Friday, October 31, 2008

Success Rates

I'd planned to take a year off blogging - but John Loftus provides some low hanging fruit from which it's good to make a wider point or points:

Loftus writes:

If God sent Jesus to save the world by dying on the cross for our sins (the greater deed) then he should at least be as passionate as Christians are to help people believe (the lesser deeds). Why would God do the greater deed and not also do the lesser deeds? This doesn't make sense of an omniscient, omnibenelovent, and omnipotent God. The excuses given for the paucity of evidence reveal that the Christian expects way too little from the God they believe in.

1. Note how John assumes what he needs to prove, namely that Jesus died for "our" sins - defined by his Arminian upbringing as "everybody without exception.

2. Neither does he address the concept of "divine silence."

3. And he doesn't bother with telling us if this is an internal or an external critique.

a. If internal, this might be effective against some Arminians, but it doesn't begin to touch Reformed theology.

b. If external, he's given us no reason to accept his standards of critique, whatever they may be.

4. Indeed, what divine omniscience has to do with this isn't even stated.

First let's look at what one thinks (as he doesn't give any specific texts) would be a standard text, John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that all the ones believing may not perish but have eternal life.

A. God loves the world. No problem. But love is not God's only attribute.
B. For whom did Jesus come to die? All the ones believing. John 3:16 is a marvelous text for particular redemption.

Indeed, this text is followed by John 3:17, which merely recapituates 3:16. The world is condemned already. Jesus did not come into it to condemn it. Rather, he came to save it.

This is all stated to explain the illustration of the serpent lifted up in the wilderness. It may help Arminians in general to read that narrative.. How many people for whom the serpent was lifted up actually died, according to that text? None. The people who died had already done so. So, what's the point? The point is simple: Jesus came to redeem the cosmos by being lifted up for the believing ones. Their salvation through Him is the means of cosmic redemption, the same way that God saved the nation of Israel through the serpent being lifted up. The believing ones looked to it, and the nation was saved.

So, what does this mean for John's post?

Well, for starters, the target group isn't "the world" defined as "everybody." The target group of people in the world is the elect. All the elect will be saved, and by this the world is saved. God isn't in heaven wringing His hands hoping that people will all come to Christ. Sure, He offers some people who ultimately reject Christ salvation, but that's for their inculpation, and the call is general because God doesn't write a big "E" across the forehead of the elect, who are scattered in geography and history. The force of a gospel presentation generally is to call the elect and inculpate the reprobate, and God need not present the gospel to everybody anyway:

1. Divine silence is a judgment for sin.
2. People are condemned already. The reprobate are already condemned. In a sense not hearing the gospel is a mercy, for "to whom much is given, much is required."

Likewise common grace itself is indexed to the Noahic covenant...for the purpose of maintaining the world until God's purposes of redemption are accomplished...and that very covenant was made with Noah and his familo, so it too is indexed, ultimately, to the elect.

So, God is "passionate" about calling the elect. His "omnibenevolence" extends to "everybody" insofar as God's ultimate purposes are concerned, is being fulfilled. Love is not God's only attribute, and God certainly knows all things, for He's foreordained them. The great redemptive purposes of God are not a failure. The success rate is 100 percent (something that can't be said of Arminianism, given general redemption), and "divine silence" is not a testament against the truth of the Bible or the Gospel. Rather, it is proof of it. God did the "greater deed," by sending Christ to die for the elect, and He does the "lesser" by making sure each and every one of them is saved.

If this is the best John Loftus can do these days, we welcome it, for this sort of namby pamby argumentation does Reformed theology a great favor.


  1. In the hopes that I am no longer banned, at least from your posts, I have thought further on the distinction you make between internal and external critiques when it comes to the problem of suffering. If I'm still banned then sorry. I never heard you say I was banned forever.

  2. A year-long break from blogging?

    Wow...well, you will be greatly missed. Enjoy it.

  3. John, you said in that post:
    As I’ve already admitted, I dismiss such a Calvinistic conception of God.

    That's just...really impressive. My boat is rocked, man, simply rocked.

  4. A lot can be said about this subject, and Gene has already made some of the relevant points. There are some related threads in our archives as well. I want to comment on some of the issues involved.

    God doesn't need to use something like scientific research or an archeological discovery to convert people. Though such evidence isn't needed, there's enough of it to motivate John Loftus and other critics of Christianity to expend much time and effort in an attempt to dismiss the evidence. There are reasons why they have to give so much more attention to Christianity than they do to Buddhism, Islam, or Hinduism. Some of those reasons aren't related to the quality of evidence for each belief system, but the difference in quality of evidence is a factor.

    We've discussed many of the relevant issues with John in the past, and I would recommend that people consult our archives and observe how John responded to the evidence discussed. See, for example, our archives on prophecy and the resurrection of Christ. For instance, note how John responds to the evidence in threads like this one, this one, and this one. There are dozens more such threads in the archives. John has repeatedly failed, when asked, to demonstrate his claim that the evidence is insufficient for him in particular or for everybody. Instead, his claims are frequently refuted, and he often leaves discussions without even attempting to interact with significant arguments against his position.

    In the thread that Gene links above, Bryce comments:

    "The harder you force yourself to believe this Jesus story does not make it any more true than Santa claus or a pink unicorn or any of the other pagan deities that preceded the Jesus era, and people, non Xian and Xian alike, all except the pagan gods to be myth."

    I don't think Santa Claus or the gods of ancient pagan mythology have motivated critics like Antony Flew to make comments such as:

    "The evidence for the resurrection [of Jesus] is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity, I think, from the evidence offered for the occurrence of most other supposedly miraculous events."

    When dismissing Santa Claus or Zeus, do critics like Bryce resort to proposing widespread hallucinations? Do they appeal to unusual losses of memory or unusual apathy among the relevant sources, in an attempt to explain why the historical record is so contrary to the critic's position?

    Bryce objects to "mental gymnastics", but I doubt that he disapproves of the gymnastics of skeptics who try to dismiss the authorship attributions of most of the New Testament, in the teeth of both ancient Christian and ancient non-Christian testimony on the subject. I doubt that he objects to the gymnastics of skeptics who appeal to widespread hallucinations, widespread faulty memories, widespread apathy among Christianity's enemies, or other such highly unlikely scenarios in an attempt to dismiss the evidence for Christianity. It's not as though dismissing the resurrection appearance to Paul as a hallucination or rejecting the authorship attributions of 18 of the 27 New Testament books is the most obvious conclusion that comes to mind when examining the evidence. Bryce should explain what he thinks of such gymnastics and explain to us how the evidence for Thor compares to the evidence for Jesus.

  5. "then he should at least be as passionate"

    This "passionate" is already engulfed with the most magnificent mercy of Christ our God and Saviour. God's mercy is infinite and beyond our meager minds to comprehend, and yet we can touch it, and feel it, and trust it, and love it.

    "Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
    My perfect spotless righteousness,
    The great unchangeable I AM,
    The King of glory and of grace,
    One in Himself I cannot die.
    My soul is purchased by His blood,
    My life is hid with Christ on high,
    With Christ my Savior and my God!"

    A year (12 months) sabbatical could be a cool thing to do.