Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I’ve been sparring with Perry Robinson over at Green Baggins.

steve hays said,
June 29, 2008 at 7:46 am


Let’s not lose sight of what’s at issue in the debate over Enns. Enns and his supporters are taking the position that God sometimes inspires errors, that Bible writers sometimes intend to make true assertions which we now know are false.

How is the case of Caiaphas relevant to that issue? He intended to make a true assertion, and he succeeded in making a true statement. God inspired him to speak, and what he spoke was true.

That is not comparable to the alleged case of an inspired Bible writer who meant to make a true assertion, even though his assertion does not, in fact, correspond to reality—according to our enlightened, modern viewpoint.

steve hays said,
June 30, 2008 at 7:32 am

Perry Robinson said,

“There is more than one theory of inspiration, particularly a more theanthropic model rather than a pneumatological one like what Lane proposes which isn’t really Chalcedonian IMO.”

I suppose Lane favors a pneumatological model of inspiration because the Bible consistently attributes inspiration to the agency of the Holy Spirit. It’s terrible the way Lane gets his doctrine of Scripture from the witness of Scripture—instead of some post-Biblical, Greek Orthodox construct.

steve hays said,
June 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

Perry Robinson said,

“Caiaphas’ case is relevant since he was wrong yet inspired. I thought that would be obvious.”

No, it’s not obvious. Are you claiming that his statement is erroneous? If so, in what respect.

“And I wouldn’t think that a theory of inspiration would turn on a specific theory of truth like correspondence theory.”

Now you’re changing the subject. I was pointing out what Enns’ theory entails, and then pointing out that Caiaphas doesn’t illustrate that principle.

The theory of inspiration turns on the self-witness of Scripture, not a specific theory of truth. However, inspiration is not an end in itself. It’s a means of securing certain objectives, of which a truthful record is one.

“Further, as I noted before, his own gloss entails unbiblical doctrines such as ‘created grace’, an artifact of medieval Catholicism. This can be seen in the material where he talks about the Spirit giving created graces to the humanity from the outside. The standard Roman dialectic between nature and grace, where grace is alien and eternal to nature is obvious. That is hardly a product of the witness of the Scriptures.”

You’re obfuscating the issue by attacking a particular formulation of “pneumatic inspiration” because that particular formulation gives you a pretext to attack what you disapprove of in Protestant theology generally.

That doesn’t change the fact that Scripture itself attributes its inspiration of the agency of the Holy Spirit rather than a theanthropic model. Attacking “created grace” is an exercise in misdirection.

“I am still waiting for an exegetical defense of that doctrine without an appeal to natural theology from you.”

What’s your problem, Perry? I’ve already stated my position on the Filioque. Don’t you remember?

The problem is that you only have ears to hear the answers your looking for. If any answer doesn’t conform to your polemical agenda, you’re deaf to what the person said. So you keep demanding an answer as if none was given.

“As for constructs, last I checked, Protestant views are the result of an attempt to reconstruct the Bible’s meaning and so at worst you’ve only put Orthodoxy on the same level as Protestantism. And since I don’t think you are going to find any churches in the first century with Calvin’s name on them, Reformed theology is ‘post-biblical’ as well. Wise cracks make bad arguments.”

Once again, we weren’t discussing Reformed theology in general. Rather, we were discussing the Reformed doctrine of inspiration. In particular, the self-witness of Scripture.

And, of course, Reformed theology in general has an exegetical basis, so the question of 1C labels is a red-herring.

steve hays said,
June 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

“[Perry Robinson] Perhaps you don’t think that God can die or did die, but I do.”

Perry makes provocative comments like this because he wants to change the subject. He’s looking for a wedge issue to use against Protestant theology.
He doesn’t want to talk about, say, Warfield’s inductive case for the verbal, plenary inspiration of scripture.

Instead, he wants to turn this into a fight over Christology since he’d rather fight on his own turf, and he feels comfortable debating Christology. So he’s baiting commenters into riding his hobbyhorse instead of discussing Richard Gaffin and Peter Enns.

steve hays said,
July 1, 2008 at 10:46 am

Perry Robinson said,

“Caiaphas was wrong in terms of what was in fact better for the nation, not to mention the justice and morality of his statement or rather lack thereof.”

It was wrong for Caiaphas to say it’s better for the people if Jesus dies? How is that wrong?

John didn’t think it was wrong. To the contrary, John thought his statement was ironically right. That’s why John does a gloss on his statement, building on the truth of what he said.

Your interpretation cuts against the grain of John’s editorial comment—not to mention the broader flow of the narrative. You need to learn how to exegete a passage of Scripture.

“Actually I didn’t change the subject. You inserted a specific theory of truth upon which the problem supposedly in part turned. I just brought to light your mistake. To my knowledge Enns isn’t necessarily wedded to a correspondence theory of truth and I don’t see why one must be in discussing this problem. So I don’t think Enns account ‘entails’ a correspondence theory of truth.”

No mistake on my part. I summarized Enns’ position as follows: “Let’s not lose sight of what’s an issue in the debate over Enns. Enns and his supporters are taking the position that God sometimes inspires errors, that Bible writers sometimes intend to make true assertions which we now know are false…That [Jn 11:50] is not comparable to the alleged case of an inspired Bible writer who meant to make a true assertion, even though his assertion does not, in fact, correspond to reality—according to our enlightened, modern viewpoint.”

How, specifically, is that a misstatement of Enns’ position?

But while we’re on the subject—yes, an oral or textual statement that corresponds to extratextual reality certainly figures in what Bible writers would take to be a true statement, and securing true statements is very much an aim of inspiration.

“If inspiration turns on the self witness of Scripture then it is odd that you are injecting correspondence here. And I am not convinced that inspiration is merely instrumentally valuable. It may be true that inspiration serves a goal, but intrinsic goods can also have extrinsic value. You’re assuming quite a lot here without argument.”

And you’re resorting to weasel words like “merely.” But that actually concedes my point.

Take the divine promises and prophecies of Scripture. Do you think they would be true, as Bible writers understood truth, if the fulfillment (the future referent) didn’t correspond to the promise or prophecy?

And what do you think is the purpose of inspiration if not to secure true statements? We don’t need inspiration to secure false statements, do we? The absence of inspiration will secure false statements.

Why does Paul carry on in Rom 9-11 if the word of God doesn’t have to match up with this historical outcome? Why are false prophets subject to the death penalty if a “true” or “inspired” oracle doesn’t have to match up with the historical outcome?

“I am not obfuscating the issue because the issue was your claim that my views were unbiblical. I shot back that Lipton’s view entails unbiblical doctrines so the shoe is on the other foot.”

Trying to shift the issue to Tipton’s position does nothing to absolve your own position. That’s just a diversionary tactic.

“So far you have left that untouched, unless of course you think that your statements constitute an exegetical argument.”

I’m not here to debate Tipton’s article. The onus is not on me to debate Tipton’s article.

“And you are confused since Scripture wouldn’t attribute inspiration to a ‘model’ but to the God-man.”

“Model” was your word. I responded to you on your own terms.

Scripture doesn’t attribute inspiration to the God-man. The agent of inspiration is the Holy Spirit.

“In fact, Scripture does give reason for thinking that the primary revealing agent was the Son since the Hebrews never heard the Father nor saw his form, but rather the Son. Hence the irony of coming to his own and his own not recognizing him.”

So you’re a Marcionite. You dispense with the OT. Divine revelation begins with the Incarnation.

You’re also equivocating. The Son is the self-revelation of God. That doesn’t mean the Son inspired the Scriptures. The Son is revelatory in his own right. The person and work of the Son is revelatory.

That’s not the same thing as inspiring the words of the prophets, whether their spoken or written words.

“And since 'created grace' was an essential part of Lipton’s piece in glossing inspiration, my comments regarding it were hardly a red herring.”

It’s a red herring when you introduce that gloss as an excuse to disregard the self-witness of Scripture regarding the distinctive role of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of Scripture.

“You confuse describing my alleged argumentative behavior with an evaluation of the arguments themselves. The former is quite irrelevant to the question of the quality of the arguments.”

I’m under no obligation to respond to you according to the way in which you’d prefer frame the argument. You don’t get to dictate my theological priorities or recast the questions to your liking, then impose that on everyone else.

“As for the Filioque, you sure did give an answer but you gave no exegetical defense of the doctrine, which is what I am still waiting for. So you mislead the reader. The claim wasn’t whether you supplied an answer but whether you gave an exegetical defense for it, which you didn’t, or don’t you remember?”

This was my initial response: “Historically, this has its Scriptural appeal in certain Johannine statements. And, traditionally, these statements are understood as having reference to an ontological subordination within the immanent Trinity. But, in context, they actually refer to the economic Trinity, not the immanent Trinity. When I recite the Filioque clause, I do so in the Johannine (economic) sense. This may or may not be in line with the original intent of the creed, but unlike the original intent of Scripture, which is divinely authoritative, creedal intent is not inherently authoritative.”

I then did a follow-up piece:

What, exactly, do you think I need to defend? My economic reading of the processional statements in John? But since you reject double procession, why would you object to an economic reading of those statements? Are you paying attention?

“Your personal remarks about what I am deaf to or my polemical agenda are irrelevant to the questions at hand and to the arguments I gave. It seems you haven’t learned how to keep the ad hom’s out of your puff pieces.”

I’ve had more experience dealing with you than some of the commenters here. They didn’t even know you were a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s quite relevant for me to apprise them of your tactics.

“Once again, you mislead the reader. You claim was that my Orthodox views were ‘post-biblical’ and so I responded in kind. No amount of fist pounding that Reformed theology has an exegetical basis will make it so, nor will it get you away from the fact that it is historically “post-biblical.” So my comments about Reformed theology being “post-biblical” only constitute a red herring if yours do.”

My usage was self-explanatory. I set up a contrast between the self-witness of Scripture and a post-Biblical construct. So exegetical theology was the differential factor all along.

“As for Warfield’s inductive case, why would I need to discuss it? I favor a more presupp approach. I don’t think induction can get you to where Warfield wants to go and I think his gloss on inspiration, inductive or not is mistaken. I have addressed this before both here and on my own blog, but perhaps you missed that as well.”

Now you’re confusing two different things:

i) Does our doctrine of Scripture derive from the self-witness of Scripture. That’s an inductive question. A question of exegetical theology.

ii) How do we defend the doctrine of Scripture (thus derived)? That’s a question of apologetics, which might (or might not) involve a transcendental argument.
One doesn’t establish a Biblical doctrine of inspiration by presuppositional reasoning. Rather, that has to be established on the basis of what the Bible says about the nature of its own inspiration.

“So is it true to say that a divine person died on the cross or not? Let’s see if you can answer it in a straightforward fashion or not.”

I’m not going to step into your trap. Your question is irrelevant to the inspiration (and inerrancy) of scripture.

And even if you question were relevant, you have no interest in Scriptural answers. You want to frame this in terms of historical theology. You don’t care about a Biblical Christology.

“You talk quite often about what I ‘want’ and try to put my on the couch as it were and you do this on a regular basis with people, imputing all kinds of motives.”

Because I’ve dealt with you before. I know your modus operandi. And you’re reaching for the same bag of tricks here. You try to bait people into debating the issues you care about according to your rules. You try to reorient the thread so that you can take it where you want it to go.

“In any case, such comments are irrelevant to the arguments I gave and the degree that you engage in such behavior shows your inability to show exactly where my arguments supposedly go wrong.”

You want to dictate what the answers are by dictating what the questions are. I, for one, won’t take the bait.

Perry likes to pose trip-wire questions and redirect the conversation to his own turf. He wants to maneuver the conversation into a debate over the fine points of Cyrillian Christology, then score rhetorical points by accusing his opponents of the Nestorian heresy.

I understand why Perry’s upset. It’s hard for him to stage a successful ambush when I’m standing right behind him, exposing the hidden location of his guerilla warriors.

I hardly think that Lane wants to turn this thread into a debate over the Filioque. But I’ll leave that to the moderators.

steve hays said,
July 2, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Why does Perry keep harping on the Filioque anyway? He acts as if this is a big problem for Protestant theology. But, if so, then it’s an even bigger problem for Orthodox theology given internal divisions over this issue:

“At the Second Council of Lyons in 1245, and at the Council of Florence in 1439-45, Orthodox delegates accepted the filioque. Western theologians faced the Easterns with persuasive collections of patristic texts that used language suggesting that the Orthodox doctrine was not incompatible with the filioque,” The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, 198.

If Eastern Orthodoxy can’t speak with one voice on this issue, even within the solemnity of two church councils, then why is this a problem for us, but not for them?

He’s making grander claims for his ecclesiology that we make for ours. Look at the mismatch between the authoritarian claims and the end-product.


  1. "You want to dictate what the answers are by dictating what the questions are. I, for one, won’t take the bait.

    Perry likes to pose trip-wire questions and redirect the conversation to his own turf.

    I understand why Perry’s upset. It’s hard for him to stage a successful ambush when I’m standing right behind him, exposing the hidden location of his guerilla warriors.

    Priceless. And hilarious too.

    I think Victor Reppert must be thankful to Perry Robinson. Now Perry is getting the construction boot up the rear sideways instead of Victor.

  2. "I understand why Perry’s upset. It’s hard for him to stage a successful ambush when I’m standing right behind him, exposing the hidden location of his guerilla warriors."

    Heh, heh, heh. Reminds me of the old RoadRunner cartoon. Perry plays the role of Wily Coyote and you are ("Beep Beep!") RoadRunner.

    Coyote sets the trap and RoadRunner just stands there behind him. Then Coyote ends up blowing himself up!

    Beep Beep!

  3. Photios Jones said…

    Hi Daniel. In quoting me you’ve juxtaposed two of my statements in a rather misleading fashion.

    My rhetorical question—“Why does Perry keep harping on the Filioque anyway?”—was a setup for what followed. By separating the statements and inverting the order, it creates a misleading impression.

    I wasn’t asking for information. I was pointing out that it’s imprudent for Perry to harp on the Filioque since that will boomerang against his own position.


    “She spoke her decision in 879/880 and 1285 at Blachernae with the condemnation of Bekkos and the vindication of Gregory II of Cyprus.”

    And she spoke to the contrary at Florence and Lyons II. So who speaks for Orthodoxy? Which side of her mouth is the true voice of Orthodoxy?

    “Those folks who captiulated to Medieval Catholicism ceased to be Orthodox at those councils. Orthodox ecclesiology is grounded in the content of one’s confession like Peter.”

    That reminds me of how Wesleyans defend sinless perfectionism. On the one hand, they deny that a Christian can sin. On the other hand, they also believe that a Christian can commit apostasy, which would be a sin. (Indeed, there is no graver sin.)

    When you point out the discrepancy, they save face by claiming that if a Christian commits the sin of apostasy, he ceases to be a Christian: hence, a Christian can’t sin! The moment he committed apostasy, he wasn’t a Christian.

    Hence, the claim is made consistent with opposing lines of evidence: If he doesn’t sin, that goes to show that a Christian is impeccable. And if he does sin, that also goes to show that a Christian is impeccable!

    The circularity of your escape clause leaves your claim pretty vacuous. They’re Orthodox as long as they’re not heterodox. Well, that’s a nice tautology, but it’s also a way of insulating your position against any possible falsification. And the price you pay for that flexibility is the inability to verify your position, since it’s now consistent with any line of evidence or counterevidence.

    “Becasue the doctrine is grounded in philosophy.”

    I don’t think that’s a fair characterization. To my knowledge, it’s historically grounded in a particular interpretation of certain Johannine statements. And it’s the same hermeneutic which infers the eternal generation of the Son from certain Johannine (and other Scriptural) statements. If you’re committed to the eternal generation of the Son, then that commits you to double procession as well.