Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Application of the Order of Benefits of Redemption

I've not responded to a number of comments on my last article on John 6 for a number of reasons:

1. Pike has done a good job.
2. I've been busy.
3. The Arminians have done little more than assume what they need to prove.

If LFW is not taught in Scripture, so much for their argument. To date, not a single Arminian has bothered to answer:

1. Where is LFW taught in Scripture? Until they can demonstrate this action theory is taught by Scripture, every objection they offer fails, insofar as it depends on the insertion of LFW into the text of John 6. The fact that they can't resolve the text without that appeal is proof positive that they have no *exegetical* objections to the text. They are offering *philosophical* objections.

2. Why does one person believe and not another, within the constraints of (a) John 6 (Hint, John 6 actually answers the question-they just don't like the answer) and (b) LFW? I keep asking this question. The answers I get are usually, "Because they decide to do so." That's not an answer. It merely restates the question. Can Arminians not recognize the regressive fallacy when they see it. They are only pushing the question back one step.

Regarding the “new covenant” and Isaiah 54:13 (cross ref Jer 31, Mathew 26, Hebrews 8, Hebrews 10, …) One of the blessings of the new covenant is regeneration, but another is forgiveness of sins. Do you believe people are forgiven before they come to Christ?

The answer to this question is bound up with a couple of issues that need to be disambiguated.

A. What do we,and Scripture, mean when referring to "Regeneration?"

I'd point out, Dan, that there's an archive function on this blog. Before asking me questions like this, you should consult them. I've been over "regeneration" many, many times here.

Typically, I refer to "Regeneration" according to the dominant expression articulated by our theologians.

B. We're talking about a logical, not a temporal sequence:

Regeneration / effectual calling. This would be equivalent to "drawing" in John 6.
Faith/repentance (Conversion). This would be "coming."
Justification: This would be forgiveness of sins.

If regeneration does not precede faith, then why don't you affirm that good works precede regeneration?

C. Your question, indeed, objection turns on a conflation of ideas. Let's summarize it:

Regeneration preceding faith is illogical/unbiblical because it means you are saved/justified forgiven, before you are "saved/justified/forgiven."

Answer: These columns reflect the logical or causal connection between these aspects: regeneration, repentance unto life, faith in Jesus Christ, justification, definitive sanctification, adoption and sealing (indwelling), progressive sanctification, perseverance in holiness, glorification. DA = Divine Act (monergistic, e.g. God acts alone w/o man; where He acts alone, men are wholly passive). Div-Human Activ=Divine Human activity (synergistic):

Individual Salvation

Beginning Result Middle Result End

2 DAs 2 Div-Hum Activ. 3 DA’s 2 Div-Hum Activ. 1 DA

(5) Justification

(3) Repentance

(1) Effectual call (8) Progressive Sanct.


(2) Regeneration (6) Definitive Sanc. (10) Glorification

(4)Faith in Christ (9) Perseverance in holiness

(7) adoption and the

Spirit’s sealing

* Definitive Sanc. On the one hand Scripture says we are being sanctified progressively, and on the other it says we have been sanctified. DS refers to this act in the mind of God seeing us not only as righteous (justified) with the righteous of Christ imputed to us through faith, but also set apart completely. From A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Second Edition, Robert Reymond, (Thomas Nelson, 1998, p.711).

This objection is fairly standard fare from anti-Calvinist writing and sermons. It’s pretty unsophisticated, but surprisingly frequent. This is a textbook example of equivocation: The disputant uses the same word in two (or more senses), trading on one sense in one occurrence to lend a surplus sense to the same word in another occurrence. The Arminian is accusing you of equivocating on your terms. In reality, s/he is equivocating on his/her terms.

Let’s reword this objection using biblical terminology. Regeneration precedes faith is logical, because it means you are regenerated before you are justified. The Reformed understanding of the order of salvation is:

Regeneration precedes faith. Men are dead in sin and cannot come to Christ to repent and believe apart from it. Men are not regenerated because they respond to God in faith. I John 5:1 explicitly states otherwise. The conclusion of John’s prologue in his gospel uses passive verbs to describe being born again and adds that men are born not by their own wills, but by God’s alone.

A man is not converted on account of his free will decision. He is converted because God unilaterally acts to regenerate Him. His faith and repentance are a response to God’s grace in doing this. John 6:44: No man can (has the ability) to come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. Apart from God doing this, nobody would believe. It is simply impossible for an unregenerate person to choose Christ apart from effectual calling and regeneration. They cannot submit their minds to God or understand spiritual truth or come to Christ and believe apart from it.

We understand that there is a sense in which one is saved, i.e., regenerated before one is “saved,” i.e. justified. However, the Arminian must agree that men are “saved,” i.e. justified, before they are “saved,” i.e. regenerated or glorified as well. Calvinists do not say “we are saved before we are saved.” We teach we are regenerated before we believe and are justified. We are not the ones guilty of equivocating on our terms.

Dan wrote to Pete:

P1: Teaching, hearing & learning precede coming to Christ (taken from John 6:45)
P2: Teaching, hearing & learning are not referring to how one gets into the covenant, but instead are the promises given to those in the covenant (taken from your comments)
C1: therefore, being in the covenant precedes coming to Christ
P3: Part of being in the new covenant includes forgiveness of sins. (Taken from Jer 31, Mathew 26, Hebrews 8, Hebrews 10)
C2: therefore, forgiveness of sins precedes coming to Christ.
So I guess I still don’t understand your response.
Pete can respond on his own. I, like you, looking @ your blog, may be gone for awhile, so I may not be able to get back. But I'll just observe before I depart:

1. It depends on what one means by "getting into the covenant." If by this you mean "election," then these are promises that God will certainly bring to pass with respect to those persons. God does not fail to bring the elect to faith. This would moot all your objections.

2. You seem to be suggesting that "coming" and being "forgiven" are equivalent. (1) I've not argued that. (2) Pete didn't argue that. (3) Forgiveness of sins is a divine act, not a human act. True, one must "come"in order to be "forgiven" but all the elect will certainly "come."

3. To summarize then, the reasons that "being taught, hearing, and coming (to Christ)" are "promises" given to those in the New Covenant is due to election. We can think of being "in" the New Covenant in a presumptive sense, eg. in the mind of God. He "foreloves" the elect by chosing them a recipients of the application of the benefits of redemption. Alteraatively, we can think of them from the other side in a temporal, experimental sense, from the perspective of the elect. They stand as condemned sinners outside of the covenant insofar as they are objects of wrath until the benefits are applied, yet God will certainly bring that application of the benefits of redemption upon them.

I'd also refer you to Francis Turretin who, in the debate between the High Calvinists in his day, over what it meant for the covenant to be "unconditional" drew a distinction between a meritorious and instrumental condition. The Covenant is meritoriously unconditional. It is instrumentally conditional. This directly impacts any doctrine of "eternal justification." EJ is generally built upon the conflation of these conditions as unconditional. That's Hyper-Calvinism.

4. "Forgiveness of sins" is, by your own admission "part of" the New Covenant. The question does not involve that fact. Rather, the question is one of historical and/or logical order in which that blessing comes to the person, e.g. it relates the difference between redemption "accomplished" and redemption "applied." Historically, our redemption was accomplished at the cross, well before we were born. It was not applied to us until we believed, and we believed because of the Spirit's effectual call via the instrumentality of the Word (a classic Reformed Baptist formula).

I realize an objection may arise due to the non-temporal nature of God. Hyper-Calvinists draw their doctrine of EJ from that thinking. To anticipate it, as you seem to be following along those similar lines, I answer, with Robert Reymond (from his New Systematic Theology)

This thinking is muddled in several respects.

For starters, God does have a concept of cause and effect in that logic is an attribute of God's mind. He does understand that in order for x to occur as a concrete instance of what is in his mind, y must come to pass. It's an ends-means relation.

We understand cause and effect and the antecedence of x to y; ergo God does too, or else we have no ground for the logical process.

God Himself also grounds the passage of time in His creation. His own Word recognizes that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. The very terms "in the beginning" and "before the foundation of the world," are about a cause-effect relation and a historical relation.

God does exist outside of time, but that also means He orders and grounds time.

Likewise, the objector conflating ontology and teleology. The timeless of God does not mean there is no teleological order to His attributes or the working of His mind. Ontologically, God is unaffected by relational sequence as to His person, but He is conscious of sequential duration, because sequential duration is a part of the ordering of his decree.

We know this because we have a sense of past, present, and future that, because it exists and will exist, is grounded by His mind. In other words, we actually experience this sequential order because we are part of the decree.

For God, all of these are internally intuited and not arrived at chronologically through a process, but the concept or idea of durational sequence or succession is a distinct epistemological, not ontological category. God knows all our thoughts and actions in the past, present, and future,and at the same time knows His own thoughts and actions in relation to each other and to our own and in what order. Thus, He can inspire Paul to say, "He chose before He created." He knows that He created the sea and dry land before He created birds and fish and animals and man. He knows 1 comes before 2 comes before 184, 388.739394. Likewise, He can perceive us as children of wrath prior to our calling and conversion and His children by adoption afterward.

5. All of which renders C2 fallacious.

I'm also a bit concerned about your use of the term "New Covenant." I take it you are a dispensationalist. Is it your position that persons were saved by a different means prior to the era of the "New" Covenant? Just curious.

I'd also point out that Jeremiah 31, if you're a Baptist, would undercut your appeal to Baptist ecclesiology. Baptists affirm the New Covenant is unbreakable. That's why we affirm regenerate church membership.
Presbyterians get around this by positing two dimensions to the covenant, one related to the visible church, the other the invisible, universal church. But as a Baptist, that option is not open to you. If you affirm that folks can lose their salvation, then you deny the New Covenant is unbreakable, thereby undercutting Baptist ecclesiology. I'm asking because I don't recall you staking out your eccleisology. Sometimes it helps to know if we're dealing with a (Credo)Baptist or a Paedo(Infant)baptist.

If you affirm that the NC is breakable with respect to its spiritual elements (eg. personal salvation), then how exactly is the NC better than the Old Covenant, given the the qualifications in Hebrews? How is Christ Mediator of a "better" covenant if he does not/cannot save His people from apostasy?

I suspect dispensationalists and covenant theologians might have very different points of view of end times. This could be impacting our differences on understanding Isaiah 54, and therefore John 6.
The Calvinist understanding of Isaiah 54 is not dependent on Covenant Theology.

Iraq, Al Qaeda, And Media Irresponsibility

Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard has written an article about links between the former Iraqi government, al Qaeda, and other anti-American terrorist groups, as well as how many in the American media have misrepresented those links. I recommend reading the entire article, but here are some excerpts:

This ought to be big news. Throughout the early and mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein actively supported an influential terrorist group headed by the man who is now al Qaeda's second-in-command, according to an exhaustive study issued last week by the Pentagon….

In 1993, as Osama bin Laden's fighters battled Americans in Somalia, Saddam Hussein personally ordered the formation of an Iraqi terrorist group to join the battle there….

According to a 1993 internal Iraqi intelligence memo, the regime was supporting a secret Islamic Palestinian organization dedicated to "armed jihad against the Americans and Western interests."…

In 2002, the year before the war began, the Iraqi regime hosted in Iraq a series of 13 conferences for non-Iraqi jihadist groups.

That same year, a branch of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) issued hundreds of Iraqi passports for known terrorists….

Documents reveal that the regime stockpiled bombmaking materials in Iraqi embassies around the world and targeted Western journalists for assassination. In July 2001, an Iraqi Intelligence agent described an al Qaeda affiliate in Bahrain, the Army of Muhammad, as "under the wings of bin Laden." Although the organization "is an offshoot of bin Laden," the fact that it has a different name "can be a way of camouflaging the organization." The agent is told to deal with the al Qaeda group according to "priorities previously established."…

In describing the relations between the Army of Muhammad and the Iraqi regime, the authors of the Pentagon study come to this conclusion: "Captured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda--as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term vision."

As I said, this ought to be big news. And, in a way, it was. A headline in the New York Times, a cursory item in the Washington Post, and stories on NPR and ABC News reported that the study showed no links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

How can a study offering an unprecedented look into the closed regime of a brutal dictator, with over 1,600 pages of "strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism," in the words of its authors, receive a wave-of-the-hand dismissal from America's most prestigious news outlets? All it took was a leak to a gullible reporter, one misleading line in the study's executive summary, a boneheaded Pentagon press office, an incompetent White House, and widespread journalistic negligence….

Again, at precisely the same time Zawahiri was "joining with bin Laden," the spring of 1993, he was being funded by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. As Zawahiri's jihadists trained in al Qaeda camps in Sudan, his representative to Iraq was planning "commando operations" against the Egyptian government with the IIS.

Another captured Iraqi document from early 1993 "reports on contact with a large number of terrorist groups in the region, including those that maintained an office or liaison in Iraq." In the same folder is a memo from Saddam Hussein to a member of his Revolutionary Council ordering the formation of "a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil, especially Somalia."…

More recently, captured "annual reports" of the IIS reveal support for terrorist organizations in the months leading up the U.S. invasion in March 2003….

The third section of the Pentagon study is called "Iraq and Terrorism: Three Cases." One of the cases is that of the Army of Muhammad, the al Qaeda affiliate in Bahrain. A series of memoranda order an Iraqi Intelligence operative in Bahrain to explore a relationship with its leaders. On July 9, 2001, the agent reports back: "Information available to us is that the group is under the wings of bin Laden. They receive their directions from Yemen. Their objectives are the same as bin Laden."…

A separate memo reveals that the Army of Muhammad has requested assistance from Iraq. The study authors summarize the response by writing, "the local IIS station has been told to deal with them in accordance with priorities previously established. The IIS agent goes on to inform the Director that 'this organization is an offshoot of bin Laden, but that their objectives are similar but with different names that can be a way of camouflaging the organization.'"…

When bin Laden left Sudan for Afghanistan in May 1996, the Iraqis sought "other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of his current location." The IIS memo directs that "cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement."…

What's happening here is obvious. Military historians and terrorism analysts are engaged in a good faith effort to review the captured documents from the Iraqi regime and provide a dispassionate, fact-based examination of Saddam Hussein's long support of jihadist terrorism. Most reporters don't care. They are trapped in a world where the Bush administration lied to the country about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, and no amount of evidence to the contrary--not even the words of the fallen Iraqi regime itself--can convince them to reexamine their mistaken assumptions.

Bush administration officials, meanwhile, tell us that the Iraq war is the central front in the war on terror and that American national security depends on winning there. And yet they are too busy or too tired or too lazy to correct these fundamental misperceptions about the case for war, the most important decision of the Bush presidency.

What good is the truth if nobody knows it?

What does Heb 6 really mean?

Arminians typically accuse Calvinists of tampering with the obvious meaning of Heb 6 and its counterparts. Let’s begin by quoting the two major passages around which the controversy swirls:


Hebrews 6:4-6 (English Standard Version)

4For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Hebrews 10:26-31 (English Standard Version)

26For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


1.Now, let’s take a few steps back. Ask yourself, if either passage were intended to answer a question, what question would that be? Would it be, Is it possible for a Christian to lose his salvation? Or would it be, Is it possible for an apostate to be restored?

One of the ironic features of the modern debate about the “true” meaning of Heb 6 is that this debate is centered on answering a question which the passage wasn’t designed to answer. The Arminian, in particular, is asking a different question than the text is answering.

For the question which the text is answering is not about the possibility of losing your salvation, but the possibility—or impossibility—of returning to the faith.

So the Arminian is involved in a classic case of agenda-driven exegesis. When you come to a text of Scripture, demanding an answer it wasn’t intended to give, and—in the meantime—sideline the answer it was intended to give, then you’re coming to the text with a theological agenda, and you won’t be satisfied until you make the text answer the question you want it to answer. Your theological priorities are at odds with the text. You insist on putting a question to the text which the text was never meant to answer.

Once again, just stop for a moment and ask yourself, in proportion to the amount of time that an Arminian spends on trying to make the text answer a different question, how much time does he spend trying to answer the question which the text was actually addressing? In particular, how much time does the Arminian typically devote to the possibility, or not, of spiritual restoration, rather than the possibility of losing your salvation?

The Arminian is not allowing the text to set the agenda. He takes almost no interest in what the text is interested in. Indeed, the focus of the text is a very awkward for him since it’s hard for an Arminian to explain why an apostate, if he’s truly a free agent, would be unable to think better of his action, or why a loving God would refuse to reinstate him.

If the Arminian were to actually realign his concerns to correspond with the text, this would be a very problematic text for Arminian theology. That may well be one reason, aside from his eagerness to disprove Calvinism, that he marginalizes the teaching of the text, and substitutes a different question in its place.

In this respect, Donatism, Montanism, and Novatianism were at least asking the right questions. They were asking the same questions of the text that the text was designed to answer. Even if we disagree with their answers, their approach to Heb 6 was at least in line with the type of question which the text was addressing.

So it takes a lot of temerity for an Arminian to accuse a Calvinist of Scripture twisting when the Arminian is the one who is guilty of imposing his own agenda on the text, to the detriment of what the text is really teaching.

2.Apropos (1), if we take the impossibility of restoration at face value, then in what sense is it impossible?

i) There are only two options available to the Arminian:

a) Every apostate is unwilling to repent.

b) God is unwilling to restore any apostate, even if he is penitent.

But both explanations are in tension with Arminian theology. (i) is contrary to the libertarian freedom of the apostate, while (ii) is contrary to the universal love of God.

ii) By contrast, this is not a point of tension in Reformed theology. We could simply say an apostate is a hardened sinner. This explanation combines (i) and (ii). The apostate is unwilling to repent, and he’s unwilling to repent because God is unwilling to restore him. God has hardened him as a judicial punishment for his apostasy.

3.Recently, Ben Witherington has attempted to harmonize the rigorist interpretation with Arminian theology by taking a rhetorical approach:

“Rhetorically speaking, an orator must be able to keep the attention of the audience, especially if the discourse is going to be long…this being the case…the wise rhetor will pull out the emotional stops, use more colorful language, engage in rhetorical hyperbole, up the volume on ‘amplification’,” Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians (IVP 2007), 203.

“One of the issues that many commentators misunderstand, because of failure to read the rhetorical signals, is that our author to some degree is being ironic here and engaging in a preemptive strike. That is, we should not read this text as a literal description of the present spiritual condition of the audience,” ibid. 204.

“One of the key factors in analyzing this section [Heb 5:11-6:12] is to realize that our author is trying to put the ‘fear of God’ into his audience by using rhetoric to prevent defections, and so one is not sure how far to press the specifics here, since it is possible to argue that some of this involves dramatic hyperbole,” ibid. 205.

“Our author is deliberately engaging in dramatic rhetorical statements for the purpose of waking up the audience. The function is not to comment on something that is impossible for God…In other words, these words were intended to have a specific emotional effect, not to comment in the abstract about what is impossible…In an honor-and-shame culture this is intended to be shocking language,” ibid. 212-15.

“In my judgment, these are the right kinds of questions to ask about an epideictic discourse clearly given to hyperbole at points. Two things result from taking such rhetorical factors into account: (1) our author really does think that at least some of the audience is in danger of apostasy and warns against it and (2) we may suspect that the ‘no restoration’ remark functions as a device to make clear how horrible committing apostasy really is. It is another way of pleading ‘please don’t go there.’ The consequences of apostasy are thereby shown to be grim by the use of hyperbolic language,” ibid. 218.

But there are two potential problems with this maneuver:

i) A Calvinist can help himself to the same rhetorical strategy (see below).

ii) Witherington isn’t consistent in applying the “rhetorical device.” For at one point he also says “our author seems to believe that one can go too far, past the point of no return and no restoration. This text then cuts both ways, against either a facile notion that forgiveness is always possible no matter how severe the sin in question is, but it equally must count against the ‘eternal security’ sort of argument as well,” ibid. 215.

4.Having said all that, I don’t necessarily object to posing questions to Scripture which the author didn’t intend to answer. For a text may contain logical implications that are valid irrespective of what was foremost in the mind of the writer. These are consistent with what he meant, even if that happens to be incidental to his immediate point.

What the Arminian would say is that the impossibility of restoration presupposes the possibility of apostasy. Unless it’s possible to defect from the faith, the impossibility of restoration is a moot issue. So why would the author even introduce this irrelevancy?

5.But even at that level, the inference fails to follow.

i) For it might depend on what is mooting the possibility of apostasy. The deterrent value of these very warnings may serve that purpose.

ii) This is further reinforced by the fact that if an Arminian is going to say the threat is hyperbolic, then the Calvinist can make the same move. Suppose a Calvinist says the possibility of a true believing falling away is a “genuine” possibility, but only in the counterfactual sense that if he went down this road, that consequence would follow—even though that is not a live possibility?

An Arminian will typically argue that this mitigating condition renders the threat “meaningless.” If, however, the Arminian softens the threat by claiming that the terms of the threat are hyperbolic, to harmonize the threat with his Arminian belief in the possibility of restoration, then the Arminian is in no position to attack the Reformed position. If the impossibility of restoration is hyperbolic, then why not treat the possibility of apostasy (however defined) as equally hyperbolic? Why take one literally, but not the other?

In light of Witherington’s rhetorical strategy, which he deploys to defend his Arminian commitments, it’s unintentionally comical to read an Arminian epologist wax indignant, in volleys of quaint, ornate diction, if the Calvinist is merely making the same hermeneutical move as Witherington :

“Translation: The warnings are divine shock value, their consequences mere coercion. I'd already factored in this defense into the challenge, concerning which I point out an obvious problem: All inherent problems aside, even if this were the case and God were simply 'putting us on,' so to speak, for the sake of our living righteously, then is it not better to take the Lord at His word? If God's purpose in giving such warnings was to make us live holy unto Him by indicating that if we walk away from Him, He will cast us away, yet you teach a doctrine that states He would never under any circumstance actually do such a thing, then have you not undone the holy fear which God's word was meant to instill in the hearts of His people and again made it of no effect?… I agree that God does indeed spur we who are His on to glory with warnings, but not with hollow threats of Him committing things He would never actually do based on things He won't let happen… Are we to seriously believe that God's holy word is touting false and misleading doctrine for the sake of our good practice? God isn't mumbling crazy impossibilities, heresy, or idle threats into the air to keep us secure."

I’d suggest that Thibodaux redirect his baroque indignation at Arminian commentators like Witherington.

iii) Likewise, the Calvinist can also invoke the hyperbolic interpretation to distinguish between backsliders and apostates. The former will be restored, while the latter will not.

6.However, the Arminian objection is fallacious in another respect as well. A Calvinist doesn’t have to treat the possibility of apostasy as a merely hypothetical outcome. He can admit that this is a live possibility. That there are real life examples.

Remember, a Calvinist doesn’t think the terminology of Heb 6 & 10 denotes regeneration. In Reformed theology, an individual can experience what is described in these passages, and yet fall away at a later date—never to return. So this passage has a real world application in Calvinism. We apply it to nominal believers. As one scholar explains:

“More importantly, the above analysis sheds some valuable light on the vexing question of the status of those envisioned in Heb 6:4-6. After analyzing the statements in vv. 4-6, McKnight confidently concludes that ‘[i]f the author is accurate in his description of the readers' experience, then we can only say that they are believers—true believers.’49 However, the preceding analysis leads us in a different direction. It appears that in analogy to the old covenant community the people depicted in 6:4-6 are not genuine believers or true members of the new covenant community. Like their OT counterparts, they have experienced all these blessings (vv. 4-5), but like the wilderness generation they are hardhearted, rebellious (3:8) and possess an "evil heart of unbelief” (3:12, 19).50 More clearly, 4:2 poignantly states that both groups (the wilderness generation and the new covenant community) have had the gospel preached to them, but the wilderness generation to which the readers of Hebrews are compared failed to believe, and therefore the message was of no value to them. Thus, the conclusion of Lane that ‘[t]ogether, the clauses describe vividly the reality of the experience of personal salvation enjoyed by the Christians addressed’ is premature.51 Wayne A. Grudem has recently proposed a similar understanding to the one presented in this section.52 According to him, the descriptive phrases themselves in vv. 4-6 are inconclusive as to whether the subjects are genuine believers or not. Here in Hebrews 6 they describe ‘people who were not yet Christians but who had simply heard the gospel and had experienced several of the blessings of the Holy Spirit's work in the Christian community.’53 The falling away (v. 6) is not a falling from salvation, but a failure to exercise saving faith in light of the blessings to which the readers have been exposed through association with the Christian community.54 The preceding analysis of the OT background to 6:4-6 confirms Grudem's conclusions. Thus in analogy to the old covenant community, those envisioned in vv. 4-6 have experienced the blessings of the new covenant (‘being enlightened,’ ‘tasting the heavenly gift,’ etc.), experiences common to all by virtue of belonging to the new covenant community, but have recapitulated the error of their old covenant predecessors by failing to believe and rejecting what they have experienced. In doing so they come under the covenantal curse."

7.The reason a Calvinist has to spend a lot of time discussing those to whom the text does not apply (the elect) is because the Arminian wants to apply this text to Christians. That’s why the Calvinist has to shift attention away from its area of applicability (nominal believers) to its area of inapplicability (true believers). That’s the point at which a Calvinist will talk about counterfactual truth-values.

But this doesn’t mean we think the possibility only obtains in some possible world. It also obtains in the actual world. But it doesn’t obtain in the case of the elect.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Expanding on a Comment

Since these comments have fallen into the purgatory that is Non-Main-Page, and since I think it’s important for Christians to have a grounding in the ordo salutis I’ve decided to respond with a new post, giving the appropriate background here.

Dan (GodIsMyJudge) originally wrote to Gene:
Regarding the “new covenant” and Isaiah 54:13 (cross ref Jer 33, Mathew 26, Hebrews 8, Hebrews 10, …) One of the blessings of the new covenant is regeneration, but another is forgiveness of sins. Do you believe people are forgiven before they come to Christ? Doesn’t this view contradict much of the NT? But you seem to be arguing that teaching, hearing & learning are part of the new covenant and precede coming to Christ.

I responded:
First of all, the temperal speed at which everything happens can vary. Many of the steps of salvation occur simultaneous to one another. There remains, however, a logical order. Ignoring the logical order of the decree of God and focusing only on what happens to the sinner during salvation, what you have is:

1. A sinner begins spiritually dead.

2. God regenerates that sinner. The ordinary means by which this occurs is through the proclamation of the Gospel. Sometimes the temporal moment between the proclamation of the Gospel and God's regeneration of the sinner is instantaneous; sometimes it can take years and the sinner is reminded of the previously heard proclamation at a later date. In both cases, however, God must regenerate the sinner so that he is no longer spiritually dead so that he can respond to the message he has heard.

3. That response--the response of the regenerated man--is faith in what was proclaimed by the Gospel.

4. On the basis of that faith, God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the sinner and imputes the sins of the sinner to Christ. The sinner is justified before God.

5. The regenerated man produces fruit and continues along the path of sanctification.

Because this chain is certain (that is, once God regenerates an individual that individual will, inevitably, proceed to step 5), Scripture talks about salvation as step 2 (regeneration, not bare proclamation), 3, 4, 5 and all steps combined. We know that if somoene is at step 3, he is saved because steps 4 and 5 must follow. Likewise if he is at step 4, step 5 must follow.

Of course, as humans we do not have the omniscience that God has. We can only make our best judgment as to whether someone is a genuine believer or not based on the fruits we see in that person's life.

So, with that in mind, the question was asked:
Do you believe people are forgiven before they come to Christ?

"Before" is the wrong term here. "Before" implies we look at this temporally; but these events could happen instantaneously and simultaneously.

In any case, logically the claim would be: Regeneration -> Faith -> Justification -> Sanctification. Justification entails the forgiveness of sins, sins our sins are imputed at that point.

In the logical order, therefore, faith preceeds justification; but regeneration preceeds faith. If you define faith as "coming to Jesus" and forgiveness as "justification" then yes, one "comes to Jesus" before one is "forgiven." But this is still after one is made a new spiritual creation that is able to come to Christ.

Finally it was said:
But you seem to be arguing that teaching, hearing & learning are part of the new covenant and precede coming to Christ.

Teaching, hearing, and learning do come before faith. How does one have faith in what one has not heard, and how can one hear unless someone has preached it? (I'm pretty sure someone asked that question once....) The fallacy with the question is thinking that knowing about Christ is equivalent to having faith in Christ. Yet we know from James that the demons believe plenty of truthful propositions about Christ, and that doesn't help them at all. One can know every fact about Christ that is possible for humans to know and still be spiritually dead.

However, one cannot have faith in Christ unless one knows who He is. And God has chosen the proclamation of the Gospel as His first means of bringing about salvation.

Now God could still save someone in a different manner if He so chose to do so; but we have no Scriptural warrant to believe He ever does otherwise. He has only revealed to us that this is the method He uses.

I hope that helps clarify it a bit.

Dan responded by stating:
Thanks for your comments. Your thoughts about “dead faith” are interesting. I took your comments to mean, you interpret the phrase “they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father” as speaking of knowledge of Christ without trust in Him.

No, that’s not how I would have taken it (and I don’t think that’s how Gene meant it either, although he can respond for sure). In any case, that aspect of knowledge is not what is being taught by Isaiah or Jeremiah. These passages do not refer to the bare knowledge of Christ at all, as part of the New Covenant; instead, it is the promise of redemptive faith. Salvation is pictured as something God does. He is the active party, ensuring that those who are saved know Him. In this context, the knowledge of God isn’t “brute” knowledge or “bare facts” but rather the intimate knowledge of the personal relationship with God.

Therefore, the passage isn’t really speaking in terms of knowledge qua knowledge, but rather in terms of how God will ensure the salvation of His people by being proactive. In other words, in this passage the knowledge being talked about is redemptive knowledge in His elect.

This is slightly different from what I understood your first question to be.

And to clarify, I wasn’t speaking so much of “dead faith” (at least not in the way that James uses the term, which is a faith without works) but instead I was speaking of having no faith despite having knowledge. This is something that does happen quite frequently. There are people who know many facts about Christ, and who may even believe those facts to be true, yet who do not have faith in Christ Himself. While I cannot go into detail, I know one person who would actually evangelize nonbelievers while remaining convinced that Christ could not forgive the sins in her own life. She did not have faith in Christ despite knowing enough about Him to try to convince others to put their faith in Him. But even if this individual is an extreme example (I don’t really think that’s the case), there are many self-proclaimed atheists who know more about Christ than some believers.

Dan said:
I agree that knowledge is the foundation of saving faith, and shouldn’t be confused with saving faith. This viewpoint seems to fit the passage well. Knowledge comes before faith and the passage says hearing and learning precedes coming to Christ. Also, the quotation from Isaiah does seem be talking about the spread of the Gospel.

Again, I do think at this point we had a little cross-communication, wherein I misunderstood your first question and you misunderstood my response since it wasn’t referring specifically to what you had asked originally. I would maintain, as I mentioned in my first response, that it is still a mistake to think of this temporally. Knowledge and faith can both occur simultaneously, though they can also occur distinct from one another. But the passages regarding the New Covenant are not speaking so much of how one gets into the covenant as they are speaking of what happens to those already in that covenant. These passages do more to assure us that A) salvation in the New Covenant cannot be lost, for God is the proactive party rather than man; and B) sanctification must follow after justification, for God is proactive in teaching and shaping His people.

Dan said:
But the idea that people could have dead faith seems to favor an Arminian viewpoint on the passage. Unless I miss my guess, the Calvinist viewpoint depends on God’s teaching as being effectual. If some that He teaches don’t come to Christ, then the Calvinist viewpoint fails.

Again, this is probably indicative of the misunderstanding of your first question and my first response. If we are speaking of teaching in general terms, then it is quite consistent within Calvinism to argue that those who are Elect will be effectively taught while those who are reprobate will be hardened by that teaching. The teaching then serves two purposes: to bring the believer closer to God and to heap judgment upon the non-believer. This second kind is seen in the atheists who know facts about Christ yet disbelieve, etc.

However, this is not the same kind of teaching being referred to by Isaiah & Jeremiah, wherein those who are already the people of God are taught by God. In that case, they are those who, as God spoke through Jeremiah: “shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Jer. 32:38). They are those whom God says: “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:39-40). This is all stated just 18 verses before the portion you referenced in Jer. 33, too.

This same thought is expressed in Isaiah, since before he talks of the children being taught by God, he states: “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Is. 54:10). Again, those who are taught are those who are already in the covenant. As such, these passages are not referring to how one gets into the covenant, but instead are the promises given to those in the covenant.

How Yahweh wooed Israel out of Egypt

“The typical Arminian analogy for ‘wooing’ is that of a suitor for a prospective spouse. He ‘woos’ her with dates, flowers, promises, etc.”

This is a correct definition. However, that doesn’t change the fact that God wooed Israel out of Egypt.

The problem is that Bro. Bridges, as a Baptist son of Belial, is dependent on his heretical canon of the Bible, which he inherited from the Rothschids.

But according to the Deuterocanonicals, God delivered Israel from Egypt by wooing her with a box of chocolates. There are, admittedly, some textual variants in Holy Tradition.

The Philoxenian version of 2 Exodus 6:6 says, “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched box of Godiva double chocolate raspberry truffles, and with great condiments.”

But there is also a 13C Provençal uncial which reads, “French vanilla truffles,” in place of, “double chocolate raspberry truffles.”

Conversely, the Sogdian version says, “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched box of Ghirardelli milk chocolate squares with caramelized almonds, and with great condiments.”


AP guys have effectively said that they cannot answer my argument about the prophets, so they left that one alone. They said that you cannot interpret language logically, and so need not deal with the logic of my argument. They repeated their misunderstanding of determinism, saying that there can be no means if God determins everything, and saying that we are nothing but robots. I have shown that some things that were determined had means, and I have also given a logical argument which they chose not to challenge the truth of the premises. I also am not impressed by Arminian straw men regarding determinism. But if they want to play the part of the ignorant fool, I won't stop them. Since I can recognize when someone doesn't have anything else to say, but just has to say something, and this is one of those cases, I can conclude that they have been overwhelmed and have no rational rebuttal to my arguments. Either they can actually deal with my arguments in detail, or they can post just to post. But, until my arguments are dealt with I won't waste my time responding. If they don't want to respond to my arguments, but want to say they put up something in order to cater to their fans, then I'll graciously allow them to bow out of the debate.

Wesley's junkyard dog

“No, it's a simple expression that God did not desire or decree such an action, as I've stated before.”

That’s no alternative to the anthropomorphic interpretation. Rather, J.C. is attempting to translate an anthropomorphic expression (“It never entered my mind”) into a literal counterpart.

“Additionally, Hays' defense effectively treats anthropomorphisms as some vague, foggy area that is mitigated into nothingness,”

Really? I defined it as “the application of a distinctly human idiom to God.” How is that a “vague, foggy area” which is “mitigated into nothingness?

The only fog is J.C’s foggy grasp of what constitutes anthropomorphic discourse.

“What he misses is that 'anthropomorphisms are still expressing a comparable idea”

A comparable idea to “it never entered my mind” would be “I didn’t see it coming.” So, if J.C. denies the anthropomorphic interpretation, then he’s stuck with the way in which open theism construes a passage like this, amounting to a denial of divine foreknowledge.

[I said] To the contrary, Isaiah's claim moves from the general to the specific. The dependence of foreknowledge on foreordination in this instance is just a special case of a universal principle. Read Oswalt's exegesis for the supporting argument.

[He said] “Thanks, I've read the book itself. It supports no such claim.”

It would be more prudent of J.C. not to make such easily falsifiable claims. This is what Oswalt says:

“There follow in these two verses [Isa 46:10-11] a series of three participles that both substantiate the claim to uniqueness and, at the same time, flow from that claim…Here the three participles make a direct link between predictive prophecy (declaring the outcome at the start) and divine intervention in history (calling from the east a bird of prayer)…As several commentators (e.g., Young) have noted, the three participles move from general to particular to specific. In the first instance, God tells in general what will happen in the future. He can do so because the future is fully shaped by his own plans and wishes. This is the same point that was made in ch. 14 concerning Assyria 9vv24-27). Assyria’s plans for Judah were really of little import. It is the Lord’s plans for Assyria to which that great nation should have paid attention (see also 22:11; 37:26)…The repetition [46:11] serves to emphasize the unshakable connection between promise and the performance, between divine talk and divine action…This parallelism underlines again that the reason God can tell what is going to happen is that what happens is only an outworking of his eternal purposes,” J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37.

Continuing with J.C.:

“The 'difficulties' he presented don't really carry any weight, as the divine has already entered the temporal in the person of Christ. Christ existed in time with a divine nature, and therefore, it isn't a problem even from a divine perspective to say that He ‘often’ longed to gather the people of Jerusalem.”

i) It’s obvious that J.C. is ignorant of classic Christian formulations of the Incarnation. For example, “The statement, ‘the Word was made flesh,’ does not indicate any change in the Word, but only in the nature newly assumed into the oneness of the divine person. ‘And the word was made flesh’ through a union to flesh. Now a union is a relation. And relations newly said of God with respect to creatures do not imply a change on the side of God, but on the side of the creature relating in a new way to God,” T. Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Part I (Magi Books 1980), 86-87.

For a more detailed exposition of a classic, eternalist model of the Incarnation, cf. G. Ganssle, ed. God & Time (IVP 2001), 52ff.

ii) J.C’s explanation would also leave God ignorant of time prior to the Incarnation. So he fails to salvage divine foreknowledge.

iii) And even if God knew time via the Incarnation, human beings experience time as present, not future—so tapping into the human experience of time would not suffice for foreknowledge.

“Atemporal constraints on knowledge?”

Yes, as I already explained, an atemporal agent cannot experience time. In Calvinism, though, a timeless God can know time by knowing his plan for the history of the world. But an Arminian has denied himself that option.

“Nor does one have to agree with their analysis.”

He’s free to disagree with Witherington and Fitzmyer if he chooses, yet he mischaracterized the definition of proegno (“to choose beforehand”) as a Calvinistic definition. But it’s not a distinctively Calvinistic definition.

“Proginisko/Prognosis also mean simply to have knowledge beforehand, the strongest argument for which I think comes from 1 Peter 1:2, which employs the noun form Prognosis, and would not likely carry that particular connotation of a Hebrew verb.”

That simply begs the question in favor of the Arminian definition. But one doesn’t have to be a Calvinist to see that Peter is using the word in a predestinarian sense. Cf. L. Goppelt, A Commentary on I Peter (Eerdmans 1993), 72-73.

“They can be, if one is drawn with cords of love (they being a metaphor, as Steve has so kindly pointed out).”

J.C continues to do violence to the imagery. Ropes and cords are not a metaphor for “wooing.” Adding “love” doesn’t make it a metaphor for “wooing.”

Rather, it’s the imagery of an animal trainer. He may be a loving animal trainer. He may be kind to his animals. But he isn’t “wooing” them. Ropes and cords are images of constraint. A way of *making* an animal go where you want it to go—for it’s own good.

“Incorrect, God did woo His people, and they obeyed His voice, and were thus delivered from bondage by Him. Indeed when the good news of God freeing them was proclaimed, ‘And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped’ (Exodus 4:31).”

That verse doesn’t contain the notion of “wooing.”

“God's drawing Israel with His love is not mutually exclusive with His bringing them out of Egypt by His power or afflicting the Egyptians.”

“Drawing” and “wooing” are not synonymous concepts.

“Hays makes a big deal out of me not answering every one of his arguments.”

To the contrary, it’s fine with me if he issues a challenge; I (and others) rise to the challenge; then he can’t measure up to his own challenge.

“For starters, a lot of his 'points' don't really solidify his case, and I won't waste time shooting down all of them when one will suffice.”

He *says* it, but he doesn’t’ *show* it.

“When Hays cited Welty, I linked to my articles for general responses…My articles on foreknowledge deal with the most common objections to the idea of foreknowledge in relation to election being defined as prescience, including the foreordination/forelove interpretations as well as the appeal to Granville-Sharp's rule in Acts 2:23…I never said ALL of my articles were relevant to what exactly what Welty wrote (Since not all of them are -- does Hays think my counter-cult arguments are supposed to be tailored to answering arguments from Welty too?).”

J.C. is the one who, instead of rebutting Welty’s material, referred the reader to his preexisting articles—as if these would suffice to rebut Welty’s material. Either they do or they don’t. By now admitting that they don’t suffice to rebut Welty, J.C’s original reference was an exercise in misdirection.

When I actually take him up on the offer and went through his fallacious articles, subjecting them to rational scrutiny, he then plays the role of the injured party.

“We are playing by different rules entirely, and the rules I live by are incompatible with theirs.”

That’s true. J.C. and Kangaroodort have one set of rules for themselves, and another set of rules for their opponents. They don’t like it when we hold them to their own words.

If I were in their position, I wouldn’t like it either—but since they dealt themselves a losing hand, they’re stuck with the outcome.

Resources For Easter

Here's a thread from last year that lists some.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Orthodux PSA

Lvka wrote:

Gene, two questions:

-- have You watched Fight Club one too many times?

-- who taught You this ungraceful habbit of closing comments on posts that attack people? Haven't You heard of the right to a reply? (Well, ... this AND deleting people's comments).
1. No, I'm not one for movies at all. I rarely watch them. I'm familiar with the movie, but I've not watched it.

Perhaps you would do well yourself to lay off the pop culture references given the shoddy level of argumentation for your apologetics positions of late. Seems to me a little less time ordering from Netflix and more time reading the relevant material might help. What, pray tell, new material have you contributed to the discussions between "Jimmy," Steve, Jason, and myself?

2. I'm sorry, but where do I find "Lvka" listed as one of the contributors to this blog? Try as I might I can't find it. Perhaps you can direct me to that place.

3. You don't make the rules here. We do.

4. You wrote:
Haven't You heard of the right to a reply?
Beg pardon? Nobody here has a *right* to comment. That's a privilege we can give and take at our discretion. You think you can give yourself that right? I think not. You're screen name is "Lvka" not "Jesus, Miracle Worker From Galilee."

Just to remind you of the rules here which are clearly posted under "Rules of Engagement":
You are here as a houseguest. Behave like one or find yourself back on the curb!
5. I've not made a personal attack that has not been warranted. Orthodox has shown himself to be dishonest many times here and on other blogs. Defying your ban is dishonest by definition. Pretending you are someone else in order to defy your ban is doubly dishonest. Further,he constantly and consistently misrepresents our own argumentation,not to mention the material from which he quotes. He's been corrected on his misrepresentation of our rule of faith alone on at least 3 blogs I read.

Again, from the rules;

By the same token, we reserve the right to use harsh, judgmental language where appropriate. Invective is context-dependent. The Bible employs harsh, judgmental language for apostates, false teachers, and other enemies of the faith. The Bible is full of taunt-songs.

Remember that, in Scripture, most false teachers are professing believers. So merely calling yourself a Christian doesn’t immunize you from judgmental language where appropriate. It is our Christian duty to analogize from Biblical cases to contemporary cases.
So, if you think a "personal attack" was unwarranted, you'll need to do more than assert it in order to convince me. I'm not the one, as in Jay Dyer's case, who used anti-Semitism as an apologetic defense. I'm not running about defying a ban on a blog by posting pseudonymously, to cite only one of "Orthodox's" many transgressions.

If you don't like the rules that are posted - don't come here. It's really that simple.

Incidentally, I, for one, don't understand why all the whining goes on in the comboxes here, and this isn't just applicable to you. Look, folks, the rules are clearly posted. Steve has explained himself, and I second his explanation. You all know all this already, so the fact of the matter is that, by coming here, you accept those explanations and rules. You can't very well voice your disagreement all the while claiming you have certain "rights" on this blog. That's why we have rules posted. Don't like the rules? Don't post. Don't like the way you're treated when you deal in bad faith? Don't come here. Don't like the "tone?" Don't issue challenges. Call us "hypocrites?" How is it "hypocrisy" to follow our own rules? Finally, we can, do, and have had rational, calm discussions with many people in our comboxes - it's only when they prove themselves impervious to correction or worse yet abusers of those comboxes that we call them out.

Further, sometimes it's because we have to put out little fires all over the place due to this incessant whinging that we can't get to other comments. Sometimes others can do it for us, thankfully - for example, there's a dozen or so long stream in a thread on John 6 that I can't get to right now because of tracking down Orthodox's history, not to mention my commitments in the real world - and as a rule I don't usually pursue comboxes after they drop from the front page. I might get to it by the weekend - maybe. One wonders sometimes if some of what goes on here is part of an effort to keep us from responding.

6. The only time I have ever deleted comments on this blog is:

a. When a banned person defies their ban.

b. When a person double posts the same material, usually when they delete their own comment and then repost. The system leaves a note, and I erase the footprint, not the comment.

c. When Orthodox himself was told that his continued defiance of his ban would be a default admission that his past arguments were worthless and not worth the bandwidth to retain. He continued, we deleted his comments from the archives, only retaining what we had quoted in our own replies. Thus, whenever I see his name, his posts get deleted. That's why he likes to post under other names.

d. Excepting the above,the reason I don't delete comments is this: I've been doing internet apologetics for nearly a decade now. I long ago learned that deletion of comments leads to the accusation that you delete folks' arguments that you don't like or with which you can't deal. I'm well aware of the duplicity involved in saying, "Well, you can delete comments." If I did that, people would then say "He did it because..."

e. Another reason I don't delete is because I am a firm believer that there's a certain amount of damage only the opposition can do to itself. I'm quite willing to give my opponents freedom if I know it will expose them.

f. The only other time I would consider deleting comments would be if I had an Anti-Evangelist show up in a discussion. For example, this would happen if David Waltz showed up here in a discussion on Islam, as he recently did over @ Beggars All, in an effort to try to score points for Catholicism at the expense of Protestantism during an evangelistic encounter with an infidel - not because of the conflict between Rome and Geneva, but because that directly imperils the soul of the Muslim. In short, it would be (a) a demonstration that for all their bluster about us being "separated brothers" our Catholic friends are committed to ecclesiolatry, not faith in Christ alone, and (b) that therefore imperils the soul of an unbeliever. I don't have time for that. That's no different than rising up during a sermon in a church and contradicting the teaching. If I can attend Mass at the Vatican while it's been presided over by the Pope (and I have, in fact done so) and be silent, so can Mr. Waltz when I'm trying to evangelize an infidel.

7. The reason that the post to which you are referring has no combox open is because Orthodox has been banned. He doesn't get the *right* to reply. It's also a means to keep you out, as I've come to regard you as little more than a second rate troll who does little more that repeat himself. You long ago ran out of steam here.

8. The fact that you defend the dishonest says a great deal. It speaks to your low standards. You and your Orthodox compatriots reject what "Christ rejecting Jews" say, but you defend each other even when that party is dishonest. You'll even cite Origen, accounted a heretic, in your defense. Apparently, your ethical standards are quite elastic.

9. Finally, I wouldn't suggest you pursue this line of engagement further. Again, from the rules:
Triablogue reserves the right to make exceptions or change its rules on the fly, without advance notice, although we will make every effort to be as arbitrary, inscrutable, and flagrantly unfair as is humanly possible.

This is not the Talmud. We’re not going to lay down case law for every conceivable situation.

This is not the court of appeals. We’re not going to explain ourselves beyond the above.

This is how it works: you get to exercise your discretion, then we get to exercise our discretion.
10. So, I really could care less about your perceived "right" to comment here, simply because it's nonexistent. I've told you before that if you don't like a post - ignore it. If you don't like the content of this blog, nobody is forcing you to read it. So, there's the door, don't let it hit you on the way out.

Oh, and one more thing, the combox here is closed too. Why? As they say, "This one's for you, kid."

Moving on...

Jason has already noticed some similarities between Jimmy and Orthodox...

I've done some quick examination of the archives, where we've quoted Orthodox, our long since banned yet dishonest Orthodox E-pologist visitor who keeps turning up under new names. There are some striking similarities.

1. On his own blog, he has an article in which he summarizes things he's learned from McDonald. It's about a month old. Take a careful look at You'll find in that article some of the same things "Jimmy" has stated here in recent history. It's worth noting how familar "Jimmy" is with McDonald. One might think he'd just recently read the book...

2. Jimmy, like Orthodox, has answered our questions with questions to change the subject; for example, changing the subject from Josephus' use of Esther to his use of the 'deuteros.'

3. Speaking of which, "deuteros" is one of Orthodox's favorite terms of the DC's.

4. And "Bzzt," which Jimmy has used here is another favorite reply; as are the words, "assuming (here) what you need to prove," and "leading of the Holy Spirit," and references to "the true people of God."

5. Orthodox never was one of the brightest candles in the sanctuary. It's very, very likely, in my opinion, that Jimmy is Orthodox. I would suggest (a)if he is Orthodox he just come right out and say so; (b) regardless of whether or not he is, he be given a deadline to improve his argumentation or else be banned like Orthodox. That said, I have kept an eye on Orthodox in comboxes elsewhere, and he has begun to show some improvement with respect to his skills at argumentation, if not the content thereof. That is to be commended.

That said, Jimmy and Orthodox may not be one and the same. However, I think there's good reason to think that the correspondence between them is very like that between Robert and Henry, if you get my drift.

And the worst thing is this: If Jimmy the Orthodox is one and the same person, he would do well to just admit it. That might go some distance in getting his ban lifted. It was his failure to deal in good faith that earned him a ban, and it is is perpetual lack of integrity that keeps him banned. Instead, he persists, and because he persists he only digs himself a deeper hole.

The Pied Piperette


“I don't see how Witherington is committing the NTS fallacy. He is responding to someone who is giving a real life example of another person, and rightfully so, he states that it is nearly impossible to say anything about the person's salvation.”

No, he seems to be saying more than that. If a putative apostate returns to the faith, then either he was never truly saved in the first place or else he was never truly an apostate.

That’s a much stronger stance than merely claiming that it’s “nearly impossible to say anything about the person's salvation.”

To the contrary, he appears to be claiming that it is possible to say something quite definite about a person’s salvation; namely:

i) That a true apostate has lost his salvation in the irremedial sense that he can never regain it;

ii) That someone who returns to the faith after leaving the faith never had a salvation to lose.

So Witherington is drawing some lines in the sand. That’s quite different from taking an agnostic position about someone’s state of grace.

Now, perhaps you take him to mean that when he says these are “possible” explanations, he is using that as a disclaimer to indicate that he’s noncommittal on these explanations as the best available explanations.

However, I think the more likely interpretation is this: he is claiming that these two explanations are the only two possible. He’s just not sure which of these two explanations is correct in the case of someone who left the faith and later came back.

He is ruling out other explanations. These are “possible” because other explanations are impossible, given his theological framework.

I think that’s clearly in view when he talks about apostasy as a “soul destroying act.” That’s a very firm statement. So he seems to have very definite views about what is possible or impossible in this situation. The only ambiguity is regarding the which of the two explanations is the best explanation in any given case.

He may not know how they apply at a concrete level, but at an abstract level these two explanations delimit the boundaries of an acceptable explanation. One or the other.

“His response then is keeping to the exegetical basis that he holds to (you can disagree with him if you want on that) in Heb 6 and listing out the possibilities that are applicable to this real life friend that Aleksandra has… I dont see how this is a problem. His theological precommitments are based on his interpretation of Heb 6. An application of one's scriptural/theological understanding to a hypothetical model (which in this case is extended to a friend that is briefly described by "Aleksandra") would be what everyone should be doing...Catholic, Jew, Jehovah Witness, Reformed, Arminian. Agree or disagree with Arminianism, I dont see the problem here.”

i) I’m not sure what you mean by a “hypothetical model.” This is not just a thought-experiment like the proverbial brain-in-the-vat. This is something that actually happens on a fairly regular basis. A man (or woman) is raised in the faith. At some point turns his back on the faith. At a later date, returns to the faith.

ii) More to the point, how do you think your statement avoids the charge of the NTS fallacy? Yes, his answer is conditioned by his theological precommitments. Even if you think they *derive* from his interpretation, rather than *drive* his interpretation, that’s irrelevant to the NTS fallacy.

I take it that Flew’s fallacy is a throwback to the verification principle. Remember his famous parable of the invisible gardener?

“But what remains of your original assertion? Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener or even from no gardener at all?…A fine brash hypothesis may thus be killed by inches, the death by a thousand qualifications…What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence, of God?”

I view the NTS fallacy as a variant on the verification principle. What real world evidence would ever count against Witherington’s Arminian interpretation?

How don’t see how Witherington’s explanation escapes that charge. The only way to disprove the fallacy is not to deny that it is valid, but to deny that it is sound. To challenge the criterion of falsifiability.

But if an Arminian does so, then so can a Calvinist.

iii)” He is not creating an exception with a different piece of scripture.”

Where did I say he was? Or are you claiming that the Calvinist is creating such an exception?

“It is a different thing to say that one's theology is dictating another piece of scripture somewhere else. If you want to show that, then the parallel would work, but you'd have to find another citation where the same special pleading is found.”

Same issue as above. How do my comments on Witherington depend on my having to find another citation where the same special pleading is present? How does the NTS fallacy hinge on that condition?

“Yeah, but my point was that the parallel doesn't really work.”

Why not? What have you said about Witherington that a Calvinist couldn’t say for himself?


Orthotroll, noun. (In Byzantine folklore), a diminutive cave-dweller with a decibel level out of proportion to its cranial capacity.

Orthotrolling, v.i. The physiological act of voice-raising by an Orthotroll. Comparable to shouting and yelling—only louder. (See definition under Elephant.)

—Oxford English Dictionary


“The very breadth of Metzger's credentials betrays his lack of depth. Yes, his breadth of reading and study is amazing, but his study doesn't go beyond the general consensus of his contemporaries.”

Even if that were true, it wouldn’t falsify his scholarship. Notice that Jimmy hasn’t shown that any of the material I quoted from Metzger (on the history of the Apocrypha) was in error. So this is just a smokescreen on Jimmy’s part.

Metzger documents a diversity of opinion, both in time and space, regarding the Orthodox canon.

BTW, he documents some of the same diversity respecting the Catholic canon. I quoted that as well.

“Even his text criticism shows a kind of mechanicalness. The reading he accepts at John 10:29 is quite absurd and not accepted by anyone else, but he takes it because of a rather mechanical methodology.”

Three problems:

i) Jimmy’s first objection is that Metzger’s scholarship doesn’t buck the consensus of opinion. Now, however, he faults Metzger for adopting a reading which is “not accepted by anyone else.”

So, by Jimmy’s rubber yardstick, we should reject Metzger out of hand because he’s too mainstream—and we should also reject Metzger out of hand because he’s too idiosyncratic.

ii) Jimmy merely asserts that this reading is “absurd.” He offers no supporting argument.

iii) Jimmy doesn’t document the claim that Metzger’s reading is “not accepted by anyone else.”

“It indicates a high probability that it was close to the LXX as we know it, since all sources we have for the LXX, early or late, include many of the extra books.”

i) All our major sources for the LXX are late. It’s just a choice between late, later, and latest.

ii)”Including extra books” doesn’t get Jimmy where he needs to go since some of the extra books which the codices include are books excluded in the Orthodox canon.

iii) Moreover, some of the extra books are Christian literature (Barnabas, Hermas, 1-2 Clement), which were obviously not among the books that pre-Christian Jews translated from the Hebrew OT. So extant copies of the LXX don’t correspond to the original canon of the LXX. Indeed, the inclusion of Christian literature is evidence of a highly anachronistic or eclectic edition.

“But then, I don't have to bother about the exact relationship between the 1C LXX and the later LXX, because I don't have to assume a-priori that the Church inherited an intact canon, instead of a process of recognizing the canon. Just as well too, since the Jews didn't leave us a list of books.”

i) In that event you cannot claim that the LXX represents the authentic OT canon, whereas the “Christ-hating” rabbis suppressed certain OT books which were originally included in the OT canon to obscure the Messianic prophecies contained therein.

ii) You would also have to resign the claim that the LXX represents the OT of Jesus and the Apostles if you now identify the LXX of the Orthodox church with a more expansive, post-apostolic edition.

“But the inconsistency of sources for the alleged Palestinian canon indicate it is ‘fluid’ too. So if I can't point to the LXX, you can't point to any of your sources either. And there ends any scholarly discussion.”

i) This rejoinder would only work, if at all, assuming you now concede that you can’t appeal to the LXX to establish the true canon of the OT. Is that your actual position?

ii) You’re also equivocating. A proper analogy would operate at the same level, viz. different editions of the LXX (or different codices containing the LXX) are comparable to different editions (or codices) of the Vulgate.

iii) The general phenomenon that different sources disagree about something doesn’t put an end to all scholarly discussion. It just means that we need to sift the sources in time, place, motive, &c.

“You do realise that almost all of Philo's quotes are from the Pentatuch, right? If you want to take what Philo quotes as the canon, you're going to have a very much abridged list of books. Philo is hardly a primary source for anything unless you want to do major surgery to your bible.”

i) Philo’s quotes aren’t limited to the Pentateuch. So it’s striking that a Hellenistic Jew doesn’t *ever* quote from the Apocrypha as Scripture if his edition of the LXX contained the Apocrypha.

ii) We single out Philo in this specific case given his identity as a Hellenistic Jew who would be conversant with any distinctive additions to the canon in the LXX—if, indeed, they were part of the LXX canon at that time and place.

iii) I’d add that Philo is a witness to the general contours of the OT canon (in discussing the canon of the Therapeutae). Read Beckwith.

“Of course one person who quotes extensively from the extra books is Josephus.”

You’re equivocating. Does Josephus quote them as *Scripture*?

“To claim that the extra books aren't part of the 22 book canon when there is no contemporary evidence of this, is to assume what you want to prove.”

I’m not assuming anything. Unlike you, I cite my sources of information, where scholars *argue* for their viewpoint.

“You want some examples of 1st C Jews citing the extra books as scripture? Simeon Shetah from the 1st C cites Sirach as scripture.”

i) That’s not responsive to my question. I asked:

“Are you referring to Talmudic sources? That would be a secondary source for what 1C rabbis supposedly believed. By contrast, Philo is a primary source.”

i) Do you have primary source data on particular rabbi? There’s nothing necessarily wrong with citing secondary sources, but if it’s a choice between primary source like Philo on the state of the LXX during the 1C, and a later, secondary source, then Philo takes precedence, barring further considerations.

ii) BTW, I assume the rabbi you’re apparently referring to wasn’t “Simeon Shetah [sic.]," but Simeon ben Shetach, not “Shetah [sic.],” and he wasn’t a 1C rabbi. Rather, he lived a century or so before the time of Christ.

iii) Finally, he was a Pharisee, was he not? But you automatically discount the testimony of a Pharisee as heretical.

“It is also found in the Qumran fragments.”

But the Qumran community distinguishes between Scripture and its in-house literature. Cf. R. Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus, 226.

“As well as at Masada. Later Amoraic rabbis also cite it as scripture.”

You need to be more specific about your sources.

“If you can extrapolate Philo's silence on the extra books, why can't I extrapolate this to the extra books?”

Because of the time differential, among other things.

“Origen wrote to Africanus that there were things in the Greek bible not found in the Hebrew and that the Church could not be expected to give them up. (this is found in Jerome's Commentary on Daniel). In his Epistle to Africanus 13 he said the Churches should use TObit and Judith even though the Jews he knows did not.”

So he was torn between his scholarship, on the one hand, and his deference to ecclesiastical custom, on the other hand. Ambivalent.

“Do you have an uninterpolated copy of the scriptures with no scribal errors? Nope, didn't think so. So ironically you have to ascribe inspiration to an interpolated text.”

Notice how this is unresponsive to what I actually said. I said:

“But, to judge by their reaction, Orthodox believers don’t care what Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles really said. They don’t care if they attribute inspiration to uninspired scribal errors or interpolations.”

You don’t even attempt to distinguish between the Urtext and scribal accretions. What is more, you’re prepared to affirm that a scribal interpolation like, say, the long ending of Mark, is inspired on the mere say-so of your traditions. If Orthodox tradition canonized the Frogs, by Aristophanes, you’d be fine with that.

That impious indifference to the word of God is not the least bit comparable to my own position. I attribute inspiration to the Urtext, and I attribute inspiration to a copy or critical edition insofar as it approximates the Urtext.

“How would you measure this 90%?”

You’re changing the subject, as usual. I don’t have to measure it. I’m posing a hypothetical. Healy, with your approval, dismisses the very idea that our editions of Scripture should approximate the Urtext as far as possible. So the question stands: how much deviation from the actual words of Christ, or Isaiah, or St. John, is acceptable to you?

If, in reporting a dominical speech, a MS got 9 out of 10 words wrong, would you care? If you and Healy don’t think that discrepancies between a copy and the actual words of Christ are relevant, then you apparently have no problem attributing to Christ the words of a scribe. Not merely in practice, but in principle. You just don’t care who really said it. Is that your position?

“SInce there are about 8000 verses in the NT, and between the Tregelles, Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort and Nestle-Aland texts there are more than 4000 differences, then on a verse by verse basis it would be 50% corrupt.”

Of course, that’s a stupid comparison. A 19C critical edition is not the standard by which we measure a 21C critical edition. And most differences are trivial.

But Healy’s stated position isn’t limited to trivial differences. He is repudiating the very attempt to approximate the Urtext.

“Anonymity is no obstruction to something being scripture and therefore inspired.”

Now you’re misquoting me. My clause contained a noun modified by two adjectives: “words of an *anonymous, uninspired scribe*.”

You’ve dropped the noun, as well as one adjective. Did I say that anonymity, per se, was an obstruction to inspiration? No.

Thanks for reminding my readers that an Orthodox believer can only defends his faith through dissimulation.

“If your faith is dependant on textual criticism, then your faith is built on an area of study where the best scholars can't agree.”

i) Like who? Bart Ehrman?

ii) Textual criticism is not an act of faith.

iii) I go by the evidence that God has chosen to preserve. That’s where faith comes in.

“Josephus? Ok I'll bite, where does Josephus say Esther is canonical?”

Consider his use of Esther in the Antiquities.

“Aquila left nothing more than a translation, right? But didn't you say that the content of the LXX can't indicate its canonicity? So how would the content of another translation indicate its canonicity? Hypocrisy!”

Are you dishonest or merely obtuse? Did I ever say we can’t use the LXX as a witness to the OT canon because it’s a translation? No.

Rather, I said we can’t use it to attest the OT canon because we have various lines of evidence indicating that extant copies of the LXX don’t correspond to the original canon of the LXX.

“And since all we have of Aquila is a few scraps of Kings and Psalms, what is your citation that he even included Esther?”

Try Beckwith (p277).

“Now what about all the other lists of 22 books that exclude Esther? Athanasius, Synopsis Scripturae Sacrae, Gregory of Nazianzus, Melito of Sardis, Jerome, Rufinus and Rab Judah? Who told you they are wrong? You ARE willing to go with what evidence you have, right?? Or are you just bluffing?”

Jason has already pointed out some of the errors in your litany. To mention a few more problems:

i) Why are you citing Greek Fathers (Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzus) on the exclusion of Esther from the canon? Does the Orthodox canon exclude Esther from the canon? No. You’re shooting yourself in the foot when you cite Greek Fathers who contradict Greek Orthodox tradition.

ii) I don’t simply quote sources. Rather, I sift sources.

Intelligent truth-seekers draw some elementary distinctions in evaluating sources that attest the OT canon.

In general, Jewish sources (e.g. Philo; Josephus) are better than Gentile sources.

Gentile sources in direct contact with Jewish sources (e.g. Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome) are better than Gentile sources which are ignorant of Jewish sources.

Christian churches or church fathers native to Palestine (e.g. Justin, Melito, Cyril of Jerusalem, Syria) are better positioned to speak to the issue than Christian churches or church fathers outside Palestine.

Some historical sources enjoy more prima facie value that others, based on chronological and/or geographical proximity. But it’s possible for this presumption to be overcome by other extenuating factors.

iii) In addition, as I’ve said on multiple occasions, external evidence is not the only form of canonical attestation. There is also the intertextuality of Scripture.

“Since Esther is dated to around 4 centuries BC, what evidence that is historically relevant are we going to find four or five centuries later anyway? What's the difference between half a millennium and a full millennium? Neither one attests to any further inside historical knowledge of the who, when or where of the book.”

i) If you want to respond that way, fine. You originally appealed to “further centuries” of ecclesiastical reflection. If you now admit that an interval of 400-500 years is too long for tradition to preserve a reliable memory of events, then, of course, you torpedo any appeal to ecclesiastical tradition, since that is far more attenuated.

ii) I’d add, however, that the very nature of textual transmission by the scroll is highly resistant to inserting a new book in-between a preexisting literary sequence—unlike the codex or loose-leaf form. That’s totally disruptive to the process of transmission. And the Jews used scrolls.

“If true, your certainty can only be less than that of the Orthodox church, since your basis is on a mere subset of Orthodoxy's 2000 year insight.”

i) 2000 years of “insight” is irrelevant to historical attestation.

ii) And you can’t appeal to Orthodox tradition if you’re going to dismiss Jewish tradition out of hand.

“You assume that 1C Jews are a monolithic block, which they certainly weren't.”

Care to quote me on that?

“The issue is not Jews being untrustworthy, the issue is that those outside the true people of God are untrustworthy in theological issues.”

What evidence do you have that the Jewish translators of the LXX belonged to the “true people of God”? Do you think that all Intertestamental Jews belonged to the “true people of God”?

“No you can't. I could just as much say his canon includes the extra books since he cites them so much.”

Once again, you’re equivocating and prevaricating. How does he cite them? As Scripture?

“Is your argument so convoluted and complex that you can't tell us? You make the statement, you back it up. Don't run scaredy cat back to some scholars.”

This anti-intellectual response to the work of reputable scholars betrays the desperation of your own position.

“Many of the same scholars who debunk the Alexandrian canon based on the silence of history also abandon the Palestinian canon as a settled canon based on the exact same silence.”

Only one thing missing from your assertion: names, titles, and pages.

“Since he almost exclusively quotes the Pentatuch, we wouldn't expect this.”

See above.

“Your care for Philo is selective since you don't care about everyone else who disagrees with you.”

i) It’s “selective” for the obvious reason that sources vary in their area of expertise. Philo would be an authority on the Alexandrian canon—if it existed in his day and age.

I’m also “selective” in going to a dentist rather than an automechanic to have an orthodontic checkup. And I’m just as selective about going to an automechanic rather than a dentist to have a vehicular checkup.

ii) Since “every one else” doesn’t disagree with me, your statement is an exercise in hyperbolic nullity.

“Recent scholarship since 1990 has sought to move scholarly perceptions forward by demonstrating that Josephus was not a Pharisee (Cf. Steve Mason, Todd Beall, and Ernst Gerlach).”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is correct, then you can’t dismiss the testimony of Josephus on the grounds that he belonged to the “heretical” sect of the Pharisees.


“I don't need to disprove unsubstantiated repetition of protestant mythology about the canon.”

If you’re going to resort to a bigoted, knee-jerk dismissal of Protestant scholarship merely because it’s Protestant, then don’t bother getting into a debate with a Protestant like me (or Gene or Jason).

It’s obviously a waste of my time to respond to someone who is going to disregard everything I say merely because it comes from the lips of a Protestant.

“Mechanical application of consensus methodology IS idiosyncratic.”

That’s rank special pleading on your part.

“You want me to document a negative?”

Since you made a universal claim, then the onus is on you to cough up supporting evidence commensurate with your claim.

“Just look at every bible translation based on NA27, only one follows NA27 and that is Metzger's own NRSV.”

i) Even if that were true, it would contradict your claim that Metzger is a creature of consensus.

ii) Bible versions are produced by translation committees, not individuals.

“Not at all. We know from Church Father quotes what was in it.”

But you’ve said tha we can’t determine the scope of the canon by “quotes.” We need “lists.” So which church fathers “list” the books of the LXX? And what are the dates for the church fathers who do so?

“I never claimed that the LXX was a settled list. What I said was that the LXX always contained an expanded list relative to the protestant canon.”

Which doesn’t get you where you need to go if the “expanded list” is listing “extra books” which the Orthodox canon excludes.

“There is no ‘original canon of the LXX’. The content was fluid, but always larger than protestantism's list.”

i) So you deny the account of Aristeas, according to which there was an original LXX. That’s fine with me, but your denial undermines the claims of the Orthodox church.

ii) You continue to equivocate over “fluid content.” The fact that a codex may have “extra books” doesn’t suggest that its “extra books” were canonical books. So you can’t infer the canon from a codex. Yet a codex is your primary witness to the LXX.

“I never said anyone ‘suppressed’ certain books. That's certainly a possibility but since the list was fluid, it is unnecessary to claim that.”

Fine. Then we both agree with Jay Dyer’s argument for the priority of the LXX is fallacious.

“I don't have to state a position to point out the hypocrisy in your position.”

The fact that you’re so reluctant to state your own position betrays the fact that your own position is indefensible.

“An LXX list IS comparable to a list by an ancient personality.”

You don’t have an LXX list. What you have are different codices with different books. So that would be comparable to conflicting lists (by your own analogy).

[I said] The general phenomenon that different sources disagree about something doesn’t put an end to all scholarly discussion. It just means that we need to sift the sources in time, place, motive, &c.

“Well great, so you have no complaints then about the alleged differences in Orthodox canon lists.”

i) Of course, that doesn’t follow from what I said. It means, as I said before, that we would have to sift the sources…

ii) Moreover, my criteria are not the same as yours. You make authoritarian claims about your church. But if your church can’t even agree on the books of the Bible, then that undercuts your authoritarian ecclesiology. Jason has made this point repeatedly.

“You assume what you wish to prove by drawing a line between your canon and the apocrypha in Philo, when there are many books in your canon he also doesn't quote.”

i) I’ve already explained this to you more than once. As the leading Hellenistic scholar of his generation, Philo would be an expert witness to existence and content of the Alexandrian canon if there were one.

ii) I never said that external attestation was my sole criterion for the canon. Indeed, I’ve frequently said that it’s not.

a) For example, intertextuality is another criterion.

b) Moreover, Wisdom is a pious fraud. That’s sufficient to disqualify it from inclusion in the canon.

You constantly oversimplify my position (and oversimplify Jason’s) because you can’t deal with our actual position.

“Philo DOES quote the apocrypha. Philo quotes from Ben Sira and Wisdom of Solomon. (Julio C_Trebolle Barrera) The Canon Debate, Lee Martin McDonald).”

Sure about that? Winston, in the standard commentary on Wisdom, thinks that Wisdom is literarily dependent on Philo, not vice versa (p59). Of course, you can take issue with Winston’s dating scheme, but this illustrates one of the complex variables in finding early attestation for the Apocrypha. Depending on when we date various books of the Apocrypha, it may actually post-date the witness to its allegedly prior existence.

“Well if they're scripture then they're quoted as scripture, right?”

“If they’re scripture…” Care to redeem the conditional?

“Do you mean does he say ‘Scripture says XYZ’, my question is how many of your sources for the alleged Jewish canon and who quotes what, limit those quotes to ‘scripture says’?”

That’s not the only way to establish the boundaries. If, say, Josephus cites a cut-off date (the Intertestamental period) for OT Scripture, then that would automatically disqualify the Apocrypha as “scripture.”

“Name dropping scholars is not an argument. What are you here as the marketing department for protestant scholars? Annunciate an argument yourself.”

i) Since I’m not the angel Gabriel, the Annunciation isn’t my department.

ii) You need to acquaint yourself with the other side of the argument. That’s one reason I cite scholars like Beckwith. It’s incumbent on you to actually know an argument before you refute it. You use ignorance as a shield.

“How is name dropping ‘Philo’ more of a primary source than my mentioning Simeon Shetah?”

Because we have Philo in his own words.

“I stand corrected, he was 1C BC.”

This happens quite often with you. Jason has had to correct you on several occasions. You don’t care about the facts because you begin with your fideistic dogma.

“Remembering of course that you claim to go with the most ancient witness, when are you adding Sirach to your canon?”

i) Once again, that’s a deliberate caricature of my position. As I carefully explained, there’s a presumption that an earlier witness is more reliable than a later witness, but that’s a prima facie assumption which can be overcome by countervailing evidence.

ii) You are also glossing over the distinction between primary and secondary sources. If, say, our information about Shetach comes from the Talmud, then that’s a late, secondary witness to an earlier witness allegedly said.

Gene, Jason, and I have to waste a lot of time untangling your combination of ignorance and misrepresentation.

“Remember, I don't have to give a rip what someone in antiquity said when I have a living church.”

Wonderful. In that case we can safely discount every church father and every ecumenical council.

“Oh, so we're back to name dropping scholars because you can't put together your own argument?”

You continue to raise these anti-intellectual objections.

“I can do that too. Lee M McDonald, The Formation of the Christian biblical canon P 72 says that contrary to what some scholars have proposed, Qumran had an expanded canon, and there is no reason to suppose it was the shortened canon of later Judaism.”

Regarding McDonald:

i) Part of good scholarship is to sift scholars. McDonald is not in the same scholarly league as Beckwith or Bruce or Metzger or Bauckham. He doesn’t demonstrate the same command of the primary sources. Instead, he spends a lot of time commenting on other scholars.

ii) His book is a popular introduction to the canon. It doesn’t go into the same detailed analysis as Beckwith on the OT or Metzger on the NT.

iii) He’s a liberal. And his liberal views on pseudonymity inevitably color his outlook on the canon. For, if you draw no distinction between Scripture and pseudepigrapha, then you do, indeed, end up with an open canon. But I reject his liberal presuppositions.

[You said] “As well as at Masada. Later Amoraic rabbis also cite it as scripture.”

[I said] You need to be more specific about your sources.

[You said] “See McDonald, ibid.”

Well, McDonald dates the Amoraim to the 3C AD and later. So they are obviously in a less advantageous position to tell us the scope of the 1C canon used by Jesus and the Apostles than Philo or Josephus.

“Does your bible in front of you have scribal accretions? If so why don't you ‘distinuish’ them out of there?”

A stupid objection, since that’s the whole point of textual criticism—a discipline I affirm.

“As opposed to... what? Yes, the say so of our traditions which beats your own personal theories and flights of fancy. You've given us no reason to believe that the long ending of Mark, if it isn't by Mark (which is disputed), would be no less inspired than other anonymous books like Hebrews.”

A fallacious comparison since Mark is not anonymous.

“Remembering of course that Urtext doesn't mean the autograph, it simply means the earliest text that you can find.”

No, that’s not what the Urtext means. “Urtext is the putative original form of the text of the Bible as defined on p177,” E. Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

“What difference does it make since I don't have Christ's original words, but rather the copies which you describe as interpolated? I'll take what's available thankyou.”

i) It makes a difference if you bother to distinguish between an accurate copy and an inaccurate copy.

ii) And you’re not taking “what’s available,” for more than one textual tradition is available.

“Apparently. Like 2000 years of Christians, and 4000 years of God's people.”

i) The Orthodox church doesn’t have a monopoly on either the Jews or the Christians.

ii) The OT was very concerned to distinguish between the Word of God and, say, the word of a false prophet. So, yes, we should be concerned with making an accurate attribution when we ascribe words to Yahweh or Jesus the prophets and apostles.

The Massoretes also went to great lengths to avoid scribal error. So concern for the Urtext is not a modern novelty.

“1) There's no 21C critical edition.”

You keep making ignorant, easily refutable statements:

“2) If it changes every century, that hardly helps your case.”

Why not? If a later edition is more accurate than an earlier edition.

“3) The Nestle 1-25 text is a 20th century text based on WH and Tischendorf. __4) The span in time between NA-1 and NA26 is closer to 50 years than hundreds of years.”

Now you’re back to special pleading. You were the one who established a time-frame using 19C critics like Tischendorf and WH at one end of the chronological spectrum.

And while we’re at it, let’s back up to your original statement:

“How would you measure this 90%? SInce there are about 8000 verses in the NT, and between the Tregelles, Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort and Nestle-Aland texts there are more than 4000 differences, then on a verse by verse basis it would be 50% corrupt. And the difficulties of the NT are small compared to the OT.”

Let’s compare that with a statement from another source.


The mistake is even greater when the interpretation of the Bible depends upon the translations instead of the original Hebrew, and especially the New Testament Greek text. The fact that there are variations of the translations of the Bible indicates most clearly the need for a common edition of the Greek New Testament on which other translations will depend.

A comparison of the text of this edition with that of the edition of the official New Testament text of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople shows approximately 2,000 variations. But most of them do not change the meaning of the New Testament. All the variations between these two texts are found in the apparatus of the critical edition of 1966, issued by the five Bible Societies. The text of the Patriarchate was prepared by a commission in 1904, which also has approximately 2,000 variations compared to the Common Edition, Textus Receptus, prepared much earlier. Despite these efforts there is still no one common edition of the New Testament Greek accepted by all. It must be recognized, though, that the edition issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople depended mainly upon the passages and verses designated by the Church to be read during the celebrations on Sundays and feast days, For this reason these passages were kept intact with fewer changes. It is evident that greater efforts involving all the Christian churches must be made to arrive at one common edition in the original language recognized by all Christians. This effort will be a step in unifying the Christian Church as Christ meant it to be One Body, Undivided.


So, by your own yardstick, the Greek Orthodox church is using a corrupt edition of the Bible.

“Of course, you can document the source of all these words, who wrote them and their inspired status, right?”

You continue to raise obtuse objections. I didn’t object to anonymous, uninspired scribes. Rather, I object to treating a scribal interpolation as if it’s the inspired word of an apostle or prophet of God.

Your blind hostility towards the discipline of textual criticism is even at odds with modern Orthodoxy:


A critical examination of the text of the original Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible is indispensable, for through the centuries many words were added or omitted. This was especially so before the printing press, and there was only manual copying on rough lamb skin and papyrus. The scholarly study of the original languages is valuable aid in correcting the mistakes and reestablishing intact the original texts from which the translations should be made. The prime purpose of such a valuable work is not only to make the Bible free from any and all changes and mistakes, but even more to make the original context and meaning available for translations in many languages for reading by all Christians.

The Greek text of the New Testament used for the King James Version was that of Beza in 1589. Beza had two Greek manuscripts of great value of the fifth and sixth centuries, but he did not use them, because they were different from the Greek text made by Erasmus (1516-1535). The manuscripts used by Erasmus were from the tenth century on, and he made little use of them. The discovery of many ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, especially after 1931, provided the committee of scholars with important new sources, including the information which recent discoveries have provided for a better understanding of the vocabulary and idioms of the Greek New Testament language.


“I thought you weren't happy with what is preserved and have to go and manufacture an Urtext? Make up your mind, is the text the scribes preserved ok or not?”

Yet another stupid objection. Jimmy never makes an attempt to offer a rational response. His only reaction is grab onto anything within reach, however illogical or erroneous, to cast at the Protestant canon.

He’s like a scared little dog that turns nippy and yippy when it feels afraid. We see his little white teeth and hear his pipsqueak yelp—like a mouse in a lion suit.

At the risk of stating the obvious, some scribes are more accurate than others. Some MSS are more accurate than others. The purpose of textual criticism is to sift through the MSS by applying various criteria.

[He said] “Josephus? Ok I'll bite, where does Josephus say Esther is canonical?”

[I said] Consider his use of Esther in the Antiquities.

[He said] “LOL, that's not an argument. Why don't YOU consider his use of the deuteros in the Antiquities?”

i) Notice that Jimmy is changing the subject. He asked me a question. I gave him an answer which was responsive to his question. And his reaction is to change the subject from Josephus’ use of Esther to his “use of the deuteros.”

ii) He also tosses this out as another question for me to answer. But if Jimmy thinks that Josephus’ “use of the deuteros” is a counterexample, then he needs to cite the counterexamples.

iii) And we already know from Josephus’ cut-off date for the OT canon what he would think of the “deuteros.”

“The issue is not some phantom ‘original canon’, the issue is the canon(s) of the LXX in use in the 1st C. So you remain hypocritical.”

Yet another one of Jimmy’s inexhaustible supply of inane objections. The Orthodox argument for the Orthodox canon is that Jesus and the Apostles used the LXX canon—which corresponds to the Orthodox canon of the OT.

If, however, we have multiple lines of evidence to the contrary, then that undermines the Orthodox argument on its own grounds. It’s hardly “hypocritical” of me to present an internal critique of the Orthodox argument.

“Bzzt. Beckwith is not a 1st century character.”

Bzzt. Most of the ante-Nicene, Nicene, and post-Nicene fathers aren’t 1C characters either.

No, a 20C scholar is not a 1c character. Rather, he cites primary sources from the past and subjects them to historical analysis.

“ If you can't state an argument for yourself, clearly it is bogus.”

This is Jimmy’s lame excuse for not bothering to bone up on the other side of the argument.

“Because I don't have to conform to some arbitrary cut off date for recognizing the canon like you do.”

So you don’t have a Bible. You’re canon is wide-open.

“Again, you haven't proven that the Church didn't inherit a canon recognizing process rather than an intact canon.”

Actually, I have, but in any event, that’s beside the point. The Orthodox argument for the Alexandrian canon is that this was the canon used by Jesus and the Apostles.

If you’re going to shift gears to “a canon-recognizing process rather than in intact canon,” then that’s a backdoor admission that you lost the original argument.

“Thus there is no reason to suppose a Jewish source is better than a Christian source. “

Of course there is. The OT was written by Jews and to Jews. So, yes, they’re the first folks we’d logical consult regarding the confines of the OT canon.

“And in fact there are plenty of reasons not to, namely their lack of discernment in rejecting Christ.”

There’s no reason to think the Jews who translated the LXX were any more or less devout or discerning than their 1C counterparts.

This is your dilemma. You have to rely on the Jews for the LXX, but they suddenly become unreliable on the OT canon.

“Their unknown status in terms of their representation of their contemporaries”

That’s a contentious claim which you need to justify.

“And the lack of the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

i) To judge by my experience with Orthodox epologists, as well as the modernism on display at places like St. Vladimir’s, I wouldn’t say that the spiritual discernment of Orthodox believers is anything to brag about.

ii) And it’s not as if the Orthodox hold the patent on spiritual discernment. Evangelicals could make the same appeal.

“Again, assuming what you have to prove in that we're given no reason to assume that Jews in Palestine are more likely to have a correct canon than those elsewhere.”

The Bible was written in Hebrew, not Greek. The Second Temple was, among other things, the official library and repository for the OT scrolls. That was the yardstick for Diaspora Jewry.

There’s a reason why a Diaspora Jew like Paul studied in Jerusalem. Even as a Christian, he cited his Jewish credentials as a student of Palestinian Judaism.

“No, I'm saying that what is preserved after 500 years is no more or less than is preserved after 1000 years. If you want to say something was lost after 500, it's up to you to prove it.”

Something can’t be lost unless it existed in the first place. So you’d have to prove that the LXX, in its present form, existed for the first 500 years, give or take.

“No, the scroll system is far less resistant to adding books, because all you do is throw another cylinder in the box. The codex being bound as one resists adding books.”

Only if you assume a one-to-one correspondence—one book per scroll. Out of ignorance, you’re overlooking the practice of combining books on a single scroll, so that a single scroll might contain a *set* of books (e.g. the Pentateuch, Hagiographa, Minor Prophets)—depending on the size of the book, the size of the scroll, and the size of the print. That practice both presupposes and reinforces a literary sequence by grouping particular books together.

While you can add or subtract a book from a loose-leaf codex, you can’t do that with an anthological scroll. You’d have to rewrite the whole scroll to insert a new book into the standardize sequence.

“I don't appeal to all traditions, only those of the true people of God.”

You have made no attempt to identify or verify the “true people of God.”

[I said] What evidence do you have that the Jewish translators of the LXX belonged to the “true people of God”? Do you think that all Intertestamental Jews belonged to the “true people of God”?

“I don't have to know or care. I have a true people of God TODAY.”

Aside from begging the question (why should we believe that you belong to the true people of God?), you’re cutting your own throat. If you’re going to dismiss Jewish testimony to the OT canon—because they don’t belong to the “true people of God”—then you can’t rely on a Jewish translation of the OT (=the LXX) if that work was done by individuals who did not belong to the “true people of God.”

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that you yourself, further down the line, belong to the “true people of God today,” yet if there’s a break in the continuum (of the true people of God), between “now” and then, you can’t rely a translation (the LXX) which falls on the wrong side of the break. The waters aren’t any purer downstream than upstream.

“Why don't you just set this up as an Amazon associates book store, and stop wasting everybody's time?”

You’re a first-class twit. No one invited you to come here. You’re here at our indulgence. This is our blog, not yours.

I’m wasting *your* time? No, you’re wasting *my* time.

“No, I reject him because he belongs to an unknown heretical sect.”

If it’s an “unknown” sect, then how would you be in any position to know it’s heretical?

Once again, you’re not even attempting to be rational—assuming that you ever had that capacity in the first place.

I’ll skip over your tendentious and equivocal summary since I’ve already refuted your latest claims.

You’re like the characters of Lucy and Pigpen in Peanuts. When we answer you on your own grounds, you pull the football away at the last minute. And you kick up a dust cloud wherever you go.

You’ve outstayed your welcome. Time for you to go bye-ku.