Saturday, September 03, 2011

“R2K”: Same Only Different

Humanists dive under the bed

How To Build An Apologetics Ministry

I recently listened to an interview of Brian Auten by Wintery Knight. Both men have good apologetics blogs, and they discuss their backgrounds and some apologetic issues during the interview.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Brian’s blog is Apologetics 315. I suggest that anybody involved in online apologetic work visit the site regularly. The number and variety of resources is impressive, and a lot of the material is unique to that site. See his collection of apologetic-related interviews, for example. I’d also recommend following his Twitter feed.

As far as I know, Brian didn’t start out with a large amount of money, a close association with some major ministry, or other advantages that a lot of popular Christian sites have had. He built his site from the ground up, the same way other Christians could. But few are willing to do that sort of work.

Friday, September 02, 2011


Tony Byrne says:
September 2, 2011 at 10:22 am

1) Only the died for are legally saveable.
2) Judas was not died for. (On the presupposition of LA)
3) Therefore, Judas was not legally saveable.
1) Only the legally saveable are offerable by God.
2) Judas was not legally saveable.
3) Therefore, Judas was not offerable by God.
These syllogisms are both valid. The only question is, are they sound? I say yes.
It seems obvious to me that offerability presupposes legal salvability, and legal salvability presupposes that one is satisfied for. This is one reason why it would be absurd to “offer” salvation to devils. They are not died for and they are therefore not legally saveable. There is a legal barrier that remains in the way since they have no substitutionary satisfaction for their sins. There is no well of life-giving water that has been opened for them.

1) Only the elect are decretally saveable.
2) Judas was not elect. (On the presupposition of unconditional election)
3) Therefore, Judas was not decretally saveable.

1) Only the decretally saveable are offerable by God.
2) Judas was not decretally saveable.
3) Therefore, Judas was not offerable by God.

These syllogisms are both valid. The only question is, are they sound? I say yes.

It seems obvious to me that offerability presupposes decretal salvability, and decretal savability presupposes that one is elect. This is one reason why it would be absurd to “offer” salvation to reprobates. They are not elect and they are therefore not decretally saveable. There is a decretal barrier that remains in the way since they have no elect status. There is no elective well of life-giving water that has been opened for them.

What's a well-meant offer?

Discussion of the “well-meant” offer frequently suffers from two key equivocations. To begin with, “sincere” and “well-meant are being used synonymously, even though they are not, in fact, synonymous.

Secondly, “well-meant” has more than one sense, and while the differing senses are all synonymous with “well-meant,” they are not synonymous with each other.

Since David Ponter likes to use the OEC in this context, let’s quote the relevant entries:

Well-meaning: Disposition to do what is right; good intentions.

Having, or actuated by, good intentions; animated by a kindly purpose or friendly disposition.

Well-meant: Rightly, honestly, or kindly intended; said or done with good intentions.

Sincere: Containing no element of dissimulation or deception; not feigned or pretended; real, true.

Characterized by the absence of all dissimulation or pretense; honest, straightforward.

1) It should be clear from this that “sincere” and “well-meant are not interchangeable terms. So what, precisely, does affirmation or denial of the “sincere/well-meant” offer entail?

For instance, there’s such a thing as a well-intended deception. Take the textbook case of lying to the authorities about the fact that you’re hiding Jews. That’s deceptive, but it’s done with good intentions. Even if you think that’s wrong (I don’t), it’s still done with the best of intentions.

2) If we define the gospel offer as a conditional offer, then when God offers the gospel to the unredeemed, that involves no element of deception. That’s an honest offer. For anyone who accepts the offer will receive what was promised. A true offer.

3) Or suppose, for the sake of argument, we accept Bnonn’s reformulation, according to which the gospel offer is an imperative rather than a counterfactual. (At least I think that’s what he means.)

Ironically, commands can’t be true or false. Commands aren’t propositions, in the usual sense. They don’t assert something to be the case. Rather, that’s a type of perlocutionary or performative discourse. On that definition, it would be impossible for the gospel offer to be feigned or dishonest.

4) Mind you, it seems to be that Bnonn is erecting a false dichotomy. Isn’t the gospel offer more like a conditional imperative?

At a simplistic level, you could say the gospel offer amounts to a bare command like “Repent of your sins!” “Believe in Christ!”

But the command includes a consequence for performance or nonperformance.

So I really don’t see much difference between:

i) Do this and that will result


ii) If you do this, then that will result

Or, more fully:

Do x and y will result

Don’t do x and z will result

If you do x, y will result

But if you don’t do x, then z will result

Yet whichever formulation we favor, it’s not insincere.

5) What about the different senses of “well-meant” (and verbal variants thereof).

a) Right/good intention

b) Honest intention

c) Kind/friendly intention

These are not interchangeable concepts.

i) For instance, a kind or friendly intention is consistent with a dishonest intention. Suppose we spare someone’s feelings by telling a white lie. We lie just to be nice.

Right now I’m not discussing the ethics of that practice; just pointing out that these are not antithetical intentions.

Likewise, right or good intentions are consistent with unkind or unfriendly intentions. Suppose a police sharpshooter kills a schoolyard sniper. That’s not very kind or friendly to the sniper.

But the sharpshooter is motivated by a justifiable concern to protect the lives of the innocent.

6) So when Ponter says limited atonement renders the gospel offer insincere or ill-meant, what, exactly, does he have in mind?

Likewise, when he says denial of the well-meant offer is a type of hypercalvinism, what, exactly does he have in mind?

And I’m asking the question in reference to the OEC, since he himself made that a frame of reference in this discussion.

I’m also asking the question in relation to how I’ve compared and contrasted “sincerity” and “well-meaning,” as well as different senses of “well-meaning/meant.”

7) Of course, it’s possible for the “well-meant” offer to be a technical term that doesn’t correspond to ordinary usage. However, Ponter explicitly said he was using “normal standard English usage,” and he also referenced the OED.

8) For instance, if I say God’s attitude toward the reprobate is unfriendly or unkind, that’s still consistent with right or good intentions. And that’s still consistent with a true offer.

Threats and promises

When 4-point Calvinists like David Pointer attack special redemption because (according to them) it makes God insincere when he offers the gospel to the unredeemed, 5-point Calvinists typically counter that, by parity of logic, election also makes God insincere, yet 4-point Calvinists continue to affirm election.

But that’s not the only doctrine in the remaining four points that’s problematic for 4-point Calvinists. 5-point Calvinists could also raise a parallel objection with respect to perseverance.

If the offer of the gospel is a divine promise, then the corollary of a divine promise is a divine threat. Consider Scriptural warnings about the dire fate of apostates.

Yet God hasn’t made “provision” for the apostasy of the elect. Apostasy isn’t “available” to the elect. Where the elect are concerned, that’s a counterfactual threat. (I'm using "provision" and "availability" because those are the same categories which Ponter deploys to critique special redemption.)

4-point Calvinists reject special redemption, yet two of the remaining four points which they still affirm stand in tension with their objection to special redemption.  

Casting a wide net

Over at Ponter’s blog, Bnonn is raising a different objection to special redemption.

I don’t think a conditional constitutes an offer. If all God were saying was “If you believe then you will be saved” then I don’t think LA would have a problem. But that’s not all God is saying at all, as you agree. Rather, God is saying, please be saved, be reconciled to me, accept the gift I have bought you with my blood. And that’s where LA careens off the rails in terms of sincerity, because that isn’t a conditional statement. God is proffering salvation—the LA conditional just describes how to take it. It doesn’t describe the offer itself; only the condition required of us to accept it.

So I guess he’s saying the gospel offer is more than a conditional–it’s an imperative. The question then would it if it's sincere to issue a command or imperative absent the requisite “provision.”

However, if that’s what he has in mind, then it raises the parallel objection regarding election. Is God sincere if he commands the reprobate to repent and believe the gospel?

In both cases, the requisite “provision” is lacking. In the case of limited election, the reprobate lack regeneration; in the case of limited atonement, the reprobate lack redemption.

These are different types of provision (or the lack thereof), but they still involve the absence of a necessary precondition. Either God is sincere in both cases, or insincere in both cases. Either the offer is well-meant in both cases, or ill-meant in both cases.

Yet Bnonn himself says:

Right, it’s not possible, but it is obligatory. A man who has stolen and then spent some money may find it impossible to pay it back, but he can still be obligated to do so.

So that concession seems to undercut his own argument. 

But perhaps Bnonn thinks the gospel offer is more than just an imperative. Perhaps he’s alluding to something which lies behind the imperative, namely: God’s desire to save the reprobate.

i) If so, then this raises the question of how God’s desire to save the reprobate is compatible with God making them reprobate in the first place.

ii) In addition, that’s no more or less of a problem for 5-point Calvinism than 4-point Calvinism. So that’s not a distinctive objection to limited atonement.

iii) Likewise, 5-point Calvinists have well-trodden strategies for relieving the tension–although some 5-point Calvinists prefer to leave the tension intact.

Finally, Bonn’s objection fails to take into consideration the nature of mass communication. To reach the target audience, you address a wider audience than the target audience. For the greater includes the lesser.

Cast a wide net, not because you want every fish you catch, but because that’s the way to catch every the fish you want:

47Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad (My 23:47-48).

Be careful what you wish for

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: "There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse."

Ponterficating About Offers

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Ponter's hypercalvinism

Since Ponter didn’t get the point the first time around, I’ll give it another go:

An offer is by definition (normal standard English usage) this, I am willing and able to give you this, if you are willing to receive it.

When God made his offer to Ahas [Isa 7:10-12] was sincere and remains sincere, despite Ahaz’ unwillingness to act upon it. Again, the sincerity is not indexed or underwritten or grounded in or keyed to the willingness or unwillingness of the offeree. Nor is it invalidated by the unwillingness or inability of the offeree. Again this is basic evangelical Calvinism.

Notice that Ponter’s statement about God’s offer to Ahaz directly contravenes his very own definition of an offer. According to Ponter, a genuine offer is predicated on the ability and willingness of the offeror to give what is tendered as well as the willingness of the offeree to accept when is tendered.

But Ahaz was unwilling to accept God’s offer. Therefore, by Ponter’s tailor-made definition, God’s offer to Ahaz was not a sincere or well-meant offer.

Ponter himself has defined an offer in conditional terms, where it’s contingent on the willingness of the offeror and offeree alike.

But this means, on Ponter’s own grounds, that when God offers the gospel to the reprobate, this is never a well-meant offer since the reprobate are never willing to accept the offer. God’s offer to the reprobate can never sincere inasmuch as they invariably fail to meet a necessary condition of a genuine offer–which Ponter himself defines in bilateral terms.

Ponter’s aim has been to argue that God’s offer to the reprobate is always a sincere or well-meant offer. But on his definition, the offer of the gospel is never a well-meant offer when directed at the reprobate.

So his argument ricochets on himself. Ponter is the reincarnation of Herman Hoeksema.

And if that isn’t bad enough for his position, it also follows, from his very own definition of hypercalvinism, that Ponter is a hypercalvinist:

Denial of a well-meant offer is the hallmark of hypercalvinism, if anything is.

Yet his definition of a genuine offer implicitly denies the well-meant offer in relation to the reprobate. Hence, Ponter is a Hypercalvinist.

Come, sinners to the gospel feast

To his credit, David Ponter has now attempted a fairly serious, systematic response to my post:

Let’s see how well he does this time around.

“What is more, I really think that the attempt to fixate on parsing the word “offer,” to find any and every possible exception really misses the point.”

i) It’s critics of special redemption like Ponter who fixate on the meaning of the word “offer.” Manata and I are simply responding in kind.

ii) Manata and I aren’t looking for “exceptions” to the concept of an “offer.” Rather, the question is whether Ponter’s basic definition is too broad or two narrow. The function of counterexamples is to challenge the adequacy of his definition–not to grant the general definition, but find exceptions.

“There are two issues. The first issue is basic: Does God make an offer? Does God make a sincere offer? Does God’s offer even need to be sincere? Does God make a well-meaning offer. Does God’s offer even need to be well-meant? When the conversation turns on these sorts of questions, the conversation has gone awry already. It is already turning on Hypercalvinist versus evangelical Calvinist axis points.”

i) No, the problem is that Ponter conflates three different issues: (a) the generic concept of an offer; (b) the specific concept of a divine offer, and (c) the specific concept of a sincere offer.

He oscillates between these three different concepts as if they’re synonymous. That’s a semantic fallacy.

ii) Moreover, even if we waive the semantic fallacy, importing divine qualifications into the definition of an offer is counterproductive to Ponter’s position, for we’d have to then consider the logical relationship between reprobation and the gospel offer.

“It has been our experience that for the most part those who want to challenge the very meaning of constitutes a sincere offer are generally those who have already made a pre-commitment to Hypercalvinist categories, either tentatively or fully.”

That’s just an exercise in poisoning the well.

“For many, the debate will ultimately come down to these pre-commitments.”

My precommitments are irrelevant to this debate. I’m merely assessing Ponter’s argument on its own terms. I could do that whether I’m a 5-point Calvinist or Tibetan Buddhist.

“If one has affirmed already that God does not by revealed will desire the salvation of all men, then one is already in the Hypercalvinist tradition. This has to be so, because one cannot, on the one hand, deny that God by revealed will desires the salvation of all men and then, on the other hand, meaningfully affirm a well-meant offer.”

Not only does that beg the question what of constitutes a “well-meant” offer, but it also stipulates an essentially Arminian interpretation of Bible verses which employ adjectives like “all” or “world.”

It’s ironic for Ponter to define true Calvinism according to Arminian hermeneutics.

“How does that follow? We know that in terms of the secret will, God desires not to save the non-elect. According to evangelical Calvinism, we also know that in terms of the revealed will God desires to save the non-elect.”

I don’t concede that dichotomy. That turns on a typically Arminian misinterpretation of the prooftexts.

“So, if we deny that by revealed will that God desires to save the non-elect, and this includes the entailment that the Gospel offer does not express God’s desire to save the non-elect hearers, this means that the criteria which sustains a well-meant offer has now been voided. In the Gospel offer, it would then follow that God only desires to not save the non-elect. Thus, when God makes an appearance of seeking someone’s salvation, he is being insincere. Denial of a well-meant offer is the hallmark of hypercalvinism, if anything is.”

He keeps paraphrasing the same question-begging assertions. That does nothing to advance the argument.

“So, a well-meant or a sincere offer cannot be sustained on terms which denies that by revealed will God desires the salvation of the non-elect. A person may speak as if they are positing a well-meant offer, but in actuality, they are not.”

An evangelist isn’t responsible for what lies behind the offer. He’s simply transmitting a divine directive. An evangelist doesn’t have to have any particular theory regarding the underpinnings of the offer. What ultimately matters is not what the evangelist intended, but what God intended.

“For example, no one in the John Calvin, John Murray, John Piper tradition of Calvinism should disagree with this.”

i) What about someone in the John Owen, Francis Turretin, William Young, Paul Helm tradition of Calvinism?

ii) BTW, I’m not defending Calvinism in my response to Ponter. I’m merely evaluating the logic of his argument on its own terms.

The fundamental question at issue is not who represents “true Calvinism,” but which side has the better of the argument. The point is not to defend Calvinism, but to defend truth. If Calvinism is true, then so much the better. The important issue is not what Calvinism selects for, but what the truth selects for.

Of course, I think the truth selects for Calvinism, but I’m not beginning with Calvinism. That has it backwards.

iii) I don’t concede Ponter’s claim to have Calvin in his corner. But that’s a debate for another day.

iv) If you want a representative exposition of the traditional Reformed position on God’s will regarding the reprobate, a good place to start would be the section on reprobation (subsections  16-17), of Turretin’s Institutes, vol. 1 (Dennison, ed.).

Because Ponter knows that his own position reflects a dissenting position within Reformed tradition, he tries to drape himself in the mantle of Calvinism and put the rest of us on the defensive by pretending that he’s speaking for mainstream historical Calvinism. 

“Regarding the meaning of offer, all one needs to do is look up a good dictionary. The OED is one of my favorites.”

Yet, oddly enough, Ponter doesn’t quote from the OED. It gives several definitions, some of which are irrelevant. Of the two most germane to the issue at hand, it says:

To present or tender for acceptance or refusal; to hold out (a thing) for a person to take if he will.

To propose, or express one’s readiness (to do something), conditionally on the assent of the person addressed.

How is that inconsistent with how Manata and I have defined an “offer”?

The Immaturity Of Christian Radio

There's a lot that's good on Christian radio, but I have problems with some of what I hear at the local and national levels. Most of the programming doesn't go into much depth. There isn't much maturity. A lot of what you hear would be appropriate for somebody being introduced to Christianity, but there isn't much use for it beyond that. Think of how many Christians have been on the radio for a couple of decades or longer, and you wouldn't learn much more from them in their twentieth or thirtieth year on the air than you learned from them the first year they were on.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

UNCG Outreach Report 8-31-2011

INTRODUCTION:  The campus was full of life and activity today at UNCG.  Students were everywhere and there were crowds of them just milling around and talking, enjoying the weather, etc., a perfect recipe for one-on-one evangelism and open-air preaching. 
I decided to do only one-on-one evangelism today since I had no one else with me to minister to those I would be preaching to.  I typically like to do open-air preaching when I have someone else with me who can go into the crowds and give people literature and/or reason with them from the Scriptures.  Before I highlight an interesting conversation I had with a headstrong young lady, let's consider what "the toxic trinity" is and the effects it has on students in particular.

The "Toxic Trinity"

Many students hold to what I call "the toxic trinity".  The "toxic trinity" has three essential components:
1.  Postmodernism.
2.  Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
3.  Darwinism.
  • Postmodernism has some good elements.  For instance, it recognizes that people can be very diverse and that diversity is not necessarily a bad thing because the beauty that is inherent in all cultures can enrich and enliven our culture.  That is certainly a praiseworthy thing (Rev. 21:24).  However, postmodernism also affirms that there's no ultimate transcendent purpose, meaning, or reason for existence since no objective, universal standards exist, or if they do, we can't know them.  For example, consider logical laws, the principles that we use to determine correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning.  Many postmoderns would argue that basic fundamental logical laws (Law of non-contradiction, law of excluded middle, law of identity) are not universal (apply to all people, places, and times), invariant (can't be changed), and necessary (have to hold always) but are human constructs that can change from time to time, place to place, and from person to person.  To prove this they would appeal to the many competing and contradictory systems of logic and then assert that all can have equal truth value as long as they work to promote order and function in whatever society uses them.  Thus, logic wouldn't be universal and necessary; instead, it would be a culturally relative concoction of society.  The problem is that this is self-refuting, for to argue that there are competing and contradictory logical systems assumes that the law of non-contradiction necessarily holds when judging between those two competing systems.  Thus, to deny the universal necessity of this particular fundamental law of logic, you would have to use it in order to deny it.  Thus, the fundamental law of logic known as the law of non-contradiction necessarily and universally holds, even with examples of dialetheism or other such paradoxes; you will always have to utilize the law of non-contradiction to deny the universality of the law of non-contradiction.  But, I digress.
  • For Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, see my treatment of that here under "1" of the heading "Types of Unbelieving College Students".
  • Regarding Darwinism, I'm speaking of that well-known philosophical acid that has eaten through nearly everything since Darwin's Origin came out in 1859.  It is well known as the General Theory of Evolution
While I spoke with many professing Christians and out of the 10-12 or so I spoke to, I met only one that could articulate the gospel in any meaningful way (i.e., the problem = sin; the solution = faith and repentance in the cross work of Jesus).  As usual per my past outreach reports, most of them gave answers that related to the "toxic trinity" or simply were universalists or pantheists of some kind.  However, I do want to mention a noteworthy conversation I had with a female student.  

A sweet but hard-headed young lady

This young lady was the last detailed conversation I had of the day.  She attended a Moravian church, was very polite and willing to engage in a conversation about the things of God.  She noted early in the conversation that she had a problem telling people of other religions that they are wrong.  I asked her why she would say that, and she said that she didn't think it was her business to tell others that their religion was wrong.  I asked her why she would say this given the New Testament teaching about the exclusivity of Christ and then a conversation ensued about ultimate authorities.

A Battle of Ultimate Authorities 

She seemed to really struggle with the Scriptures and noted that different groups interpret those passages differently and I asked, "If a blind friend was about to walk off a cliff only to fall to a sure death below, wouldn't you do all in your power to stop him from walking over the edge of the cliff?  Wouldn't you be willing to tackle him if necessary to save him?"  She said, "I see where you're going, but its not the same."  I responded, "You're right, because not telling your unbelieving friends that they are wrong to not repent and believe in Jesus is worse than going over the edge of a cliff, because where they are going lasts forever."  She seemed frustrated at this point, and so I asked, "Why would you, a professing Christian disagree with me on this?" and she said, "I just don't feel like its my duty to go around telling people that their religion is wrong."  I responded, "I understand, but I'm not suggesting you necessarily go tell everyone, I'm talking about you speaking to your Buddhist friend about Jesus as God gives you opportunity.  After all, didn't Jesus say that there's no other way to get to God except through Him and that those who do not believe in the Son will perish?"  She admitted that the Bible said this, but didn't pursue that line of thought any further and I then changed subjects on her by stating, "The word of God calls us to submit to God's authority in His word whether we like it or not.  There are two ultimate authorities in the universe that you can bow down to; yourself or God.  It seems to me that you are essentially saying (though you have been careful to deny this in word) that you are the ultimate authority and that even if the Scriptures clearly say in context that believers are to lovingly share Jesus with others as God gives opportunity lest they perish forever in Hell, you are saying, 'No, I will not do that because I do not think it is right.'  In a nutshell, you are denying the sovereign authority that God has over you.  Why would a professing believer do that?"  She was stymied at this point.  I remained silent to attempt to give her a chance to respond and she finished with, "Well, that's just the way I see it.  Some people understand the Bible different than I do, and I'm okay with that."  I responded, "Even if your understanding contradicts the clear commands of Scripture, you're okay with that?"  She shrugged her shoulders, I thanked her for the conversation, and I was off to my car.  I hope that the Lord used my winsome attitude and Scriptural arguments to get her thinking in the right direction, for a denial such as this is indicative of a greater spiritual problem.

I need help!

Perhaps you live in the Piedmont-Triad area, are doctrinally like-minded, are in good standing with a local evangelical church, and you have a real heart for the lost.  If you have the time to come out and help evangelize for a few hours on a weekday I could sure use your help, for the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Luke 10:2). 

IN CONCLUSION, I praise the Lord for your prayers as I function as a missionary to the city of Greensboro.  My prayer is that God is glorified in our outreaches, the hearts of the lost are pricked by the work of the Spirit, and that God brings many souls to Himself. 

Did Stimulus Dollars Hire the Unemployed?

Michael and me

I'm sorry to say that today I have had to remove a long-time Christian friend from my Facebook friends.
I was informed today that one of my Christian friends on Facebook (Steve Hays) has offered criticisms in his public blog of recent comments I have made on Facebook concerning yoga and Christianity.
So I have two main issues here.
First, Steve has completely misrepresented my views in his blog post. Among other things, he titles his blog post “One with Krishna,” an obvious cheap shot at the tentative title of my book “One with Christ: Yoga and Christian Theism.” Steve clearly insinuates something about my theological viewpoints here and throughout his blog that are both unwarranted and false.
Second, apart from the unscholarly nature of offering a critical engagement of informal comments posted in Facebook “status updates” (which Steve has clearly not understood), he has quoted from these status updates (which are set to private) in his public blog, thereby violating my privacy. There are many reasons why my “status updates” are set to private. It is outrageous when people, especially Christians, show absolutely no respect for this.
I have known Steve for many years and I’m frankly outraged and hurt that he would pull what is in fact an intellectual sucker punch. He didn’t ask me for clarification on my views or book project (which again I say he does not understand), nor did he ask permission to quote this material in a public forum. I consider this behavior deplorable.
I have asked Steve to remove all quotations from his blog that have been taken from my Facebook. I believe he should also offer a public apology for his behavior. This is frankly absurd.

Several issues:

i) Last time I checked, Michael had nearly 1100 Facebook followers. That’s not very private. If you shared a secret with 1100 people, it wouldn’t stay secret very long. Your friends talk to their friends.

ii) Michael is clearly using Facebook as a de facto blog to publicize his views. That’s his prerogative, but it’s hardly whispering a confidence in the ear of a friend.  

iii) Here’s another thing: one of Michael’s recent targets was John MacArthur. Now MacArthur is a public figure with a huge, international following.

Suppose that out of Michael’s 1100 Facebook “friends,” only 10 of them are fans of MacArthur. Even so, does he imagine that when he attacks MacArthur on his Facebook wall, his attack will stay confined to the 10 fans of MacArthur who intersect with Michael’s Facebook “friends”?

Clearly that’s an unrealistic expectation of privacy. If you attack a very high profile figure on your Facebook wall, you can expect that to become common knowledge. By word-of-mouth, this will soon become known to the larger “MacArthur community.”

Just in general, Michael has been surfing the net, collecting various “outrages” from YouTube and other public sites, as fodder to assail “fundamentalists” whom he thinks poorly represent the Christian faith. But by so doing, he’s shining a spotlight on himself as well as his target.

Whatever you draw from the internet draws you back into the internet. If, say, you quote or link to something a well-known megachurch pastor or Christian celebrity said on the internet (i.e. something they said that’s posted on the internet), then you’re interjecting yourself into a public forum. That’s bound to spill over into the public domain.

So I’m puzzled by Michael’s inability to anticipate the easily foreseeable consequences of his own actions.

iv) What about the ethics of privacy? If Michael wants to have a serious discussion of that issue, then he needs to draw some rudimentary distinctions:

v) Some subject matter is inherently private. Even if it were to accidentally appear in the public domain, it would still be inherently private.

vi) Conversely, some subject matter is private in the purely technical sense that it appears in a technically quasi-private domain, even though the content is not inherently private.

vii) If we’re going to discussion the ethics of privacy, we must also discuss unethical privacy. For instance, patient confidentiality or the attorney/client privileged can sometimes be abused to conceal criminality.

Or take the following hypothetical: an employee has been falsely accused of malfeasance. He’s been framed.

Another coworker knows who framed him. The coworker has information which could exonerate his colleague. But he withholds that information from their supervisors.

He’s prepared to defend his colleague in private, by expressing moral support (“Just between you and me, I think it’s unfair”), but he won’t go to his supervisors with the exculpatory evidence. So his colleague is unjustly terminated. And finds it hard to get another job since he has a black mark on his record.

In that situation, where to the ethical obligations lie? The ethics of privacy has to transcend artificial, made-up rules.

viii) Historians and biographers routinely quote or publish private letters and diaries of famous men and women. I doubt the average reader gives that a second thought, even though this material was never intended for public consumption. What should we make of that practice?

ix) Moving along, Michael has been assailing conservative Christians far more harshly than anything I said in my post. So I’m puzzled by why he thinks his own statements should be shielded from much milder scruitiny on my part. 

If he’s going to publicly attack other Christians as ignorant, unscholarly, and so on, then doesn’t he think his own statements merit the same level of critical scrutiny? 

x) Michael also says I “completely misrepresented” his views, that my comments were “both unwarranted and false,” but he does nothing to disprove anything I suggested.

xi) Yes, my “One with Krishna” title was sarcastic, but a lot of what Michael has been saying lately sounds like a cross between Deepak Chopra and Frank Schaeffer.

xii) I’ll finish with an email I sent Michael back in June:

I’m also not clear on why you’re gunning for easy targets. It’s like trying to discredit paranormal research in general by attacking Dionne Warwick. 

In the past you’ve indicated that you disapprove of critics who attack the weakest version of an argument, or attack the worst representatives of a position. Obviously you’re more than a match for the average Baptist preacher or homeschooling mom or surfer dude. So what does that prove, exactly? If you fight somebody below your weight division, you can probably win. Caín Velásquez v. the high school bully. 

Guess who comes out on top. And the significance of that is...what? 

So I’m not clear on where you’re going with this. If your objection is to “Fundamentalist Christianity” as an intellectual position, then shouldn’t you redirect your fire at the most astute spokesmen for that position? 

I also don’t know what you have in mind by “Fundamentalist Christianity.”