Thursday, October 13, 2011

Phil on Phreedom

Phil decided to write a response I guess to me, however he never once quotes any of my views on the matter. Ponter chimed in with, "Yeah, you tell him, God doesn't will sin directly, so there!"

Unfortunately, the response was unresponsive to anything I've argued. It is comprised of going on pop-Calvinist auto-pilot and throwing out a few vague terms as if they're really doing serious philosophical or theological work.

The first issue is that it was assumed that the distinction between "moral and natural ability" somehow provided a workhorse of a conceptual tool, the mere mentioning of which, without direct reference to anything I wrote, sufficed to settle the matter. I see neither of them read my essay on free will. I'll plug it again. One problem from the start is that we're talking about determinism, and the above conceptual distinction, while maybe stating a vague truth, does not address the issue raised. For libertarianism is compatible with the distinction between moral and natural in/ability. I went over this in the above mentioned paper.

Phil writes, "There are two sink holes to fall into regarding the idea of a God who is so sovereign that He determines all things ahead of time, denying his sovereignty . . . and denying his goodness." Phil thinks I've done the latter, but cannot demonstrate it from anything I've said. In any case, see that he admits that God "determines all things ahead of time." So, if X determines that S will Φ at t, then S cannot do otherwise than Φ at t, given the determinism (whether it's laws of physics, the fates, laws of logic, or God's decrees). So, per Phil's statement, if God decrees that Phil will eat pizza at noon tomorrow, then given that decree Phil cannot do otherwise than eat the pizza at noon tomorrow.

Now, let's get one thing straight from the start. Phil claimed that a necessary constraint for a sincere offer is: Necessarily, if S sincerely offers Φ to S′, then S can give Φ to S′. Call this Phil's Principle, PP. My counterexample was simple. Suppose Phil offered a slice of pizza to his neighbor, David. David accepts. This looks like a sincere offer. However, suppose God decrees from eternity that Phil will be overtaken by ravenous hunger the moment the pizza arrives (perhaps he was vigorously playing pirate in his backyard tree house). Given Reformed theology and the meaning of "determines," Phil could not have given what was offered to David. There, counterexample, so the constraint has been falsified. Interestingly, Phil thought if he changed subjects about reprobation, positive and negative determining, natural and moral in/ability, etc., that that would somehow save him. No, I'm afraid he's wrong. My counterexample shows that PP is false. Thus, it's not a necessary condition. Phil can qualify, move goal posts, etc., but as stands, I refuted PP.

However, Phil really thinks his points should be taken seriously. And even though they're off topic and unresponsive to my argument, I suppose I can answer him further. Aside from his moral/natural in/ability distinction not doing the compatibilistic work Phil intends for it to do, there's general problems. To say that S has the natural ability to Φ is to say that there's nothing coercing or forcing S to Φ. S does what S does unimpeded by external or constraints. Nothing is forcing or stoping S from Φ-ing. For example, suppose S gets on a bus. To say he has the natural ability to refrain from this, means that there was nothing forcing or coercing S from getting on the bus. His body-parts and the movements thereof worked sufficiently normal to be able to move his body down the street the Chuck E. Cheeze's rather than on the bus. Calvin gives the example of the bones of Jesus. Were they breakable? In one sense, yes; in another, no. In the first sense, they were normal bones, which had the property of breakability if hit with sufficient force, just like all normal bones. In more contemporary terms, Jesus didn't have Wolverine's skeleton. In the latter sense, however, since God had decreed that no bones would break, and since the negation of one of God's decree is impossible to bring about, then the bones couldn't be broken.

Now, those who employ the natural in/ability distinction will use it to argue for compatibilism in classical compatibilist fashion (classical compatibilism is the compatibilism of Hume, Locke, etc.) Since they affirm theological determinism, and they feel the push from questions about how it is just to hold a man responsible if he could not do otherwise, they will claim that man is naturally able to do otherwise, just not morally. The former is what it needed to ground ascriptions of responsibility. So the argument will run like this: S was responsible for Φ-ing because S could have done otherwise than Φ. This 'could have done otherwise' means that S had the natural ability to do otherwise in that nothing coerced or forced S to Φ; and, had S wanted to Ψ instead of Φ, then S would have. This last part is crucial. it invokes the notion of hypothetical ability. That is, we have an ability or power such that were we to want to do otherwise, then we could or would do otherwise, nothing prevented us from doing otherwise in the sense of forcing or coercing.

However, note a couple problems. First, if S did want to do otherwise, and so would do otherwise, this requires another decree. S cannot do otherwise given identical decrees. This brings in possible worlds semantics, but David Ponter taught us that this was strictly forbidden. Second, notice that the move works only if we are able to want to do otherwise. Are we? Well, how does 'ability' get cached out on classical compatibilst terms? Recall that it gets cashed out this way: S is able to do otherwise means that if S were to want to do otherwise, then S could or would. It gets cashed out hypothetically. S is free to Φ if and only if (i) if S chooses Φ then S would Φ and (ii), if S were not to choose to do Φ then S would not do Φ. The bottom line here is that what S chooses to do results from S's will, volition, desires, wants, whatever. So, it's not enough to say that S would have done otherwise had S wanted to, for S also needs to be able to want to. The problem brought out here is that the hypothetical account isn't enough. We need more than just, S could have done otherwise if S had wanted to do otherwise. But this pushes the question back to whether the agent could have wanted to do otherwise. To answer that requires another 'could' statement: S could have wanted or chosen to do otherwise. This requires another hypothetical analysis: S could (or was 'able' to) have wanted or chosen to do otherwise, if S had wanted or chosen to want or choose otherwise. The same question would arise about this analysis, needing another 'could' statement to be analyzed, and so on ad infinitum.

There's other worries too about the sufficiency of the above kind of position. Take cases of mental illness. Clearly a mental patient can do what she wants, or may want to do what she can; say, shoot all the giant elephants walking around New York city (actually, they're people but she hallucinates), but we clearly wouldn't call her free, this is why we send her to a hospital rather than a jail. We need rather more than mere natural ability and doing what we want to do.

In any event, Phil offers a response:

And with that we're ready to address Mr. Manata's question: if God has foreordained that Mr. Bob would spend eternity in Hell, then how can He make a genuine offer of salvation to Bob? The answer is easily found: God happens to know that man left alone will choose hell, but even so He is not condemning man to hell with His decrees. Man is given the empty space to make His own decision, and chooses himself.

Note that this does nothing to undermine my use of an arbitrary example of an offering which refuted Phil's necessary constraint. Second, God doesn't just "happen to know" that man left alone will choose hell, for God has decreed all of man's choices, since he decrees "whatsoever comes to pass." As Berkhof has pointed out,"The execution of the plan may require means or be dependent on certain conditions, but then these means or conditions have also been determined in the decree. God did not simply decree to save sinners without determining the means to effectuate the decree. The means leading to the pre-determined end were also decreed." Third, God condemns man to hell for his sins, which he determined, by the way. If this is rejected, then we must deny that God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass. That God did not directly cause the man to sin is of no consequence, for that simply means that God is the actor. And yes, man makes his own decisions and choices, which of course were decreed before the foundation of the world. Moreover, responsibility and inability to do otherwise is fully compatible with determinism. So, there is a sense in which man makes his own choices, yet he could not have done otherwise. And aside from these objections come objections from the foreknowledge argument. I ask Phil again, what Reformed answer will he give to the foreknowledge argument, which concludes that we cannot do other than we do?

So again, the problem is clear. Phil thinks that there not being any atonement available precludes a sincere offer. I have of course refuted this constraint, and also conjectured that if per impossible a reprobate were to come to Christ, God would send again Jesus to die just for him. This would need to be shown to be impossible. Aside from this, however, is that Phil is faced with a similar problem, and it's the one all non-Calvinists give. Since man cannot accept the gospel, then it looks as if God is insincere to offer it. It's akin to offering a man in a wheelchair a treat if he will come and get it. This is not avoided by saying that you have enough of whatever it is such that you could give it to him if he came. And the appeal to natural ability is not relevant here, that's an accidental detail of the situation. The problem lies in the inability in general. If saying, "Well if the man could walk, then he'd come" doesn't mean anything since he's unable to walk in this world. Similarly the reprobate. Given God's decree that a man will not want to come to Christ, and the positive decree is a necessary condition for coming to Christ, that man cannot come to Christ. He's unable. To say he is able in the sense that if he wanted to come he could invites questions about whether he's able to want. Etc.


  1. If I were Phil I'd be waving the white flag at this point.

  2. Hi Paul,

    I'm curious about a few things.

    Am I mistaken, or are you arguing against Edwardsian compatibilism in this post?

    Are you rejecting the classic distinction between moral and natural ability, or rejecting Phil's application of that principle to this particular discussion?

    Are you saying God's decrees not only determine what will happen, but can also be invoked by human beings to define what can happen in this world (i.e., to limit hypotheticals and future possibilities)? Can we validly speak about things being "possible" if God's decree renders almost every possibility impossible? Does Scripture ever speak or reason this way?

    Do you think it is wise to make direct logical application of the secret decrees God made in eternity (and about which he has only revealed a little in Scriptures) to the things we are experiencing in the temporal present, and the things we might experience in the future? (Given God's decrees, can we even say "might experience in the future", since what we will experience is already determined?)

    Are you advocating hard determinism, compatibilism, or something else?

    Do you think there could be unrevealed information about the way God's decrees relate to our experiences and abilities in this world? If so, could that unrevealed information include a myriad of defeaters to your reasoning in this post? In other words, in your considered opinion, can human beings expect to know everything, most things, some things, a few things, or nothing about the way God makes His real decrees and our real choices compatible? On what basis do you determine how much we can know about this?

    As you can see, you've really got me thinking here. That's something I've always appreciated about your writings.

  3. Derek, you're welcome to read my paper on free will to get some ideas of my views.

    Yes, I think elements of Edwardsian compatibilism are flawed, and I wouldn't think the truth of unlimited atonement rested on whether Edwards turns out right!

    As I stated, I don't reject the natural/moral ability distinction. I don't think it does the work those who invoke it think it does (addressed more in the paper).

    The appeal to "do I think we might find something in the future which undermines what you said here" is counter productive. You guys seem awfully settled on what counts as an sincere offer. Do you think it's at all possible God could tell you in heaven, "No, guys, that's actually not a sincere offer." Or, other such things as I mentioned in my latest post.

  4. Paul,

    Thanks for the clarification.

    You asked: "Do you think it's at all possible God could tell you in heaven, 'No, guys, that's actually not a sincere offer.'?"

    It's certainly possible. Whether or not it's decreed we aren't likely to know for some time.

    But on your argument, nothing is possible unless it is decreed, so we can't say whether anything in the future is possible. If you are consistent with your argument, you can't even ask the question.

  5. "But on your argument, nothing is possible unless it is decreed,"

    Of course, that's not my argument, and the info I did give should be enough to show that's not my view. That you cannot understand the arguments given might account for your assessment of these debates.

  6. Oh Come now Mr. Houston do you really think this little essay interacted with my own article in any way? It seems to me (please clarify if I'm reading this wrong) Paul is arguing for total determinism. If that's the case then all I need to do is step back when the suicide bomber vest goes off.
    If not perhaps Paul would be so kind as to condense into one sentence (or repost from his longer book-essay the relevant section) on what he's asserting here because this article has missed.
    And I am interested in hearing it. I'll raise the flag if I'm openly beat, but this just isn't it yet.

  7. Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case. I have always admitted that if one wants to deny Reformed orthodoxy, one may do so. It is sufficient for me to note that Phil has to deny Reformed theology to answer me. That, or he's more unaware of the relevant issues than I thought.

  8. Apart from Phil using a term I've never heard used, i.e., 'total determinism,' I'll go with the prima facie meaning. So Phil denies that all things are determined. Thus he affirms that some things are undetermined. And he thinks some of these things are the free and morally responsible actions of human beings. Apparently he thinks man's freedom and moral responsibility are *incompatible* with determinism. Hence, indeterminism is true of these actions, they are incompatible with determinism, and yet man is free and responsible. Phil has to affirm libertarianism to beat me. Okay, which 4-pointer's next?

  9. Paul,

    You said: "That you cannot understand the arguments given might account for your assessment of these debates."

    I haven't really made much of an assessment as yet. I've mostly asked questions that remain unanswered, and am indeed still trying to understand your argument. Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Bavinck and Berkhof I read and understand without too much trouble. But this post is in a category all its own. You'll have to excuse my apparent density, but you're quite correct in saying that I'm not getting some of your points.

    Beyond that, your sudden victory dance has me scratching my head (which is not good, given my lack of hair). So . . . are you arguing for hard determinism? Is that what you are calling Reformed orthodoxy?

  10. "Oh Come now Mr. Houston do you really think this little essay interacted with my own article in any way?"

    Why yes, I do! He's got you to the point where you are claiming to be Reformed, which entails what you call 'total determinism' (such a charming little phrase) and yet you deny 'total determinism'. Which will it be? Will you give up your libertarianism or the Reformed doctrine of sovereignty? Please bear in mind that that means the Biblical view of Sovereignty...

    (Proverbs 16:1, 4, 7, 9, 33; 20:24; 21:1, Jeremiah 10:23, Lamentations 3:37, 38, Amos 3:6, Acts 17:26-27, Daniel 2:21; 4:35, Psalm 139:16, Ephesians 1:11, Romans 11:36 John 3:27, Job 12:9-10; 14:5)

  11. Derek,

    Again, read my paper. You even linked to it at your own blog, where you pointed out I argued for compatibilism. Did you not read the paper? Total determinism does not = hard determinism. If it does, then I'm not arguing for "total determinism," but then Phil's response is wide of the mark and you make him look more uninformed than he already does.

    As for head scratching, I thought you told people to avoid this blog and anything Steve or I write. But yet here you are.

  12. "I've mostly asked questions that remain unanswered,"

    Of course, Derek, I've answered all of your questions. I've also pointed you to where I've written more extensively on the matter. Yet you don't bother to study the matter and instead shoot from the hip. You're clearly wedded to a theory, and you're scratching and clawing to hold on to it, which includes your temper tantrum of telling people not to read Steve or my stuff (especially in light of your false accusation about me, given I never read your "apology" post until today).

  13. I did not say "avoid," nor did I say "do not read." I said I can't recommend your work, at least not for the time being. I'd expect a philosopher of your caliber to understand these kinds of simple distinctions, yet you seem to confuse or misstate your opponents' ideas on a continuous basis. I feel like I'm constantly correcting your misapprehensions.

    I hope to see positive changes that will restore my confidence.

    I've interacted with many people whose work I would not recommend, and so have you. Just because I don't recommend your current work doesn't mean I'm not interested in the topic you are discussing. Must I justify interacting with you?

    What exactly do you mean by "temper tantrum"? Was there evidence of anger in my post? No, it was sorrow and a desire to grow beyond the way I treated you in our former conversation. Do you share this desire, my brother? I was ashamed of my uncharitable behavior, and I was ashamed for your sake as well.

  14. Derek,

    You said our work was not recommended, and then you cited two blogs you did recommend. If I said, "I recommend you don't go to Pete's bar, I recommend you go to Lou's instead" it'd be common sense to take me as you telling me and others to avoid Pete's and patron Lou's. Likewise, if I told people that I do not recommend reading so and so's work, I'd be saying to avoid it. Or, if I told teenagers that I don't recommend skateboarding without a helmet, I'd properly be taken as telling them to avoid that activity. Indeed, common antonyms for 'recommend' are: disapprove, dissaude, discourage, etc.

    So, you were saying?

    Lastly, your post was a hit piece. You cited nothing wrong on my end, and the only thing you pulled out as justification was that I ignored your apology letter. But I've told you three times now, and you've ignored the point, I was never aware of your letter until today. Thus you wrongly accused me. Yes, I have been bothered by your constant yes-man attitude and your naked assertions about how bad Steve and I have done in the debate, especially when you've never once seriously analyzed the exchange, instead you've moved your pom-poms around and simply cheered your side. Your disrespect for reason and argument are frankly what you should be more concerned with, rather than a funny reference to using LSD and seeing purple unicorns.

  15. Paul,

    John Piper reads and interacts with N.T. Wright's work on justification. Does he recommend it to others as a reliable resource? No.

    Turretinfan reads and interacts with Catholic scholars. Does he recommmend their work to his readers? No.

    Patrick Chan reads and interacts with Randal Rauser. Does he recommend his work? No.

    You read and interact with Roger Olson. Do you recommend his work? I would guess not.

    This is a little different than drinking at some bar.

    Anyone who reads our previous conversation will be able to see why I can no longer recommend your work. Do I really have to spell it all out? Your insulting, adversarial, assume-the- worst comments on this thread alone are enough to show the problem in clear light.

  16. You take the most uncharitable assumptions and then build a straw man to knock them down. Instead of asking me what I meant by "total determinism" you assumed I meant "libertarian free will" or some such thing.
    Then you hold a victory parade.
    I'll be charitable to Mr. Houston who perhaps didn't read my blog post. For your sake then I'll point out the obvious: Paul doesn't need, use, or interact with Scripture.
    And now, you will excuse me, I have better things to do than argue on the internet.

  17. Phil,

    So we are all left wondering... what did you mean by "total determinism"?

  18. Phil,

    I read your post and you didn't interact with Steve or Paul at all. Instead, you choose to spew out accusations of hyper-calvinism and ignoring the Bible. Those are pretty strong accusations that can be easily refuted by even a cursory glance at their blog.

    I found this especially charming in light of your irritation at our assuming what you meant by 'total determinism'. Well, if we all have a grasp on what 'determinism' is and we throw the 'total' qualifier on to it methinks we all know what that means. It means 'determinism'. It means that if you deny it, which you intimated that you did, and you still believe in personal responsibility, then you hold to some form of libertarian freedom. But perhaps we all got you wrong and you can set us straight.

    Of course, if we did misunderstand you that can hardly be our fault when you refuse to educate yourself on the terminology of the debate despite Paul's efforts to provide a quick and easy intro to the subject. I know you're busy (although for a guy who has better things to do than argue on the internet you sure do a lot of arguing on the internet) but perhaps you should educate yourself on the subject before getting back in the ring.

  19. Phillip,

    Notice I said, "I don't know what you mean by 'total determinism,' so I'll take the prima facie meaning." I then went from there. You don't get to throuw out a neologism and them get all upset when someone tries to read it charitably, i.e., "total" means "everything."

    Secondly, if you didn't mean to deny that "everything" is determined, then you have my argument to deal with and have done nothing but hand waving thus far. It's pretty simple: if you affirm that all things are determined, then my arguument goes through and I've provided not only a counteexample to your necessary condition, but also showed how on your own terms you can escape insincere offer arguments. If you deny that all things are determined, then you affirm something like libertarianism, in which case that suffices to show that there's no *Reformed* response to my arguments.

    Which horn would you like to be impaled on?

  20. Oh, so Derek is like Piper, Turretin Fan and me, and I'm like Wright, Catholics, and Olson. Derek's here to refute us and confound the errors of the unorthodox. He tells his benighted readers to avoid us, but he takes the risk and engages in refutations and disputations, just like the Piper's and TurretinFan's of the world. he does this even though he offers no arguments, and can only announce that Ponter et al beats us. Even when he shows he's clearly unfamiliar with the relevant literature and terms in the topic we're discussing.

    Derek, you need to revist the chronology. You came to my blog and scolded me like a child for making a reference to LSD and seeing purple unicorns. You were then found on other blogs engaging in the same sort of sarcasm and rhetoric you comlained was present in Hays and me. You were called out for the hypocrisy. You then said, "Oh, but I thought you could take it, but now you're all bothered? if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." We then told you that you were missing the point, for we were pointing out that your behavior left *you* no grounds for your sanctimonious condemenations. You then, like a cheerleader, ran around the internet and merely announced that Ponter was an gentleman and was working us. You did this in spite of the fact that Ponter called us deluded, said that we were dummies and that grasping his awesome arguments wasn't "rocket science," and other such snarky remarks. You're so blinded by partisanism that you constantly give your side a pass. On top of that, you are unable either to follow or grasp the arguments used against your side, but you don't let that little detail stop you from announcing winnders, like a cheerleader. If not a cheerleader, then rather like Salacious B. Crumb, the little laughing pet of Jabba the Hut's. If you haven't caught on, that all got a little annoying, and so we turned some fire your way . . .and now you're complaining about it.

  21. "Paul doesn't need, use, or interact with Scripture."

    Funny, I must have missed this. What's the verse that defines "sincere offer" in the rigged way you guys do? Was it I or II Opinions 3:17. I forgot.

  22. Unfortunately, I had to delete a commenter's comment for violations of the rules of this blog. Mere assertions without arguments are not allowed.

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. Paul,

    I am going to re-submit my comment. If you won't post it here, it can be posted elsewhere. I've read the Triablogue commenting rules and my comment is not in violation.

    However, I am much less concerned about you posting it than I am about you taking it to heart and acting on it. Please, please, please repent from the course you are on.


  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  26. >EDIT: I originally deleted this comment since it was in response to the comment Paul deleted but I'm putting it back up since it needs to be said.

    Theo, frankly, that's malarky. Paul's been calling you out because of your hypocrisy and pride. You can't be shown up in an argument and then run off, your pride wounded, and cry to your friends about how mean your opponent is - insulting them and accusing them of unrighteousness - and then expect to be taken seriously when you call them proud and slanderous. You also don't seem to understand how apologies work. If you think you wronged someone and they wronged you and you apologize and they don't, you don't turn around and boast about your humility and how mean they are. Even if you were wronged... does it matter? I thought you were trying to show Christ like, agape love? Your behaviour is juvenile.

  27. David,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I stand by my comment because it also needs to be said. You have the right to disagree.

    Believe me, after my disgraceful behavior in previous encounters (and given the limited but telling knowledge I have of my own sinful heart), I'm not wearing any humble pins. I'm just asking Paul to engage with his opponents in a godly way.

    And I trust he will respond positively.


  28. I wasn’t planning to comment on this because it gets to be so personal, but since Derek Ashton keeps harping on the issue, I guess I should say something.

    The notion that I ought forgive someone or accept their apology piggybanks on the prior assumption that I view myself as the offended party. If I’m the offended party, then I’m obligated to forgive the offending party if he confesses wrongdoing.

    Okay, but am I obligated to assume the role of the offended party in the first place? Is it my duty to feel that someone wronged me? Am I in the wrong unless I feel that I was wronged?

    Given that I’m the offended party, it may be incumbent on me to forgive the offending party, but is it incumbent on me to be offended? This is my disconnect with Derek. He’s imputing to me a sentiment that he imagines I’m supposed to feel, then faulting me because I don’t respond accordingly. But am I really obliged to play the injured party? This is Derek projecting. Emoting on my behalf.

    Derek needs to back up a few paces and not assume that everyone reacts to him the same way he reacts to them. I’ve been blogging since 2004. To the best of my recollection I’ve never suggested that anyone owes me an apology.

  29. Steve,

    No one is saying you have to "feel" personally offended. You wrote a post pointing out that I had engaged in ad hominem attacks against you and Paul. I looked back at what I had written and saw you were correct. I owned up to it and asked your forgiveness. This is all completely objective.

    You and Paul also engaged in ad hominem attacks. I have pointed this out to you.

    Do you and/or Paul admit to making ad hominem attacks toward me? Do you acknowledge that this behavior is wrong? Do you recognize that the behavior creates an unnecessary rift between Christian brothers and misrepresents the Gospel to non-believers?

    Scripture commands us: If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.

    We're not talking about feeling personally offended. We're talking about conducting oneself in a godly manner.


  30. Derek, my rule is that you need to give arguments and reasons for your accusations. Also, my rule is that my comments sections are not places for sanctimonious preaching.

    You already wrongly accused me at your own blog and slandered me, suggesting that I never responded to an apology letter, but I never read it.

    Besides that, you're simply playing an emotional bullying card. I've been as sarcastic with you guys as you've been with me. In fact, notice how I answered you in my first comment above. Notice your response to that was to mischaracterize *my* position, and do so sloppily too. You're acting like the Arminian epologists and political leftists. The "other" side is always wrong and mean, but when our side does it, we're justified since we're on the side of the "good."

    You furthermore do not chastise your fellow 4-pointers and tell *them* to post in a "godly way." You point out how much of a gentleman David is, yet he mocks our view of God an claims we're stupid, or "it's not rocket science" to get his awesome arguments. In fact, when you told your readers to avoid Triablogue, you allowed Phil to come in and pop off about us and how we would respond. His snarky and smarmy comment wasn't exactly the paradigm of "godliness." You didn't correct him. Moreover, you complain that Steve refers to 4-pointers as "anti-Calvinist," yet you don't get stern and lecture Phil for labeling Hays and me "hyperCalvinists," when that's just ostensibly false. or David for labeling us so, and booting us out of the "evangelical Calvinist" camp.

    That you don't lecture your own side first, but just the side who happens to be criticizing your own side, raises red flags for me and it should for you. It's hardly the case that you're on a neutral and godly quest to sanctify the blogosphere. It's a bullying tactic used when you can't argue down your opponent.

    You're blinded by partisanism and severely afflicted with a bad case of confirmation bias.

  31. Derek, there's is nothing whatsoever wrong with "ad hominem" remarks, *per se*. Not only aren't they necessarily fallacious, they're used to great effect quite frequently. Moreover, saying you don't understand the arguments and terms, or that you're a hypocrit, may be ad hominem but it's not sinful, it's an objective assessment.

  32. Paul,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. So, you still don't admit to any wrongdoing on your part?


  33. Derek, why not start with one concrete example? One quote from me with your argument for why it's sinful.

  34. Derek, why? I've asked you to give me one example and we'll look at it. I don't *think* I have, but I'm given to self-deception and self-righteousness, so I could be wrong. If your accusation has any legs, it shouldn't be a problem to support it. I admit I've made ad hominem remarks, but that's not necessarily sinful. If you think it is, then I'll take an argument from the Bible for that strong claim. If you agree they're not necessarily sinful, then just stating we've "made ad hominems," isn't enough evidence to justify your accusations.

  35. Derek,

    Unless I think you've done something that I need to forgive you for, it's a moot issue. You keep trying to cast me in a role I have no reason to assume in the first place. You can't unilaterally dictate a relation. Both parties must agree to that.

  36. Put another way, you need to learn to put yourself in someone else's shoes rather than putting someone else in your shoes.

  37. Theoparadox,

    As someone who has just watched from the sidelines through most of this let me say that I think Paul's assessment here is correct.

    I got a chance to read your post before it was removed and it did look like the pious bully tactic.

    And Paul and Steve asking why they should guilty/sinned against seems like a perfectly legitimate question. And if you're going to bother making the accusation why not also support it?

  38. Steve and Paul,

    I was going to leave this alone, but when it came to my attention that someone as astute as Bnonn had gotten the wrong impression from my silence, I decided to make one last go at it.

    Here it is, plain and simple:

    We insulted each other. I insulted you, you insulted me (for example, Steve, you groundlessly slandered my character by calling me a "yes-man" - in fact you wrote an entire post about this and then didn't offer a single word of justification when I politely asked you for the reasons behind your judgment). Paul and I similarly exchanged insulting remarks (I presume I don't have to quote them, since anyone can go back and read the comment threads). Whether we felt insulted is not the issue. Launching the insults was objectively sinful and therefore it needs to be confessed and forgiven.

    Bottom line: we didn't follow Biblical principles of communication. Our speech was not full of grace. We were not gentle or kind in our remarks. We treated one another in a way that did not properly represent the God we serve.

    Can we confess to the wrongs we committed and forgive one another as instructed by our Lord?

    If you agree, I would propose that we add editor's notes to all of the relevant posts, saying we recognized our failure, forgave one another, and were Biblically reconciled as brothers in Christ.

    If you agree, I will post such a note at my "Don't Try Triablogue" post and ask that you post it at your "yes-men" and "Insincere Offers" posts. I would also ask Philip Comer to post a similar editor's note at several of his posts where this was discussed in the comments. If for some reason Phil is not willing to do that, I would at least attempt to leave the editor's note as a comment at his posts. I'm confident Phil will oblige us.

    In essence, I'm proposing that every place containing even a hint of our insulting exchanges gets a note of correction regarding our conduct and an announcement of the peace we have made in Christ.

    This agreement would not necessarily mean I recommend your work again (any more than I would expect you to recommend my work).

    If there are any other conditions you would like to discuss, I am listening.

    Are we ready to move forward?


    PS - here is my proposed "Editor's Note": By God's grace, Derek, Steve and Paul recognized that the thoughts they shared in this post or a related one (including the comment threads) employed insulting or uncharitable language. Through the mercy of Christ, they have forgiven one another for these offenses and reconciled as brothers.

    You can probably improve on that, but it's a start at least. Let me know if this is acceptable to you. Soli Deo Gloria.

  39. So that's two times now I've asked for specifics and apparently that answer is: "It's just so obvious that you've sinned that all a reasonable person needs to do is go back and read the comments and see for themselves"???

    And Derek, by the way, there's nothing inherently sinful with calling you a "Yes-man,' if that's what you *are*. It means you simply affirm whatever Ponter says and nay say whatever we say, and do so absent actual *arguments* of your own, or even substantive analyses of the de/merits which supposedly characterize the arguments.

    Moreover, I believe that sometimes people deserve stern and strong language, especialy when they're being obtuse and are running around telling the side they disagree with to behave while at the same time glad-handing and gufawing with the side they agree with. When you berate and lecture people and treat them like children, absent argument and while doing the thing you oppose when in good company, that can ern strong words in response. You may want to keep that in mind next time.

    This is meant to be honest, not mean-spirited.

  40. Paul,

    Am I correct in understanding you do not accept any blame for the lies, false accusations and insults you have directed at me RIGHT HERE ON THIS THREAD, let alone anything previous?

    I will quote you:

    #1. "Yet you don't bother to study the matter ..." You don't know what I study, so how can you make such a sweeping assertion?
    #2. "... your temper tantrum of telling people not to read Steve or my stuff ..." There was neither temper nor tantrum in what I wrote. Why would you say there was?
    #3. "Lastly, your post was a hit piece. You cited nothing wrong on my end, and the only thing you pulled out as justification was that I ignored your apology letter." You apparently didn't read carefully enough. I clearly stated why I am no longer recommending your work, so you have misrepresented me again.
    #4. "your constant yes-man attitude and your naked assertions about how bad Steve and I have done in the debate, especially when you've never once seriously analyzed the exchange, instead you've moved your pom-poms around and simply cheered your side." How do you know if I have a constant yes-man attitude? How do you know what I've analyzed? You seem to think you can get into my brain. I don't own or use any pom poms, btw, and I really haven't taken a "side" as far as I can recall.
    #5. "Your disrespect for reason and argument ..." What is this? Another ungrounded and slanderous remark. Do you deny it? Or are you going to try to prove all of these baseless accusations?
    #6. "Derek's here to refute us and confound the errors of the unorthodox." No, I came here to learn from you and ask a few questions, hoping for some change in your demeanor. Don't presume on my motives, please.
    #7. "... he's clearly unfamiliar with the relevant literature and terms in the topic we're discussing." You don't know what I read or what terms I am familiar with. Your statement here is awfully presumptuous unless you are clairvoyant, all-knowing, or think you have a special word of knowledge.
    #8. "You came to my blog and scolded me like a child ..." You didn't even publish the comment, Paul. Go ahead and post it here and let the readers decide if I scolded you like a child (I don't have a copy thanks to your not posting it).
    #9. "You were then found on other blogs engaging in the same sort of sarcasm and rhetoric you comlained was present in Hays and me." No, it was not the same sort of rhetoric. You uncharitably read it that way, again assuming my motives. When you make an accusation, that in itself doesn't cause the accusation to be true.
    #10. "You then, like a cheerleader, ran around the internet and merely announced that Ponter was an gentleman and was working us." Care to show where I ran around the internet saying this? I did observe on my own blog that he has been much more fair in his critique of your posts than you and Hays have been in critiquing his posts. Am I not allowed to hold that opinion?

    I could go on, but do I need to?

    Should we reconcile, or keep wrangling? You decide. I have made my offer. Please accept my overtures of peace, brother.

  41. Here is my previous word of encouragement to Paul that was so offensive it has now been removed TWICE by a blog administrator. If the Triablogue moderators feel the need to block this, you'll need to go back and pull down many of your own comments and posts as well.


    You continue on the same track without missing a beat - immune to your own criticisms, unwilling to admit any fault and unwilling to reconcile with a brother who appeals to you in kindness. You seem unable (morally, not naturally) to interact with me in a respectful manner.

    Whatever this is, it's not godly behavior. At this point I don't even care who wins the argument. I'm concerned about you. Please repent.

    If you choose to answer with another volley of the same type, just refer back to this comment again for my response.

    If you want to represent Christ on a public forum like the internet, please (for His sake) do it humbly and charitably. Do it prayerfully, and when you fall short of the standard, admit your wrongdoing and turn back. Don't go forward into the jaws of unrighteousness. Don't excuse yourself with appeals to your ethnicity or some other factor. For all your love of the Owenic model of limited atonement, please show some regard to his pleadings about mortification of sin. Show the world that it's not just about arguments; it's about God conquering the human heart (and mind) by His great mercy. Speak the truth, but speak it in love. Adorn your doctrine with grace. Let your gentleness be evident to all.

    Please, brother, take this exhortation to heart.

  42. Yes, Derek, I deny that any of those comments, especially in context, were sinful. I could take time to explain it, but I don't think it'd do any good. You're dead set on your witch hunt. Burn away.

  43. Just to take two examples, I don't think he's well-read on the metaphysics of free will, and I think anyone familiar with the literature and reading his comments can see that. Is my saying that "sinful?" Second, I said he scolded me like a child and was talking about his comment left at my other blog, where I took a key from Ponter's post about wanting a purple unicorn and said Ponter was dropping LSD and seeing purple unicorns. Derek came into *that* post and scolded me like a child. I think he is a yes man, and I think he has a low and improper view of reason. That's my considered opinion. Like Derek said, "Aren't I allowed to hold that opinion."

  44. So you're going to cast insults at me and not defend them with reason, while at the same time accusing me of not backing my arguments. That's unrepentant H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y with a capital "H", I think.

    "Yes, Derek, I deny that any of those comments, especially in context, were sinful. I could take time to explain it, but I don't think it'd do any good. You're dead set on your witch hunt. Burn away."

    Such peaceable words.

    Well then, I wish you the best and will continue to pray for you, sir. Again, as before, I beg your forgiveness and pardon for the way I insulted you and Steve in the prior conversations.

    BTW, my view of reason is well described by James Anderson in this quote which appears in the sidebar of my blog:

    "By advocating paradox I don't want to give the impression that I'm giving a carte blanche to not think philosophically, to not think deeply, about these doctrines. Quite the opposite. . . . My position is that with each of these doctrines we reflect on them as hard as we can, we penetrate them as best we can based on the Scriptural data that we do have, but we also recognize that there are going to be limits, and that those limits are actually a positive thing and not a reflection of some inherent problem in the doctrines or in the process of theological reflection. . . . I think we can make progress, we can make considerable progress, in understanding these doctrines and resolving some of the . . . initial difficulties that we have with them, but at the same time recognizing that we're always only going to get so far and when we bump up against the limits of our capacity to formulate them in certain ways or to resolve certain difficulties in them, we
    shouldn't be too concerned about that. We certainly shouldn't say, 'Okay, we need to admit that Christians are ultimately irrationalists.' No. We don't need to say that at all. . . . It's a Biblically constrained rationality. It's a middle way between rationalism, of which I think [Gordon H.] Clark was a representative, and irrationalism, of which, to take an example I think the Neo-Orthodox - Karl Barth - would be an example, where you're saying that there are actual contradictions in there. So I think it's navigating a Biblical middle way between these two extremes: having too high a view of the human intellect, and perhaps too low a view of the intellect, of our ability to know the things
    of God."
    (James Anderson)

  45. One other note: expressing an opinion about how well someone performs in a debate is called *observation*. Expressing negative opinions about another man's character when you have no firsthand knowledge or ability to back it up is called *slander*. That is a sin. You would do well to learn the difference between observation and slander so you don't keep conflating them.

  46. Derek isn't a good listener. I don't think I wronged him, and I don't think he wronged me. Therefore, forgiveness is a red herring.

    I don't think calling him a "yes-man" is an insult. Rather, that's how he acts. Therefore, I can't in good conscience retract that charge.

    Sure, he doesn't agree. That simply means he views himself differently than I do, just as I view myself differently than he does.

    He keeps insisting that I should feel sinned against. Why am I obligated to feel sinned against?

    Because he's so emotionally invested in the issue, he assumes that I must be as well. But I'm really pretty aloof about apologetics.

  47. Derek,

    So, let's go one-by-ne.

    #1 "You don't bother to study the matter." The context here is the relevant literature on the metaphysics of freedom. Given your comments and questions, it appears to me that you are unfamiliar with the relevant literature and you make remarks about the field which suggest to me that you don't study the field and are rather ignorant of the important and basic concepts, questions, issues, problems, terms, etc. However, if you wish to press this, we can. Are you saying you study the field of the metaphysics of free will? If you want to push this, we can set up a recorded phone call where I quiz you on what you've read and then ask you questions about the content of the most basic and fundamental books and articles in the field.

    So, are you going to tell all of us that you "study" the area of discipline relating to the metaphysics of free will, or what I correct?

    We can #2 next.

  48. Wow, Steve, here again your are assuming so much about me and even assigning feelings to me that you can't possibly have the slightest knowledge of. It is truly amazing how much you and Paul appear to think you know about someone you hardly know, reading my thoughts and emotions from such a great distance. Tell me, what am I going to have for supper tonight? You appear to be engaging in some sort of weird Reformed prophetism. The only problem is your judgments are false. You will have to answer to God for that, and may you find mercy on that day.

    You apparently haven't been paying attention, either. I have demonstrated that this has nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with violating objective, Biblical standards and remedying that situation Biblically.

    I can see that you're not willing, but for me it was worth making a sincere offer. I followed the Biblical principles in all good conscience as God enabled, and the rest I will leave in His capable hands.

    I thank you for your time and wish you the best. If at some time in the future you become willing to reconcile, please get in touch and we can rejoice in the grace of God together.

  49. Paul,

    Your broad, general comments have suddenly become so qualified and detailed. You can move the goal posts and try to trap me all day long, but until you are willing to acknowledge your insults and slander it's going to be an exercise in futility. You wanted examples, I gave them. You still aren't willing to reconcile. That is to your loss, though you may not see it that way.

    Again, I wish you the best and will be praying for you.

  50. At this point Derek, I think we'd better move on. You've chosen to make accusations which you cannot support. You have an a priori that we've sinned, and you cannot establish it. You take your a priori and merely *quote* the sections you think justify your a priori, as if seeing the quotes should automatically lead any rational person to accept your conclusion. When I surmise that you're just grasping at straws and brush you off, you come back with challenges to support the claims with reason and argument. I then, against my better judgment (since I'm dealing with an emotional man), take you up on the offer, fully prepared to debunk all of your claims and force you to admit that you're wrong. When I rise to your challenge, you blow me off and make more mere assertions and announcements about how I've done this or that. I could of course argue the new matter with you, but you've shown that there's no point to that with you. You have your a priori, you're convinced of it, and no one can tell you otherwise. Your behavior and inability to demonstrate your charges here, along with the fact that respected people who agree with me about limited atonement, and some respected people who agree with you about unlimited atonement, nevertheless think your claims are bogus here. Why are there so many people in opposition to your claims, Derek? Why are there so many people who agree with you ideologically, yet disagree with you here, so as to avoid charges of partisanism? The "sin" of the matter must not be as "obvious" and "clear" and "unavoidable" as you suppose.

    So at this point, we'll just end the conversation. You may continue with your oh so very humble show of piety and "pray for me". Just make sure you announce your innocence and your humbleness and desire to pray for us wayward sinners more loudly. You wouldn't want people to get the wrong impression of you.

  51. Paul,

    I agree that it is best to end here. Please refer back to my previous post (the one you deleted twice). Good day.


  52. In fairness, I'm not sure who deleted it. I am sorry for assuming it was you, Paul. Please forgive me for that.

  53. Derek, you mentioned Colossians 4:6 in your "not recommended" post about Triablogue. But that verse is talking about a principle for evangelism; not apologetics or polemics. So why think that either you or Triablogue have violated it?

    You can't just assume you've violated biblical standards because you didn't like how the conversation went. Most people in the Western world are nancies—utterly mortified by the merest hint of confrontation. But that's not how Jesus was. You need to look at how discourse actually gets cashed out in the Bible.

    So Proverbs 15:1 speaks of turning away anger with a soft tongue; but verses 18 and 32 also speak of the hot-head, who will reject reproof and stir up contention.

    Reproof often offends. Yet the Bible lauds it. Have you created more contention by trying to prove Paul and Steve's wrongdoing, and showing yourself the better party? No doubt you feel injured—but they do not. Neither does it seem they expected you to feel injured. Triablogue maintains an aggressive style of debate, which you must have known going in.

    I don't mean to pick on you. I'm not defending Paul or Steve. Heck, Steve has ripped me a new one on occasion as well, so I know how you feel. That's why I can say that it seems you're relying on your feelings, rather than real biblical principles, to tell you the appropriate course of action here. When Steve attacked me, I took his comments as reproof; not as a personal affront, even though I was affronted. That's just the way he writes ;P

    I actually think Steve is good for Christians. He's like the End Boss for debate. He's got +5 to Daze, +6 to Provoke Rage, a +7 Sarcasm Attack, and +10 Logical Discernment Bonus. The only way to defeat him is with Detached Reason. If you try to use any melee weapons, his +8 Thorns will munt you. So if you're having trouble, you probably just need to level up some more :)

  54. Two thumbs up for Bnonn's 'End Boss' analogy! You nerd! :P

  55. Bnonn,

    You've misinterpreted the situation. I don't feel injured, and I don't think I'm better than Steve or Paul. Remember, I'm the one who has been confessing sins. Don't forget that I accepted Steve's reproof, in spite of the fact that it was laced with cutting remarks and slander, and I confessed my sin. Reproof, after all, is about confronting SIN. It's a wondrously freeing thing to see where you have been wrong, throw yourself at the feet of Christ, and repent. I will admit I am emotional about that. The bliss of it is beyond compare! O the glories of the free grace of God in Christ! Nothing from Steve or Paul can move me from it. He is so gracious, He even offers His mercy to the non-elect. He even provides for their need, though they in their stubbornness refuse the extended gift. How much more to us, His chosen and beloved from eternity!

    Don't assume I "feel" what you have "felt" when these men attacked you. I am not bruised, but REJOICING. As for all the debating and wrangling that has gone on, I have left feelings completely out of the equation, while Steve and Paul continue to talk about them. On wonders, Why? By accusing me of being "emotional" (another false accusation, by the way), they perhaps think they can weaken my indictment on their ungodly conduct. But it's clearly a blind.

    I like robust debate as much as the next guy (maybe more). I even enjoy losing a debate if there is something to learn from it. But insults, slander and character assassinations are beyond the bounds of the conduct prescribed for Christians in the Scriptures. You can say I took Colossians 4:6 out of context, and perhaps I did, but the Holy Spirit used it to good effect in my life. He is so gracious! And what gracious men he makes by His delightful workings.

    But He makes solid men as well. I don't care if every person on the internet thinks slander is okay for people who profess to be Christians. Let God be true, though every man is a liar! I don't submit to a mob mentality; I submit to Scriptures and God-ordained authority. So gather as many witnesses as you like, I will enjoy pointing to the Word of God all the more. What a privilege to look there for the firm, unyielding Truth that is not subject to human rationalizations but sits in sternest judgment upon them!

    You can't equate slander with reproof, Bnonn. That's a really big stretch that just won't work. Again, remember that I responded repentantly to the part of Steve's criticism that was accurate. But I'll not abide by the slander and insults. When I did it, it was wrong. When they did it, it was wrong. Now I am asking them to stop lest they deny the Word of God by their conduct.

    You can't just say, "This is the way Steve is, everyone knows it." That doesn't justify continuous and systematic misrepresentation of an opponent, his behavior, his character, and his position. Again, my appeal is to the Scriptures, and I am elated to bow before their majestic instructions.

    God is a righteous judge, and He will vindicate those who flee to him for refuge. But the ones who refuse reproof and go on in their self-justifying folly will find no mercy from Him. Don't let that be you.

    Let them mock my intercessions. Christ makes intercession, too. May His prayers be most effective in changing their stony hearts.


  56. Remember that you have been the one confessing sins? How could we forget when you remind us several times daily! You've been ever so humbly making much of yourself and publicly declaring your humility before God and comparing yourself to him.

    There's a biblical story that applies to the way you've been acting:

    ''"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

    "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.'
    - Mt 6:1-4

  57. Nice, David. Now you say I've been comparing myself to God. More slander from the Hays/Manata support team. Do you guys ever quit?

    So, are you saying that confessing one's sin when confronted is practicing one's righteousness before others? What kind of hermeneutic is that? You seem to think doing the wrong thing is wrong, and doing the right thing is also wrong. But slandering a brother is perfectly justifiable? Take an ethics course, my friend.

    BTW, the only reason I brought it up was because Bnonn seemed to forget that I had indeed responded to reproof. Now, someone please find an occasion when Steve or Paul has ever admitted to being wrong about anything. I'm all ears.

    FWIW, David, I'm not looking for praise from you or anyone else here. I don't know or care who reads this besides Steve, Paul, and whoever else happens to decide to join them in their assault. I'm striving to honor God by being faithful to Him and His Word. If you don't like it, just quit reading what I write.

    Team Hays/Manata just keeps piling on, and still no evidence of self-criticism among the whole bunch. But I'm a hypocrite for confessing my sin!

    Apparently I've stumbled into a den of sinless perfectionists?

  58. Okay Derek, perhaps I've misinterpreted. Seems to be a common misinterpretation though, so I guess the lesson to take away from that is that you come across as more emotional and obsessive than you intend.

    You can't just say, "This is the way Steve is, everyone knows it." That doesn't justify continuous and systematic misrepresentation of an opponent, his behavior, his character, and his position.

    As I said, I wasn't justifying Steve. I was just observing that you must have known what you were getting into, however you see it.

    But the ones who refuse reproof and go on in their self-justifying folly will find no mercy from Him. Don't let that be you.

    I try not to, though I suspect I have turned self-deception into an art at this stage. For my own part, I'm going to exercise the better part of valor here. See you around.

  59. Derek, you keep reminding people of how Christ-like you are. Christ is God. Ergo, you keep reminding people of how God-like you are. If you simply confessed your sin and left it at that I'd believe you that you had been truly humbled and that'd be all she wrote. But you keep hammering and hammering away at all the supposed wrongs that have been done to you and that no one else seems to see. It's irritating and, as Bnonn said, it makes you look 'emotional and obsessive'.

    I think that Steve and Paul have been over the top at times. They're men. They need salvation like everyone else. But I don't see anything wrong with the way that they've handled this situation.

    I'm done with this conversation now.

    God bless.

  60. Hi Derek,

    Although I'm a Tblogger, I haven't been involved in this debate at all. So I don't say this to support Steve or Paul. Rather I think I'm an objective third party. I hope you'll please hear me out.

    1. I would say it does seem like you haven't quite understood what either Steve or Paul have said, while it does seem like they do understand what you've said. But be that as it may.

    2. More importantly, despite you saying it isn't about feelings or emotions, I would agree with others that you do seem to be quite emotional about all this. But as Steve has said and I think Paul has intimated, the primary point isn't about their or your feelings or emotions. Perhaps that's a secondary issue (at best). The primary point is simply they don't believe they've sinned against you and they don't believe you've sinned against them. If so, then there's no need for you to apologize and there's no need for you to request they apologize.

    3. Of course, if you think you should apologize for whatever reason, and you do apologize, that's your prerogative, I guess. However, please take this gently, I'm afraid it doesn't seem becoming of you as a Christian to then follow-up your apology with a request that the other person likewise apologize to you. In other words: "I'm sorry I've wronged you. Please forgive me. Okay, now it's your turn to apologize to me." Please consider this seems to be the attitude you're evincing or the posture you're striking here.

    4. In any case, I think it'd be better to focus on the specific issues of the debate, to address the claims and counter claims, the arguments and counter arguments, rather than to make this an issue about forgiveness (e.g. who owes who an apology).