Saturday, July 24, 2004

A layman looks at evolution

I’m not a scientist. Maybe that disqualifies me from forming a scientific opinion about evolution. Even if that were so I’d still have a right to form a theological opinion about evolution.

However, evolution is taught in the public schools, and leading Darwinians pen high-level popularizations for mass consumption. So apparently I am expected to form a scientific opinion about evolution.

One problem I have with the evolutionary literature is that it doesn’t ask certain questions that I ask, and since it doesn’t ask them, it doesn’t answer them. Here are three questions I have about evolution.

1. Hydrophobia

To my knowledge, monkeys have a natural fear of water. This includes the great apes. And this comes from the fact that, unlike most other animals, monkeys don't know how to swim. So they're afraid of drowning.

By contrast, humans are not afraid of water. Indeed, humans revel in water--from babies in bathwater to water sports and high-end real estate. Yet if humans were an offshoot of the same simian branch or trunk, wouldn't we expect human beings to exhibit an instinctual and irrepressible fear of water?

2. Oil fields

A certain amount of our lives is spent at the local gas station. One day as I was gassing up the car I began to wonder what was the evolutionary explanation for oil fields. I’m not asking about the evolutionary explanation of fossil fuel in general. The idea, I suppose, is this represents the cumulative residual of millions of animals dying over millions of years.

The question, though, is how that manages to pool into oil fields? For if animals are dying at all different times and places, what I’d expect to see is a geological substratum honeycombed with numberless little pockets of oil.

So the question, from an evolutionary standpoint, is how all the isolated drops of oil collect in massive underground reservoirs? What is the pathway? And is the underlying rock porous enough for the oil to seep through and pool in one or more places? And one could pose some of the same logistical questions regarding coalmines. Perhaps a petroleum geologist would have a simple explanation for this, but I haven’t heard it.

By contrast, so-called flood geology seems to offer a very straightforward explanation. You had a global, one-time event, resulting in some massive collective deposits. They all died more or less at once, and the receding floodwaters would have dumped them into some concentrated areas.

No doubt a complete explanation is more complicated than that. The question, though, is whether a complete explanation is less complicated than that.

3. River valleys

Yesterday I was reading a newspaper article on an archeological dig in the Savannah River valley to uncover a pre-Clovis level of human occupation in the New World.

This got me to thinking of a couple of things. First, it's my impression that a lot of the evidence of "early man" is taken from river valleys—whether extant or prehistoric.

Second, the distinction between pre- and post-Clovis culture (as well as other gradations of the geological column) presupposes the law of superposition.

Now the law of superposition is a common sense principle. But doesn't that assume a fairly steady and stable process of deposition?

Yet I should think that a river valley would be inherently unstable. To begin with, you have a continuous process of deposition and erosion, going on at the same time.

Second, every now and then you have record rainfall, or a record snowpack in the mountains (with a record snowmelt come spring), resulting in torrential runoff.

Not only would this lay down a lot of new sediment, but it would scour out a lot of the old strata, both several layers deep as well as wide—eroding the riverbanks, where "early man" would camp out.

So how does an archeologist know that what he sees today is 15,000 years old rather than 150 years old?

This is even before we figure in the impact of a global flood.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Once upon a liberal

Once upon a time there was a kind and compassionate mad scientist by the name of Herr Doktor Liberius. Liberius was very unhappy with the way the world was. So he set about to turn the world into one big social experiment.

He began by inventing a better human being by the name of Androgyne. Now Androgyne had removable sex organs so that he/she could choose his/her own gender from one day to the next. Androgyne also had an African nose and mouth, Asian eyes, and reddish skin.

One day, in a terrible lab accident, Doktor Liberius inadvertently bred a set of blue eyes and shock of blond hair. But he quickly disposed of this color scheme— lest someone take offense.

Liberius next made a rotating set of parents for Androgyne. Monday-Thursday, Androgyne had two mommies, while Friday-Sunday, Androgyne had three daddies.

In order to defray the expenses of the lab, made Androgyne’s various parents pay a wide variety of taxes for its upkeep. There were many different duties for many different "services." There was a bedroom tax for sleeping on a king-sized mattress, a prorated potty tax for each use of the WC, an oxygen surtax for unauthorized intake of fresh air, a gustatory surtax for eating non-organic snacks, an ingressive tax for getting into the car, an egressive tax for getting out of the car, and so on.

(Originally, the potty tax was a flat tax until the Anti-Defecation League went to court to have this struck down as an unduly regressive form of taxation)

Because Androgyne’s two mommies and three daddies had to hold two or three different jobs apiece to pay all their taxes, they had no time to spend with poor little Androgyne. So Doktor Liberius, as a kind and compassionate mad scientist, opened a 24/7-daycare center, and charged the parents a daycare duty.

When the parents complained that they could not afford to pay the daycare duty, Doktor Liberius, as a kind and compassionate mad scientist, hired them to work at the daycare so that they could pay the daycare duty out of their daycare wages. This way they were now working at the daycare to pay the daycare because they were too busy working at the daycare, to pay the daycare, to take care of little Androgyne at home. What could be more convenient?

Doktor Liberius then opened a preschool in the daycare, and after that a K-12 in the daycare. Needless to say, he had to raise taxes to defray the cost of the new school.

The core curriculum was learning how to feel good about yourself feeling good about your neighbor feeling good about yourself.

After Androgyne graduated from the daycare school, he/she had trouble holding down a job because he/she had no marketable job skills. As a kind and compassionate mad scientist, Doktor Liberius started a remedial job-training program, charging the parents a surtax. The core curriculum was learning how to feel good about yourself feeling good about your neighbor feeling good about yourself.

Androgyne complained that he/she had to walk a whole block from the daycare center to the adjacent training center. As a compassionate mad scientist, Doktor Liberius hired a taxicab service to transport Androgyne from the daycare center to the training center, and charged the parents a taxi-tax.

After Androgyne graduated from the program, he/she still had trouble holding down a job. As a kind and compassionate mad scientist, Doktor Liberius took immediate measures to solve the problem. He passed a law classifying Androgyne’s incompetence as a board certified medical disability. Any business that fired an employee who didn’t do his job was mandated by law to pay him a full pension.

As an early retiree, Androgyne had a lot of free time on his/her hands, and began to dabble in armed robbery as a way of passing the time. As a kind and compassionate mad scientist, Doktor Liberius took swift action to break the cycle of violence. He passed a law disarming security guards, fining bank managers for badmouthing bank robbers ("hate speech"), and made the bank hire a psychologist to counsel Androgyne on his/her injured self-esteem.

But Androgyne sank into a deep funk. His/her condition was scientifically diagnosed as removable sex organ syndrome (RSOS). The prescribed course of therapy was removable-removable sex organ surgery (RRSOS). To cover the cost, his parents were assessed an RRSOS-tariff.

Although the operation was pronounced a complete success, it presented Androgyne with a new challenge. Back in preschool he had received a complete course how to practice safe sex with removable sex organs. But what was he supposed to do with a fully integrated set of sex organs?

The hospital sent him home with several extra packages of male contraceptives, after charging the parents a—you guessed it! —prophylactic-tax. Unfortunately, Androgyne was inexperienced in the use of condoms, and his experimental efforts resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.

This, in turn, triggered a good deal of litigation and legislation. The local grocery store was sued and assessed a fine for failing to supply organic cucumbers for sex ed. They carried non-organic cucumbers, but these were deeply offensive to vegan contraceptive consumers. As a consequence, a new law was passed mandating that all grocery stores either stock organic cucumbers—in various lengths and circumferences, specified in law.

For a time it looked like zucchinis mind win out over cucumbers when The Zucchini Action Defense Fund (ZADF) made a sizable contribution to the chairman's reelection campaign. However, this motion was tabled after The Committee for the Ethical Treatment of Zucchinis (CETZ) too strenuous exception, contending that this law would play into the racist stereotype of Latin Lovers, and incite possible violence against innocent, law-abiding zucchinis.

But the episode was so embarrassing that poor Androgyne became ever more depressed. At first he was prescribed anti-depressants, for which his parents were assessed an uppers-surtax. When he got hooked on uppers, he was prescribed downers, for which his parents were prescribed a downers-surtax. Then he was checked into drug rehab, for which his parents were charged a rehab-tax. After he became a hopeless junkie, he was given free needles, which came out of the I.V.-tariff. Then he was given free cocaine, which came out of the crack-tax lock-box.

Meanwhile, Androgyne’s parents began to complain about their workload. As a kind and compassionate mad scientist, Doktor Liberius cut them back to a 4-day workweek, gave them an annual 3-month vacation, and raised their taxes to make up for lost revenue.

Due to chronic fatigue, Androgyne, along with his two mommies and three daddies, was committed to a state-run nursing home. However, the nursing home suffered from a staffing shortage.

You see, as a kind and compassionate mad scientist, opposed the death penalty for anyone above the age of 9 months outside the womb, but supported the death penalty for anyone below the age of 9 months inside the womb. This had the unforeseen consequence of seriously skewing the ratio between bedpan users and bedpan disposers.

As a result, Androgyne, along with his two mommies and three daddies, lived unhappily ever after. Well, not quite. As a kind and compassionate mad scientist, Doktor Liberius had them put out of their misery and ground into Magnon chow-mien to feed the lab rats, so that he could invent a better human being by the name of Androgyne 2. Now Androgyne 2 had removable sex organs so that...

The End


Disclaimer: all the people in this story are real. But the names have been changed to protect the good name of innocent fairy tale characters from guilt-by-association.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

One faith, one Lord, one baptism

There is, as most of us know, a perennial debate between paedobaptism and credobaptism. One reason the debate remains at a stalemate is that the reason people take different sides has less to do with the direct arguments, which are rather weak on either side, than with the indirect or supporting arguments. For your doctrine of the sacraments has less to do with sacramentology than with ecclesiology. The doctrine of the church, variously construed, is what undergirds various views on baptism. Let’s take three cases:

I. Roman Catholicism

The direct argument for infant baptism is baptismal regeneration. On this ground, the baptismal candidate need not satisfy any prior condition; he not be in a state of grace, for the rite of baptism is itself what confers the grace signified by the sacrament.

However, the direct argument, even if otherwise sound (which I deny), cannot stand on its own. For although the subject need not satisfy any prior condition to validate the sacrament, the officiate must meet a prior condition to validate the sacrament. Just consider how the Roman Church defines the true church. According to Vatican II,

"The Church is a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ (Jn 10:1-10)."

"[The Church is] societally structured with hierarchical organs."

"This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him," Lumen Gentium.

So it is a particular doctrine of the church that underwrites Catholic baptism.

II. Presbyterian paedobaptism

Presbyterians give a couple of direct arguments for infant baptism: (i) household baptism and (ii) the parallel between baptism and infant circumcision.

However, even if these arguments were otherwise sound, they are, at most, practical arguments, implying the de facto observance of infant baptism. They do not, however, supply the de jure grounds.

For this, Presbyterians downshift to a couple of supporting arguments: (i) federal headship and (ii) the continuity of the covenants. According to federal theology, God deals with people, not merely as individuals, but as representative units under a representative head. And whatever the other dispensational discontinuities or administrative details, there is only one covenant of grace. Whoever is saved is saved the same way, whether in the OT church or the NT church. Indeed, the New Covenant is the culmination of federal headship and the capstone of OT promise.

III. Reformed credobaptism

Among Reformed Baptists, the direct argument lies in the simple fact that wherever baptism is explicitly illustrated or enjoined, there is a faith-condition.

To this the Presbyterians then counter that faith-condition is an incidental prerequisite owing to the fact that the NT church was a missionary church which naturally addressed its evangelistic message to adults. But once a Christian family was established, the OT default setting would click in.

Now, whatever the merits or demerits of this particular counterargument, the position of the Reformed Baptist runs deeper. Insofar as baptism is the rite of church membership, what qualifies a baptismal candidate really turns on the definition of the church, and terms of church membership. Consider the following statements from the London Baptist Confession:

"The catholic or universal church is invisible—consistings of the whole number of the elect who have been, who are being, or who yet shall be gathered into one under Christ who is the church's head.

All persons throughout the world who profess to believe the gospel and to render gospel obedience unto God by Christ are, and may be called, visible saints, provided that they do not render void their profession of belief by holding fundamental errors or by living unholy lives; and of such persons all local churches should be composed.

The members of these churches are saints by reason of the divine call, and in a visible manner they demonstrate and declare, both by their confession of Christ and their manner of life, that they obey Christ's call…yielding full assent to the requirements of the gospel.

All believers are under obligation to join themselves to local churches when and where they have opportunity to do so," LBCF 26:1-2,6,12.

In brief, the true members of the true church are the elect. They are believers, visible saints. True faith is a living faith.

IV. Weighing the options.

So how do these three options shake out?

1. None of the supporting arguments is altogether compelling. Although they are consistent with their respective sacramental positions, and probilify one view over against another, they do not entail that view by strict implication, for they operate at a rather more general level of abstraction.

2. I personally have no firm position on the baptism of infants. In a sense, you could accept the Baptist view on the significance of baptism, but accept a Presbyterian view on the baptismal candidate, for if baptism is a sign of grace rather than a means of grace, then its administration conveys no saving benefit, withholding its administration withholds no saving benefit, while its abuse conveys no matching malediction.

3. I regard the corroborative doctrines as more important than the doctrine they corroborate.

4. And I do have settled views on the corroborative doctrines.

5. Regarding Romanism, of this one could say a little or a lot. But I'll content myself with two or three comments:

i) It is pretty breathtaking to see Jn 10:1-10 cited to prove that the Church is the door to Christ, rather than Christ as the door to the Church. In a way this says it all. It perfectly encapsulates the difference between Roman and Reformed soteriology and ecclesiology. Needless to say, it represents an utter inversion and perversion of the Johannine text.

ii) There is a tension between sovereign grace and sacramental grace, for sovereign grace is particular and irresistible, whereas sacramental grace is indefinite and ineffectual.

iii) The most perilous part of sacramental realism is that it fosters a false assurance of salvation, for the subject puts his faith, not in Christ, but in the sacrament, or the Church which redeems the sacramental token.

6. Regarding the Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist arguments, I would say that both sets of supporting arguments are fundamentally true, but one can give full assent to the supporting arguments without giving full assent to their secondary application.

This is, on the one hand, what lends them their enduring appeal; on other hand, this is why they fail to convert many to the opposing position. They are compelling in their own right, but not quite as convincing when conscripted to adjudicate the paedo/credobaptist debate. For the supporting arguments are doctrines deployed in defense of another doctrine.

7. One doesn't have to be a Presbyterian partisan to regard their model of covenant theology as essentially sound, for the London Baptist Confession is only a modification of the Westminster Confession.

8. On the other side, were it not for the felt need to make room for infant baptism, there is nothing that a Presbyterian ought to find objectionable in the Baptist definition of the church. The invisible church is the company of the elect, and although the visible church is a mixed multitude, no principled Presbyterian would knowingly admit a reprobate or nominal believer into full fellowship.

Indeed, Presbyterians are famous, some one would say infamous, for their devotion to church discipline.

The Catholic and Baptist views represent the antipodes of ecclesiology. Although the Roman Church professes herself to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, yet as a practical matter, sanctity takes a very distant third to unity and catholicity.

In this respect, a low-church Baptist has a higher ecclesiology than a high churchman, for the Reformed Baptist has a higher standard of church membership.

9. Precinding Catholicism as out of bounds, I would say that it matters less what you believe about baptism than what you believe about the supporting arguments.

Take whichever side you will on baptism as long as you come down squarely on both sides on the supporting arguments.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Rise of the Fourth Reich

Just this month, Robert Reich has come out with an article entitled "Bush’s God."

This follows on the heels of a similar article of his, published back in December.

In the December issue there was much alarmist talk of how the religious right constitutes a "clear and present" threat to religious liberty. But, in this issue, it is Mr. Reich who launches a frontal assault on religious liberty. Apparently the threat was insufficiently imminent after all, so he has chosen to fulfill his own dire prediction with a preemptive first strike.

It begins as a discussion about the tax-exempt status of churches. From there is goes to a more general discussion of church/state separation. Finally, it launches into a general broadside against religion as even more dangerous than international terrorism.

Anyone who has had occasion to hear Robert Reich on TV knows him to be a very smart, savvy guy. He is a highly articulate liberal with a quick mind and a quick tongue.

It is striking, therefore, that such a bright thinker can pen such a slack piece of reasoning. Let us run through his arguments, such as they are.

1. Mr. Reich equates a tax-exemption with a direct governmental subsidy. Now, only a liberal would be capable of making that equation, for the reasoning is, at best, circular.

It is not the government that subsidizes the taxpayer, but the taxpayer that subsidizes the government. Government gets its money from the people, not vice versa.

When a taxpayer takes a tax deduction, or receives a tax-rebate, this is not a case of government subsidizing the taxpayer. It only means that the government is not garnishing quite as much of his wages as would otherwise be the case.

Again, if a church, which already enjoys a tax-exemption, were to endorse a particular candidate, this would not "cost" the government anything above what is already lost in tax-revenue from the initial exemption.

The suppressed premise of his argument seems to be that taxation is a form of income redistribution. It is not merely a case of giving a wager-earner more of his money back; no, it is taking from Peter to pay Paul.

Okay, on that convoluted construction you could say that any tax-exemption is a de facto government subsidy. But if this is deemed to be an unacceptable consequence, it is only objectionable because the liberal is drawing a liberal conclusion from a liberal premise. The more fundamental question is whether the tax code should be structured in such a way as to make it a mechanism of income redistribution.

Suppose we were to scrap the graduated tax system for a flat tax, or even ditch most federal, state, and local taxes for user-fees? After all, we got along without a Federal income tax until Woodrow Wilson came along.

Mr. Reich then makes the following claim:
"The Constitution of the United States prohibits the federal government from enacting laws that promote or establish any religion. That's because the Framers understood the importance of keeping a strict separation between church and state. History has amply demonstrated how established religions undermine democracy. Citizens holding different beliefs from the majority, or no beliefs at all, are often disadvantaged, marginalized, or even ostracized. Government support tends to corrupt even an established religion whose leaders seek official favors in return for religious decrees and indulgences, and who do the government's bidding in return for state benefits."

There are at least four fundamental flaws in his analysis:

1. Notice the downward semantic slide from "establishment" to "support" or "promotion." This trades on a fatal equivocation. There is quite a difference between the establishment of a national church and some form of Federal promotion or sponsorship. Reich is substituting weaker words that are not synonymous with the original.

As a matter of historical fact, the Federal government was a patron of the faith. To take but one example, the very first Congress made provision for new churches to be built in the Northwest Territory. And just consider what-all Thomas Jefferson, patron saint of church/state separatists, had a hand in:
* Legislative and Military Chaplains,
* Establishing a national seal using a religious symbol,
* Including the word "God" in our national motto,
* Official Days of Fasting and Prayer-at least on the state level,
* Punishing Sabbath breakers (is that real enough for you?),
* Punishing marriages contrary to biblical law,
* Punishing irreverent soldiers,
* Protecting the property of churches,
* Requiring oaths saying "So Help Me God," taken on the Bible
* Granting land to Christian churches to reach the Indians
* Granting land to Christian schools
* Allowing Government property and facilities to be used for worship
* Using the Bible and non-denominational religious instruction in the public schools. (He was involved in three different school districts and the plan in each one of these REQUIRED that the Bible be taught in our public schools).
* Allowing clergymen to hold public office, and encouraging them to do so,
* Purchasing and stocking religious books for public libraries,
* Funding of salaries of clergymen in Indian mission schools.
* Funding for construction of church buildings for Indians,
* Exempting churches from taxation,
* Establishing professional schools of theology. [He wanted to bring over from Geneva, Switzerland, the entire faculty of Calvin's theological seminary and establish it at the University of Virginia.]
* Treaties requiring other nations to guarantee religious freedom,
* Including religious speeches and prayers in official ceremonies.

And let us not forget that 10 of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention were Presbyterians. Cf. Dictionary of the Presbyterian & Reformed Tradition in America, D. Hart, ed. (IVP 1999), 19.

Indeed, it is arguable that our very system of federalism and republican democracy owed a good deal to Presbyterian theology:

i) The theology of revolution, which flew in the face of the then-regnant divine right of kings, goes back to the OT, when, in times of national apostasy (e.g., Jezebel; Athalia), a godly remnant would rebel and plot to overthrow the apostate regime.

ii) The OT makings of a theology of revolution received more formal articulation in the work of Scots-Presbyterians like Gillespie (Aaron's Rod) and Rutherford (Lex Rex), not to mention its practical implementation in the Scottish Reformation of the Church, under Knox. And this outlook was popularized in Colonial America by John Witherspoon. James Madison was a student of Witherspoon's at Princeton.

iii) The notion of a republic once again has striking parallels with OT covenant theology, what with its principle of federalism (federal headship) and tribal eldership.

iv) This would also receive a concrete model in Presbyterian polity, with its representational form of gov't and graded court system, reminiscent of the separation of powers, check & balances, and triple-decker gov't (session/presbytery/GA>municiple/state/federal).

It was not until 1947 that Hugo Black suddenly "discovered" a wall of separation in the Establishment clause. What the Framers were blind to, he could divine.

2. Notice, as well, the downward semantic slide from the "federal government" to "government" in general. Yet the Establishment clause expressly applies to the Federal government only. The states had established churches well into the 19C. The Framers assuredly did not write strict separation of church and state into the Constitution. To the contrary, the point of the Establishment clause was to leave the status quo ante intact.

3. As to the consequences of government patronage, whatever the merits of this objection, it is not a Constitutional objection.

4. It is also unclear how Mr. Reich arrives at the conclusion that an established church undermines democracy. It is true that the institution of an established church is associated with the imperial or monarchal age. But, in that event, it was the state establishing the church, and not the church the state.

For that matter, Mr. Reich might as well reason that science undermines democracy inasmuch as science arose in the age of kings, and prospered under royal patronage.

From here, Mr. Reich graduates to a "larger" and more insidious "pattern":
"In its eagerness to promote the teaching of creationism in public schools, encourage school prayer, support anti-sodomy statutes, ban abortions, bar gay marriage, limit the use of stem cells, reduce access to contraceptives, and advance the idea of America as a "Christian nation," the Bush administration has done more to politicize religion than any administration in recent American history. It has already blurred the distinction between what is preached from the pulpits and what are the official policies of the United States government, to the detriment of both. Right-wing fundamentalists -- including not a few high-level Bush-administration officials -- charge us secularists with being "moral relativists" who would give equal weight to any moral precept. In so doing, they confuse politics with private morality. For religious zealots, there is no distinction between the two realms. And that is precisely the problem."

LIke the White Queen, Mr. Reich operates with a Looking-Glass logic by which he reads American history in reverse. In each of his examples, it is the liberal elite that is endeavoring by its iron-fisted methods to overthrow the status quo, whereas the religious right is attempting to hold the line or restore the status quo ante. Yet in his backward scansion of American history, when modern-day liberals overturn original intent, venerable precedent, and traditional values, they are somehow the guardians of the ancien regime, while the Evangelicals are somehow the radical innovators, trying their darndest to undo the First Amendment.

Curiouser still is when Mr. Reich, in the very next paragraph, pits this as a battle between enlightened progressives and retrograde obscurantists. Now, either both his charges are false, or—at most—one is falsified by the other; but one thing is for sure: they can’t both be true. So his allegation suffers from a sorry lack of elementary coherence.

Equally incoherent is his charge that Evangelicals are guilty of politicizing religion and erasing the distinction between public and private morality.

To begin with, it is not as though Mr. Reich were a lobbyist for limited government. Quite the contrary, he wants to turn American into yet another Eurocratic nanny-state, with a coercive equality imposed from above.

And no one has done more to politicize morality that the liberal elite, what with its judicial tyranny, its thought police, its compulsory public education, its mandatory multiculturalism, and its frivolous litigation against consensual conduct, to name but a few of its undemocratic incursions into the sphere of social engineering.

Why should Christians support an anti-Christian curriculum? If Mr. Reich were a true libertarian, he would defend school choice.

The NEA has been running the public school system two or three generations now. Yet our students are abysmally ignorant, while a number of lowly homeschoolers are distinguishing themselves.

Liberals like Mr. Reich don’t believe in academic standards, for they value equality over freedom, and equality can only be achieved by dumbing-down the curriculum to the lowest common denominator. You create a level playing field by flattening the high ground with your liberal bulldozers and steamrollers.

Moreover, liberals don’t want to teach students the facts. Rather, they want to turn out politically correct clones for their totalitarian utopia.

Why does Mr. Reich deem it wrong to "impose" religion on our children, but deems it entirely right to impose his irreligion on our children? He is utterly blind to his own bias. This, of course, is what happens when you only read one side of the argument. Like liberals in general, Mr. Reich has too much contempt for the opposing argument to even acquaint himself with the opposing argument. But is that not the very definition of prejudice?

The reference to contraceptives is deceptive. This is not about consenting adults, but parental consent in the case of minors.

Why stop with stem cells? Why not clone human beings to harvest their organs on organ farms?

Why stop with same-sex marriage. Why not abolish the age of consent, as NAMBLA would have it?

Moving onto his climactic paragraph, Mr. Reich paints the conflict in apocalyptic tints and Manichaean hues:
"The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face."

Again, this is riddled with so many fallacies that it is hard to know where to begin:

1. In what respect does modernism select for individualism? Indeed, even a number of humanistic writers like Huxley, Koestler, Orwell, and Bradbury have warned their fellow free-thinkers of the dangers of a secular totalitarian state, and their ominous prognostications have often come true in the 20C, and into the 21C.

2. Mr. Reich obviously values coercive equality over individual freedom. He resorts to libertarian rhetoric as a means to a socialist end.

3. In what respect does secularism place a premium on human life, either in theory or practice? How does an ardent abortionist like Reich believe in the sanctity of life? Of course, Reich never says "sanctity." For the secularist, there is no sanctity—only profanity.

In his Decmeber issue he complains about the "gruesome pictures" of aborted babies. What about the gruesome footage of the Nazi death camps? Or the killing fields of Cambodia?—both the sludge of secular humanism. Like a Mafia don who delegates the dirty work to a hit-man, Mr. Reich is offended, not at the slaughter of our young, but at having his silk suit bespattered with their innocent blood.

How does the destruction of embryonic stem cells uphold the sanctity of life? And don't you just suppose that Mr. Reich is also an advocate of euthanasia, whether voluntary or involuntary, for the aged, the infirm, the retarded and deformed? His is a merciless meritocracy for the cream of humanity.

This is the irony of the welfare state. With one hand it rocks the cradle, with the other it strangles the infant of years. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Reich.

4. Even more to the point, how is the value of human life enhanced by saying that human life is reducible to organic chemistry—to a three pound lump of biodegradable meat, the random byproduct of an indifferent and insensate process; that the virtuous and the vicious share a common oblivion; that, when I expire, all my hopes and fears, loves and longings die with me, as though I never were?

5. In what sense is logic a modern discovery? Has Mr. Reich never heard of Aristotle? What about Medieval advances in the study of logic?

6. Are unbelievers is more logical than are believers? Aristotle was a monotheist as well as a pioneer of categorical logic. Leibniz was a monotheist as well as a pioneer of symbolic logic. Gödel read his Bible on Sundays—even believed in demons. Gödel was also the greatest mathematical logician of the 20C, as well as Einstein's favorite conversation-partner. Peter Geach was a Catholic philosopher as well as a professor of logic. Richard Swinburne uses Bayesean logic in Christian apologetics, while Alvin Plantinga uses modal logic in Christian apologetics.

7. Where do abstract laws of logic come from, anyway? In what do they inhere? Can a secular worldview do justice to the necessity and universality of logic? Or are they attributes of an infinite and timeless mind?

8. Are unbelievers more reasonable than are believers? Then why doesn’t Mr. Reich, for one, give us some reasons for why he is an unbeliever? All he does is to contrast one position with another. But that is not a reason for choosing one position over another. Where are the supporting arguments? He dons a cerebral air, but fails to make a reasoned case for anything he believes in. Looks like anti-intellectualism masquerading as rationality. Instead of solid reasoning we see a lot of hand-waiving.

9. Can a blind, evolutionary process underwrite reason? Or does it undercut reason?

10. Is there a conflict between reason and revelation? What does that mean, exactly? Most of what we know and believe comes from second-hand information. In this respect, getting your information from the Bible is no different than getting your information from a textbook or encyclopedia. What matters is whether your source of information is reliable or not.

11. Science? What does he know of science? Is he a scientist? Not at all. What does he happen to know about science that a believer doesn’t know? Can’t a scientist be a man of faith?

Modern science arose in Western Europe—in what was then Christian Europe. Kepler was a devout Lutheran. Newton was a Bible-believer, as well as the greatest scientist who ever lived. Indeed, Newton was one of the architects of modern science.

12. Perhaps, though, what Mr. Reich would say is that you can be both a Christian and a scientist, but only at the cost of consistency. Well, if that is what he means, then that is yet another lonely assertion in search of a supporting argument. How would he fare in a debate with Walt Brown or Kurt Wise or Bill Dembski or Michael Behe or John Byl—to name a few?

For that matter, scepticism regarding the mainstream model of evolution is not limited to Christian fundamentalists. It includes Crick, Hoyle, Denton, Gödel, Grassé, and Sheldrake.

Even among its staunchest allies, some Darwinians have rather peculiar ways of defending their theory. Richard Lewontin is on record as saying that "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories…We cannot allow a divine foot in the door," while Richard Dawkins has written that "It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe," and yet again that "Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinians theory…we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories."

Although both of them are secular humanists, John Searle and Thomas Nagel say they find it impossible to reduce mind to matter.

13. When talking of modernity, there is also a widespread tendency to confuse pure and applied science, theory and technology.

But there are two competing philosophies of science—realism and antirealism. This goes all the way back to the Greeks, with their distinction between the natural and mathematical sciences. There are those who regard scientific theories as useful fictions that enable us to manipulate our environment, but fail to describe the way things really are.

14. What is the "scientific" argument for putting the homosexual on a par with the heterosexual? Where is his evidence?

15. Again, without benefit of any supporting argument whatsoever, Mr. Reich places Christianity and Islam on the same moral plane. Were he a true student of history, he would know that throughout history it is Islam, always Islam, that has been the aggressor. It is Islam that overran the Mideast, and Eastern Europe, and the Levant. It is Islam that is engaged in a global jihad against the rest of the world.

Our mortal enemy hides in plain sight. Why is Mr. Reich unable to see the whites of their eyes? But in the backseat of the limousine liberal, all windows have been refitted with mirrors. So the liberal can no longer see the world as it is. He can only see his own reflection.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The gospel of grace-3

17. Indicatives over imperatives. To take a classic case, Arminians assume that God would never blame us for breaking his law unless we were able to keep it. So they operate according to the principle that ability limits liability. Up to a point the Bible endorses this commonsense intuition. In the law we have the category of unwitting sins. So the law recognizes cases of diminished responsibility. Even here, though, it is noteworthy that the law only classifies ignorance as an extenuating rather than exculpatory circumstance. This already represents a declension from Arminian ethics.
Moreover, the Bible also operates according to a principle of federal representation. For example, the Bible says that the one sin of the one man resulted in the condemnation of his entire posterity (Rom 5:12ff.). This may strike us as unfair, but for now I’m just stating what the Bible says. As long as this is a debate between fellow Christians it shouldn’t be necessary to justify Scriptural doctrine.
The Arminian assumes that the purpose of the law is to supply a standard of conduct. And this is one function of the law. And if that were the only purpose of the law, it seems reasonable to suppose that it would be an attainable standard. Of course, that is not the only reasonable supposition. Professionals often measure their work against the greatest representatives in the field. In most cases, this is an unattainable standard, yet it is hardly useless on that account. Such an ideal of excellence challenges us to do better than if we lowered the bar.
Moreover, a standard of conduct may serve as a standard of judgment. In various fields, a candidate is disqualified if he can’t meet a certain standard of excellence. Here the standard does not presuppose that everyone is able to rise to the challenge. To the contrary, it is used to eliminate the majority of candidates in order to isolate and identity an elite few. I mention these two alternatives to illustrate the fact that the Arminian intuition rests on a snap judgment, which begins to lose its initial plausibility once we start to consider a few concrete counter-examples. This is a weakness with intuition. It is apt to overgeneralize. Something that had seemed self-evidently true may appear obviously false as soon as someone draws our attention to a major exception.
Furthermore, revelation, and not reason, is the Protestant rule of faith. I am still old fashioned enough to believe that theology is the queen of the sciences, and reason is her handmaid. However plausible the Arminian formula may seem—and as we’ve begun to see that it is deceptively simplistic even when judged by reason—the principle that ability limits liability runs smack up against the Biblical diagnosis of man’s moral condition. One reason that the Reformed/Arminian debate will continue until the end of the church age is that the Arminian cannot bring himself to submit to the superior wisdom of God. The Calvinist can raise all the same objections, but he is prepared to bow before the judgment of God. This isn’t a groveling act of obeisance or abject act of intellectual suicide; on the contrary, it is supremely rational to defer to a supreme intelligence. This is what sets apart the sheep from the goats: the sheep follow the Shepherd—day or night—whereas the goats will only follow the Shepherd’s lead during the day—when they can see the path for themselves. The Calvinist is a full-time follower whereas the Arminian is a daylight disciple. When the sun goes down, the Calvinist takes out his Bible (Ps 119:105) while the Arminian whips out his flashlight.
The Bible also teaches that God had an ulterior motive in giving the law. And that was to expose and even intensify our depravity (Ezk 20:25-27; Rom 3:20; 5:20; 7:7,13; Heb 10:3). This represents the antipode of the Arminian assumption. Here the law presupposes our moral incompetence. It also implies a distinction between God’s decretive and preceptive will; God lays down certain precepts that he never intended us to keep. A classic example would be his command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22).
18. Indicatives over conditionals. A favorite charge of Arminian authors is that Calvinism renders the admonitions of Scripture, such as the apostasy passages in Hebrews, otiose. Unless apostasy were a live option for the true believer, these would cease to be genuine warnings.
While this line of argument may enjoy a lot of intuitive appeal, it is logically fallacious. For example, conditionals include counterfactuals. We have a string of these in 1 Cor 15 with reference to the resurrection. Yet Paul is proposing the antecedent in order to demonstrate the impossibility of the consequent. The whole point of a contrary-to-fact conditional is that it is factually false but counterfactually true. The Arminian, with his commitment to conditional election, sufficient grace, hypothetical universalism, and freedom of future contingents is already knee-deep in the truth-value of counterfactuals. The primary point of difference is that Arminians index counterfactuals to the will of man whereas Calvinists index counterfactuals to the will of God.
19. Minimal over maximal meaning. As a rule, dogmatic and systematic theology ought to confine themselves to the positive assertions and strict implications of Scripture. The objective is to develop a belief-system where the creedal aspect is brought to the fore. Christians are believers. Our priority should be to determinate what the Bible obliges us to believe, and not what it allows us to believe. Arminian theology leans on possible inferences and natural intuitions. This is not a solid foundation for faith. It doesn’t take very seriously the ethical imperative of faith. Indeed, it often reads more like an evasive strategy.
20. Systematic over incidental treatments. Some Biblical writers are more sweeping thinkers than others, while some Biblical books and genres of Scripture major on a particular theme. It is only logical, then, to begin with certain books and authors when developing a division of theology, viz., election (John; Romans/Ephesians); justification (Romans/Galatians); assurance (1 John); covenant theology (Hebrews); charismatic theology (1 Corinthians); christology (John); polity (Acts; Pastorals); worship (the Psalter); ethics (Exodus-Deuteronomy; Proverbs); the problem of evil (Job; Romans).
21.Unilateral over bilateral harmonization. In harmonizing one set of passages with another, it may not be possible or plausible to harmonize in either direction. For example, metaphors are reducible to literal properties or predicates. The attributes ascribed to God by classical Christian theism (e.g. necessary, timeless, omnipotent, omniscient) are already abstract or literal, and therefore irreducible. There is nothing to refine away. But in the case of emotive attributes like love, wrath, regret, jealousy, and frustration, there is an anthropomorphic aspect. The many moods of human love cannot be mapped back onto God. So some allowance has to be made for hyperbole, as well as a distinction drawn between the conceptual content of an emotive attribute and secondary aspects that are incidental to its mode of subsistence. In finite, sensuous agents, love has aspects that are inapplicable to a sovereign, spiritual agent.
22. Progressive over prior revelation. The NT writers will often justify their position by appeal to an OT passage. For example, John defends reprobation by invoking Isa 6:9-10 (Jn 12:40) while Paul defends it by invoking Exod 9:16 and Mal 1:2-3 (Rom 9:13,17). Arminians try to deflect this appeal by claiming that apostolic exegesis violates original intent. This counter-move is objectionable on several grounds:
i) It disregards the authority of apostolic exegesis. When a Bible writer interprets a passage of Scripture for us, we should take this inspired gloss as our point of departure rather than reinterpreting the original by our own lights. It is not the place of a commentator or theologian to double-check the exegesis of an Apostle.
ii) It disregards the principle of thematic development. Scripture is an organic whole. The meaning of a passage is to be found, not only in the original context but also in the telic context. God has choreographed the unfolding of revelation and redemptive history in order for it to converge on the Christ-event and its fallout. When interpreting Scripture we should not only read the end from the beginning (promise), but also the beginning from the end (fulfillment). Both perspectives are necessary.
Points (i) and (ii) are complementary. Because of their position in redemptive history, the final context of OT revelation is realized in the writers of the NT. They represent the terminus of a divine trajectory (e.g. Lk 24:25-27; Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11; 1 Pet 1:12).
For example, Ezekiel extends the Edenic motif to the Restoration of Israel (Ezk 47:1-12), while John extends Ezekiel’s typology to the Church Triumphant (Rev 2:7; 22:2,4). It would be retrograde to deconstruct Revelation back into Ezekiel and then deconstruct Ezekiel back into Genesis. This is like playing a sonata backwards; Scripture resembles the movement of a sonata: exposition, development, recapitulation. To collapse the end of the arc into its inception dehistoricizes the natural flow of Scripture.
iii) When, moreover, we are exegeting Paul (or John or the author of Hebrews), the question of immediate importance is, How does Mal 1:2-3 function at this stage of Paul’s argument? It is Romans, and not Malachi, that supplies the governing context. Rom 9:13 is not simply a roundabout way of getting at Malachi’s authorial intent—anymore than Malachi an indirect way of getting at Paul’s authorial intent. The meaning of each is not exhausted by the other. So in determining Paul’s use of a primary source, it is the secondary source that furnishes the point of reference.
This is not to deny the value of comparison, but we should not assume that a given verse serves the same purpose in both the primary and secondary source materials. Because the setting is different, every time a NT author applies an OT verse to his circumstances he necessarily recontextualizes the passage.
To take a comparison, a commentator on Matthew or Luke would not take Mark as the controlling context for what a parallel passage in Matthew or Luke could mean, any more than a commentator on Chronicles would take Samuel or Kings as an external check on a companion passage in Chronicles. What matters first of all is how the later author understood the relevance passage in relation to his situation, and not how the verse applied in its original setting. As long as the extrapolation is convergent rather than divergent with the import and implications of the original, no violence is done to the original.
iv) We must also distinguish between intent and implication. Intent is psychological and private; implication is logical and public. The logical implications of a given passage are not limited to the conscious intent of the author, to which, in any event, we lack direct access. If a Christian carpenter cited Deut 22:8 to warrant the installation of smoke detectors, he could not very well justify that on the basis of original intent, and yet it is a valid inference from the underlying principle of a safety regulation. He derives a general principle from a specific case-law, and the reapplies that principle to a new situation.
v) Even in their original setting, these verses have a predestinarian force. On Mal 1, the Edomites are expressly said to be the object of God’s eschatological curse (1:4; cf. Isa 35:5,9ff.; Ezk 35:9; Obadiah 10,18). This implicates their spiritual destiny. Moreover, the OT operates from a principle of tribal solidarity. The fate of the clan is bound up with the fortunes of its patriarch. Indeed, covenant theology exploits this principle. The love/hate language is stereotypical terminology in OT covenant theology. Moreover, God generally coordinates grace with the means of grace. The fact that the covenants of promise extend through the line of Isaac/Jacob rather than Ishmael/Esau again implicates the spiritual fate of the Edomites. They are an accursed people, cut off from the stream of revelation and redemption (cf. Jn 4:24; Eph 2:12). Of course, this doesn’t amount to strict numerical identity, for election can cut across family lines (cf. Amos 3:12?); but as a rule, if a people-group is born outside the pale of special revelation, then that represents the peremptory judgment of God. There is no neat separation in Scripture between historical and spiritual destiny.
On Isa 6:9-10, by hardening Israel the Lord cuts off any opportunity of repentance that would spare the nation from exile. It may be objected that this has reference to the temporal fortunes of the nation rather than the spiritual fate of individuals. However, that analysis is superficial; for by this act of reprobation God is also condemning the people to remain sunken in idolatry. The principal evil is not exile but idolatry; exile is merely the formal sanction, while idolatry carries its own penalty—for idolatry is the paradigmatic sin in Scripture. To be left in a state of idolatry is a sentence of damnation. Hell is the ultimate exile—exile from God’s presence. As with Mal 3, God’s action is preemptive with respect to the spiritual opportunities of generations to come. In the case of Israel, it will terminate in the Restoration, but not for the apostate generation.
On Exod 9:16, I have already discussed the hardening of Pharaoh under (4). I would only add that:
a) Pharaoh is presented as a mere puppet in the hands of God. Arminians often charge that Calvinism reduces men to puppets. They are half-right where the reprobate are concerned. Pharaoh is a foil for revealing God’s sovereignty (Exod 14:4,17-18). He is merely a means to an end. That is why God gave him life and put him on the throne in the first place. No consideration is ever given to his own spiritual well-being. On the contrary, he was set up for the fall. His only raison d’être is to serve as a cautionary tale. As such, he illustrates the grace of God towards others, to the conspicuous exclusion of himself—for in God’s hands he is instrumental in a redemptive plan to which he is not party. Rather, he is to be used and discarded—like a ladder that is kicked aside once the summit has been scaled. Giving Pharaoh a "fair chance" to repent would jeopardize the whole enterprise. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is conditioned on God’s glory and not Pharaoh’s freedom. Of course, we shouldn’t feel sorry for Pharaoh. He was a ruthless ruler enjoyed all the perks of absolute monarch.
Calvinism, so they contend, reduces men to puppets or robots. I wonder, though, just what is the difference between the puppet/puppeteer relation and the potter/clay relation (Isa 29:16; 41:25; 45:9; Jer 18:6; Rom 9:21)?

b) Arminians claim that the episodes are concerned with historiography rather than soteriology. However, Pharaoh’s resistance is specifically classified as sin (9:34; cf. 10:16-17)—which frames the interaction in expressly soteric categories. Moreover, his sin was the result of divine agency. He sinned against the Lord because the Lord hardened his heart. Absent a redemptive remedy, this implies a divine predetermination to damnation.
iii) In Scripture, the condition of the heart is a spiritual condition (e.g. Gen 6:5; 8:21; Deut 29:4; 1 Sam; Ps 14:1; 34:18; 51:10,17; 66:18; 101:2; Jer 17:9; 31:33; Ezk 36:26). This, indeed, is axiomatic. The fact, therefore, that God is represented as turning Pharaoh’s heart to evil certainly implicates his spiritual fate. I realize that this raises theodicean concerns, but a Christian theodicy must begin with the scriptural data rather than preempt them.

23. Prooftexts over doctored texts. Arminians cite a slew of prooftexts in favor of general redemption. When you go through their prooftexts one by one, however, what you find is that not a single verse affirms the distinctive contention of the Arminian. What we have instead are a number of verses that seem to affirm universal salvation. The Arminian glosses these statements by drawing a distinction between a potential and an actual unlimited atonement. But that qualification is devoid of any textual warrant.
For his part, the Calvinist can appeal to a number of direct prooftexts for special redemption (e.g. Jn 6:37-39; 10:11,26; 11:52; 13:1; 17:2,6-7,9,24; Heb 9:15;10:14). He doesn’t have to introduce any further qualifications in order to make them bear out his specific claim. These serve as an independent point of reference for qualifying the so-called Arminian prooftexts. He can also infer special redemption from related doctrines like unconditional election and the grace of faith. By contrast, the Arminian has to engage in a tendentious appeal to a set of verses that he must first qualify on the assumption of universal atonement— as distinct from universal salvation —in order to then invoke them as proof of universal salvation. The reasoning is viciously circular.
The doctrine of special redemption rests on the convergence of at least half a dozen independent lines of evidence:
i) Penal substitution. There are verses that describe the work of Christ in terms of a role-reversal in which our demerit (via Adam) is attributed to Christ while his merit is attributed to us (e.g. Isa 53; Rom 5; 2 Cor 5:18,21; Gal 3:13; Col 2:14; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18). This exchange implies that every-one for whom Christ died is accounted righteous in God’s sight. But if everyone is not saved, then Christ didn’t die for everyone.
ii) Election. Not only does particular election imply particular atonement, but there are verses in which election and atonement expressly coincide: Christ gave his life for those whom the Father gave to Christ (Jn 6:37-39; 11:2,6-7,9,24; Heb 2:13b). The distinction between election/redemption is not a part/whole relation; rather, it is because the redeemed were already marked out by virtue of election that Christ died for them and them alone. Even apart from passages in which election and redemption are clearly coordinate, particular election would still imply particular redemption (e.g. Jn 10:26; Acts 13:48; Rom 8:29; 9:11-18; 1 Cor 1:27-29; Eph 1:4-11; 2:10; 1 Thes 5:9; 2 Thes 2:13; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet 2:8-9; Rev 13:8; 17:8). This is especially underscored by reprobation.
Arminians like William Klein drive a wedge between individual and corporate election. But this tactic is fallacious on several grounds:
a) Is the equation between class and membership foreign to NT culture? Don’t fishermen count the number of fish in their catch? Don’t shepherds name and number the sheep in their flocks? Don’t tax-collectors add and itemize taxable goods?
b) To isolate a group from its members is far more abstract than the Reformed equation. If Klein is so concerned with the dangers of imposing logical overrefinements on the text, why is he drawing such sophistical distinctions? Even on his own grounds, wouldn’t the concrete, commonsense equation between class and membership be more in keeping with the practical reasoning of shepherds and fishermen?
d) Klein drives a wedge between Greek and Hebrew modes of thought. But this is unhistorical. Even Palestinian fishermen were bilingual—not to mention members of the educated class (e.g. Philo; Josephus). Jews had daily contact with uncircumcized Gentiles. Is Klein seriously suggesting that men like Luke, Paul, and the author of Hebrews were not conversant with "Western" modes of thought. Apparently, Klein managed to get a doctorate in NT studies without ever reading anything by Martin Hengel—e.g., Judaism and Hellenism (Fortress, 1981).
e) Klein’s disjunction is in tension with the inherent individualism of his Arminian soteriology. One can’t combine freewill with a consistently corporate model of our spiritual destiny. Personal autonomy and corporate identity are antipodal positions.
f) While intent is subjective, implication is objective; so even if—for the sake of argument—we were to grant that the NT authors did not draw a conscious inference from corporate to individual election, the class/ member relation would still obtain as a matter of logical necessity. Klein confuses logic with psychology. The fact that St. Paul didn’t have an opinion on Goldbach’s conjecture doesn’t render its truth-value indeterminate.
g) Like every other relativist, Klein can’t keep his word. For example, he complains that reprobation is inconsistent with the universal offer of the Gospel (ibid. 267). So he invokes logic when it suits his purpose—in his own mind, at least.
h) But to address the issue directly, the sacred authors do, in fact, describe election as terminating on individuals. The elect are named and numbered (e.g. Jn 10:3; Rom 11:4,25; Rev 2:17; 6:11; 13:8; 17:8)— including the use of proper names (e.g. Rom 9:11,13) and singular personal pronouns (vv15-16,18). Klein casts God in the role of the thief rather than Good Shepherd—for the thief doesn’t call the sheep by name.
Moreover, the designated individuals (e.g. Pharaoh; Isaac/Jacob) are not isolated cases, but typify a general principle in God’s redemptive and reprobative economy. That is why they are singled out for discussion—owing to their representative significance.
Furthermore, Paul distinguishes between natural election and spiritual election (Rom 9:6-7; cf. 2:28-29). But this implies individual discrimination inasmuch as national election is corporate (i.e. inclusive of all members of the stipulated class) as over against spiritual election—which represents a subset of the total (cf. "some," 11:14). Election operates within people-groups and not simply upon people-groups—cutting across ethnic lines and family ties (cf. 9:6-13,24). For additional argumentation, cf. D. Moo NICNT (Eerdmans, 1996), 571-72; J. Piper, ibid., 65-71.
i) Klein misses the big picture. In Rom 9-11, Paul is addressing the problem of Jewish unbelief. Invoking the principle of corporate solidarity—in this case, the national apostasy of Israel—would simply paraphrase the original problem—offering a description of the problematic phenomenon in lieu of an explanation. It is precisely the general infidelity of Israel that has called into question the ultimate fidelity of God in keeping his promises. Paul’s solution appeals to double-predestination. Yes, God chooses one tribe over another, but he also chooses one member over another. And his choice is not merely for service, but implicates the eternal fate of individuals (cf. 9:3,22-23).

iii) Covenant theology. In chapters like Jn 6, 10, and 17, Father and Son are represented as having entered into a contract to save a people. The Father chooses who is to be saved and commissions the Son to die for them; the Son is a voluntary party to this contract, being sent out with the understanding that he will receive what he has contracted for. The elect are his "wages."
iv) Intercession. The intercession of Christ is grounded in the sacrifice of Christ—owing to the indivisible character of his priestly work. Hence, sacrifice and intercession are conterminous (Heb 1:3b; 7:27; 8:1,3; 9:24b).
v) Programmatic passages. There are verses that map election onto redemption and redemption onto application (e.g. Rom 8:32-34; Eph 1:4-14). Here the very same set of personal subjects is in view from start to finish. Commenting on this correlation in Eph 1, B.B. Warfield observes that "salvation is traced consecutively to its preparation (4-5), its execution (6,7), its publication (8-10), and its application (11-14)," Biblical and Theological Studies (P&R, 1968), 318.
vi) Efficacy. The sustained argument of Hebrews is emphatic on the subjective efficacy of Christ’s atonement (e.g. 4:14; 7:16,24-28; 8:6,10,12; 9:12,14-15,26-28; 10:12-18,22). Here there is no daylight between objective sufficiency and subjective efficiency. Hence, if everyone is not saved, then it follows that Christ didn’t die to save everyone. This line of argument receives additional confirmation from the fact that saving faith is also the reflex result of divine agency (e.g. Jn 1:13; 3:5-6,19-20; 6:44,65; 8:34,44; Rom 7:18; 8:70-8; Acts 16:14; 1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1ff.; 4:17ff.; 1 Jn 3:10; 5:19).

The gospel of grace-2

12.Contrastive over neutral statements. Calvinists argue for special redemption by appealing to verses in which Christ is said to have died for a subset of humanity. Arminians counter this appeal by pointing out that if Christ died for everyone, then this breaks down into various subsets of humanity. Likewise, Classical Christian theists argue for the immutability of God by appeal to verses that represent God in immutable terms. Contrariwise, process theologians counter this appeal by quoting verses that represent God in mutable terms. As long as the debate remains at this level, it results in an impasse. However, this way of casting the alternatives is misleading:
i) Calvinists don’t simply quote verses in which Christ is said to have died for a subset of humanity. They also quote from verses in which Christ is said to have died for group A as over against group B: Christ lays down his life for the sheep to the exclusion of the goats (Jn 10:11, 26); Christ dies for those who have been called or consecrated (Heb 9:15; 10:14), in implicit contrast to those who were never called or consecrated; Christ dies for his own people who are in the world (Jn 13:1), which distances oi idioi from kosmoß—especially when compared with the antithetical parallel in 15:19 ("the world loves its own"); Christ dies for a divine Diaspora (Jn 11:52)—which sets up a part/whole contrast.
ii) This contrast is accentuated by the causal order in Jn 11:26. Christ does not say, as we might have expected, that the Jews are not his sheep because they don’t believe, but the reverse: they don’t believe because they are not his sheep—meaning that they were never given to Jesus by the Father (cf. Jn 6:37a; 17:2ff.). Christ lays down his life for the flock (=the elect); his death does not constitute the flock but presupposes it. Faith is not a precondition of membership; rather, membership is a precondition of faith. Belonging to the flock is the prerequisite for faith and redemption alike. Put another way, the Father’s work in election is the foundation for the Son’s work in redemption and the Spirit’s work in regeneration.
iii) Scripture does not present us with two formally parallel sets of passages where one set affirms divine immutability and the other divine mutability. Rather, those that represent God in mutable terms offer no further frame of reference, whereas those that represent God as immutable set that attribute in antithetical contrast to mundane and human affairs as a defining trait of divinity (e.g. Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Ps 102: 24-27; Jas 1:17). So this automatically supplies a harmonistic point of reference by making the mutable predications relative to the immutable predications, and not vice versa. Furthermore, it is easy to see why a timeless God would express himself in dynamic terms when addressing temporal creatures, whereas it is difficult to see why a temporal God would express himself in static terms when addressing temporal creatures. So there is a logical asymmetry between these two proposed lines of harmonization.

13.Usage over etymology. Quite a number of writers, both Arminian and Reformed, operate from the assumption that the verbs yada and proegnv have a primary or basic meaning (e.g. Gen 18:19; Num 16:5; Amos 3:2; Acts 2:23; Rom 8:29; 11:2 1 Pet 1:20). Arminians leave it at that while some Calvinists treat the elective sense as a secondary sense. When I read the literature, there is a good deal of confusion over the semantic criteria for fixing the primary import. The proposed criteria run as follows:
a) common meaning: the most commonly attested sense.
b) common canonical meaning: the most commonly attested sense in the canon.
c) literal meaning: the concrete or representational sense.
d) compound meaning: adding the sense of the prefix to the sense of the root word.
e) native meaning: what native Greeks meant by the word.
f) etymological meaning: what the word meant in its earliest attested usage.
g) basal meaning: a semantic substratum that carries through all secondary connotations.
(h) extensional meaning: locating the sense in its referent(s).

There are two defects in this analysis:
i) There is potential conflict between the proposed criteria. For example, what is to prevent the most common meaning (a) from being abstract rather than concrete (c)?
ii) More serious is that all of the proposed criteria are semantic fallacies:
a) Frequency of usage does not prejudice the sense in any particular occurrence. The verb yada normally means "to know," but in 10-15 cases it denotes sexual relations. According to (a), we could never establish a rare or specialized meaning for a word. Moreover, we’re in no position to know what was the most common meaning of a Greek word, for the most common meaning of a given word was probably represented by the spoken rather than written word, which is largely lost to us.
b) The frequency of usage outside the Bible, especially in the case of religious nomenclature, is not a reliable predictor of its import in Scriptural parlance. A number of Pauline words are verging on technical terms (e.g. eklektoß, eyanggelion, kalev, kerygma, kosmoß, mysterion, nomoß, pneymatikoß, sarj, sozv, xariß, typoß).
c-d) These criteria are related. It is the stereotypical blunder of the foreign speaker to take expressions at face-value because he is unacquainted with the idioms of the second language. Take an expression like "shootin’ the bull." Again, are we to suppose that Aristotle couldn’t tell the difference between an African pachyderm (=ippoß o potamioß) and an Arabian stallion (HA 502a.9)?
e-f) These criteria are also related. The meaning of a word is a matter of social convention. Words have no intrinsic meaning. The relation between word and object is conventional. Latin derivatives have acquired a different meaning in English usage than in the original. It is the usage contemporaneous with the writer that is usually operative and not archaic usage, unless an author is being self-consciously literary.
g) The idea that a word has a basal sense that is always operative, so that any semantic variation must build on that basal sense, strikes me wooden conception of how a natural language works—as if we were grafting on successive semantic layers. Words can have secondary connotations inasmuch as they may carry emotive overtones or possess allusive power, but a word does not have a primary and a secondary sense; if a word has more than one sense, then when one meaning is in play the other meaning(s) is dormant (except in the case of a deliberate double entendre). The elective sense of yada no more means "to know-cum-favor" than the sexual sense of yada means "to know-cum-copulation." The elective sense simply means "to choose," just as the sexual sense simply means "to have intimate relations with." In neither case is the special sense of the word an intensification of the noetic sense. Let’s take an example from English. In the sentence, "there was a run on the bank," the meaning of the verb is not a semantic construct of "rapid bipedal motion-cum-mass financial withdrawals." In elective settings, yada or proegnv doesn’t have a pregnant sense; it has a possessive sense, plain and simple.
h) Although "to know," "to choose," or "to copulate" imply a relation, that relation is not built into the meaning of the word in the sense of what concrete referent it takes in any given sentence. In the nature of the case, transitive verbs take an object, but a verb is not defined by its object. This should be obvious since a given verb can take a variety of objects. So we must preserve the distinction between intension and extension, denotation and denota.

14. Authorial over comparative usage. Arminians appeal to Heb 6:4-6 and 10:26-29 to overthrow the doctrine of perseverance. This appeal is conditioned by Johannine or Pauline usage. But that is a methodological error. Interpreting an author of Scripture is a concentric process—working our way outward from the immediate writing under consideration to other writings by the same author, and then to other writings by other authors. Especially in the case of deep thinkers like Paul, John, and the author of Hebrews, each has a distinctive way of conceptualizing his belief-system. It is illicit to automatically bring Johannine or Pauline categories to bear on the interpretation of Hebrews:
i) The first step taken by Arminians is already a misstep. And that is because they jump into the middle of the letter (6:4-6). But in order to understand this passage we must go back to where the author introduces the apostasy motif. Because the author is addressing Messianic Jews who are tempted to revert to Judaism, he draws a parallel between NT apostasy and OT apostasy. This comparison is introduced in the first of five apostasy passages (2:1-4). Then in 3:6-4:13 he elaborates on the character of the OT apostates. By the way in which our author structures his own argument, therefore, this precedent is paradigmatic for the case of NT apostasy. And his remarks in 6:4-6 will allude to this passage. If there were a radical discontinuity of religious experience between Old and NT apostates, our author’s analogy would break down at the critical point of comparison.
ii) What does the author mean by having a share in the Holy Spirit (6:4)? Before we can attempt a specific answer we must first ask about the general contours of our author’s pneumatology. He doesn’t have much to say on this subject, but what he does tell us is confined to the external rather than internal work of the Spirit (2:4; 3:7; 9:8; 10:15). There is a possible reference to his agency in the Resurrection (9:14). So this does not equate with regeneration—which is a Johannine category, although the Pauline category of calling covers some of the same ground as the Johannine. The point, rather, is that both the Old and NT apostates had a share in the ministry of the Spirit by virtue of his agency in the inspiration of Scripture. More precisely, both groups had been evangelized (4:2,6).
iii) The author takes the rebellion at Kadesh as his test case (Num 14 via Ps 95). Having tasted the "goodness of God’s word" (6:5) echoes the experience of the OT apostates (4,2,6,12; cf. Num 14:43). Tasting the "powers of the coming age" has immediate reference to the sign-gifts (2:4), but this experience also has its OT analogue (Num 14:11,22). I.H. Marshall claims that "when Christ is said to have tasted death (Heb 2:9), there is no suggestion that he got off lightly with a mere taste and nothing more; rather, he experience this bitter taste to the full," Kept By the Power of God (Bethany, 1969), 142.
This statement is true but misleading inasmuch as it implies that the meaning of a verb varies with its object. It is a semantic fallacy to argue that the import of a verb is defined by the object it takes. Does geyomai have a humble human import in Jn 2:9, but take on a divine import in Mt 27:33? This confuses intension with extension (see under point #11). Along similar lines, W. Lane claims that the verb "is appropriate to an experience that is real and personal," WBC 47A (Word, 1991), 141.
This statement suffers from a couple of flaws:
a) What is an "appropriate" object of the verb is not a way of defining the verb. Judas Iscariot is an appropriate object of the verb "to betray," but the verb "to betray" doesn’t mean "Judas Iscariot."
b) In the nature of the case, any kind of experience will be real and personal. Dreams and delusions are real, personal experiences. So this proves everything and nothing.
iv) Arminian authors invest a lot of capital in the use of the verb fvtizv (6:4). Drawing on the parallel passage in 10:32, Scot McNight argues that this verb denotes conversion, "The Warning Passages in Hebrews," TrinJ 13 (1992), 45-56. Lane is guilty of the same circular reasoning when he defines the verb in terms of "saving illumination" of heart and mind by appeal to 10:32 (ibid.,141).

This is a valid inference, but does not advance his case against Calvinism, for if 6:4 is ambiguous, taken by itself, that same ambiguity will attach to the parallel. The question is whether the verb denotes conversion in the dogmatic sense. William Lane goes so far as to claim that,
"In the NT the term is used metaphorically to refer to a spiritual or intellectual illumination that removes ignorance through the action of God or the preaching of the gospel (cf. John 1:9; Col 4:6; Eph 1:18; 2 Tim 1:10; Rev 18:1). What is signified is not simply instruction for salvation but renewal of the mind and of life," ibid., 141.
There are two problems with this analysis:
a) evangelization and the action of God are two distinct concepts. While the action of God implies spiritual renewal, evangelization does not. So finding verses that connect illumination and kerygma do not support the stronger thesis.
b) When we run through his citations, they fail to bear out his contention. The interpretation of Jn 1:9 is contested. In context, though, it has reference, not to inner illumination, but the revelation of Christ via his advent. The two Pauline passages (Col 4:6 is a misprint for 1 Cor 4:5) may well have reference to spiritual renewal. However, we must register a couple of caveats: (a) even in Pauline usage, it doesn’t follow that the verb is a technical term for conversion. Lane is confusing intension with extension by illicitly deriving this concept from the larger context, and not from the word itself; (b) there is no reason to assume that Paul’s usage is normative for the author of Hebrews. Lane himself admits a discontinuity between their respective conceptual schemes, viz., The author of Hebrews "moves confidently within the conceptual world of cultic concerns centering in the priesthood and sacrifice. Many of the emphases of Hebrews are alien to those of Paul," ibid., xiix.
The appeal to 2 Tim 1:12 suffers from two problems:
(a) The fact that evangelization is in view doesn’t mean that the verb signifies evangelization. Once again, Lane is confusing sense and reference by importing the context back into the word. The time is past due for NT scholars to master this elementary distinction. It goes back to Frege and was popularized by Barr.
In Frege’s classic illustration, "the Morning Star" and "the Evening Star" share the same referent (the planet Venus), but they don’t share the same sense inasmuch as they denote different phases of the planet. Barr generalized this distinction in terms of his "illegitimate totality transfer" fallacy. Cf. The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford, 1961). While I’m sure that Arminian scholars have read the book, they have failed to absorb its bearing on traditional Arminian arguments.
(b) The preaching of the gospel is not the same thing as inner illumination. Finally, Rev 1:18 refers to the radiance of an angel, and as such, does not denote either subjective renewal or objective revelation.
v) It is lopsided to center our analysis of Hebrews on the apostasy motif when, in fact, the letter pivots on the dual theme of threat and assurance. Moreover, the author rounds out his dire warnings on an optimistic note (cf. 6:9ff.; 10:30,39). Furthermore, the author accentuates the efficacy of Christ’s atonement and intercession (4:14; 7:16,24-28; 8:6; 9:12,14-15,26-28; 10:12-18,22) in express contrast to the inadequacies and insecurities of the OT system (5:2-3; 7:18-29,27-28; 9:9-10,13; 10:1-4,11). The reason that a member of the Old Covenant community could apostatize was due to the liability of an evil heart (3:8,12; 7:18), whereas the New Covenant rests on the better promise of a new heart (8:10,12; 10:16).
15. Original over dogmatic usage. Arminians appeal to certain expressions in Scripture to challenge Reformed theology: grace is resistible (Mt 23:37; Lk 7:31; Acts 7:51; 2 Cor 6:1; Gal 2:21; 5:4; Heb 12:15; cf. Heb 6:2,6; Rev 2:21); apostates are "sanctified" (Heb 10:29); false prophets are "bought" (2 Pet 2:1). This calls for a couple of lines of response:
i) By way of general reply, it rests on a semantic fallacy by reading dogmatic usage back into the original. When Reformed theology uses terms like "grace," "repentance," "sanctification," and "redemption," each of these is a technical term that designates a theological construct. Since such a construct is not based on a particular word-group in Scripture, dogmatic usage does not coincide with Biblical usage. Dogmatic usage aims at semantic fixity and pregnancy. Except in the case of specialized usage, such as stereotypical cultic nomenclature, Biblical usage isn’t uniform and doesn’t signify a theological construct.
A word is like a chess piece. Its value is relative to its position on the board and relation to the remaining pieces. Likewise, the semantic contribution made by a given word to the overall import of the passage is relative to its verbal companions as they jointly generate the larger sense of the passage. We can’t extract an entire doctrine from an isolate word, unless it has acquired the status of a technical term—and even then we would need a prior knowledge of the doctrine.
William Klein is as good an example as any. He has no feel for the flow of an argument. Instead he simply yanks out bleeding verses based on the presence of a key word and then drops them in separate slots: Rom 8:28 (foreknowledge); 8:29-30 (predestination); 8:30 (vocation); 8:33 (election); 9:11-13 (appointment); 9:15,18-19 (purpose); 9:17,21 (appointment); 9:23 (predestination); 9:24 (purpose); 9:28 (vocation); 11:2 (foreknowledge); 11:6-7 (election); 11:29 (vocation). Now if you smash an argumentative block into a pile of rubble and grind the rubble into granular phonemes, you can quickly dismantle a theological construct. If we were to pound, pulverize and pan Klein’s book in the same way, his own thesis would dissolve into nothingness—though in that case the loss would not be inconsolable.
ii) On Heb 6:2,6, it is a mistake to read into the word "repentance" the full payload of later dogmatic reflection. (e.g., The Westminster Confession 15:1-2). To begin with, the author of Hebrews doesn’t care to delve into the psychological dynamics of conversion. Moreover, it is evident from his usage elsewhere (12:17) that he doesn’t use the word as a technical term for Christian conversion. The Reformed doctrine of repentance as an evangelical grace is influenced by those occurrences where the word is used in an evangelical context, with God as the efficient agent (e.g. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25).
iii) On Rev 2:21, it should be obvious that this doesn’t denote evangelical repentance, for that refers back to the grace of conversion, whereas Rev 2:21 isn’t addressing a new or prospective convert. The theme of God’s longsufferance towards stiff-necked Israel is a commonplace in the Prophets. This forbearance is double-edged inasmuch as it has a judicial as well as merciful aspect (blessing and bane), for failure to heed these forewarnings is an aggravating circumstance (Rev 6:10; cf. Rom 2:4-5).
iv) On 2 Pet 2:1, two points must be made:
a) When Calvinists speak of the redemptive death of Christ, they are defining this in terms of penal substitution. The Arminian, however, does not define the atonement in terms of a literal ransom price. As Grider notes,
"Many Arminians whose theology is not very precise say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Yet such a view is foreign to Arminianism, which teaches instead that Christ suffered for us...God the Father would not be forgiving us at all if his justice was satisfied by the real thing that justice needs: punishment," "Arminianism," Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, W. Elwell, ed., (Baker, 1984), 80-81.

When, therefore, Arminians appeal to 2 Pet 2:1 and other such passages to prove an unlimited atonement as over against a limited atonement, they are talking at cross-purposes with the Calvinist. Arminians don’t believe that Christ redeemed anyone in terms of a ransom-price. So this appeal falters on a fallacious equivocation of terms.
(b) Peter compares NT false prophets with OT false prophets like Balaam (2:15; cf. Jude 11). And in 2:1, he employs a term evocative of OT usage (e.g. Deut 32:6; 2 Sam 7:23). This is not a stereotypical term for Christian redemption—note, moreover, the absence of any qualifier denoting a random-price, such as blood (cf. Rev 5:9)—and so we should not invest it with a distinctively Christian import. Peter may be drawing on these OT associations because the false teachers were Hellenistic Jews. Cf. R. Bauckham, WBC 50 (Word, 1983), 156.Regarding the depth of their religious experience, Peter does not go beyond stating that they had been evangelized (2:20-21).
v) On Heb 10:29, it is anachronistic to construe "sanctify" as it has come to be used in systematic theology. The author tells us that the apostate was sanctified by blood of Christ rather than action of the Spirit. That automatically removes it from the dogmatic category. His usage is figurative and consciously cultic (9:13,20; cf. Exod 29:21; Lev 16:19, LXX). It is concerned with a status rather than a process. By taking it to mean what it would normally mean in Pauline theology, the Arminian is confounding different universes of discourse. It is also possible that the verb takes the "covenant. Cf. P. Ellingworth, NIGTC (Eerdmans/Paternoster, 1993), 541. On this construction, the blood "sanctifies" the covenant, not the apostate.

16. Necessary over possible inference. Arminians appeal to passages like Mt 24:13 and Rev 3:5 to prove that election is conditional or reversible. It must be kept in mind that this is at most a possible rather than necessary inference— taking the verses in isolation. And this must be set over against other verses which imply that election is unconditional and irreversible (Mt 24:24; Rev 13:8; 17:8). Moreover, it is hard to see how the inference drawn from Mt 24:13 and Rev 3:5 is on an equal footing with the inference drawn from Mt 24:24 and Rev 13:8 & 17:8. Mt 24:24 expressly frames the apostasy of the elect as a counterfactual proposition rather than a live possibility, while Rev 13:8 and 17:8 can only be relativized on pain of denying divine omniscience. Furthermore, the doctrine of perseverance is heavily attested in Scripture, both by direct assertion and necessary inference (e.g. Mt 18:14; 24;24; Jn 6:35-37,39-40, 47,54; 10:28-29; 17:11-12,15; Rom 8:1,28-39; 11:29; 1 Cor 1:8-9; 10:13; 2 Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1:13-14; Phil 1:6; 1 Thes 5:23-24; 2 Thes 3:3-5; 1 Pet 1:3-5,23; 1 Jn 2:19; 3:9; 5:4,18).
A major case is the Arminian assumption that a universal offer of the gospel is incompatible with Calvinism (e.g. Deut 30:19; Isa 45:21f. Ezk 18:23,32; 33:1; Mt 11:28; 28:19; Jn 6:51; 7:37; 12:32; Acts 17:30; Rev 22:27). But although this is a possible inference, it is hardly compelling:
i) The implied comparison rests on an equivocation, for there is an asymmetry between election/redemption/regeneration and the gospel invitation. The former represents the unilateral or unmediated work of God whereas the latter is mediated by the evangelist. Since God has not tagged the elect and reprobate for the benefit of the evangelist, the preaching of the gospel is addressed in general terms. So this comes down to the difference between an agent who is omnipotent and omniscient, and one who is not. There is no direct point of conflict.
ii) From what I can see, the only prerequisite for a good faith offer is that whoever complies with its terms should receive what was advertised. The gospel invitation is a conditional offer—contingent on the exercise of faith and repentance. Since when must an offer be judged genuine on condition that its conditions are not satisfied? Have you ever heard anything half as perverse?
It may be objected that when this condition cannot be met due to spiritual inability, the invitation is reduced to a cruel mockery. All I can say is that this represents a twisted sense of moral priorities. Suppose a florist advertises a Mother’s Day special or Valentine’s Day special. Is his offer disingenuous because a misogynist would be constitutionally incapable of taking him up on the offer? Couldn’t he foresee this eventuality? So who is to blame, the florist or the misogynist? I’ll leave it to the reader to judge.
iii) An offer is genuine as long as the provision is sufficient to meet the demand. A florist is not guilty of deceptive advertising because he doesn’t have enough roses in stock to supply every Valentine in the whole wide world.
iv) Even on its own grounds, which is more sincere? To present an offer without any assurance that anyone will benefit from the offer? Or to present an offer in the assurance that it is bound to benefit someone? In what sense is an aimless, ineffectual gesture of good will a bona fide offer?
v) Since the so-called universal offer of the gospel is obviously not universal in time and place, the Arminian has to be willfully obtuse to construe it without qualification. Billions of people have lived and died outside the pale of the gospel.
vi) Appeal to OT passages is inapposite since these were addressed to Israel, which typifies the church rather than the world.
vii)The context of Jn 12:32 has reference to the Gentiles (cf. v20f.).
viii) Arminians often charge that Calvinism is unpreachable. However, we have inspired examples of evangelistic preaching in Acts and elsewhere. Yet the Apostles never say, "Christ died for you," "God can’t make you believe against your will." Since the offer is conditional, the evangelist can spell out the conditions (faith and repentance). He can paint a picture of the human condition. He can stress the means of grace.
viii) Both Jesus and Paul inform us that the primary target of their preaching was the elect (Mt 11:25-25; 13:11-15; 2 Tim 2:10).
ix) At a deeper level we must ask, What does a well-meant offer mean? Is it only evangelistic in thrust? The atonement presents a double-edged aspect. It is not merely a means of salvation but also an instrument of condemnation by exposing the inexcusable character of unbelief and even aggravating the guilt of the unbeliever (Jn 9:39; 12:37-40; 15:22). The atonement is a polarizing event (Lk 12:51f. Jn 3:19-21; 6:60-71). Christ was destined for the downfall of many (Lk 2:34). The reprobate were set up for the fall (1 Pet 2:8), while Christ was set out to trip them up (2:6f.). God will display the folly of the proud through the stumbling block of Calvary (1 Cor 1:18-29; 2:6-8).
There is OT precedent for this as well insofar as the preaching of the Prophets was an appointed means of intensifying the guilt of stiff-necked Israel (e.g. Jer 7:16; 11:14; 18:11-12; Ezk 2:3-7; Isa 63:17). To the elect, then, the invitation is a well-meant offer, but to the reprobate it is an ill-meant offer. I’m sure that point #10 would rub some readers the wrong way, but its exegetical warrant is right there in black and white. In Scripture rubs me the wrong way, that must mean that I’m facing away from Scripture.

The gospel of grace-1

One reason for different schools of theological thought is differences in theological method—different presumptions, different directions and applications of the harmonistic principle.

1. Decretive over descriptive statements. Sometimes a sacred writer goes beneath the surface level of the narrative to explain the ultimate cause of an event. For example, the phenomenon of Jewish unbelief was a major apologetic problem in NT theology. How could God’s covenant community reject the prophesied Messiah, and how was their apostasy consistent with God’s covenant fidelity? Both Paul and John tackle this problem, and both offer the same solution. They don’t stop with unbelief as a brute fact. That would be the Arminian explanation. Appealing to freewill, however, would answer the question of God’s fidelity in the negative. God would have made promises that he was either unable or unwilling to keep. For Jews like John Paul, that is not a live option. It is unthinkable that God would fail to make good on his word. So they go behind the phenomenon of unbelief to find the solution in double predestination (e.g. Jn 9:39; 12:37-41; Rom 2:28-29; 9-11; cf. 1 Pet 2:6ff.).
There are many other passages of the same kind where the writer goes behind the narrative in order to attribute a given outcome to the hidden hand of providence (e.g. Gen 50:20; Exod 12:36; Deut 2:30; Josh 11:20; 1 Sam 2:25; 2 Sam 16:20-23; 17:1-14; 1 Kgs 12:15; 2 Chron 10:12-15; 21:16; 25:17-20; Jn 9:1-3; Acts 13:48). This can only be taken to mean that divine causality is the final and efficient cause of the human action. In addition to historical narrative, we find this same move made in the wisdom literature and prophetic corpus (Prov 16:9,14,33; 21:1, 30-31; Eccl 3:1-14; 7:13-14; Isa 10:5-7; 14:24-27; 31:2; 37:26; 43:13; Lam 3:37-38; Amos 3:5-6). The apocalyptic philosophy of history is also prized on the presumption that mundane events, however intimidating, are directed from the throne room of God, and do not, therefore, pose a threat to the ultimate well-being of God’s people. To tell the churches of Smyrna, Pergamum, and Philadelphia that evil is due to freewill would be the counsel of despair, for that would mean that they were truly at the mercy of the imperial death squads. Likewise, the interpretation of Job turns on the pre-supposition of invisible events directing the course of visible events (1:6ff.; 2:1ff.). When such diverse genres bear common witness to the same divine dynamic, that raises a general presumption in favor of the universality of the decree. If, everytime these authors pull back the veil to permit a brief glimpse of a divine design guiding human affairs, the implication is surely not that this is only operative at just those moments when the veil happens to be drawn back, but that visible events are always driven this ordinarily invisible plan and providence.
2. Decretive over preceptive statements. Traditionally, Calvinism draws a distinction between the decretive and preceptive will of God. While the distinction is valid, the terminology is somewhat misleading. God’s will is not in a state of internal tension. The adjectives rather than the nouns bear the burden of the distinction. God’s decretive will has reference to an immediate mental act of God whereby he freely chooses to enact a certain state of affairs out of other possible scenarios. God’s decretive will is consubstantial with God himself, and is irresistible inasmuch as it is the necessary condition of every mundane event.
God’s preceptive will has reference to man’s religious obligations as revealed in God’s word. This usually has reference to general norms of conduct, although it can take in topical injunctions to individuals. God’s preceptive will is normally resistible. So it comes down to a distinction between an attribute of God and a law of God. Since the decretive will and preceptive will stand for different referents, they can never come into direct conflict, and so there can be a discrepancy between decree and precept without introducing a point of tension into the divine will. A classic case illustrating the distinction would be God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
A more soteriological example would be Mt 11:25-30. Arminians appeal to vv28ff. to prove universal grace. However, an invitation is preceptive in character. Moreover, this very invitation is prefaced by vv25ff., where God has peremptorily excluded a major class of persons from the overtures of grace.
Arminians cite certain passages to prove that grace is not irresistible (Mt 23:37; Lk 7:30; Acts 7:51; Gal 2:21; 5:4; Heb 12:15). As well as more specific errors of interpretation, which I will address momentarily, this appeal suffers from two general fallacies:
i) It confuses original usage with dogmatic usage. I have discussed this semantic fallacy under point #15.
ii) All these verses have reference to the preceptive rather than decretive will of God.

Mt 23:37 alludes to a conditional covenant with the house of Israel (v38; cf. Jer 12:7; 22:5). This is preceptive, not decretive. Moreover, the contrast is not between A’s will for B, and B’s will for A; but between A’s will for B, and C’s for B: "Jerusalem ©, how often have I (A) desired to gather your children (B), but you (C) desired otherwise." So there is no direct conflict, here, between the divine and human wills. If we want to find an example of God’s decretive will in Matthew, turn to 11:21-23.
Lk 7:30 has reference to the preaching of John the Baptist. In this verse, "God’s will" stands for the baptism of repentance. This is preceptive, not decretive. Furthermore, the verb ("rejected") could just as well take the prepositional phrase ("for themselves") rather than the noun ("God’s will") for its object, viz., "It could be taken either with rejected, i.e. on their own responsibility, or with the purpose of God, i.e. which had them in mind," C. Evans, TPINTC (Trinity, 1990), 356; "By rejecting the baptism, they chose not to accept their need for repentance and forgiveness," D. Bock, BECNT 3A (Baker 1994), 678; cf. Meyer’s Commentary on the New Testament (Hendrickson, 1983), 2:348.

Acts 7:51 has reference, not to the internal work of the Spirit, but to the agency of the Spirit in the inspiration of the prophetic word—both in OT preaching (e.g. Num 27:14; Isa 63:10), and the charismatic kerygma of the NT Apostles and evangelists (e.g. Philip; Stephen). So this is preceptive.
In 2 Cor 6:1, I take the phrase about the "grace of God" to be a shorthand expression for "the gospel of the grace of God" (cf. Acts 20;24), in contrast to a false gospel (2 Cor 11:4; cf. Gal 1:6ff.). This is preceptive.
Gal 2:21 & 5:4 have reference to the doctrine of grace rather than the grace of the doctrine. What people can resist is the doctrine of justification and not the experience of justification, which is a divine act. Once again, the emphasis is preceptive. Moreover, 5:4 is hortatory and hyperbolic. If Paul had believed that the Galatians were guilty of apostasy, he would hardly express confidence in their gracious perseverance (v10).
In Heb 12:15, we should resist the temptation to subjectivize the concept of grace. Throughout this letter, the author’s emphasis is on the phenomenology rather than psychology of faith. His few references to the work of the Spirit are confined to the Spirit’s agency in inspiration and the charismata or sign-gifts. The existential dimension is absent.
Therefore, none of these passages imply that God’s will can be flouted. This denial isn’t an exercise in special pleading, but is based on a close reading of text, context, and background.
3. Editorial over narrative statements. Related to (1) and (4), the sacred narrator sometimes introduces an editorial aside in order to forestall misunderstanding (e.g. Jn 3:24; 4:8,9b; 6:15). A striking case is Jn 6:5-6. If we were to judge by v5, we would naturally conclude that Jesus posed this question out of genuine ignorance. But the parenthetical in v6 anticipates and corrects that misimpression by explaining that an ulterior motive lay behind this seemingly innocent question. It is important to keep this perspective in mind when process theologians cite various OT passages to show that God is not omniscient. Soliciting information is not the only reason an agent may ask a question.
4. Programmatic over narrative statements. In analyzing the narrative design of the Fourth Gospel, a responsible expositor would naturally begin with Jn 20:31. We should be alert for these internal tips in the other historical books as well. In the Exodus narrative, for instance, Arminians have often seized on the fact that Pharaoh’s hardening is sometimes attributed to human rather than divine agency. However, not all of the hardening passages are on a hermeneutical par.
Exod 4:21-22 is clearly programmatic for what follows. By allowing the reader in on God’s gameplan, the narrator is cluing the reader in on the ulterior intent shaping the events to come. There is even a distinction drawn between God’s decretive (21b) and preceptive will (22). The divine ruse was already in place in 3:18-20, and is reiterated once more on the eve of Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh (7:3). On three separate occasions, Moses has taken the reader right into the divine huddle; yet the Arminian turns a deaf ear to these broad hints, and presumes to guess the quarterback’s strategy from the line of scrimmage. J. Piper lays out the climactic role played by the hardening motif in Exodus. Cf. The Justification of God Baker 1999), 161-71.

Moreover, the wording of 33:19 seems to form a deliberate parallel to the wording of 3:14. And this, in turn, sets up a parallel between God’s aseity and his activity. Just as God is ontologically unconditioned, so is his sphere of action.
Furthermore, even where the proximate source of hardening is attributed to Pharaoh himself—"he hardened his heart" (8:15), this is further qualified by backward reference to the divine prediction—"just as the Lord had said" (cf. 4:21; 7:3)—which ascribes the ultimate source to God’s premediated purpose.
This interpretation receives intercanonical support as well. Commenting on the Exodus narrative, the Psalmist also attributes the Egyptian response to divine agency (Ps 105:25). When such assistance is available, a commentator or theologian should listen to what a later canonical writer has to say about a prior episode of Scripture.
5. Polemical over pastoral genres. In the conflict with Rome, the Protestant side gave priority to Paul over James, while the Catholic side gave priority to James over Paul. Among other reasons, the Protestant prioritization was on firmer footing because Paul is a more polemical writer than James. And that forces him to pay more attention to the theoretical grounds underlying the doctrine of justification, whereas James is operates at the level of praxis.
Likewise, the phenomenon of Jewish unbelief confronted the Apostles with an apologetic challenge. As such, we find predestination discussed in a controversial context (Jn 6; 10; 12; 17; Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28; Rom 9-11; 1 Pet 2:6-9). Here the defense of the gospel requires that the Apostles trace Jewish unbelief to its ultimate and ulterior source in the purpose of God. They don’t stop with the empirical phenomenon of unbelief—as if the human veto represented a final datum—for behind the human veto lies the divine veto.
6. Arguments over assertions. While all arguments carry an assertoric force, not all assertions carry an argumentative force. So we need to distinguish between bare assertions and reasoned assertions. In Scripture, both are equally inspired. However, a reasoned statement, by supplying the rationale underlying the assertion, allows us to estimate its relative or else absolute force—whereas a bare assertion is harder to gauge in this respect. This distinction is important in systematic theology. For example, we have an apparent antinomy between the equality of the Son in Jn 5:18 and his inequality in 14:28. Other issues aside, Jn 5:18 is the control verse since there the status of the Son is grounded in a stated relation (having God as his own Father), whereas the statement in 14:28 lacks an anterior cause; therefore we would harmonize 14:28 relative to 5:18 rather than vice versa.
7. Subordinate over coordinate relations. Arminians typically assume that when a passage introduces divine and human factors into an outcome, these must stand in a coordinate relation. It is as if this were the only causal relation that the Arminian can even conceive of. On this model, each agent makes a partial and independent contribution to the net result. Yet ordinary experience acquaints us with subordinate relations: cause/effect; action/reaction; stimulus/response. If the cue ball drops the 8-ball into a side pocket via the 10-ball, the causal relation is asymmetrical; although the 10-ball is the proximate cause of the effect, the cue ball is the proximate cause of the 10-ball’s motion and the remote cause of the 8-ball’s motion.
Arminians often cite Phil 2:12-13 as a classic statement of the perennial paradox between divine and human agency. Yet Paul does not treat God’s work and man’s work as sitting side-by-side; rather, the grammatical construction subordinates the human action to the divine in a reflexive relation: "Work, for it is God to works in you"—especially when coupled with the added reference to the divine decree—"according to his good purpose." Cf. F.F. Bruce, NIBC 11 (Hendrickson, 1989), 82-3; M. Silva, WEC (Moody, 1988), 134-42. Note also that in this passage, God’s agency is said to operate on our will as well as our work. So much for freewill in the libertarian sense.
8. Qualifications over generalizations. The Bible sometimes speaks in generalities. Indeed, this may even be the rule rather than exception depending on the genre (e.g. Proverbs). So when the Bible employs universal expressions, we have to make allowance for this possibility. That observation should be too obvious to call for comment, but it is routinely ignored by Arminians and universalists.
Indeed, universalists employ precisely the same form of argument against limited salvation as the Arminians use against limited atonement: "if everyone will be saved, then some will be saved." But like a contract, we have to read the fineprint as well. As a rule, qualified usage takes precedence over broad generalities.
We are so accustomed to using the Bible as a reference work that it is easy to lose sight of the concrete circumstances involved in overseeing several churches by mail. The NT correspondence is addressed to a mixed company of new and mature believers, true and nominal believers. As such it must employ sweeping generalizations that will not apply equally to everyone in the audience. That is simply an exigency of mass communication.
9. Specialized over ordinary usage. Arminians sometimes oppose Mt 22:14 to Pauline usage in order to drive a wedge between general provision (sufficient grace; universal atonement) and individual application. However, this contrast rests on a palpable equivocation, for Matthew is using the verbs in their ordinary sense: out of the larger number who are summoned only a smaller number accept the invitation and are thereby initiated into the Christian community—whereas these same verbs have acquired the status of technical terms in Paul. In Paul, the terms carry significance beyond the bare dictionary definition inasmuch as they designate a larger doctrinal construct: each verb has specialized reference to the esoteric and efficient action of God. This reference is not built into the usage of Matthew but has to be supplied by context on a case-by-case basis.
10. Loaded language over neutral terms. Arminians appeal to Heb 2:9 to prove general atonement. However, the denotation of v9 is unpacked by the stated denotae of the immediately succeeding verses: "sons" (10); "brothers" (11-12); "children" (13-14); "the given" (13); "Abraham’s seed" (16), and "the people" (17; cf. 9:15)). These are not universal terms denoting mankind in general; rather, the author has deliberately chosen designations that trigger associations with the covenant community. This is not surprising since our author is addressing Jewish-Christians. So we must keep these covenantal connotations in mind. Moreover, there is a climactic word-play connecting panta (8), pantoß (9), panta (10), and panteß (11)—where the final occurrence culminates with the exclusive union between the Holy One (Christ) and his holy ones (Christians).
This kind of language implies an inclusive contract between the respective parties. It is analogous to a statement like, "I made love to my wife last night." The implication is that my wife was the only woman I made love to last night—precisely because she is my wife and not just another woman.
When Calvinists appeal to Jn 10:11 to prove special redemption, Arminians counter that this doesn’t imply that he died only for the sheep. Such an objection would be legitimate if "sheep" were a neutral word. But the shepherd/ sheep imagery is obviously colored by OT usage, where it represents the Lord’s relation to his chosen people. Jesus deliberately exploits its literary resonance. This is paralleled by the reference to "friends" in 15:13. As Clayton Bowen remarks,
The Johannine Logos-Christ...has love only for those within the circle, for his friends. The great word of 15:13, "There is no greater love than this —that a man should lay down his life for his friends," says this with a simple directness that defines misunderstanding. The stress in this sentence is strongly on the closing phrase yper tvn filvn aytoy," "Love in the Fourth Gospel," JR 13 (1933), 42.

The same allusive force is operative when Paul says that Christ died for the "church" (Acts 20:28). The church is not merely a subset of the world, but stands over against the world. Moreover, the verb peripoiv has an elective connotation in Septuagintal usage (e.g. Ps 74:2; Isa 43:21), and this connotation carries over in NT usage as well (Eph 1:14; Tit 2:14; 1 Pet 2:9).
Along the same lines, Arminians also appeal to Isa 53:6. Yet this also has reference to members of the covenant community (cf. "my people," v8). And let us also keep in mind that Isaiah was an architect of remnant theology (4:3; 6:13; 10:20-22; 11:10-16; 28:5).
Additional appeal is made to the Pastorals (1 Tim 2:4-6; 4:11; Tit 2:11). This calls for several replies:
i) What I’ve already said regarding the force of universal quantifiers applies here as well. See more on this below as well (point 11).
ii) In evaluating the scope of these passages, we must also take into account some other passages in the Pastorals where stress is laid on the monergistic character of God’s redemptive action (1 Tim 1:14; 2 Tim 1:9 [cf. 2:10]; Tit 1:2-3; 3:3-5).
iii) In the Pastorals, Paul is combating a soteric heresy. Scholars divide over its identity. Some identify it as Jewish, others as Gnostic or proto-Gnostic. It could be also be syncretic in character (e.g. Jewish Gnosticism). Regardless of its precise identification, what is clear is that the heretics were denying the necessity and/or sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. That is the background against which Paul frames his reply. The point at issue, then, is whether there is a class of people who either rise above the necessity of his atonement or else fall below the sufficiency of his atonement.

Additional appeal is made to the cosmic scope of Christ’s atonement (Jn 1:29; 3:16-17; 4:42; 2 Cor 5:19; 1 Jn 2:2). While this interpretation is understandable, it misses the ethical connotation that kosmoß has acquired in a number of Johannine and Pauline occurrences (e.g. Jn 1:10; 14:17,22; 15:19; 17:14,16,25; 18:36; 1 Jn 2:16-17; 4:5; 5:19; 1 Cor 1:20f., 27; 2:12; 3:19; Gal 6:14; Col 2:20). In these passages, the "world" personifies the fallen world-order. This, indeed, is the source of the pejorative connotation of "worldliness" in traditional Christian usage. The focus is qualitative rather than quantitative.
An especially vivid instance is to be found in 1 Jn 5:19. Here we have a universal quantifier applied to the world. If any verse could establish the semantic force of the Arminian contention, it would be this verbal conjunction. Yet that would run entirely at variance with John’s recurrent and emphatic insistence on a categorical distinction between the children of God and children of the Devil. John is assuredly not including believers within the scope of v19.
Some readers may feel that I, as a Calvinist, am drawing strained distinctions to salvage my thesis. Quite the contrary, it is the Arminians who preach two different versions of Christ: a Christ who is the abstract Redeemer of all men, and another Christ who is the concrete Savior of some men—whereas Calvinists preach an undivided and indivisible Christ. We do not partition him into a Redeemer for one set of people and a Savior for another set.
11.Sense over reference. If I have a Siamese cat named Sylvester, then "Sylvester" has reference to my pet cat, but "Sylvester" doesn’t mean Siamese cat.
Now Arminians infer general redemption from the use of universal terms in certain passages (Isa 53:6; Mt 11:28; Rom 5:18; 8:32; 11:32; 2 Cor 5:14; 1 Tim 2:4,6; 4:10; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 2 Pet 3:9). While this is a natural inference, it rests on a semantic fallacy. "All" and "every" are universal quantifiers. A universal quantifier functions as a class quantifier, denoting all of the members of a given reference-class. Arminians assume that it has a standard extension, which they take to be a maximal extension, unless otherwise modified.
This confuses extension with intension. A universal quantifier has a standard intension, but a variable extension. And that follows from the nature of a quantifier, which is necessarily general and abstract rather than specific and concrete marker. That’s what makes it possible to plug in concrete content. A universal quantifier is a class quantifier. As such, it can have no fixed range of reference. In each case, that must be supplied by the concrete context and specific referent. In other words, a universal quantifier has a definite intension but indefinite extension. So its extension is relative to the level of generality of the reference-class in view. Thus, there is no presumption in favor of taking "all" or "every" as meaning everyone without exception. "All" or "every" is always relative to all of something:
i) We take Rom 5:18a as denoting all men, not simply because of the universal quantifier, but because Paul has found many different ways in the course of 1:18-3:18 to indicate the universality of sin. By contrast, we do not take the use of the quantifier in 5:18b as denoting all men since that does not enjoy the same background of support; indeed, if we were to press the parallel, it would mean that absolutely everyone will be saved, which runs contrary to what Paul otherwise teaches—not least of which is the condition of faith.
ii) On Rom 8:32, the subject in this verse ("us all") coincides with the subject in v31 ("us"). Working our way backwards, this coincides with the objects of foreknowledge, foreordination, vocation, justification, and glorification (vv29-30); while working forwards, it coincides with the objects of intercession and preservation. So where in this series do the Arminians propose to interpolate the damned?
iii) Rom 11:32 should be read with these implicit qualifications in place. As F.F. Bruce remarks, this verse affirms representative universalism. Cf. TNTC 6 (IVP, 1987), 210.
iv) On 2 Cor 5:14, although this is a favorite prooftext of Arminians, it actually undercuts their thesis. According to the symmetry of the verse, the first quantifier coincides with the second: Christ died for all who died in Christ. So the scope of each quantifier is limited to the union between the Redeemer and the redeemed. As F.F. Bruce remarks, "One has died as the representative of all his people, and therefore all of them are deemed to have died in the person of their representative." Cf. NCBC (Eerdmans, 1984), 207; C.K. Barrett admits "it is true that the stress here does not lie on the ‘all men’ but on the ‘disobedience’ and the ‘mercy’ BNTC (Hendrickson, 1991), 210.
This interpretation is confirmed by the non-imputation of sin in v19, which hardly applies to humanity as a whole.
v) On 2 Pet 3:9, there are half a dozen reasons for rejecting the Arminian interpretation:
a) This letter was apparently directed to a Judeo-Christian Diaspora (cf. 1 Pet 1:1; Gal 2:7f.)—which, at least, included significant Jewish representation. Commentators tend to take an either/or approach to the recipients, forgetting that since these letters are addressed to a "mixed multitude" (of Jewish and Gentile Christians), they contain characterizations that are more appropriate to one segment (e.g. Gentile converts) of the congregation than another, without thereby excluding a more diverse audience. Since, moreover, these are circular letters, the relative Jewish/ Gentile representation would vary from one locality to the next. Both points assume that 1-2 Pet share a common address (cf. 2 Pet 3:1), although these same conditions would obtain more generally.
Moreover, the Apostle—in both his epistles—transfers OT and Intertestamental imagery to the Church in order to stress the continuity or even identity between Israel and the Church. Now the theme of God’s longsuffering towards his covenant people is a commonplace in the Prophets. It would be without warrant, therefore, to universalize its scope.
b) This conclusion is reinforced by internal parallels where divine forbearance is in the interests of the faithful (3:15; 2:5,7,9).
c) 2 Pet is apparently set against the backdrop of persecution (2:9; cf. 1 Pet 1:6; 4:12), which would underscore the deliverance motif—which applies to the people of God.
d) The "all" in v9b is presumably conterminous with the "you" in v9a, which has—as its immediate referent—the Christian communities addressed in Peter’s encyclical.
e) This conclusion would also be more in keeping with the predestinarian force of the divine will (Gr.=boylh) in the Petrine speeches of Acts 2:23 & 4:28.
f) This conclusion would also be in keeping with Peter’s predestinarian (1 Pet 1:2,20; Acts 2:23; 4:28), or even double predestinarian (1 Pet 2:8-9) theology.
vi) On Tit 2:11, we must make some effort to integrate v11 with v14, where the phrase "a people for his own" is a stereotypical expression for the covenant community, and implies divine discrimination," C. Spicq, Les Epîtres Pastorales (Paris, 1957), 2:643. On 1 Tim 4:10, cf. S. Baugh, "‘Savior of all people’: 1 Tim 4:10 in context," WTJ 54 (1992), 331-40.