reppert tries to frame the Reformed position in such simplistic terms, he’s operating at the level of a simpleton. The fact that Reppert is not a simpleton makes his performance all the more inexcusable.

“And it is completely unacceptable and according to biblical standards, sinful speech. People who profess to be Christians, to be following Jesus as his disciples, need to be obeying His Word.”

I’m waiting to see Robert follow his own advice.

“And the scripture is very clear on how we are to interact with other believers and unbelievers. I can cite the verses for you, and have done so with the Triablogers in the past, to no avail. They just ignore the scripture, continue to justify themselves and attack others with their verbal poison.”

This is yet another damnable lie. Robert likes to quote Scripture out of context. He uses the Bible the way a Jehovah’s Witness uses the Bible.

We’ve corrected his misuse of Scripture. How does he respond? By merely repeating himself.

At this rate, Robert will need an asbestos wetsuit to insulate himself from the lake of fire.

“I believe it is a great testimony to Victor that he does attack arguments here from a Christian perspective.”

Is universalism a Christian perspective? Is open theism a Christian perspective.

What about Reppert’s dismissive view of penal substitution? Is that a Christian perspective? What about his refusal to believe that God ever ordered the execution of the Canaanites? Is that a Christian perspective. Is there anything in Scripture which isn’t negotiable for Reppert?

"Though it is unfortunate that certain calvinists, hate the open theists with a passion."

Robert is projecting.

"And regarding being a Christian and being mistaken, we all make mistakes; some of us just refuse to ever admit it."

Sounds very humble except that Robert doesn't apply that disclaimer to his beliefs about Calvinism.

"And regarding character, some of my friends who are open theists, display greater character than most of the calvinists that I know."

How many Calvinists does he know, personally?

I'm sure some of the Judaizers were nice guys. I'm sure some of the Gnostics were nice guys. Not to mention many Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, or backslapping Baal-worshipers.

Indeed, a false teacher must generally have winsome personality to win converts to his position. If you want to be a successful heretic, it helps to be warm and charming.

"These same open theists affirm all of the essentials of the Christian faith including the trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by faith alone, etc. etc."

Meaning that divine omniscience is inessential to the Christian faith, as Robert selectively defines it.

"In my old age, :-) I look at people’s character first, beliefs second, especially if they are professing Christians. And if they are not loving people, but seem to hate everybody who thinks differently than them, well . . ."

The funny thing about this statement is Robert's blindness to his own intolerance. He only likes people who are like him. His own kind of people. He loves others who happen to meet with his approval. Who fall within certain parameters. Some of his friends are open theists. But he doesn't speak in very friendly terms about Calvinists, now does he? No, they are the enemy. Take no hostages.

"Is that what the bible calls us to in our dealings with other believers?"

I've never thought we should lower the bar when dealing with someone who claims to be a fellow believer.

Moreover, Reppert has now made it clear that he's never submitted his heart, mind, and will to God.

"Hays continues to engage in this kind of sinful speech with those with whom he disagrees (whether they be believers or unbelievers makes no difference) with no accountability or evidence of repentance whatsoever. His speech is sinful and embarrassing to the cause of Christ. And he fancies himself an apologist. The 'god' of calvinism is a gruesome and sadistic person, and he is not the God revealed in scripture. They say that we become like the God that we worship, Hays illustrates this quite well: he is just as nasty and ornery as the 'god' he wants to believe exists. Neither Hays nor his conception of God reflects the character of Christ who is the true God, the one who died for all including sinners who will never repent and come to believe."

Suppose I'm ever bit as bad as he says, and then some. What interests me is Robert's unconsciously humanistic outlook. On the one hand, he thinks that every human being should be treated with utmost reverence—unless, of course, he's a Calvinist. That's beyond the pale.

On the other hand, he doesn't hesitate to blaspheme God. Infinite reverence for man combined with infinite irreverence for God.

Of course, he defends his attitude by claiming that the God of Calvinism isn't the true God. But his objections are essentially ethical and aprioristic. His presuppositions are ultimately indistinguishable from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. He has certain interpretive strategies for blunting the passages of Scripture he can't stand. But the underlying animosity is the same. Take away his rose-tinted filters and Robert would view the God of Scripture in the same hostile light as Hitchens or Dawkins or Ehrman or Spong.


  1. robert said...

    " And since when is Steve Hays in the place to determine whether or not Victor is saved or not?"

    So, according to this, I should reserve judgment about Reppert's Christian commitment. I was in the wrong because I didn't withhold judgment.

    "But even then, if you are talking with another Christian brother or sister, you don't attack them as not pursuing the truth because they think differently than you do."

    So, according to this, I shouldn't reserve judgment about Reppert's Christian commitment. Instead, I should presume that he is a fellow believer. I was in the wrong because I did withhold judgment.

    Personally speaking, I normally avoid making any public statements about an individual’s Christian commitment. Robert is the one who's forcing the issue, not me. Robert is the one who's framing the debate in those terms, not me. I'm responding to him on his own grounds.

    And as soon as I answer him on his own grounds, he waxes indignant. Robert has zero capacity for self-criticism. He has one standard for himself, and another standard for his opponents.

    "He did this in the past claiming that I was going to hell, and the other Triablogers rather than challenging him on this said nothing, which I take to be their agreement as well."

    To the contrary, I never said that Arminians are going to hell. I've explicitly said the opposite. And Gene spent a lot of time documenting that fact. Robert twisted my words to score rhetorical points, and he continues to lie.

    Robert continues to peddle this falsehood as a cheap and easy way of ginning up prejudicial animus towards the doctrines of grace.

    "And that last line here that attacking calvinism necessitates pounding away at other evangelical doctrines, is another false statement by Hays."

    To the contrary, I documented exactly what I mean. In order to attack Calvinism, Reppert, by turns, questions Biblical inerrancy, questions penal substitution, questions divine foreknowledge, questions the justice of hell, &c.

    "Again, Hays claims that I am not a believer."

    I'm just holding him to a "scriptural standard."

    " And again, what gives Hays the right to sit in judgment over me and declare me to be hell bound?"

    So no one has the right to do this?

    "In my old age, :-) I look at people’s character first, beliefs second, especially if they are professing Christians. And if they are not loving people, but seem to hate everybody who thinks differently than them, well . . ."

    So only Robert has a "godlike" right to sit in judgment over others and assign eternal destinies.

    "The difference between Hays and I apparently is that I can believe that others are Christians even though they hold some different beliefs than I do, while for Hays unless you hold to his version of calvinism, you must not be saved. "

    Another damnable lie.

    "And if he were to come back and say that he believes that a non-calvinist can be a believer, then why am I hell bound according to Hays?"

    Because he's a chronic liar (in the way he constantly misrepresents his Reformed opponents). A point I explicitly made in my post.

    Once again, I'm just holding him to "scriptural standards."

    "In Hays mind if you attack calvinism you must not be saved and are hell bound."

    He keeps repeating the same damnable lie.

    "If Victor has never submitted his heart, mind and will to God, then he is not a Christian. And how does Steve Hays know this?"

    By Reppert's repudiation of biblical authority.

    “If I quote scripture out of context and use it the way the JW’s use it, then why do I affirm the trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by faith alone, things JW’s and other cults deny?”

    Because he picks and chooses what he’s prepared to believe, depending on whether it’s “gruesome” or “sadistic” or generates “philosophical problems.”

    Robert’s theological tastes differ from the JW’s in some respects, so he picks a different batch of cherries than they do, but he’s still cherrypicking what he’s prepared to believe—depending on whether it’s “gruesome” or “sadistic” or philosophically problematic.

    “Keep in mind that I do extensive prison ministry with many inmates who have committed the worst imaginable crimes, and that I have been involved in seeing many of them come to Christ for salvation, so I regularly deal with people that most people want to have nothing to do with.”

    That’s because they happen to fall within his parameters. He’s more tolerant of a serial killer than a Calvinist.

    “I am the one in the real world doing real ministry seeing the power of God to transform the most hardened sinners, and Hays who sits behind his computer wants to tell me about intolerance and liking only his kind of people? Hays is the one who only likes people who think just like he does.”

    Since I’ve also done my share of jail ministry, I could play that trump card as well as Robert.

    “On the other hand, I will continue to attack the conception of God presented by calvinists. And the fact that this conception of God produces such severe theological and philosophical problems and produces people like Steve Hays tells you all that you need to know about this unbiblical and mistaken conception of God.”

    So Robert doesn’t feel the need to actually see if the Bible teaches Calvinism. He judges Calvinism by appearances or “philosophical problems.”

    “Jesus said by their fruits you shall know them.”

    And if we apply that yardstick to Robert, what are we to make of the fact that he has one set of rules for himself and another set of rules for his Reformed opponents? What does it say about his spiritual fruit-bearing that he is so morally blinkered?

  2. robert said...

    “I have been involved in prison ministry, preaching, teaching many who have come to Christ and been saved? Hays’ ministry is in his own imagination and sitting behind a computer screen.”

    “I am the one in the real world doing real ministry seeing the power of God to transform the most hardened sinners, and Hays who sits behind his computer…”

    And wasn’t Robert sitting behind a computer screen when he typed these words? If Robert thinks that prison ministry is “real ministry,” while blogging is not, why does Robert spend so much time in the blogosphere, posting comments on my blog or Reppert’s blog, &c.? Doesn’t that siphon away precious time from “real world ministry.”

    Robert is such a fraud. If he does, it’s okay. If someone else doesn’t, it’s not okay.

    And while we’re on the subject, there are many Christian bloggers, like Joe Carter, Dallas Willard, Doug Groothuis, Darrell Bock, J.P. Moreland, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, &c. Does Robert think this isn’t a “real” ministry?

  3. Steve,

    It's clear that Robert is a better person than you. More holy. Does more things for the kingdom. He's more loving. Bears bushels of fruit. Judges rightly. He's got medals waiting for him in heaven. Purple hearts for taking fire from mean Calvinists like you. How dare you critique him? He's a man amongst men. He's a doer. A mover and a shaker. The real deal. Face it, he's a stud. You can't hold a candle to him. That's why he's so upset. You, with your imaginary, behind the computer screen "ministry", had the gall to speak down to someone of his stature. Like a peasant who laughs at the king. That's you Hays. Robert wanted T-bloggers to confront you and your behavior. Well I've taken that first step. Robert's intrinsically more worthy than you. You better check yourself before you wreck yourself, sucka!

  4. This is a very good post and thread. I like the triablogue team very, very much. They have the persistency of character to deliberately engage in something that I learned about a year or two ago from frustrating experience to generally avoid.

    And that is to identify a "tar baby" or "tar baby topics" and avoid them like the plague.

    Here are some tar babies that I've identified: Emerging church, theological liberals, feminist egalitarians, and generally anyone who emphatically emphasizes the "tone" and the "irenic" conduct of a "conversation" or "dialogue" in a Politically Correct way, almost to the point that the real substance is smothered over and ignored or minimized. These are tar babies.

    And from an outsider's perspective, Reppert and Arminianism is the tar baby for Br'er Rabbit triabloguers. Every time you land an argument-winning punch or kick, you just end up deeper and deeper into tar baby's trap.

    I learn by watching and I also watch for intellectual amusement which generates some belly laughs, so continue on!

  5. Steve wrote, "Of course, it’s not that simple. Paul Helm, for one, has explained in some detail why it’s not that simple."

    Where might one find Helm's detailed explanation of these matters? Thanks.

  6. IS,

    You can see his book The Providence of God, his debate with Hasker in Blackwell's Contemporary Debates in Philosophy Series, or some of his blog entries on this.

    I take clips from Helm to this effect in one of my blog posts in this recent discussion:

    That's another place you could look.

  7. Most recently, Helm distinguishes between divine causality and divine permission in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views, B. Ware, ed.

  8. I find the idea of divine permission a bit confusing. It seems to imply that God sort of "looks the other way" while letting things happen, such as in Romans 1:26, I suppose. But if everything comes about by way of eternal decree, then how does this mesh with the idea of permission? On the one hand, God simply lets certain things happen, but on the other hand, God causes everything to happen (either directly or through second causes)...

  9. Helm discusses the category of willing permission in this online article:

  10. Gird up thy loins, Robert! If you're right then refute these bozos, as I will. What I like best about this place is that you never have to say "Don't worry about offending me. Tell me what you really think."

  11. Mathetes,

    It's not bare permission but *willing* permission.

    You will find this notion not only in Helm but in Turretin, Shedd, and many others.

    Helm uses the categories of positive vs. negative government.

    It's all governed, just depends *how* it is governed.

    An example of willing permission and negative government might be, for example, when I see my young child going over to stick his wet fingers inside the DVD player. I could intervene and stop it before it happens - hence heading off any punishment for doing what I've told him not to do - or I could allow him to stay on his course. Fail to intervene to stop it. He touches. I punish. His committing that action was within my control, though. I planned that and allowed it. But I didn't positively govern it in the sense that I moved him or prodded him on to touch it.

  12. I think a few Biblical examples would show how this works. The passage in 2 Chronicles 18 (I believe) where God gives permission to the evil spirit to give a false prophecy to the pagan prophet in Ahab's counsel. Ahab listens to the false prophecy that he will win the battle, and as a result, he is killed in the fighting as punishment for his sins.