Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, a Clanging Cymbal

One of the things about being a Calvinist is that Calvinism attracts a lot of unpleasant people. I live in the South, and, to paraphrase some of our comedians, we have a lot of crazy people in the South. The real difference between us and the rest of the country is that we don't hide ours. We usually ask who they are.

Reformed churches, when they newly start, draw interesting crowds. I'm in a church about a year old. I understand that before I arrived, we had a regular visitor, an older woman, who stayed for several weeks. Suddenly, she decided to get a bunch of pamphlets and hand them out to the folks in the service after the message. They were rather nifty pamphlets apparently writtten to claim the pastor is an antinomian. Not only is this a lie; it clearly violates the New Testament on accusing an elder in the church, following a process for confrontation, and sowing division among the brethren. When confronted, she got angry and never returned. Upon investigation, the church learned that she has quite a reputation in the community. She frequents the Calvinist churches in the area and does the same thing. Basically, she sits quietly and is quite pleasant, but then she finds some point of disagreement then presses this into service. In a word, she is a factious woman.

It has come to my attention that "Charles" has taken to spamming both Triablogue, the Calvinist Gadfly, and Steve Camp's blog of late. At first, he decided to post material related to Bob Ross. He posted the same material at Steve's blog that was posted here, and, in a strange twist of fate, we received emails from Bob Ross shortly thereafter recapitualating his ongoing feud with James White, as if we are responsible to correct James I suppose.

James White makes himself very available to discuss the issues. His ministry has an address and a telephone number that are publicly displayed on the website. In addition, there is a link to his chat channel, proapologian, where I gather he interacts "live" regularly. Also folks can call the Dividing Line two days a week (although lately I've been having problems getting the live broadcast myself, but that might just be me). At any rate, unlike Berkof and Shedd, James is alive and kicking and wide open for discussion. It's rather easy to pull other websites into a feud between two persons who run yet another set of sites from the comments thread of the blogs. I realize that James makes his writing and his views public, as do we all, but it would seem the appropriate thing to do is either confront a person that is doing that much work to be available personally before hitting the comments sections of blogs and violating the rules of those blogs in the process. The alternative, as I pointed out to "Charles" is to create your own blog to air your dirty laundry there.

For that, I must now commend Charles, for he has taken my admonition to heart and done just that. For that we should thank him, for now we see his true colors.

Alan Kurschner: Mr. Ignorant

Alan Kurschner is a James White wannabe who
knows about as much theology as my cat knows New Testament Greek. Alan's recent
article, Dave HuntDeniesOriginal Sin, takes his ignorance to a new level.

Alan's proof that Dave Hunt has denied original sin is based on a statement Hunt made that babies do not go to hell. Hear me again: Dave Hunt said that dead babies do not go to hell. For Alan, to maintain that all babies go to heaven is equal to denying the doctrine of original sin.

Alan apparently believes at least some dead babies will go to hell and burn forever . What a lovely God he has.

The "babies in hell" view is preposterous. While John Calvin, and James White no doubt, would be proud of Alan, other Calvinists would be appalled. Al Mohler and Dan Akin wrote Why we Believe Young
Children Who Die Go to Heaven
which Alan should take the time to read.

Mohler and Akin wrote,

in James 4:17, the Bible says, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." The Bible is clear that we are all born with a sin nature as a result of being in Adam (Roman 5:12). This is what is called the doctrine of original sin. However, the Scriptures make a distinction between original sin and actual sins. While all are guilty of original sin, moral responsibility and understanding is necessary for our being accountable for actual sins (Deuteronomy 1:30; Isaiah 7:16). It is to the one who knows to do right and does not do it that sin is reckoned. Infants are incapable of such

But this is precisely what Dave Hunt said! Alan quoted Hunt as saying, "The fact is that they [babies] did not sin. They died as babies. It wouldn’t be just to condemn to hell. What are they going to suffer for in hell? What deeds have they done?"

NewFlash! Alan's next article: Al Mohler Denies Original Sin!

Alan Kruschner: Color him ignorant.

Alan can answer for himself. However, if you'll notice Alan did not actually state his full view, so Charles is in no position to know exactly what Alan believes on this matter and what he disbelieves and his reasons. I believe Charles is in violation of the 9th commandment at the moment.

There is very certainly a difference between the way Hunt proceeds and the way that Drs. Mohler and Akin proceed in their argumentation, so, not they are not saying the same thing as Hunt.

Al Mohler and Daniel Akin argue thusly:

One biblical text is particularly helpful at this point. After the children of Israel rebelled against God in the wilderness, God sentenced that generation to die in the wilderness after forty years of wandering. "Not one of these men, this evil generation, shall see the good land which I swore to give your athers."(4) But this was not all. God specifically exempted young children and infants from this sentence, and even explained why He did so: "Moreover, your little ones who you said would become prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good and evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and
they shall possess it."(5) The key issue here is that God specifically exempted from the judgment those who "have no knowledge of good or evil" because of their age. These "little ones" would inherit the Promised Land, and would not be judged on the basis of their fathers’ sins.

We believe that this passage bears directly on the issue of infant salvation, and that the accomplished work of Christ has removed the stain of original sin from those who die in infancy. Knowing neither good nor evil, these young children are incapable of committing sins in the body – are not yet moral agents – and die secure in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To lay this out for Charles, they make their argument not simply on the basis of the difference between original and actual sin, but on the work of Christ in the atonement. God sovereignly elects infants and applies the atonement to them. In effect, he regenerates them in order to remove original sin and bring them directly into heaven when they die in infancy.

Dave Hunt, on the other hand, denies monergistic regeneration and bases election on foreseen faith. Dave Hunt argues the Campbellite doctrine that denies babies are born with original sin. For him, they are not sinners until they reach the indeterminate "age of accountability." Ergo, when they die, they go to heaven because they are not guilty of sin until they sin. In other words, he uses an "exception clause" to "in Adam all die."

Color Charles Mr. Ignorant. These are two completely different arguments.

Part of the doctrine of original sin is the imputation of Adam's sin to the race. If the wages of sin is death and babies are innocent, then why do they die? Is Charles denying the imputation of Adam's sin to the whole race? These are questions that have answers for which he needs to account.

John Piper affirms Mohler and Akin's position.

However, in his monograph on Imputation, Counted Righteous In Christ, he writes on the teaching of Romans 5:12 that there are those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam:

Who are they? I am still inclined to think, against the most common scholarly opinion, that the group of people begging for an explanation, and providing the most relevant illustration for Paul's point, is infants. Infants died...

I know that many commentators object to the reference to children. It is indeed a very difficult complex connection of thoughts....Personal, individual sin cannot be the reason all died, because some died without transgressing a known law the way Adam did (v.14), and thus wihotu the ability to have their personal sins reckoned to them in the sense of which he is speaking (v.13). Therefore, they must have died because of the sin of Adam imputed to them. "All sinned" in 5:12b thus means that all sinned, through the one man's disobedience." (v.19).

From my perspective, I would say Dave Hunt has an even bigger problem, for it seems he should logically deny the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, since babies die and would have to do so from the imputation of Adam's sin, if they are innocent of personal sins themselves and not counted "guilty" until that ever illusive "age of accountability" that Arminans like to pull out. Is this also Charles' position?

I would argue that is it precisely the imputation of Adam's sin to infants who die in infancy that allows them to die, but this is also that which means that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to them in order to bring them into heaven with Him. We must remember that infants contain sin in "germ form." All that we are, they are in principle, but not yet in practice, yet not yet expressed. God, unlike man, sees the whole book, not just the first page. These children may be innocent babies to us, but to God they are much more. By imputing them guilty in Adam, He can then impute them righteous in Christ, and, in so doing, no man, including those who were taken as infants, will be able to glory in his innocence as a means to gain eternal life. They will have all, infants, included arrived by the grace of God alone. I suspect those who die in infancy will have the most marvelous testimonies of all in the next world, for they never had to know much of what we experience here. They got to be with the Lord from the start!

Charles acts as if all godly Calvinists believe in infant salvation. This is false.

From Boettner's Reformed Doctrine of Predestination:

Most Calvinistic theologians have held that those who die in infancy are saved. The Scriptures seem to teach plainly enough that the children of believers are saved; but they are silent or practically so in regard to those of the heathens. The Westminster Confession does not pass judgment on the children of heathens who die before coming to years of accountability. Where the Scriptures are silent, the Confession, too, preserves silence. Our outstanding theologians, however, mindful of the fact that God's "tender mercies are over all His works," and depending on His mercy widened as broadly as possible, have entertained a charitable hope that since these infants have never committed any actual sin
themselves, their inherited sin would be pardoned and they would be saved on wholly evangelical principles.

Such, for instance, was the position held by Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, and B. B. Warfield. Concerning those who die in infancy, Dr. Warfield says: "Their destiny is determined irrespective of their choice, by an unconditional decree of God, suspended for its execution on no

I'd add that Charles selection of articles by Ross on White name Shedd as an infidel on his views on this issue, so it's rather amusing to find Charles making this post in that light.

R. C. Sproul even calls the doctrines of infant salvation “speculative.” (Providence, Tape 10,Q&A). Sproul points out that some reformers believe that all babies who die are numbered among the elect, and other reformers believe that all babies of saved parents who die are numbered among the elect.

Charles calls Alan "ignorant," but it would seem he believes Hunt and Mohler/Akin to be arguing the same position. Clearly they are not doing this at all. Hunt proceeds from an Arminian premise akin to the Campbellite. Mohler, Akin, Piper and others proceed from a biblical recognition of the sinfulness of man and ground infant salvation in the grace of God and the righteousness of Christ through the cross alone. These are two completely different arguments.

Likewise, he pretends that Reformed theology is of a piece on this issue or that Scripture is absolutely clear. It most certainly is not; and even the best of our own exegetes admit to the speculative nature of the discussion. The position that all infants that die are elect is the majority view. However, a majority does not unanimity make.

Scripture itself is largely silent on this issue. It simply depends on how convinced one is about the exegetical arguments. I wonder, if David's, "I will go to him" is really meant to infer universal infant salvation for all infants who die in infancy. That's a rather grand, sentimental application of the text. God may well do this. I think there is a pretty good chance He does. On the other hand, I must admit (a) He would not be unjust not to do this; and (b) if He does, it is by way of Calvary, not some kind of "age of accountability" that mitigates against us being counted guilty in Adam.

Those that do not favor infant salvation generally proceed on the notion that no man, infant or adult, has a free pass to heaven. God would be perfectly just in condemning them to hell. To us, this seems quite harsh. On the other hand, in doing so, He may be punishing one who would flower into a Hitler on steroids if left to common grace working itself out. God sees us as a whole book, not page one or two. He sees us as we really are. Who's to say that the spirit of a child does not go to heaven with all the faculties of adulthood? This is a relation about which we know nothing. God does. From our perspective, an infant is dying. From His, a serial killer may be dying.

Samuel Hopkins writes:
“Many have supposed that none of mankind are capable of sin or moral agency before they can distinguish between right and wrong. But this wants proof which has never yet been produced. And it appears to be contrary to divine revelation. Persons may be moral agents and sin without knowing what the law of God is or of what nature their exercises are and while they have no consciousness.

If Charles finds this unjust, then we have to wonder why he would think it would be unjust to count an infant guilty of sin yet call Judas "the son of perdition" and predestined for it.

I think Steve Camp has a good point here: seems in lack of biblical certainty, that it would be unloving to extend to someone "absolute assurance" where Scripture itself is not absolutely clear. What we can give unshakable assurance to, is that God is just and righteous desiring that none should perish; delighting not in the death of the wicked; and is at the same time both loving and holy, just and merciful, wrathful and full of grace. And in all that He does, He does with absolute perfection befitting His own righteous, holy character after the council of His will, to accomplish His purpose, for His own pleasure and for His glory alone (Cp, Ephesians 1:4-14). And it is there, that we must rest, find our resolve, and leave it with

So, Charles, we commend you for doing the right thing and taking your objections to the blogosphere. However, I would encourage you to give some thought before writing attack pieces that claim others are ignorant, when it doesn't seem you're quite as aware of what's being said as they. Otherwise, we hear the sound of one hand clapping, a resounding gong, and a clanging cymbal.

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