Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Quickest Way to Heaven

John Gano was a minister and itinerant preacher from the Philadelphia Association who visited the South frequently in the mid-18th century during the time of the French-Indian War.

From his diary:

A ferryman asked Gano the quickest way to heaven, perceiving him to be a minister. Gano writes,
"I told him Christ was the best way; and that he must become experimentally acquainted with Him, and believe in Him, which was the hope of glory. That after he had obtained this, the shortest way, that I knew, would be to place himself in the front of some army, in an engagement."

Inductive probability

John Loftus continues his rearguard maneuvers:

“I can confidently believe I am awake right now too. I can confidently believe I can trust my senses too.”

Loftus is betting on the fact that the average Christian would agree with him.

But the problem is that such agreement is deceptively superficial. For Loftus is like a muppet on stilts. He may be on eye-level with me, but when I go around to the other side to see what’s holding him up, there’s less than meets the eye.

While Loftus and other unbelievers may continue to use the common sense verbiage of folk psychology, their worldview logically commits them to something radically counterintuitive.

According to eliminative materialism, which is the most consistent version of evolutionary epistemology, Loftus has no beliefs, for Loftus has no mental life. Consciousness is just an illusion.

“But this doesn't mean I might be wrong.”

To say he might be wrong assumes that he might entertain a mistaken belief. But, again, from the standpoint of evolutionary epistemology, carried to its logical extreme, there is no homuncular self who entertains true or false beliefs. Loftus is just a biochemical computer running software. He has no more awareness than a zombie.

“Only that by placing my confidence in these beliefs I can adequately function in the world. “

He functions in the world the way a wind-up toy soldier “finds” its way around the room by bumping into the furniture and bouncing off the walls. There’s nothing going on upstairs. Just a data-processing machine on autopilot.

“I have no other choice.”

Actually, the philosophical repertoire is a good deal broader, but I’ll pass on that.

“What one person claims begs the question, another person claims the question is to be begged. When it comes to the claims of miracles by Catholics, or witchdoctors, or Muslims, or Mormons, you too beg the question.”

i) Loftus is now attempting to change the subject without our taking notice. Loftus originally mounted an argument against the credibility of miracles based on the uniformity of nature.

But this assumes the principle of induction. Instead of attempting to justify his operating assumption, Loftus now treats the reader to a bait-and-switch scam.

Unable to justify his operating principle, he tries to deflect attention from this fundamental failure by going on the offensive.

Now, he’s welcome to admit defeat by changing the subject. But let us not allow this diversionary tactic distract us from the failure to justify his operating assumption, without which his case against miracles undergoes a catastrophic collapse.

ii) And in going on the offensive, since he’s unable to defend himself, he resorts to yet another bit of sophistry.

To cover his retreat, he tosses a number of decoys out the window. All very vague. And we’re supposed to chase after these chimerical decoys while he makes his escape.

What miracles in particular is he alluding to?

“And you beg the question of how your God could always exist without a beginning.”

i) This is a very obtuse way of expressing himself. That is, indeed, how God could always exist: he never began to exist.

ii) Strictly speaking, I don’t believe that God has “always” existed. That attributes duration to God.

Rather, I'd say that there never was a time when God did not exist.

What question this begs, Loftus doesn’t say.

iii) I’d add that this is just another stalling tactic.

It has nothing to do with the basis of Loftus’ original claim. Having lost on the merits of the argument, he’s trying to win by confusing the issue.

“At that point we're debating whether something is circular or viciously circular.”

Actually, there’s an important distinction between virtuous and vicious circularity. But we’ll skip that.

“Here you have merely switched my claim from induction itself to probability.”

Induction and probability rise and fall together. The problem of induction is shorthand for the problem of inductive probability.

“Now you're asking me to prove with certainty that what I consider to be probable is probable.”

i) Loftus never misses a chance to miss the point. This is not a case of proving something to be probable.

No, this is a case of establishing the very framework of probabilistic reasoning.

ii) Remember, this is the framework which Loftus needs to make his case against miracles. So the burden of proof is squarely on him, not on me.

ii) I’d also add that probability is a comparative concept. You can’t dispense with certainty tout court. Probable relative to what? At a minimum, relative to something more or less probable.

Eventually you’ll be in need to something certain to supply the standard of comparison. Otherwise, degrees of probability or improbability will be meaningless as lacking any fixed frame of reference.

“And again, my answer is that I cannot do this.”

Fine. I graciously accept his unconditional surrender. Now he should withdraw his original objection to miracles.

“And neither can you.”

As I’ve explained on more than one occasion by now, a Christian is quite able to justify induction.

The future resembles the past because God instantiates universals in natural kinds, and he preserves these property-instances over time. That is why the future generally resembles the past.

“Ahhhhhh. Don't you realize what you've just admitted? You have just admitted that ancient people did not have the firm conviction in the unalterable laws of nature. God controls it all, like a puppet on the string.”

This is not a question of what the “ancients” generally believed. Rather, this, is a question of what the Bible writers believe.

They believed in the providence of God. They also believed in a covenant-keeping God.

Both of these beliefs are quite open to the occurrence of miracles.

“But if this is the case for them in the ancient world, then anything can happen, and any believable story could be true in the absence of evidence, especially if it conforms to previously held beliefs and is told by a sincere person.”

No, anything cannot happen. Try Gen 8:22 on for size.

Loftus is attempting to rig the debate by confining the alternatives to a choice between pure happenstance and absolute uniformity. But this is a false dichotomy. The Bible recognizes no such dichotomy.

What you have, rather, is a doctrine of ordinary providence, which allows for miraculous intervention.

“Today this is not how we view nature, not even among Christians.”

Christians don’t believe in a closed causal system. Who’s he thinking of, anyway? Bultmann.

He’s welcome to Bultmann if he wants him. We’ll shrink-wrap the corpse and Fed-Ex the remains to Loftus’ whereabouts.

“For us there is an macro unalterable world of nature that operates according to discoverable natural laws.”

There are several problems here:

i) Is natural law descriptive or prescriptive?

ii) Even if physical determinism were unexceptionable, that is only applicable to material entities. It does not determine mental causation.

iii) Even if natural forces were the norm, that in no way limits the Lord from acting above or against the ordinary course of nature.

“And it is precisely this modern scientific belief of ours that causes us to be skeptical of any claims of a miracle.”

Several additional problems:

i) Loftus is cloaking metaphysical claims in the guise of science.

ii) There is no received interpretation of “natural law” in modern science or the philosophy of science. Cf. Bas van Fraassen, Laws & Symmetry (Oxford 1989).

iii) Loftus is also operating with a tacitly realist philosophy of science, for which he offers no supporting argument whatsoever.

iv) All he’s done is to beg the question in his favor by using tendentious adjectives like “unalterable laws of nature.”

“ Why? Precisely because with this modern view of nature it forces the believer into the double burden of proof I had mentioned on my Debunking Christianity Blog in the first place! Previously, Christians didn't have to prove that an event was unlikely, because God did it all, and anything can happen in such a world.”

i) This is a semantic game in which Loftus begins with a stipulative definition of what a miracles is supposed to be, and then, by proceeding on this prejudicial basis, disqualifies the miraculous.

Christians don’t have to prove an event is unlikely to prove it happened. And they don’t have to prove that an event is miraculous to prove that it happened.

A Christian doesn’t have to sort out the “miraculous” events from the “non-miraculous” events in Scripture, and then place them in parallel columns.

All a Christian has to do is to affirm every event as it happened in Scripture. He must affirm the occurrence of the event, as well as the description of the event given in Scripture. No labeling is required.

ii) According to Scripture, God doesn’t do everything. Rather, God is behind everything that happens. God’s primary causality is a cofactor in whatever happens. That doesn’t rule out the role of second causes.

Every birth in Scripture is not a virgin birth. Every burning bush is not a theophany.

iii) Once again, anything and everything cannot happen. There is a doctrine of ordinary providence, undergirded by a covenant-keeping God. Miracles are not surd events, but purposeful events.

“But in today's world if we have a toothache we see a dentist and seek to fix the problem that occurred naturally. We don't think God specifically sent the tootchache to get our attention or punish us for our sins (such examples can be multiplied for every waking hour of our lives).”

Scripture does not attribute every ache and pain to supernatural agency. This is a just another straw man argument, like all of Loftus’ silly objections.

A "Sort of" Christian?

Robert Jensen tells us how he is a “sort of” Christian while being an atheist:

Even an Atheist Can Practice Christian Virtues: Why I am a Christian (Sort Of…)

I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe Jesus Christ was the son of a God that I don’t believe in, nor do I believe Jesus rose from the dead to ascend to a heaven that I don’t believe exists.

It would be stating the terribly obvious to note that Jensen completely ignores the Bible’s own use of the word “Christian.” I’m not exactly sure why theological liberals and humanistic apostates think that their unbelief gives them free access to commit linguistic terrorism, hijacking historical words that actual mean something and twisting them for their own agenda. Obviously, someone who denies the deity of Christ has missed the fundamental principle of Christ’s teaching; you can’t claim the label of Christ if you deny the central doctrine of Christ.

Given these positions, this year I did the only thing that seemed sensible: I formally joined a Christian church.

[sarcasm] Yes, we can all see how that would be a sensible option. [/sarcasm]

Notice that Jensen does not simply tell us “I decided to start attending a church regularly, sitting on the back row.” No, he “formally joined” a Christian church. This means, most likely, that Jensen had to lie to the leaders of this church. This means that he had to falsely profess belief. This means that he has insincerely received the sacraments. Jensen isn’t some poor non-believer whose emotional level has driven him into professing some type of spurious faith; no, this is someone who actively disbelieves yet lies and claims otherwise! It is a wonder how Jensen would expect us to take seriously anything he has to say after he has openly admitted to purposefully deceiving the body of Christ.

Standing before the congregation of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, I affirmed that I (1) endorsed the core principles in Christ’s teaching; (2) intended to work to deepen my understanding and practice of the universal love at the heart of those principles; and (3) pledged to be a responsible member of the church and the larger community.

So the deception begins. Upon reading this, I had the feeling that Jensen wasn’t simply going to openly admit to lying; he was going to justify his lies. He’s going to try to convince us that he really does endorse “the core principles in Christ’s teaching.” But this is going to require a radical misunderstanding of the teaching of Jesus Christ, as we will see further on.

So, I’m a Christian, sort of. A secular Christian. A Christian atheist, perhaps. But, in a deep sense, I would argue, a real Christian.

So the justification for lying begins.

A real Christian who doesn’t believe in God? This claim requires some explanation about the reasons I joined, and also opens up a discussion of what the term “Christian” could, or should, mean.

So the linguistic terrorism begins. Jensen is going to tell us what the term “Christian” should mean. I’m curious how such revelation has been made available to Jensen. How does Jensen, living almost 2000 years after the first follower of Christ was called a “Christian” (Acts 11:26, 1 Peter 4:16), become privy to the knowledge of what the term “Christian” should mean? I guess the Apostle Peter didn’t know what it should mean when he wrote, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” Well, whadya know: Jensen knows something about Christianity that Christ’s apostles didn’t know! Gifted fellow, indeed.

First, whatever my beliefs about the nature of the non-material world or my views on spirituality, I live in a country that is extremely religious, especially compared to other technologically advanced industrial nations. Surveys show that about 80 percent of Americans identify as Christian and 5 percent as some other faith. And beyond self-identification, a 2002 poll showed that 67 percent of all people in the poll agreed that the United States is a “Christian nation”; 48 percent said they believed that the United States has “special protection from God”; 58 percent said that America’s strength is based on religious faith; and 47 percent asserted that a belief in God is necessary to be moral.

While 84 percent in that 2002 poll agreed that one can be a “good American” without religious faith, clearly there’s an advantage to being able to speak within a religious framework in the contemporary United States.

It is great that Jensen admits for us that he lives in an atmosphere that is permeated by theological ignorance. I should hope that Jensen can connect the dots between his cultural atmosphere and his own views. If not, I’ll be here to connect them for him.

So, my decision to join a church was more a political than a theological act. As a political organizer interested in a variety of social-justice issues, I look for places to engage people in discussion. In a depoliticized society such as the United States — where ordinary people in everyday spaces do not routinely talk about politics and underlying values—churches are one of the few places where such engagement is possible. Even though many ministers and churchgoers shy away from making church a place for discussion of specific political issues, people there expect to engage fundamental questions about what it means to be human and the obligations we owe each other — questions that are always at the core of politics.

I suppose Jensen has abandoned his original thesis, for he surely hasn’t given us anything that would defend it. On the contrary, he has told is that he is a “real” Christian because: 1) he deceived a church by consciously professing false faith, and 2) he joined a church for political reasons. I don’t remember finding either of those in the teachings of Christ.

The pastor and most of the congregation at St. Andrew’s understand my reasons for joining, realizing that I didn’t convert in a theological sense but joined a moral and political community. There’s nothing special about me in this regard — many St. Andrew’s members I’ve talked to are seeking community and a place for spiritual, moral and political engagement. The church is expansive in defining faith; the degree to which members of the congregation believe in God and Christ in traditional terms varies widely. Many do, some don’t, and a whole lot of folks seem to be searching. St. Andrew’s offers a safe space and an exciting atmosphere for that search. in collaboration with others.

St. Andrews might be commended for its evangelistic focus. However, we cannot commend it for its liberal view of the church and the equal theological ignorance it shares with Robert Jensen.

Such expansiveness raises questions about the definition of Christian. Many no doubt would reject the idea that such a church is truly Christian and would argue that a belief in the existence of God and the divinity of Christ are minimal requirements for claiming to be a person of Christian faith.

1. Jensen states, “Such expansiveness raises questions about the definition of Christian.” In other words, his present experience is what causes him to question the teaching of Scripture. Because, to Jensen, Scripture is not the infallible Word of God given by divine inspiration, we can mold it or dismiss it based upon our own present cultural needs. The focus, therefore, is “How can I make Scripture apply to me now?” rather than “What is God actually telling us through Scripture?” You see, contrary to Jensen’s theologically misinformed mentality, the Bible is not an “Encyclopedia on All Things Spiritual.” It isn’t a “Where can I find information on this…” type of deal. Rather, the purpose of Scripture is to tell the story of redemption. It is to tell the story of the gospel, and to make sure that the gospel is being applied to our lives daily. If we approach the Bible with a “How can I make this relevant to me” mentality rather than a “I want to know what God is seeking to communicate” mentality, we have completely abandoned the purpose of special revelation.

2. Jensen seeks to divorce the teaching of Christ from the person of Christ. This is nothing new. But the problem is that the very teaching of Christ always pointed us back to himself: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Jesus never tells us to embrace a certain set of ideas as the solution to our problems. He always pointed to himself as the solution. Without Christ, you have no Christians; for, without Christ, you have no Christianity. Christianity is not a “Confucius say…” type of a religion. It is not a “4 Pillars to Heaven” or a “3 Steps to Enlightenment” type of deal. If that were the case, then it might be possible to take the ideas of Christ without accepting the person of Christ. But Christ didn’t simply offer ideas; he offered himself: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Has this philosophical age already forgotten the philosophical age of C. S. Lewis? Remember the “Three L’s” (Liar, Lunatic, Lord)? Jesus claimed to be God. Since Jensen recognizes that, I’m not going to show it here. C. S. Lewis tells us that the only options for someone who claims to be God is that he is a liar, in which case his teachings have no warrant; he is a lunatic, in which case his teachings have no warrant; or he is the Lord he said he was, in which case his teachings do have warrant. But there is no possibility that Christ was some good teacher with good principles; if he wasn’t the Lord of Glory, he was a liar or a lunatic:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher; he’d either be a lunatic–on a level with a man who says he’s a poached egg–or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. …But don’t let us come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He hasn’t left that open for us. He didn’t intend to.” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).

Such a claim implies that an interpretation of the Bible can be cordoned off as truth-beyond-challenge. But what if the Bible is more realistically read symbolically and not literally? What if that’s the case even to the point of seeing Christ’s claim to being the son of God as simply a way of conveying fundamental moral principles? What if the resurrection is metaphor? What if “God” is just the name we give to the mystery that is beyond our ability to comprehend through reason?

1. Again, Robert Jensen transforms the Bible into a free-range of ideas. Religious relativity abounds, and Jensen hopes to force that relativity into a Bible that promotes the exclusivity of its claims. By the way, nothing is more arrogant than relativism. Indeed, nothing is more ironic. In the relativist principle that it is arrogant to claim to possess the singular, exclusive, absolute truth is the attempt to negate all truths. It calls the Bible wrong for calling something else wrong! Inclusivism is more arrogant than exclusivism; inclusivism claims deeper knowledge than all exclusive religions.

2. Jensen continues to attempt to apply the Bible as he sees fit, rather than applying the Bible as the Bible sees fit. In the end, Robert Jensen is the only Bible for Robert Jensen.

3. Jensen continues to divorce the principles of Christ from the person of Christ. We have already shown that this is impossible. Without Christ, there is no Christianity. Without Christianity, there are no Christians.

In such a conception of faith, an atheist can be a Christian. A Hindu can be a Christian. Anyone can be a Christian, and a Christian can find a connection to other perspectives and be part of other faiths. With such a conception of faith, a real ecumenical spirit and practice is possible. Identification with a religious tradition can become a way to lower barriers between people, not raise them ever higher.

1. One begins to wonder why it is Christianity which must become the free-for-all inclusive religion. Why is it that Hindus, remaining Hindus, can become Christians? Why is it the case that atheists, remaining atheists, can become Christians? Why has Jensen chosen the word “Christian” as the victim for his linguistic terrorism? Why has Christianity become the object of his theological ignorance?

2. Given the atheistic worldview, why is ecumenism the goal? Why is religion a goal at all? Why is Jensen-the-atheist so desperate to cling to the word “Christian” that he is willing to radically redefine its historical definition?

We can ground this process in the ethical principles common to almost all religious and secular philosophical systems, one of which is the assertion that we should treat others as we would like to be treated.

When you have an agenda such as Robert Jensen’s, it is inevitable that you’ll miss the entire point of Christ’s ministry. Christ didn’t come here to give us a morality lesson. He came here to tell us that we have failed the morality test, that we need him to be the propitiation for the wrath of God in our place, that we need the imputation of his righteousness to us that is received by faith, and that then do we receive the benefit and joy of fulfilling the “morality lessons” as a response to who Christ is and what he has done. But of course, this is all beside the point to Jensen. He couldn’t care less about all this. He is blinded by his own humanistic agenda, and this agenda causes him to miss the entire point of Christ’s ministry.

For example:

–None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself (Islam).

–Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Christianity).

–Act only on that maxim that you can will a universal law (Kant).

– “Follow the Five Pillars of Islam” (Mohammed)

– “Follow the Seven Steps to Nirvana” (Buddhism)

– “Follow me” (Jesus Christ).

The contrast speaks volumes.

There is an important struggle going on for the soul of Christianity, which should be of concern to everyone, Christian or not. The debate is not just at the level of arguments over whether, for example, certain Old Testament passages should be interpreted to condemn homosexuality. The deeper struggle is over whether Christianity is to be understood as a closed set of answers that leads to the intensification of these boundaries, or as an invitation to explore questions that help people transcend boundaries. Such a struggle is going on not only within Christianity, but in all the major world religions.

Ok, whatever. What about Jesus Christ? That’s what Christianity is about.

…In other words, the task of Christians — and, I would argue, all religions — is to make themselves more relevant in the short term by being a site of such political and moral engagement, with the goal of ensuring their ultimate irrelevance.

I’m not exactly sure why Robert Jensen believes he has become the spokesman for Christianity. Why has he come imposing his own agenda upon the Christian worldview? And why has he chosen Christianity as the victim for this agenda? Why not Islam? I mean, just a couple of paragraphs above he was pointing out the supposed similarities between these two worldviews. So why has he chosen to hijack the word Christian? Why should Christians accept his agenda?

That is why I am a Christian.

Robert Jensen has not even begun to understand the meaning of that word.

Evan May.

[HT: BF from ProTheism]

A Biblical Response To the Free Grace Movement Part One

Before I post this, I want to let everybody know. This is copyrighted material. I have secured permission from Phillip L. Simpson to post this material here for our readers.

Thank You, Phillip, for allowing me to do this.

I will be posting this in parts. This is not the whole paper. That's because this comes to about 33 pages in Word, and I want to give our readers time to digest these parts. I will post the first part for the weekend and the next segment on Monday evening, since readership tends to diminish over the weekend.


A Biblical Response to the Teachings of Zane Hodges,Joseph Dillow, and the Grace Evangelical Society(Called the "Free Grace" Movement)

© Copyright by Phillip L. Simpson – 2006


The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical evaluation of what has been termed (by its proponents) the "Free Grace" movement. I should begin by stating at the outset that this is a paper I did not want to write. It is borne out of much sorrow and heaviness of heart. For twenty years, ever since I had become a Christian, I had attended a particular church. When John MacArthur wrote, "The Gospel According to Jesus" in 1988, a line was drawn in the sand regarding the doctrine that came to be known as the "lordship salvation" doctrine (a regrettable term, coined by its critics, but one which is now necessary to identify the doctrine). My church chose to side with the critics of "lordship salvation", with such stalwarts as Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, and many from Dallas Theological Seminary leading the way.

Personally, I was torn. On the one hand I had heroes such as Dr. MacArthur and R.C. Sproul defending the lordship position; on the other hand, other heroes, such as my pastor and Dr. Ryrie, were teaching against it.

I launched into a study, reading books and articles by men from both sides, including MacArthur, Sproul, Michael Horton, J. I. Packer, Ryrie, Michael Cocoris, Charles Bing, Earl Radmacher, and Zane Hodges. I did this to make sure I understood fully both positions. Since I felt both sides had convincing arguments, I began to study the Scriptures for myself regarding this matter. My study took nearly eight years. A breakthrough came when I decided to jot down all the relevant Scripture texts which speak to the debate. As I did this, I compiled a list of over 100 Scripture texts. Looking over the list, I realized that what I largely had was a list of verses which seemed to support the lordship viewpoint, which would need to be "explained away" by its critics (or reinterpreted so as to contradict the plain meaning of these texts-- over 100 of them!). It is from this list of Scripture texts that this article was formed.

At this point, I realized that if I am going to need someone else to explain to me the meaning of the most of the New Testament, and that the plain meaning is so little to be trusted, I would have to rely on the no-lordship proponents to serve as "priests" to tell me how to understand the Bible -- it may as well have been written in Latin. For me, the hermeneutic rule known as "Cooper’s Rule" speaks well to this issue: "If the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense". I came to the conclusion that the lordship people are probably closer to the truth on this issue (though there are some, admittedly, who teach an extreme position on this doctrine, emphasizing submission over grace and confusing sanctification with justification).

Though hard to describe this doctrine in a nutshell, here goes: Lordship salvation proponents teach that, when one receives Christ, he receives Him as both Savior and Lord. "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). In other words, implicit in the salvation process is an understanding, however rudimentary, that Christ is Lord and has the right to call the shots.

I say that this is implicit in the salvation process for this reason: Anyone who is saved is saved from something, and that something is sin. The "free grace" teachers love the Reformation teaching of "faith alone" (although they teach a distorted understanding of it). Yet what does it mean to believe? To believe that Jesus historically existed? Yes, but more must be affirmed: I must, in the process of conversion, understand that I need to be saved. That is, I must understand my lostness; I must agree with God that I am a sinner deserving hell, and that my sin is wrong. If I attempt to be saved, but deny that my sin is wrong, I have no need to be saved from anything. But if I agree with God that my sin is wrong, I understand that, logically, the converse must be true: what He has said about what my life should be like must be right. Even if I don’t conform to that immediately (which we don’t), I still have acknowledged that He is the Lord.

This may sound strange to modern ears, because modern evangelistic methods have ingrained the idea into our thinking that we can accept Christ as Savior now, and later "make Him Lord" by some decision (or not, if we so opt); but nowhere do the Scriptures teach this. As A.W. Tozer has said, "we do not teach a divided Christ!" We receive a whole person when we receive Him, not just a part of Him. He is Lord; we do not make Him Lord.

Now from this first point springs several other points pertinent to the Lordship position. Many of these are proven below from Scripture, but the reader is referred to MacArthur’s book (and its sequel, The Gospel According to the Apostles) for a more thorough description and defense. Some of these points are as follows:

The call to faith is also a call to repentance. Repentance from sin is part of the gospel message.

All Christians are disciples. All are learners and followers, to varying degrees. Someone who claims to be a Christian but expresses no desire to follow Christ may not be a Christian at all.

True saving faith will necessarily evidence itself by works (or "fruit") in the believer’s life.

All believers will possess a fundamental (though imperfect) love for the Lord Jesus.

True believers will be preserved in the faith; their perseverance is secured by God, so that they will never ultimately and utterly deny or repudiate Christ; they will never fall away.

Though my church embraced the no-lordship position, I attempted to stay in that church in the interest of Christian unity (though I later came to understand that New Testament unity is grounded in the gospel of Christ--that is the basis of our unity {Ephesians 4:11-15}. Unfortunately, since the "free grace" view of the gospel is very different from my own, the basis for unity was very limited).

As time went on, my pastor began to be influenced personally by Earl Radmacher, and by the writings of Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, Bob Wilkin and the "Grace Evangelical Society" (an organization which seems to exist largely to debunk the doctrine of Lordship salvation), and others who identify themselves with that they call the "free grace" movement. (Please don't misunderstand me--I believe God has given His grace to us freely in Christ, and His grace is in no way given to us based on anything meritorious we have done. I believe in God‘s free, unearned grace given to sinners; I just don‘t believe in "free grace"as these men define it. I mention this because the movement has chosen its terms carefully. To say I‘m against the "free grace" movement puts the idea into people‘s heads that I don‘t believe in the biblical concept of free grace; that couldn‘t be further from the truth).

I mentioned earlier that I did not want to write this article. I say that because, on a personal level, I’ve been saddened to see the church I care about subscribe to this strange new doctrine. It’s a doctrine which, I feel, underemphasizes God’s work in salvation, and places an undue overemphasis on such things as human decisions and rewards.

"Free Grace" Theology: An Overview

The "free grace" movement is not synonymous with no-lordship teaching. There are many no-lordship teachers who do not fall into the "free grace" camp. However, all "free grace" teachers do hold fundamentally to a no-lordship viewpoint. But their teaching goes much further than that. Having started with the tenet that one may receive Christ as Savior and not as Lord, they then interpret the whole New Testament in that light. This has led to an interpretation of many New Testament passages which departs from the historic understanding of these texts. Among their beliefs are the following:

Repentance is never to be included as part of the gospel message.

One may receive Christ as Savior, yet reject Him as Lord. That is, one may receive Christ by faith alone ("intellectual assent" is the definition some of them affirm), yet do so with ongoing rebellion--accepting the gift while shaking a fist at the giver. God does not necessarily change the heart (to grant a love for Christ, or even a receptivity to Him) when He saves someone.

True Christians will not necessarily evidence their faith by works (or "fruit"). In fact, a true Christian may never show any evidence of the new birth.

True Christians will not necessarily persevere in the faith. In fact, a true Christian may receive Jesus as Savior, later become intellectually unconvinced of the gospel, denounce Christ and become an atheist; however, because of that one human decision made at one point in time, he is still considered to be saved. For instance, Joseph Dillow, in The Reign of the Sevant Kings, says, "It is possible for a truly born-again person to fall away from the faith and cease believing." (p.199). True Christians may fall away completely from the faith and still be saved. God in no way grants them perseverance, or sustains them in their faith.

At the Bema seat, Christ will divide believers into two distinct and separate groups: the faithful, "overcoming" Christians will be allowed to reign with Him in the millennial kingdom; they are the "heirs" of the kingdom.

Unfaithful, carnal believers, however, will get into the kingdom, but will not be allowed to reign with Christ. They enter the kingdom but do not inherit it. In fact, they will be barred from the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, and will be cast outside of the wedding banquet, where they will weep and gnash their teeth (just as unbelievers will do in hell). The millennium will therefore be a time of sorrow and weeping for these children of God.

"Free Grace" and Scholasticism

I need to mention that the Free Grace arguments can be quite convincing. This is because many of their arguments rely on heavy scholasticism (especially logical arguments, and Greek word definitions and tense analysis). It is hard for laymen to argue with this, so many in the congregations where these men preach simply buy into the doctrine, reasoning that "these men must know what they’re talking about". However, in my studies I have found significant holes in their logic. Additionally, their Greek studies often lead to interpretations of texts that are far removed from the way these texts have historically been understood, as well as the plain and obvious meanings of the texts. One should also remember that, for every "free grace" Greek scholar, there are many other Greek scholars who do not agree with the "free grace" definitions of Greek terms.

An example of flawed logic is found by examining the "free grace" position on the interpretation of James 2:14-26. This passage is troubling to the "free grace" teachers, because its meaning is clear: faith without works cannot save; it is a dead faith. This is in opposition to the "free grace" doctrine (which states that works can never be an indicator of one’s salvation status). So these teachers have had to depart from the plain understanding of the passage (and the historical interpretation), and supply an altogether different understanding of the passage.

Especially troubling for them is verse 14, which says, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" To rectify the problem, it is common for "free grace" teachers to change the meaning of the word "save". For example, Bob Wilkin, in the Sept./Oct. 1994 issue of the Grace in Focus newsletter, says the following:

There is no question but that James is asserting that faith without works can't save. The form of the Greek question expects a negative answer. Yet there is a question about the nature of the salvation under consideration.

About half of the NT uses of the words save and salvation refer to salvation from physical death, from disease, and from various temporal difficulties. That means that you are just as likely to find a given occurrence refer to deliverance from some problem in this life as to eternal salvation.

The word save occurs five times in James (1.21; 2:14; 4:12; 5:15, 20). In none of the four uses outside of our passage is eternal salvation in view. In his epistle James uses the word save to refer to deliverance from the death-dealing consequences of sin (cf. 1:15,21). A believer whose faith is not accompanied by works will not be saved from the consequences of his sinful behavior. He or she will experience difficulties which God sends. The purpose of these difficulties is to turn the believer back to the Lord.

On the surface, this argument can seem convincing. However, a study of the passages in which "save" or "salvation" is said to refer to temporal deliverance from sin’s consequences (both in James and in the whole of the New Testament) reveals that, in fact, they more often than not do refer to eternal salvation (though the "free grace" teachers deny this). In other words, they are padding their own statistics. Their logic goes somewhat like this:

1. James can’t mean eternal salvation, since he always uses the word "save" to refer to temporal deliverance from sin’s consequences.

2. How do I know that the other passages in which James uses the word "save" refers to temporal deliverance from sin’s consequences? Because I say they do.

This is common in "free grace" writings; such statements as "the context clearly shows", or "though the lordship interpretation may be such and such, there is nothing in the passage which demands such an interpretation" occur often. So, circular reasoning and arguments from silence should be looked for when reading articles or books from "free grace" teachers (or in any scholarly writings, including those from the "lordship salvation" proponents as well!).

Another example of flawed logic is in James’ use of the term, "dead faith". James 2:17 says, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead". James 2:26 says, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead". Since the phrase "faith without works is dead" seems to indicate that someone whose life is devoid of works is unsaved, and that that contradicts "free grace" doctrine, such teachers have had to develop another interpretation of this passage. Their interpretation (generally speaking) is represented by Bob Wilkin in the same issue of Grace in Focus. Speaking of the Lordship position on this passage, Dr. Wilkin says

If this argument holds, then what James is saying is that faith without works is not faith at all since it is dead. That doesn't make sense. Are things which are dead unreal? Certainly not. The fact that something is dead indicates that the animating power is gone from it.

However, James is not making an allegory between a dead body and faith without works. An allegory would analyze all parts of the illustration, and make every aspect of it symbolic of some abstract truth. (This is often done when "free grace" teachers teach on the parables of Christ). James’ readers would not likely have understood that "dead faith" referred to a faith in which "the animating power is gone from it". Rather, dead faith means, simply, a faith without life. And just as a dead body may have the external appearance of a living body, yet by its lack of vitality demonstrates it is completely void of life, so a faith that is devoid of works is a faith without life. In James’ language, a dead faith may be orthodox, but has no more power to save someone than the orthodox faith of demons (James 2:19).
If we were to make an allegory of dead faith, even the "free grace" position does not stand up to the test, because it would mean "carnal Christians" could go from "dead faith" to a "living faith"—and possibly in and out from dead to living. James’ words would have been a poorly chosen analogy indeed!

It seems to me that scholasticism which arrives at conclusions which so significantly depart from historic interpretations and plain, obvious meanings should cause us all to see red flags.


The "free grace" teachers have been charged by some in the Lordship camp as being antinomians (that is, promoting lawlessness). Do I think this charge is true? Yes and no. Let me explain what I mean. From my experience, these people do care about holiness of life and honoring God by our actions and thoughts. I can’t think of one of them who would advocate "loose living". However, I’m afraid that the unintended consequence of their teaching is a generation of many who believe that, because of a decision made years ago, their salvation is secure, even though "by their works they deny Him" (Titus 1:6).

Further, believers are encouraged in this system to not seriously confront unbelievers with their sin when evangelizing them (that is, to call them to repentance). Jesus certainly confronted the rich young ruler (for his greed), the Samaritan woman (with divorce and immorality), Simon the Pharisee (for lack of love for Him), and the Pharisees (for hypocrisy).

By contrast, , the "free grace" gospel seems to be "believe that God will take you to heaven if you ask Him; simply believe His promise". But the gospel is only good news to me if I understand the desperation of my plight: that I have personally offended a God (who is thrice Holy!) with my sin (and I sin a thousand times over again each day). My only hope lies in fleeing to the One Who can bear the punishment I cannot bear, and Who alone can live the righteous life God requires in my stead. By contrast, if one does respond to the "free grace" gospel, the holiness of God and the terribleness of his sin have not, in my view, been sufficiently addressed. This is breeding ground for casual Christianity.

Finally, I’m afraid that the teaching that one may evidence no spiritual fruit and yet be convinced he is a believer is a dangerous teaching. (This teaching wil be critiqued in detail later on.) It will lead unbelievers to be convinced they are quite all right, and the consequences will be damning. It will also fill our churches with worldy people who are largely unconcerned with their sin, thus polluting the purity of the church.

Is This Just an Argument Between Dispensational and Reformed Theology?

Finally, it is worth mentioning that this is not a classical "Dispensationalism vs. Reformed Theology" debate. In my readings, I found articles critical of the free grace movement which were written by dispensationalists, Arminians, and Calvinists. (Interestingly, there were very few articles from the Calvinist camp.) For further study of these doctrines, the reader is encouraged to begin by perusing the Grace Evangelical Society’s website ( ) for a supportive overview, and Middletown Bible church’s website (a dispensational church), at for a critical review.

Having introduced the doctrine of the "free grace" movement, I would like to now move toward several Scriptures which, I believe, will plainly show that doctrine to be unbiblical. The reader is encouraged to look up the verses, and study the surrounding verses, to make sure none of these verses are taken out of context.


In the next entry on Monday, I will begin posting Phillip's exegetical arguments. Stay Tuned!

God in the dock

God in the dock

Helen Thomas,
AP reporter

Impeachment proceedings against the Omnipotent began today in the House of Hellions. This follows on the heels of a widely reported wiretap scandal, which began when Richard Dawkins detected suspicious clicks and pops on the line after he took a collect call from Beelzebub.

A subsequent investigation uncovered the fact that heaven had a covert policy of warrantless wiretaps. It monitors all communications emanating from the dark side to sympathizers here below.

Beelzebub, after consulting with the law firm of Clark, Clovenhoof, Apollyon, & Associates, brought suit in the World Court of the Unter-Haag for crimes against inhumanity.

In his brief, Ramsey Clark charged the Omnipotent with abuse of office by violating the terms of the Fiendish Conventions.

Mr. Clark further accused the Omnipotent of undermining the Stygian system of check and balances. “It amounts,” he said, “to an Almighty-makes-right position. The Omnipotent is playing God!”

Since, however, the Omnipotent enjoys diplomatic immunity, it is necessary to impeach him and remove him from high office before he can be extradited to the Unter-Haag to stand trial for infringing on the civil rights of Pandemonic citizenry.

For heaven’s part, the angel Gabriel, speaking on behalf of the Omnipotent, denied the universal jurisdiction of the Unter-Haag, and justified the surveillance program on the grounds that covert counterintelligence was a necessary tool in the war between Good and Evil. “Without these infernal intercepts,” he said, “we would be fighting blind.”

"Dividing the body of Christ"

I see that certain Reformed Baptists, including a few with whom I’m informally associated, have been accused of dividing the body of Christ.

I only have one brief observation to make regarding this allegation.

Warfield once said of his own troubled denomination that you cannot split a rotten log.

One of the charges leveled against the SBC is that the SBC is, in some measure, an empty shell. That’s its church rolls are inflated with nominal Christians due to a particular policy of church growth, abetted by a particular theory of conversion and membership.

So it begs the question to say that these individuals are dividing the body of Christ. From their viewpoint, this is so much an issue between fellow believers, but between true believers and nominal believers.

As I understand the issue, they want a standard of membership based on a credible profession of faith. Not just a bunch of warm bodies filling four walls on Sunday morning.

The only body they are dividing is the body of a spiritual zombie.

The blind leading the blind

Roman Catholics keep telling us benighted Evangelicals that we need a magisterium, a divine teaching office, or living tradition, to guide us through life.

Here is part of what a cardinal has to say about how two of the architects of Vatican II, both of whom who went on to be Pope, differ over the reliability of this “ecumenical” council.

The current pontiff even attributes heresy to one portion of the conciliar end-product.


The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes in final form was primarily the work of French theologians. The German group did not control the text. At the time of the council Ratzinger already noted many difficulties, beginning with the problem of language. In opting for the language of modernity the text inevitably places itself outside the world of the Bible, so that as a result the biblical citations come to be little more than ornamental. Because of its stated preference for dialogue, the constitution makes faith appear not as an urgent demand for total commitment but as a conversational search into obscure matters. Christ is mentioned only at the end of each section, almost as an afterthought.

Instead of replacing dogmatic utterances with dialogue, Ratzinger contends, it would have been better to use the language of proclamation, appealing to the intrinsic authority of God’s truth. The constitution, drawing on the thought of Teilhard de Chardin, links Christian hope too closely to the modern idea of progress. Material progress is ambivalent because it can lead to degradation as well as to true humanization. The Cross teaches us that the world is not redeemed by technological advances but by sacrificial love. In the section on unification, Gaudium et Spes approaches the world too much from the viewpoint of function and utility rather than that of contemplation and wonder.

Ratzinger’s commentary on the first chapter of Gaudium et Spes contains still other provocative comments. The treatment of conscience in article 16, in his view, raises many unsolved questions about how conscience can err and about the right to follow an erroneous conscience. The treatment of free will in article 17 is in his judgment “downright Pelagian.” It leaves aside, he complains, the whole complex of problems that Luther handled under the term “servum arbitrium,” although Luther’s position does not itself do justice to the New Testament.

Ratzinger is not wholly negative in his judgment. He praises the discussion of atheism in articles 19-21 as “balanced and well-founded.” He is satisfied that the document, while “reprobating” atheism in all its forms, makes no specific mention of Marxist communism, as some cold warriors had desired. He is enthusiastic about the centrality of Christ and the Paschal mystery in article 22, and he finds in it a statement on the possibilities of salvation of the unevangelized far superior to the “extremely unsatisfactory” expressions of Lumen Gentium 16, which seemed to suggest that salvation is a human achievement rather than a divine gift.

With regard to this constitution, the later Ratzinger does not seem to have withdrawn his early objections, notwithstanding his exhortations to accept the entire teaching of Vatican II.

The contrast between Pope Benedict and his predecessor is striking. John Paul II was a social ethicist, anxious to involve the Church in shaping a world order of peace, justice, and fraternal love. Among the documents of Vatican II, John Paul’s favorite was surely the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes. Benedict XVI, who looks upon Gaudium et Spes as the weakest of the four constitutions, shows a clear preference for the other three.


Does prayer make a difference?

Continuing my little thread on intercessory prayer in light of the recent Harvard study, I’d first draw attention to a post by an Evangelical Aussie.

i) Our friend from Down Under draws attention to the fact that the sample group of prayer warriors was recruited from non-Evangelical churches.

This is hardly a representative sampling.

As I said before, prayer is not unconditional. Scripture doesn’t promise that just anyone will get anything he prays for.

ii) In addition, prayer is not like a vending machine where you feed your nickels and dimes into the machine, push a button, and out comes the selection.

Christian prayer is not a mechanical exercise governed by natural laws. Rather, prayer is a dialogue between divine and human persons.

iii) We would not expect God to answer every prayer request for the obvious reason that we often do not know what’s best for us.

Once you get to be a certain age, you play the mental game of asking yourself what you’d do differently if you had it all to do over again.

Every halfway wise adult has certain regrets. He can see, with the benefit of hindsight, that many of the choices he made, which seemed to be perfectly good choices at the time, turned out to be shortsighted and foolhardy.

Always getting what you ask for is not a good thing. Part of being a friend is to sometimes say “no” to a friend.

Prayer is not a brand of borrowed omnipotence. God’s omnipotence is not on loan, to rubberstamp our every whim.

The idea of plugging omnipotence into a fallen and fallible creature is something out of a horror movie.

iv) What is the apologetic value of prayer, if any?

The primary purpose of prayer is not to prove the existence of God. That is, at most, an ancillary value.

The Christian experience of prayer goes something like this:

a) There are prayers that go unanswered. At least, they seem to go unanswered.

b) There are prayers that seem to receive a negative answer.

c) There are also prayers that seem to receive a positive answer.

Because we most often prayer for very ordinary things, answered prayers may also seem to be very ordinary.

If you were a sceptic, you could attribute such “answers” to simple coincidence.

This is one reason that prayer is an act of faith instead of sight.

A Christian doesn’t take everything on faith, but he does take some things on faith.

An answer corresponds to the object of the request. If you prayer for something very mundane, the answer will be very mundane.

d) Even at this mundane level, there is a cumulative pattern. Taken by themselves, one at a time, you could dismiss many answered prayers as sheer coincidence.

Yet over time, they do add up. If a Christian were to keep a diary, he would begin to see a subtle pattern emerge, a pattern not discernible from the individual outcomes, taken in isolation.

But because most of us don’t keep a diary, because our prayers are for such ordinary, ephemeral things, we tend to forget our prayers, especially when the thing we prayed for no longer poses a problem. Once the problem is past, we no don’t remember the problem or the prayer.

Life goes on. New petty problems take the place of old petty problems. So many answered prayers fade into the woodwork of a short-term memory.

v) Prayer is just one element in God’s providential care of the Christian. Again, because our lives are so ordinary, God’s providence doesn’t necessarily stand out in bold relief.

Yet the longer a Christian lives, the more he is able to discern the hidden hand of providence guiding his life every step of the way. In retrospect he sees how God saved him from one calamity after another.

Life is like a narrow winding path along a cliff. And we walk it in the dark. One misstep and you’re dead.

At the end of life, as the Christian looks over his shoulder, by the rising light of immortality, he can see that long, treacherous, circuitous route—from start to finish.

He can see how often along the way he would have slipped or stumbled and tumbled over the cliff. He can see how God gently took him by the hand and led him all along the journey.

This is the argument from experience. In the nature of the case, its apologetic value is limited to the insider. But as with any personal experience, that doesn’t make it any less genuine.

vi) Finally, there are remarkable answers to prayer. Prayer for remarkable things, which give rise to remarkable answers.

Some Christians go through life without any remarkable answers to prayer. They live unremarkable lives with unremarkable problems.

Other Christians do, on rare occasion, receive remarkable answers to prayer. Because they may face a remarkable challenge, they may receive a remarkable answer.

While still other Christians have this experience on a more frequent basis. A lot depends on the circumstance in which the Lord has placed you. If you lead a very smooth, ordinary life, it comes as no surprise if you enjoy a very ordinary level of spiritual experience. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But unlike ordinary answers to prayer, considered in isolation, such extraordinary answers to prayer cannot be chalked up to pure coincidence.

vii) Of course, the evidence for ordinary and extraordinary answers alike is anecdotal. For life is anecdotal. No life is like another.

Every individual Christian has an experience of God which is, in some respects unique, and in other respects a thing he shares in common with his fellow believers.

Prayer is akin to history instead of science. Science is the study of the universal, but history is the study of the particular.

Unnecessary Commentary

Remember “Charles the Brave“? When I was first passed the link to Charles-the-Troll’s newly created blogsite, I felt that the proper response was no response at all. I figured that his rhetoric could speak for itself, and eventually he would be swallowed up into his own corner of the blogosphere. Sadly, he has been given undeserved attention, through which he has gained a readership. That’s the negative side of dealing with trolls; they feed off of their own self-advertisement. The strategy is that if you can make enough noise around the blogosphere and bring enough attention to yourself, you’re bound to be noticed and receive hits to your website, even if it is just from others going to see what all of the fuss is about. But we all know that noise does not equal honest scholarship. Anonymous Charles can turn up the volume all he wants, but it is beneficial to no one.

Stepping on the toes of others in order to achieve his own soap box, Charles has offered some unnecessary commentary to the very brief exchange between Alan, Tom, Simon and me:

Simon, from the Thinking Deeply blog, is under fire. He wrote a great article on Wrongly Dividing The Body of Christ that was an indictment of the methods used by The Founders, The Calvinist Gadfly, and other rabid Calvinist blogs. This came on the heels of another article, Lord of The Gadflys, an expose of Alan Kurschner’s bizarre Calvinist blog.

Tom Ascol at Founders Ministries (yes, they really believe it’s a real ministry), responded with a whiny article. Didn’t you get the memo: The Founders can do no wrong.

Simon followed up with Apology, Observations, & Email. Simon said, “I publically apologize for implying that Tom or Founders personally attacks Arminians. I think that a lot of the people who visit that site personally attack Arminians, as evident from the thread you linked to. But Tom didn’t.” No, but he’s an enabler, and a big one. In my opinion, Simon did not need to apologize but you be the judge.

For the record, Simon once chastised me in a comment to my own article on Alan Kurschner. Simon was probably right, but I’m pretty hardheaded.


Reading Charles is quite the experience, is it not? Maybe Charles has assumed the under-cover occupation of aiding the Holy Spirit’s working of patience in the lives of believers. …Or maybe not.

1. I highly doubt that Simon would want to associate with Charles. I highly doubt that Simon would even like the fact that he is being promoted by Charles.

2. There was nothing “whiny” about Tom’s article. I have more reason to believe that Charles did not even read it than I do to believe that it was “whiny.” But for the Charles-the-unnecessary-commentator, unnecessary adjectives always sprinkle unnecessary comments.

3. For those of us who actually read Tom’s article, we know that the statement “Didn’t you get the memo: The Founders can do no wrong” could not be further from the case! Had Charles postured himself honestly and humbly towards those with whom he disagrees rather than simply searching to and thro around the blogosphere, seeking whom he may devour, he would have noticed Tom say, “No one is above criticism. Certainly not me or any of those who comment on this blog. Sometimes we may need to be corrected for what we say or how we say it.”

4. Notice how Charles displays an oh-so-Christ-like attitude by telling Simon that his response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and his decision to apologize in humility was pointless and unneeded.

5. “Yes, they really believe it’s a real ministry”? What is a statement like that supposed to accomplish? Do you really think that Simon would want to associate with that?

I suppose that Charles thinks that Alan and Tom are “wrongly dividing the body of Christ” as well. But what could be more ironic? I mean, is the statement “Yes, they really believe it’s a real ministry” one that is made from a heart that honestly seeks to achieve unity among believers, or has Charles simply used the subject of unity as another means to attack his favorite blog-enemies?

Evan May.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Does prayer change things?

I see that a much-touted new study on prayer by Harvard is being cited to undermine belief in the efficacy of prayer.

There are several really obvious flaws in this inference:

1.No Christian tradition except for the charismatic fringe has ever laid claim to a one-to-one ratio between prayer and answered prayer.

2.Not everyone who prays is praying in the will of God. In Scripture, prayer is not unconditional.

3.Unaswered prayers do nothing to dilute the evidence of remarkably answered prayers.

If, every time in the past that I’ve gone gambling, I’ve lost money, and then, one week, I’m dealt 10 royal flushes in a row, you can be sure that casino security will take a very personal interest in my new-found winning streak.

Still clueless after all these years

John Loftus has responded to my critique. It’s clear that Loftus remains as clueless as ever. Let’s begin with a statement of the problem. As Dr. Anderson summarizes the issue:

“More generally, what reason do we have to believe that our conclusions about observed instances may be extended (even with probability) to include unobserved instances? The same basic question is most frequently framed in temporal terms: What reason do we have to think that we can draw reliable conclusions about future (unobserved) instances on the basis of past (observed) instances?

Hume’s conclusion was that, regrettably, we have no good reason to think that such inductive inferences are justified. The problem of induction, then, is the problem of answering Hume by giving good reasons for thinking that the ‘inductive principle’ (i.e. the principle that future unobserved instances will resemble past observed instances) is true.

The need for such an answer is immeasurable, since the majority of scientific research is based on inductive reasoning — not to mention most of our everyday inferences about what to expect in the world.”

Now, this is how Loftus responds to my critique:

“But think on the following for a minute: what kind of justification is needed for anyone to believe something? I believe in the uniformity of nature and that the future will resemble the past because every experience I have ever had justifies this belief. Any experiment or any job I ever performed supported my belief in the uniformity of nature, of induction and in natural law. What else do I need?

Do I need to be certain of that which I believe and/or can justify? I think that's what he asks of me. If I don't need to be certain of what I justify then there's no problem, for I can justify most all of my beliefs. But if I/we must be certain of what I/we justify, then no one has a sufficient justification for believing anything--NO ONE!

When it comes to whether of not I’m absolutely certain the future will resemble the past, I’m not. But I’m not absolutely certain I’m actually even responding to one of my critics, either. Maybe I live in my very own inner world in some coma-like dream state where I am pounding on my computer to answer a critic who doesn't exist. So, what!? No one can be certain, absolutely certain of anything, much less that it can be believed with certainty that the God espoused by my critic exists. And if this God cannot be believed with certainty to exist, then I do not need to be certain about the laws of nature, of induction, and the uniformity of nature either before I act in acordance to those beliefs.

Neither Hume nor I stated that miracles cannot happen. But for a miracle to take place, as far as my whole experience in this life goes, this is about as likely as that the future will be found out to NOT resemble the past. Sure, what I believe here might prove in the end to be false. But I can only judge the future based on the present (and this goes for the past too; I can only judge the past from the standpoint of the present). To ask me to do otherwise is to ask me to suspend my judgment.”

i) To begin with, my critique was never predicated on the assumption that Loftus’ argument is unsound unless it can meet some apodictic standard of proof.

It’s true that his argument falls short of certainty. But that’s the least of his worries.

For the further problem is that he has no fallback.

He wants to downshift from certainty to probability. But that misses the very point. Unless he can justify induction, he is not entitled to mount a probabilistic argument.

For a probabilistic argument assumes induction, assumes the resemblance between the past and the future.

Loftus lacks certainty, and he also lacks probability.

In his response he has fallen right into Dr. Anderson’s trap by offering the “naïve” inductive response to the challenge. As Anderson puts it:

“The reasoning of such a reply may be spelled out in more detail as follows. Whenever we have observed instances in the past, and have drawn conclusions about (at that time) future unobserved instances, our conclusions invariably turn out later to be confirmed via direct observation (i.e. once we get round to observing those formerly unobserved instances). Since it has always been the case that unobserved instances have been found to resemble observed instances, we can confidently conclude that (at least probably) all unobserved instances will resemble observed instances.

The trouble with this answer, as Hume was at pains to point out, is that it begs the question. The reply itself takes the form of an inductive argument — reasoning about the future on the basis of the past — and thus must presuppose the very thing it aims to establish: the inductive principle. It is therefore guilty of fallacious circular reasoning. As Hume succinctly puts it:1

To say [the inference that the future will be like the past] is experimental [i.e. based on experience], is begging the question. For all inferences from experience suppose, as their foundation, that the future will resemble the past, and that similar powers will be conjoined with similar sensible qualities. If there be any suspicion that the course of nature may change, and that the past may be no rule for the future, all experience becomes useless, and can give rise to no inference or conclusion. It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this resemblance of the past to the future; since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance.”

And if that were not bad enough, it gets even worse, for you also have Loftus taking refuge in his individual experience.

I guess that’s his last-ditch argument. Like a man swallowed feet-first by a python, we watch Loftus wave his little flag as he disappears, inch by inch, from public view.

And yet, as should be needless to say, individual experience is totally inadequate to justify the principle of induction.

By that criterion, if I live on the equator, and someone tells me about the existence of snow, I should dismiss his testimony out of hand.

So let us restate the dilemma confronting the secular critic of miracles:

The critic needs the principle of uniformity to rule miracles out of court, as too unlikely to be believable.

In order to justify the principle of uniformity, the critic needs to justify induction.

But the secularist has no non-question-begging way to justify induction.

The only principled way to justify induction, as Anderson, as well as Nancy Cartwright (“No God, no Laws”), point out, is by grounding the laws of nature in God’s providential preservation of natural kinds.

But, of course, once he has to invoke God, then miracles come back in through another opening.

The secularist cannot disprove miracles without natural law, and he cannot disprove miracles with natural law.

Without natural law, he lacks a principle of uniformity.

With natural law, he pays the price of a divine Creator whose providential conservation of the natural order is the only principled basis for the cycles of nature.

But since God is a personal agent rather than a recursive program, this opens the door for miraculous intervention.

If he tries to plug the inlet for miracles by denying the existence of God, he forfeits any justification for induction, and with it, natural law—the absence of which unplugs another inlet for miracles.

But if he tries to plug the inlet for miracles by invoking natural law, then the only justification for this move is the existence of God, a God who can overrule the “uniformity” of nature, which unplugs another inlet for miracles.

I’d add that our hardheaded debunker continues to miss the point of the rather elementary distinction between the identification of the occurrence of an event, and the identification of the nature of an event.

You don’t have to identify an event as miraculous before you can identify the occurrence of an event which happens to be miraculous.

Moreover, there is, in Scripture, no categorical or qualitative difference between a miraculous and a non-miraculous event.

In Scripture, the God who sends the flood of Noah also sends the spring rains. The God who instigates the virgin birth is also the God who opens every womb.

In Scripture, every event is, at least in part, an act of God.

The point at issue is not how we characterize the event in our classification scheme. That’s a semantic question.

The main point is whether the event, as described in Scripture, ever took place.

Loftus is a very funny man. Only one problem: he’s the only guy not in on the gag.

Doesn’t’ anyone over at Debunkers have a long-handed cane to pull their hapless entertainer offstage?

The burden of atheism

Continuing our analysis, John Lotus said:

“The only way people judge whether or not a miracle occurred is whether or not it fits within their control beliefs (i.e., which God he believes in and was taught to believe). One cannot start with the evidence for a miracle to show that the Christian God exists, simply because a person must already believe it’s plausible for the Christian God to exist in the first place (unless it’s a case of accepting what someone says because that person is believable).”

Is this the only way to judge whether a miracle has happened? Take the Resurrection. According to the Resurrection, Jesus was alive, then he died, then he came back to life.

Very well, then. What evidence do you need to show that someone is dead? Extraordinary evidence? Or ordinary evidence?

What evidence do you need to show that someone is alive? Extraordinary evidence? Or ordinary evidence?

That someone who was once dead is alive again is no doubt miraculous, but how does that bear on the nature of the relevant evidence for either proposition?

Now, perhaps Mr. Loftus would borrow a page from Hume and say that this appeal is philosophically naïve. After all, we have no prior experience of dead men returning from the grave.

Even if that were so, it isn’t clear how this observation has any direct bearing on the evidence needed to show that someone was dead, and that someone who once was dead is alive.

But there’s a deeper issue. For remember that Hume was also the dude who put the problem of induction on the map.

And as James Anderson has pointed out, the secularist has no principled reason for assuming that the future will resemble the past.

So the real dilemma is for the unbeliever. In order to exclude the miraculous, he must appeal to an iron-clad regime of natural law.

But from a secular standpoint, he is unable to justify natural law, for he is unable to justify induction, which forms the basis of this covering law.

The only principled way to ground natural law is by invoking divine creation and providence.

But once you make that move, you have a God who is able and willing, under some circumstances, to perform a miracle.

Finally, I’d add that miracles are neither likely nor unlikely. That’s the wrong way to frame the issue.

Miracles are purposeful deeds of a personal agent. The occurrence of a miracle is not like a slot machine, in which certain permutations have a quantifiable rate of occurrence.

Once again, Loftus lacks an elementary grasp of the issues. But what else is new?

The least of these


Anonymous said...

I don't quite know how to respond to your post. From your title i get that you don't think that the adjective "Christian" should be used of Mr. Loney. You then post an article that explains Mr. Loney's sexual orientation. Now, to be sure, I have biblical issues with homosexuality, as well as with Mr. Loney's politics, but I do note that the article tells that he and his partner are involved in a ministry that feeds and shelters 60 of Toronto's homeless each day. The words of Jesus come to mind

"I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Isn't it only decent in this case to reserve judgement, or better yet, to leave it with Jesus? If Matthew 25 is the test (or even a test)it seems to me that Mr. Loney might be doing alright



i) Even if your interpretation of Mt 25 were roughly correct, the parable of the sheep and the goats is not the whole of the gospel. We have to take the entirely of the NT into account.

So even if charity were a necessary condition of salvation, it is hardly a sufficient condition.

ii) We do nominal Christians no favor by failing to warn them. To leave them in their self-delusion is heartless.

iii) It is clear from Scripture that sodomy is a damnable sin. You can be saved from the sin of sodomy, but you cannot be a Christian homosexual. You must repent of your sin and turn from your sin. You must leave that lifestyle, and you must undergo a change of heart, even if you continue to struggle with the particular sin. A recovering homosexual, a former homosexual, but not an active homosexual or someone who is still consumed by homosexual lust.

All Christians will struggle with sexual temptation, but that’s different from living in sin or living for sin.

iv) I’d hasten to add that sodomy is no more (or less) damnable than any other sin. It isn’t any one particular sin that damns a man to hell, but an unregenerate heart.

To be saved you must exercise penitent faith in Christ. And if you truly love him, you must keep his commandments.

v) Finally, your appeal to Mt 25 flounders on a fundamental misinterpretation. As a couple of commentators have explained:

“Until fairly recently it was generally assumed that this passage grounded eternal salvation on works of kindness to all in need, and that therefore its message was a sort of humanitarian ethic, with no specifically Christian content. As such, it was an embarrassment to those who based their understanding of the gospel on Paul’s teaching that one is justified by fait in Christ and not by ‘good works.” Was Matthew (or Jesus?) then against Paul?

More recent commentators have insisted, however, that such an interpretation does not do justice to the description of those in need as Jesus’ ‘brothers,’ nor to the use elsewhere in Matthew of language about ‘these little ones’ (see below, on v40). It is not kindness to the needy in general, but the response of the nations to ‘disciples’ in need. The passage is sometimes described as an expansion on the them of 10:40-42, where the gift of a cup of water is specifically ‘because he is a disciple,’ so that ‘he who receives you receives me’ Opinions vary as to whether Jesus had in mind specifically Christian ‘missionaries’ (as the context in ch. 10 suggests), or pastors and teachers, or some other special group within the number of disciples (those insignificant ones who are ‘greatest in the kingdom of heave,’ 18:3-4). But on any of these views the criterion of judgment becomes no mere philanthropy, but men’s response to the kingdom of heaven as it is presented to them in the person of Jesus’ ‘brothers.’ It is, therefore, as in 7:21-23, ultimately a question of their relationship to Jesus himself,” R. T. France, Matthew (IVP 1985), 355.

The minority view throughout church history, which is probably a majority view today, especially in churches with a healthy social ethics, is that these ‘brothers’ are any needy people in the world. Thus the passage becomes a strong call to demonstrate ‘fruit in keeping with repentance’ (3:8). Though on need not see any works-righteousness ethic present, many have read the text precisely that way. Yet while there is amble teaching in many parts of Scripture on the need to help all the poor of the world (most notably in Amos, Micah, Luke, and James), it is highly unlikely that this is Jesus’ point here.

Rather, his thought will closely parallel that of 10:42. The sheep are people whose works demonstrate that they have responded property to Christ’s messengers and therefore to his message, however humble the situation or actions of those involved. The itinerant Christian missionaries regularly suffered in these ways and were in frequent need of such help is classically illustrated with the example of Paul (see esp. 2 Cor 11:23-27) and the teaching of the Didache (ca. AD 95)," Craig Blomberg, Matthew (Broadman 1992), 378.

Ironic Unity Revisited

After reading Evan's latest article, I want to address this issue, since I happen to be Southern Baptist myself and I also participate at the Founders blog. For ease, I’ll simply quote the same portions that Evan quoted and respond.

…In short, this is a group of people who want to see all Southern Baptists become Calvinists. That is what is meant by the “Doctrines of Grace” and the “Historic Baptist Principle”.

This is the actual statement:

The purpose of Founders Ministries is the recovery of the gospel of the Lord
Jesus Christ in the reformation of local churches. We believe intrinsic to this
recovery is the promotion of the Doctrines of Grace in their experiential
application to the local church particularly in the areas of worship and
witness. This is to be accomplished through a variety of means focusing on
conferences and including publication, education, pastoral training and other
opportunities consistent with the purpose. Each of the ministries will be
developed with special attention to achieve a healthy integration of doctrine
and devotion.

Our abiding concerns:

We desire to be orthodox without being obnoxious.
We want to be confessional, yet contemporary.
We are Southern Baptist, though not sectarian.
Our goal is to be doctrinally and devotionally balanced.
Simon writes as if he is a Moderate Southern Baptist claiming that the Conservative Southern Baptists want to turn all Southern Baptists into inerrantists and are somehow seeking to redefine the definition of a "Southern Baptist." For Southern Baptists, however, the Doctrines of Grace are very certainly historic principles, since each and every signatory of the Charter of 1845 came from churches that affirmed the Philadelphia Confession, which is, with a few adjustments, a recapitulation of the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689.

Need also I remind Simon that we have just come from a time when “historic Baptist principles” meant “soul competency” and “religious liberty” with respect to intra-church and inter-church relations and biblical interpretation, not just civil government? Such thinking is a classic category error, for “religious liberty” applies to the Baptist view of church-state relations, not inter-church relations.

I wonder, Simon, do you also find this offensive:

The following circular letter was presented to the Stone Mountain Baptist Association on September 10-13, 1853, during the fifteenth annual session that was held at the Macedonia Baptist Church in the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia. It was secured from the minutes of the Stone Mountain Baptist Association by Pastor Bill Haynes of the Indian Creek Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.

I. That our churches ought to feel a deeper interest in, and higher observance
of, the fundamental doctrines of the Bible.

1. We argue the necessity of impressing these doctrines upon the mind from the fact that
they promote good religion.

"Make the tree good, and his fruit will be good." To obtain the purest water, we must repair the fountain. To attain an eminent degree of piety, ''drink of the fountain of the water of life freely." "In that day, there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin, and for uncleanness." The atonement of Christ, with special regard to the redemption of His people, is
first, last, and midst, in the great and glorious economy of Grace. Like the circle of the sun, it comprehends all the attributes of God's gifts to His children. The death of Jesus Christ, for us His enemies, embraces the most unmistakable proof of God's electing love; His preordination of obedient, true believers, to "eternal life." "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed." The assurance of an "eternal weight of glory," to all that love God and keep His commandments, is uttered and continued by the Lord Jesus, when He, in His unspeakable agony and awful death, exclaims, "It is finished." "The
ceremonial law is finished; the rigorous, fearful, civil polity of the Jews is finished; the requisition of the moral code is finished; my suffering life is finished; my shameful, agonizing death is accomplished; Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. If while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the
death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."

2. As the atonement of Christ is identified with the entire system of salvation, and as it corresponds with all those primary doctrines which it is our interest and duty to believe and practice, it is therefore necessary that these doctrines be preached and advocated, both in the pulpit and elsewhere, without fear of contradiction, and with unwavering confidence that God will sanctify them to His chosen people. Is the covenant of redemption true to the redemption of all that believe? Is election God's choice
from eternity of all that obey Him? Is predestination to holiness of heart and life a Bible doctrine? Is salvation by grace through the blood of Christ the heritage of God's elect? Shall they persevere in pious living through the faithfulness of God? Do "all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to His purpose?" Cannot Baptists answer these questions affirmatively? Surely. Then why neglect their propagation? Does the proclamation of truth injure the people of God ? Certainly not. When a man speaks a deliberate falsehood or is angry at the declaration of
truth, or when he conceals a truth by using misleading language in any matter whatever, avoid him. Arminianism and Campbellism are subtly intending our dismemberment. Let us arise in the energy of the Holy Ghost, and "declare all the counsel of God, and contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints."

3. The sovereignty of God is perpetuated and confessed in "the churches of the saints." "God sitteth on the throne of His holiness. The Lord Omnipotent, reigneth. He shall reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet; the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." His sovereign, immutable decree produces all that is good for His church; and His permissive will tolerates moral evil. He "worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure." In supreme power, and "dreadful majesty" He punishes the wicked. Executing the penalty of death upon the finally impenitent; He makes subservient to our benefit all the ills of life. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain? The penitent thief He brings to Paradise, but the dying persecuted robber He commits to eternal wrath.
"Righteousness, Justice, and Judgment are the habitation of His throne." It belongs to His absolute will, it is the prerogative of the Great Supreme to welcome the saints to glory, and consign the wicked to unquenchable fire. "Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world; Depart, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." His law of benevolence prepared Heaven for the righteous before they were born, from the foundation of the world. His penal law prepared Hell for the devil and his angels. "In my Father's house are many
mansions. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am. Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity." Thus, we give glory to God in the highest, thus God extends peace on earth, good will toward men. Alleluia! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Let the earth rejoice. Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

4. In penetrating the mysteries of Divine Providence and Grace, we must recollect that to learn these doctrines, faith, prayer, and patience are indispensably necessary. Faith must receive the
word of God as it is; prayer will unfold the oracles of truth to the humble inquirer;--and patience will tarry in the temple until the interpretation is audibly spoken by the Holy Spirit: "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may inherit the promise. He shall take the things which are mine, and shall shew them unto you."

Christians are not to learn the doctrines of grace in a day, or a year, "As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." What an immense blessing is it thus to have all the gifts of the immortal mind in exercise! It is stated that "an ancient mathematician, who had been working a
problem for many weeks, when he had found the solution, ran out of his study, and through the streets of Athens crying--"I have found it--I have found it!" And the disciples of the Lord Jesus, who is ever working out the vast problem of man's redemption, will find an answer to his devout inquiries, "with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Therefore, "exercise thyself rather unto godliness." Beloved brethren, descend "into the unsearchable riches of Christ." Be exercised in exploring the infinite mind of God. Make new discoveries of the Divine perfections. "But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the
glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord."

II. These doctrines are the safeguard of the Body of Christ. "He is made all things to the Church that in
all things He might have the preeminence. No other foundation can any man lay, than that is laid: which is Christ Jesus. Salvation will God appoint, for walls and bulwarks. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. Yea, and all the promises of God, in Him are yea, and
in Him amen, unto the glory of God by us."

To preserve the church of Christ from wicked encroachment, the citadel must be well defended
and secured: "His place of defense shall be the munition of rocks." Inherent strength is comprised and promoted within these enclosures. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from henceforth, even forever." The sun in his orbit, burns and shines without hazard
from any of his attendant planets. So be the Church of the adorable Redeemer. Let her "be as a city set on a hill which cannot be hid." Let her be "the light of the world." Illuminated by the Son of Righteousness, she is in her celestial training and towering majesty, the peerless queen of her Lord and King; subservient to no earthly pollution, or defilement from without, but guarded and honored by the power and intelligence of her Almighty and All-Wise Redeemer, she stands replete in the love of God, and beauty of salvation. "Upon His right hand did stand the Queen, in gold of Ophir."

III. The visibility of the Church of Christ, by the inculcation and exhibition of these doctrines is better understood. "Ye are not of the world." If the Church can be distinguished apart from the world in her principles taken from the Bible, and impressed by the spirit of God, she will evince, first, by her vitality, and secondly, in her sober, sincere and godly intercourse, that she alone is "the heavenly Jerusalem," that in her alone are the dawn and light and glory of the precious Saviour's image on earth. Grace "without money and without price" is free grace; it is unmerited, therefore it must be and will be illustrated in Christian character, and exemplified in Christian conduct.

IV. To do these things, the power is given us. "All power in heaven and earth is mine, and to whomsoever I will, I give it," says our Immanuel, "which name, being interpreted, is God with

1. In the government of the Church, the distinctiveness of these doctrines must be quietly and affectionately advocated and enforced. We require a good moral character of every applicant for church membership. But we need no reference to a man's previous life. If God has converted, has shed abroad His love in his heart, this contains all the elements of moral character. Ananias might not object to the baptism of Saul. His previous persecutions of God's children were no barrier to his immersion, "in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Caution, however, in the reception of applicants for immersion should be persistently and intelligently observed. And in the admission by letter of Baptists from a distance, there should be the most scrupulous adherence of moral character. A
church letter, written sometimes in full fellowship, is but a transcript of hypocrisy and base imposition. Never admit to church membership any person on the merit expressed in his letter, unless his commendation is borne out in Christian conduct. Object to him and reject at once his letter of
recommendation, if he is not in action what his letter signifies.

Reclaim, as speedily as possible, backsliding Christians. Excommunicate incorrigible members. Never mind their great age. The hoary-headed sinner is the most ingenious contriver of mischief. Have no
lenience for the opulent hypocrite. "Wealth maketh many (mischievous) friends." "Holiness becometh God's house."

2. In the good character of Jesus Christ's preacher, and deacons, these truths must be sanctioned and

Aaron and the Levites (deputy priests) were irreproachable. Paul exercised himself "daily, to have a good conscience void of offense toward God and toward men." He addressed the deacons of Philippi with
profound regard and unwavering confidence; and placed them second in the scale of pious distinction and manifest utility, in the Philippian church. From the deaconship of Stephen, he rose to the ministration of the Gospel, and was crowned with the earliest honors of the martyrdom of the New Testament. "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."

3. The ordinances of God's house will be diligently and devoutly attended to. "Faith without works is dead." Where there are no Christian works, there is no Christian faith. Christian faith is lively, animating, productive. "I will show thee my faith by my works." Strong faith has strong and powerful evidence in the love of God. "God is love. We love Him, because He first loved us." Here is the
motive power of heavenly ordinances. This is the great interpreter of Christian action and patient suffering. "The love of Christ constraineth us." In the ordinances of preaching, baptism and the Lord's Supper, prayer, exhortation and praise, "the King is held in the galleries."

4. In the secular support of Gospel Ministers, the fundamental teachings of the Scriptures are patronized and appreciated. Nor is it sufficient that brethren endorse these truths with their lips, whilst their hearts are far from them. Brethren in the Lord, do not censure us for our candor. Suffer this truth. Never, never were the people of God more in opposition to their own welfare; never, never did they
reproach the Gospel of Christ, the doctrines of the Cross, more bitterly and cruelly than in withholding the support that is due to the Ministers of the Lord Jesus. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver." The love of Christ is intercepted by the cheerless withholder of the Minister's dues. "It is more blessed to give
than to receive." The Minister and his widowed wife, and orphanized children are blessed in receiving the laborer's hire. But the church is more abundantly blessed in imparting cheerfully what the minister is entitled

'Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts; if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it." "The grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ be with you."

-David Cook, Moderator
Simon, each and every one of the concerns that are listed in the Founders own statement of purpose is listed in this article. It is from 1853. Tell us, Simon, do you find it offensive as well? This letter addresses the very issues being raised now in Southern Baptist life with regard to the doctrinal laxity and insipid commitment among the members of the Convention.

Where is your ire for Jack Graham, Danny O'Guinn, Johnny Hunt, Ergun and Emir Caner, Bobby Welch, and the preachers at the Evangelism Conferences in this Convention for their slurs against Calvinists and Calvinism? Calvinism did not liberalize the SBC seminaries in the last century. Calvinism did not fill the pews of the revivalistic fundamentalist churches with unregenerate members and bloat the membership rolls to say we are 16.4 million strong, while on 6 to 8 million or so show up to church on any given Sunday morning.

Let me be clear here. What would you think of a Southern Baptist church that had the following profile over a 4 year period?
3506 members
203 baptisms 2
53 other additions
2200 primary worship attendance

3812 members
296 baptisms
190 other additions
2100 primary worship

4011 members
209 baptisms
137 other additions
2031 primary worship attendance

4163 members
237 baptisms
204 other additions
1874 primary worship

Would this church meet anyone’s criteria for "declining?" It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members. In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! If the church continues to grow at this rate then by the time it adds around 10,000 new members the preacher will be preaching to an empty auditorium at his "primary worship" service.

Why does the pastor of this church get to ask Southern Baptists to “baptize a million,” as the Convention President while a missionary candidate who was converted and baptized in First Free Will Baptist Church, Anytown USA told to be rebaptized? Why is the Founders Ministry chastised when this man is portraying himself as a grower of churches while this goes on in his own church. Why, Simon, does he get to post against Calvinists in his church newsletter while the folks at Founders are taken to task by you? This kind of material has been appearing with great frequency in the Convention. Have you been to a Bailey Smith Evangelism Conference lately? Have you been to a State Evangelism Conference lately? Calvinists are fast becoming the new whipping boys in the Convention.

Calvinism didn’t move us to withdraw from the BWA. That was Arminian fundamentalism. Calvinism did not give rise to an IMB Board that is seeking to unbiblically redefine the practice of baptism for missionary candidates. That was Landmarkists. Maybe, just maybe, Simon, the reason that some of the folks on the blogs are a tad angry is because they are fed up with this situation in the Convention and in their own churches. Maybe, just maybe, they are a little bit tired of giving the same answers and nobody paying attention. Have you been to the Baptist Board recently? They closed the Calvinism/Arminianism forum. Why? Because the Arminians kept posting the same attacks and paying no attention to the answers given and nobody ever got anywhere. It's not the Calvinists who aren't listening. On the contrary, have you picked up some of the newer Arminian commentaries lately? Take a look. If Arminians would pay attention to their own commentators, they would find that on many things, including the most famous "pantos" passages which are discussed ad infinitum by Arminians in their prooftexting, Arminian commentators agree with Calvinists these days.

If you’re really concerned about Calvinists in the SBC as it relates to church unity, then you need to contact all the anti-Calvinists in the SBC who behave in this way. We would not feel the need to write at length on our blogs about these issues if they didn’t go out of their way to accuse us of being anti-missions, anti-evangelism, anti-denominational, etc. Most of the time, our posts are indexed to their responses.

If you’re really, really concerned, then post about BaptistFire. As Tom Ascol has asked, “Who are these people, and why do they hide?” Where are the posts about Baptistfire?

They react to Arminianism and Molinism today as if it were the Catholic Church of Luther’s and Calvin’s day.
From the perspective of the Reformed and Lutheran churches, Arminianism was Catholicism without the sacraments. Simon, if you'd bother to check your history, you'd find that Molina was, low and behold, a Catholic.

Arminianism in the SBC denies total inability. Classic Arminianism does not do this. Consequently, it includes a doctrine of prevenient grace. Both Rome and the Arminians in and out of the SBC are as one on election, atonement, and the nature of the resistability of grace. They are divided over the security of the believer. In the SBC, not all of them believe all believers persevere to the end. Many believe they can apostatize and still be considered elect. If you don’t think Arminianism doesn’t strongly resemble Catholicism in a more stripped down and “Protestantized” form, then what is it?

The SBC, if this continues and grows, will become functionally Neo-Campbellite. Campbellites affirm baptismal regeneration. The SBC denies this, but many churches, especially the large, highly influential churches of the fundamentalist camp, practice the invitation system and sacramental prayers ("the sinner's prayer) in conjuction with decisional regeneration. This is de facto baptismal regeneration. They have merely pushed the sacrament back to a prayer or a response card or an '"decision." If you add easy believism to this, with its Sandemanian definition of saving faith, "Presto!" you get Campbellite theology. If you deny the authority and applicability of the Old Testament by way of classic dispensationalism, you affirm one of Alexander Campbell's own errors. It isn't, therefore, without very good cause that this group thinks of itself as calling for more reformation in the SBC.

Simon has also conveniently have left out the situation at the IMB. If it’s true that there are those in the SBC who believe that the Arminians / Molinists are the modern day equivalent to the Catholic Church, then why pray tell are each and every one of the Calvinist pastors who have spoken out on the new IMB baptism policy calling it unbiblical. Why was I personally contacted by a group of dissenters to write a booklet for them in which I defend Arminianism and the validity baptisms from their churches? The IMB, under the leadership of trustees, many of whom profess to be Landmarkists, have created a new policy on baptism that says that any missionary candidate who was baptized in a Free Will Baptist Church of any stripe, because that church is Arminian and believes a person can lose his salvation, he must be rebaptized. The Calvinists in this Convention overwhelmingly find this deplorable and unbiblical. It’s the Arminians in this Convention, not the Calvinists, for the most part, who have come out in support of this policy, when it has been supported in writing. If we really believed the Arminians were on the same level as Roman Catholics, we’d hardly be defending the validity of baptisms administered by Arminians in Free Will Baptist and other communions like the Assemblies of God, would we? Tom Ascol has also written on this on the Founders blog, so it’s not as if, in your search for material, you couldn’t have found that information. If you’re going to report on the material there, then you could at least make an attempt to portray the full scope of what is said.

The Founders Minsitry website is more than the official site of a “teaching” ministry.

The Founders Ministry publishes a Journal. Have you read it? They teach classes. Have you taken any? They write Sunday School lessons based on our denomination's literature. What of these qualifies as "teaching" and not teaching without the quotes, Simon?

It’s also a gathering place where the faithful Calvinists who are online gather to pound their chests at anything that the blogwriter says.

Yes, and the Roman Catholic blogs are often places where the faithful Catholics do the same. Ditto for the Free Grace blogs. Ditto for the Atheist blogs. Ditto for many, many blogs, including many Arminian blogs. Where are your blog entries on them?

Tom Ascol, the founder of the Founders Ministry, announced his upcoming debate with the brothers Caner. Joining him will be Dr. James White, who has repeatedly issued challenges to one Caner to debate about Calvinism. Dr. Caner is blessed by James’ taunting and belittling on account of speaking publically about his belief that Calvinism is false.
Actually, Tom is the Director, not the "founder." There is no single founder of the Ministry. Did you even bother to read the history of the organization in the FAQ?

In the thread on the Founders site, where all this began, Simon, Dr. Ergun Caner and his brother Emir came into a thread that eventually grew to over 300 posts. They posted in tandem over not one, but two or three days. They very clearly came there looking for a fight, and , yes, that is exactly the word for it. In fact, at one point, they posted so close in time to each other it became evident that they had either emailed or called each other on the phone and pre-planned the whole session rather like a couple of adolescent boys who decided to call each other up and post in an internet chatroom for the sole purpose of trolling a discussion.

In that thread, they (a) misrepresented SBC history; (b) misrepresented Amyraldianism (Amyraldians do not affirm "Elected because I selected," and (c) openly misrepresented Dr. John Piper's church and Dr. Piper. They erected just about every straw man about Calvinism in the thread. Their behavior was so infantile and their errors so great, there was some discussion that it may not really be them. We were wrong. I also know that, later on, some of their peers at their respective teaching institutions confronted them personally about this. What they did affected a great many people. It was not the Calvinists who prompted the call for debate with them; they brought that on themselves, and there was plenty of belittling of Founders, the posters, John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, (neither of which was represented on the blog until I chimed in myself to correct their errors) and even James White in that thread to go around, all from the keyboard of the Caner brothers. Where, Simon, is your anger at them? If you are so very concerned about unity, then why not chastise them as well? They went out of their way to do what they did.

“We have won the debate without there being a debate.” heh .. Some people think that life is about winning debates. Those same people think that winning a debate means that they’re correct about the debate topic. And some of those people think that they don’t even actually have to be in a debate to have won it. Beautiful.

Simon quotes Alan Kurshner. Believe me, Alan can defend himself, but here's what Alan actually said:


I realize that details are forthcoming and I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but I need to voice a great concern.

From what I understand the debate will be only three hours. Debating Southern Baptist
History and Calvinism in three hours is impossible.

I would like to see a debate on the thesis of predestination with extensive cross-examination, or no debate at all. If Caner rejects this, so be it; then we have won the debate without there being a debate.

If Caner is not cross-examined in the debate, I can see it now: "I debated James White and I won." Let's not concede anything to their side just because we are eager to debate these folks. Further, I believe that a watered down debate will dishonor God's Word and disrespect those in attendance.

I would suggest two three-hour debates: One with Southern Baptist History (Ascol)---with a specific
thesis; and a debate on the thesis of election (White) with plenty of cross-examination.
Why did Alan say this? Hmm, well, let's see, Simon, in the thread at Founders that prompted this debate, and in subsequent emails between Drs. White and Caner, Ergun repeatedly spoke of Norman Geisler in the very same win/lose terms when discussing the errors in his book and Dr. White’s responses. Each and every time when asked, Dr. Caner failed to interact with the simple request to explain how Dr. Geisler had refuted him and won the discussion. Alan was calling for cross-examination because, without it, Ergun and Emir would, just as they did in writing, likely proceed to tell the world that they "won" the debate. He already does this when discussing his work debating Muslims. Alan is saying that Calvinists will have "won" the debate without there being a debate, because a presentation of the two positions is not a true debate, and the purpose of the debate is for both positions to present and defend their position and interact with each other. Not to cross examine is to water down the debate, and I agree with Alan, it does disrespect the Word of God and those in attendance.

Simon wants unity. Well, Simon, disunity is good sometimes. Gasp! Yes, I said it. Read through 1 Corinthians sometime. Disunity for its own sake is a wrong. However, disunity on account of the truth is good and right.
There is nothing wrong with division per se. The Bible speaks about division in the church in positive and negative light.

· 1 Cor. 11:18-19, "For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you."

· 1 Cor. 1:10, "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment."

1 Cor. 11:19 uses the Greek word "haireses" for "factions". We get the English word heresy from this Greek word. If we see that the Scriptures declare something clearly (orthodoxy), and if someone teaches contrary to that clear teaching, then he or she is teaching heresy and we should speak out. The Scriptures teach that there is a place for division and that is when opposing teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine. But division can only occur when the truth is known and those who abide with the truth should correct those who do not.

Does Arminianism constitute “heresy?” That’s a good question. Rather than impugning the character of the folks at Founders, the Calvinist Gadfly, and elsewhere, Simon would do well to answer this question carefully. He should also answer it with respect to Calvinism.

Does Arminianism teach the gospel? From our perspective as Calvinists, the answer is often “Yes and No.” Why?

A. Calvinism, from our perspective, is the gospel by way of dogmatic usage, in that, as a comprehenisve, systematic soteriology it identifies the source of salvation, the condition of men, the nature of the atonement, the necessity of grace, and the assurance of salvation for all who will believe far more accurately than Arminianism. This is what Spurgeon meant. It is also a worldiview that shapes much of the way we view the world.

B. Arminianism is a mixture of truth and error as a system and a worldview. How can anybody look at historical theology and not see this? Arminianism is inherently Unitarian at a functional level. It puts, in its more Pelagian forms (like the easy believism of Dave Hunt) both election and regeneration outside a chain effected by grace; only the cross is in view. Ergo, this is functional Unitarianism. In classic Arminianism, the kind with a real doctrine of prevenient grace (in the former this is explicitly equated with common grace, cf. Elmer Towns), a person is enabled to believe from a state of equipoise effected by grace, so, while regeneration is outside the chain of grace directly, indirectly it resides inside of it, because faith would not result in it apart from this grace. The Father, however, because He bases election on foreseen faith, is still outside the chain of grace. Ergo, this is "Bi-Nitarian." It's not without reason that Arminianism has historically flirted with Socinianism as a result of this. Let's not forget the General Baptists and early Arminians in general turned to Socinianism relatively quickly, and it was only via the New Connection that they survived among Baptists. The crossroads of theological liberalism also tends to lie near or in Arminianism. Moreover, Arminianism tends toward neo-sacramentalism in Baptist churches where it takes hold, contrary to our eccelsiology. We do not affirm baptismal regeneration, yet so much emphasis is put on aisle walking and hand raising and sacramental prayers (decisional regeneration) that we end up creating neo-Campbellite sacraments of our own when we do this.

C. Apropos B, not all Arminians are of a stripe.

D. If you define "gospel" in exegetical terms, both Arminianism and Calvinism affirm the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and the necessity of Sola Fide and personal conversion.

E. Apropos D, when "gospel" is defined in this manner, closer to exegetical usage, the essential issue addressed by the Gospel is that man is a sinner, under the condemnation of God. The Gospel never calls upon the unregenerate to believe that they are unable to believe. Rather, it calls upon us to recognize our guilt before God, and to see Christ's sacrificial death as the sole remedy for our guilt and condemnation. The Gospel message is about guilt, condemnation and forgiveness. It is not about "Who chose whom?", or "Where does faith come from?" Gospel-faith is trust in the person of Christ, having the confidence that He, by means of His Substitutionary death, has borne our sin and is fully able to forgive everyone who calls upon Him for salvation. Gospel-faith recognizes that Christ saves only those who trust in Him. It does not necessarily recognize the truth that this trust is God-given. One need not know or believe that God is the one behind your repentance and faith to experience repentance and faith. One need not understand the nature of justification before he experiences it. One need not believe in eternal security in order to be eternally secure; one need not believe it is impossible to fall away and fail to persevere in the faith in order not to fall away and persevere in the faith. Ergo, in this sense, both Calvinism and Arminianism can be said to encapsulate the gospel.