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What is salvation?

May 3, 2010
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Someday the entire world will be flooded, completely. The storms that will toss the surface of the waters will submerge anything that might otherwise float. Those of us who understand this are preparing: we are becoming fish.

Hopefully none of you took that too seriously. However, this strange statement is the opening to a discussion about a central idea in Christian faith, namely salvation. While salvation is universally agreed to be the goal of the Christian life it is also one of the most contentious topics in the details. Does it come all at once, or is it tied into the larger transformation that occurs in our life? Is it something that happens now, or after death? The largest argument in Protestantism revolves around the issue of who does what in salvation. Clearly the topic generates plenty of scholarly dispute.

Like most scholarly dispute, though, these issues don’t stay locked in ivory towers. Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship” addresses the real consequences of preaching a particular set of ideas about salvation, and the consequent growth of an implicit belief in cheap grace: a Christianity that requires nothing but some loose assent to some particular ideas about God and Jesus. It is on the pragmatic end that I wish to start.

Believing means two fairly separate things in modern English. For instance, the statement, “I believe in America,” uttered by a navigator during the age of exploration would probably be held to mean “I believe that there is a place called America”. It would be a statement of intellectual assent. The same words uttered by someone running for political office in America means “I trust that America can get things done, and I believe that the way America goes about things is the best way”. Other cases might be more ambiguous, but we are not left hanging when it comes to Biblical belief. People who intellectually assent to God’s existence are continually called to believe in the Lord anyway. For instance, Moses and Aaron, in Numbers 20:12, are rebuked for not believing in the Lord, despite the fact that Moses and Aaron, of everyone in the Exodus, interacted most with God. Belief, in the Bible, clearly means trusting in God and His ways, not just assenting to their existence.

What’s more, there is an exceedingly common-sense argument to be applied here. The world is simply not as it should be. We’re all aware of this. Murder works. Theft works. Rape works. Being a dictator is the best gig in town, if you watch your back. Despite the best efforts of law enforcement there are still people who get away with doing horrible things to others and profiting from that, and that’s in countries where law enforcement is for the people, and not merely a tool of oppression. It would be impossible to believe that the Lord of Love and Light has come to us, that He is God Incarnate, and yet claim that the way the world works now is acceptable. It would be like claiming to believe in what Dr. Martin Luther King did while upholding racism, or claiming to believe in gravity while attempting to walk cartoon-style off a cliff, expecting the air to hold you up. And yet, any belief that does not go farther than intellectual assent does just that. It claims that reality is flawed, but does not take the actions consistent with that belief – it is no belief at all.

The rules are going to change. Right now the two systems intersect unpleasantly. But one day God’s rules will win. For those who are saved that will be a final release. For those who have shaped themselves to the other reality, the reality of oppressive force, arrogance, and anything-goes, the new world will be intolerable. It will be as if the world had flooded, and, caught drowning, those who have embraced the way of the world will find that some of their neighbors are fish.

Salvation. Salvation, ultimately, is living in the new world. But salvation is part of belief, of faith (words that may differ in English, but are often translated from the same Hebrew or Greek word) in Jesus and His ways. If salvation is only intellectual it isn’t salvation. It is simply not a preparation for the new world. It is a rejection of the idea that there are two paths, a rejection of the reality of evil.

Lest I be accused of the worst of Protestant sins, “works-righteousness”, let me step back for a moment. Of course this entire idea ties to deeds. It’s impossible to claim to follow Jesus, believe in His program, and remain as you are. However, the success of the works is not the important part. Failure is an option. If you give to a beggar and get scammed the success of your charity is immaterial. What’s important is not the deed, it’s the fact that you are acting from the right motives (love of God). You believe in the new rules (God’s rules) and you are striving to act accordingly.

And, again, it doesn’t matter how far you get. What I wish to point out here is that salvation is not something that can ever be held apart from actions. Grace exists because none of us will ever get there. None of us, to return to my metaphor, will ever become fish on our own. But the action of grace is to push us towards fishiness, and if that push isn’t occurring then we should worry that grace isn’t, either.

Some time ago I was reading Acts 24 and I was surprised to find Paul lecturing Felix not on the resurrection, the crucifixion, the Messiahship of Jesus, or even the sole divinity of Yahweh, but on righteousness and self-control. I wondered what was going on. But it should be obvious by now. Felix is described as someone familiar with the Way (Christianity), but he is, at the very moment Paul is lecturing him, angling for a bribe. He’s not doctrinally deficient, and he doesn’t need more theological instruction. He needs discipline and a change of heart. He needs righteousness and self-control before (Paul’s next topic) the coming judgment.

Indeed, a short word search reveals that self-control and discipline are not at all foreign to the Epistles. The process of sanctification is always one of changing from one sort of person to another. Salvation itself is bound up in this transformation from one reality to another. There is no separation between James and Paul, nothing between faith alone and the faith that is shown to be dead by its lack of works.

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65 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2010 10:43 am

    I’m gonna link to this in something I’m going to post on Wednesday. I LOVE this passage: “The rules are going to change. Right now the two systems intersect unpleasantly. But one day God’s rules will win. For those who are saved that will be a final release. For those who have shaped themselves to the other reality, the reality of oppressive force, arrogance, and anything-goes, the new world will be intolerable. It will be as if the world had flooded, and, caught drowning, those who have embraced the way of the world will find that some of their neighbors are fish.”

  2. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 3, 2010 2:57 pm

    “While salvation is universally agreed to be the goal of the Christian life…” I pretty much agree with this personally, but I think Emergents may strongly disagree! lol … I’ve been studying salvation for about 7-8 years now and still haven’t been able to put my thoughts on the matter into words. I know it (salvation) when I see it though. Correct me if I’m wrong, but to sum up what you’re saying, faith without works is dead (James). Intellectual assent means nothing. What are your thoughts on regeneration?

    • Eric permalink
      May 3, 2010 3:18 pm

      I think what I’m saying is, functionally, that it’s all the same thing. Intellectual assent can’t be pulled away from works. We can’t say, “That’s works, that’s faith, that’s belief, that’s justification, that’s sanctification, that’s regeneration.” There’s really only one thing happening, in the same way that a falling ball, a floating balloon, and an orbiting planet are all acting primarily under gravitational forces despite what appear to be different outcomes.

      I’m not sure if that answers the regeneration question, but my feeling in general is that we comprehend less the more we divide salvation out into various component parts. But make me clarify if that’s unclear.

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        May 3, 2010 3:46 pm

        I guess my own simplistic take on salvation at this moment is this: 1. God at some time in eternity past elected his people. 2. God’s son came and successfully became the perfect sheep to atone for my sins. 3. At some point in my life, God’s effectual call lands upon me (irresistible grace, regeneration <-still studying up on this one as it is only in the NT twice). 4. I exercise the gift of faith given to me by God which is expressed via works. 5. Death (or rapture) I go to Heaven.

        I know in the past you've mentioned your dislike of reformed theology. Tell me where specifically with my understanding you disagree.

        I guess I don't personally have an issue with separating the components of salvation. I think it's very important to realize that works are a byproduct of faith and not vice versa. Are you saying that works contribute to salvation?

  3. Eric permalink
    May 3, 2010 4:03 pm

    My first issue would be “God at some time in eternity past elected his people.” Is it past, or is it eternity? Is it temporal or atemporal? God Himself is atemporal, and so how are God’s decisions outside of time interjected into time? I also have some problems with treating a term like “regeneration” as if it means something technical within the NT. Maybe it does, but maybe Paul is just using words none of which quite say exactly what he means and so he switches up a bit.

    Are you saying you can separate works from faith? One can certainly tell the effectiveness of works apart from faith. If you try and build someone a house but you don’t know how and it falls apart that’s not impacting your salvation. But can you tell faith from works when we close in? Perhaps if you focus on motives only (“Did you give that beggar money to earn salvation or not?”), but what about those with right motives? What about works born of faith (“No, I gave him money because he is a child of God, and in him I see the suffering of my Lord, Who desires that all things be put right”)? I’d have trouble drawing a line through that one cleaving faith from works. The works are the faith, in that case, the loyal response of trust.

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      May 3, 2010 4:44 pm

      “Is it past, or is it eternity?” Good question. I’ll have to think about that one. Can time exist in eternity? Or does everything that ever happens in “eternity” happen at the exact same moment since time does not exist? At this point I’m not really seeing why time couldn’t exist in eternity. That’s a tough one though.

      What is your specific view of election? Not at all right? A little right?

      I’m currently studying regeneration so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

      “f you try and build someone a house but you don’t know how and it falls apart that’s not impacting your salvation.” I’m not sure that I understand what it is you are trying to say here…

      “The works are the faith”. I think this is where we disagree. To me, the works (giving money) are a result of the faith. In other words, to reiterate my last post, works are the byproduct of faith. Can someone have works without faith? Yes. Can someone have a saving faith without works. No. But it is the faith that generates those works that saves, not vice versa.

      What do you think about Macarthur’s Lordship Salvation?

      • Eric permalink
        May 3, 2010 6:51 pm

        Eternity is generally held to be atemporal, as opposed to infinity, which is temporal but without a beginning or end. God exists outside of time (time is part of the universe God created) and so God Himself does not inherently experience time. This is one major issue with a lot of the simpler Reformed ideas – they tie themselves to time, which God is not tied to.

        I think you’re asking for a full post on election, but I’ll make a reply-sized stab at it by saying that Israel was also elected, but that never prevented people from entering or leaving Israel (most of ten tribes were cut out in the Assyrian invasion, and notable pagan converts like Ruth were written in).

        I’m separating the results of works, which are intent + skill + opportunity, from the intent. You might intend to do good works and fail because you’re incompetent. That’s of no salvific concern. When Paul complains about the Jewish works of the Law he’s complaining about things that are results of works. Whether or not you are ceremonially clean, for instance, depends on whether you have access to water. Whether you are circumcised depends on the presence of someone with skills and a knife. Similarly, Luther complains about specific results – the actual completion of pilgrimages, the giving of set sums of money. Current disputes about works and faith seem far removed from these examples.

        I think I need you to define faith for me before I can address your last two points.

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        May 4, 2010 11:51 am

        “Israel was also elected”… Yes they were elected in a special sense. This was not an election for salvation per se. They were elected to be the people who would bring the savior to the world, and subsequently the means of salvation. I would contend that Judas was elected, only it was an election to be fit for a vessel of destruction. When I refer to election, I’m referring specifically to individual election with regards to salvation.

        I”m still not buying the notion that time cannot exist in heaven, or God’s realm. In Heaven, are you saying that we will not ever refer to anything that we “did” with a past tense. Everything we do in eternity will be “right then”?? I’m still confused on that one and truly want to understand what you are saying…

        I’m in agreement with you that it’s the motive that counts with regards to works.

        I’m defining faith as this. Let’s say that there is a millions dollars sitting on a window sill. In order to retrieve that million dollars, you must climb up the ladder. Those that get on the ladder are the “saved”. No one has the human means to climb to the top of the ladder. It’s too high and impossible. Nonetheless, those individuals receive that million dollars (salvation and heaven) for exercising their faith in the ladder. People came along and told them there were other ways to get the million. Others said that the million didn’t even exist. Nonetheless, those that exercised their faith by getting on the ladder (a work) were saved. Some folks got on the ladder for show, not really having faith that it would ultimately lead to the million. Those folks were not saved (even though they had works by getting on the ladder) because they lacked faith in the ladder’s ability…

  4. Jay permalink
    May 4, 2010 3:48 am

    I would have to disagree with one statement you made, señor. The worst of Protestant sins is not “works-righteousness.” The worst of Protestant sins is hypocrisy. When the world floods, to borrow your metaphorical device, how many people who SAY they are fish will actually know what in the world to do in the water? Or will they be sinking to the bottom, chained to their REAL self while our Lord says, “I never knew you?”

  5. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 4, 2010 3:11 pm

    I found the following except on this web page (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/eternity.html) and agree with what it is saying. This is my understanding….

    There are a few modern authors who hold to the independent status of time apart from events, and they are thus the heirs of the Newtonian conception of absolute time. Swinburne argues that time, like space, is of logical necessity unbounded.{10} For every instant of time must be preceded and succeeded by another instant of time. The physical universe itself may have had a beginning – but this can only be true if there is a period of time before the beginning during which the universe did not exist. Since time is unbounded, it is of logical necessity infinite. Since prior to and after every period of time there is more time and since the same instant of time never recurs, time must have gone on and will go on forever. Although space would not exist without physical objects, time would. But, he adds, without physical objects, time could not be measured: one could not distinguish an hour from a day in a period of time without objects.{11} Therefore, Newton’s claims about Absolute Time were correct.{12} To say that the universe began to exist on such a time scale would simply be to say that a finite time ago there were no physical objects.

    • Eric permalink
      May 4, 2010 3:58 pm

      I’m not sure how the claim that time is infinite really addresses the issue.

      The claim that God is outside of time is related to God’s creation of the universe, of which time is a product. I’d point you to Augustine on this issue.

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        May 4, 2010 4:18 pm

        If I remember, it was Election that started this whole conversation. God electing those that would be saved before the beginning of the world. If time is infinite, then (unbiased) Election remains a possibility. If however, time is a creation and not infinite, then (unbiased) Election would seem more unlikely.

        With creation, God created measurable time by the way he rotates the planets etc. This does not mean that God can never speak in past tense about something he did (past tense) while in eternity…

  6. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 4, 2010 4:43 pm

    Furthermore, is it really necessary to grasp Netwtonian and Einstein or even Augustine concepts of time to understand what the bible is telling us? If God is real, it makes logical sense to me that the true gospel message could make perfect sense to even the simple minded. In fact, it’s just my opinion, that God prefers it that way. People try to convolute the simpleness with complexity. <– I'm personally guilty of this so I'm not throwing any stones! … Just sayin'…

  7. Eric permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:42 pm

    The problem with election is that it is not a decision interjected into time, it is a decision in God’s head, if you’ll allow me the anthropomorphism. The question isn’t, then, whether God can structure things into a timeline, it’s whether God has a personal timeline, so that one of His decisions comes before another. What does it mean for God to make a decision “before” something? Nothing, because God already knows everything, including the future, and so His decision will not be altered by information that is coming along later. God’s actions can have temporal precedence over other actions because they are interjected into time, but a decision is not an action.

    As for simplicity, well, that’s a strange complaint to me. Is the truth normally simple? I have to say I rarely find that it is, at least at the level you want it to be simple at. Now, there’s a legitimate complaint that God wouldn’t ask us all to get PhDs to obey Him, and I agree, but we haven’t been arguing about how to obey, we’ve been arguing about inessential mechanistic details.

  8. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 5, 2010 10:46 am

    As simple as you can (lol) give me your understanding of the scriptures that speak of Election. Does reformed theology take these scriptures out of context? Does the bible speak of election, but God looked into the future (being omniscient) and therefore unbiased election is impossible? If not election, are we able to pat ourselves on the back for getting to heaven, if if 99% of the credit goes to God?

    “Is the truth normally simple?” — I personally think so, very much so! At least in certain respects. They used to think the world was flat. That was not true. But the fact that the world is round is a simple truth (with the information given!).

    “but we haven’t been arguing about…” — I’m not trying to argue with you at all! Merely dialogue, to borrow a term from the Emergents. I enjoy reading your blog. It’s weekly food for thought and I think you’re a sharp guy. By pecking your brain and understanding, it in turn helps me to solidify my own beliefs and understanding…

    “we’ve been arguing about inessential mechanistic details” — True to a certain degree. Whether I’m right about election, or you are right, really does not matter in either of us reaching heaven in my opinion. But I do think it would affect our walk here on the Earth, thus making it a semi-important issue. The doctine of election brings humbleness galore in my opinion. Something that genuine Christians cannot live without…

    • Eric permalink
      May 5, 2010 11:17 am

      There are a lot of scriptures involved. Again, I’ll point to Israel. When Paul says “election” he expects his audience to already know what that means in the context of Israel, and to re-apply that. Reformed reading is, to my thinking, backwards. It reads Paul to figure out what Israel being elect means! This is part of a larger issue I have with the way Reformed theology sometimes reads Scripture, which is to focus on the parts that look most like a textbook (Paul) and read them that way (they aren’t). This sometimes makes nonsensical hash of the stories (which are what Scripture mostly is), but this gets brushed aside because storylines are a bit fuzzier and easier to hand-wave about. This is a question largely about how we read.

      I’d also like to point out that “unbiased” election just means “random”. If I construct a model in which items are drawn without any biasing as to their essential characteristics that model is performing a random draw. I honestly don’t think that the Bible is about how God is glorified in His great randomness, and so I don’t think unbiased election is something we should expect.

      Also, I’m going to attack the entire philosophical foundations of your approach to salvation. You can’t have a 99%-1% split. You can have this when we discuss certain sorts of work, for instance jointly lifting a heavy item, or constructing a bridge. You can’t discuss this in a relationship. My wife and I don’t split the marriage 50-50, we both have to be in 100%. Now, if we built a bridge and I slacked off my bridge-building partner could step it up and we’d still get it done, but relationships don’t work that way. If I slack off my wife can’t do part of my end, too, and restore the relationship. Salvation is essentially relational, and not a task to be completed. The Reformed attempt to make sure that our model says Jesus does all the work is wrong from the get-go, because it proposes that what needs to happen primarily is work.

      Ok, so that’s another seven essays to write out at some time.

      As a scientist I can agree that the underlying rules are often quite simple (but, then, I’ve just made a large, simple underlying rule about salvation, pretty much in line with Orthodox thought here), but their details can be tricky. Gravitation isn’t too complicated, but calculating orbits can be. We haven’t been discussing gravity, but orbits.

      Also as a scientist I say “argue” because that’s what one calls competing hypotheses, and not because I intend to interject hostility into this.

      I’d also point out that humility has been considered a fundamental Christian virtue for centuries amongst groups that think Reformed theology is nonsense. I wouldn’t call, for instance, Franciscan theology very Reformed, and yet they come by humility through an incarnational focus. I wouldn’t want to defend bad theology because it pushes a virtue.

  9. Eric permalink
    May 5, 2010 11:27 am

    In fact, a second thought, the work versus relationship question is really key here. If salvation is a task that gets accomplished we can ask “Who accomplished it?” and “When was it accomplished?” If it’s a relationship those questions stop making sense. Notably, all five TULIP points (except maybe L) are answering one of those questions.

    Total Depravity – you didn’t accomplish it, because you can’t.
    Unconditional Election – God accomplished it long ago.
    Limited Atonement – God accomplished it alone, therefore He didn’t even try where He didn’t ultimately succeed.
    Irresistible Grace – God did it, you didn’t have a choice.
    Perseverance of the Saints – it’s accomplished already, you can’t go back and un-accomplish it.

    I’m actually proposing that this is like starting off by saying, “So, since the Sun is a giant lightbulb…” and then arguing about whether there’s a power cord we haven’t detected, or a really big battery pack.

  10. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 5, 2010 1:20 pm

    “When Paul says “election” he expects his audience to already know what that means in the context of Israel..” — My understanding was that Paul was primarily dealing with Gentiles in most of his “Election” epistles. That seems peculiar to me to think that they were taking this from the “context of Israel”. But you may be right…

    “stories (which are what Scripture mostly is)…” — Are you saying that scripture is primarily a bunch of stories just for clarification?

    “I’d also like to point out that “unbiased” election just means “random”” — Good point here. I do believe that God elected according to his own good purpose and will. Not just pulling names out of a hat. The question then becomes what is God’s “own good purpose”. I think this might be where people think he had to look into the future and pick out people that he “liked” or something to that effect. I’m not certain on God’s “own good purpose”, but I’m CONVINCED that it had NOTHING to do with something in me that appealed to God.

    When the bible says that no one would turn to God if he didn’t act on their behalf. How do you get around this? Do you say that God acts on everyone’s behalf to a certain degree, but just to the point that everyone can make a decision…

    “Salvation is essentially relational, and not a task to be completed. The Reformed attempt to make sure that our model says Jesus does all the work is wrong from the get-go, because it proposes that what needs to happen primarily is work.” — agree and disagree on this one. If salvational is essentially relational, why did God have to perform the greatest work of all time (sacrificing his heavenly abode to come to earth and die on the cross)? Why not just say “Hey, have a relationship with the big guy in the sky and you’re in?” I’ve never grasped the “it’s all about the relationship” approach. Yes Jesus gracefully calls me his friend, but he is primarily my Lord who is deserving of my Faith…

    “You can’t have a 99%-1% split” — I don’t have this belief. I believe it’s 100% an act of God (salvation). I was saying if you discredit election, don’t you more or less have to have a percentage in the cost of getting to heaven.

    “Ok, so that’s another seven essays to write out at some time.” hahaha.. looking forward to reading them!

    “underlying rules are often quite simple, but their details can be tricky” … I agree with you…

    “I’d also point out that humility has been considered a fundamental Christian virtue for centuries amongst groups that think Reformed theology is nonsense” — I think it’s true that humility/humbleness can be aquired through various means. But I think conceding the fact that our entire salvation is an act of a gracious God is the most humbling. There is nothing more humbling than that…

    “Limited Atonement – God accomplished it alone, therefore He didn’t even try where He didn’t ultimately succeed.” – I’ve never understood the big problem with this one. But again, I’m not a hyper-calvinist on the matter either. To me, Jesus’s atonement is sufficient to save the world, but only efficiently saves the elect. If the atonement was not limited, then everyone’s in!

    “Irresistible Grace – God did it, you didn’t have a choice.” — the hardest of the points for me. The reason I support it is because I fully believe unconditional election. God has to enact that unconditional election somehow. Irresistible Grace is the means by which he accomplishes that. To me, this one doesn’t even need to be in the acronym… It’s merely attempting to explain how unconditional election is accomplished…

  11. Eric permalink
    May 6, 2010 9:36 am

    “My understanding was that Paul was primarily dealing with Gentiles in most of his “Election” epistles.” Paul remains a Jew, in a Jewish world, using words that Jews used to describe themselves. I’d need to see your references, but I don’t think Paul is normally speaking to a Gentile audience that does not already know the story of Israel when he discusses election. And, whatever they know, the term meant something to Paul before he started using it in a Christian context.

    I would not have thought it particularly controversial to claim that the Bible is primarily narratives, so I wonder if we understand each other on this point.

    “I’m not certain on God’s “own good purpose”, but I’m CONVINCED that it had NOTHING to do with something in me that appealed to God.” Then it’s random. There’s no third category. It’s either something about you or it’s not something about you, you were selected at random. What you’re looking for is an attribute that God selects you for that isn’t yours, but if it isn’t yours then you’re just randomly being selected to get the attribute so you can be non-randomly elected.

    “When the bible says that no one would turn to God if he didn’t act on their behalf” I ask for a citation, because I suspect the reason is that you and I are reading the same verse in different ways.

    “I was saying if you discredit election, don’t you more or less have to have a percentage in the cost of getting to heaven.” No, because the cost is not divisible in such a manner. I don’t care whether you say 50-50, 90-10, 100-0, the fact that you’re setting up two numbers that total to 100% means you’re working in the wrong system. Hence the discussion about relationship.

    “If salvational is essentially relational, why did God have to perform the greatest work of all time.” I said “essentially relational”. There’s clearly an element of work involved, there is a task to be done, but the task, without the relational component, won’t work.

    Your model of salvation seems to be entirely juridical. Sin is a fault for which someone must be blamed and punished. Now, this is correct, but I think also incomplete. Sin is also a pathological condition which must be treated. Christ can deal, as a task, with the business of clearing up who takes the blame and the punishment for sin. The need to restore individual patients, though, is a relational process. It is only through the continued relationship of Christ to the individual that they are able to do anything but succumb to the disease of sin. Ironically, this means that the model I propose makes people more dependent on Christ for their salvation than yours in some ways. After all, in yours Christ does something and is then more or less done. Reformed theology has always flailed a little when it comes to figuring out what one does after having been justified, because that’s the place where it all happens, and once you’re justified we need to explain why you aren’t “done”. I’m insisting, on the contrary, that justification and sanctification cannot be reasonably separated and that salvation comes through the continuous action of Christ, a continuous action made possible by a once-off action.

    I’d also point out that you’ve never defined faith for me, and so while I find this statement, “Yes Jesus gracefully calls me his friend, but he is primarily my Lord who is deserving of my Faith,” self-contradictory it is probably because I think faith is a description of a relational status and you don’t.

    “I think it’s true that humility/humbleness can be aquired through various means. But I think conceding the fact that our entire salvation is an act of a gracious God is the most humbling. There is nothing more humbling than that…” I strongly disagree here. Doctrine is NEVER the best forging ground for spiritual virtues. The best means to acquire humility is to, as C.S. Lewis has preceded me in pointing out, try to be good. Once you do that you will realize exactly how hard that is, and exactly how far you have to go. This comprehension is far more heart-changing than attempting to change hearts by drilling through someone’s head. This is one reason that the Church has spent 2,000 years talking about spiritual disciplines. The modern focus on doctrine changing people appears to be a modernist idea based on the idea that people are basically rational (which they aren’t). (I say “modernist” here because modernism tends to overplay the extent to which consciously-expressed ideas run the world. I’m no particular fan of modernism’s successor, though.)

  12. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 6, 2010 3:52 pm

    “Paul remains a Jew, in a Jewish world, using words that Jews used to describe themselves.” — Obviously Paul remained a Jew. One cannot replace their ethnicity. However, I’m not sure that he was still living in “a Jewish world” as he was making his travels. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the Jewish empire streteched all that far. Are you saying that when paul was speaking at Mars Hill that he was using strictly Jewish terminology. From the character I see in Paul, he became all things to all men. I take this to include communication…

    I don’t personally see the bible as a bunch of “stories”… I see it as an instructional document for lack of a better description… (i.e. a revelation)

    So to clarify, God either selected at random, or he selected because there was something about us that he likes. Those are the only two options right?

    Ephesians 1:4 — Created before foundation of the world scrip…
    Rom. 9:14-15 — What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.

    I’m not saying relationship isn’t important. Just not the most important aspect as it is for you. What about Judas Iscariot and all other kinds of people who had a relationship with Jesus. It credited them nothing… One scripture says something to the effect of, depart from me I never knew you. These folks obviously thought they were saved and had a relationship with Jesus. But Jesus never knew them…

    I think reformed theology sees salvation as an ongoing process just as you do. Like you mentioned, sanctification proceeds justification. God would not save (i.e. justify) someone that he would not also sanctify (i.e. also a part of the salvific process).

    “After all, in yours Christ does something and is then more or less done.” In my example, you must remain on the “ladder” to be saved. People are trying to get you off the ladder through various means. Perseverance of the saints. The elect will remain on the ladder via God’s grace…

    I don’t think it’s difficult to understand one individual fulfilling two perceptions. I would consider my dad a friend and buddy, but he is first and foremost my dad. This is not that contradicting…

    “The best means to acquire humility is to, as C.S. Lewis has preceded me in pointing out, try to be good” — How does C.S. Lewis know what “good” is without scripture?

    “The modern focus on doctrine changing people appears to be a modernist idea..” If we are saved by faith and faith comes by hearing the word of god (and understanding it). Then I think doctine is relatively important. If anything is rational and makes sense, it tends to get blasted with being a modernist idea which seems silly to me…

    • Eric permalink
      May 6, 2010 8:38 pm

      “Are you saying that when paul was speaking at Mars Hill that he was using strictly Jewish terminology”. No, but I will say, having recently re-read Acts, that Mars Hill is one of the very few places where Paul goes in Acts where he isn’t primarily preaching in synagogues. The Jewish “Empire” is also a bit strange. The Jews ruled nothing, but the communities of the Diaspora stretched from Egypt (the great center of Jewish scholarship in Alexandria) to Greece and Rome (from which Claudius expelled the Jews during a portion of his reign).

      I don’t think we’re defining story in the same sense. Genesis is story (the story of creation, the story of the flood, the stories of the patriarchs). That’s its genre. It’s not, say, Leviticus which is primarily a legal book, nor is it Proverbs, which is also not stories, but wisdom literature. Story is the primary genre of the Bible. This is completely unrelated to inspiration. Both stories and cookbooks could be, theoretically, inspired, but they would remain different genres. In this sense saying “instructional document” would imply that the Bible is the same sort of genre as a cookbook or one of those booklets at the hardware store about how to build a raised deck for your house.

      Indeed, the two options would appear to be that God picks at random or that He selects you for something about you. Feel free to suggest a third category, but I’m pretty sure that’s an exhaustive list of all logically coherent options.

      What exactly are your two citations in reference to? I expected them to be about Total Depravity, but they seem to be about election.

      “What about Judas Iscariot and all other kinds of people who had a relationship with Jesus.” Well yes, he had a relationship with Jesus. One characterized by his attempt to have Jesus murdered. That’s not the sort of relationship I’m speaking of.

      In fact, this and the next two points all go to a central point: what is faith? I’ve asked you to define it and you haven’t, but the way you talk about it makes me think it will involve intellectual assent to a series of doctrines. Here’s my definition: faith is a relationship of trust and loyalty. That’s the answer to several of these points. One doesn’t just have “a relationship” with Christ, one needs to have the relationship called faith. Similarly, when you objected to the relational model I called it contradictory because you wanted to replace the relational model with faith – a relationship. And again, your last statement presumes that faith is about knowing.

      Lewis knows what good is from Scripture. (Why are you putting “good” in quotes? Do you not believe in objective good and evil?) But this isn’t really the point. Being able to intellectually grasp something is a far cry from actually feeling it. Doctrine is well and good, but it is the transmission of a very particular (and highly useful) sort of knowledge. What changes people’s hearts primarily is experience, which is not transmitted by doctrine. Spiritual disciplines are designed, in part, to get people to experience the things they need to experience. They can’t be replaced by lecturing people more effectively.

      “If anything is rational and makes sense, it tends to get blasted with being a modernist idea” Perhaps, but I’m actually blasting the idea as modernist because it makes a simple mistake: it assumes that what people are consciously is basically what they are. Much of the modernist/postmodernist conflict is about how much we can stand aside from our subconsciously biased self and see things objectively. For you to say that we can get people to feel something (humility) best by making them think it suggests that you basically don’t believe in a subconsciously biased self, that the entire self is the conscious self, so all you need to do is convince that self. That’s modernist in a really extreme way.

  13. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 7, 2010 12:56 pm

    “I don’t think we’re defining story in the same sense”.. I see what you are saying. Yes the Bible does contain ample narrative. At times, I get so focused on the meaning behind a story that I forget it’s a story providing that meaning. Nonetheless, I still stand by the bible being an “instructional document”, but it’s not laid out like “typical” instruction books you find at the store. It’s not a “Dummy’s Guide” type format for sure…

    Total Depravity – Romans 3

    With regards to your Election dichotomy: Let’s say that I decide to make dinner. I choose the bacon cheeseburger because that’s what I want to eat. It has nothing to do with the inherent value of the bacon cheeseburger. The next night I choose to have salad. I don’t particulary enjoy eating salad, but it furthers my agenda the best (living long and healthy). Thus I have made selections out of what I want using different criteria. The bottom line is it’s about me and what I want (my purposes). It has little to do with the items. This is not to say that God does not love and care for us immensely, just that his Glory is #1…

    Perhaps you say that we are more than immaterial items (bacon cheeseburgers or salad) to God. Agreed, but I would rather be the wedding guest who sits in the back and is then invited to the front than vice versa. Humbleness is key and essential…

    “That’s not the sort of relationship I’m speaking of.” If the relationship has to be validated by faith, and not vice versa, would it not be safe to say that faith is the key ingredient??

    “What is faith? I’ve asked you to define it and you haven’t” — My ladder analogy was about faith. I was trying to go in depth metaphorically to explain my peception of it. If you want a simple answer, I would agree and defer to the bible (faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen).

    “the way you talk about it makes me think it will involve intellectual assent to a series of doctrines” — How did my analogy of merely “staying on the ladder” lead you to intellectual assent?

    “Here’s my definition: faith is a relationship of trust and loyalty” — I have no major qualms with this and I agree. I might would add dependence which is what I was getting at with the ladder analogy to some degree.

    “One doesn’t just have “a relationship” with Christ, one needs to have the relationship called faith” — from reading this sentence, I think we may be thinking more or less the same thing and just arguing semantics…

    “And again, your last statement presumes that faith is about knowing.” — Faith is about knowing (to a certain extent). How would faith grow if not for increasing knowing? Granted right now we see through a dark glass in terms of our understanding of everything. But that does not mean that our faith is always blind as we learn more daily and come to greater understandings of God via his scripture.

    “Do you not believe in objective good and evil?” — Some good can be understood without scripture. The world is in agreement that murder is wrong. But even that seemingly obvious understanding of good gets convoluted. Without scripture, we would only have reason to determine whether abortion or capital punishment is wrong (and most people get this wrong in God’s eyes when resorting to reason). Without scripture, people would construe all kinds of things as being good when in fact God does not feel that way (homosexuality, pride, etc. etc.,,,,)

    “Being able to intellectually grasp something is a far cry from actually feeling it.” — Have you ever studied MBTI. I have a feeling that some of our differences come from personality differences. I’m guessing that you are a strong F whereas I’m a strong T. You process information with a preference for feeling whereas I process that same information with a preference for thinking. Strong F’s tend to have a preference for experience…

    “What changes people’s hearts primarily is experience, which is not transmitted by doctrine” — If someone did not know that God commanded them to be separated from the world, how would they ever experience that rejection (or why would they)? They would not separate themselves because they don’t know that’s what God expects. My point is that out of a proper theology comes the experiences that need to be had. It is not the experiences that dictate the theology…

    “Much of the modernist/postmodernist conflict is about how much we can stand aside from our subconsciously biased self and see things objectively” — Very interesting! I will have to study up on this as I’ve never heard the modernist/postmodernist put into this perspective…

  14. Eric permalink
    May 7, 2010 10:02 pm

    Assuming we understand each other’s genre categories I’ll leave that one alone.

    The Romans 3 thing is still baffling. You had originally said, “When the bible says that no one would turn to God if he didn’t act on their behalf,” and I asked for citations. You cited (without referencing this request) two verses on Election, neither of which says this. I said I’d expected something on Total Depravity (i.e., something that fit the first request) and was confused as to why you were citing Ephesians 1:4 and Rom. 9:14-15. You’ve now cited Romans 3 in response, which STILL doesn’t look like an answer to the original question.

    “Let’s say that I decide to make dinner. I choose the bacon cheeseburger because that’s what I want to eat. It has nothing to do with the inherent value of the bacon cheeseburger.” Except that it does – you want to eat something tasty, and a cheeseburger is loaded with compounds humans find tasty, like fats and the products of Maillard reactions. Later, when you choose the salad you change your goal towards health, but you choose the salad because the salad is inherently a healthier choice. Even if you chose a piece of food to throw at someone, which isn’t the purpose of food, you’d be picking based on characteristics inherent to the pieces of food in front of you, like heft and ability to splatter. The fact that you are changing what you value doesn’t really matter, because once you pick a value you are still choosing a food whose characteristics match that value.

    You’re running up against a logical limit. Any model that is equally likely to draw any member of a set is random by definition. Any model that favors some members of the set (a nonrandom model) is doing so by picking up on traits that subset has and biasing for them. Try defining the word “random” for yourself (mathematical randomness, that is) and you’ll see the problem.

    Nor, actually, does the glory argument fly. Go back and look at “Glory, Full of Grace and Truth”. Glory does not preclude God choosing us for very specific reasons. In fact, I think that God’s glory is expressed primarily in His goodness, and so for God to be glorified He must be good. Glory and love don’t occupy different rungs (#1 and #2 you suggest, perhaps following Piper), God is actually glorious because of His love.

    I don’t actually think Hebrew 11:1 is meant to be a definition in the dictionary sense, especially because of how the rest of the chapter flows. (Look at the stories of faith that follow – do they fit the “definition” verse 1 offers?)

    So, if we’re willing to agree that faith is a relationship of trust, loyalty, dependence, and perhaps one or two other things we’re back to the point where I say that relationships don’t exist as pies to be split between the parties. There’s no 50-50, 99-1, or 100-0 in relationships.

    It looks like your answer to objective good and evil was yes, you do affirm, with all orthodox Christians, that good and evil have an objective existence. So I still don’t know where you’re going with this discussion of how we know what these objective realities are.

    “I’m guessing that you are a strong F” It would simply be impossible for you to be any less correct. On the other hand, that would explain why you sometimes attribute positions to me that would require me to have first emptied my skull with a melon-baller.

    While you’re looking at, “Being able to intellectually grasp something is a far cry from actually feeling it,” and seeing a “feeling is better” that’s not what it says. What it says is those are different modes of perception. The problem is that humility isn’t a doctrine, it’s a feeling. Imagine you want someone to have a feel for how spoken Greek sounds. Now, we could explain it in English, or we could explain it in Greek. It can work either way, but it will work faster in Greek, because the transmission method and the intended result match. Similarly, when you want someone to feel something (humility) you should start with something that evokes feelings (experience) not something that evokes thought (doctrine). This is not to say that feelings and experience are better, because, of course, sometimes thought is the intended purpose. But it isn’t in this instance.

    I’ll also point out that what I’m claiming can be verified by observation. Compare people who are taught about death with people who have almost died or who have had a loved one die. Which one makes people feel more mortal?

    “My point is that out of a proper theology comes the experiences that need to be had.” No, theology can’t dictate experiences, it can only dictate how we understand that experience. Theology doesn’t make your car slam into a tree, it just informs how you process nearly dying in a fireball. But what did I suggest? I suggested that one should start with a proper theology (“This is what God wants you to do”), try it, and experience what actually happens (you fail, and you feel humble). I’m not discounting needing a framework to process the experience through, I’m discounting the idea that the framework alone produces an experiential result.

  15. Jay permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:43 am

    Just for the record, Josh and Eric, this debate you’re having is WAY over my head! :)

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      May 8, 2010 5:40 pm

      You should join in Jay! The more the merrier. :-)

    • Eric permalink
      May 8, 2010 11:19 pm

      Yeah, well, if it goes on much longer we’ll all need flowcharts to follow it.

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        May 9, 2010 10:28 pm

        I hate to put a pause on this very interesting dialogue we have going on here. I’ve got 3 essays to write before Friday night and some business I’ve got to take care of this week. Nonetheless, I will have a response hopefully next Saturday even if you’ve already written another blog post and moved onto a different topic. I need to do some more research on Eastern Orthodoxy and NT Wright amongst a few others things anyhow. I just read somewhere that NT is a calvinist??? No way that’s true right?

  16. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 8, 2010 5:39 pm

    Do you believe that God would be justifed in sending everyone to Hell if he chose to do so? Do you even believe in hell? To simplify my take on Election is this: All of humanity is running for the cliff and about to plunge to their deaths. God has the right to reach out and grab those whom he chooses. He is God and has this right! He could choose no one and be justified. Out of his grace and mercy he chooses and saves some. I do not believe we are given God’s precise reasons in choosing whom he did. Though we can throw a few out such as God being enticed by something in his creation. Ultimately whatever his specific reasons are, they are for his glory. To simplify my take on Total Depravity is this: Setting candy (sin, flesh, rejection of God) in front of a baby. The baby is free to not take the candy. But he will EVERY time unless another force (parent) intervenes. I’m not a hyper-calvinist in the sense that I think the unsaved were never given the opportunity. I just think that we would ALL choose to reject God if he did not intervene…

    Scriptural Support
    John 6:44 No man can come to me (Total Depravity), except the Father which hath sent me draw him (Election): and I will raise him up at the last day.

    We will have to agree to disagree on the whole randomness debate…

    “(#1 and #2 you suggest, perhaps following Piper” — Actually more of a John Macarthur guy. Which you completely ignored my question earlier about Lordship Salvation??? I think I would like Piper though, just never gotten into him all that much…

    “His goodness, and so for God to be glorified He must be good” — Your understanding of good (mine as well) may differ from God’s understanding and concept of good to some degree. His thoughts and ways are above our heads…

    “God is actually glorious because of His love.” — I think love may very well indeed be a component of God’s glory. But I don’t know that I would minimize his Glory to strictly love…

    “There’s no 50-50, 99-1, or 100-0 in relationships.” — We wouldn’t have a “relationship” with God if he didn’t predestine it. Thus since we do have a “relationship”, God deserves 100% of that credit. God is solely (100%) responsible for the relationship happening in the first place even though now both parties are contributors to the relationship…

    “that would explain why you sometimes attribute positions to me that would require me to have first emptied my skull with a melon-baller.” — Touche’ .. lol

    “Compare people who are taught about death with people who have almost died or who have had a loved one die. Which one makes people feel more mortal?” This was a good analogy that really made me think about it, and it makes good sense. However, I would contend that the impact of feeling is short term whereas the impact of thinking is long term. At this “funeral”, some would be more bothered by this new sense of mortality than others. Those that were assured of their eternal destination via their thoughts would also reflect this “confidence” in their feelings on the matter. In my opinion, thoughts contributing to feelings is a much better option than vice versa. 1 month from this funeral, the “thought” people still have the same amount of mortality feelings. But the “feeling” people have slipped back to their normal mortality feeling level before the death… Does that make sense?

    “I suggested that one should start with a proper theology (“This is what God wants you to do”), try it, and experience what actually happens (you fail, and you feel humble). I’m not discounting needing a framework to process the experience through, I’m discounting the idea that the framework alone produces an experiential result.” I agree…

    • Eric permalink
      May 8, 2010 11:18 pm

      “Do you believe that God would be justifed in sending everyone to Hell if he chose to do so?” I believe it’s a hard question to answer, because God would not be God if He chose to do that. God’s goodness is essential to His character, and a good God would not do that. However, given what I perceive to be the natural framework of the question, yes, God could be justified in doing so.

      “Do you even believe in hell?” Yes. For instance, I discussed Hell in the very article we are commenting on. I’m getting this strange impression that you think I’m some sort of Emergent or something. You’d do better tracing my influences to N.T. Wright (especially his scholarly and heavily-footnoted works) and Eastern Orthodoxy (for which you could possibly substitute Catholicism if you are unfamiliar with Orthodoxy, but not without loss). Or, to put it another way, one of my issue with Reformed thought is that it’s far too recent. It’s a mere 500 years old. In a Church with 2,000 years of history that sounds suspiciously young. Hell is, by contrast, a well-established doctrine, and the idea of eternal punishment is clearly spelled out not only in the Bible (which Emergents might debate) but also in the writings of Clement, who states the doctrine quite clearly, and writes within the second century. (Justin Martyr, also second-century, similarly argues that Christianity is more concerned with morality than paganism because “you” [the pagans, perhaps referencing Plato] believe that the wicked are punished for a mere 1,000 years Christians believe they are punished forever.)

      “John 6:44 No man can come to me (Total Depravity), except the Father which hath sent me draw him (Election): and I will raise him up at the last day.” This same John writes, in 1:6, that John the Baptist came so that “all might believe through him”, that Jesus came (in the rather famous discussion from Chapter 3) to save the world, not condemn it. Did John suddenly contradict himself, or does he believe that God is busy calling everyone? This is where it becomes critical to remember that the Bible is stories, because your interpretation makes the story nonsensical – each bit makes sense, but not when connected to the others.

      I’ll also point out that the discussion of “drawing” continues through the next several verses, where it appears to be synonymous with “who has heard and learned from the Father”, which itself appears to reference the study of Scripture. There’s a few jumps to be made to make this drawing miraculous.

      Much of this does make this randomness debate key, and I have no real intention of letting you duck out of that one. What you’re insisting requires us to insist that something that fits the definition of random is not random, or to allow that God is glorified in randomly allowing some people to fry. Once I put it like that it sounds bad – we recognize that the sort of god that is glorified by randomly letting people fry sounds a lot more like Molech or one of the Mesoamerican gods that demanded a constant stream of human victims. We also recognize that what makes God God (do you know how many times in Exodus God declares that He will do something and follows it with “because I am Yahweh” or “and you will know that I am Yahweh”?) is that He is perfectly good. God and Satan are not differentiated simply because God wields more power, but because God is good and Satan is evil. We can’t ditch the goodness just because we retain the power.

      “Which you completely ignored my question earlier about Lordship Salvation???” I thought I had addressed a few of the related ideas, but I really haven’t read much Macarthur. My impression, though, is that he’s still answering a question that wouldn’t be asked from within my framework.

      “God is solely (100%) responsible for the relationship happening in the first place even though now both parties are contributors to the relationship…” Hey, as long as you’re willing to admit that a relationship requires participation from both parties I’m happy. Well, except that I don’t believe that God puppet-masters us into the relationship to start with. However, He is certainly responsible for us having the ability to choose. I have, elsewhere, compared this to being rescued by a helicopter. You don’t get back to safety and brag about how you were so great because you scrambled up that dangling ladder, you praise the helicopter crew for bringing you a ladder to scramble up.

      “This was a good analogy that really made me think about it, and it makes good sense. However, I would contend that the impact of feeling is short term whereas the impact of thinking is long term.” It’s a good analogy because I’m intensely familiar with it. And the change isn’t short term. Now, that may be a product of exactly how long I spent thinking I might be a dead man (months), but feelings don’t need to be fleeting. In a much, much darker way look at what the feelings created by abuse do to a person – those scars are often permanent.

      The other key here is that what I’ve said isn’t, “Go have this experience once, it’ll change you,” but, rather, “Live every day out doing this, which will cause you to constantly experience the difficult of being good.” If you actually did that it wouldn’t matter how quickly the feelings faded, because you’d never stop experiencing the event that led to them. (I’ll again point to Orthodoxy and Catholicism, who have always tried to make saints by asking them to practice holiness, rather than by correcting their doctrine [at least beyond a certain point]. There is plenty of room in these traditions for holy scholars, but also for holy fools. I’ll also point out that for both these traditions mysticism is important. What changes people isn’t a good lecture, but meeting God. You might meet God is you set out, every day, to engage in actions that required you to constantly implore God for His guidance and grace.)

      Really, doctrine and experience shouldn’t clash. Doctrine is what you filter experience through, but experience also informs your doctrine. Imagine (and this is roughly based on a critique of 1950-1970’s Chinese Christianity that I once read) that I taught a number of people that God would never allow them to be harmed. They then experienced persecution. Would they hold to their doctrine? No – they’d abandon it, and probably everything else I’d told them, because of their experience. Ideally, then, we’d like to teach doctrine and institute practices in which the reality to which the doctrine speaks is lived out. Really, as far as I can tell, what makes you believe is that you try it and it works/describes reality. And that’s one reason why doing is so important.

      • Josh Reynolds permalink
        May 25, 2010 8:37 pm

        “Do you believe that God would be justifed in sending everyone to Hell if he chose to do so? – Josh”. “I believe it’s a hard question to answer, because God would not be God if He chose to do that. – Eric.” — Since God says in the Bible that the road is narrow and there are few that find it (i.e. few are saved), does this take away from God’s goodness? What is the line for you to say that God is not good? You’ve conceded that 100% to Hell means God is not good. What about 90%? 60%?

        “I’m getting this strange impression that you think I’m some sort of Emergent or something. You’d do better tracing my influences to N.T. Wright.” I’m still learning what you believe and I’m not trying to ascribe any beliefs to you. I found your blog through your comments on Rob Davis’s blog. From your comments over there from what I can remember, you always seemed to be in complete agreement with Rob and I know he doesn’t think Hell exists. So I thought you probably had a similar line of thinking. I’m pretty sure Rob said on a few occasions NT Wright was one of his main influences.

        “one of my issue with Reformed thought is that it’s far too recent. It’s a mere 500 years old. In a Church with 2,000 years of history that sounds suspiciously young” — This is a good point and one that I’ve studied and hope to study extensively in the future (church history). Is it not possible that the church up to a certain point held these beliefs even though they never had formal titles for them (i.e. uncod. election, depravity, irresistble grace…)? With the Catholic church fighting vigorously to keep the word of god out of laymen’s hands, it’s easy to see why certain fundamental truths from scripture were not understood. I don’t think reformation doctrines were some grand invention of john calvin. I believe they was a remnant of believers who held to these beliefs. I do think when the Catholic Church traded faith for works+faith that they slipped into apostasty. Was it even possible for there to be a time period where none were saved? What kind of a miracle would it take on God’s part to bring the truth to the world when it had been completely removed!

        “This same John writes, in 1:6, that John the Baptist came so that “all might believe through him”, that Jesus came (in the rather famous discussion from Chapter 3) to save the world, not condemn it.” We are interpreting this scripture differently. IMO the verse is describing JOHN and not JESUS. And the key word is MIGHT…

        “because your interpretation makes the story nonsensical – each bit makes sense, but not when connected to the others.” — Completely disagree! The bible is very fluid and makes sense at all times IMO. There is no point in scripture where I go man I just can’t fit that in…

        Election is definitely not random. God did not draw straws. But God didn’t look into the future and go man that guy Eric is really cool I’m going to put him on my team. He selected according to what HE wanted (we do not know the criteria) and what would bring him glory. He wanted people who were undeserving as that brings him glory. He also wanted some that our humanness tells us deserves it even though in reality no one does.

        “You don’t get back to safety and brag about how you were so great because you scrambled up that dangling ladder, you praise the helicopter crew for bringing you a ladder to scramble up.” — a small part of you does pat yourself on the back! And that’s my point, God wants you to realize that he gave you the ladder AND the ability to climb up the ladder. You absolutely COULD NOT have done it without him…

        Without a proper theology, a child molester may “experience” god by doing what he does. With a proper theology, the child molester would recognize his evilness and experience god by refraining from his sinful behavior. He could no longer “experience” god while sinning due to his correct theology.

        “but experience also informs your doctrine.” — Experience can correct FLAWED doctrine like the example you gave…

  17. Eric permalink
    May 10, 2010 4:08 pm

    Wright might be a Calvinist. His debate with Piper over justification is frequently referred to as “in-house”, so perhaps this is because they are both Calvinists. I’m not really sure. I also doubt that his position uses categories in the same way you have, even if it outwardly might agree with you.

    Anyway, since we’re hitting pause, here’s what I’ve written down on my list for possible topics for full essays:

    1) Time and eternity. I’ll probably fold this into one I’ve been intending to write on Open Theism, which I see as addressing a problem which doesn’t exist until you understand time improperly. The opposite answer to this imaginary problem is one you’ve brought up a time or two.

    2) Election.

    3) How complicated is the Bible?

    4) A discussion of sovereignty and God’s glory.

    No promises that I’ll ever write these essays, let alone write them soon, but they’re on the list. Today’s new post addresses a few things I would otherwise have drawn into full essays from this discussion.

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      May 10, 2010 5:25 pm

      I would be interested to read those essays (when, and if you write them). I did read today’s post and have a few comments on it as well. But those will have to wait till Saturday also…

  18. Eric permalink
    May 25, 2010 11:46 pm

    “Since God says in the Bible that the road is narrow and there are few that find it (i.e. few are saved), does this take away from God’s goodness?”
    No, because there is a road. You asked me a question about a god who offers no road at all. That’s both why your example requires a different sort of god than the one in Scripture, and why your questions about percents are just missing the point.

    “From your comments over there from what I can remember, you always seemed to be in complete agreement with Rob and I know he doesn’t think Hell exists.”
    I certainly don’t remember being in complete agreement with Rob. There’s an article in the queue that comes out of the research I did to demonstrate that one of his proofs for the nonexistence of Hell was wrong, for instance. Oddly enough, you’ve now mentioned at least twice that you think I might be iffy on that issue (this despite the fact that I’ve written about it on this blog).

    “Is it not possible that the church up to a certain point held these beliefs even though they never had formal titles for them”
    It’s possible. It would require them to be strangely absent from every early Church document I’ve read (which is quite a lot of them, and I’ve started with the earliest ones I can find), and their current formulation certainly owes a large debt to philosophical categories that didn’t exist until shortly before Calvin. It’s also worth pointing out that as amusing as I find your little anti-Catholic story the Catholics had no control over the Orthodox, who think Calvinism is, if anything, even sillier than the Catholics do. Bring me some convincing evidence that Calvinism is not a new thing, do a little better than “the gates of Hell prevailed against the Church for several centuries”, and I’ll be happy to listen.

    “We are interpreting this scripture differently. IMO the verse is describing JOHN and not JESUS. And the key word is MIGHT…”
    The verse is about John. However, it’s also about “all”, and what John is preaching is a message that Jesus is coming and to pay attention to him. Also, I’m afraid that your keyword is in English, and that you’ve leaned far too much on an English sense of “might” not present in the passage. The sense operative here is “to be able”. John preaches that all men would be able to believe in his message about Jesus. Notably, men who are Totally Depraved are not so able.

    “There is no point in scripture where I go man I just can’t fit that in…”
    I didn’t think there were – it would be pretty strange if you held beliefs you saw as inherently flawed. There have been several points though. like the one I was responding to, where I have said that your explanation doesn’t fit. And it doesn’t fit because stories are supposed to fit together, and when I insert your explanations they don’t anymore.

    “He selected according to what HE wanted (we do not know the criteria) and what would bring him glory. ”
    His criteria are laid out in the Bible. In fact, huge sections of the Bible are devoted towards telling us how to be the sort of people who God wants playing on His team.

    “And that’s my point, God wants you to realize that he gave you the ladder AND the ability to climb up the ladder. You absolutely COULD NOT have done it without him…”
    This doesn’t make sense. You can’t climb into a helicopter without a ladder, period. If there’s no ladder you absolutely can not be rescued. You can’t get less rescued than not rescued. I’m sorry, you’re shooting a corpse and calling it “deader”.

    Your child molester example seems to be arguing against a point no one is making.

    “Experience can correct FLAWED doctrine like the example you gave…”
    And it can flaw correct doctrine, which is why I said that experience informs doctrine. This really isn’t something you can argue with. People change their minds based on their experience all the time. It’s an observable fact. People even do this for really stupid reasons. I know people who left Christianity behind because they wanted to sleep around. They experienced sexual frustration and it changed their doctrine – they decided God didn’t exist! There are two things you can do with this. You can scream and yell about how that’s stupid, or you can accept that experience is actually a very powerful force in people’s lives and go about considering how to nurture the sort of experiences that reinforce doctrine, much as your science teachers hopefully had you experience (through demonstrations) various scientific ideas.

    • Josh Reynolds permalink
      May 26, 2010 1:31 pm

      “You asked me a question about a god who offers no road at all.” — I’ve never asked you this question! The narrow road is available to all and always has been. The problem is that we would ALL choose the wide road if left to our own accord. If there were no road then yeah I would agree with you that God is not a good God…

      “Oddly enough, you’ve now mentioned at least twice that you think I might be iffy on that issue.” — I wasn’t asking again if you believed in Hell. I was merely showing why I might have questions regarding your beliefs. One would typically assume when talking with a fellow “christian” that you at least agree on the fundamentals (i.e. Hell). I’ve learned making assumptions is not a good idea. So I might ask you questions just to clarify, not to imply anything.

      “their current formulation certainly owes a large debt to philosophical categories that didn’t exist until shortly before Calvin.” — Can you provide an example of what you are saying here?

      “Bring me some convincing evidence that Calvinism is not a new thing” — I’ll work on that…

      Let’s say someone comes out and says god loves humans and puts a name to this supposedly “new” theological doctrine. They call it the “God Loves Humans” doctrine. If you can’t find this doctrine in the early church documents, are you going to say that it is not true even though the bible says it is? Or is it possible, that it was easily understood by those in the early church??

      “Notably, men who are Totally Depraved are not so able.” — I’m not a hyper-calvinist and so I believe that Totally Depraved people are “capable” in the truest sense of the term. However, even with this capability, none would choose to serve God without his involvement…

      “His criteria are laid out in the Bible. In fact, huge sections of the Bible are devoted towards telling us how to be the sort of people who God wants playing on His team.” — I want to understand what you are saying here. Here is what I think you are saying. God laid out the rules in the bible. Those that abide by those rules are then called by God, not vice versa. My belief is that God transforms you through the Holy Spirit, and then you become more meek, humble, serving, etc., not vice versa. But I think you are saying that we become meek, humble, serving on our own accord and then God is like yeah I want you on my team. Is this correct? I think the crux of the matter is we are disagreeing on the order. For me, God acts first then I change. For you, man acts first and then God…

      “You can’t climb into a helicopter without a ladder, period.” — God always provided the ladder! I’m not sure where you are reading that I said he didn’t. If God did not provide the ladder, then I agree with you he would not be a good God. However, we would all freely choose to not use the ladder unless God motivated us. And God does not motivate everyone to change their desire to not use the ladder. He let’s many reject the ladder.

      “I know people who left Christianity behind because they wanted to sleep around.” — Sure people can allow experience to dictate what they believe. In some cases this will be a good thing and in some cases this will be a bad thing. If a teenager has a desire for sex so he says God allows sex for those unmarried otherwise I would not have this desire, that would be a bad thing. If someone was taught that christians never suffer persecution and then he suffers persecution, this individual could go to the word himself and see that he had an improper understanding and this would be a good thing.

      What experience do you think I’m going to have that will contradict my reformation understanding?

      • Eric permalink
        May 26, 2010 2:42 pm

        “The narrow road is available to all and always has been. The problem is that we would ALL choose the wide road if left to our own accord.”
        Wait, was the narrow road available in your example where God damned everyone? That certainly wasn’t clear.

        Now, even if it was available but no one chose it, choosing the wide road instead we need to ask a question. Why would we choose the wide road? Because, the Calvinist position argues, our wills will never choose God without His action in our hearts. Now, if you restrict “able” to mean “if we so chose” then you’d be right. But that’s silly when the choice is not one our wills are capable of making unaided. What you’re really saying is that our wills are so damaged by sin that they can’t turn to God. We’re incapable of making the decision to seek God because without God’s action we lack the equipment (specifically in regards to our will) to do so. So in your example there’s a road, but it’s an unpleasant joke at our expense, like tying a piece of meat just out of your dog’s reach.

        In answer to your question about the philosophies involved in Calvinism the primary answer would be that current formulations of Calvinist are nominalist. Now, it’s theoretically possible that some ancient form of Calvinism was overtaken by nominalism to produce the modern form, but the current form cannot be older than nominalism.

        As far as Calvinism’s antiquity let’s point out that Calvinism isn’t exactly the sort of doctrine that can remain under the radar. A good Calvinist feels the need to point out, at every turn, how little works matter. Early Church documents have no such qualms about telling people how to act, and tying their obedience to eternal consequences. This is part of the problem: not only are things said that Calvinists wouldn’t say, all sorts of things are not said (both in early Church documents and the Bible itself) that Calvinists find necessary to say.

        “I’m not a hyper-calvinist and so I believe that Totally Depraved people are “capable” in the truest sense of the term. However, even with this capability, none would choose to serve God without his involvement…”
        So they aren’t capable in the truest sense of the term. They’re capable in a sense that explicitly excludes the ability of the will in evaluating capability.

        “For me, God acts first then I change. For you, man acts first and then God.”
        This is an excessively binary reading of my position. For me God acts by revealing His will (in a number of ways, including what is sometimes termed “general revelation”), we respond, God responds to our response, we respond to God’s response, and so on. We don’t make ourselves holy, we act in a way that shows God we want to be holier, and so He makes us holier, and again we choose to act either to say we didn’t mean that or that we want more. However, most problematically, I see these things as occurring simultaneously (and being, to some extent, indistinguishable), and so any attempt to put them in an order mangles my position.

        Let me insert a general complaint here: you frequently over-simplify my systems. Your systems are, and this is not a pejorative term here, much simpler. For instance, what’s the breakdown of action between God’s action and ours? For you it’s easy, God does 100%. For me the question is actually impossible to answer. The Bible shows that both parties act, and that God is massively better than us in every way, but the same actions are sometimes attributed to people and to God and so we can’t even tell who is responsible for a given action sometimes! So when you do something like try and figure out which order these actions occur in you’re going to run into a lot of trouble. Those questions can really only be answered for much simpler systems in which there are not, for instance, actions which are both ours and God’s, and in which there is no possibility of simultaneous action by both parties.

        “God always provided the ladder! I’m not sure where you are reading that I said he didn’t.”
        I’m not reading that you said he didn’t. You said:
        “And that’s my point, God wants you to realize that he gave you the ladder AND the ability to climb up the ladder. You absolutely COULD NOT have done it without him…”
        But this doesn’t make any sense. Watch while I cut out the key component of your train of logic:
        “And that’s my point, God wants you to realize that he gave you the ladder. You absolutely COULD NOT have done it without him…”
        See? I can entirely remove that “AND the ability to climb up the ladder” bit that you find so important and the sentence still makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense because you can’t be deader than dead, or loster than lost (using “lost” in its Christian sense). You’re no less screwed if the rescue helicopter is hovering overhead ladderless but you can climb than if the rescue helicopter is hovering overhead with no ladder and you can’t climb. Heck, once we remove the ladder we could remove the helicopter entirely and make you a paraplegic about to bleed to death and you STILL wouldn’t be any more screwed.

        Here’s an example: Bob is alive. I shoot him. Bob dies. I shoot him again. Does Bob get deader? No. Similarly, removing one component in my helicopter rescue scenario means there’s no rescue. You don’t get less rescued (and therefore more in need of Jesus) by removing more components. So let’s drop this pretense that we need Jesus less if we are capable of turning to Him. If Jesus didn’t respond we’d be just as dead turning to Him as not. It’s only Jesus’ action that makes our action worth anything, and so whether or not we acted Jesus gets the credit.

        “What experience do you think I’m going to have that will contradict my reformation understanding?”
        I don’t, and I never suggested that you would. Please go back and read the comments until now. Several of your questions now have clearly forgotten why I made my comment in the first place.

        In this case I started by saying that doctrine (specifically, Calvinist doctrine about Total Depravity) was not going to hammer your dependency on God into your heart harder than actually trying to live a good life and experiencing your failings and need for Jesus. You argued with this, and we had a long-running argument about the relative merits of experience versus doctrine. At this point you’ve now circled around to essentially agreeing with me: experience is actually quite powerful when set to the right tasks. I happen to think that changing the way people feel is exactly the right task for experience to take a leading role in, and the wrong one for doctrine alone. I really have no idea what you’re arguing now, or what you think you’re arguing against.

  19. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 27, 2010 10:34 am

    “A good Calvinist feels the need to point out, at every turn, how little works matter.” — That’s pretty subjective (and amusing to borrow a term from you)! As a Calvinist I feel works are very important as they are evidence of your saving faith. Faith without works is dead. But it is the faith that saves and the works are the byproduct of that faith (not to stir up that debate again)…

    “This is part of the problem: not only are things said that Calvinists wouldn’t say, all sorts of things are not said (both in early Church documents and the Bible itself) that Calvinists find necessary to say.” — Give me an example specifically from the bible…

    “Early Church documents have no such qualms about telling people how to act, and tying their obedience to eternal consequences.” — I think your perception of Calvinism may be skewed a bit. Perhaps you are debating Hyper-Calvinism and so I could join you in arguing against that…

    Speaking of early church documents/leaders. Last night I began my study of the early church leaders/material after the apostles passed away (Ante-Nicene period). Very briefly studied Ignatius. A question arose. The Eucharist was of the utmost importance to Ignatius as it is to Catholics/Eastern Orthodoxy. Do you believe that Ignatius was Holy Spirit inspired in his writing (i.e. his writing is authoritative)? Why was his book (I think it was Clement) not voted to become a part of the holy canon? Why did none of the apostles in the Holy Scripture (which was voted canon) perceive the Eucharist in the same manner as Ignatius (they perceived it more symbolically)? These are just a few of the questions that arose. But I figure a may start picking your brain some as I study the early church leaders…

    “Your systems are, and this is not a pejorative term here, much simpler.” — I know you didn’t mean that as a slap and I didn’t take it as one either. I read something last night and fully agreed. It said “It’s very easy to be hard to understand, that’s really easy”. In some sense I pride myself on taking people’s “confusing” and overly verbose sometimes metaphorical assessments and simplifying them so that we can get to the heart of the matter. And I’m not speaking evil of you here because I think you make good effort to clearly articulate and explain your position. I have debated many where this was not the case…

    I’m still a little lost as to where we differ on the “being deader than dead”. My take is this: We are dead without Christ period. Christ came and provided a way. We would all reject that way if God did not specifically and specially draw some men/women to himself. God’s work is twofold IMO. 1. God provided the way through his son’s sacrificial death and atonement. 2. God specifically and specially draws some men/women to himself We are dead without 1. We are dead without 2. I’m not saying that we are more dead by failing on both options. Without either one we are dead…

    I agree that experience can correct flawed doctrine at times. There are times where flawed doctrine will not be corrected by experience. Let’s say someone believes that Jesus was not divine. There is not an experience (short of Jesus showing up himself) that is going to convince this individual that they are holding onto a damning doctrine. Thus I am still holding that doctrine is more important. Nonetheless, I’m not saying experience is not important or effective in life for certain things…

    • Eric permalink
      May 27, 2010 7:40 pm

      “That’s pretty subjective (and amusing to borrow a term from you)! As a Calvinist I feel works are very important as they are evidence of your saving faith. Faith without works is dead. But it is the faith that saves and the works are the byproduct of that faith (not to stir up that debate again)…”
      In your second comment to me ever you wrote:
      “I think it’s very important to realize that works are a byproduct of faith and not vice versa. Are you saying that works contribute to salvation?”
      Yes, Calvinists feel a need to make sure we’re all correct on how little works matter (i.e., they matter little because they are byproducts, not causes).

      “Give me an example specifically from the bible…”
      Well, I’d just read Hebrews 10 when I wrote this. Hebrew 10:23 to the end of the chapter is very works-focused. It begins by discussing works, launches from there into a discussion of how sin might damn you post-conversion, and then encourages the believers to strive as they did when they first became Christians because this would lead to “great reward”, something which is promised. Context makes it clear that this refers to salvation.

      Frankly, if Calvinism is correct this passage is desperately confusing and ready to lead many astray. Where are the safeguards, the caveats, the discussion of the role of grace? And this is hardly an isolated example. “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire,” springs to mind, as does the better part of the Old Testament’s ethical instruction. If I had a Bible missing John and Romans what are the odds I’d come to Calvinist beliefs? If I tried to remove bits to get rid of any idea that works saved I’d have little but a few shreds of John and Romans, and perhaps some random Old Testament battles.

      ‘Do you believe that Ignatius was Holy Spirit inspired in his writing (i.e. his writing is authoritative)?”
      Well, I assume you’ve read my post about inspiration, so I’ll say yes, but to a lesser degree than the Bible (for that matter, C.S. Lewis was inspired by the Spirit on some level, too). I think the Holy Spirit was clearly active in his life and ministry, including his writings.

      “Why was his book (I think it was Clement) not voted to become a part of the holy canon?”
      Ignatius wrote seven letters (considered authentic, which presumably means there is at least one other debated one), none of them bearing the name Clement. Clement wrote the Epistle of Clement. I am suddenly very worried about the quality of your source.

      The short answer to this is because that’s not how canonization works. First off, what vote? The one at Nicaea that never happened? Second, inspiration alone was not the criteria for canonicity in the canon debates (which were an ongoing process without any official pronouncements until after their functional resolution) recorded by Eusebius. Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas, both of which were at one point read in many churches, eventually drifted into a more distinctly secondary usage because neither author claimed to be an apostle or other direct witness to Jesus.

      “Why did none of the apostles in the Holy Scripture (which was voted canon) perceive the Eucharist in the same manner as Ignatius (they perceived it more symbolically)?”
      I don’t agree with your assessment of the apostles views. Incidentally, Ignatius was John’s disciple. The odds that Ignatius saw the Eucharist in a radically different light than John are pretty slim.

      “I’m not saying that we are more dead by failing on both options. Without either one we are dead…”
      Right. What I’m disagreeing with is where you draw emotional consequences from these ideas. Since we’re dead or not in a binary manner (within this framework, although I certainly have categories marked more and less alive) we should FEEL no more obligated or dependent on Christ if He accomplished both your 1 and 2 (1. God provided the way through his son’s sacrificial death and atonement. 2. God specifically and specially draws some men/women to himself) than if, as I say, He only did 1. We don’t get credit either way.

      I don’t think I disagree with your most recent statement about experience, although I’m tempted to get twitchy about how sure you seem to be that you NO experience short of Christ’s manifestation will convince this hypothetical person of error.

  20. Josh Reynolds permalink
    May 29, 2010 11:48 am

    I’m still studying Hebrews 10. My belief at this point is still that he is referring to the visible church and not the true church (i.e. body of Christ). I would have to do an in depth study on how the word sanctified is being used in this context (verse 29). Often times the author ties the whole group of people together with one word (i.e. sanctified) even though it is known that this group consists of believers and non-believers. As we cannot cast off any scripture, how would you balance the scripture that says those “who went out from us were never among us”? Another example I thought of was Judas. He would have been considered a believer/disciple etc. but at the end of the day apostasy was his fate. He never developed a genuine saving faith and thus never persevered…

    “If I had a Bible missing John and Romans what are the odds I’d come to Calvinist beliefs?” — Not that this is what you were suggesting, but it brings me back to my point. ALL of scripture has to be reconciled together. If there is a piece of scripture that you cannot fit into your theology, then your theology is flawed. Furthermore, if we were to cast aside a book in the Bible, choosing John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) seems like a bad choice. But I do see the point you are trying to make so I will work to find calvinistic beliefs in other areas of the bible for proof…

    As far as Ignatius is concerned, there is a reason that his letters are not authoritative. Perhaps they were inspired. But they are not authoritative and thus not infallible. So wouldn’t it be highly possible for Ignatius to have penned down an incorrect understanding of the Eucharist even though his understanding in many other areas was correct? A further point I’m getting at is that inspiration is not enough. One or both of us in the debate could be inspired, but what we are saying is not authoritative in any manner…

    Let’s say you are stuck on a cliff. A helicopter is hovering overhead and God (the pilot) throws down the ladder (i.e. Jesus). You know the ladder exists on an intellectual level, but you don’t care to use it. God then comes down and specially convinces you to use the ladder he provided. You finally agree. The guy on the cliff across from you was also given a ladder from God, and likewise chose to not use this ladder. However, God did not climb down the ladder to convince this man that it was in his best interests. Are you saying that you are not MORE grateful to God for both providing the ladder and convincing you to use it?

    “I’m tempted to get twitchy about how sure you seem to be that you NO experience short of Christ’s manifestation will convince this hypothetical person of error.” — lol .. I was figuring you would probably come up with a hypothetical experience that could pull this off. I just briefly thought about it and couldn’t think of anything…

    • Eric permalink
      May 29, 2010 1:10 pm

      “My belief at this point is still that he is referring to the visible church and not the true church (i.e. body of Christ). ”
      That’s rather hard to maintain, since he says, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” I’m sure one can do some incredible gymnastics to claim that these means something other than “the one who had entered the new covenant and been cleansed by Jesus’ blood”, but they will be incredible gymnastics, and therefore extremely suspect.

      To aid in your review of the uses of the word hagiazo (sanctified) in Hebrews here’s the list:
      http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/frequency.cgi?number=37&book=heb&translation=nsn

      “As we cannot cast off any scripture, how would you balance the scripture that says those ‘who went out from us were never among us’?”
      It’s pretty clearly got some specific people in mind. Must the statement be applied universally?

      “Another example I thought of was Judas. He would have been considered a believer/disciple etc. but at the end of the day apostasy was his fate. He never developed a genuine saving faith and thus never persevered…”
      Since I believe that some people do just sort of fake it your interpretation isn’t a problem. I suspect Judas was probably along for the wrong sort of reasons all along. However, you don’t actually support the last line of your argument at all, and it wouldn’t be a problem for me if Judas actually apostatized (technically, you don’t believe in apostasy, since no one ever really leaves the faith).

      “If there is a piece of scripture that you cannot fit into your theology, then your theology is flawed.”
      On the other hand, if your solution demands that we impose a pattern found rarely on over the patterns found commonly you’re probably also wrong. For instance, if you took the prohibitions against wearing garments made from two sorts of cloth and made that the driving force behind the action of the Bible that would be crazy.

      “Furthermore, if we were to cast aside a book in the Bible, choosing John (the disciple whom Jesus loved) seems like a bad choice.”
      John, let me point out, is also a rich mine for counter-Calvinist points, like the parable of the vine where some are grafted in but do not remain.

      “As far as Ignatius is concerned, there is a reason that his letters are not authoritative. Perhaps they were inspired. But they are not authoritative and thus not infallible. ”
      They are authoritative, just to a lesser degree. Neither inspiration or authority are binary.

      “So wouldn’t it be highly possible for Ignatius to have penned down an incorrect understanding of the Eucharist even though his understanding in many other areas was correct?”
      It’s possible. On the other hand, what are the odds that one of John’s own disciples thinks the Eucharist is very important but John didn’t? We’re more likely to find divergence on matters John and Ignatius might never have spoken on, not one they surely did.

      None of this really helps your case vise a vie the antiquity of Calvinist beliefs. You’d actually have to demonstrate that Ignatius was consistently wrong, enough so to make the idea that a real doctrine was rapidly lost plausible, or you’d need to find these beliefs in the Church Fathers.

      “Are you saying that you are not MORE grateful to God for both providing the ladder and convincing you to use it?”
      Given your scenario, sure. On the other hand, the scenario supposes that some people might climb up the ladder without convincing. Now imagine that there’s something so weird about the helicopter and ladder that NO ONE is willing to climb it without special convincing. Suddenly having God climb down the ladder to convince you becomes part of the routine. In fact, were this a human rescue operation we’d probably make disparaging remarks about how badly the operation was run that no one would use the ladder without a special effort being made to convince them.

      “I just briefly thought about it and couldn’t think of anything…”
      I can’t, either, but I just finished writing up an article about how uncertainty is a fundamental part of critical thought.

  21. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 2, 2010 10:22 pm

    Concerning Hebrews 10:29, I have been studying it a lot. I disagree with my spiritual mentor (John Macarthur) that the pronoun “he” in the verse is referring to Jesus Christ (as sanctified). Nonetheless, I still don’t feel that I’m misinterpreting the verse for one reason in particular. I think it may be called deductive logic, but I’m not sure about that. If 10 verses say that those truly saved will persevere and 1 verse says those truly saved may not necessarily persevere, it seems wise to look at the questionable verse and realize that it CANNOT be out of sync with the other 10 verses or else the bible is a bunch of bologna…

    “On the other hand, if your solution demands that we impose a pattern found rarely on over the patterns found commonly you’re probably also wrong.” — I guess we’re both thinking with the same logic. I guess you think that more scripture backs your position and I think that more scripture supports my position.

    “‘how would you balance the scripture that says those ‘who went out from us were never among us’?’
    It’s pretty clearly got some specific people in mind. Must the statement be applied universally?” Absolutely! With all due respect, it seems like you are doing the gymnastics to skirt around this one. The fact that you are leery to apply it universally seems “nominalist” in a way which is ironic given our previous dialogue. This brings me to my next point/question. I have been studying the supposed connection between nominalism/calvinism for the past week or so and I’m just not seeing it. There aren’t very many people making this claim at all that you are making, but I was able to find some material trying to make the connection and I just can’t see it. Can you give me some very specific details on why you think calvinism is tied to nominalism?

    “John, let me point out, is also a rich mine for counter-Calvinist points, like the parable of the vine where some are grafted in but do not remain.” — I think this particular scripture may even be in line with Hebrews 10:26 where some have received a “knowledge of the truth”. These folks were never Justified! They were never saved. They received knowledge, just as Judas once did, but they did not apply or submit to that truth…

    “They are authoritative, just to a lesser degree. Neither inspiration or authority are binary.” — MAJORLY DISAGREE! Something is authoritative or it is not. In a company, yeah you may have the CEO, then the VP, then the Managers, then the subordinates. If the VP tells you to do one thing then you do it, but the CEO has more authority so he tells you to do something else and is thus more authoritative. HOWEVER, salvation and the bible is a completely different entity. If Ignatius contradicted what was established authority, he does not become a lesser authority, whatever perceived authority he had is completely cast out!

    “On the other hand, what are the odds that one of John’s own disciples thinks the Eucharist is very important but John didn’t?” — Jesus (the greatest teacher/mentor of all time) had someone right under his wing get it wrong (Judas). So yeah I think it’s highly possible that Ignatius may have got some incorrect ideas…

    “You’d actually have to demonstrate that Ignatius was consistently wrong” — Again, I don’t think you have to prove someone is wrong consistently. In a court of law, if someone is up on the stand, if they say something that is in error whether willfully or unknowingly, then they lose credibility.

  22. Eric permalink
    June 3, 2010 3:26 pm

    Your first two paragraphs seem to boil down to, “I guess we’re both thinking with the same logic. I guess you think that more scripture backs your position and I think that more scripture supports my position. ”
    I actually think that no Scripture establishes a general pattern for all people on this issue. Some verses discuss people who follow pattern A (they left us because they never really believed) and some discuss people who follow pattern B (they believed, and stopped). The problem is that I’m claiming that pattern B exists, while not denying A, while you are claiming that only pattern A exists. If anyone ever follows pattern B you’re wrong.

    “Absolutely! With all due respect, it seems like you are doing the gymnastics to skirt around this one.”
    We are discussing 1 John 2:18-19, right? Which is a specific warning about antichrists? What about that makes it not specific? I’m sorry, but it looks to me like you’re insisting that I’m at fault for reading the whole thought, and not just tiny choppy little segments.

    “The fact that you are leery to apply it universally seems “nominalist” in a way which is ironic given our previous dialogue.”
    We must be defining nominalist in different ways, because I can’t understand this sentence.

    “There aren’t very many people making this claim at all that you are making, but I was able to find some material trying to make the connection and I just can’t see it. Can you give me some very specific details on why you think calvinism is tied to nominalism?”
    I already did, actually. It’s philosophical nominalism that ultimately forces us to view any task as one that can be divided up percentage-wise.

    It’s also, honestly, not worth your time. Whether or not Calvinism is currently expressed in philosophical categories that post-date the Bible or not is really not a make or break case, but it would require a truly vast amount of reading.

    “I think this particular scripture may even be in line with Hebrews 10:26 where some have received a “knowledge of the truth”. These folks were never Justified! They were never saved. They received knowledge, just as Judas once did, but they did not apply or submit to that truth…”

    1) Hebrews 10:26 clearly doesn’t mean anything like what you’ve claimed. Seriously, did you even bother to read the rest of the paragraph? Paul is making a single coherent argument, not writing isolated verses to be thrown out by themselves! Verses 26-30 are a single unit. They track quite simply, and the subject of verse 26 is clearly the same as the subject of verse 29. The subject who has received the “knowledge of truth” did not get some truth presented to them, but missed the justification. They are the same person who was sanctified by the blood of the covenant.

    2) Even if we accepted this sort of hidden technical category it’s clearly not what John 15 is discussing. The discussion of the branch “abiding in” the vine, having fruit by the vine, and the words of Jesus abiding in the disciples do not sum up to meaning “people like Judas who heard Jesus and ignored him”.

    3) The discussion of Judas serves to highlight another problem, again a reading problem, in fact the exact same reading problem as the others. What does “received” mean? If you give me something and I receive it receiving is the action I perform. Is it identical to being the passive object of your giving? Well, you’re basing this off of Hebrews 10:26, so let’s look at the Greek there. It’s a verb whose other meanings are things like “take hold of, grasp”. Did Judas take hold of or grasp the truth? No. It was shoved at him, and he rejected it. Rejection is the opposite of reception. Now, this is extremely clear in Hebrews 10:26 even without the Greek. Of the various English meanings of “receive” that one could pick one of them makes sense in the middle of a section where the author is encouraging a church to remain firm in the faith. The one you picked doesn’t – it would mean that the author stops mid-thought, goes on a tangent about the unsaved, and then comes back to the argument.

    Really, this is a huge problem. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been saying things like “John 15” and “the second half of Hebrews 10”. It’s because the thought is not fully expressed within the single verses (the verses being added very late, as the Bible goes, and often in the middle of sentences) and looking at a single verse is an excellent way to end up confused with citations.

    “HOWEVER, salvation and the bible is a completely different entity. If Ignatius contradicted what was established authority, he does not become a lesser authority, whatever perceived authority he had is completely cast out!”
    First, you provided no evidence of this. What you actually said was, “Yes, this is true in the real-world example I can give. I now assert without evidence that it’s different here.”

    Second, there’s a very clear real-world example, and it runs against you. What Ignatius is is an authority in terms of knowledge. Your example was one of hierarchy, where authority is authority because you aren’t given a choice. Ignatius is an authoritative source because he knows better. What you appear to be suggesting is tantamount to claiming that if I answered a question about goldfish wrong I would cease to know anything about animals despite my various academic achievements in biology. In reality knowledge-based authority scales just like any other. The more authority someone has the more likely they are to be right. The fact that they aren’t right 100% of the time doesn’t make them right 0% of the time. The person who is right 90% of the time is still more authoritative than the person who is right 10% of the time.

    “Jesus (the greatest teacher/mentor of all time) had someone right under his wing get it wrong (Judas). So yeah I think it’s highly possible that Ignatius may have got some incorrect ideas…”
    Again, “get it wrong” has a variety of meanings, and your example abuses that. Yes, obviously, Judas did get it wrong. But it’s not like Judas sat down to the math problem Jesus gave him and botched the addition. It’s more like Judas saw what Jesus was saying and hated it. He could have understood it better than the rest of the disciples for all we know – because all we do know is that he rejected it! He, to use John’s terminology, saw the light and loved darkness.

    Now, to say that because Judas did this Ignatius might have misunderstood John just doesn’t make sense. They aren’t the same creature simply because you can describe both processes as “getting it wrong”. Misunderstanding and rejection just aren’t the same thing.

    “Again, I don’t think you have to prove someone is wrong consistently. In a court of law, if someone is up on the stand, if they say something that is in error whether willfully or unknowingly, then they lose credibility.”
    No they don’t. Are you really telling me that if someone gets up on the stand and demonstrates expertise for the first fifty questions that blowing one destroys their credibility? You need to demonstrate not that Ignatius can occasionally be wrong but that Ignatius is a bad source.

    Really, though, that’s just the start. Right now all of these things you’re debating with me are miles from where you want to be, because they are all multiple removes from your original assertions.

  23. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 7, 2010 1:20 pm

    “The problem is that I’m claiming that pattern B exists, while not denying A, while you are claiming that only pattern A exists. If anyone ever follows pattern B you’re wrong.” — From my perspective I cannot see how both patterns can exist simultaneously. I see the bible as explicitly stating one position. Is it possible that the warnings in scripture for pattern B were to keep those truly in the faith (i.e. elect) on track? I’m personally very grateful that these warnings are in place as a reminder that only the truly saved will and must persevere in their faith. Let’s look at another scripture: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” In your pattern B were these folks sheep who were snatched out of the Father’s hand? You state that pattern B is “they believed, and stopped”. I can agree with this, but I think we are defining “believe” differently. I see this as a superficial faith. The folks were not saved one minute and damned the next. God is not playing games by allowing people to dip their feet into the kingdom briefly. Either they are in or out. There are folks who believe and understand the truth, but they do not surrender to it (i.e. being in the kingdom). Like James says, even the demons believe and it credits them nothing. So what I’m saying is that I’m talking about genuine saving faith here, not intellectual assent…

    “We must be defining nominalist in different ways, because I can’t understand this sentence: ‘The fact that you are leery to apply it universally seems “nominalist” in a way which is ironic given our previous dialogue'” — I’m no expert on nominalism and would love for you to elaborate your perspective on what it is exactly. Nonetheless, I found this on Wiki and several other sources: “Nominalism is a metaphysical view in philosophy according to which general or abstract terms and predicates exist, while universals or abstract objects, which are sometimes thought to correspond to these terms, do not exist.” I said that your perspective seemed to be nominalist because you argued against my perspective of applying the “those who went out from us were never among us” scripture universally. Anyhow, like I said I couldn’t find hardly anyone making this claim except for a couple of articles and some posts on a devoutly Catholic message board…

    “It’s philosophical nominalism that ultimately forces us to view any task as one that can be divided up percentage-wise.” — I don’t know about this even if this is how you are defining nominalism. If we are hauling loads of dirt to damn a creek and I carry 60 loads to your 40, it doesn’t take an understanding of nominalism to know that I did 60% of the work and thus deserve more credit. Furthermore, it just doesn’t seem odd to give god all the credit. From your perspective where both parties are contributors to the salvation I can see where you don’t want to be in the guessing game of it was 95% god and 5% me or was it 98% god and 2% me. That would be silly for sure. But from my perspective, God is getting all the credit so it’s simple…

    “Whether or not Calvinism is currently expressed in philosophical categories that post-date the Bible or not is really not a make or break case” — It’s important to me because if Calvinism formed from a philosophy (even if it’s just the way it’s currently being expressed) then that would destroy its credibility in my opinion. But again, I see nothing in Calvinism that that is dependent upon nominalist thought. It’s basic reasoning and interpretation of scripture…

    “Did Judas take hold of or grasp the truth? No. It was shoved at him, and he rejected it. Rejection is the opposite of reception.” — It certainly appeared that way to probably all involved with the disciples (that Judas took hold and grasped the truth). He was referred to as a disciple even though he never truly was. Just as some are referred to as sanctified although in reality they never truly are.

    “What you appear to be suggesting is tantamount to claiming that if I answered a question about goldfish wrong I would cease to know anything about animals despite my various academic achievements in biology.” — What I’m suggesting is that I no longer know where you are right or wrong. Therefore it is impossible for me to know if what you are saying is true. From everything I’ve read thus far, Ignatius seems like someone I would look up to. He may have even been taken out of context by the catholic church in their understanding of real presence on the Eucharist. What I am saying is that if there is anything Ignatius proclaims that is not in accord with the holy canon then it should be thrown out for sure.

    “The fact that they aren’t right 100% of the time doesn’t make them right 0% of the time.” — Now look who’s using percentages! lol .. I would agree with your point in most contexts. However, when dealing with the word of god and salvation, 100% accuracy is tantamount. There were no prophets who batted under 100%. If they did, then their prophecies were thrown out entirely…

    “He could have understood it better than the rest of the disciples for all we know – because all we do know is that he rejected it! He, to use John’s terminology, saw the light and loved darkness.” — Agreed…

    “Now, to say that because Judas did this Ignatius might have misunderstood John just doesn’t make sense.” — Is it possible that the catholic church has perverted Ignatius’s misunderstanding to the Nth degree? I agree that Judas rejected and for all we know had a correct understanding. It does not appear at all that ignatius rejected Christ. However, because some took his letters to be authoritative, there is now the catholic church who has perverted the eucharist into if someone does not believe that it is real presence as opposed to symbolic then they are damned. If the catholic church only used the canon of god and not ignatius, it is highly unlikely they would have this skewed perception…

    “Are you really telling me that if someone gets up on the stand and demonstrates expertise for the first fifty questions that blowing one destroys their credibility? You need to demonstrate not that Ignatius can occasionally be wrong but that Ignatius is a bad source.” — We will just have to agree to disagree on this one. I think the protestant reformer luther had a misunderstanding about child baptism still being required. Even if he didn’t hold that incorrect belief I would not hold him as an authority. I would be willing to hear what he says and weigh it against scripture, but not take his word as Gold…

    “Right now all of these things you’re debating with me are miles from where you want to be, because they are all multiple removes from your original assertions.” — this is true, but I like the different directions the dialogue is heading. If you get too tired in this discussion I understand if you just want to drop it. Again, I think you’re a smart dude and I like anyone that can challenge my beliefs. This in turn helps me to realize that a belief needs to be overturned or solidifies the belief I had.

  24. Eric permalink
    June 7, 2010 3:23 pm

    “From my perspective I cannot see how both patterns can exist simultaneously.”
    Let’s clarify: pattern A is that those who leave never really were in, pattern B is that those who left really were in. Those can both exist at the same time for different people. It’s only when we make pattern A “those who are in can never leave” that they can’t coexist.

    “In your pattern B were these folks sheep who were snatched out of the Father’s hand?’
    No. Again, I feel like this is a really strange reading of this passage. “Snatched” implies a third party. Someone who leaves of their own accord is not snatched by a third party. Maybe this seems strange because we don’t live in a world where we think competing gods might beat our God to the punch, but it’s a necessary statement in a world in which people think maybe their god will not be ABLE to come through for them if he faces opposition.

    “The folks were not saved one minute and damned the next. ”
    Of course not. That would require the sort of binary view of salvation that the whole article we’re commenting on denies.

    “Anyhow, like I said I couldn’t find hardly anyone making this claim except for a couple of articles and some posts on a devoutly Catholic message board…”
    It’s certainly something I first heard from Catholics. Frankly, I’m none too interested in nominalism, merely the logical flaw itself.

    “I don’t know about this even if this is how you are defining nominalism. If we are hauling loads of dirt to damn a creek and I carry 60 loads to your 40, it doesn’t take an understanding of nominalism to know that I did 60% of the work and thus deserve more credit.”
    It does, however, require you to be a nominalist to think that all work sums in this manner. Again I point you to human relationships. You are your friends don’t split some 100% sum of work to be friends up into parts. Some things just don’t work like this. The nominalist problem is to assert that they all do – which you have now done. I am not denying that some things, like carrying a load, do.

    Another example, if you need one: when a sculptor carves rock how is the work divided up between sculptor, hammer, and chisel? You could say it’s a third, a third, and a third, but obviously every single bit of the work is done by all three. You could say it’s 100%, 100%, and 100%, but that’s also problematic. The actual answer is that the work is not divisible in that manner. All three components fully participated.

    “It’s important to me because if Calvinism formed from a philosophy (even if it’s just the way it’s currently being expressed) then that would destroy its credibility in my opinion.”
    Not that I’m inclined to argue your side, but this shouldn’t be true. Christian truths have always been expressed through the dominant philosophies of their time. When the philosophies change philosophers realize that Christianity isn’t tied to the old ways of thinking and import it into the new one.

    “It’s basic reasoning and interpretation of scripture”
    I’d argue that it’s basic only if you start with a completely wrongheaded way of reading Scripture.

    “It certainly appeared that way to probably all involved with the disciples (that Judas took hold and grasped the truth). He was referred to as a disciple even though he never truly was. Just as some are referred to as sanctified although in reality they never truly are. ”
    No, this doesn’t work. Judas really was a disciple. He did all the disciple stuff. If we play a little SAT game sanctification is to an A student as disciple is to student. If you fail the class you’re not an A student, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t a student. Judas was most certainly Jesus’ disciple (“disciple” being a follower, literally in many cases, of a teacher). He listened to him teach, he accompanied him on his journeys, and he did tasks for him.

    Also, you’ve just done horrible violence to reading. This statement: “Just as some are referred to as sanctified although in reality they never truly are,” means “sanctification doesn’t always really mean sanctification”. Once we agree that some words don’t actually really mean what they say then we can read anything however we like. Bob went to the store? Well, “Bob” means “Joe”, “went” means “shot”, “to” means “at”, and “the store” actually refers to a very large rat.

    “What I am saying is that if there is anything Ignatius proclaims that is not in accord with the holy canon then it should be thrown out for sure.”
    We’re agreed. Ignatius has less authority than canon. I have less authority when it comes to sea snake behavior than my advisor. But I’m still more of an authority on that subject than (to the best of my knowledge) any of my friends.

    “However, when dealing with the word of god and salvation, 100% accuracy is tantamount. There were no prophets who batted under 100%. If they did, then their prophecies were thrown out entirely…”
    This could mean a bunch of different things. Please unpack it further.

    “Is it possible that the catholic church has perverted Ignatius’s misunderstanding to the Nth degree?”
    What IS Ignatius’ misunderstanding? Which of his Epistles are you reading? Is it possible that you’re the one who misunderstands the Eucharist, and Ignatius and the Catholics are correct? (I mean, it’s not like Jesus says, “This is a symbol of my body, broken for you.”)

    “there is now the catholic church who has perverted the eucharist into if someone does not believe that it is real presence as opposed to symbolic then they are damned”
    No. Not in any way, shape, or form. In fact, Catholics are almost certainly far less likely to declare anyone damned than you are (assuming you hold normal Calvinist doctrine in this regard), since their official statement of belief allows that many outside the visible Church may be saved by God’s grace, including those who we would call non-Christians. (Caveat: this is a statement of uncertainty about any given individual, not a statement that everyone will be saved.) Catholics will not let you take the Eucharist unless you agree with their position (except the monks at Weston Priory, who let me take communion, which included a rather shockingly bitter homemade wine). They also believe that the Eucharist is a means of grace, but not salvific grace.

    “If the catholic church only used the canon of god”
    Which canon did God give? And how, if not through the Church?

    “Even if he didn’t hold that incorrect belief I would not hold him as an authority. I would be willing to hear what he says and weigh it against scripture, but not take his word as Gold”
    So you’d take him as an authority (you’d hear him out and consider his opinion seriously), just not as an absolute one.

    “If you get too tired in this discussion I understand if you just want to drop it.”
    No, I just wondered if you had any plans to refer to your first points.

  25. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 9, 2010 3:49 pm

    Logically I understand what you are saying in that some can leave without having ever believed and some can leave who did believe. When I say from my perspective I cannot see how both can occur simultaneously I am referring to my biblical perspective. Not that you are unbiblical, just that I’m seeing it differently from my interpretation of the Bible. I agree that those who are truly in can never leave. Only from my perspective they would never want to leave so it’s not an issue of forcing like your verbiage implies. John 6:37 – All that the Father gives me will come to me. From our human/earthly perspective it appears we chose Christ just like the disciples once thought they had, but in reality it was God who chose to draw us…

    “Someone who leaves of their own accord is not snatched by a third party.” – I don’t think snatched in this sense is referring to a personal figure necessarily, although in some circumstances that may indeed be the case. More often than naught, I think this is being snatched away by a heretical doctrine or something along those lines. For instance, a true believer will understand that Jesus is the only ticket to heaven. Though this true believer will cross many folks and doctrines that preach it differently, he will not be swayed as he cannot be snatched from his father’s hand. Those who are not truly saved will fall for these false doctrines and charismatic deceivers…

    Let’s forget the whole percentages concept for a moment. Let’s simplify and you tell me this. When you get to heaven is there even a small part of you that is going to pat yourself of the back for both choosing Christ and setting yourself apart daily for the future kingdom (i.e. sanctification)?

    “All three components fully participated.” — We definitely have a different approach to math and percentages…

    “Judas really was a disciple” — I’m still disagreeing here even after your example. I think the same concept applies. Judas appeared to be a genuine disciple of Christ just as some in the visible church appear to be sanctified. But in reality, Judas was not truly a disciple as illustrated in his departure from the faith just like when the non-elect leave the faith they were never truly sanctified…

    “Once we agree that some words don’t actually really mean what they say then we can read anything however we like” — Do you approach the Bible from a more literal perspective?

    “Please unpack it further.” — What I’m saying is that if I’m going to go buy a motorcycle, then yeah I would consider the guy running the motorcycle shop down the street to be an authority like you say. I would probably defer to his advice and opinion and yet I might even still decide what I think is better. However, when I want to know the way of God and how to spend an eternity in blissfulness as opposed to misery, then I’m going to rely only upon the infallible words of God and not the fallible words of man. Ignatius may have been right on many things. If his expertise were in the motorcycle business then I might consult with him before making a purchase. But since his expertise are concerning the way of salvation, I’m putting very little stock into what he says…

    “(I mean, it’s not like Jesus says, “This is a symbol of my body, broken for you.”)” — I’m definitely starting to pick up the vibe that you interpret scripture much more literally than myself. When Jesus said to gouge your eye out to keep from sinning do you think he literally meant that? If so, then that would imply self mutilation is a valid means of dealing with the removal of sin instead of God regenerating the sinner’s heart and will…

    “Which canon did God give?” – The one written by the apostles and those whom they approved for scripture (e.g. Luke). 1st Timothy 5:18 (Paul approving Luke as canon). No where is ignatius’ words confirmed as canon…

    “And how, if not through the Church?” — Do you think God’s plan was to tie the church to the government of Rome?

  26. Eric permalink
    June 10, 2010 9:25 pm

    While your comment about “snatching” might be the case that’s probably not what people are going to think when Jesus says it in front of them. Why should we decide it means something else when the meaning at first read-through makes so much sense?

    “When you get to heaven is there even a small part of you that is going to pat yourself of the back for both choosing Christ and setting yourself apart daily for the future kingdom (i.e. sanctification)?”
    That’s a very weird question. Of course not. That would imply that in heaven I would still be concerned with such amazingly trivial things as whether or not I’m getting credit for my actions.

    I think that’s part of the break between us. You want to know if I deserve credit – I don’t care, because the way of life and love isn’t about insisting on the credit you are due.

    “‘All three components fully participated.’ — We definitely have a different approach to math and percentages…”
    That’s a dodge. Answer the question: how is the work divided between Michelangelo, the hammer, and the chisel? We don’t have a different approach to math, it’s simply not a math problem, which is why it can’t be answered with better math.

    That’s the whole point: it’s not a math problem. The work isn’t divisible in that manner.

    “But in reality, Judas was not truly a disciple as illustrated in his departure from the faith just like when the non-elect leave the faith they were never truly sanctified…”
    That’s not what “disciple” means. You’ve just re-defined the word to make your theory correct. It has a very clear meaning in the ancient world, and it’s not the one you’re using. There’s no basis for this claim that Judas isn’t a disciple so Paul, elsewhere, must be using “sanctified” in a similarly loose fashion. Not, really, that this is a particularly logical connection anyway.

    “Do you approach the Bible from a more literal perspective?”
    No, we’ve been switching off. You’ve been very literal about verses you feel support you, and then get all loose on the ones that disagree with you. I would argue, though, that my method of determining where statements are less literal is more internally consistent.

    “However, when I want to know the way of God and how to spend an eternity in blissfulness as opposed to misery, then I’m going to rely only upon the infallible words of God and not the fallible words of man. ”
    This makes no sense. You keep talking about these theologians you read. Obviously you do rely on their words – not as absolutely certain statements, but as guideposts and evidence to consider. Why should Ignatius, who knew John, not get the same respect?

    “I’m definitely starting to pick up the vibe that you interpret scripture much more literally than myself.”
    Actually, I was pointing out a double-standard. While presenting yourself as someone who takes only what the Bible says you insist that communion is symbolic. But you didn’t get that from the Bible. The Bible makes a statement that actually leans the other way (but only leans, it’s not definite) but you’ve got strong opinions nonetheless. And your opinions really come from the Reformers, not the Bible. I’m just insisting on consistency. Either we play Sola Scriptura or we don’t, but we don’t get to play “Scriptura except when Protestant Tradition supports me”.

    “The one written by the apostles and those whom they approved for scripture (e.g. Luke). 1st Timothy 5:18 (Paul approving Luke as canon).”
    1) That’s not really a canon. That’s some books. The canon, the list of books, is nowhere self-asserting.
    2) 1 Timothy 5:18: both of those quotes come from Deuteronomy as well.

    “Do you think God’s plan was to tie the church to the government of Rome?”
    That appears to be a complete non-sequitor, but no, I don’t. I can’t see how that relates to how the canon came to us, though, unless you’ve been reading Elaine Pagels.

  27. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 14, 2010 1:13 pm

    “Why should we decide it means something else when the meaning at first read-through makes so much sense?” — Lots of times what Jesus said was confusing for those with little understanding. I think Matthew 16:5-12 is about the best illustration of this. You are interpreting the “communion” verse literally just like in this example the disciples interpreted that Jesus was talking about literal bread. Many times you have to look past the “first read-through”…

    “That would imply that in heaven I would still be concerned with such amazingly trivial things as whether or not I’m getting credit for my actions.” — I think yours and my actions here on earth will be trivial in heaven. However, I think Christ receiving fully glory and credit in Heaven is not trivial…

    I’ve been studying Eastern Orthodoxy more here lately which if I’m not mistaken is what you said you were (with a blend of NT Wright). I read somewhere that in EO justification takes place after sanctification whereas in evangelicalism is takes place prior to sanctification. Is this true from your EO perspective? Can you enlighten me on your understanding of justification…

    “how is the work divided between Michelangelo, the hammer, and the chisel?” — So you want to know how much work an inanimate object put into the completion of the project? Give me an example with three people and not inanimate objects and I will give you a percentage…

    Why does the author of Hebrews use the word sanctified in our questionable verse? Why did he not use elect? Or Justified?

    “You keep talking about these theologians you read.” — ??? When was this. As far as I know, I’ve only mentioned who I would consider my spiritual mentor John Macarthur a couple of times. One was to ask your opinion of his “lordship salvation” and the other was to point out that I disagree with his stance on the questionable Hebrew verse!

    “Why should Ignatius, who knew John, not get the same respect?” I have no problems with examining what Ignatius said. If what I have read that Ignatius believed that grace is imparted to a believer via the sacrament of communion then IMO that does not align with new testament teaching AT ALL! That’s a big time error IMO and one worthy of no longer looking to Ignatius for input.

    “you insist that communion is symbolic. But you didn’t get that from the Bible.” — Absolutely I did! The non-symbolic interpretation of the “communion” verse is agaisnt everything the NT stands for IMO. If that scripture is meant to be taken literally, then we might as well throw out all of scripture and rely on tradition alone (sola tradiona)…

  28. Eric permalink
    June 14, 2010 10:06 pm

    “I think Matthew 16:5-12 is about the best illustration of this. You are interpreting the ‘communion’ verse literally just like in this example the disciples interpreted that Jesus was talking about literal bread.”
    1) No, I’m not. I’m making fun of how you’re trying to counter Ignatius based on your own Anabaptist traditional reading of the passage. Which you probably don’t even realize comes from the Anabaptists. The verse itself contains far too little information to make this sort of judgment, but you’re insisting that you can determine how to interpret the verse despite this.

    2) The disciples’ have no such interpretation. You are probably thinking of the “bread from heaven” passage from John, where the crowd interprets the statement about eating Jesus quite literally. However, their interpretation confuses even them. The criteria I suggested explicitly included “when the meaning at first read-through makes so much sense”.

    But again you’re eisegeting. The text says one thing which doesn’t particularly suggest Calvinism, but, steeped in Calvinist modes of reading, you read your theology back into the text.

    “However, I think Christ receiving fully glory and credit in Heaven is not trivial…”
    Non-sequitor.

    “I’ve been studying Eastern Orthodoxy more here lately which if I’m not mistaken is what you said you were”
    I actually said, “You’d do better tracing my influences to N.T. Wright (especially his scholarly and heavily-footnoted works) and Eastern Orthodoxy.” I’m not Orthodox, I’m influenced by Orthodoxy.

    “I read somewhere that in EO justification takes place after sanctification whereas in evangelicalism is takes place prior to sanctification. Is this true from your EO perspective? Can you enlighten me on your understanding of justification…”
    It probably makes more sense to say that in evangelical Protestantism justification takes place before sanctification, whereas in Eastern Orthodoxy no one is trying to separate the two. However, this is probably aimed at the idea that one is not actually justified until one is judged. Justification is a judicial status (that of being found to be in the right), and so justification (and salvation) are both future actions.

    But really, it’s a bit like discussing water freezing. There’s a point where the water is freezing and a point where it’s frozen. If I were to insist that we use one term for the process of freezing and then change terms to refer to that very instant in which the last drop freezes, rendering the whole frozen, you would look at me a bit oddly. Which is a pretty good way of explaining why I don’t see much point in separating sanctification from justification. One who is fully sanctified is justified.

    “So you want to know how much work an inanimate object put into the completion of the project? Give me an example with three people and not inanimate objects and I will give you a percentage…”
    That’s not really the problem. If half the work involved hammering nails and the other half involved putting in screws you could easily give me percentages for a hammer and a screwdriver. The real problem is that the hammer, the chisel, and the sculptor are an inseparable triad and will not conform to your system which requires splitting them up and treating them separately. They can’t be treated separately.

    But let’s continue with the art example, using people. Recently I heard a discussion on the radio about a very old artist who was confined to a wheelchair. Her artwork involved setting up large areas with various items in them in a particular way to give a certain impression. Being confined to a wheelchair she could no longer place these items, and so she instructed an assistant where to put everything and issues corrections as needed. Please tell me how to assign credit for the finished piece.

    “Why does the author of Hebrews use the word sanctified in our questionable verse? Why did he not use elect? Or Justified?”
    Partly because none of those terms means to him what they do to you, and so while you considered “sanctified” to be the wrong choice that’s only because you’re dependent upon later theological developments to inform how you read those words.

    However, there are reasons:
    1) Sanctified fits with the previous context, a discussion of Jesus as high priest. Sanctified literally means “made holy”. That’s what the priest does, and so when the author moves to his next sub-topic he naturally links what happens to the believer with the action of Christ he has just discussed.

    2) “Elect” means, to the Hebrews (the audience of this letter), “Israel”. Paul uses the term, but only after explaining how the “real” Israel (in some sense) is the Church. The term would only be confusing here, and would probably require the insertion of another theological argument before use.

    3) “Justified” also has a pretty clear meaning in the first-century world. You go to a judge, get your case judged, and are found to be in the right. The law gets you your stuff back or protects you from harm. An audience of Jewish converts would find this legal metaphor a little weird when no one being discussed has yet been judged.

    “As far as I know, I’ve only mentioned who I would consider my spiritual mentor John Macarthur a couple of times.”
    Ok. One or many, you do accept informational authority from men.

    “If what I have read that Ignatius believed that grace is imparted to a believer via the sacrament of communion then IMO that does not align with new testament teaching AT ALL!”
    Please tell me what you think Ignatius actually said. You said something similar about the Catholic view, but it turned out you just had what is quite literally the strangest idea about what Catholics teach that I’ve ever heard. Very specifically, what do you think Ignatius means by grace?

    “The non-symbolic interpretation of the “communion” verse is agaisnt everything the NT stands for IMO. If that scripture is meant to be taken literally, then we might as well throw out all of scripture and rely on tradition alone (sola tradiona)…”
    That’s honestly so strange I have no idea how to respond. What on earth do you think these different views of communion DO to the New Testament? I mean, this really feels like someone just claimed that triclavianism (a debate over how many nails were used to crucify Jesus) was a major heresy.

  29. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 15, 2010 3:33 pm

    “The verse itself contains far too little information to make this sort of judgment, but you’re insisting that you can determine how to interpret the verse despite this.” — I disagree. You act as if you need to read an Encyclopedia Britannica in its entirety and have a Ph.D. in first century history before attempting to understand a scriptural verse. It’s not that complex. It can easily be understood that it’s symbolic based off of other areas of scripture.

    “I’m making fun of how you’re trying to counter Ignatius based on your own Anabaptist traditional reading of the passage.” — Just for clarification. All of my beliefs come from the Protestant Reformation and Anabaptists and John Calvin, right? And all your beliefs come from your flawless interpretation of first century Christianity (and NT Wright)…

    “The disciples’ have no such interpretation that ‘Jesus was talking about literal bread'” — Are you serious?
    5 And the disciples came to the other side and forgot to take bread. 6 And Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, We took no bread. 8 And Jesus perceiving it said, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have no bread? 9 Do ye not yet perceive, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not perceive that I spake not to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 12 Then understood they that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

    “You read your theology back into the text.” — I think you are doing the exact same thing…

    How specifically has Eastern Orthodoxy influenced you?

    “The real problem is that the hammer, the chisel, and the sculptor are an inseparable triad” — What, are they like a trinity or something??

    “Please tell me how to assign credit for the finished piece.” — The worker will get full credit for moving the pieces. The artist will get credit for mentally constructing the setup. Two different job functions were performed. Each will get credit for their respective job function. How is it that you are trying to apply this to salvation? Non-Sequitor???

    Ignatius said: “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again. (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans).”

    Taken from Council of Trent which modern Catholic Church still affirms: “If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.” Was this horrific understanding taken from someone like Ignatius legitimately or has the Catholic/EO traditions perverted what Ignatius was truly saying. My understanding was that Ignatius was debating some folks who denied that Christ came in the flesh…

    I like Augustine’s take on it: “…our Lord Himself, and apostolic practice, have handed down to us a few rites in place of many (Old Testament rites), and these at once very easy to perform, most majestic in their significance, and most sacred in the observance; such, for example, as the sacrament of baptism, and the celebration of the body and blood of the Lord. And as soon as any one looks upon these observances he knows to what they refer, and so reveres them not in carnal bondage, but in spiritual freedom. Now, as to follow the letter, and to take signs for the things that are signified by them, is a mark of weakness and bondage”.

    “What on earth do you think these different views of communion DO to the New Testament?” — These views demand that a believer is hell bound unless he acknowledges (unscripturally) that he is munching on Jesus’ skin and drinking his blood like a vampire (as noted in the quote from the Trent council above). Furthermore, this easily leads to being saved by ceremonial works (e.g. communion) just like it has been done in the Catholic church…

  30. Eric permalink
    June 16, 2010 10:02 pm

    “You act as if you need to read an Encyclopedia Britannica in its entirety and have a Ph.D. in first century history before attempting to understand a scriptural verse. ”
    Discerning whether and to what degree “This is my body” is metaphor is a reading comprehension task. It requires competence in one’s native language.

    “It can easily be understood that it’s symbolic based off of other areas of scripture. ”
    Were this the case you already would have made your case cleanly and efficiently.

    “Just for clarification. All of my beliefs come from the Protestant Reformation and Anabaptists and John Calvin, right?”
    I haven’t ascertained all your beliefs. However, there’s an amazing convergence between the beliefs you claim to independently derive and a number of recognizable sources, many of which comprise the Tradition most modern Protestants claim not to have.

    “And all your beliefs come from your flawless interpretation of first century Christianity (and NT Wright)…”
    I would not call anything in that sentence correct.

    “Are you serious?”
    I managed to get the wires crossed as to what verse you were referring to. Despite this, my point still stands: the disciples’ simple, wrong reading was confusing. That was a sign it was wrong. Namely, that’s the sort of simple sign that can be applied across cases without first requiring us to take a stance on the issue we are examining.

    “How specifically has Eastern Orthodoxy influenced you?”
    I can’t answer the question if you want specifics. But hopefully it’s clear to you that we think (and I do mean think, not conclude) in entirely different ways. Blame some of that on the Orthodox.

    “What, are they like a trinity or something??”
    There are three of them. Remove one and nothing happens. They cannot be, for the purposes of this exercise, separated. None of this should be construed as an answer to your question. It is, instead, an explanation of why your question is so weird I am wondering if it was a failed attempt at insult.

    “Two different job functions were performed. Each will get credit for their respective job function. How is it that you are trying to apply this to salvation?”
    So you can’t give me a percentage breakdown for the finished work.

    There. That’s your application. You just explained it, quite clearly. There are different tasks that can make up a single work. Sometimes you can’t assign percentages of work because of this. The artist creates and speaks, but without the assistant nothing happens. With no artist the assistant does nothing, and nothing happens. Without a hammer hitting it a chisel cuts nothing. Without a chisel to hit the hammer swings in the air. The model in which everything can be seen as some 100% pie to be sliced into sections isn’t anything but a special case. Why should we believe that salvation is such a case?

    “Was this horrific understanding taken from someone like Ignatius legitimately or has the Catholic/EO traditions perverted what Ignatius was truly saying”
    The Council of Trent was largely a response to the Reformation. It is not at all surprising that the Council of Trent anathematizes Protestants. However, these documents do not reflect the current stance, which is modified by many intervening years and documents. As I’ve pointed out before, the Catholic stance on salvation is quite open, and certainly does not damn people for disagreeing with them about transubstantiation.

    The Orthodox position isn’t Catholic, by the way. The Orthodox would tell you that the Catholic and Protestants group together as the Western church, while you group the Orthodox and the Catholics together.

    “I like Augustine’s take on it”
    Given Augustine’s apparent views on baptism expressed elsewhere I suspect you wouldn’t actually care much for his take on it. He certainly appears to treat baptism as a full-blown sacrament.

    “These views demand that a believer is hell bound unless he acknowledges (unscripturally) that he is munching on Jesus’ skin and drinking his blood like a vampire (as noted in the quote from the Trent council above).”
    As noted this isn’t really true. Actually, it never was, since later theological developments about what to do with those who disagreed were never entirely rooted in the issue, but in separate issues of authority. One could agree 100% with Catholics of 1600 about transubstantiation while holding a different stance on those who disagreed with you.

    “Furthermore, this easily leads to being saved by ceremonial works (e.g. communion) just like it has been done in the Catholic church…”
    I wasn’t aware that it was being done in the Catholic church. Please support this claim, preferably from a modern document like, say, the catechism. That’s the document that explains Catholic theology and practice in brief for the lay reader. All sixty zillion pages are online here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

  31. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:51 pm

    “Discerning whether and to what degree “This is my body” is a metaphor … requires competence in one’s native language.” — Hardly. It’s a logical task and an easy one at that. The whole New Testament is laced with metaphors from Jesus. Now all of a sudden he’s gone literal on us? In John 10:9 Jesus claims to be a gate. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think you take this to mean he is a physical gate. So why do you take the communion verses so literal? In Luke 22:19-20 Jesus said to “do this in REMEMBRANCE of me”…

    “Were this the case you already would have made your case cleanly and efficiently.” — As mentioned above, after reading the entire New Testament you come to grips with the fact that a large part of it is metaphorical. Also, scripture never contradicts itself. Jesus wouldn’t command something that the Bible would later prohibit (e.g. no drinking blood – Acts 15:29).

    “the beliefs you claim to independently derive” — I didn’t realize that I claimed to have these great independent beliefs. In fact, I would contend that your beliefs appear to be more independent than mine (although I’m still trying to discern exactly what they are being that you give no specifics). I would be fearful if my beliefs were too independent. To concoct something that no one else has ever said before would be highly suspect IMO in terms of the truthfulness of the claims being made. My own approach to understanding what I understand is this. Balance what protestants, catholics, buddhists, eastern orthodoxy, etc. etc. etc. with logic and reason and the truth becomes easily discernable. Jesus claimed to be the truth. Jesus also said to seek me and ye shall find me. In other words, anyone TRULY/GENUINELY searching for the truth will find it. Granted they wouldn’t be searching if God did not “draw them”…

    “So you can’t give me a percentage breakdown for the finished work.” The person doing the hammering and chiseling gets 100% of the credit. No credit goes to the hammer or chisel even though they are required. If there are no humans to save then god can do no saving. It’s logically impossible. So yes, god is dependent upon human’s existence so that he can be 100% responsible for saving them. Salvation is a single work although there are multiple steps involved in that process with all of those steps requiring God. Thus he gets 100% credit. God elected. God sent Jesus to set up atonement. God draws the sinner and regenerates the heart. God takes the redeemed to heaven.

    “these documents do not reflect the current stance” — So does the Catholic church slips into apostasy and back out? Should we just keep checking back with the Catholic church and go “hey, their theology is correct right now so I can become a catholic”? And then the next week the pope says something ridiculous (which is highly likely) and then go “well I guess the church is apostate again so I will check out for now and then check back in a year and see if they have fixed these problems”…

    Having searched the catechism for the word pope allowed me to find these glaring eye sores in terms of their unbiblicalness in about 3 mins. When I get time I will really devour the catechism and list off every unbiblical thing I find. This will provide you an opportunity to counter each instance and explain either how it is not necessarily unbiblical or comes from an authoritative tradition. I’m using this catechism. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm .. Will this one suffice or is there a better one? I didn’t care for the one you posted because I couldn’t search it…

    The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, “supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls”. SINCE WHEN?? SOUNDS VERY CHRISTLIKE TO ME AS IN TRYING TO BE CHRIST

    The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him. THE BELOVED PETER MAY BEG TO DIFFER (1 PETER 2:5)

    The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” I HAD NO IDEA THAT MUSLIMS WERE ON THE FAST TRACK TO HEAVEN!!! THIS ONE REALLY SURPRISED ME. CATHOLICS ARE TAKING ECUMINISM TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL!

    How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. THE CHURCH IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION. IS THAT SO? SEEMS LIKE THE APOSTLE PAUL WOULD HAVE ISSUED A MORE SEVERE WARNING WHEN INSTRUCTING BELIEVERS TO NOT FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY. HE SHOULD HAVE SAID THE ASSEMBLY IS WHAT GETS YOU INTO HEAVEN…

  32. Eric permalink
    June 17, 2010 10:29 pm

    “Hardly”
    Do you really mean to assert that one does NOT require competence in one’s native language to understand this passage?

    I suspect not. However, your entire comment to which I am responding is markedly more confrontational than any previous one. You can take this down a notch or this conversation will end. In this case it appears to have already sabotaged your efforts, since you are contradicting something obvious.

    “It’s a logical task and an easy one at that. The whole New Testament is laced with metaphors from Jesus. Now all of a sudden he’s gone literal on us?”
    If this were the description of a logical task as you promise there would be a logical rule to be derived from it. I’ve provided several such rules for reading, including, recently, the rule that if a simple reading is confusing then it’s probably also wrong. I’m willing to apply that rule universally: it is a rule for reading the entire Bible, and applies to such.

    The only rule I can get out of your statement is that we should not take Jesus literally. But when do we decide to take him literally, and when not? Since your rule appears to establish a trend (Jesus uses metaphor) and appears to think it ridiculous to suppose that this trend has changed (“Now all of a sudden he’s gone literal on us?”) you would appear to have established a rule that Jesus is never literal. Is that really the rule that you wish to establish?

    I suspect the answer is “no”. What you actually probably mean is that since Jesus is often metaphorical it is reasonable to suppose that he could be in this case, and it’s just weird to claim to be bread and wine, so that’s metaphor. That could be formulated in more technical language as a universal reading rule, but it retains a flaw: what seems weird is subjective. Why is it weird for a man to claim to be bread, but not weird for a man to claim to be God?

    I have this problem with most of your readings – I cannot figure out what coherent, overarching system of rules for reading they follow. Again and again I feel like they are driven by externals, and so you decide what’s literal and what’s metaphor based on what agrees with what you already think. As long as I believe this I will find you unconvincing, so I suggest you start outlining your method of reading more clearly. However, I will shortly ask a question that should clarify this.

    “So why do you take the communion verses so literal?”
    For the third or fourth time, I don’t. I simply think that it shows exactly what I’m discussing: a failure of any consistent hermeneutic. When we discuss offhand phrases that appear to support Calvinism you treat them as serious pronouncements. When we discuss a comment about communion you categorically refuse to consider one possible meaning. This just looks incoherent to me.

    Glancing back quickly I can see that you want to take John 6:44 as a serious and fairly specific statement. You also wish to read “This is my body” as metaphor, and to read “sanctification” in Hebrews 10 rather loosely, perhaps as something like, “the appearance of sanctification”. Solve the incoherence for me. Give me a rule or rules that we can apply to the Bible at large to determine what is metaphor and what is literal that when applied to these three verses sorts them in the way you want.

    “Also, scripture never contradicts itself. Jesus wouldn’t command something that the Bible would later prohibit (e.g. no drinking blood – Acts 15:29). ”
    Jesus is clearly a special exception in a number of ways. God also prohibits human sacrifice. Minus any other evidence (which I have asked for above) this would be pretty flimsy.

    “although I’m still trying to discern exactly what they are being that you give no specifics”
    Funny, I would have said I’d written more than a dozen blog articles outlining my beliefs on all manner of subjects. I didn’t give you specifics about Orthodoxy for a pretty simple reason: we’ve been having the same debate about how to read and how tasks are divided up, both of them discussions about how one thinks (not what one thinks, but how). I don’t regard either of these discussions as being particularly complex, and yet these debates have been going for weeks. Until we have MUCH better communication on these sorts of issues I really don’t want to dive into something I think is complicated in the same genre we’ve had so much trouble with.

    “The person doing the hammering and chiseling gets 100% of the credit.”
    That wasn’t the example I wanted divided out. I asked about work done in the example of the sculptor, the hammer, and the chisel, because work is something a tool can do. (A man using a backhoe gets more work done than a man using a shovel because the machine is doing work. The man using the shovel gets more work done than the man using his hand for the same reason.) I asked for credit in the case where the artist confined to a wheelchair directs and assistant, but I think maybe I should ask about work for that, too.

    Again, I’m challenging not just your Calvinist conclusion (which you leave largely unsupported) but your entire premise that all works can naturally be broken down into percentages. Of course, at this point you’ve admitted two exceptions, although you continue to insist (without explanation) that salvation isn’t one of these.

    “So does the Catholic church slips into apostasy and back out?”
    Apostasy is the renunciation of religious faith. Perhaps you meant heresy.

    “And then the next week the pope says something ridiculous (which is highly likely)”
    I’m more and more convinced that you have no idea what Catholics believe, or how to understand Catholic terminology. You also seem to keep forgetting that I’m not a Catholic, so most of this rant is just you being insulting to third parties.

    “When I get time I will really devour the catechism and list off every unbiblical thing I find.”
    You do realize how large the Catechism is?

    “This will provide you an opportunity to counter each instance and explain either how it is not necessarily unbiblical or comes from an authoritative tradition.”
    Why would I do that? I’m not Catholic. I disagree with the Catholics at a number of points.

    Now, I consider some of the stuff you say about Catholics to be the lowest grade of anti-Catholic tripe, and so of course I call you on that, but that’s a far cry from being Catholic. I’m certainly no Calvinist, but if someone said Calvinists believe that children should be beaten with whips I’d correct them. I don’t consider your errors vise a vie Catholicism much better.

    But hey, we’re only just getting to the spot where you make them even worse.

    “I’m using this catechism. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm .. Will this one suffice or is there a better one? I didn’t care for the one you posted because I couldn’t search it… ”
    Providing it agrees with the one I provided, which appears to be based out of the Vatican’s own website.

    “SINCE WHEN?? SOUNDS VERY CHRISTLIKE TO ME AS IN TRYING TO BE CHRIST”
    Since he claimed infallibility, which was defined dogmatically in the late 19th century. However, I think you’re reading quite a lot into that statement which isn’t there. Since you didn’t provide a reference (please do so in the future) it’s a pain in the butt to find the context. However, once found, it appears to be mostly the claim that the Pope is the head pastor of the entire church, with the responsibilities and powers that would grant within Catholic theology. Admittedly, it’s stated in a very Catholic manner, but this is a Catholic document.

    “THE BELOVED PETER MAY BEG TO DIFFER (1 PETER 2:5)”
    He might, although that verse has very little to do with it. After all, section 941 of the Catechism (which forms part of the context for the first section you quoted) reads, “Lay people share in Christ’s priesthood: ever more united with him, they exhibit the grace of Baptism and Confirmation in all dimensions of their personal family, social and ecclesial lives, and so fulfill the call to holiness addressed to all the baptized,” so the Catholics would hardly be threatened by Peter’s comments about the priesthood of all believers.

    That said, I won’t defend the Catholics on this point. There are real reasons to reject this claim, which I most certainly do.

    “I HAD NO IDEA THAT MUSLIMS WERE ON THE FAST TRACK TO HEAVEN!!! THIS ONE REALLY SURPRISED ME. CATHOLICS ARE TAKING ECUMINISM TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL!”
    I still have no idea they think that, since I’m pretty familiar with this part of the Catechism. It’s the document I was thinking of when I disagreed with you earlier, and I’ve read it several times. I suggest you actually read the whole thing, and perhaps make the effort not to impose your Calvinist language upon it. For instance, the language you object to as a “fast track to heaven” means no such thing – “The plan of salvation” means the plan of salvation, not salvation. Now, these things are identical to some degree within Calvinism since God pulls all the strings, but they aren’t for everyone, and so where you read “fast track to heaven” you should probably be thinking more of the Jews who faithfully followed the old covenant (were in on the plan) and then rejected Jesus (fell back out of the plan).

    But wait – it gets weirder. For the very proof that you have misinterpreted this section is the very next section you quote!

    “THE CHURCH IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION”
    You’ve actually stated that entirely correctly (from the Catholic perspective). And since the Church is necessary for salvation you can’t possibly have read the comment about Muslims correctly.

    “SEEMS LIKE THE APOSTLE PAUL WOULD HAVE ISSUED A MORE SEVERE WARNING WHEN INSTRUCTING BELIEVERS TO NOT FORSAKE THE ASSEMBLY. HE SHOULD HAVE SAID THE ASSEMBLY IS WHAT GETS YOU INTO HEAVEN…”
    Except, of course, that it doesn’t mean THAT. The Church is necessary, not your attendance. It is necessary for salvation that God has established a church. Again, this is VERY clear from the surrounding documentation, which discusses this issue extensively.

    I find your entire attempt here not only strange in purpose (like I said, I’m not Catholic) but poorly executed. I’ve tried writing more trying to identify the problem and help you understand Catholic terminology, but it all comes out way too harsh. There’s a correct level of harsh, though, and it’s somewhere in between the six drafts that used the word “abysmal” and the simple comment that I won’t be able to take you seriously when you talk about Catholics again. I mean, really, you better have been drunk when you wrote that.

  33. Josh Reynolds permalink
    June 18, 2010 12:10 am

    “Do you really mean to assert that one does NOT require competence in one’s native language to understand this passage?” — 1. Know how to read. 2. Understand what a metaphor is. I stand by my original assertion of “hardly”. It does not take a literary genius to understand this passage.

    “your entire comment to which I am responding is markedly more confrontational than any previous one. You can take this down a notch or this conversation will end.” — Really bro, are you serious? I’m lost as to what in this specific comment was so confrontational? I think you’re reading too much into things or picking up on a tone that does not exist…

    “If this were the description of a logical task as you promise there would be a logical rule to be derived from it.” — For you this appears to be a very complex scripture. For me, it seems rather simple. I’m not sure that I can concoct a logical rule that can be applied universally that will suit you. For me, approaching that verse via reasoning/logic thinking/rationalizing its rather obvious to me that Christ is saying to do this in remembrance of me (i.e. symbolically)…

    Obviously I think Jesus is literal at times and metaphorical at other times. It’s late and I can’t think of a reading rule that will allow you to know when it’s one or the other. But to me it’s just common sense. Again, to refer back to a post way back, I think scripture is actually fairly simple to understand. I think people try to convolute it and complicate it, but at the end of the day its simple enough that a layman who is humbly seeking the truth will find it…

    “When we discuss offhand phrases that appear to support Calvinism you treat them as serious pronouncements.” — Which phrase was offhand? Which one was taken out of context?

    “you want to take John 6:44 as a serious and fairly specific statement.” — Tell me how this verse could be metaphorical…

    “Give me a rule or rules that we can apply to the Bible at large to determine what is metaphor and what is literal that when applied to these three verses sorts them in the way you want.” — Again, I’m approaching it more from a logic perspective than a reading perspective. If 20 verses imply implicitly or explicity one thing and one verse appears to imply another thing. It is logical to assume that the one verse is being misinterpreted at first read and there must be another explanation. You are into the reading rules and I’m into the logical rules…

    “When we discuss a comment about communion you categorically refuse to consider one possible meaning.” — Wrong. I’ll consider any meaning. I think what may be a difference between us is that I will reach a judgment/conclusion on what I’m studying whereas I think you tend to leave it wide open. I’m willing to shed any belief I have if you can show me I’m wrong. But you’ve yet to do that…

    I’m exhausted on the whole percentage debate so I’m letting that one go…

    “Perhaps you meant heresy” — Indeed…

    “so most of this rant is just you being insulting to third parties.” — I’m not necessarily trying to insult anyone just pointing out what I see as major errors in the Catholic belief system. I guess what I’m really trying to discern is whether someone submitting to these errors is hellbound or just innocently naive.

    “Admittedly, it’s stated in a very Catholic manner, but this is a Catholic document.” — What do you mean by this? Could the document claim that the pope was actually Jesus incarnate and we would just write it off as oh that’s a catholic document they don’t REALLY mean that. It’s futile for me to debate the catechism if the words don’t mean what they say…

    “There are real reasons to reject this claim, which I most certainly do.” — Enlighten me!

    I was using “fast track to heaven” merely as an expression…

    “For the very proof that you have misinterpreted this section is the very next section you quote!” — Who’s to say that the catechism is a logical and coherent document. You definitely won’t find me arguing for the catechism’s cohesiveness…

    “And since the Church is necessary for salvation you can’t possibly have read the comment about Muslims correctly.” — THIS IS THE EXACT LOGICAL ARGUMENT that I’m using to debunk the Hebrews “sanctified” verse and now you are using it against me! lol

    Can you give me the catechism pg #’s that deal with salvation? I’m not going to have time to read the whole thing like you say but I would like to at least read that…

    “There’s a correct level of harsh, though, and it’s somewhere in between the six drafts that used the word “abysmal” and the simple comment that I won’t be able to take you seriously when you talk about Catholics again. I mean, really, you better have been drunk when you wrote that.” — Wow, if I were overly sensitive like some people I know I might threaten to end the conversation. But I’m not…

  34. Eric permalink
    June 18, 2010 3:16 pm

    “1. Know how to read. 2. Understand what a metaphor is. I stand by my original assertion of “hardly”. It does not take a literary genius to understand this passage.”
    “Competent” does not indicate “genius”. One who is hardly competent is also unlikely to be able to manage metaphor.

    “I’m lost as to what in this specific comment was so confrontational?”
    Every one of your responses to the Catechism was typed in all caps. This is how one signals yelling in writing. That looked a little crazy.

    “For you this appears to be a very complex scripture.”
    No, it’s not. Simply because I insist on reading something with all my faculties online does not mean the subject is complex.

    “For me, approaching that verse via reasoning/logic thinking/rationalizing its rather obvious to me that Christ is saying to do this in remembrance of me (i.e. symbolically)…”
    Remembrance doesn’t necessarily indicate symbolism.

    “Which phrase was offhand? Which one was taken out of context?”
    So far you’ve provided zero context for anything. I’ve consistently been the one to go look up the single verse you’ve quoted, read the chapter, and bring context back into the discussion.

    Perhaps “offhand” was a poorly-chosen adjective. I would not take several of the key words in John 6:44 as meaning something nearly so specific or with nearly such universal application as you would.

    “Tell me how this verse could be metaphorical”
    Something need not be metaphorical for it not to be serious or specific. It could simply not be serious. Iran and North Korea, for instance, have repeatedly said they are about to destroy the United States. They’ve never even attempted it. These statements were not metaphors, but they also weren’t serious.

    “It’s late and I can’t think of a reading rule that will allow you to know when it’s one or the other. But to me it’s just common sense.”
    That’s a reading rule. It’s just a massively flawed one, because “common sense” is a compilation of your mental filters. What you see as common sense I may not, and those differences will be based on what we already believe. In essence this reading rule simply means that anything you don’t already agree with will have to pass a much higher standard of evidence because you’ll reject it as not being “common sense”. This is exactly the sort of eisegesis I have previously referred to.

    “If 20 verses imply implicitly or explicity one thing and one verse appears to imply another thing. It is logical to assume that the one verse is being misinterpreted at first read and there must be another explanation.”
    That’s a reading rule, and I quite agree with it.

    “You are into the reading rules and I’m into the logical rules…”
    The irony of this statement is that simple logic is all that’s required to realize that “reading rules” are simply logical formulas applied to reading. You call these things “logical rules”, but they are identical to what I called a “reading rule”, which is roughly similar to a hermeneutic.

    “I’ll consider any meaning.”
    Your “common sense” rule, though, prejudges meanings.

    “I think what may be a difference between us is that I will reach a judgment/conclusion on what I’m studying whereas I think you tend to leave it wide open.”
    I can’t take this statement seriously. You’ve now, over the course of this discussion, told me:
    1) That you thought I probably didn’t believe in Hell. This in a comment under an article where I discussed, amongst others things, Hell.
    2) That you can’t figure out what I believe. On a blog where I post, nearly every week, an article that discusses some of what I believe.
    3) That I don’t come to judgments/conclusions. When many of my articles do exactly that.

    “just pointing out what I see as major errors in the Catholic belief system”
    Unfortunately, you’ve also demonstrated that you really don’t have any idea what the Catholic belief system is.

    “What do you mean by this?”
    I mean that Catholic theologians don’t use certain terms the same way that Calvinist ones do, and that your reading, ignorant as it is of Catholic terminology, fails to comprehend what is meant. Anyone who has actually read Catholic documentation with an eye to comprehending it picks up these terms pretty quickly. You haven’t. We’ll discuss this later.

    “Could the document claim that the pope was actually Jesus incarnate and we would just write it off as oh that’s a catholic document they don’t REALLY mean that.”
    No. In fact, the claim is not that Catholics “don’t really mean that”. It’s that you have no clue how to read documents that use technical terms and phrases from Catholic theology.

    ” It’s futile for me to debate the catechism if the words don’t mean what they say…”
    They do mean what they say. Unfortunately, they don’t mean what YOU mean when you say them. I’m sorry, but this is a ridiculous complaint. It’s on par with insisting that it’s futile to try and read Aramaic documents when they use “bar” to mean “son” when everyone knows that “bar” means either a short pole or a place to buy alcoholic drinks.

    “Enlighten me!”
    It requires positive evidence to insist that everyone listen to the interpretations of a select few. (In other words, it is not sufficient to say, “Prove me wrong!” Given the nature of the claim, which runs against the apparent purpose of the text, the default position is that it is wrong – it must be proved correct.) This evidence is lacking.

    “Who’s to say that the catechism is a logical and coherent document.”
    Anyone who knows anything about its composition. Really, you’re insisting that a document composed and reviewed by legions of theologians for the purpose of instructing the laity actually contained complete contradictions within three paragraphs of each other. That’s a pretty strange claim.

    “THIS IS THE EXACT LOGICAL ARGUMENT that I’m using to debunk the Hebrews “sanctified” verse and now you are using it against me!”
    The logical structure is the same. So what? We disagree about the facts of the case in Hebrews, not whether the logical structure is cohesive.

    “Can you give me the catechism pg #’s that deal with salvation? I’m not going to have time to read the whole thing like you say but I would like to at least read that…”
    Section III on this page:
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p3.htm

    “Wow, if I were overly sensitive like some people I know I might threaten to end the conversation. But I’m not…”
    You also clearly have no idea how badly you’ve undermined your position. You’ve repeatedly claimed to understand Catholic belief, and recently claimed even to weigh what it said against what others said, and then check them all against the Bible. However, anyone who is actually familiar with Catholic documents understands how to read them, much as anyone who lives in a foreign country picks up at least a few phrases of the language. What you’ve done is a bit like saying you lived in Mexico for ten years, and then failing to understand someone answering a question with “Si”.

    I was not joking when I said I had hoped you were drunk when you wrote that post, because to write that post and to understand Catholic doctrine and documents would have required you to be blitzed out of your mind. You’ve just demonstrated that you don’t know jack about Catholicism, and you’ve led me to question whether you understand what I’m saying, because it appears to bother you that people could use different definitions for familiar words, and we certainly do not define all our words in the same way.

  35. Josh Reynolds permalink
    July 5, 2010 11:19 pm

    “Every one of your responses to the Catechism was typed in all caps. This is how one signals yelling in writing. That looked a little crazy.” — I always put your writing in quotes so I did not want to put the catechism quotes in quotes to avoid confusion. So I differentiated the catechism from my writing with ALL CAPS. Didn’t know it would be deemed so offensive. Figured you would see why it was done in such a manner. Won’t make that same mistake again…

    “You’ve now, over the course of this discussion, told me:
    1) That you thought I probably didn’t believe in Hell. This in a comment under an article where I discussed, amongst others things, Hell.
    2) That you can’t figure out what I believe. On a blog where I post, nearly every week, an article that discusses some of what I believe.” — I’m pretty sure that I asked if you believed in Hell. I don’t remember claiming that you did not believe in Hell. You have a tendency to take questions as attacks. Trust me, I’m not passive agressive, which I feel that you are at times. If I want to attribute a belief to you, I will. If I’m asking a question, then it will be just that, a question. I think I started reading this blog in May when you send out the weekly email. I should probably go back and read your other blogs. However, my time is limited. So if I ask you a question that you’ve already referenced in another blog, then just say so. It’s no biggie. I’m still not going to have the memory capacity to remember your exact theology even if I did read every last blog post that you’ve ever written!

    “It’s that you have no clue how to read documents that use technical terms and phrases from Catholic theology.” — This just sounds like a really big cop out man. Virtually any debate we could have on this subject is futile because I can’t understand the complex Catholic technical terms/theology. Gimme a break!

    “There’s a correct level of harsh, though, and it’s somewhere in between the six drafts that used the word “abysmal” and the simple comment that I won’t be able to take you seriously when you talk about Catholics again. I mean, really, you better have been drunk when you wrote that.” — In this comment, I was more referring to the highly passive agressive manner in which you still managed to sneak in the word “abysmal”. I thought the drunk part was rather funny. Anyhow, I think you’re passive agressive tendencies really undermine your writing. But that’s just my opinion. And SIX DRAFTS! Geez dude, I’m stoked that you are REALLY into this dialogue. I’m not knocking your intensity, but really, SIX DRAFTS??!! You’re not debating NT Wright, you’re debating some dude who likes to study the bible! lol

  36. Eric permalink
    July 10, 2010 1:41 pm

    “I’m pretty sure that I asked if you believed in Hell. I don’t remember claiming that you did not believe in Hell.”

    Amazingly, all our correspondence is on this very page! You could check! If you had (it’s not that hard with the search function) you’d find that you asked me, “Do you even believe in hell?”

    I replied, “Yes. For instance, I discussed Hell in the very article we are commenting on.”

    You replied, “From your comments over there from what I can remember, you always seemed to be in complete agreement with Rob and I know he doesn’t think Hell exists. So I thought you probably had a similar line of thinking.”

    “Trust me, I’m not passive agressive, which I feel that you are at times.”

    Duly noted. I’ve stopped with the “passive” bit.

    “I’m still not going to have the memory capacity to remember your exact theology even if I did read every last blog post that you’ve ever written!”

    What you actually said, though, was that you found my beliefs very hard to pin down. This wasn’t linked to any specific issues, you just felt like it was hard to figure out what I thought. This is insane. I write an article, often around two and a half pages long in MS Word, nearly every week. The only requirement for figuring out what I believe on any number of issues should be the ability to read English.

    “This just sounds like a really big cop out man. Virtually any debate we could have on this subject is futile because I can’t understand the complex Catholic technical terms/theology. Gimme a break!”

    No. There will be no break. I have spent years reading primary source documents in my spare time. I have taught myself to read two dead languages to a basic degree of comprehension, and am working on a third. I spent the time (by far the easiest task mentioned so far) to understand Catholic documents. We are not going to have a conversation where I shut off half my brain because you want to argue with me but you don’t want to invest the time to know things. If you want to go head-to-head with me about Catholicism the onus is on you to actually know something about Catholicism. If you want to argue with me about the early Church, which you have, the onus is on you to have read early Church documents so you have some facts from which to argue.

    We are not going to have an intelligent conversation on the basis of knowing practically nothing. If you don’t want to do the work to have an intelligent conversation that’s fine – but don’t try to have one.

    “And SIX DRAFTS! Geez dude, I’m stoked that you are REALLY into this dialogue. I’m not knocking your intensity, but really, SIX DRAFTS??!!”

    Draft one was pretty rude. That was what I was tweaking.

    However, this brings us to the real point. I make an effort to have an intelligent discussion with you. This means I look things up. Sometimes that takes me half an hour. Sometimes I have to cross-check things. Sometimes I have to work out an example, or re-write it for clarity. That’s part of the work of having a real discussion.

    Point-scoring is much easier. I’ve done it quite a lot in message board debates. All point-scoring requires is that you have a response. It doesn’t require that the response be any good, it just requires that you keep responding.

    I do not feel that you are making an effort to have a real conversation with me. I feel that you are engaging in point scoring. I don’t want you disappearing to read a document to find something to use against me, I want you to read things to understand them. That’s not happening.

    This discussion is at an end.

  37. Josh Reynolds permalink
    July 12, 2010 7:02 pm

    I’m still not sure where I “claimed” that you did not believe in Hell (even in what you quoted from me)! For the love of God man, all I was saying was that I remember reading a post where Rob didn’t believe in Hell and from what I could recall you two always seemed to be in agreement so I was just wondering what your stance was. It was just a question! I promise!! You’re “straining at gnats” on this one…

    “Duly noted. I’ve stopped with the “passive” bit.” — What about this line. “(it’s not that hard with the search function)”.. Oh wait, you wrote that before you agreed to cut the passive agressiveness. Just joking with ya man! :-)

    “I make an effort to have an intelligent discussion with you. This means I look things up. Sometimes that takes me half an hour. Sometimes I have to cross-check things. Sometimes I have to work out an example, or re-write it for clarity.” I do appreciate the effort you go to in the conversation. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

    “I do not feel that you are making an effort to have a real conversation with me. I feel that you are engaging in point scoring. I don’t want you disappearing to read a document to find something to use against me, I want you to read things to understand them. That’s not happening.” – I guess we learn differently. I have an understanding and I debate people with that understanding. If they can win the debate per se, then I need to change my understanding. For example, you pointed out that my debate was flawed because the catholics reversed their council of trent decision in the early 1900’s. So I change my understanding of that. But there are other areas where you haven’t won the debate and convinced me of your position. In fact, you’ve actually strengthened my position in some areas. I think you get bent out of shape when you feel that I should be convinced of your side of the debate and I’m not. It feels like you’re saying that we are not having a “real conversation” unless I go hey Eric that’s great man, you are so right, I’m so happy that you have instructed me and corrected all my flawed thinking. That’s just not the way I work (or most people for that matter).

    “This discussion is at an end.” — Godspeed man!

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