Archive for the ‘Ability’ Category

Miscellaneous Responses to Orthodox

February 26, 2008

A while back (this post has been three months, thirteen days in the making), Orthodox offered a set of comments that I never fully responded to. I take this opportunity to do so.

Legend: MP (Me, i.e. TurretinFan, Previously); O (Orthodox); G (Gene Bridges) and TF (TurretinFan)
MP: A command is not an offer. The imperative command to repent and believe is consequently neither false, nor an offer.
O: Repent, believe and you will be saved is an offer by any reasonable definition thereof.
TF: It can be viewed as an offer, it can be viewed as a warning, and it can even be viewed as a threat. It can even be viewed as an opportunity. Just about any command can be viewed those various ways, especially commands with promise (compare, for example, the fifth commandment: Honor thy father … that thy days may be long …).

MP: Furthermore, no one is able to be sinless, and yet the law does command that. The law is not a “false offer” because it commands what man cannot do.
O: Where is the evidence that man cannot be sinless? Man chooses not to be sinless, I don’t see the evidence that man cannot be sinless. Christ commands “be perfect”. It remains the aim. That nobody has done it doesn’t prove that man cannot do it. Men would find it very difficult to do it, but not impossible.
TF: The fact that nobody has done it is strong evidence that man cannot do it. But the proof is in Scripture. Scripture explains that the natural man is at emnity with God.

MP: An affirmation of man’s ability to obey the commands is an affirmation of Pelagianism.
O: No, Pelagianism says that man can do it without the assistance of grace. Since God promises grace to those who ask, clearly this has nothing to do with Pelagianism.
TF: It is has “nothing to do with” Pelagianism in the same way that semi-Pelagianism has nothing to do with Pelagianism. But, of course, that’s not a defense of man’s ability. If you are saying that grace is required, you are affirming man’s natural inability.

MP:. If one recognizes that grace is necessary for man to obey, then one must realize that man’s ability to obey commands has nothing to do with whether the commands are fair, reasonable, or the like.
O: Not so, because God freely gives grace to those who ask. God is not asking for anything for which he doesn’t provide the means.
TF: That’s a bit different position. Nevertheless, if the question is whether God provides the means, then the question is whether God must provide such means, given the command. If so, then he does not provide the means freely, and consequently it is not properly called grace, since man would have a right to demand such means.

MP: a) Men are condemned for their sins. It would be no excuse if salvation were not offered, just as it is no excuse that not all have the gospel preached to them
O: Paul says that God’s qualities are made manifest so that men are without excuse. According to you it is unnecessary because men are without excuse anyway. Well, go argue with the apostle.
TF: God’s qualities are not the gospel. Thus, this is a fallacy of equivocation. It is also fallacy of denying the antecedent: as a logical matter, simply because they are without excuse because God has manifested Himself to them, does not imply (as a matter of logic) that they would have been with excuse if God had not revealed Himself to them.

MP: b) Men are condemned for their sins. Lack of atonement is simply the fact of the matter for those who are not “at one” with God.
O; Again, go argue with the apostle. Apparently he thinks that knowing the basics about God is a prerequisite to not having an excuse.
TF: Same fallacies here as in the previous paragraph: and perhaps even more aggravated. The apostle doesn’t address the issue of the atonement, and does not deny that men are condemned for their sins.

MP: I answer: That’s not an accurate picture of Reformed theology. If anyone truly repents and believes, they will be saved. End of story.
O: You have to [add] that “truly” [] in order to exclude a whole lot of people who sincerely believe that they repented and believe but later fall away. You are forced to make “truly” to have a special meaning []. Except that the bible never lists such a group.
TF: The apostle James in his catholic epistle discusses that group: the group with a “dead” faith.

MP: I answer: That’s a misrepresentation of the Reformed position as well as of Scripture.
a) The categories of hypocrites, self-deceived, and wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing are Biblical categories; and
O: Hypocrites are not the categories under discussion. Don’t distract from the topic by bringing in something else. What was under discussion was people who were sincere but then fell away.
TF: It seems O wants to discuss only the self-deceived.

O: As for “self-deceived”, since repentance and belief are something that the self does within oneself, it’s not a sensical object of self-deception. By putting that in there you open the floodgates to everything and everyone potentially being self-deceived.
TF: First of all, to deny self-deception generally would be foolish.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Since sin is something that one does within oneself, any categorical barrier as proposed would necessarily conflict with the apostle’s teaching.

To argue that this is a slippery slope, one must establish not only that there is a slope, but that it is steep and slippery. This argument can be defeated if there are fences in places to prevent the slope from being considered steep and slippery. In this case there are several fences: one is the various testimonies adduced in John’s first catholic epistle, another related one is the discussion in James’ catholic epistle.

O: And again, you introduce this wholly unbiblical category of people who think they believe but don’t. A scary category to have in a theological system indeed.
TF: James addresses people in that category in his epistle. Those with “dead” faith. Also, we see that category in the parable of the sower.

MP: b) The parable of the sower provides a great lesson in the distinction between false and true faith.
O: In the parable of the sower, seeds grow up and then are choked and die. There’s no suggestion they weren’t valid seeds to begin with.
TF: You don’t seem very familiar with the parable. In the parable, the seed is the Word of God. The various hearts are the various grounds. The good ground is one, but there are several types of bad ground.

MP: I answer: It’s really not dependent on any Reformed order of salvation
O: Yes it is, because your claim is that since the ice-cream man controls who steps into his shop he can put out the sign offering to all. But if that ordering is challenged, your argument ceases.
TF: I honestly don’t understand this objection – perhaps it is because the context is missing.

MP: but even if it were, that would be fair game, given the nature of the counter-objection.
O: When you are trying to prove a doctrine not explicitely taught in scripture, it doesn’t look good when you use as justification another doctrine not explicitely taught in scripture. That’s why I say you’ve got so many precepts built upon precepts you can’t see the bottom any more.
TF: That remark is not accurate or handy. The hidden assumption that every doctrine has to be found explicitly in Scripture is not a tenant of either yours or mine. And – as well – it seems you are mistaking rebuttal for proof.

G: This is a classic case of Orthodox utterly ignoring what he has been told in the past
O: No, it’s a case of you having an incomprehensibly complicated system that isn’t taught in the bible.
TF: Sometimes incomprehensibility is in the mind of the beholder. I think this is such a case, because I know plenty of people who comprehend the system. As for it not being taught in Scripture, we both know that arguments have presented showing that it is taught in Scripture. Simply stating to the contrary is a dispute, but not argument.


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