Saturday, March 08, 2008

LFW Gone Wild

I asked

Why do people choose x and not y given the contraints of LFW? Put another way, why does one person believe and not another?

JCT replied
Because they make a decision to given the choices, it wouldn't be LFW if they couldn't.

This begs the question for LFW. It does not answer the question, "why do people choose x and not y" given the constraints of LFW. Saying "Because they make a decision" is not an answer to the question. It merely restates the question and, at best, moves the question back one step. JCT, do you listen to yourself as you type these answers? "Why does a person choose x and not y?" Answer: Because they make a choice, eg. because they make a decision."

That said, what this illustrates is the inability of the Libertarians to account for causality. Why does one person make that decision given the options? This is a perfectly legitimate question that the Libertarian, as JCT so ably demonstrates, cannot answer coherently. It would be more honest to say, "I don't know, it's a mystery" than to give the answer he gave.

There are two reasons I constantly ask Arminians this question:

1. To demonstrate their inability to answer this question.
2. To demonstrate how unbiblcial the answer is. The Bible ascribes our choices to our motives. So, this is the question Arminians desperately wish to avoid, for it exposes them to a classic dilemma:

a. Admit they can't answer.
b. Admit that the person believed because he was more spiritual, smarter, more afraid, or any other reason.

Steve has already replied to a number JCT's statements, I'll simply second his reply and add my own material.

No it doesn't, as I'm speaking of God's omniscience from a temporal, human perspective when I say 'before.'

This was not in JCT's original statements.

Negative, to one whose knowledge transcends time, they are knowable outside of their being instantiated, as He sees the end as clearly as the beginning.

Wrong, this does not address the knowability of the object of knowledge at all. Indeed, He only knows them because they are instantiated, not outside of their being instantiated. If He knew them outside of the fact, He would know them without them being instantiated at all.

You're confusing the issue, as God's timelessness is what enables Him to know decisions before they are made.

To say that God clearly sees the future begs the question.

Appealing to the timelessness of God says nothing, not a word, about the knowability of libertarian choices. Indeed it merely begs the question that they are knowable to God. The question he needs to answer, and which he hasn't answered is how our LIBERTARIAN choices are knowable since they don't exist in any mind except the mind of the agent and are not knowable until they are instantiated.

His answer is God knows them before we do, from our standpoint, but not His. However, this doesn't answer the question how God could know them before they were instantiated at all, for they can only be done as a product of their instantiation. They are only knowable after they are instantiated by the agent.

Now, it's true that the timelessness of God means that all things are "eternally simultaneous" to God, but that's an ontological category. Here, we're talking about telelogy, a distinct epistemological category. God understands relational sequence, that 1, for example, comes before 2. But if the question is "1 or 2?" and that question is answered only by an agent other than God, then how does He know the answer to it prior to the agent making the decision? How is it knowable in God's mind, if it's only in the mind of the agent? Appealing to timelessness merely begs the question.

The fact that it is resistible means its ineffectual.

Yeah, there's bullet-resistant vests, which makes bullets ineffectual weapons. Great logic. For the record Gene, I consider TD very much a 'functional category;' I'd explain the rest of my beliefs to you, but you appear to have your mind made up about them already, so I won't confuse you with the facts.
That little ditty comes from his statement that the UPG is effectual. However, it's a simple fact that UPG is not at all effectual, since it doesn't effectually draw anybody.

UPG makes TD (Total Depravity) cease to be a functional category. Men need UPG in order to have LFW. But PG is UPG, so TD is thereby not functional as a category. It only functions on paper; in practice everybody has LFW, which gets Arminianism tarred, rightly, with functional Semi-Pelagianism.

A Study in Contradiction

In the UK:

On the one hand the Archbishop of Canterbury says Britain should adopt parts of Sharia law.

On the other, the homosexual superrights lobby has so influenced the government that Sunday School teachers can be denied as foster parents.

But this poses quite the dilemma for a man like Richard Dawkins, who believes, if you'll recall, that there are genes that control whether one is a believer or not. On that view, then, believing in God and the tenets of a religion would also be biological in nature.

Note one of the comments attached to the second article:

The issue here is about tolerance and bigotry. This couple are obviously very good foster parents, but their inflexible Christian standpoint (which actually means one must question their Christianity) means that they are patently unsuitable for nurturing children in the 21st century.

Unlike drug abuse, promiscuity, violence et al, homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice which can be 'parented out' of well adjusted children, homosexuality is fully accepted in civilised societies as an irreversible, birth given characteristic. To not condone this simple fact is tantamount to bigotry. And we all know where that leads to.
This must be quite the quandry for the Nuffidians in the UK. On the one hand, they'll side with the homosexuals and say discrimination if "bigotry" on the presumption that homosexuality is genetic/biological, yet on the other they'll argue that being a believer is also genetic/biological. I suppose some forms of bigotry are less important than others.

The Foolishness of the Cross

INTRODUCTION (1 Cor. 1:18-25)

I have had the pleasure of preaching the gospel open-air two times per month for about six years. Every time I preach to a group of God-hating sinners and hear their heckling, I am reminded of just how scandalous they think the gospel really is. Many have told me outright how foolish it is to think that a crucified Jewish man from ancient Palestine was the very incarnation of God Almighty and that by having faith in His death, burial, and resurrection, you can have eternal life. Yes indeed, repentance and faith placed in a crucified God-man plus nothing is a scandalous and foolish message to the mind of the modern unbeliever. It is scandalous because a crucified and resurrected Jesus is seen as grossly irrelevant to a postmodern mind bathed in human wisdom and foolish because the gospel message is so simple and its simplicity adds to its already ridiculous nature.

Paul was dealing with essentially the same problem with the divided Corinthian church. Because they had been thoroughly immersed into the worldly philosophy of Hellenistic dualism, they believed that salvation was an escape or a “getting away” from the world and the body. As a result, they sought human “wisdom” and “knowledge”, had an over-spiritualized view of the ordinances, and some even denied the physical, tomb-emptying resurrection of the dead at the end of history due to an overrealized eschatology (1:22; 15:12). Because some in the Corinthian church had imbibed man’s worldly philosophy and attempted to mix it with biblical truth, they believed that “salvation” consisted of experiencing a weird kind of ultimate, transcendent spirituality in which the “saved” were said to be presently living on a higher spiritual plane, far above the mundane material existence of the present age.

Because the anti-Pauline factions in the church saw a need to “examine” Paul since he seemed to be devoid of the message of divine wisdom (i.e., the Greek concept of sophia = Corinthian “wisdom”; cf. 9:1-19; 4:12; Acts 18:3), they further wondered if he was really a prophet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 14:37 and 2nd Corinthians) since he lacked the oratorical skills necessary for being a good Greek philosopher, especially when Paul didn’t match up to what they thought true divine wisdom should look like and sound like (cf. 2:6; 3:1; 1:17; 2:1-5). So, having already set up the contrast in verse 17 between the “cleverness of [man’s] speech” versus the powerful preaching of the cross, he further develops this contrast in verses 18-25. In those verses, Paul sets them straight about where God’s power, wisdom, and strength lies; which is not in man’s wisdom, but in God’s wisdom.

I. The Power of God’s Message (v. 18).

II. The Preeminence of God’s Wisdom (vv. 19-20).

III. The Strength of God’s Weakness (vv. 21-25).


I. The Power of God’s Message (v. 18).

NAU 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – In this verse, Paul tells us that the cross of Christ is not something that someone may add human wisdom to and in so doing make it more superior. Instead, the cross stands in absolute, uncompromising opposition to human wisdom. Paul wants the Corinthian church to understand that the gospel, the message of the cross is not some new philosophy or new variety of human wisdom (sophia) coming onto the scene nor is it something that can be judged and put under the scrutiny of man. Paul says that this “word of the cross” can never be subjected to man’s standard of what greatness is, because man’s standard of greatness would empty the cross of its power by making it acceptable, tolerant, broad, wide, and shallow. Paul tells them (and us) that the true gospel “is foolishness to those who are perishing”. He wants the reader to understand that no one in their right mind would have ever dreamed this up as a way to be reconciled to God. A crucified Messiah is too humiliating and too much of a contradiction to man’s idea of what god should be. But of course, that is why man always strives to add something to the work of Jesus. It’s just too much for prideful man to handle the fact that all of the work has already been done on the cross and man can add nothing to it. For Paul, the cross cannot be changed, mixed with, or added to man’s philosophy and wisdom. To go beyond the cross by adding anything to it or mixing anything with it is to strip the cross of its power. There is a message that contains human wisdom and a message that contains the cross and the two are mutually exclusive.

“ . . . those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God In the context of chapter one, those who are perishing are the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles and the ones who are being saved are the same people. Those who are being saved only differ from those who are not because of ultimately one reason, God’s sovereign and gracious heart-regenerating power (cf. Ezek. 36:25-27). For God says in verse 21, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” and in verse 24, “but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Since Paul has set up the general antithesis between the “cleverness of [human] speech” and philosophy and the divine “word of the cross”, he now moves on in verses 19-20 to show us how God’s wisdom destroys human wisdom.

Questions for reflection: (1) What is Paul’s main thrust in verse 18? (2) How can the cross be emptied of its power? What are some ways that we subtly do this? (3) Ultimately, what makes the difference between the saved and the lost? What effect should this have had upon the Corinthians and us today? (4) In what ways do some within modern evangelicalism reject the power of God in the preaching of the cross and render it foolishness?

II. The Superiority of God’s Wisdom (vv. 19-20).

NAU 1 Corinthians 1:19-20 For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? – The fact that Paul starts to seal his case with an appeal to Scripture by stating “for it is written” shows that he will sufficiently seal his case by arguing that what God says is the final word when it comes to the ultimate starting point for achieving true wisdom. “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14, which in its original OT context warns those in Israel not to try to match wits with God (cf. Isa. 40:12-14, 25; Job 38-42). But since it is human nature to think that we can outsmart God, Paul authoritatively quotes this Isaiah passage to show that it has found its New Covenant fulfillment in defeating the pagan wisdom that had infiltrated the Corinthian church.

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” – In verse 20, Paul is reflecting back to Isaiah, where in 19:12 Isaiah says, “Well then, where are your wise men?” Quoting Isaiah, he is asking the Corinthians “Knowing what God has done through the cross, where are all your hotshot wise men? Has not God rendered both your Gentile (“wise man”) and Jewish (“scribe”) wise men foolish and brought their human wisdom to nothing? Where are your philosophical prize-fighters (“debater”)? Paul says that the cross is folly to the perishing, but by it, he has made the world’s wisdom truly foolish. He hasn’t merely made it to look foolish, but actually has turned human wisdom into its exact opposite: foolishness. Dr. John MacArthur appropriately states in regards to verse 20,

Could the apostle have written anything more appropriate for our own day? Where have our great thinkers – our philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, economists, scientists, and statesmen – brought us? Never before has mankind been so fearful of self-destruction of been so self-consciously perplexed, confused, and corrupt. Modern human wisdom has failed just as ancient human wisdom failed, except that its failures come faster and spread farther. The outer life improves in a material way, while the inner life seems to have correspondingly less meaning. The real issues are not resolved.[1]

Questions for reflection: (1) Paul was known for quoting pagan philosophers to show that they attested to at least some of what he was preaching (cf. Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). In 1 Cor. 1:19, why is Paul concerned with quoting Scripture instead of pagan philosophers? What does that tell us about our own method of defending the faith? (2) In light of verse 20, what types of people make up the “prize-fighters” for human wisdom in our day? (3) According to Paul, how has “God made foolish the wisdom of the world”?

III. The Strength of God’s Weakness (vv. 21-25).

NAU 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – in verse 21, Paul says that a true knowledge of God cannot come through autonomous human philosophy because any “god” created in the minds of man to suit man will always be a projection of man’s sinful, fallen mind and will be a source of pride and boasting. However, since God saves people only through the foolish message of the cross; a message found only in God-ordained apostolic preaching and not in human wisdom; there is no room whatsoever for boasting about the effectiveness human wisdom to save men from their sins. And so, the effectiveness and offense of the “message” preached (Gk. kergyma) lies not in the preacher, but in the content of the message, which is a crucified Messiah Jesus.

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, - Since unbelieving Jews were known for wanting miraculous signs to believe that something was of God (Matt. 12:38-40) and Greeks thrived on human philosophy and wisdom, Paul contradicts their autonomous sinful desire with the ultimate divine contradiction: the scandalous (Gk. skandalon), foolish message of the crucified Jesus. To have a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms; it was like having “fried ice”. To the Jews, you can have a Messiah reigning on a physical Davidic throne that has overthrown Rome, but not a crucified one. A crucified man was a cursed man, and it was the highest blasphemy to ascribe deity to One whom the Jews believed that God had cursed (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13)! It’s no wonder that Jesus was such a scandal to the Jews. To the unbelieving Greeks, Jesus was nothing more than madness and superstition. The Greeks thought that it was crazy to believe in a God that got Himself crucified by His own enemies. What a preposterous, strange, and superstitious display of weakness! Its no wonder that Christ crucified offended both groups of people; and it still does today. This desire for a “custom-fit” Jesus is easily seen in Paul’s division of humanity into the two classes of Jew and Gentile, and it’s also a great illustration of the two great idolatries of mankind. Gordon Fee notes,

Thus the “Jews” and “Greeks” here illustrate the basic idolatries of humanity. God must function as the all-powerful or the all-wise, but always in terms of our best interests – power in our behalf, wisdom like ours! For both the ultimate idolatry is that of insisting that God conform to our own prior views as to how “the God who makes sense” ought to do things.[2]

Yes indeed, unbelieving people today desire the same idols that the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles of Paul’s day did, namely, they want a god that can give them humanistic power and wisdom when what they really need to hear is the powerful message of the cross, a simple message that they will consider foolish and scandalous.

[B]ut to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. - Now, since the omnipotent God is able to give the Jews plenty of signs and the Greeks plenty of wisdom, why would He leave them with something that both groups consider to be foolish? Paul’s answer is twofold: (1) The offensive message of a crucified Messiah was God’s ultimate expression of His “power” and “wisdom” and (2) this power and wisdom is only available to those of “the called, both Jews and Greeks”. This wisdom is reserved only for “those who believe” (v. 21), “those who are being saved” (v. 18), and they are believing and being saved because of God’s prior action on their behalf; they are those who are saints by God’s effectual calling unto salvation (cf. 1:1-2). It is those, and only those who will respond to God’s expression of wisdom in this crucified Messiah. It is only those who will seek, savor, hunger, and long for this crucified Messiah and it only those who will realize that this gospel is the “power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – The folly of the cross outsmarts man’s power and wisdom because God’s power and wisdom are revealed in the crucified Jesus. Because God’s wisdom and power are at work in the world through the preaching of the cross, it is the ultimate contradiction to man’s wisdom and power. To the perishing, the cross is foolish and weak, but it is God’s foolishness, and because of this, it is still stronger than anything man can think up or devise. In the cross of Jesus, God not only outsmarts sinful humans and makes their wisdom look stupid, but He also overpowers them by pouring upon them the unmerited grace of regeneration, forgiveness, and reconciliation and in doing so, He takes away their own self-serving strength.

Questions for reflection: (1) What kind of god does man create when he has the opportunity? How does this “god” become a source of pride and boasting? [v. 21] (2) Where should the effectiveness and the offense of the message of the cross come from? [v. 21] (3) Why is the cross considered then and now as the “ultimate divine contradiction”? [vv. 22-23] (4) Why was the cross a scandalous message for the Jews? The Greeks? (5) What does it mean for Paul to say that the foolishness of God wiser than men and the weakness of God stronger than men? How is this the case? [vv. 24-25]


God did not consult man and ask if we wanted a gospel that was suitable for the sign-seeker and the power-monger. We don’t have a “custom-fit” Jesus, complete with trimmings of worldly power, prestige, and success. Instead, God gives us a dangerous dilemma: Be saved by turning from our own wisdom and power and rest in His foolish-wisdom found in the cross of Christ, or do it our own way and perish. We’d do well to do it God’s way, because “the weakness of God is stronger than men” and that “weakness” brings us into “fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1:9). Such “weakness” in God is a scandal to those who think they are good people and have no need of forgiveness; but to those who are called and recognize that they are in need of His mercy, this is the good news that sets us free to follow him. And so, in the weakness of the cross we find God’s ultimate power, and in God’s powerful gospel, we see God’s ultimate wisdom. Would to God that we would all be humbled by the Sovereign and receive this message of eternal life.

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1st Corinthians, (Chicago, Ill: Moody Press, 1984), 43.

[2] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1987), 74.

Should We Trust "Christ-Rejecting Jews"?

In a recent thread, a poster by the screen name of Jimmy repeated an argument I’ve often seen used by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. He objected to a citation of Josephus on the subject of the Old Testament canon on the basis that Josephus was a “Christ-rejecting Jew”.

I think most people understand why such an objection is problematic. But since it seems that many Catholics and Orthodox don’t understand, I want to address the issue further.

A lot of people have rejected Christ. The Roman historian Tacitus rejected Christ, yet we trust much of what he reported about wars, taxes, Nero’s persecution of Christians, etc. I trust a weatherman who tells me that the temperature fell below freezing this morning, even if he’s an agnostic. I trust a taxi driver to get me to my destination, even if he’s a Muslim. Etc.

If Josephus writes about Jesus’ relative James, and he uses a particular Greek term to describe James’ relationship with Jesus, why can’t we cite Josephus’ choice of terminology as evidence relevant to the issue of the perpetual virginity of Mary? If Josephus uses Greek terms for “cousin”, “relative”, etc. in other passages, yet uses a term with a primary meaning of sibling when discussing James’ relationship with Jesus, then that choice of language has implications for the perpetual virginity of Mary. The fact that Josephus rejected Christ doesn’t eliminate the significance of his choice of terminology.

Any error committed by any source, including a rejection of Christ, undermines the general credibility of that source. But a source’s general credibility can be undermined without being eliminated. And the less of a connection there is between a source’s error and the subject under consideration, the less significance that error has. The church fathers were wrong on many issues. They sometimes made false historical claims, sometimes contradicted each other on doctrinal issues, etc. It doesn’t therefore follow that we can’t trust anything they said.

If we’re to dismiss Josephus on the issue of James’ relationship with Jesus, we need more than Josephus’ rejection of Christ to justify that dismissal. A rejection of Christ doesn’t imply a likelihood of wanting to misrepresent the relationship between Jesus and James. Similarly, a rejection of Christ doesn’t imply a rejection of the canonicity of Tobit. People like Jimmy need to make more of an effort to show a connection between the non-Christian status of a source like Josephus and that source’s alleged unreliability on an issue.

I’ve sometimes seen people, particularly Roman Catholics, suggest that the ancient Jews rejected the Apocrypha in response to Christianity. But while some of the early Christians accepted one or more Apocryphal books as scripture, the early Christians made far more use of other books the ancient Jews accepted, such as Isaiah and Daniel. If the ancient Jews were determining their canon on the basis of a desire to undermine Christianity, they could have done much better than removing books like Tobit and 1 Maccabees. And neither the earliest Christians nor the earliest Jews seem to have thought that there was some widespread acceptance of Apocryphal books that ceased in response to Christianity. Such a canonical change doesn’t seem to have been part of the earliest discussions between Judaism and Christianity. A Paul or a Justin Martyr will bring many charges against the Jews of their day, but such a canonical change isn’t one of them. That sort of canonical change doesn’t make sense, and the earliest sources don’t seem to be aware of any such change.

My point here, though, is that the testimony of a source like Josephus can’t be dismissed just because he was a “Christ-rejecting Jew”. We need more than that.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Kangaroo Court Hangs Jury

FALSE HOPE, NY – In an unprecedented legal move today, Judge Ben Kryin-Lotts ordered his entire jury hanged over “a simple disagreement.”

“We should treat each other as Christians,” Judge Ben stated. “Not like those salacious, disrespectful, slanderous, ignorant, discordant, reprobate fools on Triablogue who substitute insult for substantial responses. But what do you expect from trash?”

After executing the jury, Judge Ben went on to ban Triabloguers from his courtroom forever, even while saying he would continue to respond to them for those who “still like to follow trash around.” Experts agree this probably refers to Arminians in general.

“I hereby decree all Triabloguers are Satan incarnate,” Ben stated, adding only: “Respectfully, of course.”

When asked for comment, one Triablogger responded with: “Isn’t Ben the ice cream guy? I wasn’t even aware he had a website.”

In unrelated news, Judge Ben Kryin-Lotts checked into Mount Sinai Rehab Clinic today after reports that he kicked sand in the face of a four-year-old on a playground were backed up by video evidence taken from his own cell phone camera. Additionally, the eviction notice his mother placed on his basement room door was found to be legally binding, and the judge in that case also ruled that Ben’s Nintendo system does in fact belong to his brother after all.

One of Ben’s spokesmen said Ben had suffered a “nervous breakdown brought on by lack of intestinal fortitude” but a source in the hospital said, “Ben read through Paul Manata’s last post and short circuited a few synapses.” The source asked to remain anonymous since Ben had not given J.C. Thibodaux permission to speak in public after his disastrous performance at last night’s Grammy Awards ceremony, where Thibodaux appeared wearing a skimpy outfit and a placard that said, "Britney Was Framed!"

A History of the Apocrypha

“The early Christian Church, which began within the bosom of Palestinian Judaism, received her first Scriptures (the books of the Old Testament) from the Jewish synagogue. Since, however, the Gentile converts to Christianity could not read Hebrew, the Greek translation of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint), which many Jews had also come to use, was widely employed by the Church. Because of the antagonism which developed between the Synagogue and the Church, the Jews abandoned the use of the Greek Septuagint, and this circulated henceforth solely among the Christians. Almost the only manuscript copies of the Septuagint which have come down to us today were written by Christian scribes,” B. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (Oxford 1977), 175.

“In the first place, the number of Apocryphal books is not identical in all copies of the Septuagint. This circumstance suggests that there was no fixed canon at Alexandria which included all of these peripheral books. In the second place, the manuscripts of the Septuagint which contain these disputed books were all copied by Christian scribes, and therefore cannot be used as indisputable proof that the *Jewish* canon included all the books in question. In the third place, though Philo, the greatest of the Jewish Hellenists in Alexandria, knew of the existence of the Apocrypha, he never once quoted from them, much less used them for the proof of doctrine, as he habitually uses most of the books of the Hebrew canon. It is extremely difficult, therefore, to believe that the Alexandrian Jews received these books as authoritative in the same sense as they received the Law and the Prophets,” ibid. 176-77.

“The question remains, however, how such books came to stand so closely associated with the canonical books as they do in the manuscripts of the Septuagint. In attempting to find at least a partial answer to this problem, it should not be overlooked that the change in production of manuscripts from the scroll-form to the codex or leaf-form must have had an important part to play in the ascription of authority to certain books on the periphery of the canon,” ibid. 177.

“The prevailing custom among the Jews was the production of separate volumes for each part of the Hebrew canon…When the codex or leaf-form of book production was adopted, however, it became possible for the first time to include a great number of separate books within the same two covers…For whatever reason the change was instituted, it now became possible for canonical and Apocryphal books to be brought into close physical juxtaposition. Books which heretofore had never been regarded by the Jews as having any more than a certain edifying significance were now placed by Christian scribes in one codex side by side with the acknowledged books of the Hebrew canon. Thus it would happen that what was first a matter of convenience in making such books of secondary status available among Christians became a factor in giving the impression that all of the books within such a codex were to be regarded as authoritative. Furthermore, as the number of Gentile Christians grew, almost none of whom had exact knowledge of the extent of the original Hebrew canon, it became more and more natural for quotations to be made indiscriminately from all the books included with the one Greek codex,” ibid. 177-78.

“From the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament an Old Latin Version was made, which of course also contained the Apocryphal books among the canonical books. It is not strange, therefore, that Greek and Latin Church Fathers of the second and third centuries, such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Cyprian (none of whom knew any Hebrew), quote the Apocrypha with the same formulas of citation as they use when referring to the books of the Old Testament. The small number of Fathers, however, who either had some personal knowledge of Hebrew (e.g. Origen and Jerome) or had made an effort to learn what the limits of the Jewish canon were (e.g. Melito of Sardis) were usually careful not to attribute canonicity to the Apocrypha books, though recognizing that they contain edifying material suitable for Christians to read,” ibid. 178.

“Whether it was owing to the influence of Origen or for some other reason, from the fourth century onward the Greek Fathers made fewer and fewer references to the Apocrypha as inspired. Theologians of the Eastern Church, such as Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Amphilochius, drew up formal lists of the Old Treatment Scriptures in which the Apocrypha do not appear,” ibid. 178-79.

“Subsequent to Jerome’s time and down to the period of the Reformation a continuous succession of the more learned Fathers and theologians in the West maintained the distinctive and unique authority of the books of the Hebrew canon. Such a judgment, for example, was reiterated on the very eve of the Reformation by Cardinal Ximenes in the preface of the magnificent Complutensian Polyglot edition of the Bible which he edited (1514-17). Moreover, the earliest Latin version of the Bible in modern times, made from the original languages by the scholarly Dominican, Sanctes Pagnini, and published at Lyons in 1528, with commendatory letters from Pope Adrian VI and Pope Clement VII, sharply separates the text of the canonical books from the text of the Apocryphal books…Even Cardinal Cajetan, Luther’s opponent, at Augsburg in 1518, gave unhesitating approval to the Hebrew canon in his Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament, which he dedicated in 1532 to Pope Clement VII. He expressly called attention to Jerome’s separation of the canonical from the uncanonical books, and maintained that the latter must not be relied upon to establish points of faith, but used only for the edification of the faithful,” 180.

“It was not easy for all Roman Catholic scholars to acquiesce to the unequivocal pronouncement of full canonicity which the Council of Trent made regarding books which, for so long a time and by such high authorities even in the Roman Church (see above, p180), had been pronounced inferior. Yet, despite more than one attempt by noted Catholic scholars to reopen the question, this expanded form of the Bible has remained the Scriptural authority of the Roman Church,” ibid. 190).

“The position of Eastern Orthodox Churches regarding the canon of the Old Testament is not at all clear. On the one hand, since the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was used throughout the Byzantine period, it is natural that Greek theologians such as Andrew of Crete, Germanus, Theodore the Studite, and Theophylact of Bulgaria, should refer indiscriminately to Apocrypha and canonical books alike. Furthermore, certain Apocrypha are quoted as authoritative at the Seventh Ecumenical Council held at Nicaea in 787 and at the Council convened by Basil at Constantinople in 869. On the other hand, writers who raise the issue regarding the limits of the canon, such as John of Damascus and Nicephorus, express views which coincide with those of the great Athanasius, who adhered to the Hebrew canon,” ibid. 192-93.

“What was perhaps the most important synod in the history of the Eastern Church was convened at Jerusalem in 1672…The Synod expressly designated the books of Wisdom, Judith, Tobit, Bel and the Dragon, Maccabees (four books), and Ecclesiasticus as canonical,” ibid. 193-94.

“The position of the Russian Orthodox Church as regards the Apocrypha appears to have changed during the centuries. During the Middle Ages Apocryphal books of both the Old and the New Testament exerted a widespread influence in Slavic lands. In subsequent centuries Constantinople’s leadershp gave way to the Holy Synod ruling from St. Petersburg, whose members were in sympathy with the position of the Reformers. Through a similar influence emanating from the great universities of Kiev, Moscow, Petersburg, and Kazan, the Russian Church became united in its rejection of the Apocrypha. For example, the Longer Catechism drawn up by the Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow and approved by the Most Holy Governing Synod (Moscow, 1839) expressly omits the Apocrypha from the enumeration of the books of the Old Testament on the ground that ‘they do not exist in Hebrew’,” ibid. 194.

“As a result, there appears to be no unanimity on this subject of the canon in the Greek Orthodox Church today. Catechisms directly at variance with each other on this subject have received the Imprimatur of Greek Ecclesiastical authorities, and the Greek clergy may hold and teach what they please about it,” ibid. 195.

The presence of the past

Here's a slightly edited answer I gave to an email correspondent:


1.For the record, I'm an amil and modified idealist, a la Beale, Poythress.

2.I agree with you that typology, with its multiple "teasers" or cameo appearances, is one key element in the interpretation of Biblical prophecy (or, more broadly, the promise/fulfillment scheme in Scripture).

3.As to the "worldwide" scale of the catastrophe (in OT prophecy), we might simply chalk that up to poetic hyperbole.

At the same time, though, there's a danger of retrojecting *our* very modern, mental picture of the globe onto OT prophecy. We have a different sense of scale.

4.By the same token, I think the "foreshortened" perspective is, to some extent, an unconscious artifact of modern scholars who anachronistically fill in the gaps with their retrospective knowledge of history. They don't see the events the way the seer saw them. The seer is seeing isolated visions of the future—not a dense, historical continuum of dated events, week-by-week and year-by-year.

It's the modern scholar who is collapsing "now" and "then." Because the modern scholar, with the benefit of hindsight, sees spaces between these events, when he reads these prophecies, where the spacing is absent, he assumes that the seer is leaving out the intervening events.

In a sense, that's true, but the seer was never asserting that one thing follows right after another. Rather, the seer is simply an observer and scrivener of divine visions. He's describing and transcribing what the Lord revealed to his imagination. Glimpses of the future.

It isn't meant to be either continuous or discontinuous. The seer doesn't generally know when these events will happen along a timeline. He just knows that they are future to him.

We read OT prophecy very differently because our reading is backward-looking rather than forward-looking. So we put dates on these events, as well as dates on the intervening events. What the seer sees as future, the historian sees as past.

Hence, when a modern scholar reads OT prophecy, he unconsciously reads it through his own eyes rather than the eyes of, say, an 8C BC prophet. So, for him, this is all scrunched together.

But it's not as if the seer was affirming that this is all that's going to happen between now and then. He's just jotting down what he sees in his visions, without any awareness, one way or the other, of how much time lies in-between. That’s not his intention. His intention is to faithfully say what he saw.

5.The seer experiences the future as present in the sense that visionary revelation involves an alternate state of consciousness. To be in that mental state is to be oblivious to the actual present.

All the seer is aware of, at that point, are the visions impinging on his consciousness. So, for him, the future is momentarily present—psychologically speaking.

In that respect, his prophecy is historically accurate, but accurate in the sense that it’s an accurate description of his inner state of mind. Of how he was processing these visions.

And, of course, the visions do refer to extramental events to come. They are truly predictive. But while the one corresponds to the other, we need to distinguish between the psychological process and the historical process. Between the visionary sequence and the historical sequence.

The vision is psychologically present, but historically future. Yet, in recording the vision, that distinction is not going to be drawn—because that is not how he experienced the event, and he’s recording his experience rather than reporting an event. A series of futuristic visions was never meant to be isometric with the future. Prophecy isn’t chronology.

6.Finally, OT prophecy forms a body of stock imagery, like a literary tradition, which is picked up in the NT. This is a second-level application or adaptation of OT prophecy to current or future events.

So we need to make allowance for its idiomatic and derivative character. This is the dialect in which NT speakers and NT writers express the future. It isn’t meant to be strictly representational. For it’s allusive of the past (e.g. OT prophecy) as well as oriented towards the future. It holds both past and future in balance. Not literal, but literary.

Of course, it’s pointing to literal events, but not like a photograph of the future. Rather, the futuristic descriptions are meant to evoke past events as well as future events, using traditional imagery to trigger associations with God’s providential guidance of his people in the days of yore. Thus, we should trust the promise of the future due to the provision of the past.


J.C. has attempted to respond to my critique:

Let’s see how successful he is:

“Hays runs off to crazy town right off the bat. Of course I never specified that I could instantiate any alternative I wanted to, which moves Hays' argument firmly into the usual category of 'ridiculous’.”

i) Under pressure, J.C. is now introducing a face-saving qualification which was conspicuously absent from his original claim.

ii) Notice that J. C. doesn’t attempt to explain why, given libertarian assumptions, he can’t instantiate any alternative he wanted to. So he’s invoking ad hoc restrictions on his governing principle.

iii) My conclusion was meant to be ridiculous inasmuch as I was performing as reductio ad absurdum on J.C’s claim. Nice to see that J.C. confirms the success of my argument.

“*Yawn* Before the event occurs from our perspective, genius.”

Once again, J.C. has to add a qualification which he didn’t include in his original formulation. It’s not my problem if J.C. has to keep doing a patch-up job on his flawed formulations.

“The old causal foreknowledge canard. The order is not ‘God believes it -> it will happen,’ but ‘it will happen -> God knows it’.”

That’s not responsive to my objection. If, *for whatever reason*, God knows it, then it cannot turn out otherwise.

So even if, for the sake of argument, we accept J.C.’s causal order, God’s knowledge of the outcome renders the outcome certain. Hence, the human agent isn’t free to do otherwise.

“Because He sees the future even more clearly than we do the present, next superficial objection please.”

i) I wasn’t asking how God, in particular, can know a temporal fact. Rather, I was asking in general, how any agent can know a temporal fact. Under what conditions can that be known?

ii) To say that God clearly sees the future begs the question. For the very question at issue is whether Arminianism is justified in preserving divine foreknowledge.

iii) Waiving (ii), if God can clearly see the future, then the future cannot be otherwise. For if the future could be otherwise, due to the freedom of billions of human agents (who can instantiate alternate possibilities), then what God would see is not the actual future (i.e. what *will* happen), but a multitude of possible futures (i.e. what *might* happen).

“I deal with the usual Calvie objections to foreknowledge in the articles on my site.”

i) So J.C. wants me to go on a fishing expedition. Fine. I’ll save that for later (see below).

ii) I would note, however, that these aren’t merely “Calvinist” objections. Even Ben Witherington admits that “OT references to God knowing someone or his people, that is, to his inclination toward or love for them, sometimes refer to a concept of election (Amos 3:2; Deut 9:24; Exod 33:12,17; Gen 18:19; Deut 34:10), and such passages lie in the background here,” Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Eerdmans 2004), 247-48.

So Witherington, who’s penned the standard Arminian commentary on Romans, doesn’t challenge the Reformed interpretation of proegno on linguistic grounds. Rather, he tries to get around it another way.

iii) Apropos (i), the tension between divine foreknowledge and libertarian freedom isn’t just a Calvinistic observation. This tension has been perceived for many centuries, and various thinkers from the past, like Boethius, Occam, and de Molina have offered different strategies for resolving the problem.

Furthermore, many modern philosophers, like Lucas, Morris, Creel, Swinburne, Hasker, and Zagzebski continue to recognize the tension, and continue to propose different solutions—sometimes sacrificing divine omniscience to relieve the tension.

J.C. tries to dismiss this objection by assuming his best condescending tone, but that merely betrays his own superficiality.

“I would actually say that Hays doesn't recognize a simple expression that God never gave them such a command, nor did He in any way desire them to do such a thing. It doesn't indicate that He didn't know about it…”

Except that that’s not what the text actually says. Remember, this was one of J.C’s prooftexts for his own position. He volunteered this text to prove his point. Now, however, he’s running away from the actual wording of the text by paraphrasing it to eliminate the offending clause. This is what I quoted:

“They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin (Jer 32:35)."

J.C. only wanted to use the preceding clause about how God didn’t command them to do this. But the text says more than that. It goes on to say “nor did it enter my mind.”

That’s why this is a favorite prooftext for open theism. Since, however, J.C. is an Arminian rather than an open theist, he believes in divine omniscience, including divine foreknowledge.

So he has to construe this clause anthropomorphically. And once he admits the legitimacy of this move, then that, in turn, undercuts the appeal of his sidekick (Kangaroodort) to other Arminian prooftexts like Jonah 3:10—which, not coincidentally, is another prooftext for open theism.

“But rather that He didn't ordain it, which would necessitate libertarian free will by the fact that they commited such sin anyway.”

Two problems:

i) J.C. is equivocating. The insinuation is that if God didn’t “command” something, then he didn’t “ordain” it, in which case he didn’t “foreordain” it.

But in Reformed usage, foreordination has reference to God’s decretive will, while a command or ordinance has reference to his preceptive will.

ii) Apropos (i), it’s perfectly consistent for God to decree something he didn’t command. Indeed, he decreed their sin.

“Is he not catching that Christ was in time while saying this?”

In what respect was Christ in time? Remember, Christ has two natures, and what is true of one nature may not be true of the other.

The viewpoint which Christ is assuming in Lk 13:34 is not the viewpoint of a thirty-year-old man. Rather, it’s the viewpoint of Yahweh. The whole history of God’s dealings with stiff-necked Israel lies before his mind. And he personally identifies with that God’s-eye perspective.

So this statement reflects the divine viewpoint. And J. C. said that God is atemporal. I’m merely answering him on his own grounds.

“Also, I never said that God was strictly atemporal.”

I quoted him verbatim.

“I simply indicated that His omniscience transcends time, He can appear in time as well if He chooses (see Genesis 18 for example).”

i) To say that a theophany appears in time doesn’t mean that God qua God appears in time. A theophany is a manifestation of God, not God in himself. Notice the distancing formula in Ezekiel: “The appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

So a theophany is three steps removed from God himself.

ii) Moreover, J.C. original invoked divine timelessness to escape the limitations of a timebound perspective.

If, however, he’s now going to say that God is both temporal and atemporal, then he merely multiplies the difficulties for Arminian theology, since I already pointed out that each position undercuts Arminian theology. Their combination would redouble the difficulties.

a) If, on the one hand, God is temporal, then that undermines divine foreknowledge (for reasons already given).

b) If, on the other hand, God is atemporal, then that undermines libertarian freedom (for reasons already given).

c) And it also undermines divine foreknowledge (for reasons already given).

J.C. doesn’t even attempt to address my specific, targeted counterarguments—in which I canvass the options for an Arminian, and show the deficiencies of each.

“Nowhere does scripture indicate that God unconditionally decreed their disobedience, which was the point in citing Jeremiah 32, which plainly indicates that He didn't.”

Predestination doesn’t need to be stated in every verse of Scripture for predestination to be applicable to a verse like Jer 32. If the Bible teaches predestination, then that general truth is also true of various passages which are silent on the issue. Silence is not equivalent to counterevidence.

By J.C’s logic, if every verse of the Gospels fails to mention the deity of Christ, then it’s appropriate to interpret some verses contrary to the deity of Christ.

“Duh. Thank you Hays, I was starting to think they were literal bands God was talking about. It's obviously a metaphor for wooing them, which is also shown as Him drawing Israel. Try raising an actual objection next time.”

i) I would note in passing that J.C. has the habit of adopting a tone of intellectual superiority which isn’t justified by the actual level of his performance. If you’re going to act smarter than your opponents, then try not to be so maladroit so much of the time. Otherwise, you end up being a poor man’s impersonation of Inspector Clouseau.

ii)”Bands” are not a metaphor for wooing—unless J.C. learned about dating from a Dominatrix.

In 11:4, Hosea has employed the metaphor of an animal trainer who uses ropes (or a yoke) to control his livestock or wild animals.

It’s obvious that J.C. never bothered to exegete his prooftext. He could have learned about the imagery by consulting the standard commentators on Hosea (e.g. David Hubbard, Thomas McComiskey, Gary Smith, Douglas Stuart).

iii) Then J.C. only quotes the first sentence of my follow-up argument. This is what I actually said:

“And even if it did, that’s a metaphor. Hosea is full of marital metaphors about the love of God. But Arminians don’t take that literally, although Mormons might!”

I was responding to J.C. on his own grounds. Even if we concede his (mis-) interpretation of 11:4 as metaphor for “wooing,” this doesn’t mean that God literally “woos” his people the way a suitor woos his girlfriend.

Rather, what we have in Hosea is an extended metaphor in which God assume the role of the faithful husband to a faithless wife. And we must make due allowance for the anthropomorphic touches which such a characterization entails.

I wasn’t referring to the “bands of love.” I was referring more generally, as I explicitly pointed out, to the marital imagery in Hosea. So J.C. got it wrong on both points.

Once again, if J. C. equates wooing with the use of ropes and bands, then he’s spending way too much time at S&M clubs.

“Heh, if libertarian free will gave me the kind of miraculous super powers Hays thinks it should, I'd instantiate a reality in which he actually presented coherent arguments. Sadly, its limitations become quite obvious in light of such unfulfilled wishes.”

J.C. has yet to explain how the metaphysics of libertarian freedom is consistent with so many unfulfilled wishes. What, in his view, is limiting his ability to access alternate possibilities?

It can’t be the actual world since the actual world is, ex hypothesi, the sum total of exemplified possibilities which free agents instantiate. But only impediment would be incompossible alternatives, where one agent’s choice negates another agent’s choice. But that would attenuate the libertarian claim to insignificance.

From the combox:

“Just as soon as you explain how God creates matter from nothing. The fact that we as finite beings can't understand exactly how God does a thing does not preclude Him from doing so.”

A fallacious analogy on several grounds:

i) It’s sufficient to believe in creation ex nihilo if that’s what the Bible teaches. The analogy with LFW would only work if that is also taught in Scripture. So J.C’s comparison begs the question.

ii) There’s a big difference between not knowing how something can be the case and having evidence to the contrary. The claim that libertarian freedom is consistent with divine foreknowledge is profoundly counterintuitive. And it’s not just the Calvinists who perceive that tension.

This tension is internal to the libertarian position. It’s generated by the relation between libertarianism and a theological belief about divine omniscience. They don’t go together because they were developed for different reasons, and the reasons for one fail to mesh with the reasons for the other.

That’s why there’s been an ongoing debate in historical and philosophical theology about how, if at all, they are mutually consistent.

iii) The Bible grounds divine foreknowledge in God’s knowledge of his own plan for the world (e.g. Isa 46:10-11). Cf. J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37.

“And I think it a pretty sticky position to call something unknowable for a completely omniscient God.”

Of course, that’s patently sophistical. It begs the question of whether Arminian theology is entitled to make that claim in the first place. J.C. couldn’t be more tendentious if he tried.

“If He can foreknow something that did not enter into His heart that Israel should do, then He can foreknow any libertarian decision.”

That’s incoherent. An agent can’t very well know something which isn’t even present in his mind. If J.C. is now conceding the literal reading of Jer 32:35, then this would commit him to open theism.

If, however, he construes this clause anthropomorphically, then it’s literally false to say that this eventuality never entered God’s mind.

Now let’s circle back to J.C’s contention that he’s already dealt with Reformed objections to Arminian foreknowledge.

“God can, thanks to His divine omniscience, know perfectly what will happen regardless of the possibilities, so our beliefs, actions, decisions, etc. are inevitable in the sense that they will occur, they are not inevitable in the sense that they must occur (no other possibilities, or by 'fatal necessity' as it were).”

i) That’s an assertion of the Arminian position, not a counterargument to the Reformed objection. It takes for granted the very thing it needs to prove.

ii) His distinction won’t salvage his position. It doesn’t matter if they merely will occur, rather than if they must occur. The problem lies with God’s knowledge of their future occurrence. If he “knows perfectly well what will happen regardless of the possibilities,” then the possibilities aren’t live possibilities. Only one possibility is actually in play.

Moving along:

“Consider the Lord's words to Judah in Jeremiah 13:15-17, __Hear and pay attention, do not be arrogant, for the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God before he brings the darkness…But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the LORD's flock will be taken captive."

i) Does Henshaw think that Yahweh literally wept over the fate of Judah? Remember, this is before the Incarnation. Unless he’s a Mormon, he must interpret this expression as anthropopathetic.

ii) Henshaw also fails to distinguish between the Yahweh’s statement (15-16), and Jeremiah’s editorial aside (17). V17 is a statement of the prophet’s sorrowful reaction. It doesn’t impute sorrow to God.

“Remember, according to Calvinism, God is sovereign over his creatures to such an extent that they have nothing to do with their own salvation (monergism).”

This is simply ignorant. For instance, consider the Reformed doctrine of sanctification: “The soul after regeneration continues dependent upon the constant gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, but is, through grace, able to cooperate with them,” B. B. Warfield, Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (P&R 1980), 2:327.

“It should be obvious by this point that trying to apply Granville-Sharp's rule to Acts 2:23 in an effort to force synonymity on 'foreknowledge' (impersonal noun) and 'determinate counsel' (impersonal noun) is errant at best.”

The material I cited from Welty doesn’t invoke the Granville-Sharp rule to make his case. Hence, J.C’s counterargument, even if valid, is irrelevant.

And other scholars like Fitzmyer (on Romans), agree with the Reformed construction on proegno.

“God's foreknowledge of the future also encompasses His doings as well as man's: What He knows will occur is who will receive Him when they hear His word and the voice of His Son, not what we would do if He were to never show any grace at all to us. This argument takes God's foreknowledge completely out of context, for if God were to foreknow us only by ourselves without His mercy, then we could not even exist.”

To the contrary, it’s J.C. who takes the usage completely out of its immediate context in order to give the word a meaning in lacks in context, and then interpolates a number of acontextual conditions.

“Yet another case of simply begging the question. To argue that man could change his mind at the last second and produce an outcome that God did not foreknow is to simply assume that God could not foreknow the last-second change.”

Once again, this fails to salvage the Arminian position. Suppose that God could, indeed, foreknow the last-minute change of heart. By knowing what will happen, the outcome is unchangeable. A last-minute change doesn’t change the outcome. For the outcome is whatever will be.

If an agent earlier intended to do A, but changed his mind at the last minute and did B instead, God foreknew B all along, so the agent isn’t free to do A instead of B. If the occurrence of B is an object of knowledge, then it cannot fail to be other than B. B must obtain.

“The words that make up Prognosis are 'pro,' a primary preposition that is used as a suffix to mean 'before,' and 'gnosis,' which simply means 'knowledge' (intelligence, advanced understanding, wisdom, etc.). Prognosis even survives today in the English language, carrying an identical definition. So it is then rather a futile effort to attempt to re-interpret election according to the prognosis of God into election according to the forelove of God.”

I see. So pineapples are apples that come from pine trees. A hippopotamus is a horse that favors an aquatic habitat. The gospel is “dynamite,” and God loves a “hilarious” giver.

It’s obvious that J.C. has no grasp of lexical semantics. Usage, not etymology, determines the meaning of a word. In covenantal settings, yada is an idiomatic synonym for choice.

Due to the influence to Septuagintal usage on NT usage, this carries over into the NT. The addition of the prefix makes it mean “to choose beforehand” in covenantal settings.

“If 'foreknow' in relation to election actually means 'foreordain' in every case, then what in the world does 'predestinate' mean?”

John Murray answered that question a long time ago. “’Foreknew’ focuses attention upon the distinguishing love of God whereby the sons of God ere elected. But it does not inform us of the destination to which those thus chosen are appointed. It is precisely that information that the ‘he also foreordained’ supplies, and it is by no means superfluous…’to be conformed to the image of his Son’,” J. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans 1982), 318.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

J.C. Thibodaux's Chasez's Boy Band Theology

He's got the right stuff, baby.

The Score

i) Arminians made an argument that prayer for the Calvinist, on Calvinist assumptions, was 'pointless,' and a 'waste of time.'

ii) I rebutted.

iii) They offered a rebuttal to (ii) my rebutting.

iv) I rebutted that.

v) (iv) has not been rebutted.

vi) I went on the offensive, showing that on their system, and given the way they used terms in an undefined, ambiguous, vague, and sloppy way, they have the problem of God doing pointless things, wasting his time, or, at best, they waste their time and when engaging in pointless prayers.

The Argument in a nutshell

God knows who will be saved and who will be unsaved. Call the first group S and the last U.

If an Arminian prays for God to save a member of U, then when he does whatever it is that he does to answer the prayer, he is involved in a futile activity. Goes through the motions. Wastes his time. Does something he knows will not come to fruition. If God could save U, then the number of elect, the fixed number that he knew, would grow, and God wouldn't be omniscient. He would have been wrong about the set of S as consisting of n number of people. Rather it, contrary to his claim to knowledge, now consists n + 1. Or, if it doesn't add to God's knowledge then we don't have a real member of U.

If the Arminian says that God doesn't actively engage in going through the motions to 'save' those he knows will not be saved, then the Arminian's prayers are a waste of time, and pointless (again, these terms are used in their vague, ambiguous, sloppy, and undefined way that they were used on me. No complaining now.)

The argument is in the form of a dilemma:

Let S = God does something to save who he knows will not be saved.

Let W = God wastes his time.

Let A = Arminian wastes his time.

1. S-->W

2. ~S-->A

3. S v ~S

4. :. W v A

vii) So, I have not had (iv) rebutted, and (vi) serves as an argument which puts the burden on them, reverses their argument. Basically, if they disagree with (vi) then they must disagree with their argument against me. More on this below.

viii) I had wrote: "When you pray for someone in U, either God does something or he does not. If he does not, then your prayer was pointless. If he does, then he does something he knows is futile. So, dilemma remains. Back to the drawing board."

J.C responded with an off-topic response:

"God doesn't HAVE to do anything when we pray, for we make our requests known to Him; since we cannot know who is included in set S, then it behooves us to pray for all men. It never says that God has to answer every prayer. For your futility argument, you can refer back to the prophets."

i) I never said God 'had' to do anything. I simply said that if he knows that U is unsaved, then to try to 'save him' is a futile effort. If he succeeded, he would prove he is not omniscient. If people know their goals are unattainable, they cease from having them as a goal.

ii) I never said you can't pray for all men. But, if you pray for man U, and God does something to save him, he wastes his time. If he does nothing, you waste your time. If you say that you don't waste your time because God commands you to pray for all men, that's one of the (many) responses I gave to your buddy Ben. So, if this response worlds for you it works for me. Are you ready to admit I answered Ben?

iii) I never said God has to answer it. (But, in fact, on your scheme God can't answer it since he can't force anyone to get saved. All he can do is 'take away obstacles,' as Ben said. So, he takes away 'obstacles' to help 'save' someone who he knows won't be saved. Whether he takes the obstacles away, or builds more, it doesn't matter! It's all pointless.

iv) I answer your prophet point below.

J.C.'s Boy Band Theology

J.C. and the boys of N Synergy doing Bye, Bye, Bye to their arguments

ix) J.C. Thibodaux Chasez has been trying and trying to come up with different ways around this rebuttal. I refer readers to the combox of the above linked post (in (vi)) for the fuller context.

All his attempted rebuttals were shot down, and he was forced to go back to the drawing board. So, his latest was to say to God trying to 'save' someone he knew he could not save, would not be saved, was not futile just like it was "no more 'futile' than sending prophets to people that God knew would not receive them."

x) I responded that for those people, sending the prophets wasn't futile since if they didn't listen, they prophets words served as a basis for judgment.

xi) J.C. Thibodaux's Chasez's response was:

"Really now?

Nevertheless they were disobedient And rebelled against You, Cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets, who testified against them To turn them to Yourself; And they worked great provocations. (Nehemiah 9:26)"

xii) Yup, that was it. Citing a verse as if it were a brute fact that interpreted itself. He offers no commentary, exegesis, or familiarity with the context of the Ezra-Nehemiah text. This is Boy Band Theology (BBT). BBT is all talk, flash, and no substance. Makes the teeny boppers cheer, and that's about it. Let's analyze his claim:

a) I had claimed that if the things God did had no positive effect, they could still have a negative one. This verse does not tell us that for those who did not listen, the prophets words served as evidence against them and their hard hearts. Let's read Jesus words:

Matt 23:29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38See, your house is left to you desolate.

Thus we see that Jesus uses the rejection and murder of the prophets as a basis for indictment. Let's turn to Luke 16:

19 "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, 'They have( Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"

We can see that the rejection of Moses and the prophets was enough to justify the judgment of hell. This should be easy enough to see. The prophets were mouthpieces for God. To reject them was to reject God himself. Rejecting God himself is a basis for judgment. Therefore, to reject the prophets was a basis for judgment.

The reason this is argued is simply. God doesn't do anything that he knows is pointless. God knows who will listen and who will not. God has reasons for both sides of the coin.

So, that God sent prophet P to 'turn back' S, and S does not turn back, it does not follow that God does not appeal to P's testimony as a basis to judge S. J.C. Thibodaux Chasez has simply done nothing to over turn my comment.

b) The history of Israel is replete with the prophets calling the people back to covenant faithfulness and so to avoid the judgment of God. If they did not heed the prophets, God would turn them over to their enemies.

Nehemiah 30: "30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples."

Thus again we see that the prophetic words served as bases for divine judgment.

c) The prophets served to show that the people of God could not fulfill the conditions on their own. They were faithless, disobedient, and idolatrous. God would call on them to turn back, they would remain stiff necked, he would then punish them, they would return, and then it would happen all over again. So, Christ came. Christ's life and death fulfilled those covenantal meritorious conditions. He also purchased all the benefits his people would need, e.g., faith.

d) J.C. thinks the 'turning back' part is opposed to the judgment motif I appealed to. In fact, it isn't:

2 Chron. 24:19 Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.

Jer. 25:4 You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, 5 saying, 'Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, an dwell upon the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. 6 Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.' 7 Yet you have not listened to me, declares the LORD, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm. 8 "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.

Jer. 35: 15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, "Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers." But you have not paid attention or listened to me. 16 The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.' 17 "Therefore, this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.' "

Zech 1:4 Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.' But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. 5 Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers? "Then they repented and said, 'The LORD Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.'"

The consistent testimony of Scripture, both Old and New, testify against J.C.'s Boy Band Theology.

Tying Up Loose Ends

xiii) I wrote: "But John 6:44 does not state that all who are drawn are saved, simply that no one can come to Christ unless drawn by God the Father."

The statement is in the form of a conjunction. Logically, it can be translated thus:

(~p --> ~q) & r

You cannot accept the first part of the conjunction and not the second (r = raise him up on the last day). Or, did you skip that part in your logic readings?

J.C. responded: "No one can come unless the Father draws him does not imply that everyone drawn will come, simply that they can come. Speaking in relation to those who come is what the raising refers to, not all who are drawn."

i) Wow, no one has the power to instantiate alternative possibilities? So, all men are unable to come unless the Father draw him, got it.

ii) The text says: No one is able to come unless the father draws him and I will raise him up on the last day. Are those hims the same him or not? If they are the same, all drawn are raised. It's really rather simple.

iii) Jesus disagrees with your claim: John6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

iv) And, I never said that John 6:44 alone teaches that the Father's drawing is sufficient for someone to come, only that it is necessary. You're not even engaging my point. Again, the point is in the conjunction. John 6:44 is saying (~p --> ~q) & r. This is logically equivalent to (q-->p) & r. Thus,

[1] If he is able to come, then the father drew him, and Jesus will raise him up on the last day.

[2] He is able to come (notice, I never said he did. We just sticking with what the verse says).

[3] Therefore the father drew him and Jesus will raise him up on the last day.

Premise [2] for you is 'all men.' The logic of the case forces you to accept the conclusion of universalism. That is, all men whoever will be saved.

For more see "A Logical Analysis of John 6:44, by Brian Bosse."

Closing Comment

J.C. sings about his secret desire

In his closing comment is his 'response' to Steve Hays, J.C. writes,

Heh, if libertarian free will gave me the kind of miraculous super powers Hays thinks it should, I'd instantiate a reality in which he actually presented coherent arguments. Sadly, its limitations become quite obvious in light of such unfulfilled wishes.

I don't know what he means by 'coherent.' It's not as if Steve wrote: “Grubnarks schnubbles in the flubnart.”!

I think he means he would instantiate a a world where Steve gives a good, cogent argument (right now we're playing along, pretending Steve didn't already present said argument).

You see, J.C. secretly wants Calvinism to be true. He would instantiate a world where our arguments worked. Where Calvinism was proved true.

J.C. is a self-hating Arminian. He desires our position to be true.

Bye bye bye.



“I don't even know where to begin. I have been reading your posts and can not believe how it seems that your desire above all else seems to be to degrate another brother in Christ.”

I’ve been over this ground before, but I have to repeat myself every so often. This is my motto:

If you want to be treated like a Christian, then act like one!

I do not equate a profession of faith with a consular passport which confers diplomatic immunity on the holder of so that whenever he begins to misbehave, he can wave his “Christian” passport in our face to escape accountability for his misconduct.

There’s a pattern to how these debates generally progress—or perhaps I should say, regress.

A critic of Calvinism gives his putative reasons for rejecting Reformed theology. We (at Tblog) respond to him on his own grounds.

Now, if the reasons he gives were his real reasons, then he should either show where our counterargument is defective or else withdraw his original objection.

But what usually happens is that our opponent then becomes evasive and/or abusive. At that point I change my tone. He is no longer dealing in good faith.

“This is so baffling to me. refering to the person that you are discussing Christ centered things with as a ‘little girl’ is so out of the realm of seeking to be of one achord that it saddens me.”

i) I’m simply following the precedent of Scripture. For example, when Jeremiah compares warriors to women (48:41; 49:22; 50:37; 51:30), that isn’t meant to be a compliment.

Likewise, when God tells Job to gird up his loins like a man (38:3; 40:7), God is using a macho-man simile drawn from the ancient world of wrestling.

So, yes, it’s possible for a grown man to act like a girly-girl. Scripture itself employs these comparisons. And I’m not saddened by the usage of Scripture.

I did a very dry, dispassionate post in which I distinguished between affecting an outcome and changing an outcome. Instead of addressing the substance of the post, Kangaroodort launched into very hand-wringing post which was, by turns, accusatory and larded with self-pity.

That’s frankly effeminate. And I said so. There are times when it’s perfectly appropriate to tell a grown man to act like a man.

The Bible isn’t Emily Post. Too many Christians have a very dainty and decidedly unscriptural notion of Christian etiquette. Not only is this false to Biblical manhood, but it’s not as if the Scriptural heroines of the faith were far from fainting violets either.

ii) In addition, there’s something a bit hypocritical about how saddened you are. You’re very lopsided in what offends you. This is the sort of thing I was responding to:

“The gentlemen at Triablogue are apparently hurting for material…Why do they feel like they need to addrsss my arguments if they are not a threat to their position…Just what has gotten these gentlemen so freaked out and rattled?…The games continue as Steve Hays chimed in with his own post…It makes me wonder. Why are they still so insecure about their position?I am amazed that I have somehow managed to get them so riled up…They have already convinced their fanboys…For now I am leaving the playground so Paul and Steve will have to figure out some new ways to entertain each other.”

Ben’s characterizing of his own opponents is littered with denigrating asides. I don’t see you expressing the same anguish where the other party is concerned.

Remember, this is your yardstick, not mine. Why aren’t you more equitable in the application of your own yardstick?

iii) Finally, comments like yours, while well-meaning, simply contribute to the very problem you say you deplore—for instead of discussing the substantive issues, you shift the question to subjective, touchy-feely matters of tone and style and body language.

“This does nothing but discourage me into thinking that we as christians will never be able to unite under the cross.”

I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. Were you expecting all Christians to agree with each other? If so, then I suppose you have good reason to be discouraged inasmuch as that will never happen in this life.

“I guess I would ask you if you and Ben were sitting in a room discussing this with Christ would you be willing to say these same things to Ben or me for that matter?”

This comment wasn’t directed at me, but it’s worth addressing:

i) If Christ were in the room, I’d let him do all the talking. I’d be there to listen and learn.

ii) If I were speaking face-to-face with someone, I might well take a different approach—but it’s not as easy for your opponent to be evasive in a live, face-to-face encounter than it is on the Internet.

iii) Finally, there’s nothing inherently wrong with treating someone we know rather differently than a perfect stranger. That’s the basis of friendship.

Dialogue Concerning the 10 Chief Theological Systems (An Allegory in 10 Scenes)

Scene 1 – A coffee shop. SIMPLICIO is ordering a decaf nonfat latte when his friends SALVIATI and SAGREDO arrive.

SIMPLICIO: Salviati, I challenge you on a mathematical point!

SALVIATI: (to SAGREDO) This will be interesting.

SIMPLICIO: The other night I read in the Oxford Annotated Book of Math Theorems that the + sign indicates addition.

SALVIATI: Yes, that is correct.

SIMPLICIO: Therefore, proper exegesis of the OABMT shows us that 1 + 1 = 11 after all.

SALVIATI: (with a sigh) That’s not how you do addition.

SIMPLICIO: You only say that because you’re importing Reformed Mathedology into the text. But if you don’t start with your philosophy, you’ll see that I’m correct.

SAGREDO: Simplicio seems to have a point. I mean, what’s to keep 1 + 1 from being 11? God could certainly make 1 + 1 into 11.

SALVIATI: No He can’t. Addition isn’t the combining of symbols; it’s combining of numbers represented by those symbols.

SIMPLICIO: Aha! See, you import your Reformed Mathedology even now! Eisegesis!

SALVIATI: No, it’s exegesis straight out of the OABMT, chapter 1. It states: “Addition came about from the counting of items. Items in one pile were combined with items of another pile, and the total of both piles was the sum.”

SIMPLICIO: But we’re not talking about addition, we’re talking about the + sign.

SALVIATI: Which you agreed indicates addition.

SIMPLICIO: That’s not true! Besides, 1 + 1 = 11. Just look at it. The common sense reading shows you I’m right.

SAGREDO: Indeed, it does appear that 1 + 1 could form 11. Couldn’t this be an indication of looking at it from the wrong angle? Perhaps you need to read it in binary.

SIMPLICIO: Yes! Binary, exactly right!

SALVIATI: 1 + 1 = 10 in binary.

SIMPLICIO: No, it’s 11.

SALVIATI: Look, there are rules for math and you’re violating them. One and one is two regardless of the base you use. Two is represented by the numeral 2 in base 10, and by the number 10 in binary.

SIMPLICIO: Oh, so now 2 = 10! I told you those Reformed Mathedologies are incoherent!

SALVIATI: You’re not listening to what I’m saying.

SIMPLICIO: Sure I am. You’re spouting a lot of gibberish.

BARISTA: Your coffee is ready, sir.

Scene 10 – Outside the coffee shop ten minutes later.

SAGREDO: Salviati, I must confess that Simplicio has brought up some interesting points. I think he is right.

SIMPLICIO: Thank you, Sagredo. This is how true mathematicians behave, you see. We are unified.

SALVIATI: Whether you’re unified or not, you’re violating the rules of math. You say that 1 + 1 = 11. How is this possible?

SIMPLICIO: I’ve already explained it.

SALVIATI: No, you’ve stated it.

SIMPLICIO: Common sense shows us. I already told you this.

SALVIATI: But you haven’t shown how it works from the rules of math.

SIMPLICIO: Everything is rules to you. Why can’t you just let go and let God?

SALVIATI: That doesn’t even make sense.

SIMPLICIO: You need to understand binary. God is binary.

SALVIATI: I thought he was a Trinity.

SIMPLICIO: That too. But that’s beside the point, because 1 + 1 = 11.

SALVIATI: Repeating yourself is no substitute for proof.

SIMPLICIO: Why are you so demanding of proof? Have faith.

SALVIATI: The OABMT itself gives us the rules. It’s not God-honoring faith to ignore what He has given us. And you’re ignoring the rules here.

SIMPLICIO: Look, would you agree that 2 + 2 = 22?

SALVIATI: No, it equals 4.

SIMPLICIO: In binary, I mean.

SALVIATI: Binary doesn’t have the numeral 2. It’s only 1s and 0s. The binary four is represented by 100.

SIMPLICIO: Sheesh, do you have to correct EVERY LITTLE THING?

SALVIATI: When it’s wrong, yes.

SIMPLICIO: This is why I’ve argued that Reformed Mathedology divides!

SALVIATI: Well, yes that how fractions came about.


SALVIATI: A little joke.

SIMPLICIO: So now you mock me. You’re showing real character there.

SALVIATI: Actually I’ve given up on trying to convince you reality is real. Jokes are all that you deserve now.

SAGREDO: Don’t you think that’s a little harsh, Salviati?

SALVIATI: What’s harsh is his lack of exegetical skills and the inability to reason. There are only 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and Simplicio.

SIMPLICIO: What’s that supposed to mean? Here I’ve presented my evidence and all you do is challenge little things. Why can’t I just make simple comments without having to defend every little thing?

SALVIATI: Um, you were the one who challenged me, remember?

SIMPLICIO: No I didn’t! I just made a simple comment and you have to pick it all apart. That’s so loving of you.

SALVIATI: Does your memory extend back further than 11 seconds?

SIMPLICIO: 1 + 1 = 11!

SALVIATI: Never mind.

SAGREDO: Salviati, I must object. You’re being overly mean here. This is completely uncalled for. In fact, I think the only thing you’re good for now is to be a contributor at Triablogue. As for me and Simplicio, farewell you Reformed meanie!