Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dispatches from the Religion of Peace

Presumed innocent

King of the munchkins


i) I’m a bit surprised that Carrier has taken so much friendly fire from his fellow infidels (pardon the alliteration). His critics include Joseph Hoffmann, James McGrath, Thom Stark, and Chris Hallquist. Why is he so unpopular among his natural allies? Do they think he’s harming the cause by attacking Ehrman? Do they find his vanity insufferable? Do they bridle at his pretensions to be a Renaissance man?

Whatever the case, Carrier badly miscalculated. It must come as a shock to him to realize how friendless he is. And he’s damaged himself in the process, as his secular critics turn on him and proceed to expose his gaffes.

ii) To my knowledge, Carrier wasn’t always a mythicist. As such, it’s self-incriminating for him to be so condescending when he attacks those who still reject the very same position he himself used to reject. But Carrier was one of those blinkered individuals who is both dogmatic and double-minded. He’s changed his views on various issues over the years, yet he’s equally dogmatic about whatever position he currently champions. Having been on both sides of this and other issues, the question naturally arises: was he foolish then, or is he foolish now? On second thought, that’s a false dichotomy.

iii) Like other crackpot causes (e.g. 9/11 Truthers), mythism has the lunatic fringe benefit of distinguishing its little coterie from the rest of the rabble.. If Carrier wasn’t a mythicist, he’d  be yet another justly neglected, third-tier militant apostate screaming for attention. But by wearing the Cuban heels of a brave iconoclast, he hopes to stand an inch or two above his fellow munchkins.

Will the Real Haters Please Stand Up?

Whale Whores

Whale Wars, which glamorizes ecoterrorism, has begun a new propaganda season. This season, the Sea Shepherd crew is rescuing tuna fish as well as whales.

This reflects the irrationality of the secular animal rights movement. On a Darwinian worldview, fishermen are animals, just like fish. The fishing industry is simply a case of human animals killing nonhuman animals. That’s no different than animals killing other animals. That’s no different than sharks or barracudas killing other fish. Meat is a natural part of the human diet.

For that matter, our closest evolutionary relative is allegedly the chimpanzee, yet chimps kill and consume other animals. Chimps are carnivorous as well as herbivorous. Why does the Sea Shepherd obstruct human primate consumption, but does nothing to obstruct nonhuman primate consumption? What could be more speciesistic?

There’s the claim that we’re fishing certain species to extinction, but even if that were true, nature is no respecter of species. Mass extinctions are a fixture of evolutionary history.

The Road We Really Traveled

Friday, April 27, 2012

Instant fossils

The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Hobbits

The first resurrection

Historically, amils interpret the first resurrection in Rev 20:4 as a “spiritual resurrection” (i.e. regeneration). More recently, some amils interpret the first resurrection as the intermediate state for the saints.

Dispensationalists are critical of both interpretations. For now I’m not going to defend the amil interpretation. Rather, I’m going to discuss the dispensational alternative. Are dispensationalists more literal, more faithful to the “plain sense” or “face-value” meaning of the verse than amils? I’m going to quote and comment on the interpretations offered by two leading dispensational scholars.

In conclusion it is best to kook at the first resurrection as a physical resurrection of the believers who will be killed in the Tribulation (Rev 6-18) and who will reign with Christ for 1,000 years in the future. After the Millennium the unbelieving dead will be resurrected and this could be the implied second resurrection. Walvoord states that the first resurrection “is not first in the sense of something that had never occurred before but first in the sense of being before the later resurrection.”

H. Hoehner, “Evidence From Revelation,” D. Campbell & J. Townsend, eds. A Case for Premillennialism (Moody 1992), 256.

i) This interpretation papers over a point of tension. If the scope of the first resurrection is confined to the Tribulation martyrs while the second resurrection is the resurrection of the unjust, then most Christians never participate in the resurrection of the just. Only the Tribulation martyrs participate in the resurrection of the just. Only the Tribulation martyrs will be glorified.

This means all other Christians won’t receive glorified bodies. Won’t have corporeal immortality. Won’t live on the new Eden.

ii) Sensing the problem, Walvoord tries to get around the problem by stipulating that the first resurrection “is not first in the sense of something that had never occurred before but first in the sense of being before the later resurrection.”

But the difficulty with this interpretation is that it’s hard to see how he derived that understanding from the text of Revelation. In Revelation we simply have a contrast between two resurrections–first and second. To say there are other resurrections before the “first” resurrection makes the “first” resurrection the third resurrection (depending on how many prior resurrections Walvoord has in mind), while that, in turn, pushes the “second” resurrection into fourth place (or whatever).

If amils practiced that legerdemain that with the “plain sense” of Revelation, dispensationalists who give them a roasting.

Turning to the standard commentary by a classical dispensationalist, we read:

Beheading was the ancient Roman method of capital punishment, but the word may be just a periphrasis for “put to death.”

R. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Moody 1995), 415.

It’s striking to see how casually a dispensationalist cancels out the Roman setting of this passage. That’s hardly literal or grammatico-historical. Of course, Thomas has to do that because he backloads the entire Tribulation to the end of the church age. So he says this in spite of the text, not because of the text.

The better option is to limit “the rest of the dead” to the wicked who are physically dead (the rest of the righteous dead, besides the martyrs, having been raised earlier to join in reigning with Christ) (419).

But if the “first resurrection” covers the Tribulation martyrs, while the “rest of the righteous dead” were raised earlier, then the “first resurrection” isn’t the first resurrection, but a subsequent resurrection.

Not only does that tamper with the plain sense of the ordinal enumeration, but Revelation never mentions an earlier resurrection of Christians. Indeed, that would make a hash of the “first resurrection.”

The more satisfactory delineation of “the first resurrection” equates it to the resurrection of all the just. This allows for the sequence of resurrection indicated in 1 Cor 15:23, for the resurrection of members of Christ’s body in 1 Thes 4:16 (Johnson), and for the resurrection of OT saints at the time of Christ’s return to earth (Dan 12:2) as well as the resurrection of the martyrs here. So the first resurrection must have at least two earlier phases than that phase which comes in conjunction with the establishment of the millennial kingdom (421).

Several problems:

i) On this interpretation, the “first resurrection” is really the third resurrection. For someone who takes other numbers (e.g. “1000 years”) so literally, that’s pretty makeshift.

ii) He stipulates two earlier “phases,” but Revelation itself doesn’t subdivide the “first resurrection” into multiple stages.

iii) He says the first resurrection “must have” at least two earlier phases. But that’s not a textual requirement. The text of Revelation doesn’t demand that.

iv) Instead, he’s squeezing other passages into the timeline of Revelation. But in that case, this isn’t an interpretation of Revelation. The timeline of Revelation doesn’t have these extra slots just waiting to be filled in by other parts of the Bible. Rather, Thomas is first interpolating gaps in the timeline of Revelation so that he can then fill the interpolated gaps with interpolated resurrections. So the whole exercise is an imposition on the text.

v) Indeed, it's a face-saving interpretation to make room for dispensational eschatology. 

vi) If he can filter Rev 20:4-5 through Dan 12:2, 1 Cor 15:23, and 1 Thes 4:16, then why can’t amils filter 20:1-3 through Mt 12:27-29 and Lk 10:18 or 20:4 through Jn 5:24?

I’m actually sympathetic to dispensationalists who think it’s a reach for amils to interpret Rev 20:1-4 in light of these extraneous passages–but by the same token, Thomas is guilty of doing the same thing by going outside of Revelation to make his case. For the first question we need to ask is what John meant by what he wrote, not what Paul or Daniel meant.

vii) Not to mention that Thomas takes for granted the dispensational interpretation of Paul and Daniel. But that’s hardly a given–unless you happen to already agree with his approach.

viii) Another problem is that Thomas is using a dispensational chronology to frame Rev 20:4-5. But where does that framework come from in the first place? It must be pieced together from various passages of Scripture. And those passages must be interpreted individually, on their own terms, before they can be arranged. Otherwise, the framework is viciously circular. You can’t use the framework to piece together the eschatological passages of Scripture if you must piece together the framework from eschatological passages of Scripture to have a framework in the first place. 

Dissing pilgrims

Is Roger Olson pretentious?

On the one hand:

I think it is pretentious for anyone to pretend never to have any doubts about something as uncertain as the mind of God...I will confess that whenever I hear a preacher or evangelist or Christian teacher speak who always comes across as absolutely certain (not just confident) of everything he (rarely she) says and never even hints at simply struggling with doubt as a human being I run away as fast as I can. If Jesus came among us and spoke (as he did to the disciples in bodily form) in a way that I could not doubt it was he, I wouldn’t call his truth claims pretentious because he’s God, but for anyone else to speak that way seems pretentious to me because they’re not God.

On the other hand:

One day, at the end of a class session on Calvinism's doctrine of God's sovereignty, a student asked me a question I had put off considering. He asked:"If it was revealed to you in a way you couldn't question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?" I knew the only possible answer without a moment's thought, even though I knew it would shock many people. I said no, that I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster.

— Roger Olson, Against Calvinism (Zondervan 2011), 85

Is evil privative?

I’m going to comment on some statements by Roger Olson on this thread:

rogereolson says:
April 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm

What are you saying? That the Bible teaches that God caused the holocaust?

Several issues:

i) Of course the Bible doesn’t directly or specifically answer that question. The issue is whether the Bible has a general teaching on divine providence that implicitly answers that question.

ii) It isn’t just a question of what the Bible teaches. It’s also a question of what theological traditions like Arminianism teach. How does Olson define causation? Here’s an attempt to capture our intuitive sense of causation:

“We think of a cause as something that makes a difference, and the difference it makes must be a difference from what would have happened without it. Had it been absent, its effects — some of them, at least, and usually all — would have been absent as well.” D. Lewis, “Causation,” Journal of Philosophy (1973) 70: 556–67.

That seems like a good working definition to me. On that definition, the Arminian God caused the Holocaust. For divine creation and providence makes a difference from what would have happened without it. Absent divine creation and providence, the Holocaust would not have happened.

Olson can propose a different definition, but it mustn’t be an ad hoc definition. 

iii) Of course, even this definition doesn’t mean God solely caused the Holocaust. There were human agents as well.

 I find it helpful to jump right to the most extreme conclusion and then back up from there to test what a verse might mean. In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, no interpretation of Scripture can stand up that can’t be preached standing in front of the gates of Auschwitz.

i) That’s just grandstanding. Scripture means whatever it means.

Olson’s objection is an emotional bluff. He draws a line in the sand, then dares us to cross it. But that’s a tacit admission that his own position is indefensible, so he must to resort to these last-ditch tactics.

His objection is a first strike to bar any interpretation that conflicts with his prior commitments, even before we crack open the pages of Scripture and see what it says. That shows contempt for the word of God. We can’t preemptively eliminate certain interpretations before we even read what the Bible has to say.

ii) What’s so special about Auschwitz? History is littered with atrocities, large and small. Scripture itself chronicles a number of atrocities. The Holocaust doesn’t mark a turning point in hermeneutics. This is not a uniquely evil event.

rogereolson says:
April 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I disagree that Job says God used Satan as his instrument to bring all those things upon Job. The narrative does not say God wanted those things to happen to Job and therefore brought in Satan and ordered him to go and do those things. To be sure, God allowed it. We’ve been over that so many times here it’s getting tiresome. To me, perhaps not to you, “permitting” and “ordaining” are not the same.

i) If God didn’t want those things to happen to Job, then why did he allow it? Did he allow it against his will? Didn’t he want to allow it? Did Satan put the squeeze on God?

ii) According to the prologue, God has a reason for allowing Satan to afflict Job. He was calling Satan’s bluff. Rising to the challenge.

iii) Olson keeps trotting out the distinction between “permitting” and “ordaining” as if that’s ipso facto exculpatory. Sometimes that’s morally relevant, but in other cases it’s not.

iv) Let’s take a step back. The Arminian God is the creator of the world. The Arminian God knows the future. Olson’s God knew that by making Lucifer, Lucifer would fall. He foreknew that Satan was going to propose this wager. Olson’s God knew ahead of time that by making Lucifer and Job, this day would come. So it’s more than merely allowing it. It’s setting the events in motion, with this foreseen result.

Assuming the principle of alternate possibilities, God was free to choose a different timeline in which that didn’t happen.

I think God’s role in evil has to be understood from a canonical and narrative perspective. As I read the whole of Scripture and the earliest church fathers, I see the world and its history (since the fall at least) as a battleground, not a stage.

But that doesn’t solve the problem. Olson’s God has overwhelming force. There’s no contest.

It brings me no comfort to think that the merciful and good God of creation and redemption plans, ordains and renders certain things like the holocaust or my mother’s death at age 32.

i) Olson isn’t the first man or last man to suffer a family tragedy. Charles Wesley lost siblings and children to infant mortality. Yet Charles Wesley had a far more robust doctrine of divine providence than Olson.

ii) The Arminian God ensures events like the Holocaust or his mother’s premature death certain by making and sustaining a world with those foreseeable events.

These are results of the fall and of the fact that Satan is the “god of this present age” yet to be defeated. I find Greg Boyd’s explanation in Satan and the Problem of Evil the most convincing (and it does not depend on open theism).

Notice the Manichaean quality of Olson’s argument, as if this is an even match between God and Satan. Surely Satan is no match for God. Does Olson think God is struggling to gain the upper hand?

rogereolson says:
April 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I would remind Job that it was “the Accuser’s” doing, not God’s. Now, please answer this for me: What would you say to comfort a father and mother whose four year old daughter was kidnapped, brutally raped and murdered and thrown in a river (a real incident)?

That she didn’t die in vain. Her little life wasn’t a tragic waste of human potential. Her life was meaningful. Her death was meaningful. That we can hope and pray.

rogereolson says:
April 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm

So, nothing you wrote there (in answer to my question about how you would comfort the parents of a child who was murdered) stands in contradiction to what I (or any good Arminian) would say. But the difference, I suspect, would appear in what we would say in response to parents who asked “Where was God when the murderer kidnapped, raped and killed my child?” and they MEAN “What was God’s role in bringing it about–if any?” I teach that pastors ought to preach and teach their doctrine of divine providence so that when such things happen the congregants don’t for the first time cry out “Where was God?” because they will already know what God’s role was.

Well, according to Olson, God let it happen because God had too much respect for the freedom of the murderous child-rapist. Olson’s God couldn’t bring himself to trammel the freedom of the rapist and child-killer, even though the assailant was violating the freedom of the child. Olson’s God allows those who are bigger and stronger to abuse the weak, helpless, and defenseless.

Olson’s answer to the question “Where was God?” is that God was right there, watching the assailant rape and kill the little girl.

rogereolson says:
April 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Of course, that’s just another way of asking about God’s role in the whole sorry state of affairs humanity finds itself in. Is this really “the best of all possible world?” A consistent Calvinist would seem to have to say so.

i) A Calvinist doesn’t have to say this is the best possible world. For that assumes there is a best possible world. But different possible worlds encapsulate incommensurable goods. No one possible world can exhaust all possible permutations

ii) And what about Olson? Is he saying there was a better possible world than this one, but God refused to make it? Assuming the principle of alternate possibilities, there’s another possible would in which the little girl wasn’t raped and murdered. So why didn’t Olson’s God made that world instead? That wouldn’t even infringe on anybody’s libertarian freedom, for it’s simply actualizing a different set of free choices. 

rogereolson says:
April 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

And I’ll take a God who permits evil and innocent suffering, for reasons he alone knows and fully understands, over a God who intentionally wants children to be murdered most cruelly, foreordains it and renders it certain and then sends those who commit such heinous acts (even though they could not have done otherwise) to hell “for his glory.”

i) Doesn’t Olson’s God want what he permits? Doesn’t Olson’s God intend what he permits? Doesn’t Olson’s God ensure that event when he finalizes one possible scenario by making that the real world?

ii) It’s dishonest for Olson to say the Calvinist God wants children to be murdered. The Calvinist God doesn’t will evil for evil’s sake.

iii) Keep in mind that there are tradeoffs. For instance, if a young child is murdered, the parents are more likely to have another child to offset the loss of the murdered child. If the first child hadn’t been murdered, the second child would not exist. There’s the evil of the murdered child, but there’s the compensatory good of the second child. Which world is a better world–the world with the first child, or the world with the second child?

iv) This isn’t just hypothetical. When Cain murdered his brother, Adam and Eve had Seth to offset the loss of Abel.

If Adam and Eve, Seth and Abel all went to heaven when they died, then Adam, Eve, and Seth gained something from Abel’s death without ultimately losing Abel in the process. So that’s better in the long term, even though that’s worse in the short term.

I’m not suggesting that every murder has a happy ending in the sweet by-and-by. But theodicy is about the overall balance. The question is not whether any particular outcome might be better, but whether it’s a better world.

These are tough answers to tough questions. But they are real answers, unlike Olson’s petulant dismissals.

rogereolson says:
April 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm

With Augustine and most of Christian tradition I think of evil as the absence of the good. Creatures with free will can bring it about, but it’s not a substance (like a germ or a virus). It’s like a broken bone–not a substance but a deformation.

i) A broken bone is not a substance?

ii) Moral evil isn’t simply non-good, but anti-good. Not simply privation of good, but replacing something good with something bad. Not the absence of something good, but the presence of something bad.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Another Attempt to Discredit Inerrancy Falls Flat

Scroll down to the bottom of p83, where the review of Stark's book begins.

Islamic necrophiliacs

This story is getting a lot of buzz:

I’d simply note that Islamic necrophilia is a logical extension of the Islamic custom of female genital mutilation:

FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behaviour, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman's libido and therefore believed to help her resist "illicit" sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (type 3 above), the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage "illicit" sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.

Muslim men want to enjoy sex, but they don’t want the woman to enjoy sex. So the perfect solution is to have sex with dead women! Ted Bundy is the patron saint of Islamic sexual expression. 

Rubik's Cube

Amils, premils, and postmils disagree with each other on how to sequence the various endtime prophecies of Scripture. Indeed, there are variations within each camp. This reminds me of gospel harmonies.

There’s a related reason why we can’t always agree on the best way to harmonize the gospels, or the best way to intercalate Matthean or Pauline eschatological notices into the framework of Revelation. And that’s because we can’t compare our reconstructions to the past or future. We lack direct access to the past or future. Indeed, in many instances, selective biblical accounts are our only or primary source of information. So there’s no larger frame of reference to tell us what comes before something else or after something else.

By contrast, take the relation of the OT to the NT. Some (but not all) OT prophecies are fulfilled in the NT–in some cases an inaugurated fulfillment. Because we not only have the prophecy, but the history, we can see how they fall into place. How they fit into a sequence of events. But for some other NT prophecies or outstanding OT prophecies, we lack that context. We can propose different combinations, but which one is correct may not be testable ahead of time.

Prior probabilities

π -ness Envy? The Irrelevance of Bayes’s Theorem

by rjosephhoffmann

I was reminded of the danger and potential irrelevance of imposing non-literary templates on the biblical material by a former student, whose comments on the use of Bayes’s theorem are significant because (a) he is not critiquing the use of this device as a New Testament scholar: he is a PhD candidate in mathematics and is properly reckoned a prodigy in pure mathematics; and  (b) he is not a Christian.
I personally find his comments devastating to the use of the theorem as an assist to the modal approach to the Bible.  But I’ll leave it to others to decide:
“Is this insistence [Carrier] of trying to invoke Bayes’ theorem in such contexts a manifestation of some sort of Math or Physics envy? Or is it due to the fact that forcing mathematics into one’s writings apparently confers on them some form of ‘scientific’ legitimacy?
The fact of the matter, as far as I know, and as I thought anyone would realize is that Bayes’ theorem is a theorem which follows from certain axioms. Its application to any real world situation depends upon how precisely the parmeters and values of our theoretical reconstruction of a real world approximate reality. At this stage, however, I find it difficult to see how the heavily feared ‘subjectivity’ can be avoided. Simply put, plug in different values into the theorem and you’ll get a different answer. How does one decide which value to plug in?
Secondly, is it compulsory to try to impose some sort of mathematically based methodological uniformity on all fields of rational inquiry? Do there exist good reasons to suppose the the methods commonly used in different areas that have grown over time are somehow fatally flawed if they are not currently open to some form of mathematization?
If this kind of paradigm does somehow manage to gain ascendency, I assume history books will end up being much more full of equations and mathematical assumptions etc. While that will certainly make it harder to read for most (even for someone like me, who is more trained in Mathematics than the average person) I doubt that it would have any real consequence beyond that.


"The Evolution of Adam"

Were the Earliest Christians Only Concerned About Oral Tradition?

Anderson on Anderson

Eternal insecurity

I’ll comment on this:

Steve Responded: In Arminianism, sufficient grace is resistible grace. So the “wonderful promise” is that God will give Christians (including born-again Christians) resistible grace to resist temptation. Like using a leaky bucket to bail water from a leaky boat.
I struggled with what to say about this comment, but there’s not much benefit of the doubt I can give Steve here.  Steve seems (at least to me) to be saying if Arminianism were true, he would be ungrateful to God for giving him libertarian free will and resistible grace.  This is sort of the mirror image of Rodger Olson’s comments that if Calvinism were true, he doesn’t know if he could worship such a God.  I don’t feel that way about Calvinism; if somehow (in this life or the next) I discovered Calvinism is true, I would praise God.

Dan’s reaction is decidedly odd:

i) To begin with, Dan doesn’t show that I mischaracterized the implications of Arminianism. If I accurately describe the logical ramifications of Arminian theology, and Dan is aghast at my description, isn’t he the one who’s responding like Olson? Isn’t he implicitly expressing his dissatisfaction with God?

ii) My position and Olson’s are hardly symmetrical. For one thing, Olson has taken the position that if he thought Scripture actually taught Calvinism, then he’d cease to believe the Bible.

iii) It’s just a fact that if Arminianism is true, then the saints have less to thank God for than if Calvinism is true. For if Arminianism is true, God did less for the saints than if Calvinism is true.

In Arminianism, it’s ultimately up to you whether or not you make it to heaven. That’s not in the first instance a value judgment about whether or not Arminianism is true or false, good or bad, better or worse, but just a statement of fact.

Dan has cast the issue in terms of gratitude. Fine. The saints have less to be grateful for if Arminianism is true. In Calvinism, the saints owe everything to God’s grace. That’s not the case in Arminianism.

iv) Why is Dan grateful to God for giving him the ability (i.e. libertarian freedom) to ruin himself? If I hand a loaded revolver to a suicidal teenager, I’ve given him the freedom of opportunity to either shoot himself in the head or decline to shoot himself in the head. Should the teenager thank me?

Likewise, if a drug dealer offers me the chance to get hooked on heroine and thereby destroy everything I value in life, should I thank him for the opportunity?

v) Dan’s objection is quite ironic. If Arminianism is true, and he gets to heaven, then he can’t truthfully thank God for getting him to heaven. At most he can thank God for getting him started, but not for getting him across the finish line. And even then, he can only thank God in a qualified sense.

If Calvinism is true, and I get to heaven, then I can thank God unreservedly, not just for saving me, but for keeping me. Not just for getting me going, but for preserving me throughout the journey, and conducting me to the heavenly destination. For guiding and guarding me every step of the way–from start to finish.

I agree with Dan that if he discovers in the next life that Calvinism is true, then he should praise God.

vi) According to Arminianism, God gives us resistible grace to resist temptation. So it pushes the same issue back a step: resisting or not resisting grace instead of resisting or not resisting temptation. How is that any different? Isn’t it the same principle in either case? How is resisting or not resisting grace an improvement over resisting or not resisting temptation–without resistible grace?

Hasn’t Arminianism simply relocated the same problem? It’s like putting a cardboard wall between you and a fire. But, of course, the cardboard wall is flammable. The fire will burn through the cardboard wall. So that’s no real protection.

vii) What kind of grace does Dan think God gives Christians to resist temptation? Is this sufficient grace? But sufficient grace is universal grace. That’s something God gives to believers and unbelievers alike (according to Arminian theology).

So God wouldn’t be doing anything special for Christians in that event. On that interpretation, God doesn’t promise anything to Christians that he hasn’t granted to everyone. There’s no extra measure of protection.

viii) Or does Dan think this has reference to something over and above sufficient grace? Perhaps this is the argument:

a) Irresistible grace is better than resistible grace


b) Resistible grace is better than gracelessness


c) Temptation is irresistible apart from resistible grace.

On that argument, resistible grace would still be advantageous, even if it’s less advantageous than irresistible grace. Resistible grace would still make a contribution. Add something.

ix) Yet there’s a problem with that argument. Dan thinks that 1 Cor 10:13 is just a special case of temptation generally. But how does that distinguish the situation of believers from unbelievers? After all, unbelievers don’t invariably give in to temptation. Both believers and unbelievers overcome some temptations some of the time. So sufficient grace has no differential effect on sinning or not.

No it does not, because 1) Paul’s inbound context is broader than just idolatrous apostasy and because 2) Christians sometimes fall into lesser sins and sometimes they don’t.  Without God’s enabling grace, we cannot but fall and lesser sins cannot but lead to ultimate apostasy.

That’s not only true of Christians. Unbelievers sometimes fall into lesser sins and sometimes they don’t. For that matter, unbelievers sometimes fall into graver sins and sometimes they don’t.

So there’s nothing in Dan’s interpretation of 1 Cor 10:13 that singles out Christians as having something unbelievers do not. “Enabling” grace seems to be the same for believers and unbelievers alike.

Dan evidently says that succumbing to temptation is inevitable absent enabling grace. But unbelievers don’t succumb to every temptation that comes their way. So by Dan’s logic, 1 Cor 10:13 isn’t unique to Christians.

But with God’s grace, no lessor sin can ever necessitate ultimate apostasy and God can always step in in stop the progression into ultimate apostasy. If Paul has in view God enabling us to overcome temptations for sins lesser than idolatrous apostasy, Steve’s view is undone.

i) An obvious problem with his argument is that Dan subscribes to eternal security. But there’s more to eternal security than saying a Christian won’t necessarily lose his salvation. For even if loss of salvation isn’t necessary, that still leaves the door wide open for loss of salvation to be possible, probable, or actual. What kind of eternal security is that?

What’s the difference between affirming and denying eternal security? After all, Arminians who deny eternal security don’t think Christians will necessarily lose their salvation.

ii) Dan’s dilemma is that Wesleyan Arminians think 1 Cor 10:13 is a prooftext for two things:

a) Libertarian freedom

b) Possibility of apostasy

Dan is trying to split the difference: He uses 1 Cor 10:13 to prove (a) but not (b). Indeed, he’s opposed to using this verse as a prooftext for apostasy.

The inconsistencies in Steve’s position are that the historic examples Paul cites in the inbound context are and are not examples of ultimate apostasy…

I don’t know what he means by saying the members of the wilderness generation are and are not examples of ultimate apostasy. Does he mean some are while others are not? If so, how’s that inconsistent with my position? A Calvinist may consistently take the position that Caleb, Joshua, and Moses were an elect remnant while the rest were reprobate.

Or does he mean the same individuals are and are not examples of ultimate apostasy? If so, that seems incoherent.

In theory, we could say the Israelites were a type of ultimate apostasy without their necessarily being ultimate apostates. But even if we draw that distinction, how is that inconsistent with my position?

… and the God’s promise of enabling is and is not restricted to the elect.

Here he seems to be admitting that on his interpretation, 1 Cor 10:13 has reference to universal sufficient grace. Yet he originally said “…this wonderful promise that God, in His faithfulness, will not allow irresistible temptations.”

So this is not a promise of God’s fidelity to Christians. This is not about God’s faithfulness to his own people. This is not about his special provision for Christians. Rather, this is indifferent.

Yet that rips the passage out of context. And it severely dilutes the promise.

Point 2 is true, but after all due concessions can be made for a mixed audience, the inconsistency above remains because point 2 cannot be pressed to the point of God making untrue promises.

A mixed audience is quite germane to the scope of the promise. The truth of a promise is indexed to the intended promisee. If I take wedding vows, I’m making a promise to my bride, not to every woman in attendance. Indeed, I suspect my bride would be pretty miffed if she thought I was making the same promise to every woman at the ceremony.

Yes, I hold to eternal security, but I think the most relevant difference between our views here, is that I see the examples and temptations as broader than Steve does.

According to eternal security, losing our salvation isn’t a live possibility. That doesn’t apply to temptations generally, but to temptations to commit apostasy or sins leading to apostasy. Does Dan think every time we sin we commit apostasy? 

This is misleading.  I quoted from Fitzmyer’s conclusion, not his lead in analysis where he weighed different options.

That’s not an honest statement. Fitzmyer’s concluding sentence is:

In this context, Paul seems to be thinking primarily of trials involving idol meat or seduction to idolatry (389).

So Dan didn’t quote Fitzmyer’s conclusion.

 Also, note that Fitzmyer says “primary”, but Steve requires “only”.  Unlike Fitzmyer, Steve cannot allow a single case of God enabling a believer to avoid any temptation that the believe ends up falling into.  Fitzmyer, Steve’s own source, is plainly against Steve.

i) I don’t require “only.” To say I “cannot allow a single case of God enabling a believer to avoid any temptation that the believe ends up falling into,” is utterly ridiculous.

God enabling Christians to avoid temptations short of apostasy is perfectly consistent with my overall position. To say that God prevents true believers from losing their salvation doesn’t entail that God never prevents true believers from succumbing to lesser temptations. Sometimes God allows a true believer to fall into temptation, and sometimes God prevents it.

ii) I no more need Fitzmyer to say “only” instead of “primarily” than Dan needs Fitzmyer to say “generally” instead of “primarily.” If Fitzmyer’s adverb is a problem for me, then it’s a problem for Dan.

iii) As I’ve often said, I use Bible scholars and theologians for spare parts. I don’t have to endorse every word or statement they make. Fitzmyer does a very useful job of documenting Paul’s literary allusions to the OT in 1 Cor 11. That supplies the background for Paul’s statement in v13. That delimits the scope.

iv) And Fitzmyer wasn’t the only commentator I cited. I also quoted Ciampa/Rosner, which Dan conveniently ignores.

v) Notice that Dan speaks of “God enabling a believer to avoid any temptation that the believe[r] ends up falling into.”

Yet just before he said “God’s promise of enabling is and is not restricted to the elect.”

He careens between these two different interpretations. So which is it? Is this promise to and for Christians? Or is this something that God doles out indiscriminately to everyone–like a food drop from an airplane?

But let’s be clear on what that point of agreement is.  It’s not the nature of the sin or temptation Paul has in mind. Steve and Garland disagree on that and that’s an important point; enough to overthrow Steve’s overall theological point that the passage does not teach libertarian freedom.

i) Garland is Arminian. It comes as no surprise if Garland ultimately construes the passage consistent with Arminian theology. I myself have pointed out that Garland is Arminian. I wouldn’t expect Garland to defend a thoroughgoing Reformed interpretation.

ii) For that matter, Garland disagrees with Dan’s position on eternal security.

iii) It’s a standard move in debate to quote a concession from the opposing side. That’s the value in quoting Garland.

iv) The Arminian belief in divine foreknowledge is incompatible with man’s libertarian freedom.

The explanations of Fitzmyer, Garland and Ciampa/Rosner (Steve’s own sources), lead to the unavoidable conclusion that 1 Corintians 10:13 teaches libertarian free will.

They do nothing of the kind. Dan hasn’t begun to show that.

Steve’s agreement with Garland is the tangential point that Paul has some specific temptations in mind (even though Garland and Steve disagree on the exact temptations in view).

That’s hardly “tangential” to the scope of the promise.

My primary point in linking to Ben was the number of commentators that agree with me and Steve didn't really contest that.

Why should I? Numbering commentators is worthless. What matters is not collecting opinions, but assessing the quality of the supporting arguments.

But the exchange between Ben and Steve is helpful (I thought Ben did a great job) and I hope people review it. (link)

i) Naturally Dan thinks a fellow Arminian did a great job. That’s why teammates make poor umpires.

ii) Dan doesn’t hope people will review my response to Ben.

iii) Keep in mind that Ben doesn’t merely disagree with me, he also disagrees with Dan. Unlike Dan, Ben rejects eternal security.