Saturday, July 15, 2006

Secular obscurantism

George the primate said:


No Steve, I haven’t “backed around” on anything. Is there a point to all this semantic drivel?
“Altruism” and “self interest” are not perfectly defined little bins Steve, that you can easily classify all human behavior into. They are not mutually exclusive, and they can be taking place amongst all kinds of individuals, kin groups, tribal groups, or entire nations. And yes, the word "tension" could be used to describe what is going on in these myriad biological interactions and what?


George has difficulty keeping track of his own arguments. He originally defended altruism on evolutionary grounds.

As I then pointed out, this overlooks the various cases in which altruism is in tension with self-interest.

He then admits a systematic tension, but acts as if this admission has no bearing on his original argument.

But if altruism and self-interest are often at odds with each other, then how does evolutionary ethics prioritize the options?

George has a habit of making some sweeping claim, then when it’s challenged, scaling back his original claim so that it dies the death of a thousand improvised qualifications.

At this point his claim is vacuous because it’s been so heavily caveated (after the fact) that it’s now consistent with contrary lines of evidence.

Moving along:

“I see you failed to answer my question. Is waiting for the green light being altruistic or is it looking out for your self interest?”

Your question is irrelevant. The point at issue is not whether altruism is sometimes in one’s self-interest, but rather, what a secular ethicist would do when they conflict.

Sorry you’re unable to absorb that elementary distinction however often it’s drawn to your attention. Sorry that you can’t stick to your own evolutionary framework.

“I’m sorry if I’m not familiar with the ‘stock hypotheticals’ scenarios where you get to flagellate your Reformed Christian hypocrite ego and pretend what a great altruistic person you are compared to say some Buddhists in a life boat.”

i) Since George, like many unbelievers, tries to flaunt the intellectual superiority of his anti-Christian outlook, it really isn’t asking to much that he know what any college-educated intellectual would be expected to know.

There are many homeschoolers who are way ahead of George.

ii) Likewise, this is another example of how he loses the train of his own thought.

He is the one who brought up altruism, not me. The burden is on him to defend altruism from his evolutionary frame of reference.

Whether I myself am consistently altruistic is irrelevant to the way in which George chose to frame the debate. I’m arguing with him on his own grounds, not mine.

This has been pointed out to him repeatedly. But he suffers from a persistent mental block.

“Steve…is it possible for you to make a point without cutting and pasting other people’s words and ideas?”

George, this is what is known as evidence. The documentation of one’s claims. I realize that’s a foreign concept to you.

You originally accused me of misrepresenting the opposing position. Therefore I cited many different examples of moral relativism from secular ethics.

You are long on assertion, but short on evidence.

Unlike you, I corroborate my claims.

Having said the lifeboat scenario is a stock scenario in ethics, I then gave an example. That’s what makes it a stock scenario. It’s attributable to others as part of an ongoing community of discourse.

“Is it possible for you to get through a post without mimicking my prose and simply changing some words to try and rail against the facts of biological evolution that frighten you?”

This is both typical and revealing of how unbelievers react. If they lob a grenade into your backyard, then it’s a good grenade.

But if you grab the very same grenade before it explodes, and return it to the sender, then it’s a bad grenade. “Naughty, naughty grenade!”

The unbeliever conveniently forgets where the grenade came from in the first place. He disowns it. He waxes indignant that you would return his incendiary merchandise.

Moving along:

“Is it possible for you to try and make your argument using real world examples, and empirical evidence, instead of meaningless hypothetical scenarios, that you steal from websites, where you didn’t even read and include their conclusion? One that was VASTLY different then the one line quip you’ve tacked onto it here?”

i) Hypotheticals are used all the time in secular ethics. Sorry that George is unable to reason at an academic level of discourse.

ii) If I were “stealing” the hypothetical, I’d hardly be quoting it verbatim and given the URL.

You see, once you call his bluff, how often an unbeliever will degenerate into endless drivel.

“Again Steve, I’m starting to form a mental profile of you based on the level of intellect I see displayed in these posts…and it is not flattering.”

This says less about me than it does about George’s sense of self-importance, as if living for his approval were one’s major goal in life.

“You’re going to need to do better if you’re going to hold my interest.”

Ah, yes. This is known in the medical literature as Exit Sign Syndrome (ESS).

The onset of ESS is triggered whenever the unbeliever, sensing that he may be on the losing end of an argument he initiated, is seized by an uncontrollable urge to scan the premises for the nearest exit sign.

“I'll probably move on after this post, the amusement level you're providing me is just not worth my time at this point.”

Since we’re not here to entertain you, you are welcome to find a new playmate.



So Steve cuts and pastes the lifeboat hypothetical from a long, thoughtful website article that was using it as analogy to advocate how best to manage the world's limited resources in both shared and private property scenarios amongst rich and poor populations with different population growth rates.

Did Steve even read the article, and its conclusions? Conclusions that had nothing to do with religious "worldviews"?


Since George was ignorant of this commonplace hypothetical, I quoted an example.

George is now confusing the general terms of the hypothetical with the particular case it was deployed to illustrate in the article I referenced.

Naturally the conclusion had nothing to do with religious worldviews since the hypothetical is generic rather than specific.

One can plug a variety of specific scenarios into this general framework. Indeed, the author of the article made that very point. The hypothetical is one thing, and its application another.

Try, George, just this once, to keep two ideas in your head at the same time.

It’s not as if the author invented the lifeboat scenario.

My contention remains untouched that while altruism and self-interest aren’t mutually exclusive, there are many situations in which they do come into conflict.

“No…it would seem not, he just googled ‘life boat ethics’, cut and pasted the story he needed, and then added this one line quip to flagellate his own needy Calvinist, hypocrite ego.”

George is being forgetful again. I don’t need the story. George needed the story since he was unacquainted with this textbook scenario.

“Again, Steve seems to be claiming that ‘Reformed Protestant Christians’ are all somehow magically ‘self-sacrificial’ people, that they would happily give up there seats in lifeboats to humanists, Buddhists, Muslims and perhaps even Mormons…because we all know from real world experience, that Reformed Protestant Christians don’t value their own lives, as much as the other world’s religious and atheistic traditions.”

George suffers from certain tenacious intellectual impediments. Too much football without a helmet?

i) I didn’t limit my example to Reformed believers, but to Christians generally.

ii) I also qualified my usage: what would a “consistent” Christian do in contrast to a “consistent” humanist.

“Perhaps Steve wants to relate the real world example of the Titanic in this example?”

Actually, the sinking fortunes of the H. M. S. Beagle would serve as a better illustration.

“Yes I imagine Steve sitting on his fat ass…”

Like unbelievers generally, George has a baccalaureate degree in four letters rather than belles-lettres.

“In his comfy Western home, munching on microwave popcorn…”

As usual, George is unable to connect the dots of his own argument. George was the one who brought up altruism, not me. George was the one who defended altruism on the basis of evolutionary ethics.

Since George has access to a computer, he obviously enjoys the same standard of living as I do. So his accusation, if valid, would be self-incriminating.

“While he posts about how ‘moral and altruistic’ he is compared to others, on some backwater Calvinista cult website. Yes I can just imagine Steve is a paragon of virtue and altruism following in the great footsteps of Jesus.”

i) As always, George is unable to distinguish between whether someone is ethical, and why someone should be ethical given his conceptual scheme.

This is an issue that crops up all the time in secular ethics.

“You’re a poseur Steve…you’re a hypocrite…you’re in denial. Feel free to post your tax returns and prove me wrong.”

Since, by his own rubbery ruler, George’s value-judgments are purely subjective, the charge of hypocrisy is toothless.

“Feel free to give up your home and computer and TV to that poor homeless person…”

The homeless are generally drug addicts who’d hawk my computer for their next fix. Hardly doing them a favor by subsidizing their habit.

“Or poor Mexican family who needs a seat on your ‘lifeboat, Steve.”

Mexico is a country rich in natural resources. Mexicans are responsible for their national self-determinism, not me. I don’t have a vote South of the border.

“Here’s a clue Steve…there are no such things as your hypothetical morals…it’s a figment of your imagination, till we see it demonstrated in the REAL WORLD.”

Here’s a clue George…there’s a difference between hypothetical morality and moral hypotheticals.

“You're a hypocrite Steve.”

Yes, George, you do like to repeat yourself. Didn’t take long for you to run out of material.

i) There’s no general injunction in Scripture to sell all one’s earthly goods.

ii) The charge of hypocrisy is irrelevant to truth-claims.

George has exhibited an utter inability to either offer a rational defense of what he believes or a rational critique of what I believe. Instead, he stakes his case on textbook fallacies.

“No Steve, that point was never established, and that was the point of my ‘bear in the woods sceanrio.”

i) Since your bearish scenario is a hypothetical thought-experiment which you failed to demonstrate in a real world situation, it’s just a figment of your imagination, right?

ii) And you never miss a chance to miss the point. As has been explained to you on several occasions now, the question at issue is not whether some human behavior is instinctual, but whether, given the conscious capacity of human beings to reflect on their biological impulses, evolutionary ethics is sufficient to underwrite our moral deliberations.

“You haven’t shown where I’ve committed any ‘Naturalistic Fallacy’.”

If you weren’t so illiterate in the field of secular ethics, it would be unnecessary to explain it to you. But, since you ask, here’s an example:


c. The Is-Ought Problem

The first philosopher who persistently argued that normative rules cannot be derived from empirical facts was David Hume (1711-1776) (1978: 469):

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence.

It is this unexplained, imperceptible change from 'is' to ‘ought’ which Hume deplores in moral systems. To say what is the case and to say what ought to be the case are two unrelated matters, according to him. On the one hand, empirical facts do not contain normative statements, otherwise they would not be purely empirical. On the other hand, if there are no normative elements in the facts, they cannot suddenly surface in the conclusions because a conclusion is only deductively valid if all necessary information is present in the premises.

How do Darwin and Spencer derive 'ought' from 'is'? Let us look at Darwin first, using an example which he could have supported.
1. Child A is dying from starvation.
2. The parents of child A are not in a position to feed their child.
3. The parents of child A are very unhappy that their child is dying from starvation.
4. Therefore, fellow humans ought morally to provide food for child A.

Darwin (1930: 234) writes that "happiness is an essential part of the general good." Therefore, those who want to be moral ought to promote happiness, and hence, in the above case, provide food. However, the imperceptible move from 'is' to ‘ought’ which Hume found in moral systems, is also present in this example. Thus, Darwin derives ought from is when he moves from the empirical fact of unhappiness to the normative claim of a duty to relieve unhappiness.

The same can be said for Spencer whose above argument about the survival of the fittest could be represented as follows:
1. Natural selection will ensure the survival of the fittest.
2. Person B is dying from starvation because he is ill, old, and poor.
3. Therefore, fellow humans ought to morally avoid helping person B so that the survival of the fittest is guaranteed.

Even if both premises were shown to be true, it does not follow that we ought to morally support the survival of the fittest. An additional normative claim equating survival skills with moral goodness would be required to make the argument tenable. Again, this normative part of the argument is not included in the premises. Hence, Spencer also derives 'ought' from 'is.' Thomas Huxley (1906: 80) objects to evolutionary ethics on these grounds when he writes:

The thief and the murderer follow nature just as much as the philanthropist. Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and the evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before.

d. The Naturalistic Fallacy

But evolutionary ethics was not only attacked by those who supported Hume's claim that normative statements cannot be derived from empirical facts. A related argument against evolutionary ethics was voiced by British philosopher G.E. Moore (1873-1958). In 1903, he published a groundbreaking book, Principia Ethica, which created one of the most challenging problems for evolutionary ethics--the 'naturalistic fallacy.' According to Michael Ruse (1995: 223), when dealing with evolutionary ethics, "it has been enough for the student to murmur the magical phrase 'naturalistic fallacy,' and then he or she can move on to the next question, confident of having gained full marks thus far on the exam." So, what is the naturalistic fallacy and why does it pose a problem for evolutionary ethics?

Moore was interested in the definition of 'good' and particularly in whether 'good' was a simple or a complex property. Simple properties, according to Moore, are indefinable as they cannot be described further using more basic properties. Complex properties, on the other hand, can be defined by outlining their basic properties. Hence, 'yellow' cannot be defined in terms of its constituent parts, whereas 'colored' can be explained further as it consists of several individual colors.

'Good,' according to Moore, is a simple property which cannot be described using more basic properties. Committing the naturalistic fallacy is attempting to define 'good' with reference to other natural, i.e. empirically verifiable, properties. This understanding of 'good' creates serious problems for both Darwin and Spencer. Following Bentham and Mill, both identify moral goodness with 'pleasure.' This means they commit the naturalistic fallacy as good and pleasant are not identical. In addition, Spencer identifies goodness with 'highly evolved,' committing the naturalistic fallacy again.



“The fact remains that ‘altruistic’ behaviors are seen in many other sentient mammals. There are countless examples of animals sacrificing themselves to predators to save others in their family or group. I doubt any of these animals are Reformed Protestants.”

You see how hopeless it is to reason with an opponent as lacking in philosophical sophistication or even mental discipline as George.

The question at issue is not whether we can see examples of altruism in the animal kingdom, but whether that should be exemplary for human beings.

“Still disturbed by the fact that she nursed you with her breast milk.”

Actually, I was bottle-fed.

“And he's really upset that we have all these hominid fossils like Australopithecus”

What’s upsetting about fossilized monkey bones?

“And that he can't explain why Noah didn't put these hominids on the ark.”

Noah put a sample of every then-extant natural kind of land animal or bird on the ark. What’s there to explain?

“I live for exposing pretentious, ignorant, hypocrites like you, Steve. Thanks for the opportunity. The irony has been rich and deeply satisfying. Thanks.”

And thanks, George, for presenting such a tightly reasoned and evidentially robust case for infidelity. You did the cause proud.

Early Christian Belief In A Hell Of Eternal Consciousness

John Loftus recently posted an article on Hell that makes a lot of misleading claims and ignores a lot of relevant evidence. I think that some of his errors in evaluating the Biblical evidence should be easy for most readers to discern, but a comment he made about the early church, apparently a reference (in part or entirely) to the church fathers, may not be as easy for most readers to evaluate. Loftus writes the following, though it's unclear whether he's quoting somebody else or writing in his own words:

"L.E. Froom claims that conditional immortality was generally accepted in the early church until its thinkers tried to wed Plato’s doctrine of the immortality of the soul to the teaching of the Bible.' [The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, Herald Pub., 1966]."

I don't know what Loftus has in mind when he refers to "conditional immortality". A person can believe that God needs to extend a life in order for the person to exist eternally, yet also believe that every life is so extended. It's also possible to define "immortality" as eternal life, in contrast to eternal death. Both the person with eternal life and the person with eternal death will exist forever, but one existence is portrayed positively as "life" and the other is portrayed negatively as "death". The life in question has to do with the quality of the existence, not existence itself. This is seen, for example, in the many Biblical and extra-Biblical references to unregenerate men as spiritually "dead". A term like "immortality" can be used differently in different contexts. A reference to the need for God to extend people's lives in order for them to be immortal or a reference to people attaining immortality doesn't necessarily imply that some or all people will cease to exist.

The early patristic sources suggest that belief in a Hell involving eternal consciousness was the general belief, not annihilationism. Somebody like Origen will sometimes express a different view, whether as a speculation or as a belief held with confidence, but that doesn't mean that such a view was widely held. Below are several examples of early expressions of a belief in eternal conscious existence in Hell, and more examples could be cited.

When Polycarp, a disciple of the apostles (more than one apostle, not just the apostle John) was martyred, an account of that martyrdom was written by his church. The account expresses the views of both Polycarp and his church. In that account, we read of the contrast between suffering in a temporary fire and suffering eternally:

"And, looking to the grace of Christ, they [Christian martyrs] despised all the torments of this world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment by the suffering of a single hour. For this reason the fire of their savage executioners appeared cool to them. For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched...Polycarp said, 'Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why tarriest thou? Bring forth what thou wilt.'" (The Martyrdom Of Polycarp, 2, 11)

In contrast to Loftus' distortions of the view of Hell presented in the book of Revelation, notice that both Polycarp and his church (the church of Smyrna, addressed in Revelation 2) were in contact with the author of Revelation, the apostle John. And the passages quoted above make more sense in light of a Hell of eternal consciousness. The eternal fire is being compared to the temporal fire in terms of suffering, not annihilation. If annihilation was in view, we'd expect references to how a temporal fire can't annihilate the soul, whereas the eternal fire can. What Polycarp and the authors of this document seem to be focusing on is the suffering, the burning, associated with fire. It's more natural, then, to read the references to eternality as references to an eternal experience of such suffering, not annihilation or temporal burning followed by annihilation.

Justin Martyr wrote:

"For among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, and Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. And that he would be sent into the fire with his host, and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold....For the prophets have proclaimed two advents of His: the one, that which is already past, when He came as a dishonoured and suffering Man; but the second, when, according to prophecy, He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils....And in what kind of sensation and punishment the wicked are to be, hear from what was said in like manner with reference to this; it is as follows: 'Their worm shall not rest, and their fire shall not be quenched" (First Apology, 28, 52)

Irenaeus illustrates some of the points I made near the beginning of this post. He writes of how God's creation continues to exist only because God so wills:

"For as the heaven which is above us, the firmament, the sun, the moon, the rest of the stars, and all their grandeur, although they had no previous existence, were called into being, and continue throughout a long course of time according to the will of God, so also any one who thinks thus respecting souls and spirits, and, in fact, respecting all created things, will not by any means go far astray, inasmuch as all things that have been made had a beginning when they were formed, but endure as long as God wills that they should have an existence and continuance." (Against Heresies, 2:34:3)

And he continues:

"And again, He thus speaks respecting the salvation of man: 'He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest him length of days for ever and ever;' indicating that it is the Father of all who imparts continuance for ever and ever on those who are saved. For life does not arise from us, nor from our own nature; but it is bestowed according to the grace of God. And therefore he who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him who imparted it, shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and prove himself ungrateful to his Maker, inasmuch as he has been created, and has not recognised Him who bestowed the gift upon him, deprives himself of the privilege of continuance for ever and ever." (Against Heresies, 2:34:3)

Surely this passage supports John Loftus' argument, right? No, because we know, from the surrounding context of Irenaeus' writings, that he believed in eternal consciousness in Hell. As the editor of the edition of Irenaeus quoted above comments:

"As Massuet observes, this statement is to be understood in harmony with the repeated assertion of Irenaeus that the wicked will exist in misery for ever. It refers not annihilation, but to deprivation of happiness." (note 307)

For example, elsewhere Irenaeus writes:

"Inasmuch, then, as in both Testaments there is the same righteousness of God displayed when God takes vengeance, in the one case indeed typically, temporarily, and more moderately; but in the other, really, enduringly, and more rigidly: for the fire is eternal, and the wrath of God which shall be revealed from heaven from the face of our Lord (as David also says, 'But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth'), entails a heavier punishment on those who incur it, - the ciders pointed out that those men are devoid of sense, who, arguing from what happened to those who formerly did not obey God, do endeavour to bring in another Father, setting over against these punishments what great things the Lord had done at His coming to save those who received Him, taking compassion upon them; while they keep silence with regard to His judgment; and all those things which shall come upon such as have heard His words, but done them not, and that it were better for them if they had not been born, and that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the judgment than for that city which did not receive the word of His disciples." (Against Heresies, 4:28:1)

As the references to Sodom and Gomorrah suggest, Irenaeus is referring to degrees of suffering, not annihilation. Thus, what Irenaeus seems to view as enduring forever is the suffering of the wicked, not non-existence.

And elsewhere Ireneaus suggests that experience of "every kind of punishment" will last forever, in contrast to being annihilated forever:

"But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God, He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Those, therefore, who cast away by apostasy these forementioned things, being in fact destitute of all good, do experience every kind of punishment. God, however, does not punish them immediately of Himself, but that punishment falls upon them because they are destitute of all that is good. Now, good things are eternal and without end with God, and therefore the loss of these is also eternal and never-ending." (Against Heresies, 5:27:2)

Irenaeus seems to have viewed the afterlife of the wicked as something consistent. It would endure forever. They wouldn't experience suffering for a while, then cease to exist.

Theophilus of Antioch approvingly quotes the Sibyl, applying these words to the unregenerate:

"Therefore, upon you burning fire shall come, And ever ye shall daily burn in flames, Ashamed for ever of your useless gods. But those who worship the eternal God, They shall inherit everlasting life, Inhabiting the blooming realms of bliss, And feasting on sweet food from starry heaven." (To Autolycus, 2:36)

Theophilus refers to the people in Hell being "ashamed for ever", which would involve consciousness. Notice, also, that Theophilus, like the Biblical authors and other early patristic sources, parallels the eternality of Hell with the eternality of Heaven.

Athenagoras contrasts the temporal life of animals with the eternal existence of humans:

"For if we believed that we should live only the present life, then we might be suspected of sinning, through being enslaved to flesh and blood, or overmastered by gain or carnal desire; but since we know that God is witness to what we think and what we say both by night and by day, and that He, being Himself light, sees all things in our heart, we are persuaded that when we are removed from the present life we shall live another life, better than the present one, and heavenly, not earthly (since we shall abide near God, and with God, free from all change or suffering in the soul, not as flesh, even though we shall have flesh, but as heavenly spirit), or, falling with the rest, a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere by-work, and that we should perish and be annihilated." (A Plea For The Christians, 31)

Tertullian wrote:

"Think of these things, too, in the light of the brevity of any punishment you can inflict - never to last longer than till death. On this ground Epicurus makes light of all suffering and pain, maintaining that if it is small, it is contemptible; and if it is great, it is not long-continued. No doubt about it, we, who receive our awards under the judgment of an all-seeing God, and who look forward to eternal punishment from Him for sin, - we alone make real effort to attain a blameless life, under the influence of our ampler knowledge, the impossibility of concealment, and the greatness of the threatened torment, not merely long-enduring but everlasting, fearing Him, whom he too should fear who the fearing judges, - even God, I mean, and not the proconsul....When, therefore, the boundary and limit, that millennial interspace, has been passed, when even the outward fashion of the world itself - which has been spread like a veil over the eternal economy, equally a thing of time - passes away, then the whole human race shall be raised again, to have its dues meted out according as it has merited in the period of good or evil, and thereafter to have these paid out through the immeasurable ages of eternity. Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged - the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire -that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. The philosophers are familiar as well as we with the distinction between a common and a secret fire. Thus that which is in common use is far different from that which we see in divine judgments, whether striking as thunderbolts from heaven, or bursting up out of the earth through mountain-tops; for it does not consume what it scorches, but while it burns it repairs. So the mountains continue ever burning; and a person struck by lighting is even now kept safe from any destroying flame. A notable proof this of the fire eternal! a notable example of the endless judgment which still supplies punishment with fuel! The mountains burn, and last. How will it be with the wicked and the enemies of God?" (Apology, 45, 48)

Minucius Felix:

"Nor is there either measure termination to these torments. There the intelligent fire burns the limbs and restores them, feeds on them and nourishes them. As the fires of the thunderbolts strike upon the bodies, and do not consume them; as the fires of Mount Aetna and of Mount Vesuvius, and of burning where, glow, but are not wasted; so that penal fire is not fed by the waste of those who burn, but is nourished by the unexhausted eating away of their bodies. But that they who know not God are deservedly tormented as impious, as unrighteous persons, no one except a profane man hesitates to believe, since it is not less wicked to be ignorant of, than to offend the Parent of all, and the Lord of all. And although ignorance of God is sufficient for punishment, even as knowledge of Him is of avail for pardon, yet if we Christians be compared with you, although in some things our discipline is inferior, yet we shall be found much better than you." (The Octavius Of Minucius Felix, 35)


"There is no faith in the fear of God, in the law of righteousness, in love, in labour; none considers the fear of futurity, and none takes to heart the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God, and the punishments to come upon unbelievers, and the eternal torments decreed for the faithless." (On The Unity Of The Church, 26)

The historian Philip Schaff wrote:

"There never was in the Christian church any difference of opinion concerning the righteous, who shall inherit eternal life and enjoy the blessed communion of God forever and ever. But the final fate of the impenitent who reject the offer of salvation admits of three answers to the reasoning mind: everlasting punishment, annihilation, restoration (after remedial punishment and repentance)....Everlasting Punishment of the wicked always was, and always will be the orthodox theory....the majority of the fathers who speak plainly on this terrible subject, favor this view....The generality of this belief among Christians is testified by Celsus [an opponent of Christianity who wrote in the second century], who tells them that the heathen priests threaten the same 'eternal punishment' as they, and that the only question was which was right, since both claimed the truth with equal confidence." (History Of The Christian Church, 2:12:157)

The patristic scholar J.N.D. Kelly wrote the following about the later patristic sources:

"As regards the fate of the wicked (that of the blessed will be treated in the next section), the general view was that their punishment would be eternal, without any possibility of remission. As Basil put it, in hell the sinful soul is completely cut off from the Holy Spirit, and is therefore incapable of repentance; while Chrysostom pointed out that neither the bodies of the damned, which will become immortal, nor their souls will know any end of their sufferings." (Early Christian Doctrines [New York: Continuum, 2003], p. 483)

Allen Clayton writes:

"Some scholars have argued that a notion of the annihilation of the wicked, and not eternal punishment, is present in the writings of such thinkers as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Arnobius. The textual evidence, however, does not seem to bear the weight of this conclusion. The overwhelming majority of Christian writers held that the wicked were to be eternally punished." (in Everett Ferguson, editor, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], p. 517)

G.S. Shogren writes:

"If the extant literature is any indication, then an overwhelming majority within the ancient church were persuaded that damnation leads to everlasting, conscious suffering." (in Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, editors, Dictionary Of The Later New Testament & Its Developments [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997], p. 461)

The beliefs of mainstream professing Christians were sometimes different from the beliefs of the church fathers, and the fathers themselves held a variety of views of the afterlife in general and Hell in particular. However, the concept that Hell involves eternal consciousness for every person who goes there is a Biblical concept and is supported by the best patristic evidence. We see it early, in many locations, and advocated by people with a variety of backgrounds and personalities. The reason why men like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus can be quoted out of context to make them seem to have opposed a Hell of eternal consciousness is because their affirmation of the concept was accompanied by some reservations and some of the common philosophical beliefs of their day. Still, they did affirm the concept of eternal consciousness in Hell, and the best explanation for that affirmation is that it was a concept taught by Jesus and the apostles.

Friday, July 14, 2006

More monkey business

Continuing with George:

“I’m sorry Steve…in a complex world of 6.5 billion homo sapiens, when are cooperative and selfish behaviors ‘not in tension?”

I’m sorry George, but you just reversed y0urself. This is what you originally said:

“He seems to insinuate that altruism and self interest are mutually exclusive. His ignorance that altruism often serves a “self interest”, speaks volumes about his ignorance of basic evolutionary behaviors and the various strategies employed by social, cooperative species such as ours.”

Now, however, he backs around and asks us when altruism and self-interest are “not” in a state of tension.

Moving along:

“You did make a nebulous reference to a ‘lifeboat’ and ‘hedonism’ in your last post, but actually never pursued the details of any ‘textbook examples, much less any real world experiments that showed why a Calvinist would behave differently than an Islamist, humanist, Buddhist or Scientologist in any given moral scenario.”

I see I overestimated George’s grasp of the obvious. Since the lifeboat scenario is a stock hypothetical in social ethics, it hardly needs explaining for the average reader with an above room temperature IQ. But we’ll make an exception in George’s case. Here’s a standard illustration:


So here we sit, say 50 people in our lifeboat. To be generous, let us assume it has room for 10 more, making a total capacity of 60. Suppose the 50 of us in the lifeboat see 100 others swimming in the water outside, begging for admission to our boat or for handouts. We have several options: we may be tempted to try to live by the Christian ideal of being "our brother's keeper," or by the Marxist ideal of "to each according to his needs." Since the needs of all in the water are the same, and since they can all be seen as "our brothers," we could take them all into our boat, making a total of 150 in a boat designed for 60. The boat swamps, everyone drowns. Complete justice, complete catastrophe.

Since the boat has an unused excess capacity of 10 more passengers, we could admit just 10 more to it. But which 10 do we let in? How do we choose? Do we pick the best 10, "first come, first served"? And what do we say to the 90 we exclude? If we do let an extra 10 into our lifeboat, we will have lost our "safety factor," an engineering principle of critical importance.

Suppose we decide to preserve our small safety factor and admit no more to the lifeboat. Our survival is then possible although we shall have to be constantly on guard against boarding parties.


In such a scenario, a consistent Christian would be self-sacrificial while a consistent humanist would be self-centered.

“Again with the constant mimicry of my phrasing…I’m honored. It’s like having a pet monkey.”

And do you feel equally honored to be the pet monkey of natural selection?

“I derive my understanding of the world via the empirical observation and testing method we generally refer to as science.”

Pity that the interpretation of your sensory input is at the mercy of that blindly programmed primate brain of yours.

“Are you a zoologist or animal behavior specialist, Steve? Perhaps you could link me to your thesis on why wolves, dogs, lions, elephants, whales and other sentient social mammals, are not in a position to use their brains and evaluate altruistic versus self interests in a variety of circumstances?”

Oh, so you think that Fido engages in metaethical deliberations over existentialism, utilitarianism, and deontology?

Tell me, George, if you also believe that white mice are hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings?

“I hope this ‘textbook example’ helps you to understand, that human behavior is not all driven by ‘abstract reasoning, nor is it always alturistic, in even the most pretentious Christian blowhards like yourself.

I see that you suffer from short-term memory loss. Sorry about that.

In the context of this ongoing thread, the point was made that human beings, due to their powers of abstract reasoning, are able to objectify and therefore evaluate their instinctual impulses.

“Alturism and cooperative behavior doesn’t need a ‘worldview’ other than the one driven by survival and reproductive success in species.”

You continue to commit the naturalistic fallacy. Such philosophical naïveté does have a certain artless charm. Another throwback to George’s primate brain.

Perhaps we should have the old boy stuffed and put him in a museum of natural history—alongside Australopithecus.

We could exhume Stephen Jay Gould to complete the display. After all, we’re nothing more than meat machines.

“I guess this means you won’t be releasing your tax returns so we can see how much of a hypocrite you are with all this ‘altruistic’ posturing.”

And should I file this away with your other admittedly subjective value judgments?

In any event, hypocritical behavior doesn’t need a “worldview” other than the one driven by survival and reproductive success in species.

Welcome to the rat race, George. Calculated hypocrisy beats slavish altruism at the Derby every day of the week.

“Persecution never more personified, than in the butcher of Geneva, John Calvin.”

Yet another one of George’s subjective value-judgments. At this rate I need to compile a cumulative index of George’s subjective value judgments.

One wonders why George is so hard on poor old Calvin. After all, such card-carrying Darwinians as Dawkins and Dennett have taught us that a man like Calvin is the project of his memetic conditioning—that pesky old God-meme, ya know!

But a “simpleton” like George hasn’t evolved to the point where he can appreciate the memeplexity of Calvin’s historical predicament.

“More flattery…here’s another newsflash Steve, I’m not a supporter of Stalin, like you are of Calvin. They were both tyrants that used their positions of power to murder their theological and political opponents.”

It’s unfortunate for George that his withering disapproval is, by his own account, nothing more than a subjective value judgment. Sorta takes the bite out of his Olympian strictures.

“Btw…has your god ever come to you and told you to kill anyone for him?”

Btw…have your memes ever come to you and told you to kill anyone for Mother Nature?

“And group inter-subjectivity.”

I see. Speaking of which—executing heretics in the 16C was an intersubjective value-judgment as well.

“Moral thought is not something that either exists in the objective mind of your imaginary god or just in an individual’s mind. It is an inter-subjective, evolving phenomena that is spread via DNA and human culture. “

And by your own reckoning, Calvin was also a byproduct of sociobiology.

Also, if what is right or wrong is indexed to one’s historical position, why should Calvin be impressed by your own culture-bound value-judgments?

Oh, and I do hope you’re not going to appeal to the quaint, 19C notion of evolutionary progress, for naturalistic evolution is a non-directive process.

Back to the trenches

Continuing with George:


A very common problem with theist simpletons, like Steve here, is they tend to bifurcate the world into just “two sides”. You know…”saved – unsaved”, “Good Calvinist Christians – evil, militant, relativist, unbelievers”, “good Republican conservatives - bad, liberal Democrats”…that sort of thing.

That’s called the logical fallacy of false dilemma (also known as falsified dilemma, fallacy of the excluded middle, black and white thinking, false dichotomy, false correlative, either/or dilemma or bifurcation).


Make a mental note of this statement as we run across examples of George’s own bifurcations.

“Again, this is another application of the false dilemma fallacy by Steve. I’m guessing he does this a lot. He seems to insinuate that altruism and self interest are mutually exclusive. His ignorance that altruism often serves a “self interest”, speaks volumes about his ignorance of basic evolutionary behaviors and the various strategies employed by social, cooperative species such as ours. I’m sure he’s never studied any game theory.”

The false dilemma is due to George’s inability to read and/or comprehend what I actually wrote.

I did not treat these as mutually exclusive. Rather, I brought up textbook examples in which altruism and self-interest are in tension.

This is a tension that evolutionary ethics cannot resolve inasmuch as the tension is generated by evolutionary ethics in the first place.

“Sigh…what can one expect from someone who derives his understanding of the world from 3000 year old Genesis mythology?”

Sigh…what can one expect from someone who derives his understanding of the world from the shifting sands of humanism?

“I’m not sure what planet Steve lives on, but I have always lived on one with limited resources. And there are lots of examples of other social cooperative mammals that use various altruistic survival strategies that have never heard of Steve’s gods or his idol John Calvin.”

Since other social animals operate by instinct rather than abstract reason, they are in no position to evaluate those instances in which altruism comes into conflict with self-interest.

“There’s no evidence to show that Christians are more or less altruistic than Buddhists or humanists or athiests.”

Even if true, that’s irrelevant. The point at issue is not who is more altruistic, but whose worldview is logically supportive of altruism.

“It seems Ted Turner and Bill Gates have given more to charity, then Steve’s entire congregation.”

Given Bill Gates’ net worth, that’s’ a pretty safe tautology.

“In the meantime, thanks for this simpleton view of complex, evolved behaviors your little brain doesn’t understand. “

And in the meantime, thanks for ducking the philosophical complexities of warranted behavior by your anti-intellectual resort to anecdotal decoys.

“For the same reason you have them Steve. They are part of your DNA and social learning. Unfortunately, our DNA and social learning are comprised of vast, unique gene combinations and life experience…thus, we don’t all have the exact same ones…”

i) This does not justify secular ethics. To the contrary, you are committing the naturalistic fallacy as well as the is-ought fallacy—both of which were raised by secular philosophers.

ii) The very fact that we are aware of our genetic programming and social conditioning makes it possible for us to evaluate our genetic programming and social conditioning.

Hence, we’re in a position to rebel against our genetic programming or social conditioning if they collide with our individual self-interest.

Appealing to the role of instinct or socialization is not a justification for instinct or socialization. Try again.

You yourself admit to the biological basis of sexual coercion, yet you apparently believe that rape is wrong.

“Imagine Steve as one of Calvin’s henchmen in 16th century Geneva, and you’ll quickly realize he was simply born 4 centuries too late.”

Imagine George as one of Stalin’s henchmen in mid-20C Russia, and you’ll quickly realize he was simply born a few decades too late.

Oh, and while we’re at it, notice how George, what with his bifurcated, either/or, black/white worldview divvies up humanity into good guys like himself and evil, militant Calvinistas on the other side.

“Poor Steve, he can’t quite figure out that ‘greater good,’ and the adjectives ‘gratuitous and pointless’, as they relate to ‘evil’, are all subjective value judgments that might be perceived quite differently, by different people in any given situation or moral dilemma.”

Poor George, he can’t quite figure out that if ‘greater good’, and the adjectives ‘gratuitous and pointless’, as they relate to ‘evil’, are all subjective value judgments that might be perceived quite differently, by different people in any given situation or moral dilemma, then Sam Harris et al. will be unable to disprove the Christian by invoking the problem of evil.

“Perhaps Steve never saw the results of the poll amongst Egyptian peasants who were asked if they thought Steve’s omnipotent god, slaughtering their first born children, so he could free some Hebrews, who he could easily freed without this genocide…”

Perhaps poor George never figured out that his moral subjectivism renders his opportunistic appeal to would-be defeaters like “genocide” otiose.

Notice how his current position amounts to a retraction of his previous position, in which he said:

“I’m not sure who told you that naturalists can’t believe that certain human behaviors are atrocious or gratutious or even ‘evil’ without the benefit on your three headed Hebrew tribal deity. But I assure you, you’re wrong. Just because someone accepts the universe and natural world for what it is, and perhaps can even identify the causes of disease or violent tendencies in certain humans, doesn’t mean we surrender our value judgments of what we believe is good or right behavior.”

Now, however, he relegates all of this to the realm of individual subjectivity.

And let us remember, once again, that I’m citing a distinction (“gratuitous” evil) drawn by secular philosophers as they formulate the problem of evil.

“Altruism is completely consistent with survival of genes in cooperative, sentient mammals, and mindless insects.”

It may be consistent with the survival of species. But it is frequently inconsistent with the survival of individuals.

An atheist is not a gene or mindless insect. He is a sentient being. And he will often be confronted with situations in which there is a conflict between altruism and his personal self-interest.

How does evolutionary ethics adjudicate that dilemma? Is he supposed to take one for the team? Why would he feel obligated to do what Mother Nature says when Mother Nature feels no obligation towards his individual wellbeing?

“And you see, I not only quoted the bible, I quoted the alleged second person in the three headed godhead. So excuse me if I take his word over Mr. Carson’s and Longeneckers.”

Quoting the Bible and exegeting the Bible are two different things. George has shown that he can quote Scripture, not that he can understand Scripture.

But if George wants to be an obscurantist, that’s fine with me.

Once again, ignorance is the royal road to unbelief.

“I never claimed to be a ‘secular humanist’ whatever you think that slur implies.”

You think that “secular humanism” is a slur? I guess that makes you a closet Fundy or jihadi.

“Well I would certainly count as evidence your reformed, protestant god manifesting himself in front of the whole world, clearly identifying himself as Steve’s god, and then slaughtering all the first born children of Muslim terrorists, and saying there’s more like that to come unless they all convert to Calvinism.”

This is why George’s appeal to evidence is frivolous and disingenuous.

“Or perhaps is it just one more example, in the long history of crazed theists, terrorizing and murdering people who don’t believe like them, and claiming their imaginary, invisible gods, authorized and helped them accomplish it?”

Not to mention the long history of crazed unbelievers like Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, terrorizing and murdering people who don’t believe like them.

Oh, and while we’re at it, notice how George, what with his bifurcated, either/or, black/white worldview divvies up humanity into good guys like himself and crazed theists on the other side.

Do we know we're saved?

John W. Loftus said:

“Calvinists know that they are saved? Really? So they have direct access to the secret will of God? There is no such assurance. As far as you know all you have is false assurance. Claim it all you want to if it makes you psychologically confident. But you can never be intellectually convinced of this, and you know it.”

1.We don’t need direct access to the secret will of God since that is not how the assurance of salvation is accessed in Scripture.

Rather, it is accessed in certain public criteria. For a discriminating discussion, cf. P. Helm, The Beginnings: Word & Spirit in Conversion (Banner of Truth 1986), 89-96.

2.You are also confounding paper doubts with real doubts. The hypothetical possibility that I may be a nominal believer or closet apostate has no more affect on my assurance of salvation than the hypothetical possibility that I’m a lunatic who happens to think he’s sane is any reason to question my sanity.

If I were really insane, then I’d be self-deluded about my own mental state. So is that a reason for someone who’s sane to doubt his sanity? Only if you're prone to paranoia.

“And the fear of hell keeps you from entertaining your hidden doubts, which makes you zealous for your faith since you suppress them.”

Loftus is now retreating into the Freudian fortress of the Id. But since, by definition, Castle Id is equally unprovable and unfalsifiable, an appeal to the alleged existence of unconscious doubts can never translate into conscious doubts.

Answer a fool according to his folly

A couple of Christian commenters have asked about our apologetic methodology at Triablogue.

As a general matter, Triablogue is a team effort. Different team members vary in their style, temperament, individual background, formative influences, epistemology, and so on.

The same is true for readers. Different readers will react differently to the very same material.

Moving to the specifics:

Darrin said:

“Shouldn't this battle be fought on epistemological grounds? I.e. should you not force their hands to show why their positions amount to something that is ‘true’ rather than something that is just their opinion? In other words, make them account for how they know the things they assert? Their use of induction (which is formally fallacious) to establish their ‘truth’ claims should be challenged. (Perhaps you have as I can't say I've read every thread).”

I think there’s often a time and place to get explicitly presuppositional. But I don’t do that all the time.

For one thing, if you play the presuppositional card every time, it looks like a dodge. It looks like you don’t have any specific answers to specific objections, so that all you can do is to play your dog-eared trump card every single time.

But since we often have specific answers to specific objections at our disposal, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t give specific answers to specific objections—instead of deflecting every objection and redirecting it to the preconditions of intelligibility.

This doesn’t mean that I object to specialization. Due to the specialization of knowledge, it’s not uncommon for an apologist to limit himself to a particular field of expertise.

If a Christian wants to make transcendental theism his bailiwick, that’s fine. We need to have that in reserve. And there are occasions when that’s the weapon of choice.

I just don’t think that every Christian apologist would limit himself to TAG as the only weapon in his armory. Our collective apologetic ought to be broader than that.

Shining and Burning Light said:

“And I have no problem utilizing all lines of Biblical argumentation, we can proclaim and defend the truth with passion and tenacity, bringing thunder when necessary, being sarcastic when the refutation of their arguments call for it, etc. But we should not treat them in kind, or fling retorts back and forth, and let the discussion degenerate into childishness. If unbelievers note our disposition and demeanor toward them when we respond, and they feel as though we're treating them like mud, it is unlikely that we're going to make any headway with them, even if our argumentation has won the day. We ought not represent Christ to them in this way, brother. The best argument we can make for Christianity is to be as Christ-like as possible. In my view, none of their self-deceiving arguments can even touch that. When we see an example of harsh judgment pronounced in the Bible toward someone (e.g. Hymenaeus and Philetus), there is a context for it. Sarcasm and harshness, though they have their place, ought not be the defining characteristic of our dealings with apostates/atheists. They should have some sense that we are concerned for their well-being, even though we are on opposite sides of the argument. I highly respect what you and the Tbloggers do, I admire your intellectual abilities (they are a great gift from God), and I esteem you as brethren. I don't have any legalistic list of do's and don'ts when refuting those who oppose the faith, but I am suggesting that you tone it down. Unbelievers are listening to you at DC, and at times (notice I said at times, not all the time) they pick up this disposition I've been talking about and they call you on it. When the Debunkees come off as the gracious ones, something is wrong! Please consider what I say, even though I am a nobody....thanks for your labors in the Lord.”

From one nobody to another, there’s a lot of truth in SBL’s observation.

I myself follow the philosophy of Prov 26:4-5. Sometimes it’s prudent to answer a fool according to his folly, but at other times a different tack is called for. As one commentator puts it:

“That situation poses a problem to the wise: how should one ‘answer’ the fool? The opposite bits of advice—‘do not answer’ and “do answer’—show that there is no automatic formula to be applied. Each situation calls for a response that the wise must have confidence to discern on the spot. In one case, to answer would lead to prolonged argument in which the wise might be trapped into babbling like a fool. Where there is a chance of that, silence is the prudent way…In another case, one prick of the fool’s balloon may bring him back to reality and burst the bubble of his conceit (‘wise in his own eyes’). To answer in that circumstance does a favor to everyone, including the fool…both proverbs are valid, each in its own setting,” D. Hubbard, Mastering the Old Testament: Proverbs (Word 1989), 398-99.

I don’t think we should follow an unbeliever wherever he would take us. We march to the drumbeat of our own inspired music score. Yet the Bible is, itself, a book with many instruments in the orchestra pit: brass as well as strings.

And it also differentiates between one group and another. It reserves some very harsh words for the apostate.

I don’t believe that we should hand out respect like free samples of detergent. Respectable arguments merit a respectful hearing.

Disreputable objections do not. There’s no reason to treat everything the same way when everything is not the same.

It’s ironic how angry an unbeliever will become when you hold him to his own words and standards. But I think there’s a place for that—precisely because it exposes the vulnerability of the unbeliever’s position.

There are times when we should ruthlessly take an unbeliever at his own word, hold him to his word, make him eat his own words.

Call his bluff. Play by his own rules and beat him at his own game.

Why should he feel offended when we respond to him in kind, when we answer him in his own coin?

If he chooses to take umbrage, then that’s helpful—for he is taking offense at his own words and standards as soon as we stamp a return address on the envelop and mail it back to the sender.

The church is composed of a variety of people. The church is better off when it has more people like SBL and fewer people like me. But there’s a place for salt as well as light.

Of course, I myself am eminently expendable. There are any number of Christians out there who could do what I do and do it much better. Christians who know more than I do on any given topic.

But until the A-team comes on board, B-team rookies like me will fill in as pinch-hitters.

Armchair psychology


Today there is violence between Israel and Lebanon. And while no one can say this is purely a religious war, the elements of religion are plainly evident, especially when militant Islamics (like Hamas, and Hezbollah) want to destroy Israel as part of what they understand the Koran to say.

And then there are Christians who are so zealous for their faith they consider anyone who questions their faith as a personal attack. They too are zealots for their faith.

But why? Why are these religious people so zealous for their faith? Why? Is anyone that zealous in defending their favorite Baseball team, or in defending the historicity the founding of ancient Rome, such that they will personally attack someone who denies it (well there might be a small select few regarding a baseball team, but Christians as a whole take our questions personally).

Fear of hell. That explains the zeal of the zealots in this world. It's a cradle to grave intimidation that causes otherwise intelligent and caring people to be stupid and fearful and zealous for their faith.

Tell me this, Christians, if it weren't for the fear of hell, how zealous would you be for your faith? How willing would you be to consider the questions we pose here at DC? How does the fear of hell itself affect how zealous you are to defend your faith?


1.This is all very illogical. For one thing, I can think of plenty of sports fans that are quite zealous about the home team. I guess they’re motivated by the fear of hell, right?

2.Loftus’ analysis would only make sense if two conditions were met:

i) The zealot is afraid of hell, and

ii) He believes that his zealous activities will save him from hell.

As far as militant Muslims are concerned, they seem to be motivated, not by the disincentive of hell-fire, but by the incentive of their 72 virgins in Paradise.

It’s about the carrot, not the stick.

And there are other factors in play. The peer pressure from a cult of martyrdom. A propaganda machine along with a cottage industry of victimology. And the rush that comes of killing people. The thrill of danger.

As far as Christians are concerned, Evangelicals don’t believe that doing apologetics will save them from the flames of perdition. We are justified by faith, not by apologetics.

Moreover, many Evangelicals are unafraid of hell. They became Christians out of fear of hell. But now that they are Christians, they no longer fear the prospect of hell.

This is especially true for Christians in a theological tradition like Lutheranism or Calvinism in which a Christian can enjoy the assurance of salvation.

3.Finally, apostates can be every bit as zealous as Christians. Is this because the apostate is inspired by his fear of hell?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Prophetic fulfillment

“If a prophecy is not falsifiable, it is as worthless as a newspaper astrology column. Making a prediction specific enough to be understood in advance is hard. Re-interpreting a text to make it predict past events is easy, and the techniques (like shoehorining) are well-understood. It can be done with Nostradamus and Biblical acrostics. It can be done to fit normal Biblical prophecies to non-religious figures like Napoleon.”

The initial sentence is a valid inference from a false premise. I never said or implied that Bible prophecy was unfalsifiable.

What I said is that it would be self-defeating for a prophecy to be too specific, since that would invite efforts to thwart the prophecy.

Hence, no one Messianic prophecy (to take one prophetic class for purposes of illustration) is going to give you the who, what, when, where, why, and how of its fulfillment.

Rather, we have a set of prophecies which, taken together, give the who, what, when, where, why, and how of their collective fulfillment.

It’s like espionage—in which information is compartmentalized. Different agents are given different folders which, taken together, spell out the game plan.

“Because of this problem, sensible people demand that it be possible to correctly interpret Biblical prophecies in advance.”

This is self-refuting by Hallquist’s own examples. He doesn’t regard Nostradamus as a true prophet. Indeed, he clearly regards Nostradamus as a charlatan.

But Hallquist didn’t live before the time of Nostradamus, now did he? Hallquist is judging the prophetic quality, or lack therefore, of the famous quatrains after the fact.

Either that or Hallquist is very well preserved for his age.

And does he really believe that Bible prophecies are equally adaptable to figures like Napoleon?

Or does he believe that Bible prophecies are false?

Emotional hemophilia

Have you ever noticed how many militant unbelievers are emotional hemophiliacs?

Every time you bruise the frail constitution of their atheism, they begin to bleed emotionalism out of all their pores.

You’d think I’d taken out a full-page ad in the NYT leveling a personal attack on Anonymous or George.

I did a post on Sam Harris. Suddenly this eruption of personal pique.

All I can say is that if your atheism is so delicate that you hemorrhage hysteria every time you get a bump or scratch from a Christian blogger, even when someone else was in the cross-hairs, then it’s best to avoid contact sports for your own protection.

Please refrain from reading Triablogue if a rhetorical nick from my keyboard would prove fatal to your seculatory system.

Anonymous said:

“Nice straw man dude. Violence is not a "biological imperative". If you don't see a difference between the limited mental capabilities of a lion and the advanced reasoning skills of human beings then you are a bigger dumbass than I give you credit for. I guess you have never heard of the benefits of altruism and cooperation in the evolutionary process? Why the [expletive deleted] do you think human beings live in societies instead of hermits in caves?”

1.This is another funny thing about so many militant unbelievers. Not only are they ignorant of our side of the argument. They are often just as ignorant of their own side of the argument.

As I pointed out in my previous reply to George, there are secular scientists who by no means regard my claim as a “straw man” argument:

A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion (MIT 2000)
by Randy Thornhill, Craig T. Palmer, Margo I. Wilson

Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (Mariner Books 1997) by Dale Peterson, Richard Wrangham

I realize, of course, that we must make allowance for the fact that MIT Press is a hotbed of Bible-thumpers while the Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham is probably a closet Fundy too.

2.Anonymous appeals to the benefits of altruism and cooperation. But he overlooks so many obvious counterexamples. One of the many problems with secular ethics is the frequent a conflict between altruism and self-interest.

It may be in everyone's general self-interest to be altruistic, but that also means that I may have to sacrifice my personal gratification for the common good. And why, if I'm an atheist, would I want to do that?

It's easy to be altruistic when it doesn't cost us anything, when everyone is the beneficiary.

But, to take the textbook example, the benefits of altruism will quickly break down on a lifeboat.

Altruism only works when there's enough to go around for everyone, and everyone benefits from a spirit of sharing and cooperation.

But what about a competitive environment with limited resources?

This question comes up all the time in bioethics, with the rationing of medical services.

A consistent atheist knows that he has only one life to live, and the only future he has a personal investment in is his own short-term future, because he won't be around a 100 years from now.

Moreover, we quickly pass our physical prime, so the clock is ticking. I may live to be 90, but I can't do at 90 what I could do at 30.

From a secular standpoint, hedonism is far more logical than altruism.

“I know, I know, it is impossible for you to believe that someone who doesn't believe in your god can still have morals. If you absolutely require a god to keep you from killing, then please, I beg you, keep believing.”

The question is not whether an atheist can still have morals, but why an atheist should still have morals.

And it isn’t just the Christian who raises this question. As I documented in my previous reply to George, this is a question which divides the secular community, with many unbelievers adopting some form of moral relativism.

Once again, Anonymous is clueless about his own side of the argument.

This is because atheism is ultimately antisocial.

For the record, here are some of the challenges confronting the atheologian as he deploys the problem of evil:


Firstly, one who accepts either a divine command theory of ethics or non-realism in ethics is in no position to raise the problem of evil, that is, to offer the existence of evil as at least a prima facie good reason for rejecting theism. This is because a divine command theory, in taking morality to be dependent upon the will of God, already assumes the truth of that which is in dispute, viz. the existence of God (see Brown 1967). On the other hand, non-realist ethical theories, such as moral subjectivism and error-theories of ethics, hold that there are no objectively true moral judgments. But then a non-theist who also happens to be a non-realist in ethics cannot help herself to some of the central premises found in evidential arguments from evil (such as ‘If there were a perfectly good God, he would want a world with no horrific evil in it’), as these purport to be objectively true moral judgments (see Nelson 1991). This is not to say, however, that atheologians such as David Hume, Bertrand Russell and J.L. Mackie, each of whom supported non-realism in ethics, were contradicting their own meta-ethics when raising arguments from evil – at least if their aim was only to show up a contradiction in the theist’s set of beliefs.


Moving on the George:


LOL…I’m not really interested in playing your games of semantic hair splitting Steve. I must have missed the big list of “gratuitous” versus “garden variety” evil in my copy of the bible.

You’re dodge is noted for the record.

I'm sure it will be a trend.


Just like Anonymous, George doesn’t know his own side of the argument. So I beg the indulgence of my readers while I give him a remedial course in Atheism 101.

“Gratuitous” evil is a necessary ingredient in the existential problem of evil as formulated by atheologians:

William Rowe’s version is often regarded as the classic formulation:


The second premise is sometimes called ‘the theological premise’ as it expresses a belief about what God as a perfectly good being would do under certain circumstances. In particular, this premise states that if such a being knew of some intense suffering that was about to take place and was in a position to prevent its occurrence, then it would prevent it unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse. Put otherwise, an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good God would not permit any gratuitous evil, evil that is (roughly speaking) avoidable, pointless, or unnecessary with respect to the fulfillment of God’s purposes.


Here’s another illustration:


There are a number of evidential arguments from evil. The most common of these simply reformulates the logical argument into a probabilistic argument:

(1) Gratuitous evils probably exist

(2) Gratuitous evils are incompatible with the God of theism (omnipotent, omniscient, all-good)

(3) Therefore, the God of theism probably does not exist

Clearly, many evils can clearly lead to greater goods, for example suffering the slight pain of an injection in order to receive a life-saving drug. Advocates of AE do not generally have this kind of thing in mind when they refer to suffering or evil. What is meant by ‘evil’ is gratuitous or pointless evil.


Notice that I’ve taken my “semantic hairsplitting”, not from my own side, but from George’s side—unless, that is, he suspects that The Secular Web is really a front organization for witch-burning theocrats.

Perhaps Richard Carrier and I are in cahoots. Ya never know!

Now, from a Reformed standpoint, the doctrine of predestination rules out the possibility of gratuitous evil.

So it’s hard to see how the problem of evil can be deployed as an internal critique of Calvinism.

However, other traditions may be more vulnerable on this score.



I’m not sure if a backache makes the list of gratuitous evil. And not being superstitious and credulous, I am also not convinced that every piece of good fortune a Christian prays for, and comes true, is the result of your personal, invisible gods’ intervention.

That’s called the Fallacy of Coincidence. It’s the fuel that keeps the engine of your Christian superstition burning.


The fallacy of coincidence may explain cases attributable to coincidence. But some cases resist such a facile interpretation.


Again, feel free to provide me the list, and the evidences, of all the "evils" your personal Christian god has prevented using this nebulous process you call “common grace”. I assume this is your fancy term for “my god’s magic powers”.


One widespread example is the psychological oddity of the unbeliever who continues to believe in altruism even though that’s inconsistent with his secular worldview.


Will there be a day of reckoning for your god, and all the evil he caused, and all the evil he allowed to transpire, that he could have allegedly stopped, and all the evil that his followers did to others who wouldn't believe like they required?

I'm looking forward to it...let me know when it is, so I can put it on my calendar.


You’re one of many unbelievers who raise theodicean objections without ever bothering to consult the answers.


Sure it does. I’m surprised you’re not familiar with your own mythology. Your mythology claims your god created the first man and woman in an idyllic garden where there was no death and disease.


This is, of course, unresponsive to what I originally said. What I said was: “Christian theology doesn’t deny the existence of death and disease.”

Your reply is a labored equivocation. Since you’d only resort to equivocation because you can’t offer a respectable argument, I accept your admission of defeat.

“Again, I’m kind of surprised you are not familiar with the words or your Lord and Savior.”

One of the things I’m familiar with debaters who resort to sophistical tricks like acontextual prooftexting when their back is to the wall.

“1. Christians don’t like to die premature, painful deaths from disease. They think that this is a ‘bad’ thing. Some may even call it ‘evil.”

Christians are not the source or standard of Christian theology. The Bible is. You are attempting to shift ground from an internal critique of Christian theology to anecdotal decoys.

“2. Christian theology states that their god loves them and cares about their well being, and also the well being of sparrows.”

The Bible does not promise that Christians will be exempt from suffering in this life. Quite the contrary.

“3. Christian theology states that ‘things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive’."

If you’re a five-year old in Sunday school. But for the Christian theology of prayer, try:

D. A. Carson, ed. Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible & the World (Baker 1994).

R. Longenecker, ed. Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament (Eerdmans 2001).

“4. Christian children get sick with diseases, and they, and their believing parents, friends and entire church congregations, pray for their recovery.”


“5. Yet the children still die.”


“6. Thus, Christians like you, have to rationalize why your god doesn’t care, or only cares ‘sometimes’.”

No, the problem is with people like you who begin and end with a Reader’s Digest version of Christian theology’

“7. That's your problem in a nutshell.”

No, that’s only a problem for people like you who try to shrink Christian theology down to the size of a nutshell.

“I must have missed the part where the Christian god appointed you the Bishop of ‘right expectations and true beliefs’. I think perhaps your little blog site has gone to your head. “

And I must have missed the part where the natural selection appointed you the Bishop of “right expectations and true beliefs”. I think perhaps my little combox has gone to your head.

“You're just one of countless internet apologist wannabes, who calls himself a 'Christian' and who is trying to convince me that he speaks for the one true god. So far I’m not impressed with your intellect or your authority to speak for yourself, much less a god.”

You're just one of countless nullifidian trolls, who calls himself a 'secularist' and who is trying to convince me that he speaks for the one true infidelity. So far I’m not impressed with your intellect or your authority to speak for yourself, much less humanism.

“Well then I would hope you have evidence to support that claim, you being so ‘logical and unemotional’ in your presentation of your arguments. Do you?”

And what would you count as evidence?

“I’m not really interested in what Paul Helm or Bertrand Russell or any other atheist philosopher has to say right this moment. They are not here to debate me. And you are wrong to assume they have some magical authority over my position, like Saul of Tarsus does for yours.”

1.Paul Helm is a Christian philosopher, not a secular philosopher.

2.This has nothing to do with an argument from authority. Rather, Russell, Helm, and the others I’ve cited are giving reasons for their respective positions.

Your unwillingness to interact with their arguments bespeaks your inability to interact with their arguments.

3.You accuse me of misrepresenting secular humanism, so I quote representatives of secular humanism. I'm answering you on your own ground—or should I say?—quicksand?

“And you’ve yet to convince me with any evidence that your personal Christian god has ever ‘intervened’ at anytime to stop any gratuitous evil. But I’m sure if I wait long enough, you’ll get around to that.”

What do you count as evidence?


It seems your position is:

I know my personal god isn’t intervening much, but I think he might be intervening some, I just can't offer any conclusive evidence that he is, or why he is only doing it for certain situations.

Sounds like a perfect rationalization of projecting your invisible god onto the probablistic events of a natural world where no gods are ever intervening.


Actually, you’re confusing my position with yours. You’re acting as though the only evidence for divine intervention would be the uniformity of divine intervention, as if divine intervention should operate with the law-like regularity of a natural force.

Of course, divine intervention is personal and discretionary, not mechanical and invariable.

And if divine intervention were universal, you’d immediately discount it as indistinguishable from the laws and forces of nature.

“The fact that you’re a smug, pusedo-intellectual Christian, who's read a few books on logic and philosophy, and who looks down his nose at other. lesser educated Christians…

I see. And you look up to lesser educated Christians, is that it?”

Actually, I hold all Christians to the same standard (myself included), which is the authority of Scripture.

“I am getting them from the natural world. You and I are part of the natural world…Because I have the capacity to make value judgments and disapprove of things I don’t like. Is this hard for you to grasp?”

You say that you’re getting your value judgments from the natural world at the very same time you’re rendering value judgments about the natural world of which you’re a part. You stand in judgment over the very source of your standard.

To use the standard to judge the standard is viciously circular. Is this hard for you to grasp?

More Confusion from the Calvinist Flyswatter

I see that Bob L. Ross has taken the bait. I have to thank Mr. Ross for this. How predictable.

I have consistently stated that the theologians he cites do believe in means associated with regeneration in adults. I even provided a plethora of quotes to prove it.

He then quotes from those theologians referring to the narrow meaning of regeneration as being the work of the Holy Spirit apart from means, and he fails to deal with the actual quotes I provided for him, and then he runs off to talk about infant regeneration.

In fact, when he introduces the topic of infant regeneration, he is simply replying to me with an armload of caveats that were not in the material of his own that I was critiquing.

My last reply was tailored to reply to a specific allegation of his:

This is the same "direct operation" palabber taught by the pedo-regenerationist theologians Shedd, Berkhof, and R. C. Sproul, and other preachers such as James White, Scott Morgan of the Founders, Gene Bridges, Tom Schreiner of the Southern Seminary, and others who advocate "Reformed" theology according to the Berkhof theology book.

None of them has given evidence that they believe that the Word of God is an instrumentality in the "quickening" work of the Spirit in regeneration or the New Birth, contrary to the Creedal Calvinism of all the Calvinistic Confessions of Faith.

His stated complaint was that Sproul, White, Schriener, et. al. have given "no evidence" that we affirm instrumentality. The quotes I provided plainly contradict him. This exposes his complete disregard for the truth. I ask again, how is stating:

God's call is made effectual by the Word and the Spirit. It is important to see that the Word and the Spirit are here conjoined as two vital factors of regeneration. The Holy Spirit is not working apart from the Word or against the Word, but with the Word. Nor is the Word working alone without the presence and power of the Spirit.

The call referred to in effectual calling is not the outward call of the gospel
that can be heard by anyone within range of the preaching. The call referred to here is the inward call, the call that penetrates to and pierces the heart, quickening it to spiritual life. Hearing the gospel enlightens the mind, yet it does not awaken the soul until the Holy Spirit illuminates it and regenerates it. This move from ear to soul is made by the Holy Spirit. This move is what accompanies God's purpose of applying the benefits of Christ' work to the elect.
a denial of instrumentality? Ah, but Sproul affirms infant regeneration, so he's contradicting himself, right? No, because, in Sproul's view, that is the exception to the rule, not the rule, and those who are so regenerated either die in infancy (the majority of said infants) or are converted by age 3 or 4 at the most (the vast minority of said infants, and, then, Sproul calls even that "speculative", and moreover, the means of grace, including the gospel are necessary for them to be converted, and God ensures that this instrumentality is involved. These are not heathen children, these are, in his theology, children reared in believing homes and evangelical churches. Do I agree? No, I think children converted at that age are regenerated at that age. On the other hand, I have a good friend converted @ that age but who did not experience a great crisis and has never had an spiritual problems with his faith since. Likewise Ruth Graham cannot even remember when she was converted. I think that this position is an abstract possibility, but even then, how does this disprove anything Sproul says regarding regeneration preceding faith in non-infants, the vast majority of the population?

And how is stating:

The ordinary means (that for adults and children of competency in understanding) always is via the accompaniment of the Word of God and the calling to mind of other circumstances. I agree with Boyce on this, except in his third and possibly his second limiting case.


Regeneration is attended by the Word of God and gospel truth in all those not dying in infancy.

a denial of means? I plainly state there that I affirm infant regeneration in infants dying in infancy, not in others, except as an abstract possibility, and I further limit my own limiting cases to those offered by Boyce, and I explicitly state my belief in means, which I name, the Word of God. So, Ross, to even insinuate that I am affirming anything about infants regenerated and walking around unconverted, especially into adulthood is a lie. For Charles to assent to it, is to assent to Ross' lies, and that, my friends makes them as guilty of lying as it did the scribes and Pharisees of murder for boasting that they built the tombs of the prophets whom their fathers killed.

This is plainly incompetent and shows the weakness of his hand. It shows he does not understand the language of regeneration used in modern theology nor the history of this language. It speaks to how bankrupt his hand is that he has to go off to talk about infant regeneration , which is the exception to the rule and said to be very rare, in order to discuss adult regeneration / non-infant regeneration, which is spoken of as God's most common and ordinary way of acting.

As I have explained to him many times, in modern theological language within the Reformed community, regeneration is spoken of in two senses. Not only this, but this language goes back as far as Francis Turretin, and it has been accepted since the 17th century, the time when the confessions were written, and the only record of persons disputing its legitimacy as an expression of the confessions at this time is Bob L. Ross. Since when did Bob L. Ross become the defining voice of confessional Calvinism?

All of this is to refute the statement, "Regeneration precedes faith."

Ross insists that to affirm that regeneration precedes faith is always to affirm that there is a time frame involved by which the individual walks around while being regenerate while having not yet believed and to deny means. That is, as he correctly notes, "Hardshell Doctrine." But this is not the position of the men who articulate this position today, especially me, and I have consistently told him that what I personally am affirming is that the relation is logical and causal, not temporal. I agree with Charles Hodge and A.A. Hodge who wrote:

"The very first conscious exercise of the renewed soul is faith; as the first conscious act of a man born blind whose eyes have been opened is seeing." (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 3, 41).

REGENERATION is an act of God originating by a new creation a new spiritual life in the heart of the subject. The first and instant act of that new creature, consequent upon his regeneration, is FAITH, or a believing, trusting embrace of the person and work of Christ. Upon the exercise of faith by the regenerated subject, JUSTIFICATION is the instant act of God, on the ground of that perfect righteousness which the sinner’s faith has apprehended, declaring him to be free from all condemnation and to have a legal right to the relations and benefits secured by the covenant which Christ has fulfilled in his behalf. A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, Chapter 34.

I'd add that James Boyce himself, whom I have quoted many times already stated that regeneration precedes faith, when he wrote:
"The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence."

Notice that one of the men he criticizes, WGT Shedd, states,
"The regenerate child, youth, and man, believe· and repent* immediately. "

Hardshell doctrine is that the soul is so utterly passive that the person is regenerated and unconscious of it and can live far into adulthood and never repent or believe until a very late age. But how is Shedd affirming Hardshell doctrine? After his discussion of the use of means (prayer, the Word of God, etc), he states clearly, ""The regenerate child, youth, and man, believe· and repent* immediately." Only with infants does he state otherwise, but that is a separate issue. As I stated beforehand, Mr. Ross needs to separate the issues, because to "refute" this, he has to run off to talk about infant regeneration, but how does this refute what Shedd said about non-infants?

As to means, I have soundly shown already that the very individuals that Mr. Ross criticizes all affirm the use of means: See here. One would have to be illiterate or willfully ignorant not to see that this is an explicit affirmation of means by all the persons listed.

Mr. Ross then quotes what they say when they speak of the actual work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration as if this refutes what they go on to state about means. However is this true? Are they referrring two contradictory notions?

No. Because what they are doing is speaking of regeneration in a narrow sense, and regeneration in a broad sense.

Narrow sense: The work of regeneration itself is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. This expresses the actual phenomenology of God Himself regenerating, God’s own work defined as resurrecting the lost soul to life.

Broad sense: The entire process leading up to a saving profession of faith and even continuing on (as a person is considered to be regenerate). Thus, this broader view is, functionally, the view that all of the effectual call and everything leading up to conversion is "regeneration." But even on that view, because the effectual call precedes conversion, regeneration still precedes faith. This expresses the broader psychology of the person, the object of God’s regenerating work. This usage may encompass all that leads up to the actual moment of conversion, or it may include that which follows (the fruits of regeneration itself, e.g. a regenerated person is a regenerate person; we know he is regenerate because of the fruit his life shows).

This is what Boyce is stating in his comments in his Abstract when he states:
It is true that but few of the passages refer to anything save the work of God; yet these few sufficiently teach the use of the word in regeneration to lead us not to reject, as a part of it, that result of God's act which, in connection with the word, leads to the full union of its subject with Christ through repentance and faith.

The whole work is thus spoken of, however, because God is operative from the beginning to the end, but this does not prove that he does not operate differently in one part from what he does in the other.

The Scripture teaching is that God operates immediately upon the heart to produce the required change, by which it is fitted to receive the truth, and mediately through the word in its reception of that truth.

1. He operates immediately upon the heart to prepare the way for the truth.

(2.) The Scripture attributes the birth to the will of God exclusively, thus showing that in some aspect it is not to be regarded as due to the reception of the truth. John 1:13.

2. The Spirit acts mediately through the word.

Yet, he states,
"The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence."

Berkhof, one of his constant targets in his prattling, even states:
The word 'regeneration' is not always used in the same sense. Our Confession uses it in a broad sense, as including even conversion. At present it has a more restricted meaning. In the most restricted sense it denotes that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy. In a slightly more comprehensive sense it designates, in addition to the preceding, the new birth or the first manifestation of the new life." (Summary of C. Doctrine)
James A. Boyce makes this same distinction in his Abstract of Theology!

So, in order to deny that what they say about the broad sense is even in their writing, Mr. Ross has to appeal to what they say about the narrow sense.

When they say that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit alone, they are speaking of the actual divine agency of God to show that no amount of study, prayer, etc., is effectual on the soul; it is merely an external call with it. That's the point. The Holy Spirit's grace underwriting that means is what makes the call effectual. This is why Berkof, whom Mr. Ross insists denies means states,
"The internal call is really the external call made effective by the operation of the Holy Spirit. It always comes to the sinner through the Word of God, savingly applied by the operation of the Holy Spirit, I Cor . 1:23, 24." (
At the same time, Berkhof states, regeneration in the narrow sense is, "
that act of God by which the principle of the new life is implanted in man, and the governing disposition of the soul is made holy.'"
The actual work of the person being raised to spiritual life is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. In that narrow sense, regeneration is only His work. In the broader sense, the entire conversion process is in mind. The narrow sense does not occur, in all but infants, without the effectual call. The order is effectual call (regen. in broad sense), regeneration (narrow sense), immediate faith and repentance (conversion), justification. Then we say that the person is regenerate/regenerated. Again, if Mr. Ross would actually pay attention to what these texts state, he would know that.

To say that regeneration precedes faith is not to deny the immediacy of faith and repentance. It is not to deny means. For there can be no immediate turning to Christ, unless the person knows of Christ. Otherwise, where would he turn? There can be no turning from sin if the person does not know he is a sinner, and thus neither can be divorced from an external call or an effectual call, and to be effectual,the Holy Spirit underwrites the external call by striving with the soul.

At this point, Mr. Ross invariably runs off to talk about what these folks believe about infant regeneration. But infant regeneration is the exception, not the rule. How does what these men say about infant regeneration invalidate what they say about non-infants? We are not told, it simply does. Mr. Ross has made a category error, conflating the properties of one universe of discourse with another.

He never actually tells us how the exception disproves the rule. It just does. Infant regeneration is not regeneration in non-infants. The latter is the rule, the former is not the rule.
"The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear, in which case they should be sedulously cherished and nurtured. . . . Although the grace of God may be communicated to a human soul, at any period of its existence, in this world, yet the fact manifestly is, that very few are renewed before the exercise of reason commences; and not many in early childhood." (Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967).
John Frame, whom he has recently discussed at the Flyswatter, agrees with Vern Poythress on this. Poythress has stated that such persons are extremely rare and the age is no more than age 3 or 4. So, this is the exception to the rule, not the rule. If they affirmed (a) that these infants lived into adulthood (which is what Mr. Ross has claimed) he would have a point. Likewise, if they affirmed that all infants were regenerated or regenerated through baptism, they'd have a point, but they do not affirm baptismal regeneration and presume their infants unregenerate not regenerate, so how is this "Hardshell doctrine?" I'd further add that the only reason I quote them is because Mr. Ross consistently misrepresenting them, so for him to say that I am quoting them to support my position is disingenuous. I am merely answering Mr. Ross on his own terms of engagement. If he objects to my citing them, then he shouldn't be citing them incorrectly.

Even Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology states,
"Yes it is certainly possible for God to bring regeneration to an infant even before it is born...we must however, affirm that very clearly that this is not God's usual way for God to save people." He then goes on to state that he affirms that this is how he believes God acts when He knows that these infants are going to die.

And, lest we forget, James Boyce himself stated:

Regeneration (as in infants) may exist without faith and repentance, but the latter cannot exist without the former.

VI. There is not only antecedence, but in some cases an appreciable interval.

1. This is true even of conversion regarded as a mere turning to God. Between it and regeneration must intervene in some cases some period of time until the knowledge of God's existence and nature is given, before the heart turns, or even is turned towards that God.

(1.) This must be true of all infants and of all persons otherwise incapable of responsibility, as for example idiots.

Yet Mr. Ross pretends that Boyce never stated this. If the Founders is out of step with the SBC's own Founders, then Mr. Ross needs to account for James Boyce, particularly since Ross regularly criticizes Al Mohler and Tom Nettles. Telling me that Boyce affirmed means is superfluous, since I have not denied means, and since to believe regeneration precedes faith in the way that I, Dr. White, and others have stated it, is not to deny means. Quite the contrary, it is predicated on the use of instrumentality, the Word of God.

Speaking for myself, as I pointed out to Mr. Ross in the last article, I limit infant salvation/regeneration to those actually dying in infancy, and I deny that there are persons walking around in a regenerate state who have not believed. I especially deny that infants are regenerated and then live into birth. (If I affirmed that, then I agree with Ross, I would be affirming Hardshellism). I also do not deny means. For him to state that I have shown "no evidence" that I believe regeneration occurs apart from means or other such nonsense is still a lie on his part; one for which he has still not apologized, and one for which I do not expect an apology. Since he evidently has no real concern for truth, and has not apologized for his attacks on me, I can only conclude that he is a persistentl liar and a factious man. So, we're back to Titus 3, and Mr. Ross only increasing his condemnation. He needs to repent.

Mr. Ross has also stated that James White does not wish to debate him. Yet Dr. White has plainly invited Charles and, by extension Mr. Ross, to call the Dividing Line anytime. Let's see Mr. Ross have the courage of his convictions. Let's see him actually interact with James White on this on the DL instead of hiding like a roach in the darkness of the comment box of the Calvinist Flyswatter. The number is 1-877-753-3341 (Toll Free) Most Tuesday Mornings at 11:00am MST and Most Thursday Afternoons at 4:00 MST.