Saturday, March 04, 2006

Justin Martyr And The Early Absence Of Infant Baptism

Paul Owen has added a paragraph to his earlier article on infant baptism. The paragraph is meant to address what I wrote about Justin Martyr. However, Paul doesn't defend his original claims about Justin. Rather, he argues that I haven't shown that Justin didn't believe in infant baptism. In my article on Justin, I explained that arguing that Justin's testimony is inconclusive isn't the same as arguing that Justin probably believed in infant baptism. Paul originally argued that Justin probably believed in the baptism of infants. If he still holds that position, why isn't he interacting with what I said about the problems with it?

Paul writes:

"Jason cites Dialogue with Trypho, 24, 28, 33, 114; and Apology I.61. These passages simply do not affect my argument whatsoever, for one simple reason–they all are addressing baptism in the context of evangelism and the conversion of unbelievers."

The credo-baptist position maintains that all of those who are baptized are "in the context of evangelism and the conversion of unbelievers". If that's the only context that Justin discusses, perhaps it's because Justin didn't believe that people are baptized in other contexts.

Remember, Paul originally argued that it's probable that Justin believed in infant baptism. Paul is no longer defending his original argument, but instead is defending the lesser argument that Justin Martyr doesn't contradict infant baptism.

Paul writes the following about the passages I cited from Justin:

"They are not addressing the subject of the baptism of infants who are born within the Church to Christian parents. That is abundantly clear in every one of these quotes."

When Paul cited chapters 19 and 43 in Justin's Dialogue With Trypho, did he show that those chapters "address the subject of the baptism of infants who are born within the Church to Christian parents"? No, he didn't.

Most of the passages I cited are dismissed by Paul with nothing but an assertion that the passages are irrelevant. But I cited the passages for more than one purpose, to address more than one issue, such as how Justin viewed the relationship between circumcision and Christianity. Even if all of the passages were about the regeneration of converts and not about regeneration in general, as Paul claims, they would still be relevant to Paul's assertion that Justin probably believed in infant baptism. Again, there are two issues here:

1.) whether it's probable that Justin believed in infant baptism

2.) whether Justin contradicted infant baptism

Saying that my citations are irrelevant to the second doesn't prove that they're irrelevant to the first.

Paul does say more about chapter 61 of Justin's First Apology than he says about the other passages I cited. He writes:

"In the quote from his Apology, I.61, Justin explicitly contrasts the free choice of baptism with the non-choice of those who are born to non-Christians, and so have been 'brought up in bad habits and wicked training.' Why on earth should we expect Justin to talk about infant baptism in the context of discussing people from outside the Church who have come to faith?"

In considering the plausibility of Paul's argument, let's first ask how likely it is that Justin Martyr would tell his audience about the baptism of people from non-Christian homes rather than addressing Christian baptism in general. Wouldn't it be more likely that Justin would want to tell his audience about Christians in general, not just one portion of the Christians who are baptized? Justin's apology is meant as a defense of Christians in general (First Apology, 1-5), so it would make more sense to address baptism in general. Paul's suggested interpretation is less natural at the outset.

Let's look at how Justin begins his comments on baptism:

"I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making." (First Apology, 61)

Who is the "we" Justin refers to? Only converts to Christianity from non-Christian homes? No, he's referring to Christians in general.

Has Paul Owen argued that infants are "made new through Christ" in baptism? Yes, he has. Justin, in contrast, associates that regeneration with people who "dedicate themselves", which wouldn't include infants. Paul would argue that Justin is only addressing people outside the church who are regenerated, but Justin doesn't add any such qualifier. Paul has to read it into the text.

Later in the same chapter, Justin explains:

"And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings."

Why would baptism in general be called "illumination", as a result of an illuminated understanding, if baptism was being applied to infants who weren't "learning these things" for their illumination? Paul could argue that Justin is applying the term "illumination" only to the baptism of non-infants, but we would have to ask what reason we have for thinking that Justin has in mind a separate category for infants.

As I said before, Justin's testimony isn't as explicit as that of a Tertullian (against infant baptism) or a Cyprian (for infant baptism), but I don't see how it can be denied that his testimony leans in the credo-baptist direction, unless we're given better reasons than Paul Owen has offered. The fact that Justin paralleled baptism with circumcision isn't sufficient reason to assume that Justin was repeatedly addressing only some baptisms when he made comments that are inconsistent with the inclusion of infants.

Paul refers to a sentence in chapter 61 of Justin's First Apology, where Justin refers to how "at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training". Paul tells us that the reference to "bad habits and wicked training" is a reference to being raised as a non-Christian. Therefore, we're told, Justin must only be addressing converts from non-Christian homes. But anybody who grows up unregenerate, and is continually being influenced by the world around him, is going to have "bad habits and wicked training" to some extent, even with Christian parents in his life. Just before this sentence Paul is focusing on, Justin quotes a passage in Isaiah and applies it to baptism. It's a passage telling the Israelites about how wicked they are and how they need to be cleansed. Isaiah was addressing circumcised children of Jewish parents, yet he refers to them as wicked and in need of cleansing.

But let's grant Paul's argument here for a moment. Even if Justin is referring to people from non-Christian homes at this point in his comments, it doesn't follow that all of his comments I cited in the First Apology are about such people.

If you go on to read chapters 65-67 of the First Apology, you see that he's describing Christian practices in general, such as prayer, the eucharist, and the reading of scripture. He's not just commenting on converts to Christianity from non-Christian homes. He's addressing Christianity in general, how Christians in general behave.

If all children were to be baptized, then a large number of people would have been baptized as infants at the time when Justin wrote. As I said before, how likely is it that Christians were baptizing all of their infants, yet Justin repeatedly chose to describe baptism in terms that would exclude infants? How likely is it that his many comments on circumcision in his Dialogue With Trypho would never address the baptizing of infants? In the writings of Justin Martyr, we have a person who frequently discusses relevant subjects, such as Christian parallels to circumcision, regeneration, baptism, and other aspects of Christian church services. Yet, he never refers to the baptism of infants. When he does discuss baptism, he repeatedly makes comments about it that would exclude infants, and he never adds any qualifiers about how infants are baptized also, under different standards.

I anticipated Paul's line of reasoning in his latest response. In my last article, I explained that a paedo-baptist could argue that Justin was only addressing converts, not all people. But all recipients of baptism are converts in some sense under the credo-baptist view. If Justin only discusses the baptism of people who come to faith after living in sin, then that's what a credo-baptist would expect. If Paul Owen wants us to believe that Justin also supported the baptism of infants, then he needs to give us more than the fact that Justin paralleled baptism with circumcision. Or, if Paul wants to change his approach by only arguing that Justin's testimony doesn't support either position on this issue, then he ought to tell us that he's changed his mind. And he ought to explain why Justin's failure to include the baptizing of infants in so many relevant contexts doesn't lean in the credo-baptist direction.

Maneuvering Around fatal Maneuvers

Vincent Cheung is back and thinks he's maneuvered around his opponent's fatal maneuvers of his apologetic method. His recent post attempts to show that those who think they've performed a "fatal maneuver" on him actually end up showing their own "stupidity."

For a while now there have been a lot of refutations put out against Cheung. Cheung has not responded, probably due to the busy life of being the worlds greatest theologian, but finally has carved out some time to respond to a couple of the critiques offered against him.

Cheung does not mention the names, nor does he provide links, of any of the people that have given these critiques so that we can cross check what Cheung says with the original, I assume he expects his readers just to take his word for it! This little detail, in and of itself, should serve to undermine the confidence Cheung's readers have in his ability to honestly assess and evaluate the arguments offered against him. Why? Well, simply put, he misunderstands, or misrepresents, the critiques leveled his way. Now, I understand that this is really not his fault. Cheung holds to occasionalism, which claims that,

"all knowledge must be immediately – that is, without mediation – granted and conveyed to the human mind by God. Thus on the occasion that you look at the words of the Bible, God directly communicates what is written to your mind, without going through the senses themselves. That is, your sensations provide the occasions upon which God directly conveys information to your mind apart from the sensations themselves." -Cheung, Systematic Theology

Therefore, upon the "occasion" of reading his critics' posts God must have communicated false information to Cheung. So, Cheung maintains his elevated status as "the best theologian in the world" while God takes the blame for not knowing how to read! Cheung has no problem with God deceiving Cheung. Cheung writes, "God causes people to believe lies as he wishes (and as Scripture teaches)..." (-Cheung, Short Answers To Several Criticisms). Thus Cheung and his followers should have no problem affirming what I've just written (that is, if God chooses to communicate my meaning to their mind. Maybe I just wrote, "Poodles eat spinach salad on Friday," how would they know otherwise! Or, maybe Cheung wrote that "God does not immediately communicate the meaning of what is written directly to the mind." How would I know otherwise?! So, maybe I am the one critiquing a straw man? It's all so very confusing). At any rate, Cheung/God has misunderstood his critiques.

Before I begin my response, though, I would like to point out some more of Cheung's schizophrenic tendencies. You see, when our (Aquascum, Hays, Sudduth, Manata) critiques were being posted Cheung gave his readers the reason he was not responding. At that time Cheung thought it saved face, now it serves to blush face. In his blog piece "Taking Time To Refute Cheung," Mr. Cheung wrote: "Nevertheless, if I ever realize that my materials are inadequate to handle a particular refutation, then of course I will take time to write a specific response." He has also stated, in that same post, he doesn't feel the need to respond unless the critique is "earth shattering." So then, since Cheung has posted a response to my critique of his view of occasionalism then I must draw the conclusion that he thought his works were inadequate to handle my refutation and, also, that he considered my critique "earth shattering." But in his latest post on the fatal maneuver he says my points were "outright stupid." He also claims that,

"The fatal maneuver of showing self-contradiction in your opponent's position can be a powerful and effective move in debate. Just make sure that the opponent's position is in fact self-refuting and that your objection does not backfire against you. See to it that this fatal maneuver is not fatal just for you. Of course, if it can backfire to show incoherence in your own position, then your position is wrong and not worth defending in the first place, as the above have shown."

My question is, how are my critiques "outright stupid" if Cheung's work was inadequate? How can something "earth shattering" be "outright stupid?" Cheung seems to think his apologetic writings are "earth shattering." Can they also be, at the same time, "outright stupid?" Also, why am I chided and chastised for not understanding Cheung's position (i.e., making sure the critique lands) when Cheung's works were "inadequate to handle the refutation?" If his works were adequate then he would not have written a response, per Cheung. So, his work is inadequate and then I am lambasted for not seeing how it doesn't apply to Cheung!? Furthermore, how can I "make sure" that the opponents position is in fact self-refuting? Do I have "control" over this? Doesn't God "immediately communicate" the meaning of what Cheung writes to my mind? This is similar to the moral dilemma determinists face. If physical and biological processes determine how we behave, then why blame a rapist? Why treat him as if he could have done otherwise? Can my "making sure" I have properly understood my opponent thwart God's desire that I will not? So, it seems a bit disingenuous to tell me to "make sure" that I understand something properly. At any rate it is not I who have misunderstood my opponent.


Since my interest is in my critique of Cheung's occasionalism, as it relates to Cheung's internalist constraint on justification, I will address that first. I will then make some comments on his other comments but leave the main defenses for those with more of a vested interest in that line of attack.

Cheung's entire response to my critique is this:


Then, there is another objection that has to do with my view on divine sovereignty, and how it relates to metaphysics and epistemology. I affirm that God must be active in facilitating and controlling all human thoughts, whether true or false, biblical or heretical. The adherents of this other school of presuppositional apologetics once again tries to perform a fatal maneuver against me. They suggest that according to my view, I could be deceived in affirming my view. First, this is just outright stupid, since the Bible says that God can send evil spirits to convince people of error. So no matter how it happens, God is the one who decrees that someone would be deceived. Second, they demonstrate that they really have no idea how to perform this fatal maneuver, since it again backfires against them. If I am deceived in the way that the objection suggests (that is, by my own explanation of how one comes to believe falsehood), then it actually proves my position. If I am deceived in the way that I say one is deceived, then I am in fact not deceived. To illustrate, if God sends a demon to "deceive" someone into thinking that God does not send demons to deceive, then God does send demons to deceive. Likewise, if God causes me to believe the "falsehood" that it is God who causes one to believe falsehood, then God does cause one to believe falsehood, and I am in fact not deceived. In other words, my position cannot be demonstrated as self-refuting in the manner attempted by the objection.


Note first that he calls this maneuver of mine a maneuver from "the other school of presuppositional apologetics." But the Cartesian evil demon argument (or the Ungerian evil scientist argument) is not unique to "my school" of apologetics.

Second, Cheung's two responses to my argument are:

(1) It's outright stupid since the Bible tells us that God deceives people.


(2) It proves Cheung's position since if Cheung is deceived by God about his position then this fact proves Cheung's position because if God causes Cheung to believe the "falsehood" that it is God who causes one to believe falsehood, then God does cause Cheung to believe falsehood, and Cheung is in fact not deceived.

Both these fail miserably. One could say that they are "outright stupid."

All (1) contends is that my critique is "outright stupid" since the Bible tells us that God deceives people. Since my critique never implied that God did not (or does not, or can not) deceive people then all Cheung shows is that he never read what I wrote. What bearing does (1) have on my argument? None. And Cheung never tells us what (1) is supposed to accomplish. Indeed, my critique even states, "But we know that God does deceive (or gives over to delusions) people; as in the case of Pharaoh, some of Israel's enemies, and Paul's indictment in Romans 1 tells us." In fact, my critique was not: "God does not deceive people." My critique was not: "If God deceives some people (or has deceived, or has the ability to deceive) then we cannot know anything." My critique, as my post indicates, was that given Cheung's occasionalism, coupled with his internalism, lands us in skepticism.

Cheung says my fatal maneuver is this, "They suggest that according to my [Cheung's] view, I [Cheung] could be deceived in affirming my [Cheung's] view." Now, what was "the view" that I was attacking? Was it "the view" that people are deceived? No, since my post admits this! Maybe, just maybe, was it Cheung's occasionalism and internalism that I was attacking? I thought so, but maybe God deceived me. In any case, my post says (or appears to say!) that I was attacking Cheung's occasionalism. But, brilliantly, Cheung retorts that my argument against occasionalism is "outright stupid" because the Bible tells us that God deceives people. Well, as Cheung is wont to do, I ask for him to provide the valid deduction which proves this. So far we have:

1) God deceives some people in the Bible.


C1) Therefore my view (occasionalism) is true.

So, yes, I still maintain that according to Cheung's views, he could be deceived regarding occasionalism qua philosophy of mind. Cheung could be deceived about whether it was Joseph or Benjamin who had the colored coat. Cheung could be deceived on any number of passages and about a many number of things (e.g., his being male, his occasionalism). Just because the Bible tells us that people were deceived does not mean that Cheung's view of occasionalism and his internalism are correct or if we can know that we have true beliefs.

More importantly, Cheung claims that,

"...true knowledge consists of only what is directly stated in Scripture and what is validly deducible from Scripture; all other propositions amount to unjustified opinion at best." (Ultimate Questions, P.43, emphasis mine)

So, he needs to have a verse directly stated in Scripture which tells was that God deceives in order to deduce that God deceives people. Does he have one? Well, he thinks so. But maybe there is no verse. Maybe all the verses that talk of God's deceiving people really say that God does not (or did not) deceive so and so. How does Cheung know that on the occasion that he reads the text of Scripture God makes him think that the passages which speak of God's not deceiving people speak about God deceiving people. How does Cheung know that there are propositions in the Bible which say this? Write the syllogism out. We do know that Cheung cannot say that God wouldn't deceive him because "God causes people to believe lies as he wishes (and as Scripture teaches)..." (-Cheung, Short Answers To Several Criticisms).

Cheung believes that the most brilliant theological minds have all had non-truths conveyed to them since he says that he has his own system and doesn't think any theologian got everything right. So, when those divines who argued for an infralapsarian position, from the texts of Scripture, their understanding of those texts were wrong, according to Cheung, and their understanding, according to Cheung, was immediately conveyed by God on the occasion that they read those texts. Is Cheung better than those men? Would God not deceive Cheung? What absolute standard does Cheung use to determine if God has not caused him to believe a lie? How was this standard obtained? If by his doctrine of occasionalism, then Cheung would need to show in a non-question begging manor that he was not deceived in this instance. But then we may ask Cheung how he came to the belief that his standard was correct and God did not deceive him in conveying this information? If by occassionalism (and it would have to be, see his quote on knowledge above), then Cheung needs to know that God did not deceive him into thinking that his standard was the ultimate standard he could employ to determine if he had been deceived or not... ad infinitum.

Lastly, we come to (2). (2) states that my critique proves Cheung's position since if Cheung is deceived by God about his position then this fact proves Cheung's position because if God causes Cheung to believe the "falsehood" that it is God who causes one to believe falsehood, then God does cause Cheung to believe falsehood, and Cheung is in fact not deceived. But, the concrete example I gave in my critique was on "Cheung's Apologetic Method." I never mentioned anything about the premise that God deceives people is wrong. Here is the "concrete example" I gave:

"Let's now give a concrete example to this argument: Cheung appears to think that he knows his apologetic method is true. On Cheung's blog he writes: "Here I will just refer all of you to the recommended readings listed on the blog entry in question (and listed again below) as my response to ALL criticisms that you can find ANYWHERE written by ANYONE on this subject. I have confidence in my products — they are accurate and irrefutable." Very well then, Cheung thinks his apologetic method is correct and he thinks he knows this. To claim to know something one must know that there is no possibility that one is wrong, according to Cheung. Or, one must have a reliable method which does not admit for error or mistake. But the method of Cheung's belief formation is just as unreliable and subject to false belief and error as, say, his points against intuition are (if not more so!)."

Where in any of this am I claiming anything like what Cheung thinks I claim in (2)? The only way (2) makes sense is if we substitute "God deceives people" with "my [Cheung] position." But that is also my position, and every other Christian's as well (i.e., that God does, or at least has the ability, to deceive people). So, I am not arguing that God does not deceive people. The problem here is that Cheung, being a smart fellow, really meant (occasionalism, or his apologetic method, or his brand of Calvinism) as "his position." We should make no mistake that Cheung is trying to defend his position on these matters and not trying to defend the boring claim that God has (or does) deceive some people. If Cheung is merely trying to defend the claim that God does indeed deceive people then we can note that (1) he's wasted his time and ours with his blog entry, (2) I already grant this, and (3) it would be a non-sequitur to reason from the fact that God deceives to the truth of Cheung's position. Since Cheung tries to slip a defense of his apologetic method and epistemology into pointing out that if I argue that God deceives people then I've proven Cheung's point that God deceives people, as well as saying that Cheung would not be deceived about God's deceiving people, if it were true that God deceived people, then many of his readers may have think that he scored a legitimate point here.

My critique is that given Cheung's desire for infallibalism and internalism with respects to his views on justification, coupled with his view of occasonalism, then Cheung cannot know much of anything. In his series on Arguing by Intuition Cheung makes clear his infallibalism:

However, all the “seems like” could be wrong. To paraphrase Clark, it might be that we think we have free will not because we know something (that we have free will), but because we don’t know something (that we really don't have free will). It might be that some people intuitively think certain things are true because they are ignorant. Luther puts it stronger, saying that we think we have free will because we have been deceived by Satan. In any case, the debate cannot be settled by intuition alone. (“Arguing By Intuition,” pp. 3-4, emphasis mine)

Cheung regularly makes this point. In the Fatal Maneuver Cheung writes,

Because they have stated that one must use his senses to know what the Bible says, now they must show either that our senses are infallible, or if our senses are fallible, that there is an infallible way of telling in which instances they are correct and in which instances they are incorrect. If they cannot do this, then they cannot read the Bible, so that their entire system — their whole Christian faith — collapses, and it does so just as easily as empirical atheism, or any non-Christian religion or philosophy.

But one could argue that Cheung's occasionalism is a more fallible belief forming process than sense perception is. Divine occasionalism is responsible for deceiving billions and billions of people on a daily basis (since no two people believe exactly the same on every thing). So, is Divine occasionalism infallible? No. Is there an infallible way of telling which instances of Divine occasionalism are correct and in which instances they are incorrect? No (because, per Cheung, all beliefs come from the fallible occasionalism)! Therefore, on Cheung's own terms, he cannot know that his apologetic method, his view of occasionalism, his view of divine sovereignty, his maleness, et al, is correct! Cheung's "entire system — his whole Christian faith — collapses, and it does so just as easily as empirical atheism, or any non-Christian religion or philosophy." As Aquascum noted in his review of my above critique,

"Yes, that sounds about right! As long as Cheung believes infallibility is required for knowledge, then Cheung’s occasionalism can’t give him knowledge at all. Cheung has refuted Christianity as a means of defending Christianity. Whereas Kant said, “I had to destroy reason in order to make room for faith,” the moral of this story is that Cheung had to refute Christianity in order to make room for apologetics."

Therefore, I maintain that Cheung has not even touched my critique. He dealt with nothing I said or implied. He showed no awareness of what I wrote. He implied that I denied things that my post affirmed. He failed to defend his view and this failure costs him everything. Will he respond? If so, was the above "earth shattering?" I'll quote what Cheung writes on "Fatal Maneuvers:"

"There is a fatal maneuver in debate where if you can show that your opponent's position contradicts itself or makes itself impossible, then you have effectively destroyed his position and all that follows from it. It is a powerful move. It checkmates your opponent."

Now, what was the above?


In this section I'll pick and choose some statements made by Cheung and offer rebuttal. I'll do it in the form of a dialogue. Vincent Cheung will be VC and Paul Manata will be PM.

I'll use Chung's claim that "...true knowledge consists of only what is directly stated in Scripture and what is validly deducible from Scripture; all other propositions amount to unjustified opinion at best. (-Cheung, Ultimate Questions, P.43,), for much of my ammunition.

VC: My system of philosophy and method of apologetics is rightly called "biblical" or "presuppositional."

PM: Do you know this? Is the above claim directly stated in Scripture and/or validly deducible from Scripture? If not, then is you claim that your system of philosophy and method of apologetics is rightly called "biblical" or "presuppositional" unjustified opinion at best?

VC: One prominent school of "presuppositional" apologetics protests that this surely goes too far. It admits that induction is fallacious, at least on its own, but then it is somehow redeemed when we operate under biblical presuppositions.

PM: No, it admits that unbelievers cannot answer the problem of induction given their worldview. If we said it was deductively fallacious in a non-Christian worldview but not deductively fallacious in a Christian worldview then that would be "outright stupid."

VC: It admits that sensation cannot yield knowledge, at least by itself, but then it can function as a reliable way to acquire knowledge once biblical principles are assumed.

PM: No, sensation does not all of a sudden start functioning in a reliable way once "biblical principles are assumed." Are you seriously implying that the "other school" basically thinks unbelievers eyesight is unreliable until they assume a Christian worldview?

VC: I have already critiqued this incoherent and unbiblical school of apologetics in a number of places, and it is not my main purpose to do it again here.

PM: So your post was not meant to "critique" us?

VC: Yet my point concerns something else, and that is how this school of apologetics attempts to refute mine, and how this backfires against them.

PM: Oh, so you do intend to critique our critiques?

VC: One frequent objection is that if we must begin from the Bible, then surely we must first use our senses to even read the Bible.

PM: Was that Aquascum's Sudduth's, Hays', or my objection?

VC: Because I have answered the objection, it has failed to damage me. However, now that my opponents have stated the objection, and stated it as something that is consistent with their position, then they must answer it themselves. Because they have stated that one must use his senses to know what the Bible says, now they must show either that our senses are infallible, or if our senses are fallible, that there is an infallible way of telling in which instances they are correct and in which instances they are incorrect. If they cannot do this, then they cannot read the Bible, so that their entire system — their whole Christian faith — collapses, and it does so just as easily as empirical atheism, or any non-Christian religion or philosophy.

PM: Oh, you must be begging the question against externalists and those epistemologists (e.g., Audi's Introduction to Epistemology, William's Critical Introduction to Epistemology) who argue that knowledge need not be infallible? Or, you're still assuming, and not answering, Aquascum's fatal maneuvers in this paper. See section three where your infallibalism is dealt with. If you don't all you're doing is begging the question.'

VC: One frequent objection is that if we must begin from the Bible, then surely we must first use our senses to even read the Bible. I have already answered this several times in several places, and there has been no successful attempt at a rebuttal. Among other things, this objection begs the question, and really ignores my position in the first place.

PM: Pot, kettle, black? Or, et tu.

VC: Some of them try to justify sensation as a reliable way to obtain knowledge. To argue for empiricism apart from Scripture is impossible, and they acknowledge this. And so, seemingly consistent with their own position, they argue for the basic reliability of sensation from Scripture. But what would it take to establish their position from Scripture? They acknowledge that our senses are fallible, and so they are not interested in supporting empiricism by arguing that the senses are infallible. However, if the senses are fallible, then they must establish from Scripture an infallible method by which to distinguish instances in which the sense are correct and instances in which they are wrong. But if they have a method at all, and if their method is fallible, then we still need to infallibly know how fallible it is and when it is fallible; otherwise, the whole thing collapses into skepticism again.

PM: See my argument against your view of occasionalism. Read what you wrote, and then what i wrote, and then you'll see why you're dead in the water. In other words, the whole thing collapses into skepticism again.

Well, I think I'm done for now. All Cheung's post is, is old hat. That is, he still assumes his internalism and infalliblaism, while never arguing for it. He still has not defined knowledge. Thus, he's still refuted.

Screwtape strikes again!

666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
October 31, 1999

Dear Wormwood,

Greetings on my very favorite holiday!

Now I understand why you’re so tardy in your correspondence. It’s true that when a junior Tempter flunks his first assignment, he’s liable to be sent down to the House of Corrections for the usual penalties.

There is, however, no need to forward your report to the Deputy just yet. For one thing, a failure on your part reflects rather badly on my supervision.

All is not lost. As The Enemy has said, it all depends on the type of soil the Patient has fallen upon. As long as we intervene before he takes root, there’s no need to report your bungled performance to the Lower-Ups. It will be our little secret.

At this stage we will need to implement a 12-step deprogram.

The first order of business is to undermine his faith in miracles. For if there are no miracles, then the Bible can’t be true, in which case we explain it by resort to the usual suspects, viz., comparative mythology, Freudian psychology.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
November 3, 1999

Dear Wormwood,

Thanks for the draft copy of your little speech. Timing is everything. It’s best to plant these insidious thoughts in his mind when the Patient’s resistance is down. When he’s dreaming—erotic dreams are best! When he’s bored by the sermon. When he saw his girlfriend hanging out with the quarterback.

As to the content, the substance is fine, but style is everything.

Yes, you’re quite right. In telling the Patient that miracles can’t happen, we’re begging the question. All that fancy talk of a closed system is just a highfalutin name for atheism.

But it’s precisely because we’re begging the question that we need to dress it up in something pretentious and neutral sounding. Employ resonant phrases like “closed causal continuum,” “methodological naturalism,” and “the principle of uniformity.”

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
November 21, 1999

Dear Wormwood,

I’m afraid the Patient has the better of the argument here. It’s true that methodological naturalism is prejudicial as well as stipulative.

It’s also true that the only evidence for uniformity is historical testimony, which happens to be the same type of evidence we have for miracles.

So it’s best not to belabor this point. It will only remind the Patient of what a losing hand we have.

Instead, you should appeal to his sense of snobbery. This is much more persuasive than reason and evidence. Snobbery trumps logic nine times out of ten.

Tell him that the only folks who still believe in miracles are beetle-browed, knuckle dragging Fundies who attend snake-handling churches.

Bring up the psychic hotlines while you’re at it.

And remind him that everyone who lived before the mid-20C was in bondage to gross superstition.

Add a dash of Marxism while you’re at it—you know, how the filthy rich invented the Christian faith to distract the working poor from their sorry lot in life.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
December 5, 1999

Dear Wormwood,

So the appeal to snobbery didn’t pan out. What a pity. That was our silver bullet.

Now we’ll have to trudge through the remaining steps, one at a time, to see which one does the trick.

The next course of action is to attack his faith in the Bible. Here are a few pointers:

1.Your strongest argument is the argument from silence.

Yes…I know...that’s a weak argument. But sometimes your strongest argument is a weak argument.

This is a two-pronged argument:

i) Assure the Patient that if there’s no corroboration for a biblical event, then it never happened. The Bible writer made it up whole cloth.

ii) But if there is corroboration, your fallback is to say the Bible writer borrowed the story from a filthy pagan source, and rewrote it.

That way, you can turn any evidence for Scripture against Scripture while you also insist that the absence of evidence counts as evidence against Scripture.

Practice this argument in front of a mirror several times a day to so that you can instantly change facial expressions as you switch from one standard to its opposite.

iii) Another back-up plan is to impeach the character of the witness. Something like—the gospel writers were Christian, so you can’t take their word for it.

According to the Columbia School of Journalism, you should never believe the report of a reporter if the reporter believes his own report. A report is only believable if the reporter doesn’t believe it himself.

2.Along the same lines, challenge the authorship of Scripture. For example, if the style of one writing is different from another by the “same” writer, that proves you have a forgery.

But if the style of one writing is too much like the style of another writing, that proves to you the forger was trying too hard to imitate his source.

3.Routinely blur the distinction between a variation and a contradiction. So if one account differs from another, turn that variation with a material contradiction, even though the addition or omission of a circumstantial detail doesn’t really entail a contradiction.

This works best if you talk very fast. Go to a cattle auction to improve your elocutionary skills.

4.Tell the Patient that he can’t trust the text of Scripture. Convert a trivial difference in spelling or word-order into a wholesale reason to distrust the Greek and Hebrew MSS.

If, on the other, the Patient says a wrong name or number may have been miscopied, make fun of his appeal to the originals.

5.Assure the Patient that a historical account cannot be true unless it records every single thing that happened to every single participant in the exact order it happened—even if several things were happening at once—while reporting every single word of every single speaker.

Make it all as simple-minded as possible. Confusion is the best policy.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
January 9, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

So you say the Patient is judging the Bible by the literary conventions of any ancient writing? That’s most unfortunate.

But if we can’t undermine his faith in Scripture as a whole, at one stroke, we can attack it at a few stress points.

Pick on the creation account and the flood.

Point out the “glaring” contradiction between the creation account and modern science.

Never let the Patient ask himself what the world would look like if it really were made in six days.

Just between you and me, I was there when it happened. The whole shebang went up just like one of those prefab houses, where a landscape gardener wheels in full-grown trees from the nursery and rolls out bails of green grass like Astroturf. Why, in a few weeks time you’d swear it was there for many years.

Always remember that this is not about winning the argument, but winning the debate. Ridicule is our best weapon. The Enemy has reason, but we have ridicule.

You see, most folks would rather be foolish, but seem wise, than be wise, but seem foolish.

As to the flood, the trick here is to play upon his mental picture of the modern world—the world after the flood. Make the Patient ask himself how he’d square the flood account with life after the flood.

Of course, you and I know that life long after the flood isn’t the same as life before the flood, so the trick is to make him forget all that. To make him measure a prediluvial world by a postdiluvian yardstick. Same climate, diet, species, geography, &c.

And assure him that everything has to be explained by strictly naturalistic principles, as if there were no God to make it happen.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
February 2, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

You say the Patient read a copy of Thomas Kuhn? I thought I told you to burn that book!

Burning things is what we do best down here.

Very well then, if we can’t use science, there’s always the problem of evil.

Make the Patient see this as a problem internal to Christianity. Either God is able to prevent evil, but unwilling, in which case he’s malevolent, or else he’s willing, but unable, in which case he’s impotent.

It’s possible, though, that the Patient has been reading his Bible. That’s always a bad sign.

And if he’s been reading his Bible, he may quote you something about how God did have a good reason for ordaining the fall, in order to manifest his mercy and justice.

If the Patient goes that route, then you’ll have to switch horses from an internal argument to an external argument. Ask him how a good God would allow Bambi to die in a forest fire. Something like that. The more emotional, the better.

This works best with wide-eyed fawns and pink-eyed bunny rabbits. Oh, and don’t forget about beagles. The cuter the better to tug at the heartstrings.

By no means talk about the gratuitous suffering of rats and roaches, snakes and crocodiles. They lack the cuddle-factor.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
February 19, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

You say the Patient was asking himself why unbelievers care about the problem of evil when they don’t even believe in moral absolutes?

Well, he’s got a point.

Since that didn’t pan out, it’s time to change the subject.

Try to pin the Oedipal complex on him. As Freud put it only yesterday when I was talking to him, “the terrifying impression of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection—for protection through love—which was provided by the father. Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fears of the dangers of life.”

Make the Patient feel ashamed. Shame is much more efficient than logic. Bully him. Talk down to him. Make him feel like an overgrown child who can’t bring himself to sever the umbilical cord.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
March 24, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

What? You’re telling me he tried to turn tables on us by saying to himself that Lucifer was one the one suffering from a father-fixation?

What an impudent little twerp! I’m not sure the Patient is good enough for a life of pure evil here-below. We have standards, you know! Hell is a gated community.

Since the Freudian tactic didn’t work, here’s another angle:

Lampoon the whole idea of an invisible, intangible God.

Compare it to “Harvey.” You know, Jimmy Stewart’s invisible, 6-foot rabbit.

Form that image in his mind.

Assure him that God is just like that: an imaginary friend, like a little girl’s secret friend. No one else can see her or hear her or touch her.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
April 17, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

So he told himself that if we can’t believe in some intangible, invisible God, then we can’t believe in some intangible, invisible devil?

Well, bless my horns and hooves if this Patient of yours isn’t becoming more insolent by the day! What are they teaching young people in school these days? Has he never read the demonological argument of St. Hellion’s?

“Diablo, ergo sum.”

And you say he also told himself that if we can’t believe in something intangible or invisible, then we can’t believe in our own thought-process since we can’t see our own mind at work?

Well, as one evil spirit to another, I’ll admit to you that he’d got us over a barrel on that one.

Once again, it’s time to change the subject.

Make fun of the Trinity. Ask him how three can be one, and one can be three.

Make sure you keep it at that simplistic level. Don’t let him ask himself if “one of” something can be “three of” something else. That won’t get you your contradiction.

And if that fails, dust off the old stone paradox. You know how it goes: Can God make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
May 8, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

So he didn’t go for the stone paradox, eh? Said it was too anthropomorphic, did he?

Where did he learn a word like that, anyway? Here we’re quite literally doing our damnedest to dumb down the public school curriculum, but there’s always one who slips through the cracks and gets a decent education despite our best efforts. Was he home schooled or something?

Okay, try comparative mythology. Ask the Patient why he believes in Yahweh, but not in Hercules.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
June 8, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

The Patient told himself that he’d believe in Hercules if he had the same evidence for Hercules as he had for The Enemy?

I’m afraid our strategy has been way too cerebral. We can’t win on the facts when the facts are stacked against us.

So go back to raw emotion. The tried-and-true three-hanky stratagem.

Bring up the subject of hell. Play on his emotions. Ask him how he can believe in a God who’d consign his kid brother to the everlasting bonfire.

Paint the picture in your best Dantean, Day-Glo colors.

And under no circumstances are you to let his thoughts wander to the question of how every homicidal maniac is someone’s son or brother.

Yours truly,


Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon


666 Judecca St.
Circle Nine
City of Dis, Pandemonium 666-666
July 19, 2000

Dear Wormwood,

Yes, I just confirmed your preliminary report. My contacts inform me that the Patient did, indeed, die in a car crash last night. His soul was seen ascending to heaven.

This is terrible news! You and I will have to go into hiding before we’re both taken into custody and dunked upside down in acid vats of holy water.

Yours truly,


Ex-Undersecretary to the Lower Deputy Archon

What would Calvin think of the electric toothbrush?

One of the ad nauseum refrains over at Communio Catholicism, or whatever it goes by, is the prediction that Calvin would have disowned Reformed Baptists as crypto-Anabaptists.

For the record, I’m not a Reformed Baptist myself, so I have no dog in this fight. But what is this hypothetical prediction supposed to amount to, anyway?

Is the critic predicting that if you took a 16C Frenchman and Protestant Reformer, put him in a time-machine, and suddenly transported him to the 21C, that when he stepped out of the time-machine he would express his disapprove of the SBC?

For all I know, that may well be true.

To this we could add a number of other equally pressing and pertinent questions:

What would a 16C Frenchman think of a woman in a pant’s suit?

What would a 16C Protestant think of the electric toothbrush?

What would a 16C Reformer think of teenage boys and girls who play volleyball on the beach in shorts and bikinis?

If the unspoken assumption underlying this dire prediction is that if you took a man from a different time and place, and transported him directly to our own time and place, he would shake his head and wag his finger at some of our doings here and now, then this is probably true.

Like everyone else, Calvin was largely shaped by the cultural assumptions of his day and age, by the socioeconomic structure and political challenges of his time.

So all this comparison really amounts to is to contrast a 16C European outlook with a 21C American outlook.

What would Calvin think of rollerblading or satellite TV or shopping malls or football or surfing?

If that’s what the Calvinian indictment of the SBC comes to, then it’s a pretty silly comparison.

Yes, if you take someone from one time and place, and instantly transplant him to another time and place, then he may well disapprove of what he sees.

He may be right to disapprove or wrong to disapprove. But he’s using his own historical frame of reference as the standard of comparison.

And yet, as far as hypotheticals go, a more meaningful question is: what would Calvin think of the SBC if Calvin were a baby-boomer raised in West Texas?

What if Calvin was one of our contemporaries? What if Calvin was an American? What if he grew up in a Southern Baptist church?

What, under those circumstances, would Calvin think of the SBC?

What would Calvin think of Anabaptism if Calvin were Amish by birth and breeding?

Paul Owen informs us that one reason he broke with the Presbyterians is because the Presbyterians have been corrupted by the Baptists.

And it’s quite true that modern-day Presbyterians view their Baptist neighbors very differently than 16C Protestants once viewed the Anabaptists. Is that a bad thing?

And that’s because, unlike Owen or Enloe—as he goes about posting the 172 installment of his series on Medieval conciliarism—we’re not caught in a time warp. Times change. People change.

The political realities of the 21C are quite different from the political realities of the 16C. The new enemies and new alliances are not the same as the old enemies and the old alliances.

The modern American experience is very different from the experience of a 16C French Protestant living in exile.

We have our own civilization. Our own challenges. Our own social ills.

We play the hand that God has dealt us in this generation. We creatively apply Reformed theology to our particular situation.

We adapt to new circumstances. That’s the world we know. The world we live in.

Naturally we see some things differently from our forbears since there are different things to see. Even if the chessboard were the same, the pieces have been rearranged.

Do the pseudo-Reformed crypto-Catholics really believe that we should make no allowance or adjustment for 500 hundred years of intervening history?

Oh, and while they pose as the old guard, our pseudo-Reformed crypto-Catholics are only too happy to exploit the American lifestyle.

Look at the freedom with which Owen hopscotches from one theological tradition to another. But this would not have been permissible or even possible 500 years ago.

A layman like Tim Enloe would not have been permitted to publicize his theological views 500 years ago.

The reason Enloe or Owen can fish around until he finds a fishpond to their liking is because the American experiment supplies him with so many watering holes to fish from.

Can the present learn from the past? Yes.

Can the past learn from the present? Yes as well.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, a Clanging Cymbal

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Kurschner: Mr. Ignorant

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

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

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

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

Mohler and Akin wrote,

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

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

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

Alan Kruschner: Color him ignorant.

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

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

Al Mohler and Daniel Akin argue thusly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Piper affirms Mohler and Akin's position.

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Boettner's Reformed Doctrine of Predestination:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Martyr And Infant Baptism

Paul Owen's latest article on infant baptism repeats some of his previous errors on Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Gregory Nazianzen without interacting with the refutations I posted in previous responses. However, he does address Justin Martyr in his latest article, which he hadn't done previously, so I want to discuss what Paul argues about Justin and infant baptism.

His case for infant baptism in Justin Martyr is similar to his case for infant baptism in Irenaeus, in that he once again relies on reading assumptions into the text while ignoring weightier contrary data. Paul doesn't even address what Justin wrote about baptism in chapter 61 of his First Apology, even though I cited that passage earlier. I'll quote it later in this article, and I think that the reader should understand why Paul didn't address it.

As I noted with Irenaeus, Justin Martyr discusses baptism many times. It's not as though he avoided any mention of infant baptism because of an absence of the theme of baptism in his writings. Rather, he discussed baptism much without mentioning infant baptism at all. He also discusses circumcision at length in his Dialogue With Trypho, and he makes a number of applications of the concept of circumcision to Christianity, but he never refers to Christians baptizing their infants rather than circumcising them. He does compare circumcision and baptism, but such comparisons don't lead to the conclusion of infant baptism unless other assumptions accompany the comparison. Since Justin doesn't supply those other assumptions, Paul Owen reads them into the text.

Does a comparison between circumcision and baptism require that both ceremonies be the same in every conceivable manner? No. So, how do we know how far the comparison is being taken? By the text and context. Does anything in the text or context of Justin Martyr suggest that the age of the recipients of circumcision is being repeated with baptism? No. Paul Owen wouldn't want us to assume that baptism can only be applied to males, since circumcision was only applied to males. He wouldn't want us to assume that circumcision was regenerative, since he thinks that baptism is regenerative. We can compare circumcision and baptism in some sense without intending a comparison in every sense. Paul needs to show that Justin intended baptism to parallel circumcision in being applied to infants. He hasn't shown that so far, and he won't be able to show it.

Let's look at some of the other comments Justin made about circumcision, not just the portions Paul quoted:

"Jesus Christ circumcises all who will - as was declared above - with knives of stone; that they may be a righteous nation, a people keeping faith, holding to the truth, and maintaining peace." (Dialogue With Trypho, 24)

Do infants "will" to be baptized? Do they "keep faith", "hold to the truth", and "maintain peace" as a result of a baptism that occurred in infancy?

Elsewhere, Justin tells us:

"But though a man be a Scythian or a Persian, if he has the knowledge of God and of His Christ, and keeps the everlasting righteous decrees, he is circumcised with the good and useful circumcision, and is a friend of God, and God rejoices in his gifts and offerings." (Dialogue With Trypho, 28)

Do infants "have the knowledge of God and of His Christ"? Do they "keep the everlasting righteous decrees"? Do they bring God "gifts and offerings"?

Justin writes:

"Those too in circumcision who approach Him, that is, believing Him and seeking blessings from Him, He will both receive and bless." (Dialogue With Trypho, 33)

Do infants "approach" God? Do they "believe in Him" and "seek blessings from Him"?

Justin tells us:

"For your first circumcision was and is performed by iron instruments, for you remain hard-hearted; but our circumcision, which is the second, having been instituted after yours, circumcises us from idolatry and from absolutely every kind of wickedness by sharp stones, i.e., by the words preached by the apostles of the corner-stone cut out without hands. And our hearts are thus circumcised from evil, so that we are happy to die for the name of the good Rock, which causes living water to burst forth for the hearts of those who by Him have loved the Father of all, and which gives those who are willing to drink of the water of life." (Dialogue With Trypho, 114)

Does infant baptism ensure that those infants will "be happy to die for the name of the good Rock"? Or does it seem more likely that Justin has a believer's conversion in view?

In the passage above, Justin refers to the preaching of the apostles as circumcision. As I said earlier, Justin applies the concept of circumcision to Christianity in a number of ways. Baptism is just one application. As D.R. de Lacey explains:

"At about the same time Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, provides the first link in a chain of development from Colossians 2:11 to the identification of baptism as 'Christian circumcision,' only for Justin the circumcision by which Gentiles are circumcised from their errors is achieved primarily by the words of the apostles (Dial. Tryph. 114.4; cf. Dial. Tryph. 19.2-3; only in Dial. Tryph. 43.2 is it said to be 'through' [dia] baptism)." (in Ralph Martin and Peter Davids, ed., Dictionary Of The Later New Testament & Its Developments [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997], p. 228)

Earlier, I mentioned chapter 61 in Justin's First Apology. Paul doesn't discuss that passage in his article, even though I had mentioned it earlier. It's a passage in which Justin is explaining Christian baptism to a non-Christian audience. Here would be a place to mention infant baptism as part of the explanation of what Christians practice. Instead, here's what we read:

"I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated."

Justin refers to baptism in general as a ceremony in which the person baptized "dedicates" himself to God. Do infants do that in infant baptism? No. Justin goes on to refer to the recipient of baptism being "persuaded" and having "belief". The recipient attempts to live as a Christian. The recipient prays and fasts.

Later in that same chapter, Justin writes:

"And for this rite we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God; and if any one dare to say that there is a name, he raves with a hopeless madness. And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings."

Justin contrasts the recipient of baptism with infants. The person baptized chooses to be baptized.

The most likely paedo-baptist response to all of these passages I've cited would be to suggest that Justin only meant to address converts, not all of those baptized. But that argument, if valid, would only render Justin's testimony inconclusive. It wouldn't result in Justin giving us evidence for infant baptism, as Paul Owen claimed he does.

But if Justin was living in the middle of the second century, with many children having already been born into Christian homes, why would he repeatedly ignore infant baptism while discussing baptism, circumcision, regeneration, and other related subjects so many times and at such length? Why would he so often make comments like the ones I've quoted above without even once adding a qualifier about how infants are an exception? Is it likely that Justin would contrast the recipients of baptism with infants, once again without any qualifiers, if he believed in infant baptism?

As I said before, Justin isn't as explicit as Tertullian. But when somebody discusses baptism, circumcision, and other related issues so much, yet he never mentions infant baptism and he repeatedly associates baptism with concepts that exclude infants, why should we think that it's likely that he believed in infant baptism?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Free Thoughts for the Enslaved Mind

I normally would not use Triablogue as a means of responding to comments others have made about me in comments sections elsewhere, but if Steve will allow me to hijack T-blog for a moment; since I have not been permitted to respond apart from my comments being deleted, I’d just like to make a few notes here.

To the person I deleted who said freethinkers don’t think for themselves…at least I am not sitting around obsessively analyzing one f–king ancient book 24-7. There is a whole big world and universe out there. Also, you can write volumes about me and what I write on your narrow-minded and boring blog..I couldn’t care less. Whatever floats your boat.

The article that is being referenced by this “free thinker” (i.e., enslaved mind) is my post “Free Thinkers” Never Think For Themselves. It is very evident that she did not even read the first paragraph of that post, her excuse being that it is was too long. But this is really embarrassing on her part. A few notes:

1. I did not write “volumes” about you, nor did I write anything about what you wrote. Rather, I responded to an article that Dan Barker had written, which you posted, and kindly gave a hat-tip link to your blog for credit, since it is where I had read it. So let’s not make this all about you, shall we?

2. You are the one who claims to be a “free thinker,” not me. Yes, I claim to think for myself. But I also claim to have a worldview with a set of principles, the authority being the Bible. You, however, do not claim such authority, but you allow the atheistic worldview to be auto-programmed into your brain while at the same time deceptively telling others that you are a “free thinker.”

3. You completely ignore the rationality behind my studying the Bible. Sure, that may be worthless to you, but we do not share the same worldview. As a Christian, it is in my interest to give a defense for what I believe. From the little I have read of you, I suppose that is no priority in your life.

4. All you are telling me by mocking my devotion to God is that you are not a Christian. That’s obvious. You do not share my worldview and do not share my presuppositions. But don’t discount my presuppositions because they are not yours. Rather, justify your own, or have me justify mine. It is much more effective than the immaturity and language you have been displaying that we would expect from a 14 year old teenage boy, not a 51 year old woman.

5. The reader should note that this commenter fails to address the article mentioned. She mocks it’s length (it is not much more lengthy than the size of her posts, so she is a bit hypocritical), but if anything it’s length should at least get her attention. Of course, lengthy things can be full of meaningless content and be a waste of time. But it is at least worth a shot, especially when I spent the time writing it. Of course, I did not address it to her, but to Dan Barker (to whom I was responding); but since she has flattered herself into thinking that it was a response to her she might as well at least attempt at writing back.

6. The fact that my comments were deleted for no better reason than that I posit an opposing viewpoint is quite telling. This is the way they do things in an atheist world. Of course, I effectively displayed in my original article that the notion that an atheist has a basis for morality is a precious myth, so we shouldn’t expect them to be honest in their interactions with us.

7. She calls Triablogue “boring.” Now, she may not agree with what we say, but anyone who reads this knows that it is anything but “boring.” In fact, Triablogue is in large part a blog of satire, and I must say that Steve is quite gifted at this talent.

Evan May.

Response to Elmer Towns Pt. 2

We are continuing the series of responses to Elmer Towns’ criticism of Reformed theology. Part 1 can be found here.

C. Limited atonement. Calvinists indicate that this aspect of their system is the most difficult of their five points to communicate. They teach that if man is totally depraved so that he cannot respond, and God is sovereign in His unconditional choice, then when Jesus died, He died for those that were chosen by God. To keep their system intact, they must deny that Christ died for anyone else, for if He had, then they must also be saved. Since they are not, atonement is limited.

It must be noted that particular redemption does not flow only from unconditional election and total depravity, but it flows from the Biblical basis of intent behind the atonement, specifically, what Christ accomplished on the cross.

Atonement is for the Elect only, since Christ died only for those whom the Father gave Him to be His Bride. Only the saints or elect ones are ever said to be “beloved of God” for they alone are the objects of His saving grace. The Calvinist reasons that if Christ died for all, then all will be saved. If only the elect are to be saved, then Christ died for them, and them alone. Although it is true that the blood of Christ is surely sufficient in value to atone for all, still it is obviously efficient only for those who are saved by His unmerited favor.

In contrast to Limited atonement, the Bible teaches that the death of Jesus Christ was for all people of all time. This does not mean that all the world will be saved. The New Testament teaches that only those who receive Jesus Christ will enter into eternal life.

Notice what is happening here. Dr. Towns tells us that the Reformed argument is that if Christ were to die for all, then all would be saved, because of the intent of the atonement. He counters this by merely asserting that “the Bible teaches that the death of Jesus Christ was for all people of all time.” It does? Where? He doesn’t even give us any citations, let alone exegesis of any passages. Dr. Towns, the strength the Reformed position is in the exegesis, not in the assertion. Then Dr. Towns simply asserts that “this does not mean that all the world will be saved.” Why not? He doesn’t address the intent of the atonement, what Christ accomplished. We must ask what before we can ask for whom. Intent precedes extent. But if it is the case that the extent of the atonement is universal, and that even given this fact it “does not mean that all the world will be saved,” what does that tell us about what Christ accomplished? Did he accomplish salvation, or did he merely accomplish the possibility of salvation? Is the determining factor of man’s salvation in man?

There are at least five arguments against limited atonement. These are argued from the accomplishments of Christ on Calvary.

It is my belief that any fact concerning what Christ accomplished on the cross will always point to the direction of particular redemption. For instance, Christ’s atoning work is part of His priestly office, and He makes intercession for those for whom He atoned.

Hebrews 7 25Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Isaiah 53 12 because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Is Dr. Towns telling us that Christ can lay down his life for someone, satisfy the wrath of God against his sin, mediate for him, make intercession on his behalf before the Father, and yet still fail to save him? For whom does Christ intercede?

John 17 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours

The first argument against limited atonement is the doctrine of substitution. The Bible teaches that Christ has given Himself for the sins of the world (Jn. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:6; Tit. 2:11), that Christ was the Substitute for the church (Eph. 5:25), and that He gave Himself for individual Christians (Gal. 2:20). The Calvinist only uses the last group of verses to prove limited atonement, but overlooks the verses that teach Christ was the Substitute for every man (Heb. 2:9).

Dr. Towns tells us that the doctrine of substitution argues against particular redemption. But he fails to define for us the doctrine of substitution. He simply continues to cite prooftexts concerning the extent of the atonement, telling us nothing of its intent. We must know what Christ accomplished before we can answer the for whom question. It is my argument that the doctrine of substitution argues against universal redemption. Is Christ really the substitute for all men, or is he simply potentially their substitute? The Bible states the former. Universal atonement requires the latter.

In any case, the notion that a Calvinist “overlooks” the common Arminian prooftexts is ridiculous. Am I to say that Dr. Towns simply “overlooks” John 6? No, this isn’t a matter of who can cite the most passages in one sitting. Systematic theology must flow from consistent exegesis of the text of Scripture, Dr. Towns, and this is something that your citations lack. John 1:20 is a miscitation, I believe, for it tells us nothing about the atonement. With 1 Tim 2:6 Dr. Towns attempts to answer the extent question while completing ignoring the intent question. Is Christ really the ransom for all, or is he simply potentially their ransom? This is the eisegesis that is required. Furthermore, this verse is sandwiched between a context where Paul urges us to not limit our prayers to any kind of man (v. 1-2), and on the other side where Paul tells us that it is “for this reason” that he is a minister to the Gentiles (v. 7). This context must be completely ignored in order for Dr. Towns to accomplish his agenda. In Titus 2:11, it is the grace that saves that has appeared to all men, not a grace that tries to save, or that potentially saves. The eisegesis is undeniable.

The second argument against limited atonement is that redemption is adequate, for Christ gave His blood a ransom for sin, hence redeemed the lost (1 Pet. 1:18-20). The price of redemption is blood. The Greek words for redeemed are applied to purchasing servants in the ancient slave market. The illustration reveals the extent of redemption to all men. First, the Bible teaches that He purchased the sinner in the marketplace–agorazo–that those who were “sold under sin” are redeemed (Gal. 3:10). But agorazo also applies to false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1); he died for these who obviously were not saved. Second, Christ paid the price with His blood and bought the slave out of the market place–ekagorazo; this person was never again exposed to sale (Gal. 3:13). This refers to those who were saved. In the third place, lutroo means to pay the price for the slave and release him (Gal. 4:5). This probably refers to the Christian who has learned to walk in grace and was not living by the law.

The centerpiece for this second argument lies in Dr. Towns’ citation of 2 Peter 2:1. Again, Dr. Towns attempts to tells us the extent of redemption rather than the intent of redemption, and he can only accomplish this by citing verses that lack a salvfic context to begin with! Since he merely cites the verse and offers us no exegesis, I will simply refer our readers to this excellent article by Simon Escobedo III here.

The third argument against limited atonement is that propitiation, which means “satisfaction,” was made for the sin penalty of the world. The justice of God had been offended by the sin of mankind. The sin penalty of death could not be retracted and the nature of God could not forgive the sinner without satisfaction. The price of satisfaction was the blood of Jesus Christ, and the act of satisfaction is propitiation. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the propitiation for the world. “He is the propitiation for our sin, and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). Since Christ is the propitiation for the world, the atonement cannot be limited.

He continues to address the extent and ignores the intent. But notice that apart from eisegesis, Dr. Towns cannot avoid universalism. Here’s why:

1. Christ is the propitiation for those for whom he died. Propitiation means that he satisfied the wrath of God.
2. Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2)– he satisfies God’s wrath against everyone’s sin.
3. Therefore, all men are saved, for God has wrath against the sins of no man.

How can Dr. Towns avoid point 3? Is Christ the propitiation for everyone’s sin or is he not? Did he satisfy God’s wrath for their sins? If so, then how can God then pour out his wrath on them in hell? Dr. Towns avoids this by eisegeting the word potential, so that Christ is the potential propitiation for the sins of the world. This eisegesis is both undeniable and unavoidable. But perhaps an accurate reading of 1 John 2:2 does not require such unadulterated eisegesis. Perhaps we can recognize that even in this one book the word “world” has a variety of meanings, and that never does it mean “every single person in the world.” Perhaps John is telling us that Christ is not merely the propitiation for our sins (Jews), but for the world (Gentiles as well), or not only this age, but all ages to come, or not only Asia Minor, but the rest of the world as well. In any case, unless Dr. Towns is a universalist, he cannot use 1 John 2:2 to support his position apart from eisegesis.

…The fifth argument against limited atonement is the fact that Jesus Christ reconciled the world unto Himself by His death. Reconciliation is God making man savable by placing him in a favorable light of God’s mercy. The Bible teaches, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;” (2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 2:16). This does not mean the world is saved, but man is now in a place where he can be saved when he meets God’s plan of salvation. Since the world is reconciled, surely the atonement is not limited to the elect.

Dr. Towns continues to act as if he is arguing against limited atonement concerning doctrines of intent, but all he is doing is citing prooftexts of extent. Notice that he says “This does not mean the world is saved, but man is now in a place where he can be saved when he meets God’s plan of salvation.” In other words, the world isn’t actually reconciled, but merely potentially reconciled. Christ does not save anyone on the cross, he simply makes them savable.

One of the chief problems with this teaching of a limited atonement is rooted in one’s understanding of some basic theological terms. Calvinists argue the atonement is somehow deficient if any of those for whom Christ died are not finally saved. This basic presupposition results in the belief that those who deny a particular aspect of limited atonement must necessarily teach the salvation of all men. This attitude is evident in Murray’s discussion of the extent of the atonement.

No, Dr. Towns. The problem is that you must eisegete the words “potential” or “savable” into these passages concerning extent, for you completely ignore the intent of the atonement. If Christ actually saved people at the cross, then they would be saved! That makes sense enough. But, you must redefine the intent of the atonement, and eisegete these texts of Scripture, in order to avoid universalism.

The very nature of Christ’s mission and accomplishment is involved in this question . . . Did he come to make men redeemable? Or did he come effectually and infallibly to redeem?

Excellent question, Dr. Towns. The problem is that you have just cited texts that have stated that Christ redeems, reconciles, and satisfies the wrath of God on behalf of the world. None of these texts say that Christ made man “redeemable” or that he “potentially” saved them. It is your eisegetical reading of these texts that requires this.

If we universalize the extent we limit the efficacy. If some of those for whom atonement was made and redemption wrought perish eternally, then the atonement is not itself efficacious.

Exactly, hence, the reason why universal atonement is the truly limited atonement.

…To say that God did not provide a universal salvation is to question His attribute of love.

Why? It is simply assumed and asserted, not shown.

To say God saved all apart from their appropriate discharge of human responsibility is to question His integrity.

Why? It is simply assumed and asserted, not shown.

To say God elected some to salvation, but not all is to question His justice.

Why? It is simply assumed and asserted, not shown.

Evan May.