Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Byrne, baby, Byrne


The title of this posts asks if desire is a precondition of a "well-meant" offer.
There are three possibilities for an offer: 1) A well-meant offer, 2) an ill-meant offer and 3) a sham offer.
1) A Well-Meant Offer: In this kind of offer, the offeror is one who is well-disposed (hence "well-meant") or well-intentioned toward the offeree. Something good is presented by the offeror to the offeree, and since the other person's well-being is in view (i.e. a loving motive), there is a desire for compliance. In this scenario, a desire for compliance is a precondition.

i) Why should we grant Tony’s definition? Ponter referred us to the OED. So I did a post in which I noted that the adjectives in this debate (“sincere” or “well-meant/meaning”) have a variety of denotations. I then discussed the different implications of the different denotations.

Tony ignores all that. What Tony is doing is to cherry-pick the sense which happens to suit his agenda.

ii) Let’s also keep in mind that “offer” isn’t the only relevant word to capture the concept. For God also “commands” sinners to repent and believe the gospel.

Likewise, one of the dictionary synonyms for an “offer” is a “proposal.”

iii) Let’s compare Tony’s claim with a couple of Scriptures:

21And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23and I say to you, "Let my son go that he may serve me." If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son'" (Exod 4:21-23).
2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them (Exod 7:2-5).

Does God’s command or proposal have Pharaoh’s well-being in view? No. Is God well-disposed to Pharaoh? No. Does God desire Pharaoh’s compliance? No.

God wants Pharaoh to refuse the command or proposal. For the refusal is a means to an end. It would thwart God’s long-range plan if Pharaoh accepted the proposal or obey the command.

And not only does God want Pharaoh to refuse the command or proposal, but God ensures the refusal by hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Under those circumstances, it isn’t even possible for Pharaoh to accept the proposal or obey the command.

By Ponter’s logic, that makes the proposal a “lying” proposal. “Insincere, disingenuous, illegitimate, and pretentious.” Yahweh must be a “monster,” who is “tantalizing” Pharaoh with a “lie.”

2) An Ill-Meant Offer: In this kind of offer, the offeror is not well-disposed to the offeree, but still presents something they have for acceptance or rejection. This is the kind of scenario presented with the PE kids in Hays' analogy above. The offeror in fact has a home in which to invite the offeree, but doesn't really want him to come. You'll notice also this crucial point in Hay's analogy: it is a deceptive or pretentious offer since the one kid (the offeror) wants the other (the offeree) to believe he wants him over for company, but he really does not. Is this how the Bible depicts God in His gospel offers to the non-elect? Pretentious and ill-meant?

Well that’s a pretty twisted interpretation of my illustration. The student who makes the offer has the obnoxious student’s best interests at heart. He dislikes the obnoxious student. He’d prefer it if the obnoxious student turned him down.

Yet, in spite of that, he is putting his personal feelings aside and reaching out to the obnoxious student, because the student needs a friend, and that’s the right thing to do. If the obnoxious student accepts the offer, the offeror will make good on the offer.

Frankly, that’s admirable. It’s virtuous to do what we ought to do even when we feel averse to doing it. If Byrne weren’t so straight-jacketed by his doctrinaire commitments, he wouldn’t think to characterize a selfless, commendable offer as an “ill-meant” offer.”

3) Sham Offers: In this kind of alleged "offer," not only is there not a well-intentioned offeror, but the offeror does not have that which he says he wants to give to the other person. It's like a kid offering to sell another kid some gum he says is in his pocket (but really isn't there) in order to steal money from another. A crucial thing to note here is that the "offeror" (it's not really an "offer" at all) is not only lying, but he doesn't even have that which he says he has to give. Suppose the kid in Hays' PE analogy doesn't even have a home in which to invite the other kid, and yet he invites him anyway, ill-intentioned and unable to give that which is "offered." That would constitute a sham offer.

Byrne is making the same mistake Ponter did. As I pointed out in response to Ponter, if you’re going to say it isn’t a “real” offer unless the offeror has what he tenders, then you can never accuse an offeror of fraud. For an offer can only be a fraudulent offer if it’s still an offer.

Hays asked if "desire is a precondition for a well-meant offer." The answer is yes. Then Hays gives an analogy that does not correspond to a well-meant/well-intentioned offer in order to answer "no" to the question in the title. What he has presented in the analogy is an ill-meant offer, not a well-meant offer, as I have described above. Is desire a precondition for an ill-meant offer? Of course not, but that's not what the title of the post is asking.

The conclusion only follows if we grant Tony’s makeshift definition.

At least two things are necessary for a "well-meant"/"well-intentioned"/"loving"/"gracious" offer: 1) some good thing you have for the taking (it's actually applicable to the offeree) coupled with 2) a desire for compliance to the condition(s). There's nothing in Hays' post that disproves this fact.

That’s not a “fact”–that’s an assertion. An assertion that begs the very issue in dispute.

Keep in mind that this conversation about the nature of well-meant offers is coming up because we're dealing with God's indiscriminate gospel offers. Do Christians want to describe God's "gracious offers" (that's Reformed Confessional language) as well-meant (as described above) to all? Well-meant to the elect but ill-meant to the non-elect? Or a sham offer to the non-elect?

I have a better idea: why don’t we describe the gospel offer as a “true” offer. Whatever it takes to make it true.

It seems that Steve Hays not only thinks God is ill-meant in his offers to the non-elect, but one wonders how he escapes the charge that he depicts the "offer" to the non-elect as a sham offer.

It would only be a “sham” offer if God is unable or unwilling to make good on the offer. But as I’ve explained repeatedly, that’s not the case.

He has yet to tell us what God is offering to the non-elect (i.e. the non-died-for). So, we ask, "What is God offering to the non-died-for?"

To begin with, it’s not as though God is making an offer to anyone in particular. Rather, God has a general command or offer for the consideration of the redeemed and the unredeemed alike. For instance:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9).

Back to Byrne:

The analogy is also problematic if we apply it to God's gospel offer. It would depict God's offers of salvation to the elect alone as done out of a cheerful heart, but God offers salvation to the non-elect only as an onerous burden springing from bare duty.

It’s not problematic since it wasn’t analogous to the gospel offer. Rather, I was exploring the nature of a “well-meant” offer. Byrne lacks the critical detachment to follow the argument.

1 comment:

  1. I consider this final post by David (click) to be a sufficient answer to Hays' post above, in addition to some of the other content in recent posts on the same subject by Hays on Triablogue. I cannot be of any help to those who say God does not desire compliance to His commands.

    As for me, I am not interested in further interaction here and now.

    Grace to you,

    "There is all in God that is good, and perfect, and excellent in our desires and wishes for the conversion and salvation of wicked men...There is all in God that belongs to our desire of the holiness and happiness of unconverted men and reprobates, excepting what implies imperfection...The disagreeableness of the wickedness and misery of the creature, absolutely considered, to the nature of God, is all that is good in pious and holy men’s lamenting the past misery and wickedness of men. Their lamenting these, is good no farther than it proceeds from the disagreeableness of those things to their holy and good nature. This is also all that is good in wishing for the future holiness and happiness of men. And there is nothing wanting in God, in order to his having such desires and such lamentings, but imperfection; and nothing is in the way of his having them, but infinite perfection; and therefore it properly, naturally, and necessarily came to pass, that when God, in the manner of existence, came down from his infinite perfection, and accommodated himself to our nature and manner, by being made man, as he was, in the person of Jesus Christ, he really desired the conversion and salvation of reprobates, and lamented their obstinacy and misery; as when he beheld the city Jerusalem, and wept over it, saying, "O Jerusalem," &c. In the like manner, when he comes down from his infinite perfection, though not in the manner of being, but in the manner of manifestation, and accommodates himself to our nature and manner, in the manner of expression, it is equally natural and proper that he should express himself as though he desired the conversion and salvation of reprobates, and lamented their obstinacy and misery." Jonathan Edwards, "Concerning the Divine Decrees in General and Election in Particular," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Carlisle, Penn.: Banner of Truth, 1974), 2:528-529.