Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dave Hunt Denies Original Sin

Pelagianism is alive and well at the Berean Call. When will it end? Dave Hunt's unexplainable detest against Calvinism has lead him to reject some orthodox Evangelical fundamentals of the faith. Last year the controversy was over how Dave Hunt rejects the trustworthiness of some parts of Scripture. Then there was his hyper-Arminian statement that Calvinists are not saved if they affirmed Calvinism at their supposed conversion.

The latest heresy by Dave Hunt has been his rejection of original sin. On 1/15/06 on the Search the Scriptures Daily Radio (Contending for the Faith: Are Dave and Tom Closet Calvinists?), Hunt said the following words,
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?
At 30:45 minutes into the Dividing Line radio show, you can hear his statements, along with James White's commentary and critique. (Also, let us not forget that Ergun Caner holds Dave Hunt up as some astute theologian on these matters.)

Do preborns and infants go to heaven if they die?
That question of course requires an entire substantive post for another day. My personal position, I believe, is the most Biblical and pastoral for grieving parents:

If we trust God's goodness, wisdom, and freedom in the election of "adults," then we should trust God's goodness, wisdom, and freedom in the election of preborns and infants.

This statement is not to skirt the issue of whether all, none, or some preborns and infants go to heaven if they die. Just the opposite: it is to first focus on the most important Biblical and pastoral principle---the character of God and his glory, which brings comfort and peace in all trials.

But as I mentioned, I can flesh this out one day soon in a future post.


The Catholicity of Infant Baptism v. The Owen

From comments

After referring to "the Catholic/Reformational doctrine of infant baptism", Paul Owen writes:

"This is why the rejection of infant baptism was seen as heresy–it strikes at the very nature of the Church, and its historical connection to the Catholic faith."

During the patristic era, some churches practiced infant baptism and some didn't. Men like Tertullian and Gregory Nazianzen spoke against the practice, while people like Cyprian and Asterius the Sophist advocated it. Some, like Basil of Caesarea and Augustine, weren't baptized until adulthood, despite having religiously active Christian parents. When counseling against infant baptism in the fourth century, Gregory Nazianzen expresses his view on the subject after writing of how somebody might ask:

"what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too?" (Oration 40:28)

In other words, not only did Gregory counsel against infant baptism, but he framed his addressing of the issue by suggesting that the question of whether to baptize infants was disputed. It was something about which people commonly asked.

With some of the early sources, the evidence is unclear. Baptism of children is discussed, but we can't always tell what their age was or the specifics of their circumstances. (A word translated as "infant" might be rendered as "child" in other places. The age of the person isn't always clear, even when a translator chooses to use an English word like "infant".) Some of the art in the catacombs, for example, is unclear as well. But we can say that the earliest explicit advocacy of infant baptism doesn't occur until the third century. The earliest source to explicitly address the subject is Tertullian, who speaks against the practice around the end of the second century or the beginning of the third. Prior to Tertullian, baptism is discussed often and in some depth, and infant baptism is never advocated. Rather, baptism is described as if only believers take part in it. Given the fact that multiple generations of Christians had lived and died during that time, it seems unlikely that infant baptism would so often go unmentioned in discussions of baptism if it was a common practice.

It should be noted, also, that even the sources who first advocated infant baptism did so for different reasons than the ones commonly cited by today's advocates. What we see in the fathers is an initial absence of infant baptism, followed by Tertullian's condemnation of it and a later advocacy of it. It was absent in some places and present in others, and those who did practice it had different reasons for it and modes of it. From such a background, how does a person arrive at the conclusion that not only is infant baptism apostolic, but it's even part of "catholicity", the rejection of which is "heresy"? By that sort of standard, large portions of the patristic church were heretical and outside of catholicism.

Often, people who speak of "tradition", "catholicity", "the church", etc. are irrationally selective in their appeal to such concepts. If an early Christian consensus on an issue runs contrary to what they believe, they disregard that consensus. But when they think that an early consensus agrees with them, they tell us of how unthinkable it would be to go against it, as if the consensus alone is a sufficient argument. In my experience, many of these people continue with their double standards even after having those double standards pointed out to them. The appeal to "catholicity", "tradition", etc. is more bark than bite. Even when their rhetoric is shown to not have much substance behind it, they continue to use the rhetoric. Some people have too much concern for labels and appearances and too little concern for substance.

# posted by Jason Engwer : 2/25/2006 6:37 PM

Southern Baptists and Baptistry-Addendum


"The question at issue is not is not the Baptist tradition in general, or the Anabaptist tradition in general, but the Southern Baptist tradition in particular.."

You mean that wonderful tradition that slavery was a divinely ordained institution? Bad tree, bad fruit.

Steve has responded. I'll simply add my comments fromthe thread, since, until April at least, I'm the resident Southern Baptist here.

A. How does the affirmation of slavery on the part of some of the SBC Founders relate to the Calvinistic foundation of the SBC to which the Caners are opposed?

B. If "guilt by association" is a measure, then what is to be said of the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, and others who practiced slavery in the South?

C. For that matter, what about those wacky General Baptists who had sunken into Socinianism by the late 18th century and needed a "New Connection" to reinvigorate them?

D. Aprops C, let's not forget the state of the Northern Baptists today. Independent Fundamental Baptists for the most part are preaching Unitarian grace, Finneyism, and "fire insurance" salvation. There are a few exceptions however

.E. Emir and Ergun have set themselves against the Confessional history of their own denomination. They say that those of us in the Founders Movement are "rewriting Baptist history."

How many of the first delegates to the SBC didn't affirm the Philadelphia Convention?

On what document is the SBTS / SEBTS Abstract of Principles based?

What does the Sandy Creek Confession say about the doctrines of grace?

How many of the churches that stream of Baptists in the South planted affirmed "moderate Calvinism?' How many affirmed the Philadelphia Confession or the Charleston Confession?

To what stream of Southern Baptists did Richard Furman belong? What is he known for having done for missions? Oh, and to anticipate the response. Yes, he owned slaves. So did Thomas Jefferson. Shall we toss out the US Constitution?

Who was Ezra Courtney? What famous Baptist association did he found? What did their confession say about the doctrines of grace?

It is not the Founders Movement who has set about rewriting the history of the SBC, and they are fully aware of the issue that spawned the separation between the North and South.However, apparently orthodoxy went out the window rather quickly in the Northerns. After the Civil War, however, you have men like James Boyce, who later founded SBTS, who proposed the law in the SC legislature that outlawed slavery at the state level itself.

I'd add too that the Enlightenment did much to spawn the European/American slave trades. I wonder, what does this say for the children of the Enlightenment?

We could also drag out the Inquisitions. That should make Catholicism quite attractive.

Shall we also discuss the persecution of the dissenters by the Church of England?



Pol Pot?



The Crusades?

If we take your logic to its end, dan, we are left with no creed, not even that of the atheists, stems from a tree good enough from which to eat.

Swearing off the bottle


Okay, this is definitely the LAST time I am dealing with you guys.

# posted by exbeliever : 2/24/2006 11:59 PM


Well, I have to admit that exbeliever has, indeed, maneuvered me into a real dilemma.

You see before you two statements posted by someone with the very same moniker.

According to the former statement, posted yesterday, the individual in question assures us that this is the very last time he will respond to us.

But according to the latter statement, posted today, apparently the very same individual goes back on his emphatic resolution from only a day before.

So this confronts me with a moral and logical conundrum. You see, if I attribute both statements to the same individual, then he’s broken his word, in which case it’s hard to salvage a “shred of honesty” from his EXPLICITY contradictory statements.

I suppose I could resolve the taint of infamy posed this onerous dilemma by NOT attributing the latter statement to exbeliever, even though that is what it says.

In that event, we can simply void the statement altogether, as issuing from an imposter who wants to make the real exbeliever look like a morally vacillating “village idiot.”



Thank you. That's one of the few shreds of honesty I've seen on this blog.

steve still seems to think that he is justified in attributing ideas to me even though 1) they were added without my knowledge, and 2) the added comments EXPLICITLY state that they are not my words but someone else's.

# posted by exbeliever : 2/25/2006 4:57 PM


This is getting to be high comedy. Or maybe low comedy.

i) He defends himself by saying that the words were added without his knowledge. I see.

Of course, they were also added without my knowledge of their being added without his knowledge. So somehow his ignorance is exculpatory, but mine is culpable. Fascinating logic--especially when he's a team member while I'm an outsider to the editorial process.

ii) He then says the words I quoted were explicitly stated to be someone else’s rather than his own.

That is quite true. Most-all of the words I quoted were the words of St. Peter from his 1st Epistle.

However, I don’t suppose the average reader would have any great difficulty in perceiving that what I intended thereby was to ascribe the post to exbeliever, and not the text of St. Peter, contained therein.

But I now realize that such a distinction is far too subtle for exbeliever, and so I will need to connect all the dots for him in the future lest I once again overestimate his reading comprehension.

Slavery & Southern Baptistry


"The question at issue is not is not the Baptist tradition in general, or the Anabaptist tradition in general, but the Southern Baptist tradition in particular.."

You mean that wonderful tradition that slavery was a divinely ordained institution?

Bad tree, bad fruit.

# posted by dan : 2/25/2006 3:12 PM


Honestly, you gotta wonder sometimes what, if anything, you’d find if you opened up the brainpan of these unbelievers and took a look inside. Cobwebs instead of synapses?

Slavery is not a S. Baptist tradition.

Does Dan think that S. Baptists were running the great antebellum plantations? Better question: Does Dan think at all?

Does he know anything about the standard of living of the average, antebellum S. Baptist? Clearly, historical economics is not his forte.

American slavery was a carryover from England. Affluent Colonists imported the institution from the other side of the pond.

It was basically an Anglican and later Presbyterian affair.

Nor was it distinctively a Southern institution—not originally.

Colonial England churchmen like Samuel Hopkins and Ezra Stiles, President of Yale, were in the forefront of abolitionism in America.

The leading figure in the abolition of slavery was the great Evangelical churchman William Wilberforce, inspired by the great Evangelical hymnodist, John Newton.

Unfortunately, slavery is a cultural universal. Slavery was practiced throughout the ANE and elsewhere, by Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians, Greeks and Romans, Arabs, Africans, Chinese, Japanese, East Indians, North American and Meso-American Indians, to name a few.

Men of European descent have done more to abolish slavery around the world than any other people-group.

The "Inspiring Story" of Induction into the Loser's Club

An Inspiring Story

His message is clear: Jesus is not coming. Not today. Not ever.
At 59, James Young has spent almost a decade sharing his atheist beliefs with the public, driving every Wednesday morning from his home in Lithia to set up a tent at the University of South Florida Bull Market.

Even on the coldest morning, Young is there, ready to share, and sometimes debate, his views with anyone who will listen that there is, in fact, no such being as God.

…What may surprise some of these students is that in his early adulthood, Young was an evangelical minister, preaching in churches, and even on street corners, all over Tampa.

This wonderful story came to me through a Google News alert. Though the Rotunda is the usual category for current events and topical news stories, I found this one so inspiring that I could not help posting it in the Garden, the category of positive atheism and humanism.

Is the story of a man who once (supposedly) had hope for meaning in life and later came to believe that there is, in fact, no meaning in life really “wonderful”? Is it really “inspiring”? Inspiring to do what? The author of this post almost sounds like a religious zealot for the cause of secular humanism. This author found this story so “inspiring” that he simply could not help but share it. But, honestly, what is the point? Who is he helping by propagating the notion that life as we know it is a biological accident? What is the gain in telling devoted Christians the lie of “Jesus is not coming. Not today. Not ever”? What is there to applaud about someone who once (supposedly) believed that there was a sovereign God in control of the universe who later found out that the fact that he even has a mind is the result of random causality, and that any legitimate connection with any other biological formation in this universe pointless at best? The atheistic cause is a loser’s cause. If you are an atheist, and you’re wrong, you lose (and you lose badly). But if you are an atheist, and you’re right, you still lose! Is the testimony that one more mass of cells commonly called a “human” joined the loser’s club really all that inspiring?

It’s much like the child who grew up thinking he had loving parents but later found out that he was a “mistake.” Would atheists applaud that as an “inspiring story”? You see, given the atheist worldview, it becomes obvious why human life is so expendable to them. Human life was just an accident, a byproduct of a universe gone haywire.

Why, then, do these religious zealots of humanism become so excited over the fact that one more poor mass of cells hit the brick wall of what is, to them, reality? This is because humanism, as a worldview, is simply a religion of anti-religion. Atheism is not anti-religious in the sense of not being a religion. No, atheism is certainly a religion of its own, with its sacraments of hyper-tolerance and its sins of calling someone a sinner. But atheism, as Steve has elsewhere noted, is a religion for overgrown children. It is for those who have never left the shadow of their fathers, and are so desperate to spite their religious traditions that they will even call the testimony of doom “inspiring.” Deconversion stories, which rip meaning from the hearts of the apostates, are simply one more way for humanists to “stick it to the man” of the institution of the church. We have even seen that here, just in the name “Debunking Christianity.” Loftus, for instance, may have left the faith, but he has not left its shadows. Its truth still haunts him. That is why he works at the purposeless effort of destroying believers. Christians evangelize in obedience and from a heart of burden for the loss. But what motivates the “evangelism” of John Loftus? Might I suggest that it is the stain the church has left on him? It certainly isn’t to give any hope to those who are at his listening end!

Suppression of the truth is certainly a laborious task, but for the mind set on the flesh, it is not a difficult one.

Evan May.

Mother Church or Bride of Christ?

Metaphors are powerful. They are the engines of poetry. The Bible is full of theological metaphors.

Metaphors are powerful because the sensible world is, at one level, a cosmic metaphor for a moral order. Earthly particulars and relations signify spiritual particulars and relations.

A fundamental feature of catholic piety is the maternal metaphor for the church. This exerts the force of a master metaphor. It conditions and controls the way the Catholic, Anglo-Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglo-Orthodox think about the church and their relationship to God.

What’s striking is that Scripture itself never models the church along the lines of maternity. If you already accept this metaphor, then you may read it into certain verses, but in terms of grammatico-historical exegesis, the Bible never depicts the church as our mother.

What is more, this extra-biblical metaphor has come to displace and efface what is a Scriptural metaphor for the church, which is the bride of Christ (Mt 9:15; 25:1-13; Mk 2:19; Lk 5:34-35; Jn 3:29; Eph 5:25; Rev 19:7).

Both metaphors are feminine, but with a considerable difference.

The mother/son relationship is an essentially childish relationship. Of course, the emotional bond remains throughout life. And we retain certain filial obligations. But the bond is formed in childhood—even in the womb. It is a relation of dependence.

Raphael’s many paintings of the Madonna and child perfectly capture the sentiment. And it’s no coincidence that in Catholicism, the maternal metaphor is systematic: Mother Church, Mary as the Mother of God, Mary as the Mother of the Church. This even subordinates Christ to Mary, which accounts for the efficacy of her intercession.

Normally, when men grow up, they leave home and form an emotional attachment with a woman other than their mother. They take a wife. That is certainly the Biblical pattern.

There are exceptions, but that’s the natural order of things when nothing interferes.

The husband/wife relationship is an essentially adult relationship. It is a classic rite of passage, of emotional maturity.

This also involves an emotional shift. The man still loves his mother, but his wife now occupies first place in his affections. His allegiance is to her over and above his own mother, just as her allegiance is to him over and above her own father.

He looks at this new woman, not as his mother, but as the mother of his children.

And, in terms of male headship, there is also, in some measure, a relation of dependence, but in this case the roles are reversed. The male is no longer dependent on the female, as in a mother/son relationship. Rather, the husband is the guardian of the wife.

In Catholicism, a Christian never comes of age. He is perpetually a momma’s boy, tied to the apron strings of Mother Church.

When church fathers like Cyprian began to maternalize the church, they were introducing a very far-reaching distortion into Christian piety.

Yet another problem with this metaphor is that it’s a singular metaphor. That, of itself, is not a problem unless, as is commonly the case, Christians forget that this is, after all, just a metaphor.

We only have one mother, but the church is a corporate entity, comprising the Lord and his elect.

There is, therefore, no one time or place to find the church. No one place to look. Rather, you find the church wherever you find believers, for you also find the Lord wherever you find his people.

Ex post facto

Although there are bigger issues, it looks like we need to set the record straight once more:

In Exbeliever’s version of events:


In spite of the blazingly clear statement that John was adding to my post, steve (a village idiot):

1) attributes the comment to me--"posted by exbeliever"


No, I didn’t attribute the comment to exbeliever, but to the post or poster (if you prefer). Indeed, it wasn’t even my own attribution. That was a direct copy/paste from his own post. I simply excerpted the relevant material.

“posted by exbeliever” was itself posted by exbeliever.

Only a “moron” or “village idiot” or “crap-brain” like exbeliever could miss the “the blazingly clear” referent.


2) writes some response to John's comments (that I didn't bother to read), and says, "So that, Exbeliever, is the proper exegesis of these verses."


Yes, since I’m responding to something on his post. The post goes under his name. He is the responsible author.

If exbeliever has a complaint, he should redirect his complaint to Loftus. Loftus was the one who hijacked exbeliever’s post instead of doing his own post. I’m not responsible for the editorial and administrative screw-ups at Debunking Christianity.

And, of course, his whole exercise is a diversionary tactic to distract attention from the substantive comments which he is impotent to rebut. Cute decoy, but the rubber ducky doesn't look like the real quarry.

Ahistorical theology


I have been keeping an eye on the debates over at the Founders Blog, revolving around the stated views of Dr. Ergun Caner (the Dean of Liberty Theological Seminary). To be honest, while as a high-predestinarian Anglican I could not be more theologically at odds with Caner’s Radical Reformation views, I find the man to be a breath of fresh air.

1. Caner is a true Baptist, who is not ashamed of his heritage. Caner is glad to admit that he is not a Catholic Christian; rather his spiritual pedigree traces back to the dissenting groups of the Radical Reformation. Whereas the Reformers saw themselves as the children of Mother Church, the Radical Reformers rejected the institutional Church, and all its connections to the kingdoms of this world. His brand of faith disavows all attempts to establish God’s kingdom in cooperation with the powers of the state. Whereas the Reformers took their cue from the Old Testament church and the monarchies of ancient Israel, Radical Reformers like Caner see the Church as a heavenly society, which appears in this world only in the form of local assemblies of baptized believers, who live separated from the world.

2. True to his theological heritage, Caner refuses to bow the knee to the “Baal” of Reformational theology, in which the Thomistic/Augustinian high predestinarianism of Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Vermigli, Bullinger and Calvin was for the most part a given in theological discourse. Rather, he openly professes a gospel which puts the burden upon the decision of the human being, who is addressed as a moral agent who is free to accept or reject the grace of God. The idea of grace operating upon the will, prior to its cooperating consent is simply foreign to Baptist theology, with its emphasis upon decisional regeneration prior to entrance into the church. This is why infant baptism makes no sense within the Anabaptist frame of reference, for the Catholic/Reformational doctrine of infant baptism presumes that grace operates efficaciously through God’s word in preaching and sacrament, prior to the human decision. Calvinism is an unnatural bed-fellow of Baptist theology, for it assumes entirely different premises about the operation of grace upon the human soul in conversion.

3. Caner understands that as a Baptist, he has a distinctly un-Reformational view of church and sacrament. Within Reformational theology, the Church is a visible kingdom of God on earth, a real society in the world, with a concrete relation to the rulers of the land (much like in ancient Israel). You can therefore enter this society objectively through the sacrament of baptism, just as a Jewish child was recognized as the object of God’s covenant promises to Israel in circumcision (Gen. 17). Water baptism is not viewed as a seal of God’s covenant and promise only to the person who has “genuine” faith (as in all forms of Baptist theology); rather it is a seal of God’s promise to any person in the land who professes the Christian faith, and to their children (though it still requires a genuine faith, which works through love, in order to be a blessing). Any person who goes through a valid marriage ceremony is in fact married, though without true commitment and love, that covenant of marriage will not convey a blessing. So it is with the sacrament of baptism in Reformational theology.

Because Caner rejects the connection between the Church and the earthly kingdoms of this world (seeing only the local church, separated from the world, as a valid earthly expression of Christ’s kingdom), and because he suspends the validity of the sacramental symbol upon the sincerity of the individual’s own commitment to God, the Reformational view of the Church is inconceivable to him. He does not recognize a true visible kingdom of Israel on earth, within which is embedded the invisible Israel of election (per Romans 9). Instead, he can only think in terms of people who have a “credible” profession of faith, and so are conditionally recognized as members of the local church if they are immersed in water, provided they do not disqualify themselves by open sin and apostasy. In which case, they simply prove that they were never “truly” members of God’s church at all, and hence were not in fact really baptized to begin with. If such a person were to be “truly” converted later in life, they would need to be baptized again.

4. Caner recognizes, much better than his so-called “Reformed” Baptist critics, that Reformed theology and Baptist theology are entirely different theological constructs. They have different views on the operation of grace (and hence different views of evangelism), the sacraments, and the nature of the visible Church itself. This is why he is openly critical of the moves which John Piper was making to have his church accept the baptisms of non-credo-baptist churches. From a consistent Baptist position, to accept into membership a person who was baptized as an infant, would be simply in effect to omit “real” baptism as a basis of church membership. That is, at the end of the day, rightly seen as inconsistent with Baptist principles. Many dissenting Anabaptist martyrs shed their blood because of their unwillingness to accept the validity of infant baptism, tied as it was to the Reformational view of the relation between the Catholic Church and the larger society. (This is why the rejection of infant baptism was seen as heresy–it strikes at the very nature of the Church, and its historical connection to the Catholic faith.) And now, when there is no such consequence, no persecution or risk of suffering at all, Baptists are being asked to accept such baptisms as a valid basis for acceptance into church membership due to an entirely different sort of pressure to conform. Namely, the desire to be accepted by their Presbyterian brethren, and to be congratulated for their contribution to unity under the Gospel. As a Baptist, Caner is entirely right to object to such a move.

In conclusion, I wish all Baptists would be as forthright and honest as Dr. Ergun Caner. You are not children of the Reformation, and hence you are not Catholic Christians (though untold multitudes of you are pious children of God). You are the offspring of a dissenting tradition which stems back to the Radical Reformation and beyond, which has always rejected what it sees as the worldly compromise between the Church and the state. And you are not Calvinists. Calvin would without question see you as dangerous schismatics, who advocate views which would logically disconnect the Church from the physical society which surrounds her (hence making any redemption of human culture impossible). Even worse, your views on baptism in effect unchurch the Catholic Church which gave birth to the Reformation. Rather than seek to reform Mother Church, Baptist theology advocates disowning her and rejecting the family inheritance. Furthermore, your rejection of infant baptism wrongly makes the sufficiency of your own faith the logically prior condition of the covenant promise, as though the promise were given on the basis of that faith, rather than your faith being created and sustained by the promise of God in His Word (whether in preaching or sacrament). “Reformed” Baptists have a soteriology which is entirely at odds with their schismatic Baptist sacramentology, which is why Caner rightly identifies them as semi-Presbyterians.

P.S. I do not deny that there are Baptists out there with a distinctly Catholic spirit, such as Timothy George, D. H. Williams and Wyman Richardson. But to the extent that they express that Catholicity, they are in fact rejecting, rather than promoting, the distinctives of their Anabaptist heritage. Of course, I can only rejoice in that.


Owen, as usual, piles on one confusion after another.

1.The question at issue is not is not the Baptist tradition in general, or the Anabaptist tradition in general, but the Southern Baptist tradition in particular, as represented by such early spokesmen as Dagg and Boyce.

2.You can also be certain that whatever else the S. Baptist tradition originally represented, it did not represent Fundamentalism, since that was a later development.

3.Owen dehistoricizes historical theology. For him, it’s all about abstract ideas rather than historical development.

He treats historical theology symmetrical and reversible, so that any later stage is interchangeable with an earlier phase.

Hence he takes the history out of the history of ideas. Removes the arrow of time. For him, historical theology is omnidirectional. It runs backwards as easily as forwards.

By his logic, astronomy is the same thing as astrology, since astronomy has its historical roots in astrology.

By his logic, chemistry is the same thing as alchemy since chemistry has its historical roots in alchemy.

All we get from Owen is the genetic fallacy writ large, as if you can collapse an idea into its historical antecedents, and then dismiss the position, not on its own grounds, but on whatever you oppose in the antecedent position.

This is exceptionally shoddy logic, but we’ve come to expect shoddy logic from Owen. That’s his hallmark.

4.The issue with Caner is whether he even understands the opposing position as well as understanding the history of the SBC.

5.Owen also has a habit of treating “Reformed” and “Reformational” as synonymous, and then opposing both to the Baptist and Anabaptist traditions. But this is a transparent fallacy of equivocation.

6.What about the sacramental theology of Zwingli and Bullinger?

7. Calvin would without question see an Anglo-Catholic like Owen as a dangerous idolater.

8.Once again, Owen acts as if we need parental permission from a grown-up like Calvin or Bucer or preferably the Holy Father to believe what we do.

We need a permission slip from mommy or daddy to leave an apostate church.

9.One doesn’t have to be a Reformed Baptist to believe in immediate regeneration. For example, Kuyper believed in immediate regeneration rather than mediate regeneration. Was he a Baptist or—horror of horrors!—a closet Anabaptist?

10.I rather doubt that all the Popes, beginning with Leo X, who excommunicated the Protestant Reformers and their followers, would agree with Owen that the Catholic church gave birth to the Reformation. I daresay they’d flatly deny paternity—or should I say, maternity?

11.It is true that we disowned such priceless family heirlooms as Purgatory, penance, indulgences, the Mass, and the cult of the saints. What a loss!

Separating the men from the boys

Thus saith the exbeliever:

“Okay, this is definitely the LAST time I am dealing with you guys.”

Wow, I don’t know if Evan, Gene and I can cope with the emotional withdrawal symptoms if exbeliever carries through with his threat of suspending the inestimable privilege of “dealing” with us. In the psychiatric literature, this is known as PTDD (Post-Traumatic-Debunking Disorder).

I better stock up on beer to drench my sorrows and numb the pain.

Gene, Evan: Should I buy an extra six-pack or two for you guys while I’m down at the 7-11?

“So, I'm supposed to trust your exegesis of passages, when you miss the biggest freakin' red letters on the planet that say, "The following is added by John..." [That's John Loftus, not exbeliever] and then go on to attribute the whole thing to me? You address all of your comments to me when I didn't write anything that you quoted.

It's called reading, my friends. I'm afraid that this is typical of your intellectual abilities.”

Ah, yes, reading comprehension. Let me walk you through the process, exbeliever.

You do a post. The post is later amended. The addendum is by Loftus, but it’s not a separate post. Rather, it’s stuck on to your original post as an extension of your initial argument.

That’s called a collaborative effort. You and he coauthored this post.

If you don’t like it, then you should delete it and repost your original sentiments.

The “red-letter” words are attributed to Loftus, but the post is attributed to you. We can attribute it to either of you since that comes from the composite authorship of the post itself.

So, yes, it’s called reading, exbeliever. I’m afraid this is typical of your intellectual abilities.

“So, am I going to get an admission of a mistake?!”

Well, ordinarily I don’t admit other men’s mistakes for them, but since you insist, yes, it was a mistake for you to let Loftus amend your original post.

I completely sympathize with your plight. If I were in your situation, I’d want to put distance between myself and his addendum as well.

It’s bad enough to be personally liable for the faulty reasoning of the original post--twice as bad to be held responsible for the faulty reasoning of your coauthor.

But that’s the price you pay for working on a chain-gang. If one goes over the cliff, they all go over the cliff.

In future I’d advise you and he to post separately so that you two don’t sink under the multiplied weight of each other’s incompetence.

Either that or you can always amend his amendment by adding a disclaimer of your own, something along the lines of:

“To whom it may concern: don’t blame me for all the dumb things that John says in this post, and don’t blame John for all the dumb things I say in the very same post. We demand our individual intellectual property rights for the division of laborious ineptitude.”

Thus saith the Loftus:

“And look how they can sidestep what the Bible says. Isn't that interesting when it doesn't suit them. I suppose someone could also say that only those who have never heard of the gospel need to hear it too. Since we've heard it, they don't need to tell us about it. Or, the command to love others only applies to those who know nothing about the gospel too.”

What we did was to interpret 1 Peter in context. Notice that Loftus hasn’t said anything at all to challenge our contextual exegesis.

“Gerrymandering. That's what I've seen so often from Christians who want to justify most anything they want to. And as we look down through the history of the church they have indeed done just that.”

And as we look down through the history of infidelity, we see unbelievers who justify most anything they want to: the Holocaust, the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, the legal fiction of a Constitutional right to abortion, the Maoist and Stalinist purges, the mass graves of the Baathist party, &c.

“But to think that the NT contains different and even contradictory approaches to handling unbelievers is something they would never think of accepting.”

i) Notice how Loftus is unable to think straight for three brief, consecutive paragraphs. In the first two paragraphs he accuses Gene and me of “sidestepping” or “gerrymandering” 1 Peter. Of interpreting the verses about apostates and false teachers in a manner inconsistent with 1 Peter.

So the implication of this charge is that all these passages are ultimately harmonious, and it is only by “sidestepping” 1 Peter and “gerrymandering” the NT as a whole that we can draw a distinction.

But now, in the third paragraph, he attributes “different” and even “contradictory” approaches to the handling of unbelievers.

Yet, in that case, Gene and I were not misinterpreting either 1 Peter or the other verses. We rightly interpret each set of verses on its own terms (occasion, audience, life-setting).

ii) John’s simple-minded exegesis notwithstanding, there is no contradiction here.

It’s fine to treat everyone the same all other things being equal, but unbelievers do fall into distinct classes.

There are unbelievers who oppose the faith out of sheer prejudice and ignorance.

That was true back then, and that is true today.

There are also unbelievers who have extensive exposure to the faith, and knowingly turn their back on the faith.

That was true back then, and that is true today.

When we apply Scripture to a contemporary situation, that’s an argument from analogy. And, yes, it’s an elementary feature of an argument from analogy that the analogue is, indeed, analogous.

Sorry, John, to treat you to a remedial course in rudimentary logic. I realize that intellectual sophistication is not a prerequisite for apostasy. But if you’re going to engage a Christian epologist, you’ll have to come up to our level, unless you’d rather have us talk down to you all the time—which, I admit—you do make unavoidable much of the time.

And since, as I’ve said before—try hard to pay attention this time, the modicum of intellectual effort would be good mental discipline for you—there are aggravating degrees of guilt corresponding to ascending degrees of knowledge, witting rebellion, and culpable ignorance, the NT does, indeed, have a different policy for apostates and false teacher than it has for those with no Christian background.

I understand that these distinctions may be hard for you to grasp at first, but if you apply yourself, then with bit of practice the light-bulb may actually switch on. I apologize if Gene and I overestimated you. We can always retrace our steps and go as slowly as you need on this.

Debunking Christianity started out with this high-minded pose of pseudointellectualism. But as soon as Gene or Evan or Paul or Walton or I exert a wee bit of rational hull-pressure on your bubble of unbelief, the cerebral tone vanishes while you and exbeliever throw a temper tantrum and reduce the level of discourse to a cussing contest.

I have news for you. The blogosphere is not for sissies. If you thought you could take cheap shots at the Christian faith without return fire, you were sadly mistaken.

If you’re going to bawl like a bunch of cry-babies because you can’t rise to the intellectual challenge, then you’d best pack up your toy soldiers and go home while the big boys pick up the intellectual tab.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The twice-dead


And while you're exegeting my statement, try properly exegeting these verses:

12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. 13 For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14 or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. [I Peter 1:12-17]

9 Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; 11 let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. [I Peter 3:9-16]

I don't have to follow this advice, but with only a few exceptions I think I do much better than they do at following it, and I don't claim to have the Holy Spirit helping me either.

posted by exbeliever


Although this question was directed at Evan, I’ll add my two cents’ worth.

In context, the passages from Peter refer to the way in which 1C Christians should treat their 1C pagan neighbors who have no prior background in the Christian faith.

As such, they have no bearing on the present kerfuffle. So that, Exbeliever, is the proper exegesis of these verses.

There are, however, quite a few verses which do have a direct bearing on the current kerfuffle—those dealing with apostates and false teachers. Just to give you a little flavor of the tone taken towards this category of individuals:

Acts 8 (New International Version)

20Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."

1 Timothy 1 (New International Version)

8We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Hebrews 10 (New International Version)

26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

2 Peter 2 (New International Version)

1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.

Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.

13They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness.

17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."

Jude 1 (New International Version)

3Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

5Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

8In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" 10Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.

11Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion.

12These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

14Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." 16These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

The humanist manifesto


Bruce said...

I see now. Religion isn't about finding "truth" in our universe and explaining the mysteries of life. Rather, it is a security blanket to make you feel good when things aren't going your way. Just like when mommy used to kiss your scraped knee to make if feel better.

I think this guy was weaned way too early as a child.


For folks who flaunt the intellectual superiority of humanism, some of these guys seem a wee bit slow on the uptake.

To begin with, this was not about my (Christian) worldview, but about the (secular) worldview of Loftus & Co.

Loftus & Co. feel that we T-bloggers have failed treat them with the dignity due them.

The problem with this complaint is that, on their own worldview, human beings have no natural dignity.

I guess we need to catechize our junior novitiates in the solemn creed of humanism, issued by the First Council of Thanatos.

In the original, it reads as follows:


Ortus, concubitus, nex.

Ad extremum nos es totus mortuus.

Primoris vos intereo, tunc vos putesco.

Roughly translated, this means:


Birth, copulation, death.

In the long run we’re all dead.

First you die, then you rot.

With that in mind, take a little stroll with me through the cemetery of humanism. Just across the fence is the churchyard. There lie the mortal remains of Charles Wesley. This epitaph we find on his tombstone:

Charles Wesley

Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave?
Made like him like im we rise,
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

One plot over, on the other side of the fence, is the grave of David Hume. This is what we find on his tombstone, with an arrow pointing back to Charles Wesley.

David Hume

<--He was wrong,
I was right

Continuing our guided tour, we find a similar epitaph pointing back to Hume:

Charles Darwin

<--He was right

Continuing our guided tour, we find a similar epitaph, pointing back to Darwin:

Friederich Nietzsche

Continuing our guided tour…

<--He was right

Sigmund Freud

<--He was right

Bertrand Russell

<--He was right

W. V. Quine

<--He was right

Richard Dawkins

<--He was right

From the standpoint of humanism, what earthly difference does it make, once you’re pushing up daisies, who had the last word? For in the long run, the grim reaper has the final word.

What will it matter to you, six feet under, that you got it right? How are you any better off than old Charles Wesley? Are your maggots better than his maggots?

Humanism is a creed for maggots.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that my faith is a security blanket to make me feel good when things aren't going my way. Just like when mommy used to kiss my scraped knee to make if feel better, how is Bruce’s maggoty creed any improvement over my Christian creed?

Who is he trying to impress? The mortician?

He uses language like this to shame and belittle the Christian, but at the end of the day, what does it matter, from his viewpoint, whether the corpse espoused a childish creed or a stiff-upper-lippity creed?

Actually, Bruce is the overgrown child, literally dying to please Daddy Dawkins, Momma Chomsky, and the undertaker.

As I’ve also said more than once, but apparently Bruce is a tad too dense for the point to sink in, consequences are not a reason to choose one belief-system over another, but they are a reason not to crow over a losing proposition, and they are a further reason to investigate a more promising creed.

Boy, That Was Easy!

Loftus does me the favor of debunking himself in one line. First, the comment from Oliver:

When someone who formerly confessed Christ now openly rejects Him, all it proves is that they never knew Him. They were false professors, clouds without water, tares among the wheat. If they had been true believers they would have remained (1 John 2:19).

Loftus replies:

Oliver, That’s just one of many of your delusions.

One of his delusions? Oliver is delusional when he states that you never knew God? Why? Because you did know God? So he does exist? Boy, that was easy!

No, Oliver is not delusional, not in accordance with either of our worldviews. It is safe to say that, from both of our perspectives, you never knew God. Who’s the delusional one, pal?

Loving our own

Apparently my comments on Dillard and Longman have fired up the discussion boards.

There’s a natural, if chauvinistic, tendency to love our own. When one of our own publishes a book, we let our guard down.

So, if, for example, Dillard and Longman take the same positions on higher critical issues as Fuller faculty, then we give them a pass although we’d be quite hostile if the same book were written by Fuller faculty.

I don’t share this double standard. If anything, we should hold our own to a higher standard, not a lower standard.

As most of us know, when Princeton went liberal, Westminster was founded as the conservative antidote.

To the extent that Westminster faculty have come to espouse the same views as those of the Princeton faculty, whom the founding faculty of Westminster opposed, it's subject to the very same indictment.

I'm not making a general statement about the faculty at Westminster. Poythress, for example, is a true-blue conservative.

But the problem is larger than Enns. If what Enns is writing is tolerated, then the problem is larger than one faculty member.

If you compare E. J. Young's OT introduction with the Dillard/Longman work, or with the book by Enns which I reviewed, it is obvious that Dillard/Longman and Enns have pretty much capitulated to the historical-critical method. To Wellhausen and his contemporary counterparts.

They're not as radical as, say, James Barr. Liberalism is incremental. But we've been down the same road many times before. We know where it ends. And they’ve already gone too far--even if they don't go the distance.

Of course, whether this trend is objectionable or not depends entirely on one's own view of Scripture. There are folks who will defend Dillard/Longman and Enns because they share their same low view of Scripture, and want to see that become the norm.

When a man is sowing seeds of doubt into the hearts and minds of seminarians, I think it's good that he dies prematurely, the sooner the better, to lessen the direct damage and the collateral damage.

If I’d substituted “Wellhausen” for “Dillard,” would anyone object to my thanking God for removing Wellhausen from the scene?

But if Dillard takes the same position as Wellhausen, then his person is sacrosanct.

Well, I beg to differ.

If anything, the enemy within does more damage than the enemy without. And a good man can do more harm than a bad man.

Should I not thank God for what he did? Was God wrong to do what he did?

Many prayers in Scripture are prayers to God to remove an enemy of the faith, and when their petitionary prayers are answered, they offer up prayers of thanksgiving.

I agree with O. Palmer Robertson, who was, himself, a professor at Westminster, in his concluding remarks on Dillard and Longman:

“It is not a light thing to recite the testimony of the Lord and his gospel writers and then to brush their uniform witness aside as though it were irrelevant to issues of faith and life today. Numerous ecclesiastical communities that have accepted negatively critical perspectives on questions such as the authorship of Isaiah have, within a generation or two, ended in bankruptcy regarding matters of faith and morals,” The Christ of the Prophets (P&R 2004), 235.

The Right to Justice

Check out the campaign, sign the petition, spread the word:


According to Bethrick:

“Though I have not read all of Steve’s opinion pieces, I’ve not found anything in what I have read of them that I would call “rigorous counterarguments.” Indeed, it’s not at all clear to me what it is he thinks he is trying to prove, other than that he has deep resentment for John Loftus for some reason. When I first discovered Triablogue some months ago, I was looking forward to reading at least somewhat interesting material since I thought James Anderson was associated with it, and from what I can tell James tends to focus on issues rather than on personalities.”

i) There’s no doubt that Dr. Anderson moves in a higher orbit than I. I’m a tuna wagon to his Lamborghini.

One of the privileges of team blogging is that I get to recruit some folks who are way more talented than me. I’m just a pitch-hitter until the A-team takes up the bat. Then I’ll be happy to watch the action from the dugout.

ii) That said, I focus on issues and personalities alike where Debunking Christianity is concerned precisely because Loftus and his crew focus so much attention on their own personalities. If they are going to make their personal testimony such a large part of their case against the faith, then it’s only fair game to reply in kind.

iii) But they don’t respond to my issue-oriented pieces either. They prefer to characterize what I’ve written instead of quoting and rebutting what I’ve written.

And they characterize what I’ve written in very ad hominem terms even as they loudly profess to deplore ad hominem tactics.

I’ve mounted a two-pronged counteroffensive in which I respond to them on their own turf, whether in issue-oriented pieces or ad hominem pieces.

According to Exbeliever:

“Here is what he's posted so far: Why does John Loftus ask so many dumb questions?, Debunking Loftawful bunk, Social conditioning, Exbrainer, To the ends of the earth, God can damn well damn anyone he damn well pleases, Autobiographical Atheism, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Loser's Club, Baby Atheism.”

Actually, Exbeliever missed a couple of beats:

According to Loftus:

“Walton…You're shameless, but that's what I've come to expect from Christians and one of the many reasons I'm not one anymore.”

i) Actually, Walton is one of the few Christian bloggers I’m aware who’s taken on Debunking Christianity. For this he is to be commended when so many other bloggers choose to sit out the fight.

And he has a lot of another good stuff on his blog. Check it out.

ii) In addition, Loftus, as well as Exbeliever, still labor under the flattering illusion that they are entitled to deferential treatment.

But they do not deserve our respect either as a matter of Christian ethics or secular ethics.

a) To begin with, I have a simple rule: I give respectable arguments a respectful hearing while I treat disreputable arguments with disdain.

b) Secularism has no basis for morality. Astute unbelievers in flashes of momentary candor, like Mackie, Russell, Kai Nielsen, and Quentin Smith, admit this.

So if we were to treat Loftus et al. according to a secular worldview, then we could treat them anyway we please.

They lack the courage of their convictions. They talk atheism, but they don’t walk atheism.

c) As to Christian ethics, we are not dealing here with some know-nothing teenager or confused collage student whose view of the Christian faith is based on hostile, thirdhand sources.

Someone like that should be gently corrected and patiently instructed.

BTW, I happen to know some well-informed teens and twenty-somethings. I’m talking about those with no Christian background.

No, what we are dealing with over at Debunking Christianity is hardened unbelief by those who sin in full knowledge of the light.

The Bible doesn’t treat everyone the same way. There are degrees of guilt and aggravating circumstances.

If you read what the Bible has to say about open apostates and false teachers, they come in for a very different treatment.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Baby atheism

According to John Loftus:

“We are all good people.”

God doesn’t share your opinion.

“We are all former Christians”

All nominal Christians.

“al but one a minister”

Yes, like I said, a dumping ground.

“people you would have at one time looked up to for spiritual guidance and help, wisdom and a moral example.”

Nice try, but wrong. I became a Christian by reading the Bible all by myself. When, as a young Christian, I began asking questions of the ministers I knew, I quickly discovered that I could ask questions they couldn’t answer.

Hence, I’ve always had to find my own answers by doing my own research.

“We now all agree Christianity is baseless. You may think this way in the future too”

Well, anything’s possible. It’s possible that I’m a closet reprobate. It’s only the grace of God that made me a Christian in the first place, and only the grace of God that keeps me in the faith.

However, I’ve been a Christian from my teens to middle age. In that time I’ve read all the usual objections to the Christian faith. So it would be quite a trick for you to catch me off-guard.

On an existential level, I’ve seen my share of personal suffering and family tragedy. I’ve also buried three of the four people I ever really cared about, and the fourth is likely to go sooner rather than later.

So both emotionally and intellectually, there’s nothing left, humanly speaking, to trip me up before the finish line—except my own sin.

As I said before, God, and God alone, is the only one who keeps me from straying.

“and when you do, you'll remember us, just like we remember the infidels we argued with when we were believers like you.”

If I were ever to become an apostate, the camaraderie of other apostates would have all the value of one death row inmate giving a pep talk to another death row inmate.

“We have arguments that when taken together cumulatively show your faith is wrong headed.”

What you have is a flotilla of leaky little dinghies that are just as leaky when taken together or considered separately. They’re taking on water and sinking beneath the waves.

We’ve responded to your all arguments as they come up.

And if, for the sake of argument, my faith is wrongheaded, what difference does that make? In that event, you and I will share a common oblivion. In the long run, you are no better off for being right than I am for being wrong. Once we’re dead it’s as if we were never alive.

“We treat our opponents better than you do here on the web.”

That’s subject to interpretation.

I generally write two types of essays. The first type is academic in style, giving a position a high-and-dry treatment. Nine times out of ten, this sort of essay is ignored.

The second type is more satirical. Nine times out of ten, this sort of essay provokes a response.

If you don’t care for the barbed humor, you could always try your hand at the first type of essay.

Incidentally, guys like you are not entitled to a kid-glove treatment. If you kept your doubts or disbelief to yourself, or shared them in private, this could be handled in a more pastoral manner.

When, however, you launch a public attack on the faith from the platform of your former faith, especially as a one-time minister, then you forfeit the kinder-gentler approach that would be accorded someone who, for whatever reason, lost his faith, but didn’t try to drag everyone down with him into the whirlpool.

A lifeguard will do his level-best to rescue a drowning man—unless, that is--the drowning man tries to drown his rescuer.

If you want to go down with the ship, be my guest. If you want to take others with you, I’ll give you no quarter.

“That fact alone is very interesting to me, as evidenced by this post I'm commenting on.”

Actually, the fact that you comment on this sort of post rather than my more substantive critiques is quite revealing as to your inability to address rigorous counterarguments.

“Keep it up. Show yourselves and your faith to be exactly what we have come to believe about it.”

Once again, you’re firing blanks. If atheism is true, it has no payoff. All loss, no gain.

If you choose to spite yourself, that’s your problem, not mine. If you’re right, you lose by winning. If you’re wrong, you lose by losing. Either way, you lose.

If I’m wrong, I have nothing to lose. If I’m right, I have everything to gain.

This is not, of itself, a reason to believe in something, but it is a reason not to invest all one’s time and effort in a losing proposition.

I’m a natural-born cynic. I’ve always been a cynic. I was a cynic before I became a Christian, and I’ve remained a cynic.

I’m much too cynical for your humanistic happy-talk. I was too cynical for humanism even when I was an unbeliever.

It is not merely as a believer that I hold you in contempt. I can dust off my old unbelieving uniform from the attic and hold you in equal contempt.

I can run to your right both as a believer and an unbeliever. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. You’re just canon fodder.

You and Exbeliever flirt with unbelief, like riding the rollercoaster in the amusement park. It’s safe for you to toy with atheism because you enjoy the cushion of a nominally Christian culture to soften the fall. You play at atheism from the shadow of the steeple.

But left to its own devices, infidelity turns cannibalistic and eats it own alive. There’s no padding. No railing. No safety bar. It’s all rollercoaster. Sheer speed and dizzy altitude converging on a splatter point below.

You and Exbeliever get all weepy when we slap your fingers with a ruler. Reread what I posted by Quentin Smith. If you stare atheism square in the face, with glint-eyed honesty, it’s all pins and needles, broken glass and razor wire. No safety net. No security blanket. No tummy rubs or back pats.

P.H. Mell and John L. Dagg Vs. Ergun Caner -Paige Patterson-HyperCalvinistic Baptizer-The Rise of Romanism in the SBC?

The anti-Calvinist rhetoric of Ergun and Emir Caner at the Founders blog has generated the stuff of which legends are made this past week. Ergun Caner's refusal to discuss the issues like a sane man is generating even more dialogue. Add to that Michael Spencer's excellent series on this, Joe Thorn's blog entries, those entries by dogs at Fide-O, and our own Calvinist Gadfly, myself and Evan. I'm sure the Caners are quite pleased with themselves.

Perhaps we shouldn't expect so much of Ergun Caner in particular. He claims to be an Amyraldian. However, since Amyraldianism really does subscribe to all but limited atonement, we have to wonder how firm a grasp he has on Amyraldianism. In Amyraldianism the decree to elect is after the decree of the atonement, but the decrees are themselves executed before creation, so the atonement is ultimately never intended/effectual for all people anyway. This is basic theology of which he seems quite ignorant. An Amyraldian would have no logical reason to object to Calvinism. Apparently, Caner believes general atonement sets him apart and he can redefine the other 4 doctrines into things they have never meant until folks like Norm Geisler and Dave Hunt have redefined them and still claim the moniker.

One of the Caner's needs to debate these issues. As it stands now, they interact with their opponents exactly Islamic apologists interact with Christians. Their behavior only damages their testimonies.

(1) Theologically, Reformed theology has a highly developed theology of the concept of the “covenant” which the decrees underwrite. I find it disturbing that two Christian men from Muslim backgrounds are arguing against this fundamental concept. Reformed theology is, conceptually, the most Jewish of the Protestant theologies. It smacks of simmering background issues in these two mens’ lives. For the sake of their growth in Christ, they must confront these issues.

(2) They repeat the charge of “fatalism” v. Reformed theology. IMO, this comes from their background as well, as Islam teaches fatalism. Ergo, when they see Reformed theology’s doctrine of providence, they conflate with Islamic fatalism. Ergo, the charge. Again, they need to confront these issues for the sake of their walk with the Lord. It is a sin to equate biblical theology with paganism, even if that is your own background.

(3) The charge has been made that Beza influenced Calvinism with scholasticism. They need to be confronted with the fact that the Arminianism which they espouses was *also* articultated through scholastic categories, in fact moreso. Moreover, the confessions are all infralapsarian, not supralapsarian, so it is difficult to see how Beza’s supralapsarianism overly influenced Dort or later groups, when Dort was infralapsarian. Moreover, Dort is not the sum and substance of Reformed theology. By far the majority of Reformed theology, esp. in the modern age, is exegetical, not merely confessional, particularly in Reformed Baptist circles.

If we really want to discuss historical theology, then let it be known that the doctrines to which Ergun Caner has subscribed have historically led to Socinianism and liberalism among Baptists. If monergistic regeneration makes a man a robot and is impossible, then those who wrote Scripture were all "robots" and Caner has no logical reason to affirm inerrancy. If Caner traces his history through heterodox groups like certain Anabaptists whose Christology was, how shall we say, inventive or worse yet through Paulicans, Bogomils and others, then we have a theory of church history quite willing to set aside orthodoxy for the sake of tracing a lineage through rebaptism. This logically leads to a-historical theological views and theological liberalism. After all, if we can set aside Christology for example, why not the gospel, epistemology, and the rest?

(4) Apropos 3, they have made particular claims about Baptist history and Southern Baptist history in particular which are demonstrably false. They have publicly charged Founders Ministries with "rewriting Baptist history." On this, I would like to see Tom Nettles and Emir Caner debate. Emir apparently thinks he and his brother’s book of biographical essays and their companion volume on their presidential addresses qualifies them as authorities on Baptist history in the Convention. From a publication standpoint, they are publishing out of their field, since most of their work has been vs. Muslim apologetics. It's also rather ironic that they would affirm a view of Baptist history more in common with Bill Leonard and Walter Shurden, men who they wouldn't let near their respective academic institutiions with a ten foot pole vs. Tom Nettles for example.

(5) Apropos 4, their behavior here undermines their credibility as apologists v. the Muslim community. In fact, I would say their behavior here is exactly like that of many Muslim apologists in both tenor and content. When an apologist like Dave Hunt misrepresents Reformed theology ad infinitum, it undermines his credibility as an apologist vs. the RCC or any other group. The same can be said of the Caners with respect to Muslims if they continue down this path.

(6) These issues are fundamental to the understanding of the gospel and they way we do evangelism and grow churches. Remember, Ergun has explicitly appealed to baptism numbers of these large SBC churches…the very ones that can’t get half of their members into church on Sunday and have large member to baptism ratios that are embarrassing to the denomination.

From John L. Dagg’s Manual of Theology:

“While men regard the call of the gospel as an invitation which they may receive or reject at pleasure, it accords with their state of mind to institute the inquiry, whether God is sincere in offering this invitation: but when they regard it as a solemn requirement of duty, for which God will certainly hold them accountable, they will find no occasion for calling His sincerity in question.”

The objection to the latter, if thoroughly analyzed, will be found to contain in it some lurking idea that it is safer to trust in something else than in God’s absolute mercy.. As such lurking trust is dangerous to the soul, the doctrine of election has a salutary tendency to deliver us from it. IT tends to produce precisely that trust in God, that complete surrender of ouserselves to him, to whihc alone the promise of eternal life is made; and if we reject the doctrine, we ought to consider whether we do not, at the same time, reject our only hope of life everlasting.

The gospel brings every sinner prostrate at the feet of the Great Sovereign, hoping for mercy at His will, and in His way: and the gospel is perverted when any terms fall short of this are of this are offered to the offender. With this universal call to absolute and unconditional surrender to God’s sovereignty, the doctrine of particular redemption exactly harmonizes.

(7) I fear if they continue on this path, P.H. Mell’s words about one of his anti-Calvinist opponents will come true.
He made it v. Russell Reneau, who made it his business to exterminate Calvinism from the earth. He was the perennial anti-Calvinist. It could easily apply to either Caner, since to be honest, most Calvinists on the internet at least had no idea who I either of them are apart from their recent behavior.

Referring to Reneau (and I would say to every anti-Calvinist I heard in recent history), Mell wrote in Predestination and the Saints’ Perseverance,

“Calvinism has never heard of him before, and if its advocates ever think of him hereafter it will never be in a connection flattering to his vanity.”

Nobody reads Reneau today. P.H. Mell is extolled by Southern Baptists of all stripes to this day.

This whole thing just spirials out of control every other day.

On top of this, I’ve been doing some research into the IMB policies and the possible reasons for indexing eternal security to a valid baptism. The new policies would state that a missionary candidate would have to be rebaptized in a church that affirms the doctrine of eternal security if he was originally baptized in a church that disaffirmed the doctrine. Keep in mind that *any* candidates going before the IMB to serve as a missionary would already be stating they affirm this doctrine by affirming the BFM 2000. Moreover, they would have to have been members in good standing at their recommending churches for no less than 3 years.

Why mention this? Well, two funny things happened to me yesterday.

First, I ran across an indepth paper by a Landmark Baptist from 1994 no less that argued this very thing. In short, it argues that baptism must be underwritten by the true gospel. Since Arminians do not have the true gospel, which the paper defines as the 5 points of Calvinism, they cannot baptize properly; and, of course, this would also infer that they aren’t regenerate, since they don’t believe the true gospel.

Second, I got a note from a friend at NOBTS last night saying he had met Paige Patterson and discussed the new policy with him. Dr. Patterson stated that he believes anyone coming from an Arminian Baptist church should be rebaptized, because “their soteriology is deficient.”

Now, the irony here is rich. Patterson is no Calvinist. He explicitly denies the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pointsof Calvinism. I would argue he redefines the first and the fifth. So, he has, conceptually, no logical reason to affirm the fifth or its cousin “eternal security.” Yet, he says he would rebaptize those coming from FWB churches because they have “deficient soteriology.” Nowthink on that, because the man who wrote that paper I found would rebaptize Patterson for the same reason!

On top of that, let’s not forget that these folks are the ones who call “Five Point” Calvinism “hyper-Calvinism” ad infinitum. Yet it is a hyper-Calvinist practice to deny a valid baptism to those coming into our churches from General Baptist Churches. The Philadelphia Association accepted the baptisms of General Baptists who became Particular Baptists without requiring they be rebapitzed. So, what we have here is at least one prominent non-Calvinist who has seemingly become at least indirectly associated with this anti-Calvinist faction in the SBC who is himself practicing hyper-Calvinist baptism with nary a word from the anti-Calvinists. What, pray tell, does this tell us about their integrity?

Then I received an email asking if I have heard about a possible resolution at the upcoming Convention in June. If this is true, then the SBC may be presented with a resolution to investigate Calvinism in the SBC and SBTS's role in promoting it.

It would be quite astounding. It would garner replies like "Shall we subject John Broadus, John L. Dagg, and James Boyce to the new Inquistion?"

All this talk of high church ecclesiology in the IMB baptism policy, the de facto appointment of SBC Presidents, the growing anti-Calvinism, the virtual agreement with Rome on the doctrine of man's ability to contribute to his salvation, conditional election, and a cooperative grace of calling (that is actually just the general call in the case of the SBC and not "grace" per se as in Rome's view) and now this resolution all smack of Rome. Those doing these things aren't too far afield. What's next? The Canons of the Council of Nashville?

The Losers Club

I see that Debunking Christianity has become a dumping ground for whiners and losers. It’s the virtual equivalent of the afternoon talk show in which a bunch of misfits sit around blaming on all their personal failings on what horrible parents they had. Or the cheatin’ boyfriend. Or the cheatin’ girlfriend.

Life is a winnowing process. Some people make a strong start, but stumble before the finish-line while others begin badly, but finish strong.

My mother is a P.K. She was the youngest of nine kids, growing up in the Great Depression.

I’m afraid that social conditioning would be hard put to explain the outcome.

Of the girls, Grace was pious from start to finish.

My mother drifted from the church for a time before returning to the faith.

Ruth is religious without being especially pious.

Vera died at the age of 3. Her dying words were: “Papa, kiss me, I’m going to Jesus.” She died a moment later.

Of the boys, Art was the most devout.

The rest were worldly to one degree or another.

Fred was a closet apostate who taught NT Greek at Anderson University.

If I were to talk about my cousins and my second cousins, the only pattern would be the same lack of a pattern.

There was a time, during in the Middle Ages, when you could be a Christian by default. When Christianity was the only wheel in town. When there was no dissenting voice.

But that age of innocence is long gone. Today, the Christian faith is a tested faith—just as it was before Constantine.

What objections have we not already heard? Infidelity has thrown everything it’s got at the Christian faith: Freud, Frazer, Bultmann, Darwin, Hume, Kant, Ayer, and Julius Wellhausen—not to mention William Rowe’s Hallmark Channel three-hanky about poor little Bambi perishing in the big bad forest fire.

It’s both odd and amusing to read the deconversion stories over at Debunking Christianity. You’d think they were Amish or something. Like something out of Shyamalan’s The Village. Had a fishbowl for a TV set. Read nothing but Little House on the Prairie growing up.

And then, when they leave the farm and see a horseless carriage for the first time in their adult lives, future shock sets in. For the very first time they discover that not everyone on the planet is Christian. Oh, the trauma! Oh, the betrayal! Oh, the disillusionment!

If only the village elders had warned us! If only we had known that there’s a whole other world out there! A world with indoor plumbing and electric lighting.

I haven’t had this much fun watching a bunch of country bumpkins since…’s like The Beverley Hillbillies, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Li’l Abner all rolled into one.

They give a whole new meaning to the word “village atheist.”

Surely this isn't a real secular website. It's a spoof, right?


Inspiration & Incarnation-2

Last year, Peter Enns, an OT prof. at Westminster in Philly, published Inspiration & Incarnation (Baker 2005). This book is an apologetic to liberalize the traditional doctrine of Scripture. Of course, Enns is far too diplomatic to put it in such blunt terms, but that’s what he’s up to.

The operating assumption of his book is that we should liberalize the traditional doctrine of Scripture because we know things to which former believers were not privy, things which force us to revise our doctrine of Scripture.

He says, for example, that “scientific investigation was not at the disposal of ANE peoples” (40), and “before the discovery of the Akkadian stories, one could quite safely steer clear of such a question, but this is no longer the case” (41).

This book comes recommended by other Evangelical scholars who call it “honest” and “refreshing.” It reflects a “maturation” of evangelical scholarship, and so on.

This, of course, tells you as much about their view of Scripture as it does about Enns’.

It’s the sort of language that’s always used to soften up the resistance.

At one time, Westminster was the flagship of Reformed seminaries. It’s still one of the top-tier seminaries.

This is not the first time that a more liberal view of Scripture has been broached by a faculty member of Westminster. Back in the 90s, Dillard and Longman issued an OT introduction which conceded to the unbelievers everything that E. J. Young had resisted.

This is all a great pity, for Enns has written a very fine commentary on Exodus. He and Longman are sufficiently conservative to be quite useful from time to time. But make no mistake: they don’t subscribe to the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, even if they cloak their true views in pious rhetoric.

I. Chapter 1

Enns begins his assault on Scripture by bringing up the Galileo affair (14). But, as I’ve argued elsewhere, there’s no reason for us to revise the traditional doctrine of Scripture on that account.

In a preemptive strike, he also dusts off the raggedly scarecrow of a “Docetic” doctrine of Scripture. Those who subscribe to the plenary inspiration and authority of Scripture are therefore guilty of the literary equivalent of a grave, Christological heresy.

Instead, he tells us, we should take a more “incarnational” view of inspiration. This is another cliché.

To begin with, the Incarnation was a unique event, sui generis.

And even if we were to derive some analogy, the hypostatic union resulted in a Savior whose teaching is infallible.

One of the fallacies in his comparison is that our doctrine of Scripture doesn’t begin and end with inspiration alone, but takes creation and providence into account as well. God is responsible for all of the human touches.

Therefore, to oppose the divinity of Scripture to the humanity of Scripture is a false antithesis. God is responsible for human nature and culture, for the preconditions of Scripture as well as the process of inscripturation.

II. Chapter 2

In this chapter, Enns discusses various archeological discoveries, such as the library of Ashurbanipal.

From this general discovery he moves to the Enuma Elish or “Babylonian Genesis.” The latter designation comes from a book by Alexander Heidel.

Enns follows Heidel in finding parallels between Gen 1 and the Akkadian myth.

One of the problems I have with this comparison is that if you actually read the full text of the Enuma Elish in Heidel’s book, there are no intrinsic, literary parallels. All that Heidel has done is to use Gen 1 as an outline, then fish out stray items from the Enuma Elish which bear, at best, a vague resemblance to something in Gen 1.

So there really are not structural or definite, conceptual parallels. This is all the result of superimposing Gen 1 onto the Enuma Elish, and seeking rather than finding parallels. They see what they are looking for because they are not looking at the text on its own terms. If they never had Gen 1 to supply the frame of reference, they’d never come up with this schema.

Next he brings up the Mesopotamian flood accounts. Here he’s on somewhat firmer footing, for in this case, the parallels are undeniable.

But there are a couple of reasons for this.

i) Genesis says that the ark came to rest in upper Mesopotamia. From there the descendents of Noah fanned out into the Mesopotamia river valley.

So wouldn’t you expect the Mesopotamian peoples, as direct descendents of Noah, to preserve a folkloric tradition of this uniquely memorable and momentous event?

ii) In addition, the flood was closer to their own time than was the date of creation.

So the Mesopotamian flood accounts in no way cast doubt on the historicity of the Biblical record.

iii) What is more, the existence of a Mesopotamia flood story is nothing new. Both Josephus and the church fathers were familiar with such a tradition from Berossus.

So why should the excavation of Ashurbanipal’s library in the 19C cause us to revise our doctrine of inspiration. This is not a novel discovery, but a confirmation of something we already knew about.

From here, Enns discusses the similarity between patriarchal customs and the Nuzi tablets.

But why should this revise our view of Scripture?

i) To begin with, this material is descriptive, no prescriptive or proscriptive. This is historical narrative. So even if the patriarchs were borrowing their common law customs from the surrounding cultures, it doesn’t follow from this that Moses was borrowing his law code from the surrounding cultures. In this material, Moses speaks as a historian and narrator, not a prophet or legislator.

Enns basically admits this on 56-57. But he’s attempting to create a cumulative effect by piling on one example after another.

ii) In addition, such parallels substantiate the antiquity of the setting. The patriarchal narratives are not the free creation of a later age. Rather, their historical setting dovetails very well with our extrabiblical sources.

One of the duplicitous features of liberalism is its double-standard with respect to evidence: If Bible stories lack corroboration, that just goes to show that the writers made up the material whole cloth, but if Bible stories enjoy corroboration, that just goes to show that the writers plagiarized their material from the surrounding cultures. So both the presence and absence of corroboration undermines the historicity of Scripture.

From here, Enns’ moves on to the Code of Hammurabi, citing parallels between this pre-Mosaic law code and the Mosaic Law.

i) Enns is very selective about what he chooses to quote. This creates the misleading impression of far more similarity than really exists. As Donald Wiseman, the late Assyriologist, has pointed out:

“A few are worded similarly to OT cases…Many of the specific cases concerning marriage, divorce and sexual offenses...have a similar approach. In other cases the offences are the same but the penalty differs…In most cases the legal treatment differs, but precise comparison with the OT is difficult since only the established fact (without supporting evidence) is given, followed by the oral judicial decision,” The Illustrated biblical Dictionary, 2:606.

Is Enns going out of his way to deceive the reader?

ii) Due to the socioeconomic commonalities of ANE culture, we’d expect to find broad similarities. The Promised Land is not Atlantis. It’s not a case of creation ex nihilo.

There are some legal parallels because the underlying conditions are similar. Roughly the same period. Roughly the same part of the world. A common climate, kinship, urban existence, rural existence,&c.

From here, Enns goes to Suzerain treaty forms. But here we’re talking about a literary genre.

No one supposes that the Bible writers invent every literary genre which they employ. Paul is a letter-writer. He didn’t invent the epistolary genre.

How is this the least bit relevant to the inspiration of Scripture?

From here, Enns informs the reader that “the stories of Israel’s early ancestors contain many well-known anachronisms, particularly the references to the Philistines, who do not arrive on the scene until several hundred years after the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,” 42).

i) Even if this were true, that is not, of itself, an objection to Mosaic authorship or the historicity of the account. For Enns is failing to distinguish between an editorial anachronism and a historical anachronism.

A later writer writing about an earlier event may well substitute a modern proper name or place-name for the original proper name or place-name because, although he is writing about earlier events, he is writing to an audience which is contemporaneous with the author, and not the event, and they know the referent by contemporaneous usage, not historical usage.

It’s anachronistic to for a historian to say the Dutch founded New York instead of New Amsterdam, but that would be an editorial rather than a historical anachronism.

ii) In addition, it is far from clear that we can speak of the “Philistines” in such monolithic terms. The Sea Peoples came in several waves.

Both explanations have been offered in the standard commentaries on Gen 21:32 (e.g., Currid, Hamilton, Waltke), as well as Kitchen in his magnum opus On The Reliability of the Old Testament, in addition to David Howard’s article on the “Philistines” in Peoples of the Old Testament World. These were all published prior to the publication of Enns’ book.

In his preface, Enns informs the reader that one of his primary purposes is to” bring together a variety of data that biblical scholars work with every day for readers who do not have firsthand familiarity with these data” (9).

This purpose statement would naturally lead the unsuspecting reader to believe that Enns is going to offer him a representative sampling of standard scholarship.

But the pattern we see emerging is, on the contrary, that Enns strictly controls the flow of information and only presents one side of the argument. In other words, Enns is not a very honest man. He cannot be trusted to tell the reader what the readersneeds to know in order for render an informed judgment on the state of the evidence. Instead, he skews the evidence.

From here, Enns makes the claim which I quoted in the first installment of this review. Both Currid and Hess deny his central claim. They deny that Moses would have been unable to write the Pentateuch. At most, Genesis was written in a cognate language or form of proto-Hebrew.

From here, Enns treats the reader to the old saw about the triple-decker universe. But there are a couple of problems with this picture:

i) It is cobbled together from bits and pieces of imagery from different books, written at different times, belonging to different literary genres. So why should we assume that Scripture was intending to present a literal and coherent cosmology?

ii) In addition, it ignores the deliberate use of sacred architecture (tabernacle, temple) to model the cosmos. In that case, the imagery is clearly figurative.

Enns also describes the triple-decker universe as the biblical “worldview” (54-55). But this is inept. Even if the Bible were committed to such a cosmology, that would not constitute a worldview. There is much more to a worldview than cosmology alone.

From here, Enns says “the laws of Exodus and Deuteronomy are not exactly the same” (59). And he will elaborate on this theme in the next chapter.

So what? Why would we expect them to be? To some extent, the laws of Exodus are adapted to the conditions of a nomadic people dwelling in the wilderness while the laws of Deuteronomy are, to some extent, adapted to the conditions of a people who are about to occupy and settle the promised land. So we would expect some degree of discontinuity as well as continuity.

How does that affect the doctrine of inspiration? Moses is a living prophet who can receive new revelation as circumstances demand. How does that force us to revise our doctrine of inspiration—especially when the age of canonical revelation is over?

III. Chapter 3

In this chapter, Enns documents examples of theological “diversity.” Of course, this word is so plastic and elastic that it can carry either a favorable or unfavorable meaning. What Enns really means is that Scripture contradicts itself, but he chooses an ambiguous word which will give himself some cover.

He appeals to Michael Fox’s liberal analysis of Ecclesiastes. This is a false lead.

A more promising direction was charted by D. M. Clemens in “The Law of Sin & Death: Ecclesiastes & Genesis 1-3,” Themelios 19 [1994), 5-8, in which—based on literary allusions to Gen 1-3 in Ecclesiastes—Clemens interprets the pessimism of Ecclesiastes in light of the Fall.

He also discussions the differences between Chronicles and Samuel-Kings. Needless to say, we expect differences between the preexilic perspective of Samuel-Kings and the postexilic perspective of Chronicles. That does not amount to a material contradiction.

It’s interesting that while Enns closes this chapter (and others) with a bibliography, he doesn’t refer the reader to Richard Pratt’s major commentary on Chronicles.

Since Enns and Pratt are both OT scholars teaching at Reformed seminaries, the omission is conspicuous.

As usual, he only tells the reader what he wants the reader to hear—only scholarship which supports a liberal view of Scripture rather than a faithful view of Scripture.

He also asserts that the OT is contradictory on the subject of monotheism: “Israel’s understanding that Yahweh alone is God must be understood within the context of the polytheistic cultures of the ANE” (98).

So the OT is not a divine self-revelation, but rather, a record of “Israel’s” understanding of God. It is not God disclosing himself to man, but man groping to grasp the nature of God. Not inspiration, from the top-down, but evolution, from the bottom-up.

Actually, it’s very easy to harmonize the phenomena. There is only one true God, but God is not the only supernatural being worshipped as God. Demonology is the animating force of idolatry.

Or is Enns going to take the radical step of saying that Scriptural angelology and/or demonology is just a domesticated form of polytheism? Does he deny the existence of angels? Of fallen angels? A personal devil? Does he regard all this as syncretistic assimilation of monotheism with polytheism?

On the question of whether God ever changes his mind, he says that, “in various places in the OT, God acts more as a character in the story…acts more humanlike than godlike” (103).

This is true. Just as Dante is the main character of his own story, God is both the storyteller and the main character.

Ontologically speaking, God subsists outside his storybook world, but when interacting with characters inside the story, he naturally relates to them on their own level.

Enns asks the reader if Scripture “gives us an accurate presentation of what God is really like (106)?

Yet this is a deeply misleading way of posing the question. Enns says: “it is not the God behind the scenes that I want to look at, but the God of the scenes, the God of the bible, how he is portrayed there” (106).

But the Bible depicts God offstage as well as onstage. God pulling the strings.

The onstage descriptions are accurate depictions of what God says and does, but to see how this fits into the big picture, you need to interpret these passages in light of the offstage depictions—to discover the hidden intent that lies behind the outward action.

IV. Chapter 4

In this chapter, Enns tries to drive a wedge between original intent and apostolic exegesis. This includes old chestnuts like Mt 2:15 and Gal 3:16, even though these are ably handed by the standard evangelical commentaries.

He also brings up Rom 11:26-27 and Heb 3:7-11. Now is not the place to address every example he puts forward. It isn’t necessary to reinvent the wheel. Read a few good commentaries.

He refers to 2 Tim 3:8 as an example of Paul’s “interpreted Bible” or the “interpretive world of which Paul was a part” (143).

But this is an overstatement. All it needs to mean is that Paul is using conventional designations, the same way we speak of “Dives” in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. We name things for ease of reference.

He also refers to 2 Peter 2:5. But Genesis doesn’t say that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. So is this a case of extra-scriptural tradition?

I don’t see why. Don’t you suppose the antediluvians would be asking Noah why he was building this immense ship on high and dry land? In answer to their mockery, don’t you suppose that Noah forewarned them of the judgment to come?

Enns also drags in the tired example of Jude 9,14-15. But Richard Bauckham, who is not an especially conservative scholar, nevertheless explains this appeal as a merely ad hominem argument. Cf. Jude & the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church (T&T Clark 1990), 225-33.

Enns brings up Acts 7:21-22. But this is simply a logical inference from the OT record.

He brings up Gal 3:19, Acts 7:52-53, & Heb 2:2-3. But there’s no need to appeal to extra-biblical tradition at this juncture.

The Angel of the Lord is very much involved with the Exodus and wilderness wandering.

He brings up 1 Cor 10. Again, though, this need be nothing more than an inspired inference from the OT record. By definition, the Sinai desert was exceedingly arid. God provided a miraculous supply of water at the beginning of the journey (Exod 17:1-7) as well as the end of the journey (Num 20:1-13).

Surely they needed water in-between, during their 40 year stint in the wilderness. And this literary envelope, in which Num 20 forms the inclusio to Exod 17, functions as a narrative hendiadys of intervening events as well.

Throughout this book, Enns is doing his best to create problems rather than solve problems. He’s rehashing the old 19C debates. Appealing to the “phenomena” to dilute the inspiration of Scripture.

Westminster seminary is a crossroads. Indeed, Enns, for one, has already chosen which fork of the road he is going down. And he is no doubt enticing and inciting his students to follow him across the same washed out bridge.

If Westminster doesn’t wish to add to the pileup of Fuller seminary, it needs to take action, and it needs to take action now. Otherwise it will become a clone of Princeton rather than its antidote.