Saturday, September 27, 2008

Victor Reppert: every baby-butcher's best friend

Victor Reppert, tireless shill for the liberal establishment and the Democrat party, continues to live up to his well-earned reputation and a political flack and philosophical hack:

Let’s look at some of the highlights—or should I say, lowlights?—of his latest post:

It also abrogated the rights of parents.

Let’s see: whose parents are we talking about, exactly? In context, this would have reference to the parents who tried to abort their own child!

Yes, Victor, conservatives do believe in removing the children from the custody of murderous parents.

In other words, there appear to have been various reasons for voting against this legislation besides wanting the accidental survivors of abortion dead.

Notice that Reppert doesn’t even attempt to establish that this was Obama’s reason for opposing the bill.

That assumes that we can naively assume that a bill does what its title says that it does. That's absurd, as No Child Left Behind demonstratively proves.

That’s really rich coming from an intellectual day-tripper like Reppert. Here’s a little experiment: just compare Reppert’s flyby piece with Jeremy Pierce’s painstaking analysis of Obama’s record on abortion, then ask yourself: which writer did the real spadework?

One final point: although abortion is a very big issue, the stakes are even higher than abortion alone. Abortion is just one element of a eugenic agenda that encompasses abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, stem-cell research, organ-farms, &c.

If Reppert were a real Christian and a real philosopher, instead of a goose-stepping apparatchik for the liberal establishment, he would appreciate the moral dimensions of this debate. Perhaps we should start calling him the Red Philosopher, in honor of his Marxist philosophy—as well as all the innocent blood on his hands.

McLaughlin on sexual ethics

Ra McLaughlin endeavors to draw lines where Scripture draws lines on matters pertaining to sexual ethics: contraception; emotional adultery; making out; masturbation; oral sex; sexual fantasy; and voyeurism.

Readers might be interested in checking out ThirdMill's Reformed Answers for other related Q&As as well (e.g. divorce and remarriage; mate or mission; unequally yoked; warm fuzzies).

However, if that's not quite your speed, here's something which might be -- "The Don't Song." After all, who better than Johnny and Chachi to offer advice to husbands on what not to say or do when it comes to their wives? Herein is wisdom!


The End of Hector Avalos

John Merrill reviews Hector Avalos' The End of Biblical Studies.

Who won?

Some pundits will say Obama won last night’s debate because he “held his own” against McCain. That depends on what you mean.

Watching the first presidential debate was like watching one of those UFC bouts in which the main objective of one fighter is not to beat his opponent, but to remain standing after five rounds by avoiding his opponent as much as possible.

Obama got off a few well-placed jabs, but for the most part his objective was to stay clear of McCain. Don’t get hit too many times or taken down. If you defining winning by the fact that he survived for five rounds, then he won.

Like most savvy politicians, Obama has mastered the art of deflecting questions rather than answering questions.

McCain missed many opportunities while Obama talked a lot of nonsense. Neither candidate sounded like he has a clue about economics.

For potential voters who haven’t zeroed in on the campaign until now, McCain may have done himself some good. He’s an old man, and there are concerns that he’s over-the-hill. Last night he demonstrated his mastery of national security issues. Obama is a rookie—and it shows.

McCain sounds like a Command-in-Chief while Obama sounds like a man who plays one on TV.

Since Obama was ahead in the polls coming into the debate, he had a lower threshold for success. He needed to maintain his advantage. Do no harm.

Whether McCain did well enough to offset that advantage remains to be seen. It’s possible that, with the Palin factor, the Vice Presidential debates will be more influential than usual.

Why Vallicella calls himself a conservative

Why Bill Vallicella calls himself a conservative.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bellicosio Canonics

I realize Turretinfan is engaged in an ongoing debate with Matthew Bellisario, and commentary from the audience is restricted to the end - on the debate blog - but this just begs for an immediate response:

Fist of all Tradition does not produce any new content in regards to the Word of God. So there is no need to even entertain that part of your question.

That depends on your POV. Dogmatically, see Mary, Assumption of...there is no biblical evidence for this dogma. It comes exclusively from "tradition." Ergo, tradition does, as a matter of dogma, produce new content in regards to the Word of God. Is the documentation for this tradition written or oral? If written, why isn't it Scripture?

If you mean with respect to the canon of Scripture, rather than answering the question, Mr. Bellisario simply assumes what he needs to prove, viz. by saying:

I don't know how you have determined that from my writings up to this point. The Church faithfully gives us the complete Word of God in the means and methods that God chose to use, which includes Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Church.
If the Church gives you the complete canon of Scripture, yet you believe dogmas not found in Scripture, indeed which come only from Sacred Tradition, then they can't be found in the canon of Scripture. Ergo, they are not part of the canon of Scripture. So now one has to answer why these teachings are not canonized, especially if they are truly of Apostolic origin.

As far as the Council of Trent goes, it merely represented the universal teaching of the Church on the Biblical Canon up to that point, but declaring it infallibly. You bring up the Latin translation which has nothing to do with Biblical Canon, so I do not understand your attempt to besmirch it here in your argument.

Here is what TF had stated:

On the other hand, the canon appears to pose some interesting problems for your counterplan of papist tradition. Although your rebuttal claims, “The universal Church guided by the Holy Spirit has determined the Canon as well as the full Revelation of God,” you must be aware of the fact that there are several glaring problems with you claim. After all, there is some kind of definition of the Canon provided by Trent, but Trent at the same time endorsed as “authentic” the “old Latin Vulgate” of the day – a version riddled with errors.

I guess we should spell this out for Mr. Bellisario, following his own argumentation:

1. You have claimed that the canon was determined infallibily by Trent.

2. Trent also says:
But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.
3. In your answer, which simply repeats your previous assertions, have also claimed that Trent is declaring what the Church has always believed. Fair enough.

4. But the Vulgate contains errors. This is no great secret.

5. So, what TF is asking you, implicitly, is how you can acknowledge the decree concerning the canon's content on the one hand yet deny the Vulgate on the other. In addition, your appeal to Trent, following the plain meaning of the language, implicates the Roman Catholic church in infallibly declaring that a particular text, a text which contains errors, is the only authentic version of the Bible - not the autographa, rather it's the Latin the Vulgate and, therefore, its errors. This is the Roman Catholic version of King James Onlyism.

6. You have also claimed this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

7. Therefore, TF's opponent believes the Spirit of God worked to guide the Roman Church into validating an error laden text as the only authentic text, and that infallibly. So, the only correct version of the Bible is the Vulgate. It contains errors, so it cannot be said to be inerrant. Yet the decision of Trent is said to be infallible and the work of God.

Think about that. As TF stated:
The promulgation of the Nova Vulgata by John Paul II seems to confirm the fact that the Old Latin Vulgate, endorsed by Trent as authentic, was not actually as good as the Latin could get. Even the Nova Vulgata has problems that should be addressed, and the sorry tale of the Clementine Vulgate just demonstrates the great futility of Rome attempting to define the content of Scripture at any detailed level.
Trent infallibly defined the Canon and agreed with the Church, her writings and her councils up to that point.

1. Trent's canon is at variance with the writings of a number of the writings of the Church, including those of none other than Gregory the Great and Cardinal Cajetan and others (see below). Are we to believe that they did not know and believe in the correct canon of Scripture?
2. How did the Church muddle along without Trent?
3. How can one hold the Reformers be held responsible for rejecting books that ecumenical councils had not agreed upon up to that point?

The Councils of Hippo 393, and Carthage 397 and 419 for example justified and authorized the Deuterocanonicals for use as Sacred Scripture.
None of which were ecumenical. They express the opinion of a region, not the opinion of the whole church. Mr. Bellisario has moved from the church universal to the church regional. In addition, Carthage disagrees with Trent.

He continues:
Even the Protestant scholar Bruce Metzger admits that the early Christians regarded the Deuterocanonicals as being Scripture.

Metzger (2001) points out in his notes from the RSV the following:

"During the early Christian centuries most Greek and Latin Church Fathers, such as Irenaeus, Tertulian, Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, and Cyprian (none of whom knew any Hebrew), quoted passages from the Apocrypha as "Scripture," "divine Scripture," "inspired," and the like. In this period only an occasional Father made an effort to learn the limits of the Palestinian Jewish canon (as Melito of Sardis), or to distinguish between the Hebrew text of Daniel and the addition of the story of Susanna in the Greek version (as Africanus)."

Note the bait and switch...the argument over the canon has now moved from the content of the canon itself to what is and is not "Scripture." Yet Scripture is a broader category than "canon." Further, the category of the DC does not select for any particular list.

Mr. Bellisario is appealing to Metzger. Okay, let's go to Metzger:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As a result, there appears to be no unanimity on this subject of the canon in the Greek Orthodox Church today. Catechisms directly at variance with each other on this subject have received the Imprimatur of Greek Ecclesiastical authorities, and the Greek clergy may hold and teach what they please about it,” ibid. 195.
Mr. Bellisario continues:
In fact all of the ancient churches are unanimous with the acceptance of the Deuterocanonical books, which you haphazardly reject.
Not all of them agree with you either, and, further, we do not "haphazardly" reject the DC's. We do so on a principled basis. For example, our theory of inspiration does not extend to pious frauds. It does you no favors in a debate to make such statements.

And, by the way, readers should know that the actual question from TF was (emphasis mine):

But even setting aside the issue of the detailed level of the canon (and – after all – the difference between the Tridentine canon and the Reformed canon is not very large), and further setting aside the issue of how on earth the New Testament church would have any kind of authority over the already-existing canon of the Old Testament, there is the problem of the canon of oral tradition (the previously discussed category of HMDT) and living authoritative interpretation (the previously discussed category of IAT).

If difficulty in identifying the canon is supposed to be a problem for those who follow Sola Scriptura as defined by the WCF, it would seem that if no canon of HMDT and IAT can be found then a doubly-large problem exists for your counterplan.

Indeed, that is the question I hereby pose to you: where is the counterplan’s canon, not simply the canon of Scripture, but the canons of the HMDT (which one would presume is a fixed quantity) and the IAT (to date, since, apparently in your view IAT can produce new content that is also the “Word of God”)?

So, here's my question to the readers of this blog. Was this ever actually answered? Is simply saying, "The Church faithfully gives us the complete Word of God in the means and methods that God chose to use, which includes Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Church," an answer?

Reviving a lost cause


Wow! Thats a white guilt trip if I have ever heard one.

In relation to whom? To contemporary white Americans? No.

But some white Southerners like Thornwell and Dabney were guilty of defending an unjust system.

Funny....I always thought Dabney gave arguments in support of slavery, Southern or not, based on biblical exegesis.

Why did you always think that? In his Defense of Virginia he also deploys ethical (chap. 7) and economic (chap. 8) arguments.

Now, whether that exegesis was correct is an entirely different debate altogether. However, your statement implies Dabney is a fraud and intentionally disguised theological argumentation for a white supremacy agenda.

He was self-deluded.

It seems to me that if someone wants to argue against Dabney's defense of slavery, he/she would have to argue against the Bible's condoning it as an economic system, or at the very least argue aganist Dabney's exegesis.

I’m discussing his motives.

So then, are you saying that the only reason Dabney chose to defend slavery with Bilical arguments is because he is White?

Because he was a white Southerner who came of age during the antebellum period.

This seems to be fallicious.

I’m discussing psychology, not logicality.

Ethnicity often has quite a lot to do with one’s beliefs, viz. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Nazis.

I mean, how many Korean Nazis are there?

Am I citing social conditioning to disprove the position in question? No. But it’s obvious that race and ethnicity often select for certain beliefs.

And unless you believe that Dabney’s exegetical defense of Southern slavery was sound, you yourself have to explain why a brilliant man like Dabney would use fallacious arguments to defend his position. Why did he fail recognize his the fallacious nature of his reasoning?

Disproving his position is not one of my priorities. For purposes of my post, I took for granted that Thornwell and Dabney were wrong. I’m quite capable of demonstrating that point, but why should I? Are you defending Southern slavery?

Is it okay to defend predestination because you are a Calvinist, or do you defend it because you are white? No,it is in the Bible and your practicing of the Reformed faith is right. Therefore, Dabney's Biblical Southern worldview(and all that implies)is as debateable as your Calvinist worldview, and neither have a thing to do with race.

Speaking of fallacies, your argument from analogy is a textbook fallacy. Calvinism doesn’t say that one race is superior to another. Therefore, there is no incentive for any particular race to believe in Calvinism on racial grounds.

Where Southern slavery is concerned, racial motivations are central. One race enslaving another. One race enslaving another on the putative ground that one race is superior to another.

I find it odd that you praise the ingenious of their argumentation, but then dismiss its brilliance by implying that they only made those arguments because they were white and spiritually blind to their sin of slavery.

If the tables were turned and Southern blacks were enslaving Southern whites like you, I suspect that you would experience a sudden epiphany on the issue.

Maybe they made the argument because they had biblical grounds to do so, and felt compelled to explain their side of the story to their offspring brfore Yankee myth-makers had there way with text books.

Assuming they had biblical grounds to do so. Is that your position?

If not, then we have to explain why brilliant men like Thornwell and Dabney were using fallacious arguments to justify their position. What was the impediment that disabled their critical judgment at this juncture?

As for my sources,” let Thornwell and Dabney speak for themselves:

“We are not alarmists, but Slavery is implicated in every fibre of Southern society; it is with us a vital question…” The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell, 4:396.

Is that a “biblical” argument?

“If it appear that the Africans in these States were by recent descent pagans and barbarians, men in bodily strength and appetite, wit the reason and morals of children, constitutionally prone to improvidence, so that their possession of all the franchises of a free white citizen would make them a nuisance to society and early victims to their own degradation…His inferior character, ignorance, and moral irresponsibility, have extinguished his right to do them,” R. Dabney, A Defense of Virginia, 258,260.

Is that a “biblical” argument?

Or do you classify Thornwell and Dabney as “Yankee mythmakers”?

Come on Steve...tell me we just don't write people off because they love their race.

As a Christian, I don’t think that one race should love its own kind more than members of another race.

The Nude

An email correspondent asked me to comment on the ethics of artistic nudity.

(For purposes of this discussion, I’ll be assuming a male viewpoint since that’s the viewpoint which comes naturally to me.)

The putative objection is that artistic nudity is lustful. It’s a form of virtual fornication or virtual adultery. Is that the case?

We can approach this issue from a number of different angles.

1. At one extreme is pornography. Say, and X-rated film in which nude actors are having sex.

2. At the opposite extreme is Islam. Women are only allowed to show their hands and face in public. Even their face may be veiled.

And this also applies to men. Your not supposed to go shirtless or wear shorts in public.

Likewise, Islam disapproves of locker rooms where men disrobe in front of other men.

And it goes beyond that. There are serious debates among Muslim clerics about the propriety of a married couples making love in the nude.

3. From our standpoint, this is bizarre. Since most men are straight, male nudity doesn’t arouse lustful feelings in another man.

And where marriage is concerned, husbands and wives are supposed to enjoy the physical aspects of intimacy, be it visual, tactile, &c.

4. In addition, Muslim prudery is self-defeating. It fails to cultivate any sense of internal self-restraint. It’s all about externals. Simply repressing one’s feelings doesn’t make them go away. Indeed, it tends to exacerbate those feelings.

5. Let’s take another example. Is it appropriate for Christians to see movies? Let say, movies from the 30s and 40s, where there was no nudity or profanity.

It is appropriate for a Christian to see a movie with a beautiful actress? Or is it only appropriate if the movie has a plain or homely actress?

Assuming that it’s okay for a Christian to see a movie with a beautiful actress, how should she dress? Should she dress like an Amish woman?

Or is it okay for her to dress in a way that accentuates her feminine features?

I don’t mean, should she dress like a streetwalker. I mean, should she dress in a way that’s tasteful, but takes full advantage of the fact that she’s a beautiful woman?

6. Let’s take another example: is it okay for men and women to go to the beach? Should the beach be coed or segregated by gender?

How should people dress on the beach? We’ve all seen historical photographs of Victorians who dress for a day at the beach as if they were bundled for a Siberian winter.

I’m not saying that anything goes at the beach. But is it appropriate to wear less when it’s hot outside? To expose a certain amount of skin between the head and the feet?

Or say you’re a carpenter who’s building a house on a hot day. Is it okay to take your shirt off? Or would that incite lustful glances from female passers-by?

My point is not to belittle the issue. There are some serious issues. Unbridled lust is socially destructive.

Sex appeal, like truth, is one of those paradoxical things that can both unite and divide. It needs to be controlled.

But I am pointing out that this question ranges along a continuum, with many borderline cases.

7. Let’s take one more example before we discuss the Scriptural data:

Suppose we’re in high school. Some of the boys are watching the cheerleaders practice out on the field. Now, boys have been known to mentally undress girls. But suppose it doesn’t go that far.

Suppose the boys in question are simply looking at the cheerleaders work out. They simply enjoy looking at women, as is (in their shorts and halter tops). They like to sit there, in the bleachers, and take pleasure in female form.

Is that wrong? Is it wrong for a teenage boy to enjoy looking at a teenage girl? To admire her figure?

8. What about the Bible? Not surprisingly, the Bible’s view of nudity or near-nudity is complex. And that’s because the propriety of nudity depends on the setting.

i) I think some Christians are misled by the negative references to nudity in Lev 18 & 20. But, there, nudity is a euphemism for incest.

ii) In Jn 21:7, we have fishermen who strip down to their loincloths to work in hot weather.

iii) There’s a celebration of nudity (both male and female) in Canticles.

What is the relationship of the lovers in Canticles? On the one hand, they’re not a married couple. On the other hand, it’s not an affair.

As Duane Garrett explains in his commentary, they are bride and bridegroom rather than husband and wife. They are engaged to be married.

So what we have in Canticles is sexual anticipation. Sexual fantasies involving a man and a woman who are unmarried, but engaged to be married.

If we didn’t have this canonical book, we might view that as the virtual equivalent of premarital sex. But that’s not where this book draws the line.

iv) And beyond the characters in the story is the reader. There is a voyeuristic aspect to the book. The book appeals to the sexual imagination of the reader. The female character isn’t his wife or fiancée.

Once again, if we didn’t have this canonical book, we might view that as the virtual equivalent of premarital or extramarital sex for the reader. But that’s not where this book draws the line.

v) Or take Prov 7. This is a bit paradoxical. Solomon is warning the male reader to avoid sexual immorality. But, in order to do so, he draws a very provocative picture for the reader. It’s not a literal picture, like a painting or photograph. But it’s a picture in words. He leaves it to the imagination of the reader to mentally depict what he’s describing.

So this is using the sexual imagination to restrain sexual practice.

vi) Because the Bible is set in the same culture as the original audience, it takes a lot of things for granted. But our modern notions of privacy were unheard of in ancient times.

That’s implicit in Lk 11:7, where the whole family slept on a common bed mat.

The cultural presupposition here is a one-room hut. Now how much privacy would anyone have in a setting like that?

Family members don’t have separate bedrooms. Or bathrooms. They would have to go down to the river to bath (e.g. Exod 2). Public nudity. I’m sure they tried to be as discreet as possible, but how much could you do in that situation?

The mother would often have occasion to breastfeed her baby in the presence of older children.

The couple wouldn’t have much privacy when making love. I’m sure they tried to be as discreet as possible, but once again, how much could you do in that situation?

9. I’m not trying to trivialize the issue. Lust is a sin, although we need to define lust in Biblical terms.

And pornography is destroying the lives of many men, including a fair number of Christians.

We need to be prudent. We need to draw lines. But we need to draw them where Scripture draws them.

If a Christian is going to say that Botticelli’s Birth of Venus or some of Renoir’s artwork is inherently sinful, then I need to see more of an argument.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Black Confederates

From what I’ve read, black voters will be voting for Obama by overwhelming margins. This is regardless of their social views. And, apparently, most black pastors will follow suit.

The only reason for this is vicarious symbolism: he’s one of us. We succeed in his success.

Such a motive is sinful. At best, it reflects a lack of spiritual maturity and commitment when commitment is put to the acid test.

There is also an acute irony to this form of racial solidarity. It’s the flipside of how many white Southerners responded in the ramp up to the Civil War.

For example, because I’m a Calvinist, I’ve read Southern Presbyterian theologians like Thornwell and Dabney. They came of age during the antebellum era. And when they had to take sides, their choice was sadly predictable.

Now, both Dabney and Thornwell were brilliant men. So they deployed many ingenious arguments to defend their position. I’m sure they were sincere.

But, to an outside observer, it’s obvious that their position had little to do with their arguments. It came down to racial identity. To social and emotional attachments. Their ethnicity and social conditioning blinded them to the evident injustice of the institution they were defending.

Ironically, black Obama voters are the mirror image of the Confederates—where race trumps faith. The sin has come full circle.

Seriously serious thinkers

That's why I AM considered a serious thinker and you are not, even if you think I'm dead wrong.

A couple of basic problems:

i) Serious thinkers don’t going around telling everyone they’re serious thinkers. They don’t try to convince everyone they’re serious thinkers by telling everyone they’re serious thinkers.

Can you imagine Alvin Plantinga using this appeal in one of his essays: “You should take me seriously cuz I’m a serious thinker!”

Serious thinkers acquire a reputation for being serious thinkers by writing serious books and articles. Not by claiming to be serious thinkers.

It’s a symptom of Loftus’ inferiority complex that he feels the need to convince people that he’s a serious thinker by talking about what a serious thinker he is.

ii) If Loftus were a serious thinker, he’d also realize that, from a secular standpoint, it makes no ultimate difference if you’re a serious thinker or a frivolous thinker. The morgue doesn’t distinguish between the corpse of a serious thinker and the corpse of a frivolous thinker.

Loftus has yet to make a clean break with Christianity. He lost his faith, and became a militant atheist, yett he is still channeling a worldview in which truth and falsehood matter. But in the grand secular scheme of things, truth and falsehood are irrelevant.

iii) Indeed, as Manata and I have often pointed out to Loftus, consistent physicalism doesn’t even have room for true and false beliefs. If Loftus were a serious thinker, he would take eliminative materialism seriously, since that’s logical conclusion to which his secular outlook is committed.

You have merely dug your own credibility grave, Paul.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Manata is not a “credible” disputant. So what?

Personal credibility is not a general condition for evaluating someone’s argument. Credibility is something we look for in a witness. Say an expert witness, or an eyewitness to a crime.

But suppose a philosopher were discussing the ontological proof. Would the cogency of the philosopher’s analysis depend on whether the philosopher were a credible person? No. The quality of his argumentation is irrelevant to his personal credibility. The philosopher could be a chronic liar, but his analysis of the ontological proof could still be sound.

If Loftus were a serious thinker, he’d appreciate that elementary distinction.

Henceforth no one should take what you write seriously.

Of course, Manata has already refuted Loftus’ allegation. But, once again, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Manata did misrepresent his position.

How does that possibly invalidate everything that Manata has ever written? Clearly it doesn’t.

If Loftus were a serious thinker, he would never say that a misrepresentation in one place invalidates everything else a writer ever said. That’s not a serious objection to Manata’s critique of Avalos.

Indeed, Loftus is simply using this bogus charge as a pretext to avoid having to interact with Manata’s critique of Avalos. It’s a transparent evasive maneuver.

Seriously thinkers don’t fall back on those sophistical tactics. Obviously, Loftus can’t refute Manata’s critique of Avalos. If he could, he would.

So he trumps up the bogus charge that Manata isn’t “credible” as an escape hatch to avoid having to refute Manata.

And let's not forget that J. P. Holding caught Loftus in a deliberate hoax a while back. So Loftus is not a credible person. So Loftus is not a serious thinker.

A serious thinker does not try to misrepresent the views of his opponents.

The ironic thing about this charge is that Manata’s post is mostly devoted to exposing the fact that Avalos misrepresented the position of Brian Lewis.

If Loftus were a serious thinker, he’d admit that Avalos is not a serious thinker since Avalos misrepresented Lewis.

All we’re getting from Loftus is self-serving rhetoric to camouflage the fact that he’s not up to the job of refuting Manata. Blustery verbiage by a man retreating from the battlefield.

He is the very model of a minor modern infidel

“That's why I AM considered a serious thinker and you are not.”

—John Loftus

I am the very model of a minor modern infidel,
I used to be a minister, albeit pretty nominal,
Until I left the faith for reasons strictly extramarital;
I’m hell-bent on a path that leads me to a fate most damnable,
I flushed my life and hope and love right down the cosmic urinal,
To be a slave of darkness as Old Horney’s latest lickspittle.
If I’m wrong I have a whole eternity to lose,
But even if I’m right I’m also bound to sorely lose.
Come join with me to share a fate so sulfurous,
As we spend eternity in deepest, darkest Tartarus.
In short, in matters venial, bestial, and egotistical,
I am the very model of a minor modern infidel.

I live to vilify all hollowed doctrines of the orthodox,
Because I’m such a chatterbox;
I fell away for motives most adulterous,
Which I blame on Linda my dear succubus.
Since I spat my only hope into the cosmic cuspidor,
I’ve nothing left in to do in life than be a crashing bore.
In short, in matters venial, bestial, and egotistical,
I am the very model of a minor modern infidel.

Every day I toil away as Satan’s slavish bumpkin,
Although my books and blog are destined for the cosmic dustbin;
I’m nothing but a small-time braggart,
Recycling words of many I parrot;
Reasons weren’t the reason for my ultimate apostasy,
The real reason lay in my adultery;
Come, grab your chance to share my fateful company,
Like me, you too, can doom yourself to be a nullity.
Come, sign your name, to join the infidel necrology,
And rot within the saintéd grave of putrid infidelity.
But still, in matters venial, bestial, and egotistical,
I am the very model of a minor modern infidel.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Perseverance of the Saints (Howell)

There seems to be some confusion on certain skeptical (and Arminian) blogs with respect to apostasy and backsliding. Folks are acting as if a profession of faith or even the sustaining of certain experiences over time constitutes a valid conversion experience in the past. Likewise, they are acting as if, in the case of apostates, we, their critics, have stated that their experience was not "real" (to them). Neither propositions are true: This should clear it up (emphases mine):

Perseverance of the Saints


The Privileges of Believers In Christ Include
Their Perseverance In Grace Unto the Attainment of Final, and
Complete Salvation

Philippians 1:6 "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

To persevere in grace unto the attainment of final, and complete salvation, is another, and the last in the catalogue which I shall at present particularly consider, of the inestimable privileges growing out of the union of believers with Christ. I need not tell you that a result so glorious will not be achieved without a struggle. The utmost energies of minds renewed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, will be imperatively demanded. Battles are to be fought; victories are to be won; labors are to be endured; before the end is gained.

. . . Not for thee
Spreads the world her downy pillow;
On the rock thy couch must me,
While around thee chafes the billow."

But in every struggle, every conflict, Jehovah is your guide and support, and has promised that you shall be "more than conquerors," through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many excellent christians however, in opposition to the doctrine maintained by us, hold, to use the language of one of their most distinguished divines, that--"A believer may totally lose his faith, and regeneration, and may continue in apostasy, and so eternally perish."[1]

Either this proposition is not defensible, or that which asserts the final perseverance of the saints--in other words, the continuance of all believers "in a state of grace to a state of glory"--must be abandoned. Both cannot be true. To which shall we adhere? It is our interest, and our duty, to know the truth, on this, and all other topics; and thanks to our God, the means are accessible and at hand by which the whole inquiry may be fully and satisfactorily determined.

Before entering upon the argument however, whether in refutation of the opinion stated, or in defence of our own conclusion, it is necessary, if you would clearly comprehend the question to be examined, that several preliminary observations should be submitted..

In the first place, we predicate final perseverance in grace of those only who are "born again"--the saints of Christ Jesus--and not of mere professors of religion. Let this fact be kept constantly in memory. Professors of religion, members of the Churches, are not all, as a matter of course, the children of God, and followers of the Redeemer. Many, in every age, have assumed the outward forms of godliness, in whose hearts true piety had no dwelling place. In the estimation of enlightened christians of every class, such are expected to "fall away." Their relations to the Church are not congenial; their spiritual duties are burdensome; they soon become weary; and in going back to the world, they return to a course of life which their hearts always preferred. Their apostasy is a natural consequence, and always to be anticipated.

It is, secondly, necessary that you discriminate carefully, between backsliding, and apostasy. The former is the act of turning back from God; the latter is the forsaking, or the renouncing of the religion of Christ. Backsliding consists either in the relinquishment of evangelical doctrine; or in the loss of spirituality of mind; or in the gradual departure from correct morals. All these evils are embraced in apostasy. The backslider commits transgressions, but returns to his allegiance, and obtains forgiveness, and acceptance. The apostate continues; dies in his sins; and "so eternally perishes." We teach that none of the true children of God--he believing, the pardoned, the regenerated, the sanctified--become apostate, but to backsliding, of every character and degree, all, it is but too evident, even the best, and most devoted, are constantly, and painfully liable.

A third preliminary remark--Final perseverance in grace is never accomplished without the divinely appointed instrumentalities. The means, and the ends, are invariably associated. And will believers in Christ always employ those means? If they do, the result can never be doubtful. Messiah himself says they will. If a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."[2] "This is the love of God that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous."[3] The saints of the Redeemer--

"Have proclaimed him King, and in their hearts
His title is engraven, with a pen
Dipt in the fountain of eternal love,"

With these considerations before you, we proceed to weigh carefully, and prayerfully, in the balances of divine truth, the principal objections to the conclusion that all believers in Christ will persevere in grace unto the attainment of final and complete salvation, never "totally losing their faith, and regeneration," but pressing onward till they reach, and wear, the crown of eternal life.

The first of these objections may be stated thus--Many of the angels apostatized; our first parents also, fell from their original state of holiness; why then, may not christians "lose their faith and regeneration," and so bring upon themselves eternal perdition?

We have here brought before us two classes of intelligent beings; angels in heaven; and men in their primal state of innocence. Let us consider them separately. Angels belong to another world. Of the cause, and nature, of their apostasy, I may be permitted to remark, we know very little. Upon this topic our Heavenly Father has not deemed our instruction necessary. Allusions to the subject in his word, are made only incidentally. No argument therefore, can be predicated upon the fall of angels, in support of the doctrine which teaches the apostasy of christians. Here we dismiss this part of the objection.

But our first parents also fell from their original state of holiness. If so, may not christians under similar influences, fall and be lost?

This proposition demands our serious investigation. I observe, that between their primitive condition, and that of truly regenerated men of subsequent ages, no such similarity exists, as will admit of conclusive reasoning from the one to the other. Let several facts, evincive of the truth of this statement, be considered. You will, in the first place, remember that the covenant of God with them was wholly different from that upon which you now stand. To Adam Jehovah said--"Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not ear of it; for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."[4]

The obligation of this covenant was a simple negative, upon a single point. How easy would have been compliance. The conditions were explicit--obey, and live; disobey, and die. The result need not be repeated.

With this, contrast the Gospel Covenant--"I will put my laws into their mind, (saith Jehovah) and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people; and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest; for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more."[5]

Well may this be distinguished as "the covenant of grace!" How utterly unlike the Adamic. With our first parents all was unbending justice; with you all is favor, mercy, boundless forbearance. In the covenant with them, no provision was made for the pardon of sin; in the Gospel covenant, this is one of the strongest features. Besides all this, they were, until they sinned, utter strangers to pain, and sorrow, and wasting wretchedness. They had not experience of evil. You have known all its bitterness. And further, They disposed of their own life, and alas! incurred its dreadful forfeiture! "Ye are lead (to sin) and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also, appear with his in glory."[6]

Their condition was wholly different from yours. Almost its antipodes. The reasoning from analogy therefore--is here clearly out of place--it is not legitimate. Neither, as you now see, from the fall of angels nor of our first parents, from their original state of holiness, can any valid arguments be adduced, proving that regenerated men, once depraved and sinful, but now redeemed and sanctified, are liable to "loose their faith, and regeneration, or to continue in apostasy, and so eternally perish." The objection is without relevancy, or force.

The threatenings, cautions, and warnings, with which the word of God every where abounds, imply, it is alleged, if they do not aver, the probability that some true christians will apostatise, and forever perish. They are therefore presented as a second objection to the doctrine it is my purpose to establish.

That such threatenings and cautions, and warnings, are of constant recurrence in the divine word, and that they are in their character, appalling, is most true. The premises are therefore cheerfully conceded, but the conclusion from thence, does not appear to me, by any means natural, or a matter of course. The reasoning is illogical, as I shall presently fully demonstrate. Let two important facts be here fixed carefully in the mind. The Church of Christ is composed, not of the regenerate alone, but of the unregenerate also. This is the first fact. The second is, that all these threatenings, and cautions, and warnings, are addressed to the members of the Church as a body. Both these truths will, I suppose, be readily admitted by all.

But I would be fully understood, and therefore, will refer you to testimony. I do not admit that the unconverted have any right to a place in the Churches. The word of God, we very well know, does not approve their admission. On the contrary, it is strictly prohibited. But those who administer the affairs of the kingdom of Christ upon earth, are men. They are imperfect; their administration also must therefore be imperfect. Our best efforts may be exerted to preserve the body pure from unworthy members, but we cannot read men's hearts, and in despite of all our vigilance, very many find their way into the Church, who are strangers to repentance and faith; some probably, for some reasons, seeking to appear what they know they are not; and others candid, and sincere, but misled, and deceived. I state the simple fact that there are unconverted men in the Churches. So it has been in every age---in apostolic as well as in our own times. A Judas, and a Simon Magus, were then members of the Churches, and stood side by side, with a James, and a John. So now, the converted and the unconverted, the eminently holy, and the profoundly depraved, meet and mingle in the sanctuary, and at the very table of the Lord. Such, to a greater or less extent, are all the Churches. This we know to be true, by the institution in the word of God of disciplinary measures to exclude the unworthy when discovered, and by our own personal observation.

To the Churches as bodies, so composed, are all the fearful passages in question addressed. To the members of the Church at Rome for example, Paul said--"If ye live after the flesh ye shall die."[7]

To those of the Churches of Galatia, "Be not deceived God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; for he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption."[8]

To the members of the old Jewish Church the prophet Ezekiel said--"When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he love? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sins that he hath sinned, in them shall he die."[9]

Does any one deny that these, and all similar threatenings, are, in fact, addressed to the members of the Churches. If they are not addressed to members of the Churches, they can have no influence upon the argument; they are directed to those who are not members, and whose claims to religion, since all truly religious men unite with the Churches, are at best, exceedingly questionable. They are in truth, however, addressed to the Churches, all of whose members are professedly righteous, and claim to be accepted of God through Christ. They are so regarded by their brethren, and by all others. For a season, they all act in accordance with their profession. No difference in zeal, and good works, can be perceived between the truly converted and unconverted. They all, whatever may be really the fact, bear the same character. They are known as christians--men of God.

Uniting with the Church however, important as this act may be, is any easy matter. It is but the beginning of the christian life. Next comes the period of trial. Will all who join the Churches, bear the test to which sooner or later, they will most surely be subjected. Remember also that the period which is to try the strength of their faith, patience, obedience, and fidelity, extends through their whole life upon earth. With these facts before you, survey the scene which I will now sketch, as it passes. For one, the seductions of sense, ere long, prove too mighty; he yields; lives after the flesh, and dies. Another, carried away by the fascinations of the world,--wealth, ambition, honor, pleasure--is found sowing to the flesh; he reaps corruption. Then the righteous man--he who had been eminent for zeal, and good works, foremost in the sacred ranks, is overthrown, turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and miserably perish! A succession of similar events continues. Their profession when tested, prove unequal to the trial! They have fallen; and are probably lost forever. Behold the picture. Is it imaginary? Alas! far from it. Do these facts, however, prove that the persons in question have "lost their faith, and regeneration?" Surely not. The facts all concur to demonstrate that they never possessed these high endowments. True they professed religion. But the indubitable evidence of a man's faith and regeneration" is, not alone that he has been excited, and experienced fears and sorrows, and confidence and raptures; nor that he does many righteous acts, and is lauded as eminently devoted; but it is that he sustains the tests to which he is subjected in the christian profession. The "refiners fire" consumes the dross only; the pure gold all remains, and is by the process, rendered but the finer, and the brighter. Can it be proved that these men who have fallen, although they previously maintained the character of great piety, were ever rally regenerated? Never. Such proof is impossible, as long as men can appear to be what they are not. Then their fall is very far from showing that the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints is not true.

Do not, however, the truly converted also, sometimes fall? We have seen that there are in the Churches two classes of persons. So, I beg you to observe, are there two classes of persons among the fallen. The one class, now free from the Church, seem to delight in sin; their hearts grow daily, more and more obdurate; their conscience appears but a feeble impulse; their sin against God has no restraint, except their desire to subserve their own personal and family reputation, and interest. The other class are, after a while at least, overtaken by remorse; repentance pursues them; and with self loathing and tears, they return, and assure us that, throughout all their wanderings, they were doing violence to their consciences, and their judgment, and were supremely miserable. The former were unregenerate apostates; and latter converted backsliders. If some like Hymeneus and Alexander make shipwreck of their professed faith and good conscience, and thus go down miserably to eternal death; others, like a David and Peter, return from their sins, and give themselves anew to the service of him who has graciously said--"I will heal their backslidings; I will love them freely."[10]

These general remarks apply to all the individual instances of apostasy recorded in the scriptures, and which are constantly occurring within the circle of our own observation. Prophecy foretells them and time witnesses the truth of the prediction. Many of Christ's own personal disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Men are still characterised by like conduct. Were such ever changed in heart? They have been, we have said, under spiritual influences; they have done many things religiously; but all the testimony accessible forbids the conclusion that they were ever renewed. Of those in the Philippian Church, and they may be safely assumed as examples of all others, Paul does not intimate the former regeneration, but says--"Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction."[11]

Of what value then, we may be asked, are all these threatenings, and warnings, and cautions? They are, I answer, of infinite benefit to those who without having experienced any change of heart, have nevertheless professed religion. True, they have assumed a most dangerous position. Deception--

"--So potent is its spell,
That none, decoy'd into that fatal ring,
Unless by Heaven's peculiar grace, escape."

Still they are not beyond the boundaries of mercy. They may yet repent, believe, and be saved. But how are they to be reached? Threatenings, and cautions, and warnings, are addressed to the whole Church. Were they not, these graceless professors would never apply them to themselves. The appalling declarations of Jehovah of which we speak, may bring dismay, and trembling to the heart of the contrite; they at the same time however, apprise the unrenewed of their danger, and thus become the means of their salvation. They are promotive also of the highest interests of the true christian. What in fact, are they all, but so many expressions of love, by which their Father in heaven assures them to the inseparable connection which always subsists as well between sin and misery, as between holiness and salvation. They in all cases, imply the opposite promises; and do often, most effectually, the work of mercy. If we truly "have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord," the fears they excite will serve to make us cleave to the truth with increased tenacity, and to walk before God with growing carefulness, and humility. By how much therefore the awakening and deliverance of the erring, and the carefulness, and security of these who love Christ, are valuable, by so much are the threatenings, cautions, and warnings of the word of God fraught with benevolence and grace.

Upon a careful examination of this whole topic you must now clearly see that the threatenings, the cautions, and the warnings, of the word of God, and all the individual instances of apostasy recorded in the scripture, and that occur in our own day, afford no proof that any true believer in Christ will ever "lose his faith, and regeneration," or will not persevere in grace unto the attainment of final and complete salvation.

Many, in the third place, object to our conclusion on this subject from the apprehension that the doctrine may inspire a dangerous security, and create a carelessness in the use of the means of salvation. They think its practical tendency injurious.

Such may be the effect of crude and erroneous notions of the doctrine. Ignorance and error, are always productive of evil. But no such consequences are attendant upon it when truly and fully comprehended. Does any one, professedly a christian, and properly instructed, deliberately, and intentionally, practice sin against God? This fact ought instantly to convince him that he is yet unrenewed in the spirit of his mind; and he may perhaps be moved thereby to seek as never before, and obtain, salvation. It is essential to the very nature of grace that it lead to holiness and obedience in this life, as well as to salvation in that which is to come. But it is said, men are free agents, and therefore, have the power to throw away their "faith and regeneration." Yes, men are free agents; but will they therefore act contrary to nature? Because you are a free agent will you leave the abodes of civilization, resort to the fields, and "eat straw like the ox." Never. You will not, because it is in opposition to your nature. The nature of the christian is renewed. His will is turned to God, and it determines him to serve God. Can you will in opposition to your will? His affections are holy. You love your Lord Jesus Christ.--Can you then love and follow sin? Can you have experience of its criminality, and ingratitude, and misery, and not instinctively reject it? Can you know Christ, and deliberately, and finally forsake him? Can you have faith in the Redeemer, and cherish an impure heart? Can confidence of your safety in Christ become the motive which impels you to rebel against him, and follow the life of a sinner? Surely not. Such things cannot be. Yet they must all occur before it can be rendered probable that the doctrine, which teaches the final perseverance of the saints, is of injurious practical tendency. But there is another, and a still plainer test, by which the strength of the objection may be tried. I appeal to facts. They are numerous, and at hand. Look around you, and tell me, are those who believe in the doctrine that christians "fall from grace, and eternally perish,"--and there are many such--more circumspect, spiritual, religious, or less likely to become apostates, than those who believe in the final perseverance of the saints? We know they are not. They are, to say the least, as frequently as men of any other class, overcome by the evils which so thickly beset the paths of the christian. All the testimony in the case disproves therefore, the injurious practical tendency alleged.

These I believe, are all the objections of any importance, to the doctrine which maintains the final perseverance of the saints--the fall of the angels, and of our first parents, from their original state of holiness; the threatenings of the word of God; the individual examples of apostasy recorded in the scriptures, and that occur in our own day; and the alleged injurious practical tendency of the doctrine. We have candidly and impartially considered them all, and have seen that they are without weight, and fall far short of disproving the proposition that all true believers will at last, gain the crown of eternal life.

We now turn to consider briefly, some of the leading arguments in favor of the doctrine.

Salvation, I remark, in the first place, is preeminently the work of God. This great truth constitutes a primary article in the faith of all evangelical christians. He has redeemed, regenerated, and sanctified his people, with a view to their salvation, and the glory of all his attributes demands that the end proposed shall be accomplished. His love to his people is unchangeable, and therefore they cannot be the objects of it at one time, and not at another. His faithfulness to them, and to his promises, is not founded upon their merits, but his own will and goodness; it cannot therefore be violated. His wisdom foresees every obstacle in the way, and is capable of removing it, and directing them into the right path. Has he chosen an end so glorious, and will he fail to choose the means necessary for its accomplishment? His power is absolute, and perpetually exerted for their preservation, and protection. And will he not save his people? To them all, the divine declaration is made--"To an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you," ye "are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time."[12]

The nature of their connection with the Lord Jesus Christ, I observe secondly, justifies the assurance that all the truly regenerate will persevere in divine grace unto eternal life.

"We are bound to give thanks always to God, for you brethren, beloved of the Lord," says an apostle, "because God hath from the beginning, chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; whereunto he hath called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."[13]

Again. The atonement by Jesus Christ, God the Father has accepted for the forgiveness of your sins. Will he revoke his act of pardon; and will the law once satisfied by Messiah, again turn upon you, and demand at your hands a second satisfaction? Is not the law just, and holy? Again. By your adoption into the family of Jehovah, you are proclaimed from on high, "Heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ."[14]

Will this proclamation be reversed, and you disinherited? How can this be, since you receive all these blessings by the Will and Testament of our Lord himself, and to give full effect to his actions, the Testator is dead? And again, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."[15]

You believe, and therefore have everlasting life. Shall this life be extinguished? This cannot be, since it is impossible that that which is everlasting can after a few years cease to exist. Once more. Jesus Christ is our Advocate to plead our cause before the Father in heaven. Will he fail of success? Now if in Christ Jesus you were from the beginning chosen, to salvation, and to secure it you have been actually called, and endowed with faith, and sanctification; if through him you have been pardoned, and the claims of the law against you fully satisfied; if you are recognized, and proclaimed heirs with Christ of the heavenly inheritance; if you already have everlasting life; and have his glorious promise--"Because I live ye shall live also;"[16] what can we conclude but that your connection with Christ secures effectually, your final and complete salvation.

The perseverance of the saints in grace unto eternal life, is also evident, thirdly, from the work of the Holy Spirit.

"Now he," said Paul, "which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."[17]

By this holy anointing the people of God are distinguished as already consecrated to be kings, and priests, on high; by the sealing they are received, recognized, and acknowledged, as his peculiar treasure; and by the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts--that is the giving of a part as a pledge of the future bestowment of the whole--he fully ratifies our title to eternal salvation. Further. Our regeneration, and sanctification constitute important parts of the process by which we are fitted and qualified for heaven, and give undoubted proof that it is the intention of the Holy Ghost to save us. Will he, after all this, fail of his design?

God--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost--purpose the salvation of all believers. This truth is now placed beyond the reach of controversy. On this point there is, I must think, no question in the mind of any intelligent christian. No deficiency can exist on the part of Jehovah, nor of any of the persons in the adorable Trinity. If all believers are not saved, the failure cannot be chargeable to God.

Finally. The salvation of all believers is a result guaranteed by the influence of the new nature in the soul of the regenerate.

In every instance of true conversion to God, the will, the affections, the desires, the purposes--all the powers of the mind--are, as we have already said, turned from sin to holiness. The old unsanctified nature, followed worldly things; the new spiritual nature follows of choice, the things of God. This is now the ruling influence of the soul. Men, as a general rule, act always in accordance with the impulses of their nature. This every one knows to be true. To suppose that any one will do otherwise, long at a time, is both unphilosophical, and unscriptural. This principle is recognized by our Saviour himself. "The tree is know by its fruit." "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things."[18] Christians are, by inspiration, addressed as "Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling."[19] All men undoubtedly act in accordance with their nature; the nature of believers is holy; they will therefore pursue a course of holy action. Will they then, ever finally abandon themselves to a life of sin? If so they will act in opposition to their nature, to suppose which, we have seen, is against both philosophy and scripture. Into snares, and temptations, they, as has been shown, may, and do, often fall, and not unfrequently, go very far into worldliness, and transgression. But if their nature is renewed, grace will ultimately triumph. The enlightened conscience will not always remain silent. They return to the path of life. This is the doctrine of Paul, who asks--"How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"[20] The grace of the Father, the love of the Son, and the promptings of the Holy Ghost, combine with the desires and aspirations of the soul, and bear the believer onward, and upward, until he stands accepted, and glorified, in the midst of the shining hosts "who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!" If additional proofs of the correctness of this doctrine were needed, they are abundantly supplied by direct, and unequivocal declarations of God himself. I must of many, satisfy myself with one, or two. He says--"I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish."[21] Truly, he "shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."[22]

The perseverance in grace of all true believers, unto the attainment of eternal life, is, as we have now fully shown, guaranteed by the perfections of God the Father; by their relations with our Lord Jesus Christ the Son; by the work in their hearts of the Holy Spirit; by the character of the new nature with which they are endowed; and by the express declarations of the divine word of truth. With glowing spirits, therefore, and boundless gratitude and love, we too, may join in that apostolic exultation, which so gloriously delineates the privileges of all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ--"If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also, freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea rather, that is risen again; who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 'for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."[23]

I have now brought in review before you, some of the most distinguished privileges of believers in Christ. How strong the emphasis with which they speak the infinite love and grace of our Heavenly Father! It is yours to enjoy the free and full pardon of sins; to receive from Jehovah entire justification; to be admitted, and approved, among the adopted children of the Most High, an heir of the kingdom of grace on earth, and of glory in heaven; to have conferred upon you all the blessings described in the promises of the divine word; to be animated and sustained by the power of hope; and to persevere in grace unto the attainment of final and complete salvation. How rich are these honors! Surprising unspeakably, is their magnitude! Their excellency, what mind can justly conceive! They clothe you with a dignity and glory, not inferior to those of the tallest of the angels in his presence. And by your side stands God himself, your Father, your Friend, your Deliverer and points you to exalted seats in that "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." There you will soon be received, perfect, glorified, immortal. Who can describe the rapture which will thrill your bosom, when Messiah shall say--

"Ye blessed of my Father come, ye just
Enter the joy eternal, of your Lord;
Receive your crowns, ascend and sit with me,
At God's right hand, in glory evermore."

[1] Limborch's Theol. v. cap. lxxx.

[2] John 14:13, 19

[3] 1 John 5:3

[4] Gen. 2:16, 17

[5] Heb. 8:10-13

[6] Col. 3:3, 4

[7] Rom. 8:13

[8] Gal. 6:7, 8

[9] Ezek. 18:24

[10] Hosea 14:4

[11] Phil. 3:18, 19

[12] 1 Pet. 1:4, 5

[13] 2 Thess. 2:13, 14

[14] Rom. 8:17

[15] John 3:36

[16] John 14:10, 20

[17] 2 Cor. 1:21, 22

[18] Matt. 12:33, 35

[19] Heb. 3:1

[20] Rom. 6:2

[21] John 10:28

[22] 1 Cor. 1:8

[23] Rom. 8:31-39

Intellectual Sloth

In response to my post directly below, I see Loftus has responded. I leave it to "serious thinkers" to determine the score:


John W. Loftus said...

To Paul,


We'll just let readers of my book decide for themselves. It's all there. You have merely dug your own credibility grave, Paul. I don't see how anyone who has some level of intelligence and education will agree with you. And since you'll maintain otherwise despite the evidence it's fruitless for me to bother with someone like you. If only you could be honest with the evidence here, as well as with what you believe. But you cannot. Exhibit A is how you dealt with the argument in that chapter of my book. Henceforth no one should take what you write seriously. You're not interested in the knowing the truth, and what you say will simply not help any Christian who is having doubts because of reading my book. I do not see how you can feel good about this.

7:56 PM, September 24, 2008


I guess when you leave Christianity you don't have to worry about moral integrity anymore. Rather than engage in the hard work of refuting opposition, just puff out your feathers and dishonestly claim that the opposition "misrepresents" you. If that was all anyone had to do to "rebut" a view critical of theirs, life would be much, much easier. Atheism is for the intellectually lazy.

More "Serious Thinking" From Loftus

Since John Loftus claims that I misrepresented him, and since as a Christian I think we should not violate the 9th commandment in this way, then I will take serious any attempt he makes at trying to show that I did misrepresent him. If it could be demonstrated, I would apologize and make the appropriate qualifications. This would be especially easy since my study of Brian Lewis's Sargon book and arguments against Avalos would not be affected in the slightest if I removed the minor and incidental Loftus content. I threw those comments in to "stir up the hive."

JL: “A serious thinker does not try to misrepresent the views of his opponents.”

PM: But I didn’t “try.” How could you demonstrate that I did? Serious thinkers don’t frequently make claims that go beyond what he can demonstrate. Can Loftus demonstrate that I “tried” to misrepresent his views?

JL: “Paul Manata tries to drive a wedge between my views about history and fellow Blogger and Biblical Scholar Dr. Hector Avolas,”

PM: I did drive the wedge, and I’m waiting with baited breath for Avalos to publicly say he agrees with what you wrote in that section.

JL: “who has soundly refuted the arguments of the Triablogers on the Sargon Legend here and again here.”

PM: Anyone can play this game, John. “Who was soundly refuted by the arguments of Triablogger’s on the Sargon Legend.





And here:

JL: “Manata makes his point in these words:

What is Loftus’s attitude toward history?...What is the position of the book Avalos offers “praise” for, and the leader of the blog he signed up to be a part of regarding matters historical? Simply put, says Loftus, “Historical evidence is poor evidence” (Loftus, 181). Citing Bebbington he claims, “The historian’s history is molded by his values, his outlook, and his worldview. It is never the evidence alone that dictates what was written” (Loftus, 183). He doesn’t “see any problem in claiming that there is room for doubting many if not most historical claims…” (Loftus, 192, emphasis mine, he adds the qualifier “especially claims about the miraculous,” but that is irrelevant for my purposes here).
What should be understood from my chapter on history is that when it comes to establishing the Christian view of history with its claims about the miraculous that historical evidence is poor evidence when compared to personal experience or the findings of science or logic itself.”

PM: John’s misrepresenting his book, so he must not be a “serious thinker.”

First, think about it. It’s just when Christians appeal to history that historical evidence all of a sudden, magically, becomes “poor evidence.” How convenient, John.

Second, John, your claims in your book go beyond what you’re claiming now that you’re running around sticking thumbs and fingers in the bulging dam. For example:


“ANY historian will tell you the problems she faces when researching the past” (183).

“THE HISTORIAN attempts to write an accurate report of what happened in the past given the hindsight implications of the past for her day and age. That’s the goal. Writing this record CANNOT be divorced from the hindsight implications of her era…” (ibid).

“That’s why HISTORIANS have to continue reexamining the past to see how it needs to be rewritten” (ibid).

“HISTORY is written from the perspective of THE HISTORIAN, and it’s unavoidable to do otherwise.

“…the HISTORIAN’S values unavoidable enter into the picture” (ibid).

“Of course THIS HISTORICAL PROBLEM is compounded when we understand that the evidence the historian considers is the stuff of the past, and the past is not immediately available for investigation” (184).

“One school of thought sought to … write history ‘free from prejudices,’ and in so doing write the events of the past ‘as they actually happened.’ But MOST MODERN HISTORIANS think this is impossible to do” (ibid).

“In the first place, modern psychology HAS COMPLETELY UNDERMINED TOTAL HISTORICAL OBJECTIVITY…In other words, total objectivity IN A SUBJECT is impossible” (ibid).

“…verifying [a historical event] IS IMPOSSIBLE because verification would require an infinite regress of documentation” (ibid).

“Some thinkers like Carl Beck have gone so far as to deny that we can know the past with any objectivity at all--that historical facts only exist in the mind, and they advocate a historical relativism with regard to the events of the past” (ibid).


Therefore, John it is demonstrably false that you were simply talking about “when it comes to establishing the Christian view of history with its claims about the miraculous that historical evidence is poor evidence when compared to personal experience or the findings of science or logic itself.” It should be clear to any reader of your book that you were undermining the historical procedure, tout court.

You were not just talking about “when it comes to establishing the Christian view of history … historical evidence is poor evidence.” This can be seen by, again, looking at your own words:

“Even though I think [the above] is true, there is A LOT DOUBT ABOUT MANY, IF NOT MOST HISTORICAL CLAIMS….ESPECIALLY those that involve the miraculous” (185).

If you’re having trouble understanding your own sentence, not the use of “especially.” If you were only talking about Christianity, why put “especially?”

Continuing, you use examples from history to bolster your point: Egyptian pyramids, was Shakespeare a fictitious name, how was the Gettysburg battle fought and won, what was Lincoln’s true motivation for freeing the slaves, what happened at Custer’s last stand, who killed JFK, why did America lose the Vietnam war, etc., (ibid). Not only are many of these not historical questions, strictly speaking, I don’t recall reading about them in my Bible. So what of your claim that you were just undermining the Christian’s appeal to history.

Then, based on your assault on all history (as I demonstrated), you claim:

“Is it any wonder, then, why Lessing and Kierkegarrrd both questioned the reliability of historical knowledge to lead on to believe in Christianity…?” (ibid).

It is obvious that you reasoned from the general to the particular.

Furthermore, to demonstrate that you do not just claim that it is Christians who should doubt their historical-based beliefs, you write:

“But if NONsupernatural events in the past are open to doubt, then how much more is it the case with supernatural events in the past” (ibid).

Though your non-sequitur is laughable, the really funny thing is how I demonstrate, again, that you misrepresented yourself. You must not be a “serious thinker,” John.


“To be critical of the past record, ESPECIALLY claims about the miraculous, [is what historians do]” (186).

I have established beyond a reasonable doubt that your chapter begins by attacking historical method in general, and applies your conclusions to Christianity in particular.

So when you claim in your blog piece, “So it is not irrelevant that I added the qualifier Manata dismisses so easily as 'irrelevant' for his purposes. That's the whole context for my argument in that chapter,” any clear-headed thinker can see that the qualifier was CLEARLY irrelevant since you DO undermine historical knowledge and methods IN GENERAL, and so your OTHER statements applied to what Avalos &c. thought they were doing.

JL: “Manata should also understand that D.W. Bebbington, whom I quoted from, is defending a Christian view of history.”

PM: Why? You quoted him as a source in the part of your chapter where you critique historical knowledge in general.

JL: “He earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge and at the time of his book he was the professor of history at the University of Stirling in Scotland. His book was published by InterVarsity Press, a conservative Christian publishing house. So if Manata wants to take issue with me then let him take issue with Bebbington himself.”

PM: All of this is 100% irrelevant to anything I wrote. It doesn't serve to show that I misrepresented you. It is a red herring.

JL: “Manata again:

So is all of the “massive historical evidence” Avalos brought to bear on us, “poor evidence?”
Yes, it's poor evidence if one wants to establish the Christian worldview, which is what he is not doing.”

PM: I’m unsure if Loftus knows how self-serving and special pleading all of this is, but regardless, I demonstrated that your claims in your book goes beyond this face-saving claim of yours.

JL: “Anyone who actually takes the time to read my whole chapter on the subject of history will see quite clearly that Manata misrepresented me.”

PM: Now with the quotes I gave, everyone can see you eat humble pie.

JL: “What I'm wondering is how his credibility will suffer because of what he wrote.”

PM: John has told me that I have no “credibility” on numerous occasions. Why is he so obsessed with “credibility?” Is he projecting? Anyway, how can I lose “credibility” when Loftus has told us previously that I lost it all?

JL: “I never said I couldn't come to reasonable conclusions about history.”

PM: Care to quote me as saying that you said you ‘couldn’t come to reasonable conclusions about history.” At any rate, it’s funny that you would put it that way when all I did was quote you verbatim and ask if Avalos agreed with you.

JL: “And while there is always the possibility I'm wrong about any conclusions I arrive at, it would be a slender reed for you to hang your faith, as I said.”

PM: Right, and the historical arguments from Avalos &c. are “a slender reed” to hang their belief that the author of Exodus 2 based (his) Moses’ birth on the legend of Sargon on.

JL: “Paul promised a reply to what I just wrote earlier today. I haven't seen him respond. Maybe he will. But I do not expect him to be honest with what I said. Shame really. It'll show him to be the hack that he really is. Not to be taken seriously.”

PM: I looked and looked and didn’t see where you demonstrated where I “misrepresented you.” Of course you did a good job at poisoning the well and going off about matters unrelated to this discussion, viz., how would I defend my view of history, how would I show the historical claims of Christianity worthy to “hang belief on?” All of those questions, John, have nothing to do with what your stated aim was: show how I (tried to) misrepresented you.

JL: “Paul, if you want to be taken seriously then you must deal honestly about what someone like me writes.”

PM: John, I want to be found resting in the finished work of Christ alone. Trusting in his righteousness alone. That’s all I care about at the end of the day.

But you should heed your own advice. Since you misrepresented yourself, you are not a serious thinker.

JL: “Now I understand you don't think I deserve any honesty, since you believe God may have created me for hell.”

PM: But I don’t think that. Can you demonstrate that I do? I did you the favor of backing up my claims. Since you just misrepresented me, you must not be a “serious thinker.”