Friday, April 06, 2012

A leaky bucket to bail water

I’m responding to this post:
First, it's one thing to say the passage has idolatry in view, but another to say it only has idolatry in view. The passage does not say the temptation of idolatry but rather "no temptation". Paul is applying a general principle to a specific situation, so even though idolatry is in view, that does not limit this wonderful promise that God, in His faithfulness, will not allow irresistible temptations.
i) No, that’s not what Paul is doing. Paul isn’t talking about temptation in general. Rather, he’s making the point that Jews, Christians, and pagans alike are susceptible. As Rosner/Ciampa explain:
In case they had not picked up on the implications of vv1-12, Paul reminds the Corinthians that their situation is not new or unique. No temptation has overtaken you, he says, except what is common to us all. In other words, “the temptation you struggle with is common to all humanity.”

That the Old Testament and ancient Judaism considered idolatry the most common and fundamental temptation (with sexual immortality as a related sign of human corruption and greed a particular manifestation of idolatry), along with the context of Paul’s statement (in 1 Corinthians 8-10 in general and immediately before the exhortation to flee idolatry in particular) suggests that he has the common human pull toward idolatry in mind. The First Letter to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2010), 466-67.
ii) In Arminianism, sufficient grace is resistible grace. So the “wonderful promise” is that God will give Christians (including born-again Christians) resistible grace to resist temptation. Like using a leaky bucket to bail water from a leaky boat.
Second, the context speaks of lusting after evil things, idolatry, sexual immorality, tempting Christ, and complaining. This seems broader than just idolatrous apostasy. Note the progression from lusting after evil things and idolatry in verses 6 & 7: "to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them." Lusting after evil things and idolatry are distinct, even if one is a slippery slope into the next.
Of course, progression from lesser to graver sins, or the “slippery slope,” dovetails with my point. Idolatrous apostasy or sins leading to idolatrous apostasy. I’ve been over this ground before with Ben Henshaw.
Third, most, but not all Israelites fell into the temptation and Paul's concern is that the Corinthians don't do likewise. But this means falling into the temptation discussed in the context is not impossible. Yet Steve thinks the apostasy of true believers is impossible.
i) Which means that those who slide down the slope into apostasy weren’t true believers. How’s that inconsistent with my position?

ii) As I’ve often pointed out on many occasions, we must make allowance for the nature of mass communication. Public letters make general statements that apply to some, but not all, members of the audience.

iii) Dan himself holds to eternal security.
Fourth, the commentaries Steve cites do not support his case. He cites Fitzmyer, Garland, Ciampa/Rosner. But Fitzmyer says "Christians may also rely on God for the ekbasis of lesser struggles throughout the course of life", so idolatry is in view, but the passage is not only about idolatry (see my points 1 & 2).
Dan gives us a mangled quote from Fitzmyer. Fitzmyer is weighing different exegetical options before stating his own interpretation. But his conclusion is that “in this context, Paul seems to be thinking primarily of trials involving idol meat or seduction to idolatry” (389).

Likewise, Garland (and Ciampa/Rosner who follow Garland) says "He is not addressing the question of the security of the believer but calling attention to the pitfall of being careless because of overconfidence (Robertson and Plummer 1914:208). " But Steve's case hinges on this passage only being about the security of the believer (see my point 3). So Steve's own sources move against him.

Several problems:

i) Dan is doing a bait-n-switch. In my response to Dan I didn’t mention eternal security. All I said was: “In context, the passage isn’t dealing with temptation in general, but idolatrous apostasy in particular. That’s been documented by standard commentators, viz. Fitzmyer, Garland, Ciampa/Rosner.”

ii) Garland says “I conclude with Findlay (1910: 862) that the ‘testing’ involves ‘both the allurements of idolatry and the persecution which its abandonment entailed’” (467). And Garland continues in that vein on the next page.

iii) In addition to what I’ve already quoted from Ciampa/Rosner, they also say that Fee’s interpretation “seems to miss the mark, as though Paul had digressed from his discussion of idolatry to talk instead about “ordinary human trials” or temptations, as though idolatry was not such an ordinary temptation” (467).
Fifth, generally commentaries agree that the temptations in view are broader than apostasy as Ben has documented here.
Dan refers the reader to Ben’s treatment, but fails to register my response to Ben:

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