Saturday, March 01, 2008
The past is widely believed to be unalterable. This is known as the accidental necessity of the past. And, in Calvinism, the future is foreordained, so there’s a certain symmetry between the past and future. That, in turn, is analogous to Dainton’s “static” view of time. So, although Dainton evokes his distinction to establish the coherence of time travel, this distinction, if valid, would also be applicable to the Reformed doctrine of prayer—which is ordinarily forward-looking. The analogy would be even tighter in the case of a Reformed philosopher like Paul Helm who espouses the B-theory of time.
Of course, Calvinists believe in predestination and prayer alike because both of these are revealed truths. So their mutual truth, as well as our faith in their mutual truth, is not dependent on philosophical arguments one way or the other. But since objections to Calvinism always come down to moral or philosophical objections, as—indeed—we see in objections to the Reformed doctrine of prayer, it’s worthwhile to have a look at Dainton’s discussion of time travel:
“Another common misconception, a more serious one, is embodied in arguments such as the following:
‘But couldn’t we *travel into the past* and witness for ourselves the Egyptians building pyramids?…there is a problem, however. Those centuries have passed; the events have happened; they’re over. And they all happened *without you*—you weren’t even born until the twentieth century. The ancient civilizations came and went, and you weren’t anywhere in that picture. How then can you say that you could now *go back* there and *be* among the people then living? It all happened without you, and now you want to say that you could go back and participate in it, that is, that it did *not* happen without you?’ (Hospers 1997:121),” B. Dainton, Time & Space (McGill-Queen’s 2001), 112.
“There are two key assumptions made here: the past cannot be changed; and backward time travel involves changing the past. Are these assumptions true? It depends on the nature of time…the idea that the past could be changed is highly counterintuitive Not only does it entail two conflicting but true accounts of what occurred at a given time, but it is quite likely that changes in the past produced by a time traveller’s arrival will have wider ramifications, and require the wholesale replacement of the subsequent timeline. Consider a scenario familiar from the Terminator films…one entire stretch of human history simply vanishes and another stretch is immediately created to take its place. Is this scenario absurd? I am inclined to think that it is,” ibid. 112-13.
“But don’t forget, we are currently assuming the block view [of time] to be true, and in this context it is simply a mistake to suppose that backward time travel *would* bring about changes in the past of the problematic sort just envisioned. If the universe consists of a single block of times and events, what occurs at a given time is fixed and unchangeable. This does not mean that you cannot go back to 3000BC and assist with the building of the pyramids; what it means is that if you do travel back and assist, *that* you do so is as true now as it was then. It is true at *all* times, including those that occur before you set off. You may have been born in1975, but unbeknownst to you and your parents this was not your first appearance in the world’s affairs: you first entered history as a thirty-year old, assisting with the building of the pyramids several thousand yeas previously. In short, everything that you ever do as a time traveler is *built into the past* before your first journey. Prior to your departure you do not remember being in Egypt all those years ago, but this is because the time you spend there lies in your (personal) future. Of course, if you left any traces of your visit—perhaps you carved your initials on a sarcophagus—these may well be discovered prior to your departure. It is one thing to *affect* the past—to contribute to what occurred at the times in question—quite another to *change* it. You can certainly affect the past—your initials are testament to that, and there are Egyptians slaves who are glad of your help—but you did not change it. The building of the pyramids only occurred once, and you were there at the time,” ibid. 113.
“So the argument fails. But the mistake on which it is founded is easily made. In imagining how things were in ancient Egypt we envisage ourselves *being present* there; since we naturally assume that times later than the present are unreal, it seems absurd to think someone from the twentieth century could put in an appearance; the future from which they would supposedly emerge is nonexistent. Consequently, if someone from the twentieth century *were* to travel back, it seems that they will be emerging into a history that originally unfolded in their absence. All this shows, however, is that backward time travel is problematic in the context of certain dynamic models of time. Since we are currently working within the confines of the static block view, this is an irrelevant result,” ibid. 113.
Now, simply invert the comparison from the accidental necessity of the past to the future, and you can see how an agent could *affect* the future (through prayer), even if the future were foreordained, without *changing* the future. Hence, there’s nothing incoherent in the idea that prayer makes a difference to what would otherwise have come to pass in the absence of prayer even though the future is unalterable.
And if you find this analysis difficult to follow, then don’t raise philosophical objections to Calvinism. Stick with exegesis, which should have been the yardstick all along.
In a fallen world, warfare is inevitable. It’s therefore incumbent on Christians to formulate a principled position regarding the morality of war: what is morally permissible or obligatory—and what is impermissible?
II. The Traditional Options
There are two basic traditions. One is pacifism, as represented by Anabaptism. But most Christians, including most Baptists, generally reject pacifism.
The other, more popular option, is just-war theory. But there are a couple of problems with just war theory:
1) Just-war criteria go beyond Scripture. I’ve never seen anyone successfully exegete each and every just-war criterion from Scripture. In fact, there’s almost no attempt to.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s contrary to Scripture. But it’s not as if God ever told us that this is the only proper way to wage war.
2) Just-war criteria are impractical. In a fallen world with moral ambiguities, precious few conflicts accommodate themselves to the stringent conditions of just-war theory.
It’s not coincidental that just-war theory was formulated by theologians rather than soldiers. It has a bit of an armchair quality to it.
And that’s a serious flaw in just-war theory. Remember, this is supposed to be an alternative to pacifism. It presumes the right of self-defense, of which national defense is a logical extension. If, however, just-war criteria are too restrictive to apply to a real world situation; if a commander can’t win a war under these conditions, then it’s not a practical alternative to pacifism.
III. Deuteronomy 20
1) The Bible has a lot to say about warfare. However, most of what it has to say consists in historical accounts of various battles—both defensive and offensive. These historical narratives are mainly descriptive rather than normative. They tell you who did what, but they don’t necessarily tell you who should have done what.
Mind you, that’s a bit of an oversimplification. They sometimes reiterate divine commands. And it’s possible, at times, to infer moral norms from narrative theology.
2) However, there’s only one place in Scripture where we’re given a set of instructions governing warfare, and that’s Deut 20 (with a few more verses elsewhere). Here we have a set of divine commands governing the conduct of war. Inspired moral norms.
3) But most Christians discount Deut 20. While it was normative for OT Jews, it’s not normative for Christians since it deals with holy war, which is inapplicable under the new covenant—or so the argument goes. Yet there are a number of problems with this facile position:
i) The author of Hebrew commends OT warriors (Heb 11:32-34). They are role models of faith for Christians.
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he commends OT warfare as a model for Christians. But it does indicate continuities, as well as discontinuities, between OT ethics and NT ethics.
ii) Deut 20 contains a number of humanitarian provisions which many Christians would approve of: draft deferments or military exemptions (5-9); offering your enemy the option of peaceful surrender as an alternative to war (10-11); sparing (some) noncombatants (12-14); and a prohibition against scorched-earth tactics (19-20).
When Christians automatically discount the relevance of Deut 20 to modern warfare, they thereby deny themselves any Biblical warrant for a volunteer army, diplomacy as an alternative to war, or other restraints on total warfare.
iii) As a result, many Christians cast about for NT Scriptures that hopefully speak to the morality or conduct of war. This usually comes down to Rom 13 or Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple.
In the former case, Rom 13 has a potential application to warfare, but at a very generic level. It offers almost no guidance on the actual conduct of war. In the latter case, this would authorize the use of force, but not the use of lethal force.
iv) Most Christians are half-right about Deut 20. It does involve the cultic holiness of Israel. And we have to make allowance for that timebound aspect. But this doesn’t mean we can’t relegate everything in Deut 20 to the category of cultic holiness (see below).
v) Why does Deut 20 have one set of laws for waging war inside the promised land and another set of laws for waging war outside the promised land? Cultic holiness is one reason. The promised land is sacred space in a way that territory outside the promised land is not. And that’s one reason this section is more unyielding in the scope of the conquest. The cultic rationale is given in v18. As part of the ceremonial law, this rationale does not carry over into the new covenant.
vi) However, that can’t be the only reason. For one thing, the Mosaic law has regulations covering resident aliens. But if cultic holiness were all-important, then foreign nationals would not be allowed to defile the promised land by their presence therein. For contact between Jew and Gentile would render the Jew ritually unclean (unless the Gentile were a proselyte).
vii) Another reason is given in v16. And this, in turn, alludes to a series of commands in Deuteronomy (as well as Joshua), in which Israel is enjoined to take possession of the promised land.
But Israel can’t very well possession of the land as long as the Canaanites occupy the land. For that would lead to chronic civil war. Before they can take possession of the land, the Israelites must dispossess the pagan inhabitants.
So, in addition to the cultic rationale, there is a practical rationale: two hostile groups can’t occupy the same piece of real estate. And unlike the cultic rationale, the practical rationale is timeless rather than timebound.
[Yet another rationale, not given here, is that God is exacting judgment on the Canaanites for their depravity (9:4).]
viii) That interpretation would explain two other features of the Mosaic law:
a) Israel could tolerate a certain number of resident aliens in her midst as long as they don’t pose a threat to her survival.
b) In wars with surrounding nations, the noncombatants are spared because Israel isn’t going to occupy those lands.
ix) Apropos (viii), Israel didn’t have enemies because she was holy. Every nation-state in the ANE had its share of enemies. So Israel’s unique status as a holy nation didn’t uniquely select for enemies. If Israel had been another heathen country, she would still have enemies. So Israel wasn’t a holy nation that happened to have enemies. Rather, Israel happened to be a holy nation that had enemies.
Therefore, the need to defend herself against neighboring states embodies a timeless element rather than a timebound element. Having to defend her borders was not an experience distinctive to the theocratic state of Israel.
x) Finally, Deut 20 is relevant in another respect. Whatever God commands is morally obligatory. And whatever is obligatory is permissible in the sense that if it’s obligatory, then it can’t be intrinsically evil. Therefore—to take one example—killing noncombatants is not intrinsically evil.
Of course, there may be, and undoubtedly are, many situations in which it would be evil to kill noncombatants. But Deut 20 presents a limiting case. As such, it’s useful in setting the moral parameters for what is intrinsically permissible or impermissible.
And that’s is important because the immunity of noncombatants as a wedge issue for pacifists. They say that any war is unjust because any war carries with it the risk of civilian casualties. But, according to Deut 20, that’s not a valid argument.
Likewise, war as a last resort is not a moral absolute. In Deut 20, war was either the first resort, or the fallback.
So one cannot argue, as a matter of principle, that war must always be a last resort. Of course, one can still argue, on a case-by-case basis, that we shouldn’t go to war unless the peaceful alternatives have been exhausted—although I, myself, wouldn’t go quite that far.
VI. Reason & Revelation
1) However, someone might object that since Deut 20 wasn’t directed to our own situation, we can’t say for a fact that, even after we make due allowance for the timebound elements, what was permissible for OT Jews is also or equally permissible for Christians. God hasn’t issued a new set of commands regarding the conduct of war under the new covenant.
All I’ve done is to establish the possibility that some apparently timeless elements of Deut 20 are transferable to Christian conduct in time of war. And I’ve left the lines a bit fuzzy.
2) There’s some truth to that objection. Yet it cuts both ways. If God didn’t specifically extend the timeless elements of Deut 20 to the New Covenant, then it’s also true—by the same token—that he didn’t forbid their extension.
If Deut 20 contains some apparently timeless elements, and if God has said nothing to rescind them, then I don’t see how a Christian would at fault if he took them into account. If anything, there’s a certain presumption to that effect.
3) Of course, Deut 20 is not the only passage of Scripture which is relevant to the conduct of war. I focus attention on this passage, both because it’s neglected, and because it’s the most informative passage we have.
But another verse is the 6th Commandment. The reason we should try to minimize the loss of innocent life is out of deference to the 6th Commandment. Wanton slaughter is mass murder. So the 6th Commandment supplies another parameter in the ethics of warfare.
4) And, up to a point, the 6th Commandment can also underwrite some other just-war criteria. But at the same time, the 6th Commandment also made allowance for OT holy war. These two passages belong to the same law code.
And, of course, the dilemma which a soldier may often find himself in is which lives to save. Action will cost lives and inaction will cost lives. Saving some lives will come at the loss of other lives. That’s the problem with pacifism.
5) So the Bible doesn’t rubberstamp just-war criteria. It’s more realistic. More permissive. Even a bit ruthless. And Christians should resist the temptation to be more idealistic than Scripture.
To the extent that Scripture doesn’t tell a Christian soldier exactly what he can and cannot do in every conceivable situation, then that’s left to his own discretion. He should make prudent choices within the moral framework of Scripture.
The witness of Scripture, along with the Protestant theological method, enables us to be somewhat more flexible and adaptable than just-war criteria permit. All things being equal, we should try to meet as many conditions of just-war theory as we can—but all things considered, it’s often impossible to fully comply with each and every condition, and these criteria are not interchangeable with Biblical prescriptions or proscriptions.
6) If modern nation-states like the United States can afford, in some respects, to be more humane, that’s only because our wealth and power give us more options than men living in the ANE. If our socioeconomic conditions reverted to theirs, the laws of war would revert accordingly.
7) What is merciful or cruel can also be deceptive. For example, to be a war bride is not ideal. But it’s not as if Canaanite women were better off in Canaanite culture. A war bride had rights under the Mosaic Law. And she could learn about the true faith. And raise her kids in the true faith. That was a mercy compared to her ungodly existence outside the community of faith.
8) Remember that if you think the OT is irrelevant to modern warfare, then you’re left with absolutely no specific, divine guidance on the conduct of war. And in that event, there are no inherent moral restraints on the prosecution of a military conflict.
I don’t see that we can go too far wrong as long as we take care to isolate the timeless elements of OT law. But we’re bound to go wrong, and badly wrong, if we conduct our military operations without the directives and correctives of Scripture.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Notice that Chuck doesn’t actually quote what I said. I said that Lofton is sympathetic to the 9/11 Truthers. And I documented that statement by reference an article by Lofton himself:
Let’s see if Chuck can back up his allegations about “flaming straw men.”
Oh, and the bit about “ad hominem rants” is pretty rich given the way in which Vance and Lofton characterize the American military.
“Since John is apparently frustrating him, the old ‘conspiracy’ bugaboo is currently in play. The last refuge of someone who has lost an argument.”
If Chuck has such a low opinion of conspiracy theories, then he should have a low opinion of Lofton given Lofton’s view of the 9/11 Truthers.
“The ‘anti-semitism’ red herring is in play, as well.”
When Lofton and Roberts both side with Hamas, I’d say that “anti-Semitism” is alive and well. Speaking of which:
“Do these neocons have no other ammunition than lame-o name calling and false accusation?”
i) Notice that Chuck instantly reaches for the “neocon” label. A classic example of knee-jerk anti-Semitism. Thanks for illustrating the point, Chucky boy.
ii) Notice that Chuck doesn’t document the “false accusation.” Rather, he levels a false accusation of false accusation.
BTW, my criticisms don’t subtract from the fact that Dr. Moreland has either written or coauthored a number of very useful books in the field of Christian apologetics. They’re well worth reading.
Dear Dr. Moreland,
A friend drew my attention to your recent ETS speech about Evangelical overcommittment to Scripture:
Before I comment on that, let me say that I appreciate all the fine work you’ve done over the years in the field of Christian apologetics.
On a more personal note, my parents and I went to one of your presentations shortly before my father died (in 1999). This was at Westminster Chapel in the Greater Seattle area. I’m glad that my dad had a chance to hear you.
That said, I have a number of problems with your ETS speech.
1. You characterize the position you’re opposing in such terms as “bibliolatry,” “false,” “irrational,” “harmful,” “mean-spirited,” “grotesque,” “ignorant,” and “distorted.”
Now, I don’t have any inherent objection to the use of harsh language. But when you single out as spokesmen for the opposing position such men as Schaeffer, Kuyper, Gaffin, MacArthur, Carl Henry, and unnamed representatives of the Biblical Counseling movement, do you really think that’s the most accurate way to characterize the opposition?
2. “Bibliolatry” is the sort of word that Fosdick would use. Why are you lending ammo to the enemy? Can’t you anticipate that liberal Bible-haters will start quoting you?
3.You say you’re opposing Christians who view the Bible as the sole source of knowledge in faith and practice. But you actually cite no one or almost no one who takes that position.
For example, you cite a secondary source on Schaeffer, Kuyper, and Carl Henry, and then immediately shift to an indictment regarding the lack of political reflection and political engagement among Evangelicals. This is just baffling when it comes right on the heels of a reference to Schaeffer, Kuyper, and Carl Henry. These men were deeply involved in political activism. And where Kuyper and Henry are concerned, they were political theorists as well as political activists. Kuyper had a very complex and nuanced position.
4. You also don’t display any firsthand knowledge of the people you talk about. For example, Henry’s aversion to the natural law isn’t due to his general commitment to sola Scriptura, but to his specific commitment to anti-empiricist philosophy of his mentor, Gordon Clark.
Also, wasn’t a major point of Evangelicalism, of which Henry was a founding member, in contrast to the Fundamentalism of the day, the need to engage the culture? Why do you pick on Carl Henry as if he were Bob Jones when, in fact, Henry was in the vanguard of Christian leaders attempting to engage the culture?
5. As to Yoder, to the extent that he admonishes Christians to avoid political activism, that would be due, not to his commitment to sola Scriptura, but to his Anabaptistic separatism.
6. While your golden age view of how universities used to operate has a grain of truth, it also strikes me as so overstated as to be a utopian retrojection. For example, the Great Awakening took place during Colonial American history. And that was in response to such liberalizing trends as the fact that Harvard had already gone Unitarian.
Certainly the secularizing trend has accelerated to the point where we see it today. But it’s been around for a long time.
And even the current degree of secularization is quite superficial. The views of college professors in general are hardly interchangeable with the views of college students in general.
7. To judge by your speech, you also have the frankly naive habit of taking the pomo/PC rhetoric at face-value. But surely you must be aware of the fact that no one is more dogmatic about their moral rectitude of their political views than Far Left academics in sociology and womyn’s studies and queer studies, &c. In theory, they’re moral relativists, but they’re quite absolutistic in their value judgments as well their efforts to impose their value judgments on others by force of law. They don’t preach or practice a fact/value dichotomy. They relativize the opposing viewpoint while canonizing their own.
8. Moreover, Far Left academics generally retain a cognitivist interpretation of religious claims, at least when it comes to Christian ethics and the Bible. They don’t take the position that Scripture is neither true nor false. To the contrary, they regard the Bible as wrong—dead wrong. They regard Scripture and traditional Christian ethics as oppressive, immoral, sexist, patriarchal, homophobic, unscientific, &c.
At a certain level, you must be aware of this. But it’s as if you’re blinded to the obvious because you’re seeing things through the filter of their pomo/PC rhetoric.
9.As to the business of trading Plato and Aristotle for football and school spirit, once again, surely you’re not so Pollyannaish as to believe that back before the (mythical) “shift,” most-all college students were deeply invested the life of the mind.
To take one obvious example, in the past, many college students were noblemen. More aristocratic than Aristotelian. They went to college because that’s what was expected of them. You went to Eton, and then to Oxford, because that was a stamp of your social class.
Do you think the average college student was more interested in composing Latin sonnets in the style of Horace than a good game of rugby—or a trip to the pub, or a trip to the brothel?
And even for that fraction of the student body which did take an avid interest in the life of the mind, wasn’t a lot of the scholarship pretty trivial? I mean, okay, so Richard Bentley unleashed his magnificent erudition to expose the Epistles of Phalaris as spurious. Exactly what signal contribution did that make to the formation of character or the advancement of knowledge?
It seems to me that you’re so intent on justifying the hortatory payoff in part 3 of your speech that you are constantly turning a blind eye to reality in parts 1-2.
10. I don’t know why you bring up archeology. Do you think that Evangelicals are opposed to archeology? What evidence do you have that Evangelicals are generally opposed to archeology?
To my knowledge, Evangelicals have even carved out a subdivision of archeology called Biblical archeology. They’ve made this field their very own.
11. You think that Evangelicals should borrow a page from John-Paul II and Benedict XIV on natural law. Up to a point, I don’t object to natural law. But there are a couple of fundamental limitations to this approach:
i) Natural law is useful on some very broad issues, like the moral status of sodomy. But it doesn’t furnish the kind of fine-tuned guidance we need in many cases.
ii) Because natural law is still a version of theistic ethics, the same folks who reject Christian ethics generally reject natural law ethics.
Your illustration of John-Paul II actually undercuts your appeal. He had a long pontificate. In the final years he was enfeebled, but he originally had a very vigorous pontificate. He was charismatic. He knew how to work the media. He drew huge crowds.
But what was the actual, ethical impact of his pontificate on the moral climate of Europe? You see, irreligious people will repudiate natural law ethics for the same reason that they repudiate Christian ethics. They will repudiate any value system that’s “tainted” by theistic assumptions.
So why should we serve them the near-beer of natural law when we can serve them the vintage proof of Christian ethics? Why not make a case for the greater rather than the lesser?
12.You take a swipe at John MacArthur. But the thing about MacArthur is that he’s a popularizer, and so he exhibits the strengths and weaknesses and typical limitations of a popularizer. He oversimplifies many issues.
At the same time, his ministry has done an enormous amount of good.
Moreover, you don’t seriously think, do you, that MacArthur should be able to argue for dualism with the philosophical finesse of someone like Bill Vallicella, do you? That’s not MacArthur’s metier. He doesn’t operate at that level, and he couldn’t even if he tried.
And while it’s worthwhile to correct his errors, what about the errors of his opponents? There’s a very lopsided quality to your speech.
And here I’m not talking about whether you’re being fair to your opponents—although I think you’re frequently unfair in this speech.
But my main concern is that you come across has having a very blinkered view of where the harm and hazards are coming from.
Yes, we can learn many useful things from the discipline of psychology. At the same time, no discipline is more subject to radical chic academic fads than the field of psychology. That’s been the case for decades, going all the way back to Freud.
Do you think that MacArthur or Jay Adams is doing more damage than Alfred Kinsey?
BTW, I to, have reservations about the Biblical Counseling movement, but you’re information is pretty dated, don’t you think?
Jay Adams strikes me as being a blunt, Luther-like instrument. At least in writing, I find his approach too formulaic—although I have it on good authority that he’s better in person.
But some of his disciples have professional training in the field of psychology.
13.I don’t know what you (or Kraft) have in mind when you say the behavioral sciences can discover regularities in human/angelic or human/demonic interactions.
It seems to me that you’re falsely assimilating the behavior of personal agents to the behavior of natural forces, as if the latter furnishes a good model for the former. But the probability that it will rain tomorrow, and the probability that a demon will take possession of Mary Magdalene tomorrow, belong to incommensurable domains.
14.You then attempt, in the space of a single paragraph, to plug charismatic theology while you dismiss cessationism. Don’t you realize how useless and even counterproductive that is?
If you think this is a serious issue which other Christians need to take more seriously, then this is an intellectually frivolous treatment of serious issue. Indeed, that’s one of the chronic problems with your speech. You try to cover way too much ground in way too little time.
Instead of spending a little time here and there on a slew of things, so that you end up doing everything badly, you would be better off to spend all your time on one or two things and get it right.
15.It’s rather scurrilous to claim that Gaffin is rejecting charismatic theology “out of hand.” He has a considered position on this issue. It’s grounded in the tradition of redemptive-historical theology. That’s a perfectly respectable position.
Now, I happen to think that Gaffin is not an overly impressive representative of that position. He lacks the intellectual aptitude of Vos, Kline, Poythress, or even O. P. Robertson. He strikes me as being a NT scholar who strayed into systematic theology.
And my own position is not as narrow as his. But the basic framework is sound.
16.Of course, if we *stipulate* that God led the elders to emphasize family over evangelism this year, then I guess this would count as extrabiblical revelation. But why should we stipulate to that premise in the first place?
If that's what God wants a local church or denomination to do, then why would his leading be limited to the elders? How is the laity in a position to verify a divine leading when the laity was out of the loop? Why wouldn’t God be leading the laity as well as the elders, if the interested parties need extrabiblical revelation to carry out his will in this particular case?
17. What do you mean by spiritual “impressions,” anyway? This is one of the problems I have with charismatic theology. If you really think there are situations in which a Christian or group of Christians is in need of extrabiblical revelation to carry out the will of God, then God is quite capable of disclosing his will in some utterly unmistakable fashion.
The charismatic appeal to spiritual “impressions” is a way of fudging the fact that you don’t have access to any unambiguous source of extrabiblical revelation. It’s a fallback for the absence of extrabiblical guidance. What’s the value of a guide whose directions are so difficult to pin down?
Indeed, I don’t know any place in Scripture where God communicates his will to an individual through spiritual “impressions.” As I recall, God is far more direct and pointed in getting through to a person.
18. You also palter in equivocal verbiage when you say that God continues to “speak to” and “guide” his children in various ways.
i) To begin with, “speech” and “guidance” are not synonymous concepts. God could guide us without speaking to us. He could guide us by the providential ordering of our circumstances.
Of course, a cessationist would also add that God has already spoken to his people—in Scripture.
ii) Likewise, “speech” can either be used in a literal or metaphorical sense. Which do you mean?
19.In the same connection, you talk about dreams and visions and prophecies. Well, I’ll just touch on two or three issues:
a) It’s one thing to say that God may favor some Christians some of the time with special guidance. But in cases like that, God is taking the initiative. It may or may not happen. And for most Christians, most of the time, it doesn’t happen.
If, when, and where it happens is out of our hands. Uncontrollable and Unpredictable.
So we should go about our lives as we usually do, making our decisions without any expectation of divine guidance—beyond Scripture. If something extraordinary happens, fine.
We can pray for either thing promised, prescribed, or permitted in Scripture. If God does something miraculous, all the better. But most of us will still have to go to the butcher and the baker for our manna or quail.
Frankly, it’s self-defeating for charismatics to even attempt to convince every Christian that charismatic theology is true. For if it were true, it would be a truth which we already know by experience. The fact that most Christians don’t have this experience is fatal to the scope of claim. Here I agree with J. B. Mozley:
“It is evident that in multitudes of cases of theological opinion in the Church public, not to mention these innumerable daily cases in the private life of all Christians in the world, who have been, are, or will be, there is, as a matter of fact, no continuous revelation which decides for us,. And wherever it stops, all the objections which apply to the original revelation’s continuance, apply in principle to its cessation too,” The Theory of Development: A Criticism of Dr. Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 127.
Yes, you can come up with ad hoc excuses to explain the chasm between the universality of the claim and the paucity of the experience, but this is special pleading.
And that’s what I would expect since, in my reading of Scripture, there is no promise of universal private guidance.
b) I also wonder, at a concrete level, how far you’d go with a dream or word of knowledge. Suppose a Christian has a dream in which a figure who identifies himself as the angel Gabriel tells him to quit his job, then take his wife and seven kids to Mongolia to found a Christian mission.
What do you think a Christian should do in that situation? According to Scripture, he has a prior obligation to provide for his wife and kids.
What if the angel Gabriel didn’t appear to him in a dream? What if it’s just a garden-variety dream? The angelic character was imaginary, even though it seemed to be real.
Where do you think his responsibilities lie?
20. Finally, to circle back to where we began, your objection was partly pragmatic. You were concerned with the harm which is done by cessationism.
Well, what about the harm that’s done by Pentecostalism? What about all the lives that are devastated by charlatans who prey on the gullible masses?
What about credulous Christians who entertain false hopes? Whose delusive expectations are dashed by brutal experience? Who were deceived or self-deceived into believing that God made them a personal promise. Who become bitterly disillusioned because the Lord “broke” his promise?
What about well-meaning Christians who fritter away their lives “waiting on the Lord” to reveal his “perfect plan” for their lives? Waiting for their daily itinerary to drop out of the sky?
What about Christians who think it’s “carnal” to make common sense decisions? Who resort to gimmicks like bibliomancy to divine God’s will? Who truly think that’s the God-honoring way to choose a mate?
HT: Todd Pruitt
Thursday, February 28, 2008
INTRODUCTION (Part 1)
Pulling the stuffing out
Ben Kangaroo's first post:
Before I begin, I guess I should point out that Mr. Kangaroo (and some of his Arminian peanut gallery members) commented about my loooooooooong posts. So, I'll make this short than his latest response to me. Three pages shorter, to be exact. Any whining and complaining about comments I didn't interact with are thus rendered moot. You can't have it both ways, that is.
I should also point out that my main beef has to do with Roo's assertion that Calvinists have an inconsistency between the propositions:
(CI1) Monergism is the case.
(CI2) Calvinists think prayer for the lost is not pointless.
I will demonstrate, as I did earlier, that there is no inconsistency.
So, I'll briefly discuss some tangential points, and then I'll end by arguing that Mr. Roo hasn’t met his burden. Remember, he asserted. Not me. He made a strong assertion. One of inconsistency. I'll demonstrate that he has not shown any such inconsistency. If I succeed here, no matter what else has been debated, the score will be: Calvinists - 1, Arminians - 0. It would be nice to discuss all the other things Mr. Roo wants to discuss, but given my current situation, and the level of his arguments (They don't cause any Calvinist I know to lose sleep. They are actually means God uses for creating laughter in his people.), and that fact that all his comments have been (better) expressed elsewhere, as well as responded to elsewhere, I'll pass up the opportunity. Besides, if I were to take it on, I have plenty of pages of material I could write (due to the multi-layered errors), they'd complain about 'how much he writes.' You can't win with these guys!
So, let me take a few pot shots before I show that Ben has not met his burden. That he has not achieved what he set out to do. Remember, showing this constitutes a failure in the very heart of Mr. Roo's post, no matter what else he wants to discuss. I will thus expect at least an admission of error. Possibly he'll change his line of attack, but the specific one I got out of bed to respond to will have rendered impotent. I should say one last thing. Much hay was made by Mr. Roo about me not "letting him know about my first post." As I knew that he has a link feature on his blog, indicating him every time someone links to a blog entry of his, I thought this sufficient. What did he want me to do. Send a carrier pigeon? Maybe he'll say that he doesn't check his comboxes in order to see the links? But then (i) why does he post in them and (ii) how else would I inform him? Not by positing a message in his combox. I don't do carrier pigeons. And I'm not going to email him informing him that I responded to one of his precious posts. So, this gives people a taste of the types being dealt with here. They love to get involved with numerous side debates and charge you with all sorts of moral fallings: "At least you could have the common decency to let me know you dedicated a post to me!" Their childish behavior (childish since I indirectly let him know that I responded) is more reason why I hope this is the last exchange between us. I'm not in the mood to get a manners lesson from Martha Rooert, or be told that I have "hellfire awaiting me at the judgment," or to deal with weak and sloppy arguments. For all the above reasons, this will probably me my last response to them.
The meatiest and most substantial section, and most relevant to the stated purpose of Ben's post will be covered in Part 3 below. If you want to skip to there and read that section, that will be all you need to see that Kangaroo's argument is to no avail. (I include pictures for our Arminian readers.) (I also employ sarcasm for purposes of levity.) (As is my wont, all of his comments will appear in red.)
SOME SNIPING (Part 2)
Roo made a claim that monergism was inconsistent with Calvinists praying to God for someone's salvation. But, he said the terms were ambiguous. I pointed out to him that he lost from the beginning since one cannot draw an actual inconsistency from ambiguous terms. His response:
"Well, if Paul would have followed the two links I provided in the section of the first paragraph he neglected to quote, he would have gotten quite a bit of clarification as to how I understand the difference between synergism and monergism. He would have also discovered that I believe the term “synergism” does not properly convey the Arminian understanding of conditional salvation since synergism literally means “to work together” and Arminians deny salvation by works."
Unfortunately for Ben, I did look at his links. My question wasn't about how you "understood the difference between synergism and monergism." If Ben followed the bouncing ball (like a good little Roo), he'd note that my question had to do with the single term monergism. For my purposes, I give two hoots about how he 'underst[ands] the difference between monergism and synergism.' Much less did my comment have to do with whether or not he thinks the term 'synergism' 'properly convey[s] the Arminian understanding of ________.' In his first link, 'Is Arminianism Synergistic," Ben does nothing to provide the necessary and sufficient conditions that apply to 'monergism.' His second link was to a post he titled 'The Nature of Saving Faith.' In it he uses the adjective 'monergistic' twice (I think), and offers no specific definition of that word. Thus I am at a loss as to how Ben thinks his above response (the one in red) effectively counters my point. His cocky comment was nothing but a sophistic debate trick given with the intention of snowing his readers into thinking that I didn't do the simple footwork that would have negated my comments in response to his comments. This is cheap, and is another reason why, given my situation especially, I don't want to waste my time with these guys. If my above comments (that totally rebut the grounds by which he made his snide remark to me) weren't enough, the simple fact remains that he said the term 'monergism' was ambiguous. Either it is or it isn't. Either he thinks his previous links offered a precise understanding of the term in terms of which he could draw out the inconsistency, or he doesn't. If he doesn’t, why did he point me to the two links? If he does, then why did he say the term was too ambiguous? Either way you slice it, Ben Kangaroo has been poached.
Mr. Roo sez,
"All of salvation is conditioned on faith. We are justified, regenerated, and sanctified by faith. Glorification takes place after death but only for those who die in the faith. So, there is a sense in which even glorification can be said to be by faith, though not in the same way as the other necessary components of salvation pre-glorification."
"I suppose we could think of such things, but for the believer who is not immediately “struck dead” sanctification is certainly a necessary component of the salvation process, and anyone who ceases to remain in this process will fall short of final salvation (Heb. 10:29, 36-39; Rom. 6:16, 21-22; 8:12-14; Gal. 5:17-25; 6:7-9; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 4:20-24; 5:3-16, etc.). We could just as well say that infants are not necessarily justified by faith but are unconditionally saved by God’s grace, while adults must meet the condition of faith to receive the gift of God’s salvation. Such speculations and hypotheticals are hardly relevant to the discussion at hand and can really serve only as deflections by which the main issues are obscured. (emphasis added)"
Yeah, that's right, when talking about necessities then brining in hypotheticals and thought experiments are crucial. For example, if being two-armed was necessary to being a human, one could talk about possible worlds with three-armed humans and ask how this changes anything of essence rather than accident. I would have thought Ben was familiar with at least elementary points like this. If he is, then he goes for cheap debate tricks, minimizing rather crucial distinctions I made.
"Or perhaps Paul’s sloppy reading skills and inability to comprehend fairly simple theological definitions with which most who are familiar with the debate do not seem to have difficulty."
Notice how nice ole Ben is. Now, given how sanctimonious he's acted, chastising me for calling my last post "Captain Kangaroo," then how does he explain this double standard. Well, you see, Ben and the boys aren’t serious when they chastise me and my Calvinist brothers. That is a debate tactic of theirs. Intended to draw pity for their side. In actuality, they're no better then us sorry sinners on the Reformed side of the fence; protests to the contrary aside. I cite this not because I'm going to cry about how Mr. Roo hurt my feewings, but simply to point out that Mr. Roo can't live up to his own standards. In other words, he's a hypocrite.
I wrote, "And, we are not saved by faith. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone." Mr. Roo responded:
"I agree. However, I don’t think Paul is wise to get hung up on the difference between “through faith” and “by faith”. They mean essentially the same thing and there are plenty of Scriptures that indicate that all of salvation is “by” or “through” faith, and not just justification proper. For instance, we become God’s children (adoption) through faith (Gal. 3:26). Peter tells us that we are receiving “salvation” as the outcome of our faith (1 Peter 1:8, 9). Christ dwells in our hearts “by faith” (Eph. 3:17, cf. 2 Cor. 13:5). We receive the Holy Spirit by faith (Gal. 3:2; 3:14). We are sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18), and it doesn’t take much reading from John’s gospel before we realize that eternal life is received by faith as well (e.g. John 19:31). That seems to pretty much cover all the bases as far as I am concerned."
So you "agree" that "we are not saved by faith" but rather "saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus?" But then you seem to argue that "you don't agree." More conceptual muddles at the hands of "Ben."
And, pretty much only the KJV says "by" in Eph. 3:17. But, that doesn't even matter since Eph. 3:17 is not talking about salvation!
It is a fact that in Pauline thought we are "saved by grace, through faith."
But, my point is, it is Jesus who saves, not your faith. Your faith is but an instrument!
"Even worse for Paul is that the passage he seems to quote above indicates that the whole of salvation, including regeneration, is conditioned on faith:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together [regeneration] with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him [regeneration] and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus (in whom alone are all spiritual blessings which would include regeneration, Eph. 1:3)…for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it [i.e. salvation] is the gift of God; not as the result of works, that no one should boast.” (Eph. 2:4-9 Emphasis mine)"
i) Nothing in this text says "all salvation is condition of faith."
ii) Ben just assumes his libertarianism in his interpretation that he got from Olsen and Geisler.
iii) And all salvation couldn't be condition on faith if Jesus says that no one can come to him unless the Father draws that person. John 6:44 is best formally expressed as: (~p --> ~q) & r. Logically, John 6:44 teaches that the Father's drawing is a necessary condition required before someone is able to come to Jesus by faith. The Arminian should agree. The problem is that if he agrees with the first half of the conjunct ((~p --> ~q)), then he must agree with the second. Let 'r' = 'raise him on the last day.' The Arminian is thus forced to accept universalism, or deny that the father must draw someone S before S comes to Jesus in faith.
I wrote, "Yes, the promises come in the form of a conditional, but Reformed theology teaches that Christ has met any and all conditions man must meet in order to have everlasting life--either by his work, or by securing for us what we need. So, in regards the former, Christ lived a perfect life in our place, he met that condition for us. In regards the latter, he did not have saving faith for us. But, he purchased, or acquired them for us. The Holy Spirit then applies this all to us."
Ben Kangaroo responds,
"This seems like a lot of assertion and is very confusing. I am not familiar with any passages of Scripture which say that Jesus purchased or acquired our personal faith."
Here, let's use a page out of Ben's book (I'm just switching some words around): "I am a little surprised that [Ben] finds things so confusing. I thought he had been defending [Arminianism] and “dismantling” [Calvinism] for quite some time now. So, if Ben's response to me was good, then this was. If this wasn't, his wasn't. Either way I'm sitting pretty.
Anyway, my comments were pretty standard fair for Reformed theologians. One could easily read our commentaries and systematics for an explication of this basic belief.
Suffice it to say, Reformed theologians have always acknowledged that Christ's redemptive work expitiates, propitiates, reconciliates, but also merits the application of redemption to the sinner as well (regeneration, sanctification and glorification). I would have thought that a basic understanding of Reformed theology would lead one to notice that we take faith to be a spiritual blessing. Christ purchased all the spiritual graces for His people. God "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:33). My comments flow directly from the basics of Reformed theology. You may disagree, but simply parading your ignorance of Reformed teachings isn't a theological, exegetical, or even a philosophical objection to what I stated.
I had said, "Our faith is not the ground of our salvation, but is but an instrument for receiving all of Christ."
"I agree completely, and that is why all grounds of boasting are cut off since faith is the receiving of a free gift and total reliance on another. The “grounds” of salvation are the work of Christ and the gracious gift of God resulting from that work. Faith is the condition for receiving that salvation which is grounded solely in Christ’s atoning work. I never claimed otherwise; so maybe we should again ask, with Paul, what all the hubbub is about?"
I guess Ben doesn't see how this admission hurts him. Of course the Reformed believing that faith is an instrumental condition. So what's the hubbub about? He acts as if we disagree, but then he agrees with me.
I had wrote, "But, I can grant that in the Bible we see a hypothetical statement, technically called a 'conditional.'"
Mr. Roo strangely asserts,
"Paul just can’t seem to get through a post defending Calvinism without some sort of appeal to 'hypotheticals.'"
Sorry, first let me take a moment while I rip out all the sections on conditionals in my logic texts, this will take a while.....
Okay, Ben, I did it, now I'm back. Next, per your prodding, let me rip out all the hypotheticals in the Bible. I start with these:
Heb. 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, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if 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.
Rom. 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And if you hold on, I'll cut out some more verses....
Okay, whew!, I'm back. There, now neither will I seem like I can't get through a defense of Calvinism without reference to hypotheticals, neither will my logic textbooks, and neither will all my Bible's! Good thing you came along, I was tired of not being able to get through my Bible without it mentioning hypotheticals!
I had said, "A dead men doesn't "recognize our inability to save ourselves and cast ourselves on God’s mercy."
Ben Kangaroo responded:
"Arminians agree; hence, the doctrine of prevenient grace. I am sure that Paul finds this doctrine un-Biblical but he should at least acknowledge its existence within Arminian theology, especially seeing that he has made it his purpose to criticize that theology."
i) I already showed that prevenient grace leads to universalism. So, I do acknowledge it but immediately disregard it when speaking to an Arminian who I assume denies universalism wrt salvation.
ii) I wonder what it is that accounts for one man "choosing" God over against another. What, is Ben 'better' than all those filthy sinners who don't exercise 'faith?'
iii) How would he select or demarcate his universal grace passages from universal salvation passages?
I had said, "But, yes, the Reformed would agree that men actually do the believing."
"In the same way that a man hooked to a respirator does the “breathing” I suppose. Notice again how Paul essentially contradicts his previous statement that, “If it may be called a condition, it is not something we must do, it is something that has been done for us.”
Notice he substitutes fallacious arguments from ridicule in lieu of objective arguments.
And, his dishonest claim about ‘faith' being 'done for us' is flat out false since I specified, very clearly, that those things Christ did not do for us, he purchased for us. Remember Ben Roo himself said that my comment was 'confusing' and 'didn't know where Scripture said that Christ purchased faith for us.' So, either he's playing dumb or he is dumb.
Lastly, let me end this section by pointing out yet another double standard Ben employs in these debates.
BEN SAID: "Some Calvinists will go so far as to say that Arminians believe that man has the capability to save themselves."
I RESPONDED: "No, you have the capacity, as you admit, to 'meet' the lifeguard part way there."
BEN RESPONDED: "You are only speaking for yourself here Paul. You may not agree with those Calvinists who have said such things to me, but it doesn’t change the fact that they said them. And again, Arminians do not believe that we have the natural capacity to meet the life guard part way there; at least this Arminian doesn’t and neither did James Arminius himself."
By way of reply:
i) Where did I say 'natural ability?' And, you have the ability because 'prevenient grace.' But that's given to all. So, whence ariseth your faith yet not another man's?
ii) Note what Ben said in response to my quoting Arminian Jerry Falwell:
"So it is my duty to make sure guys like Falwell don’t say dumb things? I would think Paul might need to do plenty of backyard cleaning himself in that case."
So, Ben doesn't want to be held responsible to the 'dumb things' that Arminians say, yet when it comes to debating Calvinists he takes every stupid thing they have said (granting he's being honest here, I have my doubts, though), he uses them ubiquitously and then justifies his hamstringing us to his un-named Calvinists.
iii) I hope to have at least established prima facie evidence that Ben is yet another Arminian jokster. Big on talk, little by way of rational argumentation. I have shown him to be dishonest, hypocritical, ignorant of basic Reformed theology, and even ignorant of some of the things he's written and pointed me to. Thus justified, I'll move on....
The Death of the Initial Argument (Part 3)
Okay, recall the set of Calvinist Inconsistencies above:
(CI1) Monergism is the case.
(CI2) Calvinists think prayer for the lost is not pointless.
I thought I showed how (CI1) and (CI2) were not inconsistent in my initial post. But maybe I was too abstract for Ben to follow. Let's be real clear.
I take it that this definition for inconsistency is agreed on by both of us:
inconsistency = df Someone asserts more than one proposition such that the propositions cannot all be true. In such a case, the propositions may be contradictories or they may be contraries.
Now, there are (roughly) three ways the above could happen: (i) explicit inconsistency, (ii) formal inconsistency, and (iii) implicit inconsistency. (i) is to two propositions that assert p and ~p (e.g., to affirm and deny the same proposition). (ii) is a where a set of propositions is affirmed from which an explicit (sense (i)) inconsistency is logically deduced (typically via first-order logic with identity). And (iii) is a set of propositions to which are added some necessary truths so that a formal contradiction can be brought out.
According to (CI1) and (CI2), which of the above seem to fit, if one does? Definitely not (i) or (ii). So, if we have an inconsistency, it would be along the lines of (iii). Certainly there’s nothing obviously inconsistent between (CI1) and (CI2). Nothing like:
 Sam is the father of Frank.
 Sam is not the father of Frank.
So, Roo has done nothing like draw out an inconsistency that is plain for all to see.
Before I look at the (alleged) inconsistency between monergism and intercessory prayer for the lost, I should comment on some of Ben Kangaroo’s remarks about intercessory prayer being ‘pointless’ on the Calvinist scheme. Last time I used one simply word to skirt around his ‘argument:’ means. But apparently this didn’t carry the force I had hoped since, come to find out, Ben is more ignorant of Reformed theology than a Barry Bond’s fan is of the outward symptoms of steroid use. So we must go slower for our Arminian friends. Let me try to lay this out. Here are the relevant quotes from Ben:
"Calvinism teaches that one is saved or lost on the sole basis of an eternal and irrevocable decree. Nothing can effectively change that decree. It is fixed. It is permanent."
"The Arminian contends that intercessory prayer within a Calvinistic framework is pointless. Our prayers cannot have any effect on the eternal destiny of any individual. That destiny was fixed from eternity. No lack of prayer can prevent God from saving the elect and no amount of prayer can help the reprobate. Worse yet, the believer might waste countless hours praying for a reprobate who has no chance at heaven without realizing it."
It’s hard to make out what is even being argued here. Yes, nothing can change God’s decree. Does he think we think our prayers are ‘changing God’s decree?’ Does he think that we think we can affect a non-elect person into becoming elect? We don’t think any of that. We are not trying to ‘change the decree.’ An ‘inconsistency’ might look something like this, then:
 Nothing can change God’s eternal decree.
 By prayer the Calvinist thinks he can change God’s eternal decree.
But this is an absurd caricature! We deny . So perhaps he is thinking something like this:
 If God has decreed that someone S will be saved, then if you pray for S to be saved it will be pointless.
 If God has not decreed that S will be saved, then if you pray for say to be saved it will be a waste of time.
 Either God has decreed for S to be saved or he has not.
 So, either the Calvinist’s prayer will be pointless or it will be a waste of time.
 But, the Calvinist does not think his prayer is either pointless or a waste of time.
 Thus, there is an inconsistency between his beliefs in a God who decrees S’s salvation (or does not), and his belief that prayer is not pointless or a waste of time. If the Calvinist sufficiently reflected on his epistemic situation, then he would need to drop either his belief in God’s eternal decree regarding the salvation of sinners, or his belief in a meaningful and productive prayer life.
I take it I have faithfully portrayed Ben Kangaroo’s argument, albeit with more rigor and precision than Ben himself. All that is left now is to examine the premises. Obviously there is vague and ambiguous terms employed. What is meant by ‘pointless?’ What is meant by ‘waste of time?’ Maybe it is pointless is some senses, but not others. Recall propositions  and  above. We could easily remove the inconsistency by indicating unarticulated equivocations. So,
[1*] Sam is the father1 of Frank.
[2*] Sam is not the father2 of Frank.
The 1 and 2 are, respectively, biological and adoptive. And so I take it that Ben has the job of getting a wee bit more detailed than he’s used to over at ‘Arminian Perspectives.’ Time to dust off the old synapses. Since I don’t know for sure how these terms are being employed, and so know that we don’t have any unarticulated equivocations, I can only offer some brief comments. But, I take it that they will be enough to show that we have no problems of inconsistency (at least any interesting ones), and it will certainly be enough to render a prima facie verdict in our favor. Having thus qualified, let’s look at some of the premises (again, the qualification is that the terms are vague and ambiguous and I don’t know precisely how Ben Kangaroo is using them):
I grant ,  and .  and  are false. Not only is prayer a (a) means (I discuss this concept in fuller detail below) used for God to grant S salvation, but here are some ‘points:’
(b) God commands prayer for all things and so the Calvinist is obeying a command. This is enough to demolish his claim, but let’s look at more ‘points.’
(c) The Calvinist recognizes that he is powerless in himself to ‘win’ the lost into God’s kingdom. We must rely on God for everything. That we can’t argue, force, or otherwise manipulate someone into the kingdom, even if we are the best debater, the most imposing force, or the slickest salesman, we can’t convince a dead sinner to change his ways, even though we would love to. So prayer forces us to recognize our inability, our weakness, our dependence upon God, and thus is an exercise in humility. It is an expression of an attitude of faith. This works whether the prayer is answered or not.
(d) Prayer is also communication with the living God. It is a means of grace for the believer and allows us to grow in our sanctification. It shows that we trust the Bible and are not ‘anxious’ about the salvation of the lost. It also changes our heat toward our fellow man. Calvinists do not believe that we should just pray for our friends and family (though I have noticed this trend with Arminians for some reason), but we pray for our enemies, for those who wrong us. (I am even in the process of doing this right now, for someone who wronged me, and isn’t a friend or family member.) The ‘point’ here is that our attitude changes in how we think about that person.
(e) Another point is that in praying for someone, especially for years, we are so much more appreciative of our salvation by grace alone. I pray for my brother who is intelligent, and one of the ‘nicest’ people you will ever meet. He even agrees that Jesus is God, that he resurrected, that the Bible is reliable, that he is a sinner, that Jesus is the savior, and many other truths. But he refuses to submit to God. He loves his sin too much. There’s nothing much different between us. Indeed, he is ‘nicer’ and more ‘people friendly’ than I am, yet I believe and trust in God while he does not. Thus I can only attribute that to grace alone. The sovereign choice of God to do radical, life-saving heart surgery on me.
(f) it’s a form of worship for the Christian.
(g) It forces us to know more about God since one would like to know the person he is talking to.
(h) It’s a form of praise. We praise the giver of biological and spiritual life.
(i) It strengthens our relationship with God. Time spend communicating with someone else, especially intimately, strengthens a growing relationship.
(j) It gives us cause to rejoice. I take it that it is true that: If we pray that God do X, and God does X, then he answered our prayer. We thus rejoice in answered prayer.
(k) Here are many more ‘points’ by one of the modern-day giants of the Reformed faith, Ed Clowney :
And so I take it that I have effectively removed his assumption in  (that prayer is ‘pointless’ if God has ordained the salvation of S). Since I have shown that  is false, then Ben Kangaroo’s argument us unsound. I technically don’t have to continue on, but I will.
Next, look at . First, almost everything said in (a) - (k) is applicable here. Therefore, I have now shown  to be false. But, there are some things to say.
(l) It was pre-ordained that Christ should die. Indeed, he was “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” His death was prophesied in the Old Testament, and God cannot be shown a liar. Nevertheless, Jesus prayed for hours before he was taken by Jewish authorities.
(m) Frankly, it is blasphemous to call communion time with God a ‘waste of time.’
(n) How is developing trust, reliance, and exhibiting traits of obedience a ‘waste of time.’ All of these are present even if S was not ordained unto eternal life.
(o) God could use our prayers as a means to condemn S all the more on judgment day. Thus they wouldn’t have been a ‘waste of time.’
Though I could keep going, I’ll simply move on in this demonstration of the poor argumentation and thinking skills frequently employed by Arminians in debates like these.
Recall that I had argued that prayer was a means God uses to bring his elect in in history. This point alone serves to demolish the whole ‘meaninglessness’ argument Ben employs. But, he didn’t like my invocation of the concept of ‘means.’ Below I look at some of his objections to this fact. I will quote Mr. Roo and offer running commentary:
“But prayer really has no affect on God in Calvinism. He is going to save the elect no matter what.”
Not true. This is a straw man. Calvinists believe that God ordains the ends as well as the means. The ‘no matter what’ clause attributes Greek fatalism to biblical Calvinism. This comment can also be shown to be absurd. It was prophesied that Christ would not break any of his bones. Now, since God cannot be proven a liar, this had to come true. But, do we really want to say that: “Hitting Jesus’ legs with a sledgehammer would have no effect on his bones?” What, does Ben believe that Jesus had unbreakable bones? That’s right out of an M. Night Shyamalan movie! How about Jesus “predetermined” death? Would that happen even if no one arrested him, tried him, and crucified him? If God predestined that something happen in answer to prayer, it won't happen without prayer. Now, Benny might not agree with this, he might not like it, but disagreement and unlike aren’t normally cogent objections. It stands, however, that this is what Reformed theology teaches, despite Benny’s strawy straw man.
“He is not moved by our prayers because He has already unconditionally decreed from eternity to save “S” without reference to any prayers, so what “X” does amounts to nothing more than a show of sorts which doesn’t really accomplish anything.”
That God decreed S ‘without reference to prayer’ is your assertion, not ours. Anyone can beat up a straw man. And, how is ‘moved’ being used. Again that’s another vague and ambiguous term. I may determine a punishment for my child. I know I will not relent. But, I am still ‘moved’ by his cries. Or, perhaps Benny means ‘moved’ like one ‘moves’ a book from the shelf to the table. But, God Isn’t a physical object, so of course he can’t be moved like that. All we have here is more of Ben’s display of how to be sloppy and imprecise. Lastly, how could Benjamin possibly know that our prayer wouldn’t accomplish anything? How much would you have to know to know a proposition like that? Again, Ben’s arguments are like a puddle that all the Reformed kids can stomp through with ease. The depth of the puddle is analogous to the depth of his shallow arguments.
“Perhaps Paul is saying that God decreed from eternity that the prayers of “X” would irresistibly move God to save in time. That would seem to indicate that the believer can force God to do things, which strikes me as quite contrary to Paul’s position.”
Ben tries to act like a philosopher with all his ‘perhapses’ and faux anticipation of ‘objections’ I might offer. God may have ordained the prayer of one elect person to serve as the reason he saves another elect person, in history. Also, given (a) - (o) above, the careful reader can think of dozens of other answers. I also don’t think it can be logically shown that (granting his terms) if S ‘irresistibly moves G, then S forced G.” Seems like a non-sequitur to me. ‘Forcing’ S to * usually implies that S was made to * against S’s will. That same point isn’t necessitated by ‘irresistibly move.’ So, he’s offering nothing but a non-sequitur.
“That is not to say that God could not have decreed that “X” pray for “S” but those prayers would not really be “means” at all; just the inevitable result of God’s sovereign decree.”
So let’s apply this to an unambiguous case of decree/means—Jesus death on the cross. It was decreed that Jesus would be hung upon a cross, but does this mean that the cross was not a means of Jesus execution? And, furthermore, since ‘inevitable result’ is not contradictory to ‘means,’ then Benjamin is arguing via a false dichotomy.
“The prayers of “X” can have no real influence on God since God made the infallible decision to save “S” without any consideration for the prayers that “X” would eventually make.”
Again, this is untrue and is contradictory to what almost all Reformed theologians have said concerning the subject. Ben may not like our answers, but he can at least recognize them.
“If He had, which I don’t even think is logically possible,”
Boy, that’s a tall order, care to show the logical impossibility of God decreeing that he would save S given consideration to S*’s prayers.
“then God’s choice of election was actually based on the eventual prayers of “X” which I can’t imagine any Calvinist being comfortable affirming.”
Again, this is simply sloppy and illogical. Recall that Ben speaks above about ‘any considerations for prayer’ but then says this would mean that prayer was ‘the ground’ of his election. But again, those two are not synonymous! Why would God decreeing S’s salvation by some consideration of S*’s prayer imply that S*’s prayer was the ground of S’s election?! He moves from a vague and undefined set of ‘considerations’ to a specific concept of ‘grounding.’ This is sloppy. This is, unfortunately, all to typical of Ben (and J.C. Thibodaux’s) method of arguing. Anyone with a modicum of patience can easily dismantle their specious arguments.
Now, Ben had said,
“Let us then call on the Calvinist to define ‘means.’ "
I said that I thought this was obvious. I then gave an example: “I would think the concept fairly simple to understand. If you want your friend to give you a bite of his tasty burger, you must communicate somehow. The end is the ingesting the burger, the communication of that desire was a means.”
“This example is not analogous since there is no third party as in intercessory prayer."
But that doesn’t matter at all. The point was to define ‘means.’ A means is an agency, instrument, or method used to attain an end.
Now, after Mr. Roo gives the ‘pointless’ and ‘waste of time’ argument, he anticipates the ‘means’ answer and thus responds:
“Do “means” have reference to the process by which God accomplishes something? If it does then the Calvinist must still admit that believers contribute to the salvation of the elect by way of intercessory prayer. Their prayer is part of the means and therefore a contribution. If that is the case, then salvation is not monergistic as Calvinism defines it.”
Now recall that Ben doesn’t do the job of defining what ‘monergism’ is. Remember, the term is ‘ambiguous.’ But he throws caution to the wind and decides to carry on anyway. We can thus draw out what he takes to be the ‘inconsistency’ this way:
 Monergism states that nothing other than God contributes to someone’s salvation.
 Intercessory prayer contributes to someone’s salvation.
(To be more precise I guess we could add:  Intercessory prayer is not God. But, I hope the point is clear in my two above).
Again, I take it to have faithfully represented the thrust of Ben Kangaroo’s argument. Right off the bat, as with the others, the terms are not precise. ‘Contribute’ is pretty vague. For example:
 Tom contributed to the magazine.
 Tom does not contribute to the magazine.
Again, we can show unarticulated equivocations.
[14*] Tom contributed1 to the magazine.
[15*] Tom does not contribute2 to the magazine.
1 means: ‘give monetarily. 2 means: writes articles for. Now, I’m not saying that either sense his how he uses the term, I’m just pointing out that we’d need to get much more precise; which Ben is either unable, or unwilling to do.
Let’s move along. Let us offer a more precise definition, one Reformed theologians would agree with.
 Monergism: The view that the Holy Spirit is the only agent who effects regeneration of Christians. (Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms)
And we can easily see that  is not obviously inconsistent with  (I'm forgetting 's vagueness for the moment). We can also note some distinctions. For example, the efficient cause is not the same as the final cause—the praise of His glory. So, Ben needs an argument to the effect that ‘intercessory prayer effects the salvation of a sinner.' I don’t see how this is possible, minus straw men and mischaracterizations. By way of analogy. Say I was an artist. I could mold beautiful clay pots. Say I had a child and I told him, ‘All you have to do is ask, and I will make you the pot.’ Now, one day the child musters up the courage and asks me to make him a glazed piggy bank. I then go into my pottery shop and make the piggy bank. Ben Kangaroo’s argument would be that my son effected the making of the pot. But this is absurd. His request was a means or a reason for why I chose to effect that particular pot (and, indeed, I had always planned on making it but wouldn’t until he asked me!). Or another analogy: The mail man is 'part of the process' in the whole 'filing your income taxes process' (at least he always was 20 years ago!, I trust the point analogy stands). But, they are not the effecting cause in my (say in my case) getting a return depostied into my bank account. Same with my tax agent. They are 'part of the process.' But, they are not the effective cause of, say, what I owe. The Reformed argument has never been that there is no other thing whatever that is 'involved' or 'part of the process' in our regeneration etc. We don't even deny that there is no other cause whatever involved since we believe that faith is an instrumental cause. Ben has only succeeded to argue against a made-up version of Calvinism. That's all he's done in the past, done with me, and will continue to do.
Yum, that was tasty!
The fact of the matter is, there’s no inconsistency between the propositions Ben wants to say exist an inconsistency. Ben said, “Since monergism means ‘to work alone’ then I fail to see how this is ‘assumption.’” Indeed, I went into the shop and ‘worked alone’ (I’m working with his imprecise definitions) when making the clay pottery for my son. Furthermore, in (c) above I demonstrated that prayer was an expression of faith, and Ben says faith isn't a work! So, on his own terms, he's refuted himself...again. Actually, he’s committing a root word fallacy (Cf. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies). There’s more to the term than the root of its parts.) Unfortunately Ben and his cronies offer a lot of rhetoric and simplistic sophisms in lieu of rational, cogent argumentation. Their hatred of Calvinism causes their many errors. Running on emotion, trying to see through a blinding haze of antipathy towards the God of the Bible, the frequently run into brick wall after brick wall. In conclusion, I issue a public challenge to Ben, since the above obviously, objectively, and decisively shows that your charge of inconsistency has not (and I say cannot) be established, will you admit that what you set out to prove (via the very title of your post) has not been proved, and indeed has been outright refuted? You can at least show that you are objective and are humble enough to admit when you are wrong. Your refusal to admit this should cause all sides—both Arminians and Calvinists—to read your posts with a high degree of suspicion towards any idea that you (a) even understand your Calvinist opponent and (b) that you’re intellectually honest with the facts. And, lastly, I know you will continue to hold to your Arminian theology, but note that it’s not because of any alleged stellar reasons in favor if it. Calvinism is the position that fits best with all the data of Scripture. It even explains Arminianism, viz., man’s hatred of a truly sovereign God and his impossible law.
In a handwritten note, Metzger explains that this material was smuggled out of St. Catherine’s monastery, after bribing the librarian with a 1st edition of the Gutenberg Bible.
Metzger, envious and resentful of the greater fame of his uppity student, Bart Ehrman, was planning to publish a bombshell book which would outsell Ehrman’s sensational titles. But Metzger died before he was able to carry his plan to fruition.
Among other things, Fee has already uncovered the following items of note:
1) A papyrus copy of a medical report by St. Anne’s gynecologist, addressed to St. Joachim, in which he certifies the Immaculate Conception of their famous daughter.
2) A papyrus sale’s receipt for the chastity belt which Mary took with her on her honeymoon with Joseph.
3) A fragmentary scroll containing part of the longer ending of Romans (hitherto unknown), in which St. Paul salutes the Holy Father with the following greeting: “Your Holiness, Pope Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome, Pontifex Maximus, Servus Servorum Dei, Primate of Italy, and Sovereign of Vatican City...”
4) The diary of Ascletario, court astrologer to Domitian, in which he records a sighting of Mary’s Assumption into heaven.
There is also a crumpled scroll of Hebrews, along with a papyrus note by Apollos to St. Linus, which reads as follows:
A few months ago I wrote penned a letter to a Jewish house-church in Rome, in which I presumptuously took it upon myself to intervene in a grave doctrinal crisis. No sooner had the ink dried on verse 13:25 than it occurred to me that this matter fell directly under your own jurisdiction. So I immediately threw the letter away, and never gave it another thought.
Recently, however, disturbing rumors came to my attention that this letter was circulating in various churches throughout the Empire. After closely questioning my staff, I discovered that one of my slaveboys had fished my letter out of the trashcan and shared it with his friends, who shared it with their friends.
I implore you to grant me a plenary indulgence for my negligence and impertinence. Hopefully, my epistle to the Hebrews will be quickly forgotten.
Your humble servant,
“Why don’t you get off your respective butts, investigate the charges of the ‘9/11 Truthers’ and find out what is true and what is false? Because if you find out that the U.S. government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks and covered this up, this will be one of the greatest, most heinous crimes in history.”
Oy Vey! Due to this impending security breach, the Mossad has authorized me to out the American View in order to contain any further damage to our undercover operatives. Truth be told, the American View is a Zionist front operation.
You see, we at the Mossad operate from the philosophy that it’s best to hide in plain sight. We were using the tactics of misdirection to deflect public attention away from what is really going on.
To be precise, the American View is a front for the Carlyle Group, which is a front for the Trilateral Commission, which is a front for the Illuminati, which is a front for the Rosicrucians, which is a front for the Templars, which is a front for the Elders of Zion.
The name of the American View is an anagram for “I’m new avarice,” and, as everyone knows, Jews are avaricious. If you don’t believe me, just ask Shylock.
Steven Spielberg (yes, he’s on the payroll) staged 9/11 as a diversionary tactic while we introduced gefilte fish into the menus of public school students in order to dilute the precious bodily fluids of the Master race.
This will no doubt comes as a revelation to John Lofton. Like any useful dupe and all-purpose fall guy, he was kept out of the loop to preserve plausible deniability.
In fact, unbeknownst to himself, Lofton is actually an orphan. Our adoption agency (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, Inc.) placed him with an impeccably waspish family, as part of the grand plan.
He's half-right. There is a conspiracy. But he was kept in the dark about his own bit part in the grand plan.
“Maybe I will solicit articles by Chomsky, et al. But you did not respond to my assertion that truth is truth wherever it appears.”
In that event, to be true to your own maxim, you should also solicit articles from al-Qaida and Hamas, since you share their interpretation of American and Israeli foreign policy.
“Is my statement not true?”
More that true—it’s a tautology. And it entails a corollary tautology: false is false wherever it appears. And since you asked me to comment on your website, that’s why I’m commenting on some of the many falsehoods at your website.
“Re: your faith, God in His Word defines what Christianity is, not me. Are you, as God defines it, a Christian? Simple question.”
Well, just between you, me, and the hidden microphone under your desk, I work for the Mossad. But please don’t post that at your website as that would blow my cover and thereby impede my efforts to infiltrate your gov’t with Zionist spies.
“If so, defend from a Biblical view the carnage you defend.”
i) What “carnage” did you have in mind? Do you think that all “carnage” is indefensible? When you defend the 2nd Amendment, that results in a certain amount of carnage, viz. schoolyard shootings, ex-husbands who murder the wife and kids. Yet I don’t see you taking the position that the right to bear arms is unchristian or unscriptural.
ii) I see a lot of carnage on display in Joshua 6. Do you think that Joshua 6 is unbiblical?
iii) I commented on an article which condemned the war in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. Yes, I happen to think the war in Afghanistan was Biblically justifiable. That was direct retaliation for 9/11.
“If you’re not a Christian, well – your defense of murder is no surprise.”
What, exactly, are you referring to? The war in Iraq? The war in Afghanistan? The Cold War?
“Our site takes the Second Amendment position on the Second Amendment. Don’t really care what NRA says.”
But we only have a 2nd Amendment because we had the Revolutionary War. How do you justify the “carnage” of the American Revolution? Do you think our Founding Fathers were murderers?
“And yes, Christianity allows self-defense, of course.”
That’s not what the article by your contributor, condemning ROTC programs, said. It issued a blanket condemnation of military service as “killing,” contrary to “Biblical Christianity.”
“’IF’ the Iraq war was a miscalculation?! Certainly you jest. It was in no way warranted either Biblically or Constitutionally.”
It was Constitutionally warranted inasmuch as the President is the Commander-in-Chief, and he was acting with the benefit of Congressional authorization.
Biblically speaking, a head-of-state has a duty to defend the lives of his people. Bush believed that Iraq posed a threat to our national security. His DCI briefed him on that. Even Michael Scheuer, who’s a folk hero to guys like you, admits that Tenet briefed him on that.
In hindsight, that may have been a mistake. But a mistaken judgment may still be warranted at the time it was made.
I may accidentally lock myself out of my house. I may have to break into my own home. My wife may shoot me, mistaking me for a house burglar. Her action would be warranted, even if it was mistaken.
“Thanks for this one. A real thigh-slapper; a real howler.”
If that’s what passes for a substantive, intelligent reply on your part, it says a lot about the level at which you operate.
“God will not bless an unGodly military.”
i) That’s a circular argument. You say that Christians shouldn’t join the military because the military is ungodly. But the military would be ungodly to the extent that only the ungodly belong to the military. The more Christians who belong to the military, the more godly it will be. I realize that logic isn’t y0ur forte, so you may have to repeat that to yourself a few times before it begins to sink in.
ii) As a matter of fact, many of our soldiers are also Christians. That’s why the Air Force Academy came under attack by the God-haters. That’s also why the God-haters are also trying to prevent Christian chaplains from offering Christian prayers. The fact that you free slander all of the honorable Christians who serve in our armed forces is a judgment on your profession of faith, not theirs.
“Whoever, the ‘Palestinians’ were/are, they are humans made in God’s image and thus may not be treated the way Israel has treated them: stealing land, assassinating them, and much more.”
i) It’s because humans are made in God’s image that humans can be evil. When so-called Palestinians engage in honor killings, or dress up their toddlers as suicide bombers, I say that’s evil.
ii) What about the way humans are treated in Deut 20? Do you think that’s unbiblical?
iii) To say Israel is “stealing their land” simply begs the question.
iv) Israel is assassinating leaders of Hamas who send suicide bombers into Israel. That’s self-defense. For someone who supports the 2nd Amendment, you should know the difference.
v) It’s duplicitous of you to tout a non-interventionist foreign policy and then pass judgment on Israel’s foreign policy. If you were sincere about your belief in a non-interventionist foreign policy, then it’s none of your business how Israel treats the so-called Palestinians.
“You attempt to linguistically dehumanize them demonstrates you are no Christian. The Nazis also semantically dehumanized those they murdered (‘useless eaters,’ etc). Pathetic.”
i) Given the fact that you take the side of the jihadis over the Jews, it’s imprudent of you to raise the Nazi analogy—since that comparison works to your disadvantage.
ii) You may lipservice to truth, but then you evade the truth. There are no “Palestinians.” That’s a propaganda term.
“You speak of ‘a terrorist.’ Nice try. So, have you proved, through due process of law, that person is ‘a terrorist’?”
i) Oh, but you say you believe in the 2nd Amendment. If a mugger attacks you with a knife, and you shoot him with a gun, haven’t you deprived him of due process? What about a house burglar who breaks into your home at night? Do you have the right to shoot him? Or would that deprive him of due process?
Do you think the mugger and burglar should first be put on trial and convicted before you have a right to defend yourself?
ii) Also, we only have a 2nd Amendment because we had the Revolutionary War. Did British POWs enjoy Geneva Conventions protections? Do you think that George Washington was guilty of war crimes? And what due process did we accord to the Barbary Pirates?
iii) Also, what due process was in place in Joshua 6?
I’m just curious to see how far you’re prepared to take your argument Biblically and historically.
“Just bomb’em all and let God sort’em out, huh?”
Have we bombed everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan?
“We are our ‘mortal enemies’ because we are enemies of God.”
I accept your confession of guilt. Speak for yourself.
Speaking for myself, it’s possible to have human enemies and also be enemies of God. And the Mosaic law distinguishes between the innocent and the guilty, although everyone’s a sinner. You don’t know the first thing about Biblical ethics.
“That’s why we’re under God’s wrath/judgment (9/11/ Katrina, Calif fires, 50 million babies murdered by abortion, bogged down in unGodly wars, corrupt rulers – read The Book.)”
i) I see. There were no California wildfires before we invaded Iraq. Or were there no wildfires before Roe v. Wade? In either case, I doubt the national weather service would confirm your timeline. Oh, I forgot, the national weather service is in the tank for the Bush administration.
ii) Likewise, there were no hurricanes before we toppled the Shah of Iran back in 1953 or something.
If only we elected Ron Paul president, that would put an end to hurricanes and wildfires. Okay. Whatever you say.
iii) In what sense do you think that 9/11 represents divine judgment? Do you think that’s a case of “blowback”?
But you also sympathize with the 9/11 Truthers:
How can 9/11 be both an inside job and a case of blowback?
That’s one of the problems with grand conspiracy theories. It’s very difficult to come up with a consistent conspiracy theory. So which conspiracy theory do you think underwrites 9/11 as divine judgment: blowback or inside job?
“Don’t care what you are ‘a fan’ of. ‘Foreign aid’ unconstitutional. Show it to me in Article 1, Section 8.”
I see that mental discipline is not your forte, but we already know that by now. I was responding to your contributor on his own grounds. But maybe, like Ron Paul, you’re one of those editors who doesn’t read the articles contributed under your own auspices.
To repeat: your contributor was denouncing Israel because Israel was allegedly blocking UN food and medical supplies to Gaza.
That would be a case of foreign aid. How can you oppose foreign aid and also oppose Israel when Israel opposes foreign aid to Gaza?
See, it’s a little thing called moral and rational consistency. Something you might try to practice for a change.