Friday, September 07, 2012

Why are you a Calvinist?

(Assuming you are one)

Earlier I published a link to a discussion of what may be responsible for the growth of Calvinism in recent years. That list goes like this:

1. Charles H. Spurgeon
2. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
3. The Banner of Truth Trust
4. Evangelism Explosion
5. The inerrancy controversy
6. Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)
7. J. I. Packer
8. John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul
9. John Piper
10. The rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism

In a discussion at Old Life, there is a discussion of this list, and within the comments, an alternative list has been produced:

1) John Calvin
2) Late Reformation Confessions (Belgic, Heidelberg, Scots, Second Helvetic, 39 Articles) and associated luminaries
3) Westminster Standards/Divines
4) Old Princeton (Turretin, Hodge, Warfield, Machen)
5) Old Westminster/OPC (Machen, Murray, Stonehouse, Van Til, Young, R.B. Kuiper, Boettner)
6) Redemptive Historical (Vos, Ridderbos, Gaffin, Kline, Kerux)
7) Old Westminster West (Frame, Johnson, Strimple, Kline, Godfrey)
8) New Westminster West/White Horse Inn
9) Neo-Calvinism (Kuyper, Bavink, Dooyeweerd, Plantinga, Van Til, Schaeffer, Calvin College/Seminary, ICS)
10) Reformed Historians/Academics (Noll, Marsden, Hart)
11) Ligonier (Sproul)
12) New Life OPC-PCA/C. John Miller/PCA/Keller
13) Reformed Baptist influences (Piper, Dever, Mohler, SGM, Spurgeon, Pink, Begg, GC, etc)

If you're a Calvinist (and my guess is that most Triablogue readers are adherents of some form of Reformed or Calvinist doctrines), what led you to become a Calvinist?

What has had the greatest influence on you?

The Alarming Growth of Calvinism

[Eastern Orthodox] Archpriest John W. Morris said:

There is a very alarming growth of Calvinism among American Evangelicals including continuing Anglicans. I believe that there is no form of Christianity that is less Orthodox than Calvinism. I cannot think of any heretic who has done more harm to the Christian religion than Calvinism.

Eastwood on Eastwood

Traditional Anglicanism on Predestination and Election

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

And here begins the commentary on it:


By Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline
Sept. 1, 2012

Anglicanism's commitment to the doctrine of predestination is not merely something to be noted, acknowledged, and calmly filed away. Anglicans are often apologetic for their own personal convictions and tend to keep them private. Electing love is a truth to be rejoiced in, reinforced in our generation, and proclaimed for the comfort and reassurance of God's people, especially in times of testing, which we may be confronting sooner than we expect. Calvin's emphasis was due not only to his loyal exposition of Holy Scripture and his fidelity to the long standing Augustinian tradition. It was a pastoral response to the appeal of cart loads of saints being transported to prison and possible martyrdom.

Persecuted believers needed to know, in the face of death, that they were in the secure grip of their Saviour's love. Calvin knew the Biblical answer to their intense fear for themselves and their loved ones. Electing love is the recurrent theme through Scripture that persuades the Christian of the eternal, irreversible fondness of the Mediator for the folk he came to represent and rescue. Electing love, God's prior choice of his people, is the entrancing message of the Word of God. It is a rapturous, romantic refrain sung by prophets and apostles throughout the eras of divine revelation and it is a tune that bids all believers to sing with exuberant wonder and gratitude at the absolutely unmotivated mercy of God....

First Bishop Found Guilty in Sex Abuse Scandal

Bishop guilty of shielding pedophile priest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bishop Robert W. Finn was found guilty Thursday on one count of failing to report suspected child abuse, becoming the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States in the decades-long sexual abuse scandals to be convicted of shielding a pedophile priest….

The Roman Catholic Church’s extensive training in the cover-up of sex scandals has enabled them to really bite the bullet and enabled hundreds of bishops to avoid similar prosecution.

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual scandals are not merely “decades-long”, but “centuries-long”. The Catholic historian Paul Johnson described the Humanist writer Erasmus as “... the bastard son of a priest, by a washerwoman” He continued:

“This was the common fate of a vast number of people at the time. It testified to the unwillingness of the Church to sanction clerical marriage, and its inability to stamp out concubinage. Probably as many as half the men in orders had ‘wives’ and families. Behind all the New Learning and the theological debates, clerical celibacy was, in its own way, the biggest single issue at the Reformation. It was a great social problem and, other factors being equal, it tended to tip the balance in favour of reform. As a rule, the only hope for a child of a priest was to go into the Church himself, thus unwillingly or with no great enthusiasm, taking vows which he might subsequently regret: the evil tended to perpetuate itself.”

A document produced in the 1530’s, “The Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia,” for which you probably can’t find the text online because of the efficiency of the inquisition at the time (even though it was produced by a commission of cardinals including Contarini, Caraffa, Pole and Sadoleto, among others), lamented “too many of the clergy are at present unlearned, of low background and evil habits. Many are admitted to the priesthood when far too young. ... hence come innumerable scandals and a contempt for holy orders; hence veneration for divine service is not merely diminished but already almost dead.”

The English historian A.G. Dickens described this document:

The Consilium [de Emendanda Ecclesia] regards a sweeping reform as urgent, if only because the scandalous state of the monastic Orders sets an evil example for secular priests ... The final paragraphs deal with the corruptions of Renaissance Rome itself: the swarm of sordid and ignorant priests in the city, the harlots who are followed around by clerics and by the noble members of the cardinals’ households, the appalling feuds and factions [among pope and cardinals].

From (A.G. Dickens, “The Counter Reformation,” pg. 102.)

Congratulations to Rome for snookering the world for all these years.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The cultural contradictions of feminism

Sandra Fluke and the cultural contradictions of feminism.


The first speaker in the prime, network-broadcast 10:00 hour, was Sandra Fluke. Seriously, the party of Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman chose to showcase someone whose claim to fame is that she demands that somebody else pay for her birth control.

Wait, it gets even weirder. She warned about the dire consequences if Mitt Romney is elected two months from today: "Your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. Who won't stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party."

No, she's not praising Obama for standing up to "the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party." She's referring, instead, to the Rush Limbaugh "slut" kerfuffle, in which defending her and denouncing Limbaugh was a political opportunity with no risk. If her knowledge of defamation law is any indication, Georgetown isn't a very good law school: As someone who voluntarily took a high-profile position in a public debate, she is unquestionably a public figure just like Limbaugh.
[image] Associated Press

Save her, Mr. President!

What's most interesting about the Fluke comment, though, is that it points to a central cultural contradiction of feminism. Libertarian feminists sometimes argue that left-wing ones aren't "true feminists" because they want women to be dependent, albeit on government rather than on men. But feminism is about sexual equality or female supremacy, not freedom or independence. As long as the government isn't masculine in character ("patriarchal"), its size and scope are irrelevant to feminism.

When one considers the specific context of Fluke's above-quoted comment, however, it turns out to be as patriarchal a conception of government as one can imagine. By criticizing Romney for failing to "stand up" against Limbaugh, she faults him for a lack of chivalry. The duty of the president in a Flukist regime is to act as a white knight when a fair maiden's honor has been besmirched.

And Fluke isn't even the first feminist to make this sort of claim on Fluke's behalf. Recall that back in the spring, Gloria Allred urged that Limbaugh be prosecuted under a dormant Florida statute making a misdemeanant of "whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity." That law--almost certainly unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause because it treats the sexes in a grossly disparate way--has been on the books for 129 years. The Flukist Democrats will take America forward to 1883.

Feminists engaged in political debate frequently take advantage of the chivalric male impulse to defer to women, or to defend them when other men challenge them. To be sure, all's fair in love and war. But if the male instinct to protect women is a social construct, as feminists usually claim, then it is hypocritical for feminists to exploit it. If it is hard-wired, as most evolutionary psychologists would argue, then feminism is fundamentally false.

The hazards of Mariolatry

Christian Graffiti in Smyrna before AD 125

Rome is in the eye of the beholder

It's striking to compare how evangelical converts to Rome view their adopted denomination with how this cardinal viewed the church of Rome. You'd hardly know they were talking about the same One True Church:

Charlotte Simmons speaks at Charlotte

Sandra Fluke spoke at the Democrat convention last night. No, I didn’t hear her speech.

It tells you something about the moral universe Democrats inhabit that they’d give her a national podium. She epitomizes the hook-up culture which Tom Wolfe lampooned in his novel I Am Charlotte Simmons. No, I haven’t read that either. Not my kind of novel. But I saw an interview a few years ago in which he discussed his novel. And I read a review. I think it was in World Magazine. There are other reviews floating around the Internet.

The novel itself was a spin-off from an essay Wolfe wrote (“Hooking Up”), which is available online. Wolfe is a shoe leather journalist turned novelist. His essay and novel were based on extensive interviews he conducted with college students.

Wolfe is very worldly, but even he’s a bit taken aback by how coarsened so many young women have become. He’s 81, so he’s seen the cultural decline firsthand. Indeed, he famously chronicled the Sixties counterculture.

Democrats are so shameless that they parade shamefulness without a twinge of self-consciousness. It’s like those Reality Shows on MTV you sometimes see trailers for or stumble across when you’re channel surfing.

Paul: A Reformed Reading (Thomas Schreiner)

Where did all these new Calvinists come from?

The Atheist’s Guide to Intellectual Suicide

How can anyone with a wry sense of humor fail to love the title of (Associate - a hearty congrats!) Prof. James Anderson's latest lecture?

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Theory of Junk DNA Debunked:

The deepest look into the human genome so far shows it to be a richer, messier and more intriguing place than was believed just a decade ago, scientists said Wednesday.

While the findings underscore the challenges of tackling complex diseases, they also offer scientists new terrain to unearth better treatments.

The new insight is the product of Encode, or Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, a vast, multiyear project that aims to pin down the workings of the human genome in unprecedented detail.

Encode succeeded the Human Genome Project, which identified the 20,000 genes that underpin the blueprint of human biology. But scientists discovered that those 20,000 genes constituted less than 2% of the human genome. The task of Encode was to explore the remaining 98%—the so-called junk DNA—that lies between those genes and was thought to be a biological desert.

That desert, it turns out, is teeming with action. Almost 80% of the genome is biochemically active, a finding that surprised scientists.

In addition, large stretches of DNA that appeared to serve no functional purpose in fact contain about 400,000 regulators, known as enhancers, that help activate or silence genes, even though they sit far from the genes themselves.

The discovery "is like a huge set of floodlights being switched on" to illuminate the darkest reaches of the genetic code, said Ewan Birney of the European Bioinformatics Institute in the U.K., lead analysis coordinator for the Encode results….

The flood of scientific data is likely to keep researchers busy for a long time. More than 30 papers based on Encode were published Wednesday. Six of those, including an overview paper, appeared in the journal Nature, along with a total of 24 related papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. Others journals, including Science, also published papers….

The unexpected level of activity seen in the genomic hinterlands may also help explain what makes us human. Compared with other species, the human genome has about 30 times as much "junk DNA."

When the human genome was first sequenced, scientists were surprised that its structure—based on fewer-than-expected genes—seemed uncomplicated, said Chris Ponting, a professor of genomics at the University of Oxford who wasn't involved in the latest research.

"Encode shows us how extraordinarily decorated the genome is," Dr. Ponting said.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

1 Corinthians 10:13, Doing Otherwise, and Will-Setting

Defectors from Darwin


The lost

Traditionally, fire is the metaphor most often associated with hell. By contrast, another–neglected–metaphor is the “lost” condition of the damned.

A classic example is the lost child. He’s separated from his parents in a department store or something like that. Children have an instinctive fear of being lost. Nothing short of abject terror.

Usually these stories have a happen ending, when friendly strangers reunite the lost child with its parents.

However, these stories don’t always have a happy ending. You have children orphaned by war or natural disaster.

The same thing happens at the other end of life. You have old folks who outlive friends, spouses, or even children. Many of them are abandoned in nursing homes.

Or you have old folks who become feebleminded. Forget their loved ones. Forget where they are.

Sometimes we’re lost in a strange city. Sometimes we’re lost in the parking lost. We forgot where we parked our car. This is one of the comic foibles of our finitude.

Hikers sometimes lose their way in the woods. It’s easy to feel lost in vast expanses. A desert. A wilderness. The scale and the emptiness of the place can make us feel lost in space.

Some people can feel lost in time. Get to the point in life where they feel that they have outlived their time here. They feel like a time-traveler who is trapped in the wrong century. Who’s cut off from his own time.

The Bible uses the lost sheep motif. This forms the basis of lost-and-found stories.

On a related note is the homeless motif. Cain was condemned to be a vagabond. Adam and Eve were homeless. Abraham was homeless. The Jews in Egypt were homeless. The Jews in the wilderness were homeless. The Jews in Babylon were homeless. To be an exile or fugitive from justice is a kind of homelessness. And that, in turn, is a kind of lostness.

The homing instinct is strong. Returning home feels different from leaving home. Salvation is a homecoming story.

What if eternal punishment is eternal homelessness? What if the damned wander eternity, surrounded by strangers? What if, like a dream, the scene keeps shifting? What if they spend eternity trying to get back home, but can never find the way home?

"He Descended Into Hell"

Lee Irons has done a miniseries explaining and defending this article of the Apostles’ Creed:

Making light of sin, Roman Catholic style

Bryan Cross said:

But as explained above (in comment #213) the person coming out of the baptismal font is already righteous, already completely justified. If he were to die at that moment, he would go to heaven. And if he remains in a state of grace, he remains righteous, because he retains agape within his soul. Aha, says the Protestant. See, that’s where he doesn’t know whether he is in a state of grace, and must jump back on the performance treadmill for an indeterminate length of time.

Again, however, that’s a caricature of the Catholic position. It is not difficult to determine whether one is in a state of grace. A simply examination of conscience is sufficient to determine whether one is in a state of grace. Mortal sin is not something one does unaware, because it requires full knowledge and complete consent. If upon an examination of conscience one determines that one is not in a state of grace, then one simply needs to make an act of contrition — being sorry for having offended God, not merely for fear of hell — with the intention of making use of the sacrament of penance as soon as one can, within reason, to know that one is immediately restored to a state of grace, and to the inheritance of eternal life. Thus a good daily practice, for a Catholic is an examination of conscience by which one examines one’s actions and motivations, and confirms that one is in a state of grace.

Meriting eternal life does not mean moving from a condition in which one will not receive eternal life to a condition in which one will receive eternal life. Meriting eternal life is moving from a righteous condition (itself a gift of grace through Christ) in which upon death one would receive eternal life without having done anything at all, to a more righteous condition in which by God’s gracious plan and grace working within oneself, and one’s cooperation with God’s grace and agape within oneself, it is true that the rightful reward for one’s actions is eternal life. Even a cup of cold water given out of agape merits eternal life.

So the performance treadmill picture in which one never knows whether one has one enough merit to be justified, is an utter caricature of the Catholic doctrine. It confuses righteousness (which is by infusion of agape) with merit, by mistakenly supposing that some unspecified amount of merit must be accrued in order to be justified. In that respect the objection presupposes the list-paradigm. But although merit is possible while in a state of grace (i.e. while justified), and while growth in justification accompanies merit (because God rewards acts done in agape with a greater participation in agape), the notion that from a condition of being unjustified one could merit justification would be Pelagianism, which the Catholic Church has always condemned. So the performance treadmill picture is a form of Pelagianism, not Catholicism.

Bryan misses the severe disjuncture -- Roman Catholicism seems to have all the right doctrines of grace, up to the point of baptism. But after baptism, the "sacramental treadmill" chart accurately represents what must be done -- and done and done and done -- in order to retain "justified" status, in the life of the Roman Catholic, after he has been baptized.

The North and the South

Beth and I have spent a good bit of time over the last few weeks (especially over the weekend) watching the 1985 and 1986 mini-series North and South. We had watched some of it after we first got married, but we missed a lot of it as well.

One thing that struck me mightily was the trajectory of the career that Patrick Swayze followed after that, and his subsequent struggle with cancer and death. Watching Swayze as an energetic young man, likely at his prime, and knowing of the struggle that followed.

This is the wage of sin. The wage of sin is death. And what a fool Bryan Cross is (and what a travesty it is for Roman Catholicism) to say "venial sins are not a violation of God's law".

Every sin is hugely offensive to God. Apart from the Scriptural and theological reasons why the least sin is death, here is an example from nature as to why sin is death.

Pope compares disobedient Catholics to Judas

So, if you're a Roman Catholic and you think the "Assumption of Mary" dogma was stretching things a bit, or if you think a little artificial contraception never hurt anyone, then the Pope wants you to leave Roman Catholicism, rather than to stay, and wink and nod at such things.

Pope Benedict XVI delivered an address from the Vatican on Sunday in which he suggested that those who disagree with Catholic teachings or do not believe in Jesus Christ should leave the church rather than become betrayers like Judas.

"Judas," Pope Benedict said, "could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master."

The leader of the Worldwide Roman Catholic Church added that Judas' most serious crime was falsehood, which the pope described as "the mark of the devil." He added that Catholics needed to always be sincere like St. Peter and believe in Jesus.

LifeSiteNews reported that Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, the Human Life International Rome Director, confirmed that the pope's comments are very much related to the Catholic Church's formal teachings in support of traditional marriage and pro-life views.

"For those Catholics who cannot bring themselves to believe the formal teachings of the Church on life and family matters it would be more honest to leave the Church rather than betraying Her," Barreiro said.

"We regret very much that the person is so inclined and we wish they would have a conversion to truly believe," he added....

Monsignor Barreiro noted that differences in opinion were not prohibited in the Catholic Church, but in some circumstances it was better to just obey the important teachings and "sacrifice your will."

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Remind me again which party is the racist party?

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said.

Tim Russert told me that, according to his sources, Bill Clinton, in an effort to secure an endorsement for Hillary from Ted Kennedy, said to Kennedy, “A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.”

Bryan Cross Uncharitably Caricatures "the Sacramental Treadmill"

Bryan Cross has uncharitably caricatured the easy-to-understand portrayal of the Roman Catholic system of works, which we know as the sacramental treadmill. He has called it a "performance treadmill picture in which one never knows whether one has one enough merit to be justified, is an utter caricature of the Catholic doctrine".

Bryan's portrayal suggests that the sacramental treadmill is merely not knowing whether one has enough merit to be justified. But that's not the true picture of all that the sacramental treadmill represents. Rather, simply put, the true sacramental treadmill represents virtually all the "stuff you gotta do for the rest of your life" as a Roman Catholic. Over and over again. Of course, if you look at the chart, it does correctly identify, in algorithm form, all the things one must "do" as a Roman Catholic -- the "precepts of the church", etc, -- in addition to mere "good works performed out of love".

The Bryan Cross Treadmill

Darryl Hart should know better. Maybe Protestants who discuss things with Bryan Cross will learn at the outset that it's best to treat him as a hostile witness.

Bryan can't discuss anything with Protestants, because anything a Protestant says is "begging the question" because it proceeds from a Sola Scriptura point of view. (Never mind that anything he says from "the Catholic paradigm" is begging the question from our point of view).

So he comes up with the notion that we can discuss a "paradigm" that can be discussed on its own merits, where he doesn't feel compelled to say "begging the question" all the time.

But he has now turned this around, so that someone like Hart disagreeing with his "paradigm" ends up "unaware that it is a caricature of the Catholic position." That's the gist of Bryan's response to this Hart post.

This seems to be Bryan's own version of the sacramental treadmill.

In a post entitled the Sin Paradigm, Hart noted:

If human beings really are dead in trespasses and sins, as Paul describes them in Ephesians 2, the agape paradigm doesn’t make a lot of sense. We might cooperate with grace all we want, we might do works that show a genuine faith, but what if we still have a sinful nature? This was part of the doubt that haunted Luther....

After a few comparative citations of the Baltimore Catechism (about 1900) and the Heidelberg Catechism, he asks:

the extent and depth of sin seems to be a category not sufficiently considered in the ongoing debates about how we become right with God, whether by faith alone or by a faith that has within it charity of love which will produce good works and will unite us with God. Those wonder-working aspects of the agape paradigm do not address the real problem of sinfulness and God’s just demand for a perfect righteousness. We may love till we’re blue in the face, but given our sinfulness and the ongoing sin in believers’ lives, how do we know if we have really loved enough?

Bryan Cross, as he usually does, responded to Hart almost immediately:

Hart claims that “if human beings really are dead in trespasses and sins, as Paul describes them in Ephesians 2, the agape paradigm doesn’t make a lot of sense.” However, he doesn’t explain how the apodosis of that conditional follows from the protasis.

If you don't really have a good explanation, use big words that will impress the peanut gallery.

Bryan again:

He seems to think that “having a sin nature” is somehow problematic for the agape paradigm, but he doesn’t explain how or why.

Hart's real objection is: We may love till we’re blue in the face, but given our sinfulness and the ongoing sin in believers’ lives, how do we know if we have really loved enough?

Noting that Hart's repsonse "is a kind of ad hominem, he notes that he has previously addressed that objection:

The problem with the argument is not the structure of the argument, but its claim that the position it is criticizing is the Catholic position. This is why it has traction only for persons unaware that it is a caricature of the Catholic position.

The whole "agape paradigm" is not "THE" Catholic position. For Bryan, here, the "agape paradigm" in the hands of a Protestant who is disagreeing with it is merely chasing his tail, because it's not really "THE CATHOLIC POSITION".

Self-hating Southerners

Some atheists don’t seem to take Christianity personally. They reject Christianity, but they don’t foam at the mouth when the topic of Christianity crops up.

But many atheists, especially those who write about Christianity, are often very emotional and verbally abusive about Christians and Christianity.

This often goes back to something in their past. For instance, many apostates become missionaries for atheism.

Keith Parsons is a striking example. Although he’s a tenured philosophy prof. with two earned doctorates, when he gets on the topic of Christianity, he’s frequently indistinguishable from Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Why is that? Here’s a clue:

As a Southerner (fifth generation Georgian on one side; sixth generation on the other), I am particularly offended when I see people of the South living down to the lowest, crudest, most invidious stereotypes. The anti-mosque activists in Tennessee probably drive BMW's instead of jalopies. They drink Jack Daniels rather than home brew. They don't live in tarpaper shacks, but in air-conditioned comfort watching the Big Orange play on their flat-screen TV's. Yet their behavior shows that inside they are still dumb peckerwoods and slack-jawed hillbillies, and they deserve to be derided in precisely those terms.

Here he tips his hand. Parsons is a self-hating Southerner. Just as there are self-hating Jews and self-hating Americans, there are self-hating Southerners. They are embarrassed by their kinfolk. They look down on their kinfolk. They disparately try to disassociate themselves from their Southern roots. It’s so déclassé.

That’s what makes Parsons tick. His atheism is motivated, not by reason, but by shame. A social inferiority complex. Parsons is a social climber who feels stigmatized by his Dixie background.

How the Donum Superadditum Works

See also:

Sacramental Treadmill

James White and the Pope Agree!

Original Sin and the Donum Superadditum

The introduction to "The Origin of Sin", Bavinck, Vol 3, pg 26, the editors write:

[In philosophy and other religions], outside of special revelation sin is either treated deistically in terms of human will alone or derived pantheistically from the very necessary nature of things.

Both views also found their way into Christianity. The British monk Pelagius rejected all notions of original sin and considered every person as having Adam's full moral choice of will. The fall did not happen at the beginning but is repeated in every human sin. Though the church rejected Pelagianism in its extreme form, Roman Catholicism maintained the notion of a less than completely fallen will, limiting the fall to the loss of the donum superadditum, which can only be restored by sacramental grace.

When the Reformation rejected Roman Catholic dualism, streams within Protestantism, notable rationalist groups such as the Socinians as well as the Remonstrants robbed robbed Christianity of its absolute character by dispensing with the need for grace in some measure. The image of God is regarded as the fully free will, which, like that of the pre-fall Adam, remains intact. While we are born with an inclination to sin, this inclination is not itself culpable; atonement is needed only for actual sin. Suffering is not necessarily linked to sin; it is simply part of our human condition.

Later on they discuss this donum superadditum in context:

The apostle Paul and after him Augustine were instructed by the contrasting model of Christ as the second Adam and placed the blame for universal and original sin at the feet of the first Adam. The only way to understand the crushing yoke of sin's miseries on all people is to believe that all share Adam's guilt. Augustine did not, however, adequately describe the transmission of guilt and pollution to Adam's posterity, and his understanding of concupiscence is too closely linked to spontaneous sexual desire. Roman Catholic scholastic theology modified this view to understand original sin as the loss of a superadded gift of grace (original righteousness) to which was added the active element of concupiscence. In Roman Catholic theology, the center of gravity shifted from concupiscence to loss of original righteousness. When concupiscence is not itself seen as sinful, it is hard to see what concrete effects still remain of original sin except for the imputation of Adam's trespass. The state of man after Adam's fall differs little from the pre-fallen Adam. We are left in only a state of "naked naturalness," not a state of depravity.

The Reformation opposed this Roman Catholic weakening of original sin. It is not just a loss of something but a total corruption of our nature. If we call this "concupiscence," we must define it in terms of the totality of human appetites. In this sense, contrary to Augustine, concupiscence is itself sin. …

The doctrine of original sin is one of the weightiest and most difficult subjects in Christian theology. Without it we cannot comprehend ourselves, and yet it remains finally an incomprehensible mystery to us. Adam's disobedience is the originating sin; that is the clear teaching of Scripture. How can that not be seen as arbitrary? Only by recognizing the organic unity and solidarity of the human race. This unity is first of all physical and organic, but, more importantly, also representative. Here too we must begin with Christ, who is our representative mediator in redemption. Physical unity and a realistic understanding of the transmission of sin is inadequate. For one thing, the strict parallel between Adam and Christ breaks down. How could Christ then, being truly human, Adam's son, be without sin? AMong human beings there is a moral solidarity that is greater than the physical. Reformed theology tries to explain this through the doctrine of the covenant--the covenant of works with Adam and the covenant of grace in Christ. The covenant of works and the covenant of grace are the forms by which the organism of humanity is maintained, also in a religious and ethical sense. This is God's ordinance (76-77).

“Our Rituals and Our Cassocks are Pompous”, said Cardinal, now deceased.

ROME (Reuters) - The former archbishop of Milan and papal candidate Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said the Catholic Church was "200 years out of date" in his final interview before his death, published on Saturday.

Martini, once favoured by Vatican progressives to succeed Pope John Paul II and a prominent voice in the church until his death at the age of 85 on Friday, gave a scathing portrayal of a pompous and bureaucratic church failing to move with the times.

"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," Martini said in the interview published in Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

"The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation," he said in the interview.

In the last decade the Church has been accused of failing to fully address a series of child abuse scandals which have undermined its status as a moral arbiter, though it has paid many millions in compensation settlements worldwide.

Martini, famous for comments that the use of condoms could be acceptable in some cases, told interviewers the Church should open up to new kinds of families or risk losing its flock.

"A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion to look after her and her children. A second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not just the mother will be cut off but also her children."

In this way "the Church loses the future generation", Martini said in the interview, made a fortnight before he died. The Vatican opposes divorce and forbids contraception in favour of fidelity within marriage and abstinence without.

HT: Sean Moore over at Old Life, who offered this as "further proof of how big a tent Rome can be". No doubt there will be some Roman Catholics who believe themselves to be “more Catholic” than this Cardinal. Oh well…

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Templeton Effect

"Homophobes" and "transphobes"

Its basic values (and the reason for its moniker) Jen stated thus:

    We are…
    Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,

Amen to all that.

Richard Carrier prides himself on being rationally rigorous. Yet here he’s clearly genuflecting before the altar of political correctness.

Why do I say that? Because the argument against “homophobia” contradicts the argument against “transphobia.”

Those who defend homosexuality typically claim that homosexual orientation is hardwired. There are lots of different theories about what “naturally” causes homosexuality, but that’s the underlying contention. Homosexuality is said to be a natural variation.

By contrast, those who defend transgender typically claim that gender is a social construct. They oppose “gender essentialism.”

But this raises an obvious question: how can homosexual orientation be hardwired if gender identity is socially constructed?

Of course, Richard Carrier doesn’t allow himself to ask that elementary, but awkward little question.

Atheism is not a philosophy...except when it is...except when it's not...except when...

Welcome to the Society of Arminian Obsessives

Welcome to the online home of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA). Our society exists to glorify God by edifying his people, protecting them from error, and fostering the proper representation of our magnificent God to the world by lovingly and respectfully promoting and advancing sound, biblical doctrine and theology in the area of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). That means teaching and defending Arminianism, the system of theology that we believe most accurately reflects the teaching of the Bible, the very word of God. It also means refuting Calvinism, a system of theology that lies within the pale of basic Christian orthodoxy, but that is at odds with Arminianism on many key points and that we believe seriously errs in its understanding of God, salvation, and the Bible. While we generally accept Calvinists as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, our passion for the glory, truth, and love of God compels us to stand against what we regard to be their faulty theology. In all of this we desire to conduct ourselves with love and respect for all, including those with whom we disagree.

I understand why SEA opposes Calvinism. That goes with the territory. But why the tunnel vision? Why the myopic obsession with Calvinism to the neglect of other theological traditions? Why not refute Roman Catholicism? Doesn’t that “seriously err” in its theology, viz. purgatory, indulgences, congruent merit, the sacrifice of the mass, the invocation, veneration, and relicts of the saints, the assumption and immaculate conception of Mary, multiple paths of salvation (for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, &c.)?

Why not refute atheism? Why not refute Islam? Why not refute Mormonism? Why not refute universalism?

Why not refute social engineers who promote abortion, infanticide, sodomy, eugenics, euthanasia, ecoterrorism, &c?

How China is taming the untamed African continent

This caught my eye, as something that's sure to be a game-changer in the near future:

The continent of Africa, of course, has been one of the problem areas that the US military has had to keep its eye on. Here, now, is China, exercising its economic brute force, opening markets by using its own money and human exertions to create infrastructure on that continent:

China is everywhere in Africa these days, both exploiting the continent's vast natural riches and pursuing infrastructure projects long promised but never quite delivered by the West.

Building railroads from inland areas to the coast, with the eventual prospect of a network that spans sub-Saharan Africa? Putting in highways at affordable prices across the continent? Constructing state-of-the-art office complexes, within budgets that African nations can afford?

These are all goals that African leaders have pursued for a long time. In the past, a toxic combination of corruption, murky ties between ex-colonizing countries (and their business elites) and the new rulers, and overly complex planning structures derailed project after project. Given the ability to deliver projects on time and on budget, the Chinese offer Africa's governments and people a clean-cut deal: If you work with us, we will build it — period. No ifs, ands, or buts….

Focusing on market-building first can empower a budding middle class — which provides a check to the vestiges of often clan-based political and economic feudalism. In this approach, economic development leads political development. That is pretty much how things transpired in Europe over the centuries. There, economic empowerment led the merchant classes to demand increased political rights, which eventually put the continent on the road to full-blown democracy….

Meanwhile, the Chinese have kept building bridges, railroads, and conference centers. Ironically, it is the Chinese — not the Americans — who can make a compelling case that their focus in Africa has been not on spreading ideology but on the practical business of securing natural resources and creating future customers and trading partners….

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Edward Meadors’ Unconvincing Critique of Compatibilist Approaches to Theodicy

Assumptions in Historical Jesus Research: Using Ancient Biographies and Disciples’ Traditioning as a Control

In this world there's two kinds of people: Those with loaded guns and those who dig.

Eastwood’s speech has gotten wildly mixed reviews. Predictably, liberals hated it. They dismissed it as a senile rant. Of course, if it really was a senile rant, why do they feel so threatened by it?

And it’s possible that Eastwood is in his dotage. However, I don’t think that’s the best interpretation of his performance.

For one thing, the punchlines were too good. In addition, there seemed to be a pattern to the timing. He’d appear to lose his train of thought, which made the sympathetic audience nervous, fearing that he was going to embarrass himself on live, national TV. Then, a moment later, he’d land a zinger–which was all the more effective given the nail-biting lead-up. This happened with enough frequency that I think it was intentional.

Moreover, some of the awkward pauses were due to “Obama” in the empty chair interrupting Clint. So that wasn’t Clint forgetting his lines. That was part of the imaginary dialogue.

Hence, I think Eastwood was milking the old geezer shtick for comic effect. Using “Obama” in the empty chair as his straight man.

Ann Romney didn’t care for it either, which is not surprising. She’s rather hoity-toity, so I wouldn’t expect her to get Clint Eastwood.

Then you have Republican professionals who faulted the speech because it upstaged the candidate. It deflected attention away from Romney. After the convention, everyone is talking about Clint’s speech rather than Romney’s speech. To that criticism I’d say several things:

i) Does anyone seriously imagine that if Eastwood hadn’t done his thing at the convention, millions of Americans would instead replaying YouTube clips Romney’s acceptance speech? When was the last time anyone ever said anything memorable at a presidential convention? Within my own lifetime, I can only think of three examples off-the-cuff. There was Bush 41’s “Read my lips–no new taxes!” And, of course, he’d have been better off if people forgot that promise–which came back to bite him.

There was Goldwater’s “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” And there was Pat Buchanan’s famous (or infamous, depending on your political persuasion) “culture war” speech at the 1992 convention.  Likewise, the only convention anyone remembers is the 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago. And even then, only political junkies refer that.

ii) Of course Eastwood was going to upstage Romney. I mean, the whole point of having Eastwood speak at your convention is because he has more starpower than the candidate. If Romney had Eastwood’s starpower, he wouldn’t need Eastwood to be there in the first place.

So that’s a calculated risk. A question of tradeoffs. Is that offset by something else? Does some of that transfer to Mitt?

iii) It’s not so much that Eastwood directly helps Romney. Rather, he helps the message. He helps get the message across, more memorably and convincingly than the Romney ever could.

Yes, folks are talking about his speech rather than Romney’s, but they’re also having those devastating punchlines drilled into their minds in the process. 

He also did Romney a favor by deflecting attention away from Democrat talking points about Mediscare, Swiss bank accounts, and Todd Akin. He drew their fire. 

iv) And let’s face it–where conservative voters are concerned, this is less about wanting Romney to win than wanting Obama to lose. Romney is just a means to an end. We will never be excited about Mitt's candidacy.

Is Christianity geocentric?

What really got me is how freaking big the universe is. Look, when it comes to the world, you're a speck. We know that. We all know that in the grand scheme of human history, most of us are completely irrelevant. But here's the the solar system, the world is a speck. In the galaxy, our solar system is a speck. And in the universe, our galaxy is a speck. Our whole entire solar system could blink out of existence this very minute, and it wouldn't affect the universe at all*.

The fact is that the Christian faith is geocentric. I don't mean that it posits a specific theory of the geometric relationship of the sun to the Earth, I mean that according to the Christian faith, this little speck of a speck is the purpose and meaning of the entire universe. Imagine if I told you the whole entirety of the history of the world was created by God with the singular focus of a mote of dust you saw wafting through a sunbeam this morning. That little mote of dust--not WW2, not the rise and fall of imperial Russia, not your 6th-grader's band recital, not the works of Monet, not the music of Beethoven, none of it was all that important to him. The reason he created all that stuff was that some day, was to create the conditions so that little mote of dust, his pride and joy, would float in that spot in the air for a few seconds before drifting elsewhere.

In fairness to Josh, he finishes his post on a more affirming note. However, I disagree with how he frames the issue. Of course, Bible writers weren’t viewing the universe through the Hubble telescope. Nevertheless, Bible writers have an acute sense of their littleness and physical insignificance in space and time. For instance:

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?
(Ps 8:3-4)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.

5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.

7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
(Ps 90:1-10)

6 A voice says, “Cry!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty[d] is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.
(Isa 40:6-8)

6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
(Deut 7:6-8)

The monster meme

steve hays
August 21, 2012 at 7:42 am


“Oh, I do think that Calvinism ‘makes God a moral monster’, as it logically leads to God being the author of all sin and evil (even though most Calvinists disagree that it does)”

i) Notice that Arminian doesn’t bother to define his terms (“author of sin”).

ii) Why should we judge God by an extrabiblical category? It’s the height of impiety to judge God by an extrabiblical category.

steve hays
August 21, 2012 at 7:46 am


“But it is a classic criticism of Calvinism that its doctrines logically lead to God being the author of sin. Surely you don’t think it inappropriate that believers who draw that conclusion point it out, even if you disagree with their conclusion? It is not stating that Calvinists believe that God is the author of sin (though some Calvinists do) or that Calvinists worship a God who is the author of sin, but that Calvinist doctrine logically leads to the conclusion that God is the author of sin, disagreeing with Calvinists who deny this. Does that make sense?”

No, it doesn’t make sense to frame the issue in unbiblical terms. It’s highly presumptuous to judge God by a vague, unscriptural phrase like “author of sin.”

steve hays
August 21, 2012 at 11:17 am


“But don’t you agree that if a believer thinks Calvinism makes God the author of sin (a moral monster) despite Calvinist denials of this (i.e., there is a disagreement of the logical entailment of Calvinist doctrine), that it is completely appropriate to point that out as long as one does not claim that Calvinism or Calvinists themselves believe God to be the author of sin?”

It is impudent to judge God by a made-up standard like the “author of sin.” I’m struck by how many professing Christians presume to stand in judgement of the their Judge based on their made-up standards.

“Otherwise, would you not be essentially arguing that Arminians should not voice their concerns or disagreements with Calvinism, at least on the question of whether Calvinism logically entails that God is the author of sin/a moral monster? Should that question somehow be out of bounds?”

i) Is Arminian claiming that “moral monster” is synonymous with “author of sin”? If so, how did he come up with that definition? Is that just his ad hoc definition?

ii) Notice that Arminian is skewing the issue. The question at issue isn’t whether one should take a position to its logical conclusion, but whether the framework is the right framework. He who frames the debate wins the debate. Why frame the issue in terms of “authorship of sin”?

Bryan the trickster

Bryan Cross said,
August 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm
Jeff, (re: #575)

    the whole notion of “who is the highest authority” is a mistake whose outcome is radical skepticism towards objective truth and radical fideism towards the Church.

The Devil could have made the same claim to Adam and Eve regarding God. Liberals could make the same claim about the belief that Scripture is the highest authority in the Church.

Although Bryan is simply using this as an illustration, such that this is something of a side issue, I can't resist pointing out the irony. How many modern popes, bishops, Catholic theologians or Bible scholars still believe that Gen 2-3 records actual conversations between God, Adam, Eve, and Satan? So, as a matter of fact. I daresay most contemporary Catholics, including the hierarchy, don't think God actually spoke to Adam, or Satan actually spoke to Eve.

Bryan Cross said,
August 28, 2012 at 9:43 pm
Jeff, (re: #593)

    Your comments here, if true, would place Catholic claims to authority outside of the realm of possible falsification. That’s why your position is fideistic.

Again, see the link above in comment #591 on the motives of credibility. Also, I did a podcast in 2009 on this subject of falsifiability (see here), and there I distinguish between different senses of falsifiability. The Catholic Church’s claims to authority are not falsifiable in the first sense of the term, but they are in the second sense of the term, by the motives of credibility.

Again, see the podcast. Some of Jesus’ claims are not falsifiable in any sense of the term. So if you demand that everything be falsifiable, then you cannot follow Jesus (or you must pick and choose from His statements.)

No. I’m not attempting to rule your objections out of order unless you first assume my position. That would be begging the question. When I say that you are “begging the question,” I’m pointing out that you are presupposing your paradigm (or the standards belonging to your paradigm but not to mine) in criticizing the Catholic paradigm. But that does not mean that you must first assume my position. It means rather that your criticism of my paradigm gives us no reason to prefer one paradigm over the other, because it presupposes the truth of yours. To resolve a disagreement that is paradigmatic in nature, without begging the question, we have to step back and evaluate the competing paradigms by standards recognized within both paradigms.

This raises several issues:

i) It's true that not everything has to be falsifiable. However, even if your position is unfalsifiably true, you're not entitled to merely assert that. If you're going to claim that, then you must provide a supporting argument. That doesn't absolve you of the need to make a case for the unfalsifiability of your position.

ii) Bryan seems to be using paradigm in the Kuhnian sense (at least the popular interpretation of Kuhn), according to which competing paradigms are mutually incommensurable. Therefore, you can only evaluate them internally, based on their inner consistency or lack thereof. You can compare and contrast rival paradigms, but there's no independent standard by which to evaluate them.  But if that's what Bryan means, then there are two problems:

a) That, itself, is a very controversial claim. Bryan can't simply stipulate that that's how interpretive paradigms operate. He has to make a case for the claim that all standards are paradigm-dependent. That there are no external checks. No independent standards.

b) He also needs to demonstrate that his Kuhnian framework is, in fact, the "Catholic" framework. But if you study the history of Roman Catholic polemical theology, there's no one right way of arguing for the Catholic faith. Take Cardinal Dulles's classic monograph: A History of Apologetics (Ignatius Press, 2nd ed. 2005). Throughout the centuries there have been many different ways that Catholic polemicists have defended the claims of Rome. The Kuhnian approach is by no means the only approach or the official approach. Indeed, that's highly anachronistic.

iii) There's also some equivocation over the definition of an "interpretive paradigm." On the one hand, Michael Liccione defines the "Catholic interpretive paradigm" as what is necessary to bridge the gap between opinion and dogma.

By contrast, Bryan seems to be using the "Catholic interpretive paradigm" for whatever Rome (or the fathers) teaches. For instance, in comparing how the church fathers allegedly understand justification to the Reformed understanding, he casts that in "paradigmatic" terms. But even if (ex hypothesi) the church fathers have that understanding of justification, how is that an interpretive paradigm, rather than how they interpret the Bible? An interpretation of Scripture is not synonymous with an interpretive paradigm. Rather, a given interpretation would be the result of your operating interpretive paradigm, where the paradigm is the interpretive "lens" or filter. Using that lens will yield an interpretation consistent with your interpretive grid.

Bryan Cross said,
August 28, 2012 at 11:34 pm
Jeff, (re: #601)

    But are any RC claims to authority falsifiable?

If you mean ‘falsifiable’ in the second sense of the term, then yes. That is the role of the motives of credibility. See the link I provided in #591. The Church’s claim to divine authority is supported by the motives of credibility, just as Christ’s claim to divine authority is supported by motives of credibility. And just as by these motives of credibility Christ’s claim to divine authority was falsifiable in the second sense of the term, so by the Church’s motives of credibility her claim to divine authority is falsifiable in the second sense of the term.

    How would one even begin? What could count as a falsification? Nothing in Scripture could count, because Rome claims prior interpretive authority. Nothing in history or tradition could count (like, for example, the fact that half the church rejects Roman claims to authority), because Rome discounts as schismatic any source that does not accept Roman authority. All of our witnesses are left unable to speak by the terms of the debate, and no claim is subject to falsification. If no claim is subject to falsification, then no fact is evidential; merely conveniently consistent.

Regarding dogma, only those parts of the deposit referring to historical events or truths of natural theology and ethics knowable by the natural light of reason are falsifiable in the second sense of the term ‘falsifiable.’ That’s also true of Jesus’s words. The rest of dogma pertains to areas beyond the possible reach of human reason. We accept dogma on the divine authority of the Church. But we don’t simply leap to dogma, or believe in the authority of the Church on the basis of the authority of the Church. That would be fideistic and/or circular. Rather, we come to learn the divine authority of the Church through the motives of credibility. And the motives of credibility are falsifiable in the second sense of the term. Faith is not necessary to discover and grasp the motives of credibility. They are accessible in principle by the natural light of reason, and provide the evidence of the divine authority of Christ and His Church.

That's classic bootstrap methodology. You reason to an authority source using probable evidence. You then accept what the authority source teaches on the warrant of the authority source.

The obvious weakness with this approach is that your level of confidence in what the authority source teaches can never rise higher than your level of confidence in the authority source itself. If you arrive at your belief in the authority source through probabilistic reasoning, and that's it, then even if the authority source claims to be unfalsifiable, that claim is underdetermined by the evidence you used to foster belief in the authority source. The warrant for the claim of the authority source to be unfalsifiable can't exceed the warrant for believing that your source is, in fact, authoritative.

Bryan's argument is, indeed, implicitly and viciously circular. He's appealing to "motives" of credibility to establish the plausibility of his authority source. He can't then swing around and act as if the authority source as unfalsifiable. For that would be to forget what underlay his initial confidence. Hence, his position is falsifiable at both levels, for the upper level collapses onto the lower level.

He then attempts to draw a parallel with Christ's self-witness to his divine authority. That, however, is an argument from analogy minus the argument. He's positing a parallel, but he hasn't established a parallel. To say that we have to begin with motives of credibility when we assess the claims of Christ, and proceed from that starting point, begs the question. If he's going to use that methodology, he needs to present an argument for that methodology.

Waxing irked

Leaving debates about the extent of the atonement aside for a moment, I want to point out something else that continues to trouble me – the equation of Calvinistic soteriology with the gospel itself. I wish, for the sake of all of us, that you would abandon this divisive rhetoric, not because it’s divisive but because it’s simply untrue. The gospel cannot be reduced to a particular view of soteriology.

Now, to be fair, you consider the doctrines of grace as “the foundation on which the gospel itself is built,” not the message itself. And when you quote Charles Spurgeon’s words equating Calvinism and the gospel (a place where I believe the great Spurgeon got it wrong), you are not saying that those of us who do not subscribe to all the points of Calvinism fail to believe the gospel. Instead, you consider this shorthand for biblical Christianity.

I get what you’re saying. But please consider what it sounds like to those of us who disagree. It sounds like you are making a systematic presentation of theology the gospel. As if the gospel were a set of doctrines, not the announcement of King Jesus. Plus, it smacks of elitism and sends young Calvinists back to their churches, thinking that if their pastors haven’t parsed the petals of TULIP, they aren’t really gospel preachers.

i) I always find it silly that some people take offense at Spurgeon’s “Calvinism is the gospel” slogan. For if they were honest with themselves, those who take offense at that slogan are offended because they think their alternative to Calvinism is the gospel. Lutherans think Lutheranism is the Gospel. Arminians think Arminianism is the gospel. Heck, four-pointers think “four-point Calvinism” is the gospel. They may not admit it, but their zealotry for their own cause does all the talking.

ii) I’ve debated prominent four-pointers who regard the extent of the atonement as all-important. That’s all they ever talk about. They clearly think that’s a gospel issue. And they even resort to Roger Olson-style smears against God’s character unless he redeemed everyone.

So it’s disingenuous for a four-pointer like Wax to single-out five-pointers. He lacks the objectivity to see his own side in perspective.

iii) There are degrees of truth and error. To say “Calvinism is the gospel” doesn’t mean the alternative is necessarily a false gospel. Rather, it usually means the theological alternatives are deficient or defective. And that’s what the alternatives say about Calvinism–or worse!

iv) Moreover, to say “the gospel cannot be reduced to a particular view of soteriology” hearkens back to 19C liberals who said you don’t need a “theory” of the atonement. This eventually boiled down to Richard Niebuhr’s famous quip: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The death of Arminianism

I recently did a couple of posts on Roger Olson’s infamous “John Piper, God’s Sovereignty, and Sin.”

Now some folks might feel it’s unfair of me to treat Olson as a spokesman for Arminians in general. It might be tempting to dismiss him as an eccentric curmudgeon.

Mind you, Arminians treated him as the authentic interpreter of classic Arminianism when he published his Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. That’s the book that really put him on the map.

But in any case, this isn’t just something he posted on his blog. For this has now been reposted at SEA:

As such, it’s not just the idiosyncratic opinion of a cranky Arminian.

I believe the president of SEA is Brian Abasciano. Abasciano is currently a pastor, with a BA from Amherst, MDiv from Gordon-Conwell–as well as a doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, where Paul Ellingworth was his doctoral advisor. Abasciano is also an author, both in referred journals as well as academic publishers. So he’s a leading Arminian NT scholar.

I assume that for something to get posted at SEA, Abasciano would either post it on his own initiative, or if something is submitted for posting, he’d have to greenlight it.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean he agrees with everything that’s said. But even if he disagrees, he has to regard that as a tolerable difference of opinion. As consistent with Arminian theology.

Keep in mind, too, that this is not a side issue. This is about Jesus. This is about how Christians should think of Jesus. Behave towards Jesus. Ultimately, Christian faith begins and ends with fidelity to Jesus. We are followers of Christ.

So what did Olson say? Among other things he said:

Again, as I have said so many times before, whatever Scripture passages used to support this view mean, they cannot mean that. (Wesley said that about the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9.) Why? Because if that’s what Scripture means, then the God of the Bible is not good in any meaningful sense. Then, if that’s what the Bible means (which it cannot mean), then the God of Jesus Christ is the ultimate sinner or sin is not really sin. The logic is inescapable.

You missed it, so I’ll say it again: No need to, as IF those scriptures mean what Piper says they mean, then Jesus Christ was not the perfect revelation of God and the Bible itself is not worthy of our trust because God is not good and thus not to be trusted.

i) To begin with, it’s startling that a NT scholar like Abasciano deems it acceptable to rule out certain interpretations a priori. That we don’t even need to consider certain interpretations on the merits. We can discount them out of hand if we imagine they have untoward consequences. Is that how the world of NT scholarship ordinarily operates? Or do we just make an ad hoc exception for Calvinism?

ii) But over and above that is an even bigger issue. Olson and Abasciano are issuing a license to commit apostasy. They are taking the position that if a Christian became convinced that Piper’s interpretation of Scripture is correct, then he should renounce the Christian faith. He should disown Jesus. Refuse to acknowledge his Lordship. Repudiate the Savior and abandon Christianity.

And not because it’s false, but because it’s true!

Indeed, they are taking the position that if Piper is right, then we should have contempt for Jesus. If Piper is right, then we should disdain Jesus as sinful. We should disdain Jesus as untrustworthy.

This is doubly ironic coming from Arminians who love to quote the dire warnings in Hebrews. For Olson and Abasciano have now staked out the position that if Piper’s interpretation of Scripture is correct, then Christians ought to recrucify the Son of God. Ought to trample him underfoot. Ought to hold him in contempt. Ought to profane the blood of the covenant. Ought to outrage the Spirit of grace.

At the end of the day, this is how little Jesus means to them.