Saturday, August 06, 2005

Is sola scriptura for hypocrites?

Over on the Crowhill discussion, board, Jonathan Prejean is charging that sola scriptura, or the argument for sola scriptura--I'm not exactly sure which-- amounts to a hypocritical double-standard:


You are essentially arguing that if a doctrine claims a historical event (like the Assumption or the Immaculate Conception), it must pass a historical test. The problem is that you've left yourself your own loophole; you believe things in Scripture whether or not you can verify them. Well, why's that? Because you assume sola scriptura, which does not change the fact that Scripture breaks your own criteria for verifiability.

I, on the other hand, have to be consistent about the standards by which I accept divine testimony without proof, and therefore, if I believe Scripture without historical testimony, then I must believe anything else that consistency would demand me to accept. The reasons that I accept the authority of Scripture are the same reasons that I accept the testimony of Tradition on a particular subject.

The point is that Catholics do not consider the evidential argument that Protestants give for the infallibility of Scripture sufficient to warrant belief in Christianity. From our perspective, you have presented an evidentially "unverifiable" argument for sola scriptura (because the facts of apostolic authorship, textual accuracy, etc., etc., aren't logically sufficient to justify sola scriptura on an evidential basis), so every argument you make based on sola scriptura is a fortiori unwarranted. And since you have to accept the uncorroborated testimony of Scripture for some historical events without sufficient basis, you are defeated by your own critique.

Not the point. Your opinion that these things are "ahistorical accretions" that make Catholicism a "legalistic, ritualistic mish-mosh" has nothing logical to do with the reasons that you provided. If you really believed the logical reasons you provided for "not Catholic," then you would subject your Protestantism to the sam standards of historical verifiability, and you would also be "not Protestant." The real reason that you make the choice is your feelings, your opinions, your intuition, which you are trying to rationalize by these "logical" criteria. The point is that there is no reason for your conversion in the logical sense, any more than there is a reason for one preferring chocolate to vanilla.

But you've just invalidated every argument from any uncorroborated account of Scripture. As I suggested to the Pedantic Protestant, apostolic authorship and textual accuracy are not in and of themselves logically sufficient to support the inerrancy of Scripture. You have to also add a series of philosophical assumptions about God, how He reveals Himself, and what the purpose of Scripture is to reach inerrancy. So while you say you are adhering to this standard, you actually violate it in practice.

But if you limited yourself strictly to the historical method, you've have to invalidate your own position as well. The historical method, strictly speaking, is insufficient to establish the inerrancy of Scripture. You have to have a philosophy of revelation, and this is where I think the Catholic argument frankly kills you based on probability from the historical evidence. Every time you plead "well, people can have different opinions," it erodes the believability of your theory of revelation, so when it comes down to the historical situation of literally no person involved in the transmission of revelation ever believing matters that you consider essential for faith, the notion becomes ridiculous.

As I said, you make non-historical arguments for the inerrancy of Scripture. Do you think you can make your case for Evangelicalism without ever appealing to Scripture except as an ordinary historical document? I don't.

The appeal to doctrinal development is no less "unverifiable" that the appeal to the "inerrancy" of Scripture. However, the former is actually consistent with the historical evidence, while the latter is far less plausible.


I’ve strung together a number of excerpts to give you a feel for the gist of the argument. Since I’m one of those who just so happens to believe in sola scripture, how should I respond?

Before we can answer, or perhaps as part of the answer, it’s necessary to untie a number of knots, for several distinct issues have gotten all tangled up as though they were interchangeable with one another. For example, the doctrine of sola Scriptura is equated with the verification of sola Scriptura, which is equated with the verification of Scripture per se, which is equated with the verification of Biblical inerrancy. But these are all distinct propositions, and the evidence for one is not necessarily the same as the evidence for another.

1.The doctrine of sola Scriptura is a question of internal evidence, of the self-witness of Scripture and the identity of the Christian faith as a revealed religion.

At this juncture, the question is simply one of what the Bible teaches about itself, and not a question of whether what it teaches is true. There is no place for corroborative evidence at this stage of the process.

So the question is an essentially exegetical question. Does the Bible teach sola Scriptura? Does this reflect the actual practice of Christ, the Apostles, and the prophets? Is sola Scriptura a necessary presupposition of Scripture?

And if the question is essentially exegetical, then the relevant evidence is essentially exegetical. Here, I’d say, we apply the grammatico-historical method. That’s how we verify or falsify the doctrine of sola Scriptura.

2.Prejean also conflates the verification of Scripture per se with the verification of sola Scriptura. But, in principle, the verification of Scripture per se doesn’t commit you to sola Scriptura. That would confuse #2 with #1.

Taken by itself, the verification of Scripture doesn’t implicate any particular position on the relation between Scripture and a competing or complementary source of dogma.

There’s a basic difference between the question: “What do I believe that Scripture teaches about itself?” and “Do I believe what Scripture teachers about itself?”

3.Likewise, sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of Scripture are distinct propositions. You have liberal Protestants who subscribe to limited inerrancy. I don’t agree with them. But these propositions are logically distinct.

4.Is the historical method sufficient to verify the Bible? That depends on how you define the historical method.

If you operate with a positivistic paradigm of historical evidence, then that, by definition, rules out the supernatural. But, of course, that fact/value hiatus is, itself, a value-laden assumption.

How we define the historical method is inseparable from our historiography or philosophy of history.

5.Here we’re brushing up against intramural debates within evangelicalism over evidential, presuppositionalism, and natural theology.

Yet you have parallel debates within Catholicism. Remember the battle royal between Gilson and Bréhier over the question of whether “Christian philosophy” was an oxymoron?

And that, in turn, goes back to older debates. The Augustinian tradition, with its doctrine of divine illumination, has a more distinctively religious epistemology than the Thomistic model of faith and reason.

6.Yes, there are, indeed, philosophical issues in play. But these are not anterior to the historical method. Rather, because there is no value-free historical method, there is no one historical method--for the definition of historical evidence is not, itself, a historical question, but a historiographical question. Our historical methodology is adapted to our belief about what is historically possible and a possible object of historical knowledge. The historical method of Augustine or Bonaventura is quite different from the historical method of Troeltsch.

At the same time, we can also argue over which version is better. We are not at an intellectual stalemate. For one version of the historical method may have more explanatory power than another.

7.It is also quite confused or confusing of Prejean to contend that an Evangelical is guilty of hypocrisy if he operates with a double standard. It all depends.

It’s an accepted principle of logic in ad hominem and ad absurdum argumentation that you can argue down your opponent on his own grounds without you yourself sharing his stated standards and assumptions.

I happen to think it’s pretty irrelevant what George Bush or John Kerry did during the Viet Nam War. But once Kerry chooses to make his military service a qualification for higher office, then his war record becomes fair game. And I’m not operating with a hypocritical double-standard if I don’t apply the same standard to Bush since it isn’t his standard or mine.

Likewise, if Trent and Vatican I both index tradition to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, it’s perfectly fair for an Evangelical apologist to hold the magisterium to its own claims.

Likewise, if Vatican I formalizes the argument from prophecy and miracle (session 3, chapter 3), it is perfectly legit for an Evangelical apologist to hold the magisterium to its own argument.

Likewise, if Ineffabilis Deus and Munificentissimus Deus both support their claims by appeal to Scriptural prooftexts and traditional precedent, an Evangelical apologist is quite entitled to hold the magisterium to its own criteria.

Likewise, if Catholicism invokes apostolic succession to validate its teaching, then that historical chain-of-custody is subject to public inspection, is it not? When an Evangelical apologist points to the Great Schism or the many impediments to valid ordination, he is playing the Romanist game by Romanist rules, not his own.

8.As to our own standards, that is person-variable. Not every Evangelical apologist has the same epistemology.

One thing I will say, however, is that probability is calibrated to certain background conditions. What is probable must at least be possible. What is less probable is judged to be less so in reference to something more probable.

Ultimately, probability cannot bootstrap its own criterion. Without a framework of divine providence, there is no fixed frame of reference to probilify anything.

Hence, providence is a precondition of probability. Hence, when an Evangelical apologist offers a probable argument in defense of Scripture, he is not, in fact, operating outside a Biblical worldview, but within a Biblical worldview.

What is more, so is the unbeliever. For this presupposition is unavoidable to ground probability. See Plantinga’s proper function strategy for a supporting argument.

9.Scripture as a whole never appeals to corroborative evidence. At most, it appeals to corroboration for certain events in particular.

Hence, the absence of systematic corroboration does not falsify the Bible, for that was not a standard which the Bible set for itself in the first place.

When, despite the ravages of time, we do come across corroborative evidence—which is more often than we have any right to expect, given the paucity of the surviving evidence--that’s a bonus point.

10.The question is not whether we have an individual reason for every individual belief we hold, but whether we have a reliable source of information. Do we have a compelling reason for that—for the source of information—and not a separate source of information for every discrete belief.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Church discipline

One oft-heard criticism of ECB is that the church ought to get its own house in order before it tries to clean up society by legislating morality. This objection takes more than one form.

There is the hypocrisy version, to wit: that it’s just plain hypocritical of the C-bees to lobby for laws against, say, homosexual marriage, if heterosexual marriage is in such a sorry state within the Evangelical church. The divorce rate about Southern Baptists is cited as one such example.

Another is the pragmatic version, to wit: it’s just plain ineffectual of the C-bees to lobby for laws against homosexual marriage if we’re not doing a better job ourselves, if we are not modeling a constructive alternative.

What we really need, so goes the argument, is a healthy dose of church discipline before we paddle society at large.

To this general line of objection, a number of comments are in order:

1.I’m all for godly church discipline, but just what, exactly, do the critics of ECB have in mind? Say that 30% of Southern Baptists are divorcees. How does church discipline apply retroactively? Should they all be excommunicated?

I pose this as a serious question. What concrete proposals do the critics of ECB have to offer? What tough-minded measures do they recommend to curb moral laxity in the church?

Suppose we did excommunicate all of the divorcees. And suppose, for good measure, we were to excommunicate all of the Free Masons as well.

By definition, that would purify the church. Yet it would do nothing to purify the general culture. Rather, it would simply relocate the problem. It would transfer the nominal believers from the church to the street. Exporting our internal rot to society at large would make the church better, but it would do nothing to make the general culture any better.

2.There are other complications as well. Say that Mom and Dad are nominal believers. They’re on their second or third marriage. But they bring their kids with them to church—kids from their various marriages.

If you excommunicate the parents, you excommunicate the kids. So you take the kids out of the church and put them back onto the street. Does that improve the general culture?

My immediate point is that it’s very easy to issue vague, facile imperatives about how the church ought to do some spiritual Spring-cleaning. But if this is to be more than empty verbiage, then it needs to be followed up by some very specific policy proposals.

3.BTW, is church discipline the same thing as preaching the gospel? Or is this something the church needs to do before it can get back to preaching the gospel, which it needs to do before it can participate in the democratic process?

After all, if the church were to get really serious about church discipline, that would plunge a denomination into a very divisive, bitter, and all-consuming controversy.

So what should be our priority: reaching the unchurched with the gospel, or taking remedial action against nominal believers in the pew?

And I hope a critic of ECB isn’t going to tell me that we can do both (evangelism and church discipline), for if it’s true that we can do both, then the C-bees would rightly reply that we can do evangelism and politics at the same time too.

4.One critic of ECB has said that the church cannot have two priorities. If true, this is not merely a criticism of ECB, but a criticism of political activism, per se—even if it were limited to fellow evangelicals.

BTW, this is a problem when you talk to the critics. When you press them hard, they will admit that political activism is legit, but once the pressure is off, they revert to their gospel-only, every-member-evangelism line.

5.As a matter of fact, the “church” can, indeed, have more than one priority. As I’ve remarked before, the painful irony here is that those who presume to speak on behalf of the church in opposition to ECB have a very defective doctrine of the church.

There is a division of labor within the church, for the “church” is simply the community of believers, who come together for worship, but have a wide variety of callings in life outside the church. Everyone is not called to be an evangelist. Dobson is a pediatrician and child psychologist; Colson is a lawyer.

It is possible to have a godly vocation outside the ministry, is it not? Ironically again, critics of ECB attack the C-bees for being too cozy with Rome, yet the critics are operating with a tacitly Catholic ideal, in which to be a wife and mother or family man is second-best.

I’ve said this before, yet it doesn’t sink in. But isn’t this a fixture of the Reformed Baptist theology?

6.In Scripture, the church is not prior to the state, and the state is not prior to the church. Until the return of Christ, these are both essential social institutions.

Indeed, the state exists for the primary benefit of the church. Although the state can persecute the church, yet, in the common grace of God, the state more often functions to protect the elect from the reprobate. Without law, there would be no church. Without law, the reprobate would exterminate the elect.

And this is another reason why Christians need to involve themselves in the democratic process. For if we leave it to the unbelievers, then the unbelievers will turn the coercive powers of government against the church and thereby muzzle the gospel.

A certain amount of persecution can have a refining effect, but persecution on a totalitarian scale can decimate the church. Just look at the impact of ironclad communism on Eastern Germany? And look at how the reunion of Germany after the fall of communism had the effect of secularizing Western Germany.

Calvin's doctrine of the atonement

Here are some excerpts from a fine article by Paul Helm on Calvin’s doctrine of the atonement. The whole article, inclusive of the supporting material, is well worth reading.


What did the death of Christ achieve? For whom did Christ die? In attempting to answer these questions about the atonement from Calvin’s own statements in the Institutes we shall show that Calvin subscribed to three key ideas. The first is that Christ’s death procured actual remission. On his view there are some people whose sins Christ actually remitted by his death. In the second place, all the elect, and they alone, have their sins actually remitted by the death of Christ. That is to say, the effect of the death of Christ is to atone for the sins of a definite number of people (and in this sense it is proper to speak of limited atonement). The third key idea is that Calvin expressly teaches that it was the intention of Christ, in dying, to procure an atonement for the elect. The salvation of the elect is something that can be directly related to what Christ by his death intended.

These three key ideas will now be considered, in turn, as far as possible in Calvin’s own words.

(a) Actual Remission. Basic to Calvin’s understanding of the saving work of Christ is his ascription to Christ of the work of prophet, priest and king. As a prophet ‘he was anointed by the Spirit to be herald and witness of the Father’s grace . . . he received anointing, not only for himself that he might carry out the office of teaching, but for his whole body that the power of the Spirit might be present in the continuing preaching of the Gospel’. As a king ‘he will be the eternal protector and defender of his church’. As a priest ‘an expiation must intervene in order that Christ as a priest may obtain God’s favour for us and appease his wrath. Thus Christ to perform this office had to come forward with a sacrifice’. God ‘was reconciled to us through Christ’.

What can be learned about Calvin’s view from these passages? In the first place Calvin assumes the unity of Christ’s work as redeemer. There is not a trace of a sharp break between the earthly death and the heavenly intercession of Christ. On the contrary Calvin repeatedly refers to Christ’s death as an intercession with God (‘as intercessor he has appeased God’s wrath’). Christ’s heavenly intercession reflects and represents the earthly intercession, the act of atonement. It is not something additional to his death which has independent value and efficacy. This needs to be stressed in view of the fact that, as we shall see later, R. T. Kendall holds that in Calvin there is a sharp distinction to be drawn between the death and the heavenly intercession of Christ. This view is quite without foundation.

In the second place Calvin teaches that Christ redeems by satisfying divine justice in a way that is mysterious and not fully comprehensible. It is mysterious because the God whose justice Christ satisfies is the God whose love is expressed in Christ’s mission. The explanation of this mystery is to be sought in the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians. There, after Paul has taught us that we were chosen in Christ, he adds at the same time that we acquired favour in the same Christ (Eph. 1:4-5). How did God begin to embrace with his favour those whom he had loved before the creation of the world? Only in that he revealed his love when he was reconciled to us by Christ’s blood.

Thirdly, it is clear from the prominence that Calvin gives to the idea of satisfaction, and to the associated language of transference, the paying of a penalty, suffering, purging, and expiating, that Calvin regards Christ’s death as actually redeeming men. Whatever the scope of the death of Christ, it was a satisfaction for sins. Nowhere in Calvin is there the suggestion that Christ’s death merely made redemption possible for some, or merely possible for all, or that some further action of Christ’s, in addition to his death, was necessary. Rather, Christ effected redemption by his death. He took upon himself and suffered punishment, he appeased God’s wrath. If these expressions mean anything, they mean that divine justice has been satisfied for those whom the death of Christ benefits, whoever they may be. Because of this, salvation may be personally appropriated by faith alone. Faith in Christ’s merit excludes human merit.

(b) Salvation for the elect alone. According to Calvin, all and only the elect have their sins remitted.

God the Father has gathered the elect indissolubly together in Christ. Salvation is effectual only for the elect. According to Calvin, then, the elect are saved through Christ, all the elect, and only the elect.

Bearing in mind what has so far been learned about Calvin, it might be argued that lie was committed to definite or limited atonement even though he has not committed himself, in express terms, to such a view. For it might be said that since, for Calvin, all for whom Christ died are saved, and not all men are saved, it follows that Christ did not die for all men. That is, an argument such as J. I. Packer provides could be formulated on Calvin’s behalf:

If we are going to affirm penal substitution for all without exception we must either infer universal salvation, or else, to evade this inference, deny the saving efficacy of the substitution for anyone; and if we are going to affirm penal substitution as an effective saving act of God we must either infer universal salvation or else, to evade this inference, restrict the scope of the substitution, making it a substitution for some, not all.

Calvin, not being a universalist, could be said to be committed to definite atonement, even though he does not commit himself to definite atonement. And, it could be added, there is a sound reason for this. There was no occasion for Calvin to enter into argument about the matter, for before the Arminian controversy the extent of the atonement had not been debated expressly within the Reformed churches.

However, plausible though such a line of argument may seem, it is possible to show that Calvin did not leave others to draw such conclusions. He drew them himself. There are passages in Calvin which show that he held the doctrine of limited atonement, even though the doctrine does not gain the prominence in his writings that it did during later controversies.

(c) For whom did Christ intend to die?

Calvin shows that he is quite at home with the thought that Christ has ‘his people’ over whom he rules and to whom he gives life. How can this be? It is not only because they have chosen to be his, as we have already seen. They are elected to salvation. Rather, as Calvin hints, Christ cares for those whom the Father has given him, his people, by being their Redeemer. Not simply by being a Redeemer, but by being their Redeemer. And who are these? They are the sheep to whom the Shepherd gives eternal life.

Given the stress that Calvin places on the unity of Christ’s work, and given that the effects of this work come to none but members of his own body, how is it possible not to draw the conclusion that Calvin is teaching that in consciously, voluntarily laying down his life Christ was dying for ‘none but the children of God’?

It might be argued that a distinction should be drawn between Christ dying and Christ diffusing lift, and between Christ’s death and what Calvin calls Christ’s virtue and benefits. On the basis of such a distinction it might be said that while Christ diffused life to some, and his benefits belong only to some, he died for all. But this is to draw distinctions where none in fact exist. For how else does life and virtue come from Christ other ‘than by his death? And why should Christ be said to die for all, or for the whole world, if the purpose of his death, the provision of life, is to be confined to the elect?

But there is still more evidence. If God the Father has established Christ as the sole Saviour of all his people, and if Christ has taken such people under his protection, can it be supposed that, on Calvin’s view, Christ died for the whole world?

Christ keeps those, and only those, entrusted to his care by the Father in such a way that not one of them will perish. How is this possible in any way that will not involve his death for them in particular? If Christ keeps only the elect, and did not die for the wicked, is it not reasonable to conclude that he died only for the elect?

Christ, according to Calvin, has the task of gathering together all the children of God, the elect, in one by his death. Is it not reasonable to conclude that Christ did this knowingly and intentionally, and that by his death he intended to save the elect only? Surely John Murray is correct in saying that ‘Election is fundamental to Calvin’s thinking, and election implies differentiation at the fountain of the whole process of salvation. The evidence indicates that Calvin did not discount this differentiation at the point of Christ’s expiatory offering’

What has been shown so far in this chapter? That in Calvin’s teaching the work of Christ, from incarnation to heavenly intercession, is one work, focused on the death of Christ which expiated sin by satisfying divine justice. Christ’s death brings salvation to the elect, for in dying Christ intended only the salvation of the elect.


Calvin stresses that faith is something supernatural. It is not a natural religious instinct, nor is it (as some would say) gullibility. Faith is imparted to us by God himself, by God the Holy Spirit. Faith relies upon the promise of God. It presupposes divine revelation, and involves the use of the mind, not its disengagement. Calvin does not oppose faith and reason, for reason is necessary to understand the divine revelation.

But what is more important for present purposes is what Calvin says about the relation between faith and knowledge. It is this that has aroused much interest over the years, and still prompts controversy. A number of scholars regard it as unquestionable that at this point there is a major break between Calvin and the Puritans. For in his definition Calvin appears to be defining faith in terms of knowledge, whereas the Puritans certainly did not. It is therefore important to take care to understand what Calvin is saying here, and elsewhere in his writings.

What does it mean to say that faith involves assurance, or that assurance ‘is of the essence of’ faith? It is not simply that saving faith involved the assurance, or confidence, that what is believed is undoubtedly the promise of God. It is rather that if a man has faith, and if faith involves assurance, then that man, in believing God’s promise to sinners, recognizes that God is gracious or benevolent toward him in particular. If faith involves assurance, then all who believe must have this confidence about themselves in relation to God. If they fail to have this confidence than they cannot truly be believers. In Calvin’s words, such faith is ‘a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence to us’, to the ones who believe.

Such faith involves more than believing in a general sense that the promise is addressed to us, it is believing that it applies to us. On this view anyone who ‘believes’ but lacks the conviction that, in believing, he is saved by Christ is not a true believer. It is important to recognize that Calvin is not offering a casual, throw-away view. This is part of Calvin’s definition of faith.

Nevertheless, it is equally important to recognize that this short definition is not the only thing that Calvin says about faith. In order to set his definition in a broader context attention will now be paid to what he says after this definition occurs in the Institutes, and then to what he says about the knowledge of election.

(a) Some Qualifications.

It can be seen from this that Calvin qualifies his definition of faith in terms of knowledge in important ways. Having and retaining faith is part of a struggle with natural unbelief. The degree of confidence that accompanies it fluctuates.

Further, Calvin is well aware that these further remarks of his amount to an important modification of the original definition. It is not as if there is a conflict of evidence in Calvin which he does not recognize. For he says that while faith ‘ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt’. So while faith ought to be assured faith, there is no such thing as perfect or total assurance, a completely doubt-free confidence that God’s mercy applies to me.

But, it may be asked, if Calvin defines faith in terms of assurance, how can he allow for the possibility of faith without assurance? Is he flatly contradicting himself within a few pages, or is there a way of reconciling the different things that he says? If we take Calvin’s definition of faith with which our discussion began as a definition based upon his own actual usage, then the only conclusion that it is possible to come to is that he is inconsistent. For, as we have just seen, he is sometimes happy to allow that there may be faith without assurance, and indeed that all faith is incompletely assured. And yet, if he defines faith in terms of assurance, then no one can have faith who lacks assurance. But if so, how can he say that faith may co-exist with doubt?

A clue to the answer to this difficulty is to be found in the second of the two quotations given above. Calvin’s definition of faith is not a report of how the word ‘faith’ is actually used, either by himself or by others, but it is a recommendation about how his readers ought habitually and properly to think of faith. Supposing someone says, ‘No one can live without a properly balanced diet’. This is not strictly true. In areas of malnutrition many unfortunate people live close to starvation. But while not strictly true, the assertion enshrines a recommendation. It is as if it were being said that no persons can flourish without a properly balanced diet, though they may exist without one. Similarly, Calvin is recommending to his Christian readers not to be satisfied with a degree of faith that is without assurance. There can be faith without assurance, but that degree of faith is to be sought that is accompanied by assurance.

(b) Knowledge of Election. This interpretation of Calvin’s definition of faith is confirmed by what he says elsewhere in the Institutes. In Chapter twenty-four of Book Three of the Institutes, having previously set out the biblical doctrine of election, and cleared up certain misconceptions about it, Calvin deals with the thorny question of how a person may know that he is one of God’s elect. Since not all men are elected, what are the signs of election? Calvin’s answer is that such knowledge comes indirectly, through the preaching of the Word of God and a believing response to that preaching. Our election is not to be known by some direct revelation to our souls that we are chosen, but by the nature of our response to the preaching of the Christian gospel.

Such is Calvin’s position, often repeated throughout his writings. Christ is the mirror of election. Knowledge of election is reflected by means of a person’s relation to Christ. If a person wants to know whether or not he is elect he can discover this, not by direct revelation, nor by speculation, but by enquiring ‘whether he (the Father) has entrusted us to Christ, whom he has established as the sole Saviour of all his people’.

How, then, does someone know that he is not a reprobate, that is to say, merely a temporary believer? Calvin’s answer is — and surely must be — that there are signs of true, as opposed to false and temporary faith, ‘signs which are sure attestations of it’ The signs that Calvin mentions include divine calling, illumination by Christ’s Spirit, communion with Christ, receiving Christ by faith, the embracing of Christ, perseverance in the faith, the avoidance of self-confidence, and fear.

So it would appear that a person may be a true believer and yet not be assured that he is one, because he has misunderstood the signs. Similarly, a person may not be a true believer, but may think that he is, because he has misread the signs. To give an illustration: Whether or not a person is forty years old at a stated time depends upon the year of his birth. If he was born in a certain year then he is forty years old. If not, then he is not forty years old. But the evidence of his being born in a certain year cannot be had directly, but only indirectly, through what his parents tell him, the evidence of a birth certificate, and so on. Similarly, Calvin says, there are indirect signs of true faith, signs upon which assurance is based.

Misunderstanding is sometimes caused by statements made about the ground of assurance. It is said, for instance, that according to Calvin, Christ alone is the ground of assurance, and that to think of the ground of assurance as within oneself is a form of salvation by merit or works. But this is based on a confusion over the meaning of ‘ground’. Calvin, and indeed all the Reformers, are of course emphatic that a person’s salvation is due solely to the work of Christ. But he is equally emphatic that the evidence of personal salvation is found in a person’s own spiritual and moral renovation. While the believer has not to trust in himself for salvation — this would be salvation by human merit — nevertheless he may find in himself evidence that he has trusted in Christ for salvation. While his own state is most certainly not the foundation of his salvation — Christ is the foundation — his own state may be evidence that he is in Christ, as the birth certificate is evidence of a person’s date of birth.

(c) Conclusion. It has been shown that Calvin’s famous definition of faith is in fact a recommendation of how the word ‘faith’ should be used, not a definition of how it actually is used. What he writes elsewhere about faith is consistent with this, and with the idea that true faith may exist without assurance, however spiritually undesirable this may be.

Calvin had every reason for stressing that a Christian may properly expect to be assured of his salvation, for he was writing in a situation in which the dominant teaching in Christendom, that of the Roman Catholic Church, was that assurance was unattainable.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Oprahfication of CampOnThis

Many evangelicals have rightly decried the dumbing-down of the gospel. Steve Camp has done some fine little pieces on this with special reference to CCM.

But then, when you turn to his rules of engagement, look at what you find:


4. No anonymous posting allowed and will be deleted. If you have not filled out your profile, please do so.

5. No posting in "book form;" say what you need to say, but keep it a reasonable length. It will foster better discussion and allow more to contribute. (A few shorter comments promote profitable discussion than writing one very long comment.)

6. All posts must be in the form of an actual comment, not as a link. "Links" posted as comments that redirect people away from the discussion of an issue from this blog is unacceptable and will be deleted immediately.


What do these three rules all have in common? They are all anti-intellectual.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m not wild about anonymous posting myself. I’m curious to know who these people are. And there are some folks who hide behind anonymity to practice character assassination with impunity.

Of course, for those who abuse the privilege of anonymity, there’s a simple solution: delete them.

In the meantime, there are also folks who have entirely legitimate personal or professional reasons to shield their identity.

And more importantly, what, exactly, is the point of insisting on a public profile, anyway? Is this an exercise in prior restraint, to screen out unwelcome feedback?

The effect is to screen out constructive feedback as well. If a comment is way over the line, it can always be deleted.

But shouldn’t we be open to comments from anyone as long as they have something useful to contribute, including constructive criticism?

Moreover, isn’t there something nosey about demanding that everyone file a personal profile? Frankly, it’s none of my business the sex, or age, or location, or hobbies, or musical taste, or favorite books or movies of a perfect stranger who wants to post a comment at Triablogue.

This isn’t a dating service, is it? They’re not auditioning to be a guest on some trashy talk show, are they?

Furthermore, the whole exercise is pretty stupid, like an airport screener asking you of you’re planning to smuggle a bomb onto the plane.

If someone wants to post a comment without airing their private life in public, there’s an easy way out: you simply invent a storybook character.

In addition, the Internet is a natural magnet for über-geeks and super-nerds who have no difficulty covering their tracks if they want to.

So this is one of those brainless bureaucratic rules like frisking granny and her five-year old grand-daughter while a twenty-something male by the name of Muhammad al-Jihadi boards the plane with a lumpy looking overcoat on a sweltering day.

And I’d add that knowing his astrological sign is not real high on my priority list either.

Then, what is worse, is the prohibition against “book form” posting. This, again, is anti-intellectual.

Bloggers don’t have a captive audience. If someone doesn’t want to read a long post, he doesn’t have to. And if the comments box fills up, you always carry the thread over to a “Part-2” post with a fresh comment box.

Mind you, there’s no virtue in being verbose for the sake of verbosity. Again, if someone abuses their posting privileges, you just delete them.

This is exactly the marketing niche mentality of the church-growth gurus that Evangelicals like Camp decry as long as someone else is doing it. Let’s reduce everything to Sesame Street sound-bites and pitch the product to the lowest common denominator—like we’re selling deodorant.

Oo! Ouch! All those weal big words make my head hurt! Please tweat me like the overgwown child I still wanna be. Let’s hold church in the sand box. Mister Rogers can say the prayer, and Big Bird can lead us in song.

This also reminds me of teachers who are afraid that boys, being the aggressive pigs that they are, will intimidate the girls from freely expressing themselves in class discussion. So the teacher acts terribly paternalistic to oppose paternalism.

Have you ever noticed that the Bible is not all that user-friendly? Is Romans an easy book to read? Or Hebrews? Or Revelation?

And why are links “unacceptable”? BTW, don’t you just love that word? Doesn’t it have a wonderfully Victorian flavor to it, like the schoolmarm with ruler in one hand and hair in a bun, patrolling the class room to smite unwary students passing notes.

Now, some links are inappropriate. If it’s a link to a porn site, sure—delete it.

But links can be a way of documenting a claim. And for a blogger who happens to have the attention span of a two-year old, a link can be a timesaver. Instead of a “long” comment, which would make his head hurt or something, a link can direct the reader to a systematic discussion of the issue—often by an expert in the field. In fact, Camp has links on his own blog.

So all this unctuous disapproval of “dumbing-down” is just for show. To judge by his own example, Camp feels that the average believer needs a lot of spoon-feeding and head-patting and handholding to get him through the frightful ordeal of navigating a God-blog. Why doesn’t Camp just run a loop-tape of Veggie Tales on is blog?

Permit me to close with a personal anecdote. My mother was a music teacher. After she retired, she taught herself Koine Greek to read the NT in the original.

Then she embarked on a study of Biblical archaeology, ANE history, and Greco-Roman history.

After that she read theologians like Murray, Warfield, and Vos.

To make a long story short, she’s now well into her eighties. Despite failing eyesight, she reads commentaries from cover to cover. By commentaries I mean Witherington on Acts (874 pages), Hoehner on Ephesians (930 pages), Mounce on the Pastorals (641 pages), and Beale on Revelation (1245 pages)—to name a few she’s polished off in the last couple of years. She’s currently reading Fitzmyer (832 pages) and Schreiner (919 pages) on Romans.

Pardon me if I have precious little sympathy for those who pose and posture about the Evangelical downgrade as they man the very same bulldozer.

Our friends, the Saudis

Christian Freedom International Email Update
August 4, 2005

To: Friends and Supporters of Christian Freedom International

From: Jim Jacobson, President

Subject: "Misperceptions" about Saudi Arabia?

"Do not pass along false reports. Do not cooperate with evil people by telling lies on the witness stand." (Exodus 23:1)

This "call for justice" from the book of Exodus should be nailed to the doors of the many public relations firms in Washington, D.C. and New York that have been hired by Saudi Arabia to improve the image of the "kingdom" to Americans.

For instance, a recent media event in Washington, D.C. introduced Princess Loulwa, the sister of Prince Turki al-Faisal, the new ambassador to the United States; she gave unquestioned, glowing reports about her country.

She even trumpeted huge advances of equality for all Saudi citizens, especially women. Speaking at the Washington-based Middle East Institute she said last week that women in her country "have made many advances."

The princess is attempting to counter post 9/11 sentiments and "negative American stereotypes" about the kingdom.

She "hailed the advances of women" in Saudi Arabia and said, "We are always perceived as downtrodden slaves to men which we are not at all."

In fact, she said Americans have too many "misperceptions" about Saudi Arabia.

Although she said Saudi women "will always be veiled," she predicted that someday women in her country "would be allowed to vote and drive a car."

Of course these "advances" won't happen in the foreseeable future.

While Saudi Arabia spends billions on slick P.R. campaigns and sends out highly trained spokespersons like Princess Loulwa touting the benefits of the kingdom, real life there is brutal, especially for women, Christians, and other religious minorities.

For instance, men and women do almost nothing together in public in Saudi Arabia. Events like watching a simple soccer game are strictly for men. It's a country where culture and religion make women live mostly restricted segregated lives.

In public, there are separate sections where they eat, where they work, and where they pray. There is also segregation inside their own homes, with separate living quarters for men and women.

According to the rules of Saudi society, a woman needs written permission from a man to do almost anything: to get an education, to get a job, and even to buy a plane ticket.

Muslim clerics preach that "women's rights" is a western idea the United States is trying to impose. And they enforce a strict social code that determines everything -- from the kind of clothing women may wear to when and where they may shop at the local market.

Religious police enforce a "modesty code" for women.

The mutawwa'in, the state-financed religious police known as the Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, enforce laws relating to religion.

Basically freedom of religion in the kingdom does not exist. It is not recognized or protected under the country's laws, and basic religious freedoms are denied to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam.

Conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death.

Foreign Christian missionary activity is absolutely prohibited. The government strictly prohibits activities such as proselytizing, importing and disseminating religious literature, Bibles, and even offering private religious instruction. These activities are punishable by death.

Saudi courts impose corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for simple robbery and floggings for lesser crimes.

Capital punishment is applied for crimes including armed robbery, drug smuggling, and sorcery. In most cases, the condemned are decapitated in public squares after being blindfolded, handcuffed, and shackled at the ankles.

Freedom of expression and association are nonexistent rights, political parties and independent local media are not permitted, and even peaceful anti-government activities remain virtually unthinkable.

In September 2004, the U.S. Secretary of State designated Saudi Arabia as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

Christian Freedom International
Email Alert
August 4, 2005

Anawannabebaptist day-trippers

Graham Old, from across the pond, posted the followed comment on my blog:

Why do you so often use "anabaptist" as something akin to an ignorant insult?

I certainly don't recognise myself in your descriptions of it.

I suppose the short answer is that I don’t recognize myself in your description. Unlike many Calvinists who seem to suffer from a quite irrational antipathy towards the Anabaptist tradition (John Murray was a salutory exception), I regard the Anabaptist tradition as a serious Christian options, on an equal footing with the other major Christian options (e.g., Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, charismatic, fundamentalist, Lutheran, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Wesleyan), and entitled, therefore, to a respectful hearing.

And I have, indeed, put that policy into practice in two of my essays and one of my book reviews:

My beef, in the current debate over ECB, is not with the real deal, but with these Anawannabebaptist day-trippers who make purely opportunistic use of Anabaptist rhetoric, Anabaptist hermeneutics, and Anabaptist prooftexts, when they do not, in fact, adopt the value-system or life-style which goes along with their opportunism.

And, frankly, it seems to me that you’re the one who ought to be offended at the opportunistic misappropriation of the Anabaptist tradition by those who claim to be Reformed Baptists. It’s like one of those reality shows in which Paris Hilton gets to dress up as a farm girl and play Amish for a week. (No, I haven’t seen the show, just the trailers.) This isn't authentic Anabaptism, but chic Anabaptism.

Now if, after reading my explanation, and the supporting material which goes along with it, you retain your original evaluation, you are more than welcome to revisit this issue and use Triablogue as a public forum in which to correct my "ignorant," "insulting," and "unrecognizable" description of the Anabaptist tradition. Does that sound like a fair offer to you?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What's so bad about boycotts?

Another one of Campi’s hobbyhorses is the Christian boycott. Now, there are two very odd things about his objection:

To begin with, he himself has chosen to boycott the CCM industry. Although a gospel singer himself, he felt that the industry had become to worldly, and he needed to disassociate himself from its corrupting influence.

Secondly, he loves to quote 2 Cor 6 with all the relish of an Anabaptist. Yet, for him, it only applies to political yokefellows, not economic yokefellows. For he belittles the efforts of Dobson and the SBC to boycott Disney for its Gay Pride Days and other suchlike. He opposes political yokefellowship, but he also opposes those who oppose economic yokefellowship. Go figure?

Mr. Camp’s heart is in the right place, but his moral compass staggers back and forth like a drunken sailor. He needs to slow down, think more, write less. If he’s going to be so very judgmental of others, it would profit him to cultivate a semblance of moral consistency.


I hate to keep harping on Steve Camp, but he seems to have a following and a facility for churning out a remarkable amount of unscriptural and self-contradictory nonsense.

Mind you, not everything he says is unscriptural nonsense. Some of what he says is very good. Unfortunately, the good stuff becomes the lubricant which he uses to grease the way for all of unscriptural and self-contradictory nonsense.

Take “Justice Sunday,” which is his showcase for all that’s rotten in the rotten heart of ECB. What does he find so outrageous?

The C-bees turned the pulpit, nay, the “sacred desk,” into a political podium. They turned the “church” into a PAC. They substituted a political rally for a worship service. And this, to Camp’s way of thinking, is nothing short of “Romanistic accommodationism.”

What’s so deeply ironic about all this, and “irony” quickly becomes an overused word where Camp is concerned, is that he is the one who is unwittingly guilty of Romanistic accommodationism.

You see, he talks about the pulpit and the church and the sanctuary as if the C-bees were desecrating the high altar in a Catholic cathedral.

Let us back up a few paces. the Reformed Baptist tradition is a branch of the Puritan tradition. Those who drafted the LBCF were Puritans.

Now, a hallmark of the Puritans is that they had no such reverence for a building or a stick of furniture.

Indeed, they didn’t call their houses of worship “churches.” Rather, they called them “meetinghouses.”

And this was deliberate. It was to avoid any idolatrous or superstitious reverence for mere things of wood and stone.

The insinuation that the C-bees committed sacrilege on Justice Sunday when they commandeered a church building for a political pep rally would strike the Puritan’s as, itself, a Popish veneration of mere things.

And it’s for this selfsame reason that Colonial American Calvinists suffered no scruples about preaching Election Day sermons from the pulpit.

I agree that the symbolism of Justice Sunday was a tactical miscalculation. But that’s the point. The flashpoint of controversy is nothing more than empty symbolism. Camp is reacting the way a devout Catholic would react if you threw a bucket of green paint on a statue of the Blessed Virgin, or a Muslim would react at rumors that the “Holy Koran” had been flushed down…but you’ve heard that story already.

Indeed, some of the Puritans were iconoclasts—literally, not figuratively. They went around smashing up Cathedrals.

It shows just how far Mr. Camp and his disciples have departed from the authentic Reformed Baptist tradition that they get so hysterical over religious architecture.

Now, because I agree with the Puritan premise, I have no particular problem calling a building a church. Because that’s all it is: just plain old symbolism—nothing more, nothing less.

For the same reason, among others, I don’t see that we have a mandate to go around smashing up cathedrals.

What is especially ironic—yes, that indispensable word again—is that all this emotional lather and palaver is coming from a self-styled Reformed Baptist.

For what we’re dealing with here is the OT notion of ritual purity and impurity. And this category carries over into Roman Catholicism, with its cult of holy paraphernalia—holy water, holy sees, relics, genuflections before the “Sacred Host under the species of bread and wine.” We also see it in spades with Islam.

The ceremonial law served a pedagogical function in the economy of God. But of all people, the Reformed Baptist ought to be the first to accentuate the obsolescence of bright red line between clean and unclean, sacred and profane, as it applies to inanimate objects.

I’d just like to see more Reformed Baptists start acting like Reformed Baptists again, instead of acting like Catholics and Anabaptists and fundamentalists. Get over the identity crisis. You have a fine heritage of your own. It’s time to reclaim it instead of letting yourselves to be jerked around every which ways by lesser theological traditions. Is that really too much to ask? Just try being yourself for a change!


Dr. McKnight has apparently completed his series on Post-Calvinism.

Therefore, I’ll complete my reply.

Before getting into the exegetical details, I will venture one comment about his personal pilgrimage. He says was became convinced of Reformed theology when reading Owen (practical writings), Spurgeon (his autobiography), Bunyan (Pilgrim’s Progress), and Calvin (Institutes) as a high school student.

He then says that he become unconvinced of Reformed theology by reading Marshall (Kept by the Power of God), and studying under Grant Osborne as a seminarian.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it comes as no great surprise that his Calvinism fell like a house of cards. For his original acceptance of Calvinism had precious little exegetical foundation.

Even Owen and Calvin don’t do exegesis with the rigor we’ve come to expect of Reformed exegetes like Carson, Schreiner, Silva, and Beale.

Indeed, no one was doing that quality of exegesis back then. Certainly not Wesley or Finney or Miley. This, rather, is the result of modern German (e.g., Meyer, Zahn) and British (e.g., Bruce, Lightfoot) scholarship.

In his series, Dr. Knight’s major challenge to Calvinism comes in his “Believers or Not?” installment. So that’s what I’ll be commenting on.


Everything about the Warning Passages in Hebrews hinges upon the audience: Who are they? Are they believers or not?

I begin with this observation: in the history of the Church many have made a distinction between a genuine believer and a nominal believer. I find such categories useful in some contexts. The issue in reading Hebrews is whether or not the author uses such a category to explain his audience.


It’s true that this distinction comes to us by way of systematic theology rather than Hebrews, per se. It’s a theological construct based on the general teaching of Scripture.

In general, the distinction between genuine and nominal belief is grounded in the distinction between regeneracy and unregeneracy. But this is basically a Johannine category, so we wouldn’t expect the author of Hebrews to employ the very same classification-system since he has his own theological categories.

However, the author does draw other distinctions, between one group and another. McKnight draws attention to one such division:

i) Those who persevere and those who don’t.


The author sees his audience as mixed. Mixed, in the sense of those who will persevere and those who will not. Not mixed in the sense of frauds and genuine. There is no suggestion in the book of the latter category, but plenty of the former. There is all kinds of evidence that he thought some would persevere and some would not; he never suggests those who do not persevere are frauds. There is a big difference.

My conclusion is this: the author of Hebrews saw his audience as believers but knew that some would fall away, or had fallen away, or might fall away. The implication is that a believer can fall away.


Dr. McKnight also defines a believer, in this context, as someone who has undergone a “full Christian experience,” “those who have experienced the fullness of the Trinity and God's saving work. So, I would say they have moved through all six dimensions of conversion.”

This, however, generates a rather obvious dilemma: if it is possible for such an individual to lose his salvation, then how would the author of Hebrews be in a position to predict the outcome?

These two things don’t go together. In principle, the author could believe that there is a distinction between true and nominal believers. And that would, in turn, ground his knowledge that some will persevere while others will fall away.

Or he could believe that there is no such distinction—that those who persevere and those who fall away had the very same Christian experience.

On that hypothesis, there would be no differential factor to predict who, if any, would persevere, and who, if any, would fall away.

So one problem with Dr. McKnight’s interpretation is that he credits the author with a knowledge of the outcome after having removed a necessary condition for a knowledge of the outcome.

There are, in addition, a number of other distinctions in play:

ii) In Heb 2:9-17, the author describes the men and women for whom Christ made atonement. And he uses language, allusive of OT usage, which is descriptive of those who are members of the covenant community: "sons" (10); "brothers" (11-12); "children" (13-14); the chosen people (13); "Abraham’s seed" (16), and "the people [of God]” (17; cf. 9:15).

This raises the possibility that the differential factor between those who persevere and those who fall away turns on the difference between those for whom Christ made atonement, and those for whom he did not.

iii) Likewise, the author says that Christ died for those who have been called and consecrated (Heb 9:15; 10:14). Was everyone called and consecrated?

iv) Likewise, 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).

This plays off OT imagery in which intercession was made for those for whom sacrifice was made. An Israelite brought a sacrificial offering to the priest. The beneficiary of this transaction was the one for whom sacrifice was made—the one who brought the offering to the priest in the first place.

v) Likewise, the author distinguishes between those who lived under the old covenant and the new covenant, and he places sustained emphasis on the efficacy of the new covenant (4:14; 7:16,24-28; 8:6; 9:12,14-15,26-28; 10:12-18,22) in invidious contrast to the old (5:2-3; 7:18-29,27-28; 9:9-10,13; 10:1-4,11).

But if there’s no difference in religious experience between the NT saint and the NT apostate, then Dr. McKnight’s interpretation erases any comparative advantage between an OT Jew and a NT Christian.

Hence, even before we get into Heb 6 & 10, there is a larger framework in view.

Finally, I’d like to add that 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).


First, the author often includes himself with the audience by using the term "we." 2:1-4; 3:14; 4:1, 11, 14-16; 6:1; 10:19; 12:1-3, 25-29.

Second, the author calls his audience "brothers." 3:1, 12; 10:19; 13:22. Perhaps 3:1 needs to be quoted: "holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling."

Fourth, sometimes the author sees his audience as "you." This suggests he thinks some of them will not make it. See 3:12; 5:11; 12:18-24.


And this oscillation is just what you’d expect in a letter addressed to a group of people. The letter is addressed to everyone, but the letter is not about everyone. So within the body of the letter, further distinctions are draws since what is said about some may not be applicable to others. That’s a necessary accommodation to the exigencies of mass communication.


Third, at 4:3 he calls his audience "believers."

Fifth, 10:29 needs to be read carefully: "How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?" Here the "you" have spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood, and were (already) sanctified by the blood, and are outraging the Spirit.


This goes to a fatal equivocation in the way in which Dr. McKnight identifies the “audience” of Hebrews. In particular, he commits a level confusion. For there is more than one referent in Hebrews:

i) Epistolary referent: These are the addressees; the church-members to whom he is writing.

ii) Narrative referent: Those about whom he is writing. (ii) intersects with (i), but does not coincide with (i). (ii) includes the cautionary example of OT apostates, whom the author uses, in turn, to illustrate their NT counterparts.

The author alternates between (i) and (ii) to compare and contrast the three groups: (a) OT apostates; (b) NT apostates; (c) addressees.

What we end up with is a relation of analogy rather than identity between three overlapping groups.


Fifth, 10:29 needs to be read carefully: "How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?" Here the "you" have spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood, and were (already) sanctified by the blood, and are outraging the Spirit.

Sixth, at 2:3-4 the author recounts their conversion experience; at 6:10 they are those who have showed love in the name of Christ; at 10:22 they have had their hearts sprinkled and been cleansed of a guilty conscience; at 10:32-34 we see evidence of their enduring persecutions.

Put together, this all indicates a full Christian experience: conversion, gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, the work of the death of Christ, and a Christian community commitment.

Seventh, now briefly on 6:4-6: the author claims that those who have reached a certain level and turn back cannot be restored unto repentance. (This is a singular comment; it is grave.)

Enlightened: see 10:32. An early Christian conversion term.
Tasted...: see 2:9; 6:4, 5. This does not mean "taste" as in dabble, but is a metaphor for "experience." See at 2:9 -- one does not merely "dabble" in death; it means to die.
Partaken in the Spirit: refers to early Christian experience of the Holy Spirit.
Tasted Word... again, experienced the powers of God's Word.

Again, these verses put it all together: a full Christian experience.


Here I take issue with Dr. McKnight’s linguistic analysis. The problem is twofold: (i) He fails to construe the author’s usage on his own terms, within the confines of the letter itself, and (ii) he fails to construe the author’s usage in light of his OT allusions.

Since Dr. McKnight has drawn attention to other authors, such as Marshall, who share his viewpoint, I’ll go beyond his immediate discussion to interact with a variety of supporting evidence for his position:

i) In order to understand Heb 6 & 10, 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 OT 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 agree with Dr. McKnight that “to taste” doesn’t mean merely to dabble. But his statement, while narrowly correct, is broadly false when it is taken to mean that the import of a verb varies with the noun it takes. It is a semantic fallacy to argue that the import of a verb is defined by its object. Does geuomai 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) Drawing on the parallel passage in 10:32, Scot McKnight argues that this photizo (6:4) 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) 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).

vi) 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.

In sum, I believe that Dr. McKnight, with the best will in the world, has failed to make his case. Not even close.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The myth of moderate Islam

Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2005 18:22:45 -0400
From: David Virtue
Subject: As Eye See It: THE MYTH OF MODERATE ISLAM - by Patrick Sookhdeo


by Patrick Sookhdeo

The funeral of British suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer was held in
absentia in his family's ancestral village called 477 GB in Sumandri
district, near Lahore, Pakistan. Thousands of people attended, as they
did again the following day when a qul ceremony was held for Tanweer.
During qul the Qur'an is recited, earning merit which is passed on to
the deceased to speed their journey to paradise. In Tanweer's case this
was hardly necessary for being a shahid (martyr) he is deemed to have
gone straight to paradise. The 22-year old from Leeds, whose bomb at
Aldgate station killed seven people, was hailed by the crowd as "a hero
of Islam".

Some in Britain cannot conceive that a suicide bomber could be a hero of

Since 7/7 many have made statements to attempt to explain what seems to
them a contradiction in terms. Since the violence cannot be denied,
their only course is to argue that the connection with Islam is invalid.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Brian Paddick
said that "Islam and terrorists are two words that do not go together."
His boss the Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, asserted that there is nothing
wrong with being a fundamentalist Muslim.

Many have argued in the same vein after every recent Islamic terrorist
atrocity. But surely we should give enough respect to those who
voluntarily lay down their lives to accept what they themselves say
about their motives. If they say they do it in the name of Islam, we
must believe them. Is it not the height of illiberalism and arrogance to
deny them the right to define themselves and their actions in this way?

Those who say that we should not link Islam to terrorism because no one
spoke of the IRA as "Catholic terrorists" are being illogical. The IRA
never claimed to commit their acts of terrorism on behalf of the
Catholic Church. Nationalism, not religion, was their driving force.

Some of the "condemnations" of 7/7 given by the British Muslim
leadership have little value, hedged as they are with provisos and
get-out clauses. What good is it to condemn suicide bombings in London
and affirm them in the Middle East? What good is it to say that Islam
condemns the killing of the innocent without clarifying how Islam
defines "innocence"? We need to hear more comments like those of
courageous Muslims who have called on their community to report radicals
to the police.

Tony Blair was right in saying that this terrorism is not a new problem.
It was there before the Iraq war, and it was there before 9/11. It is
not confined to attacks on non-Muslim and Western targets. Right across
the Muslim world, there is internal conflict, as for example in Iraq,
Pakistan and Egypt, with Muslims destroying each other because of
theological differences. Indeed the first sectarian conflict within
Islam began in 632, as soon as Muhammad had died. By 657 there was a
three-way split in the community; one of these three groups was
eventually exterminated by another, and the two remaining are the Sunnis
and Shi'as who are still fighting each other today.

On 8th July the London-based Muslim Weekly unblushingly published a
lengthy opinion article by Abid Ullah Jan entitled "Islam, Faith and
Power". The gist of the article is that Muslims should strive to gain
political and military power over non-Muslims, that warfare is
obligatory for all Muslims, and that the Islamic state, Islam and
shari'a [Islamic law] should be established throughout the world. All is
supported with quotations from the Qur'an. It concludes with a veiled
threat to Britain. The bombings the previous day were a perfect
illustration of what Jan was advocating, and the editor evidently felt
no need to withdraw the article or to apologise for it. His newspaper is
widely read and distributed across the UK.

What then is the theology behind the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism
which Jan faithfully describes in the Muslim Weekly? Contemporary Islam
can be what you make of it. By far the majority of Muslims today live
out their lives without recourse to violence, for the Qur'an is like a
pick-and-mix selection. If you want peace, you can find peaceable
verses. If you want war, you can find bellicose verses. You can find
verses which permit only defensive jihad, or you can find verses to
justify offensive jihad.

You can even find texts which specifically command terrorism, the
classic one being Q8:59-60 which urges Muslims to prepare themselves to
fight non-Muslims: "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost
of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the
hearts of) the enemies" (A.Yusuf Ali's translation). Pakistani Brigadier
S.K. Malik's book "The Quranic Concept of War" is widely used by the
military of various Muslim countries. In it Malik explains Qur'anic
teaching on strategy: "In war our main objective is the opponent's heart
or soul, our main weapon of offence against this objective is the
strength of our own souls, and to launch such an attack, we have to keep
terror away from our own hearts... Terror struck into the hearts of the
enemies is not only a means, it is the end itself. Once a condition of
terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to
be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge.
Terror is not a means of imposing decision on the enemy; it is the
decision we wish to impose on him."

If you permit yourself a little judicious cutting, the range of choice
in Qur'anic teaching is even wider. A verse one often hears quoted as
part of the "Islam is peace" litany allegedly runs along the lines: "If
you kill one soul it is as if you have killed all mankind." But the full
and unexpurgated version of Q5:32 states: "If anyone slew a person -
unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would
be as if he slew the whole people." The very next verse lists a
selection of savage punishments for those who fight the Muslims and
create "mischief" (or in some translations "corruption") in the land,
punishments which include execution, crucifixion and amputation. What
kind of "mischief in the land" could merit such a reaction? Could it be
interpreted as secularism, democracy and other non-Islamic values in a
land? Could the "murder" be the killing of Muslims in Iraq? Just as
importantly, do the Muslims who keep quoting this verse realise what a
deception they are imposing on their listeners?

It is probably true that in every faith, ordinary people will pick the
parts they like best and practise those, while the scholars will work
out an official version. In Islam the scholars had a particularly
challenging task, given the mass of contradictory texts within the
Qur'an. To meet this challenge they developed the rule of abrogation
which states that wherever contradictions are found, the later-dated
text abrogates the earlier one. To elucidate further the original
intention of Muhammad, they referred to traditions (hadith) recording
what he himself had said and done. Sadly for the rest of the world, both
these methods led Islam away from peace and towards war. For the
peaceable verses of the Qur'an are almost all earlier, dating from
Muhammad's time in Mecca, while those which advocate war and violence
are almost all later, dating from after his flight to Medina. Though
"jihad" has a variety of meanings including a spiritual struggle against
sin, Muhammad's own example shows clearly that he frequently interpreted
jihad as literal warfare and himself ordered massacre, assassination and
torture. From these sources the Islamic scholars developed a detailed
theology dividing the world into two parts Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam,
with Muslims required to change Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islam either
through warfare or by da'wa (mission).

So the mantra "Islam is peace" which we hear repeated in the media so
often is almost 1400 years out of date. It was only for about thirteen
years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace. From 622 onwards, it
became increasingly aggressive, albeit with periods of peaceful
co-existence particularly in colonial times, when the theology of war
was not dominant. For today's radical Muslims - just as for the medieval
jurists who developed classical Islam - it would be truer to say "Islam
is war". One of the most radical Islamic groups in Britain, al-Ghurabaa,
stated in the wake of the two London bombings, "Any Muslim that denies
that terror is a part of Islam is kafir." A kafir is an unbeliever (i.e.
a non-Muslim), a term of gross insult.

Many have expressed sympathy for young men whom they feel have been
driven to kill themselves - and as many others as possible. Shahid
Malik, MP for Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, has said that suicide bombers
are motivated by "feelings of isolation and disaffection, the political
anger at what they see as the double standards of the west in relation
to international Muslim areas of conflict... and the hatred propagated
by domestic extremists such as the BNP".

But we should consider why the bombers react so much more violently to
these afflictions than other people do. As Agatha Christie's Poirot once
explained and as Shakespeare's Iago demonstrated, the ideal way to
murder is by using other people to do the killing. It is noticeable that
the senior leaders of radical Islamic groups never themselves perform
suicide missions. Rather they manipulate vulnerable and expendable
youngsters to do so for them. One such leader is Sheikh Yusuf
al-Qaradawi who inspires young Palestinians to become suicide bombers
but shows no inclination to seek "martyrdom" himself, nor to send his
sons on suicide missions. Incidentally, he has also issued a fatwa
calling for the killing of British forces in Iraq. Ken Livingstone, who
not surprisingly condemned the suicide bombings in the city of which he
is mayor, rather more surprisingly went on to support an invitation to
al-Qaradawi to attend a conference in Manchester.

While many individual Muslims choose to live their personal lives only
by the (now abrogated) peaceable verses of the Qur'an, it is vain to
deny the pro-war and pro-terrorism doctrines within their religion.
Could it be that the young men who committed suicide were neither on the
fringes of Muslim society in Britain, nor following an eccentric and
extremist interpretation of their faith, but rather that they came from
the very core of the Muslim community motivated by a mainstream
interpretation of Islam?

In the days of the British empire, colonialism had a profound effect on
Islam. On the one hand it cut Islam adrift from its classical roots by
taking from Islam its political and military power. On the other hand
Lugard's policy of indirect rule allowed the continued existence of
Islam in terms of its social structure and the continued use of certain
aspects of shari'a. In India this led to the development of communalism,
which allowed Indian Muslims to form their own community and rule
themselves by shari'a. This doubtless contributed to the creation of
Pakistan in 1947, which came into being specifically to provide a
homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent. A process of Islamisation
has led Pakistan to become an Islamic republic.

The same development can be seen in the British Muslim community, most
of whom have their roots in the Indian sub-continent. Muslims who
migrated to the UK came initially for economic reasons, seeking
employment. But over the last fifty years their communities have evolved
away from assimilation with the British majority towards the creation of
separate and distinct communities, mimicking the communalism of the
British Raj. As a Pakistani friend of mine who lives in London said
recently, "The British gave us all we ever asked for; why should we
complain?" British Muslims now have shari'a in areas of finance and
mortgages; halal food in schools, hospitals and prisons; faith schools
funded by the state; prayer rooms in every police station in London; and
much more. This process has been assisted by the British government
thought its philosophy of multiculturalism, which has allowed the Muslim
community to consolidate and create a parallel society in the UK.

The Muslim community now inhabits principally the urban centres of
England as well as some parts of Scotland and Wales. It forms a spine
running down the centre of England from Bradford to London, with ribs
extending east and west. It is said that within 10-15 years most cities
in these areas will have Muslim-majority populations, and will be under
local Islamic political control, with the Muslim community living under

As early as 1980 M. Ali Kettani was advocating a policy with the aim of
achieving such a result. Writing instructions for Muslims living as
minorities in Western countries, Kettani urged them to live close
together and form their own separate institutions. What happens after
this stage depends on which of the two main religious traditions amongst
Pakistani-background British Muslims gains the ascendancy. The Barelwi
majority believe in a slow evolution, gradually consolidating their
Muslim societies, and finally achieving an Islamic state. The Deobandi
minority argue for a quicker process using politics and violence to
achieve the same end result. Ultimately both believe in the end result
of an Islamic state in Britain where Muslims will govern their own
affairs and, as the finishing touch, everyone else's affairs as well.
Islamism is now the dominant Islamic voice in contemporary Islam, and
has become the seedbed of the radical movements. It is this that Sir Ian
Blair has not grasped.

For some time now the British government has been quoting a figure of
1.6 million for the Muslim population. Muslims themselves claim around 3
million, and this is likely to be far nearer to the truth. The growth of
the Muslim community comes from their high birth rate, primary
immigration and asylum-seekers both official and unofficial. There are
also conversions to Islam.

The violence which is endemic in Muslim societies such as Pakistan is
increasingly present in Britain's Muslim community. Already we have
violence by Pakistani Muslims against Kurdish Muslims, by Muslims
against non-Muslims living amongst them (Caribbean people in the west
Midlands, for example), a rapid growth in honour killings, and now
suicide bombings. It is worth noting that many current conflicts around
the world are not internal to the Muslim community, but external as
Muslims, seek to gain territorial control, for example, in south
Thailand, the southern Philippines, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Palestine. Is
it possible that a conflict of this nature could occur in Britain?

Muslims must stop the self-deception which claims that Islam is 100%
peace. They must with honesty recognise the violence that has existed in
their history in the same way as Christians have had to do, for
Christianity has had at times a very dark past Some Muslims have, with
great courage, begun to do this. Mundir Badr Haloum, who lectures at a
Syrian university, wrote last year in the Lebanese daily Al-Safir,
"Ignominious terrorism exists, and one cannot but acknowledge its being

Furthermore they must look at the reinterpretation of their texts, the
Qur'an, hadith and shari'a, and the reformation of their faith. Mundir
Badr Haloum has described this as "exorcising" the terrorism from Islam.
Such reform - the changing of certain fairly central theological
principles - would not be easy to achieve. For one thing, Muslims
believe the text of the Qur'an is unchangeable because it exists
eternally in heaven. For another, there is no recognised central head of
Sunni Islam to make or endorse such decisions. But some Muslims have
already made a start.

Mahmud Muhammad Taha argued for a distinction to be drawn between the
Meccan and the Medinan sections of the Qur'an. He advocated a return to
peaceable Meccan Islam which he argued is applicable for today, whereas
the bellicose Medinan teachings should be consigned to history. For
taking this position he was tried for apostasy, found guilty and
executed by the Sudanese government in 1985. Another modernist reformer
was the Pakistani Fazlur Rahman who advocated the "double movement" i.e.
understanding Qur'anic verses in their context, their ratio legis, and
then using the philosophy of the Qur'an to interpret that in a modern,
social and moral sense. Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd, an Egyptian professor who
argued similarly that the Qur'an and hadith should be interpreted
according to the context in which they originated, was charged with
apostasy, found guilty in June 1995 and therefore ordered to separate
from his wife.

The US-based Free Muslims Coalition, which was set up after 9/11 to
promote a modern and secular version of Islam, has proposed the

1. A re-interpretation of Islam for the 21st century where terrorism is
not justified under any circumstances 2. Separation of religion and
state 3. Democracy as the best form of government 4. Secularism in all
forms of political activity 5. Equality for women 6. Religion to be a
personal relationship between the individual and his or her God, not to
be forced on anyone

The tempting vision of an Islam reformed along such lines is unlikely to
be achieved except by a long and painful process of small steps. What
might these be and how can we make a start? One step would be, as urged
by the Prince of Wales, that every Muslim should "condemn these
atrocities [7/7 bombings] and root out those among them who preach and
practise such hatred and bitterness". Universal condemnation of suicide
bombers instead of acclamation as heroes would indeed be an excellent

Mansoor Ijaz has suggested a practical three-point action plan:

1. Forbid radical hate-filled preaching in British mosques. Deport imams
who fail to comply. 2. Scrutinise British Islamic charities to identify
those that fund terrorism. Prevent them from receiving more than 10% of
their income from overseas. 3. Form community watch groups comprised of
Muslim citizens to contribute useful information on fanatical Muslims to
the authorities.

To this could be added Muslim acceptance of a secular society as being
the basis for their religious existence, an oath of allegiance to the
crown which will override their allegiance to their co-religionists
overseas, and deliberate steps to move out of their ghetto-style
existence both physically and psychologically.

For the government the time has come to accept Trevor Phillips'
statement that multiculturalism is dead. We need to move on to
re-discover and affirm a common British identity founded on the
historical Judaeo-Christian heritage of our society. This would impact
heavily on the future development of faith schools, which should now be

Given the fate of some earlier would-be reformers, perhaps King Abdullah
of Jordan or a leader of his stature might have the best chance of
initiating a process of modernist reform. The day before 7/7 a
conference which he had convened of senior scholars from eight schools
of Islamic jurisprudence amazingly issued a statement endorsing fatwas
forbidding any Muslim from those eight schools to be declared an
apostate. So reform is possible. The only problem with this particular
action is that, whilst it protected Muslim leaders from being killed by
dissident Muslims, it negated a very helpful fatwa which had been issued
in March by the Spanish Islamic scholars declaring Osama bin Laden an
apostate. Could not the King re-convene his conference and ask them to
issue a fatwa banning violence against non-Muslims also? This would
extend the self-preservation of the Muslim community to the whole
non-Muslim world.

It will be a long, hard road for Islam to get its house in order so that
it can coexist peacefully with the rest of society in the 21st century.
But change must start now.

--Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is Director of the Institute for the Study of
Islam and Christianity. He is also an ordained priest in the Church of

My Favorite Marcion

According to Steve Camp:


The sheer hypocrisy of the ECB movement is typified in what happened with Frist last week. Dobson and company had courted Frist on several key "moral, family values, prolife issues"; solicited him for public support and comment (JS1); and counted on him to influence other Washington constituents on those same convctions for legislative strength in changing policy. Then he flip/flopped. When someone changes positions dramatically as he did (he also asked for federal funding for his "new" position) that has profound implications on Party affiliations and ECB directly. I think that some ECBers now know "Frist-hand" that the "tie that binds" their allies run only "potomoc" deep. Simply put... they (ECB) got stung.


Hypocrisy is a very serious charge. It is indelibly imprinted on our minds by Christ’s denunciation of the religious establishment.

So wherein lies the hypocrisy of Dobson & Co.? They supported Frist when he supported them. They supported his agenda when he supported theirs.

Now he has betrayed his supporters. Who’s the hypocrite? Dobson or Frist?

Was King David a hypocrite because he befriended a man who later betrayed him (Ps 41:9)? Was Jesus a hypocrite because Peter and Judas stabbed him in the back? Ditto: St. Paul (2 Tim 4:16)?

BTW, how does the flip-flop of one senator have “profound implications on Party affiliations”? This is not a change in the party platform, is it?

The logical reaction would be to support a better candidate in the upcoming presidential primaries. If Frist has proven that he would make a poor nominee for the GOP ticket, we turn to someone else, that’s all.


This demonstrates perfectly that when unity is rooted foundationally in political posturing as opposed to biblical certainty, this kind of thing is to be expected--and will happen again.


Who is guilty of political posturing? “Posturing” is a synonym for hypocrisy. Is Mr. Camp accusing Dobson and Co. of political “posturing”? Does Mr. Camp have any inside information he’d like to share with the rest of us that Dobson & Co. are duplicitous in their methods and/or objectives? Is this just a pose on their part? They don’t really care about key "moral, family values, prolife issues"?


Hopefully, this will serve as a wake up call for the ECB movement to primarily address issues in the future with a proper mandate: biblically; and by proper means: the local church.


First of all, I and others (notably, Jus Divinum) have repeatedly presented a Biblical basis for ECB. But when you answer Camp on his own grounds, he turns very slithery on you—just like a politician.

Secondly, pay close attention to what he is saying. He isn’t merely attacking cobelligerence. No, he’s attacking political activism, per se. The proper means of addressing social issues is within the local church.

This is yet another example of his fundamentally antinomian, Anabaptist, and anarchistic outlook.

ECB is just a stalking-horse for Camp. His real target is the very idea of Christian involvement in the democratic process, but he uses ECB as a decoy to gin up opposition to the primary target.


Politics is the art of compromise; biblical Christianity is to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.


This is pious nonsense on stilts. In fact, it’s the sort of thing you’d expect a politician to say: something that sounds swell even though it’s palpably false.

Not every pragmatic compromise is a moral compromise.

The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) was a compromise. The OT provision for divorce was a compromise (Mt 19:8). Paul’s circumcision of Timothy was a compromise (Acts 16:3). The Scriptural position on slavery is a compromise (1 Cor 7:21-22). The duty of the strong brethren towards the weak brethren is a compromise (Rom 14:13-23; 1 Cor 8:9-13).

In fact, the quickest road to hypocrisy is to leave no room for a pragmatic compromise on issues of process rather than principle.

Legalistic churches are hotbeds of hypocrisy because they brook no compromise on doubtful disputations and harmless pleasures. By commanding what is not commanded and forbidding what is not forbidden, they sow a luxuriant seedbed of hypocrisy. You can reap a rich harvest of hypocrisy by being overly strict as well as overly lax.