Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The rotten fruit fell close to the Birch tree

Billy Birch has also weighed in:


Before I address what passes for the substance of his post, I find it instructive to compare Billy’s stated standards of Christian discourse with his actual performance:

“One may conclude that a professing Christian is truly born again when the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in his or her life. Paul writes: ‘But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!’ (Gal. 5:22 NLT). And while the Triabloguers believe that they have scriptural warrant for treating other professing believers with whom they disagree with invective, the Bible teaches otherwise. Paul writes: ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:29-30 TNIV). So much for Triablogue's invective theory. Paul continues: ‘Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Eph. 4:31-32 TNIV).


“Though we do not take the authors of Triablogue seriously, we certainly think it wise now and again to give an answer to the farcical writings found on that site. Many times the arguments against Arminianism are so laughable that they do not warrant a response whatsoever: people are capable of determining for themselves their daffy altercations of Classical Arminianism. Still, there are times that their droll, clownish, and comical anticts warrant correction ~ their latest prattle included.”

Moving along:

“Let us focus for the moment on a recent post by Steve Hays at Triablogue. In his opinion, ‘All the various religions and philosophies past and present are variants on three basic worldviews: Calvinism, atheism, and Manichaeism.’ How did Hays compose the ‘three basic worldviews’? Well, they came from his imagination. Since, however, Calvinism proper can only be traced back to John Calvin (1509-1564), then Calvinism could not have been one of the ‘three basic worldviews’ upon which ‘all the various religions and philosophies past and present’ are variants. That would then leave us with Atheism and Manichaeanism. He must not have thought this one through. Manichaeanism was not taught systematically until the third century AD. That would, then, according to Hays' ‘scholarly’ estimation, leave us with Atheism as the basic worldview upon which all the various religions and philosophies past and present are variants. But what of the four thousand years prior to the advent of Christ? How is it that Hays, as a careful ‘scholar,’ neglected so many other worldviews upon which all other religions are variants? It is no wonder why so many find it difficult to take Triablogue seriously.”

What is difficult to take seriously is Birch’s breathless ineptitude. Ideas don’t have to be historically traceable to other ideas to be variants thereof. They only have to be similar to one another in some important respect. Birch isn’t doing himself any favors when he advertises his lack of intellectual competence by raising such muddle-headed objections.

“Moreover, his equating Manichaeanism with Arminianism only serves to divulge his incomprehension of Classical Arminian theology. Nothing ruins one's credibility quicker than the inadequacy to expound one's theological opponent accurately.”

Actually, nothing ruins one’s credibility quicker than the inability to recognize a reductio ad absurdum.

“First, notice that God is said not to control the actions and passions of his creatures (as is explicitly admitted by Calvinists), but that he governs such. The difference is paramount for a faithful, appropriate, and correct understanding of God as revealed throughout the tenor of Scripture.”

Needless to say, that’s a distinction without a difference. Governance is an exercise in control. If something is uncontrollable, then it’s ungovernable. If the “actions and passions” of God’s creatures fall outside his control, then they cannot be governed.

“It is not as though God does all of the good stuff, while the devil (equal in power) does all the bad stuff per se. Arminians have historically never believed that Satan was in any way equal with God, such as a Manichaean worldview would demand.”

i) Once again, learn what a reductio ad absurdum means.

ii) In addition, Arminians charge Calvinism with making God the “author of evil.” Arminians can only exempt themselves from the same charge by treating evil as a surd event. An Arminian theodicy, especially when directed at a Reformed theodicy, banks in the direction of a Manichaean or Zoroastrian dualism. Otherwise, they lose the salient point of contrast between Calvinism and Arminianism.

As a result, Arminianism, like any intellectual compromise, is unstable and incoherent. It all depends on which opposing side of Arminianism you’re quoting.

“Above, note that Arminius grants that God permits some things to happen. Calvin would have nothing to with God permitting anything…”

That’s demonstrably false. All the more inexcusable coming from someone with affectations of becoming a church historian.

“To suggest that God has predetermined merely by decree what a person should say, or how a person should act, by bringing those words and actions to pass by his irresistible compulsion, and at the same time maintain that the person in question said words and performed actions freely is to admit insanity.”

Birch lacks a rudimentary grasp of rudimentary concepts. “Compulsion” involves the notion of resistance. And individual is acting under duress, against his will. There is nothing in Reformed predestination or providence which has that effect.

Either Birch is too simple-minded to grasp elementary distinctions or else he’s too demagogical to accurately represent the opposing view.

“Blinded by their lust of Calvinism, they cannot even represent their theological opponent's views adequately.”

Can’t say I ever entertained lustful thoughts of Calvinism.

“I wonder if Augustine had never been born if we would even be debating Calvinists today.”

If Augustine had never been born, we wouldn’t be debating Arminianism today, either.


  1. Steve,

    This logical connection, reductio ad absurdum stuff looks like fun. Let me take a stab at it.

    Calvinism = Neo-Manichaeism

    On account of the fact that they both teach determinism, and the opposing deities of the Old and New Testaments have been smooshed together into a single God with a contradictory will who irresistibly causes his creatures to do both good and evil.

    Calvinism = Neo-Gnosticism

    On account of the fact that they both teach determinism and Calvinists believe that they alone are the spiritually mature Christians who have gained special insight into the “doctrines of grace” and the secret counsels of God (so secret that no Christian writers prior to Augustine ever heard of them).

    Calvinism = Neo-Hinduism

    On account of the fact that they both maintain a spiritual caste system (in fact, the elect are so much more important than the reprobates that one of the primary functions of the reprobate’s eternal torment is for the sake of eliciting a stronger sense of appreciation for the grace of God in the elect, i.e. they provide the tragedy that makes the comedy that much more funny for the elect, even though the elect never actually experience the “tragedy” of eternal torment, nor were they ever in any real danger of experiencing it).

    Calvinism = Neo-Panentheism

    On account of the fact that once independent thought and volition is demonized and rendered impossible by the “Biblical” doctrine of exhaustive determinism, all that is left is a theology where God is the only real thinker and actor in the universe, all of His creatures merely being passive conduits through which God’s thoughts and actions are expressed, or “instantiated” (even sinful and contradictory thoughts). Everything in the universe, then, simply becomes an expression of God, and when we argue over whether or not Arminianism is just Neo-Manichaeism, that is really just God giving Himself a hard time.

    Calvinism = Neo-Nazism

    On account of the fact that Calvinists represent the master race unconditionally (arbitrarily?) favored by God above everyone else from all eternity.

    Calvinism = Neo-Catholicism

    On account of the fact that Calvinism and Catholicism both start with C.

    Calvinism = Neo-Mary Shellyism

    On account of the fact that the elect start out as lifeless and motionless corpses until God zaps life into them so they can (i.e. must) hear and believe the gospel.

    Steve Hays = Neo-Cary Grant

    On account of the fact that he gets all the girls and is strikingly witty and good looking.

    Oh, and if you don’t like people drawing these comparisons, maybe you should change your theological views ;-)

  2. "Calvinism = Neo-Mary Shellyism

    On account of the fact that the elect start out as lifeless and motionless corpses until God zaps life into them so they can (i.e. must) hear and believe the gospel."

    Just like in Eze 37 and Eph 2 and... oh wait, that wasn't your point?

  3. Lockheed,

    Right, it wasn't my point because neither of those Scriptures teach that life is given unconditionally prior to faith. There is no question that God raises spiritually dead people to life. However, the Bible is rather clear that life is given in response to faith and not in order that faith will inevitably result.

    God Bless,

  4. Oh, and by way of correction, it should have been "Neo-Mary Shelleyism" above. But since Steve once spells ad absurdum as ad absurdam (sounds like a curse word), I guess we are even.