Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cyber Melt Down

I received an email that asked me “What happened to Simon of ThinkingDeeply? It appears he has taken down his blog and left a few parting shots.” I was unaware of this so I took a look. Take a look for yourself.

I have to worry sometimes when I see younger men heavily engaged in internet debate. Too much of a diet of intellectual debate is destined for destruction. Have you ever noticed the apostates to Romanism? Those Romanists which later embrace a Protestant theology are usually lay people which hear the gospel for the first time in their lives and respond. Living in New Orleans, I’ve experienced this on a regular basis. It doesn’t take much heavy intellectual dialogue to “bring them over;” they just need the gospel of grace to be illuminated to them and they’ll experience something for the first time in their lives. However, such is not the case for the apostates to Romanism. They are usually men who have been in the Protestant church for years. Perhaps they were very knowledgeable, even a pastor. But the problem is that they involved themselves so heavily in intellectual debate so that it exhausted them. I fear that one of the main reasons we have apostates to Romanism is because we have a venue that encourages non-stop intellectual debate. Eventually, the poor souls involved in this venue will seek rescue from this realm. Thus, they plug into the IV of Rome and receive truth injected directly. Easy is always best.

Yet, such a diet of debate does not always result in the IV of Rome. Sometimes, it just results in an emotional meltdown. This, I’ve seen many times as well.

Well, Simon has cracked. I don’t really know if I can describe it differently. He’s taken down his blog and replaced it with quotes from the Reformed blogosphere (I’m featured on there as well, how nice), stating, “Don’t forget, Calvinists know best” and later, “The quotes above are examples of the kind of stupidity from professed Christians that make atheists comfortable with their atheism.” What are the quotes? Well, let’s look at mine:

“A Biblical doctrine of the complete depravity of man assures us that the idea that God would leave salvation open to the unaltered, ‘free’ will of man is one that is destined for a failure. If our perspectives are Biblical, no one would be saved. But synergists, of course, deny this perspective.” (Evan May, Veritas Redux)

When reading this, it is really a wonder why Simon finds this so surprising. Surely Simon has interacted with Reformed theology before! Surely he knows that the Reformed have always affirmed that total depravity means that no one can be saved apart from an efficacious working of the Holy Spirit. Surely he remembers that we believe our doctrine of the inability of man necessitates monergistic regeneration. Is this anything new? Is this really cause to simply throw your hands up in the air, shut down you blog, and contemptly quote a few Calvinists?

Awhile back, Simon and I were scheduled to debate John 6. He later declined, telling me that he did not believe he was yet ready to debate the text. I wrote back and thanked him for his humility. But it has to make me curious why Simon is willing to be so outward in his disagreement but so unwilling to engage in the disagreement? Why does he have the energy that it takes to destroy his website in order to put up a few gut-shots but lacks the energy to engage in honest, fair debate?

Word to the wise: avoid cyber melt downs. They aren’t healthy to the Christian life. Don’t bring unnecessary stress upon yourself. Share the truth in love, give a defense for the hope that is in you, and then go home and play with your kids.

Evan May.


  1. I think Simon's frustration is entirely understandable. As a Calvinist, I see the attitudes he is complaining about in my fellow Calvinists ALL of the time. They assume that Arminianism can't be soundly defended on biblical grounds (see my essay "Arminians Have Their Reasons" over at www.communiosanctorum.com ). They fail to see how presuppositions, philosophy and deductive reasoning affect ALL theological systems (including Calvinism). They poison the well with their crazy, over the top rhetoric (like speaking of Arminianism as heresy which comes from the pit of hell). They simplistically equate their own understanding of theology with the views of those who penned Scripture. They attack Arminian strawmen in a way that entirely lacks charity. They generally fail to even understand the nuances of the views of those with whom they take issue. They are incapable of recognizing the weak points and vulnerabilities of their own system. Who can blame Simon for throwing up his hands and saying, "I give up"?

  2. Wow Paul, I think you missed the point entirely. The very things you accuse the Calvinists of are the very things that come from Dave Hunt and company all the time.

    By-the-way, what weak points? The real reason Simon gave up was that he knew he had no scriptural basis whatsoever in which to debate.

  3. As a Calvinist, I see the attitudes he is complaining about in my fellow Calvinists ALL of the time. They assume that Arminianism can’t be soundly defended on biblical grounds

    Paul, I've read your attempts to derive Arminian theology from Biblical exegesis. You come to the Bible with an ecumenical agenda and arrive at conclusions that are not supported in the text. If you check the archive, I responded to you on this several times in the past.

  4. Yes, I've read your comments Evan. I'm sorry, but you didn't actually expect me to take them as invitations to exchange views, or engage in a constructive debate about the issues did you? Apart from Jason Engwer, I've seen very little on this website which would indicate a sincere willingness to engage in such discussions with people who don't already think like you.

  5. This also explains a feature a lot of Catholic blogwarriors have pounced on: "Ex-Protestants who become Catholic are always theologically well-versed in their own Protestant church's doctrine, whereas ex-Catholics (whether Evangelicals, atheists or otherwise) are always 'poorly catechised' and ignorant of Catholic doctrines."

    I have three explanations for this other than "dumb Caths become Prots but smart Prots become Caths..."

    [1] Prot doctrine is (deliberately, in one sense) simplified. Six core doctrines, each with "alone" added. One Bible to read and learn; RCs also (I am sometimes tempted to say "instead") have thousands of pages of Councils, Church Fathers, and Papal Encyclicals that are binding and normative, not merely edifying commentary (as Calvin, Luther, Lloyd-Jones, et al are). Even then you can get into serious debates about the current application and intended infallibility level of any given RC document.

    It's like comparing the level of study required to become a Harry Potter fan (only seven books are canon) with that to become a Star Trek fan (five series-es and ten films with close to four digits of screen time are canon).

    Moreover, I think to can agreed by both sides that Catholic doctrine is, let us say, more nuanced. Prots assert "by faith, not works" and sit back with arms folded. Caths OTOH will rebuke you if you assert we are saved by faith, not works... but also rebuke you if you assert that Catholics believe in salvation by works One explanation is that the truth here is some complicated tightrope tha mysteriously reconciles two seeming contradictions (Chesterton uses this a lot). Another is that Catholicism, like Pelagianism, is attracted to the natural religion of humankind ("The Divine Power owes us salvation if and because we are good people"), but is lumbered with Romans and Galatians in its canon...

    [2] Prot doctrine willingly accepts its own limits. If God didn't answer some theological question by 70 AD, then we won't know the answer until judgment day. RC-ism, OTOH, confidently offers either an infallible answer or an assurance that one may one day be given. Smarter Prots start wondering "Well, how exactly are we purged of our remaining sin after death?" or "What exactly are Mary, Peter and Paul doing right now?" and their pastor tells them not to pursue that question too far because the Bible leaves it open. This is true, but inquiring minds always chafe at being told "we don't have an answer".

    If the Vatican could one day invent a 2,000-year-old tradition explaining what "baptism for the dead" in Corinthians means, I bet they'd divert a few would-be Mormon converts to Rome!

    Prot theology tends to be very practical and immediate: "Here's what God did tell us; further speculations are of no concern to you." In ethics and law, there are often thinkers (Peter Singer is one) who like to push some commonly-accepted doctrine to its limits in some extreme hypothetical ("you say we should never deliberately kill an innocent? Well, what if your 3-year-old had found a loaded revolver and was standing on a cliff shooting people and was about to kill a scientist on her way to a press conference to announce her cure for cancer...?").

    [3] Or maybe Prots are just better at catechising than Caths are. It seems odd to me to claim "You need an inallible, hierarchical church to make sure the laity get soundly taught" -- but then claim, over and over again, that a decentralised network of congregations who believe in "private interpretation" do a better job of getting their catechism through than even the famed Jesuits do!

  6. Paul Owen said: "Who can blame Simon for throwing up his hands and saying, "I give up"?

    Paul Manata responds: Boy! I'm sure glad that the Apostle Paul didn't have that attitude when dealing with, say, the Judaizers!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Mike Ratliff says, "The real reason Simon gave up was that he knew he had no scriptural basis whatsoever in which to debate."

    hahaha .. that's funny. Listen, I say this not to Mike, who is obviously too blind to believe it, but for those who are able to understand truth when they see it: I didn't shut down my site because of a debate (and certainly not because I think I don't have answers, answers rooted in the Bible). The reason is that I realize I became too invested in the conversations I was having. I could no longer let comments like the ones I listed on my site roll off my back. The anonymity and distance of the Internet affords people with the unique opportunity and 'courage' to gather in groups and act stupidly towards those with whom they disagree. Even people who should be considered a part of their family.

    I need a break. Obviously, I became too invested in the conversations I had with people online. It became heartbreaking to me to constantly be accused of not taking the Bible seriously .. not because I don’t, but because I DO.

  9. Simon,
    I am obviously too blind to see what? I assure you I am not spiritually blind. I came out of the Arminian belief system when God OPENED MY EYES to the truth about it.

    I would say that when someone is presented with Biblical exegesis that cannot be refuted exegetically but only esigetically then there has been no refutation. That was what I was referring to. In fact, that was the very thing God used to turn me towards Reformed Theology. Being highly convicted of the veracity of Reformed Theology is not spiritual blindness, but refusing to believe the truth when it set right in front of you is.

  10. The statement you made about me was made in ignorance.

  11. How is it ignorance to comment on what you wrote? Are you saying that someone else wrote it? If you did write it are you saying you didn't really mean it? All I have to go on in relying to you is based upon what you say. Go back and read the comments on the remains of your blog and tell me I speak in ignorance. Or is that you are not standing behind what you said?

  12. I was talking about this statement: "The real reason Simon gave up was that he knew he had no scriptural basis whatsoever in which to debate." This is my last post here.

  13. Simon,
    Sorry, I misunderstood the focus of your words. However, I made my comments based upon an analysis of your comments on your blog after you took it down. The spirit therein seemed one of resignation to me. Perhaps I read too much into it.