Archive for the ‘James Anderson’ Category

Sincere Offer, Election, and Limited Atonement

August 24, 2011

My friend Paul has posted a response to David Ponter’s response to James Anderson’s comments on Limited Atonement and the Free Offer. It’s a very detailed and worth reading. Allow me to post some shorter thoughts on the topic, namely the objection:

Is the “free offer” of the gospel really “sincere” if Jesus only died for some men and not all? If there is no atonement available for them, the offer seems insincere.

This is a frequent objection, particularly from Amyraldians and Arminians. If you think that the gospel is “Jesus died for you,” then this objection makes a lot of sense. If we’re supposed to tell people indiscriminately that Christ died for them, but he didn’t, that doesn’t seem very sincere.

Scriptures, however, don’t present the gospel that way. In Scripture, the gospel is expressed in terms of repenting of your sins and believing on (i.e. trusting in) Jesus Christ for salvation. If you trust in Christ and repent of your sins, God will have mercy on you.

There is a world of difference between those two messages. One message makes an unconditional assertion regarding what Christ has done. The other message makes a conditional assertion about what God will do.

Yet, even among those who will grant to us that the gospel is not, “Jesus died for you,” some people still don’t like the idea of salvation being offered to those for whom God has not made any provision. Indeed, our Amyraldian and Arminian friends sometimes urge on us the idea that such a conditional offer is not “sincere” unless God has made preparations for those people.

The mere absence of enough provision for everyone to be saved, however, doesn’t explain this objection. Suppose a company offers to “anyone who is willing to come down here and listen to us explain the benefits of our new tractor,” an incentive of “$5, just for coming down and listening to the talk.” No one would consider it “insincere” if the company doesn’t actually have $5 times the number of people who will hear the offer, so long as they have $5 times the number of people that they think will accept the offer.

So, as long as the provision is sufficient for those who will “accept” the offer, we don’t view the offer as insincere. Since, under the Calvinist framework, God has made provision for all who will come to Christ, the offer of the gospel should also be considered to be sincere by this standard.

The intuition behind the objection that remains, however, is that an “offer” doesn’t seem sincere, if you have no intention of giving the offered thing to the person to whom you are offering it. For example, when a child offers to share an ice cream cone, it sometimes happens that this is simply an imitation of a parent’s offer to share the parent’s cone. If the parent were to try to accept the child’s offer, the child might greedily refuse to allow the parent to have a bite. So, the child has only offered to share the cone because the child thought the offer would be refused. Such an offer is insincere.

Of course, by this time we are now dealing with the kind of objection that an Amyraldian, or someone like Ponter, cannot consistently make. After all, the problem with the child’s offer is not that he doesn’t have a cone to share, but that he does not intend to give up the cone. The Amyraldian admits that God does not intend to save the non-elect. Therefore, whether or not a provision is made seems utterly moot.

Nevertheless, for those who insist that God must intend to save, we may still legitimately question the weight of this objection. Isn’t it enough that God intends to save everyone who “accepts” the “offer”? The idea that God must intend to save all those whom he knows will refuse seems absurd when expressed that way. Thus, we may conclude that while such an objection may have some limited intuitive appeal, it does not hold up to intellectual scrutiny.


Is Sola Scriptura a Protestant Concoction?

January 6, 2010

Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s lecture by the above title is now available thanks to the transcription by Pastor David King and the editing of James Anderson (link). Thanks to for bringing this to my attention.

>Response from James Anderson

July 8, 2009

>I am pleased to report that Mr. Anderson has replied (here) to my previous post (here) regarding irresolvable paradoxes.

Mr. Anderson indicates that he does not accept the following:

(P1) The situation that both proposition P is true and P is false (at the same time and in the same way) is a possible situation for any given P.

This is, at least to my mind, some progress in our discussion. I view P1 as being representative of a general acceptance of paradoxes.

I do recall that Mr. Manata had characterized Mr. Anderson’s position thus: “James Anderson sets out to show that certain doctrines of the Christian faith are paradoxical, but may be reasonably believed in spite of this feature (if not because of it). Anderson also argues that these doctrines are not actually contradictory, but merely apparent.” (source – emphasis omitted)

I don’t have a problem with merely apparent contradictions. I have a problem with actual contradictions. Given that Mr. Anderson does not appear to subscribe to what I have called the “general acceptance” view of paradoxes, I wonder whether Mr. Anderson would even subscribe to “special acceptance” view?

The special acceptance view would be (continuing the numbering from my previous article:

(P5) The situation that both proposition P is true and P is false (at the same time and in the same way) is a possible situation for a given proposition P iff further condition FC is met.

P5 is not liable to the same critique as P1 if (for P5) FC is met. However, I’m not aware of any good reasons to accept P5. However, again, I’m not sure that Mr. Anderson accepts P5. In fact, Mr. Manata characterized Mr. Anderson’s position as: “If real contradictions could be true, then the desire to preserve orthodox interpretations is gone. Indeed, one could no longer object to heterodox statements.” Assumed, of course, is that the desires to preserve orthodoxy is not gone. I should point out that I do fully agree with Mr. Anderson in this regard.

This makes me think that Mr. Anderson also would not accept P5. I hope he’ll stop by and confirm that he does not accept P5.

In fact, I think part of the issue is that I am using “paradox” in a rather stronger form from Mr. Anderson. Mr. Manata claimed that Mr. Anderson defines paradox with the following:

“X is paradoxical [iff] X amounts to a set of claims which taken in conjunction appear to be logically inconsistent.”

But, of course, I have no problem with apparent logical inconsistencies, so long as they are merely apparent contradictions (MACs). My problem is when apparent logical inconsistencies are also actual logical inconsistencies. Mr. Anderson’s definition is broad enough to include actual and apparent inconsistencies (AACs), which is all that my narrower definition includes. My definition excludes merely apparent contradictions, while his includes them.

Now, I notice that Mr. Anderson’s definition could be made to be completely separate in domain from mine if he were to add the word “only” before “appear.” In other words, with that additional qualifier Mr. Anderson’s definition would no longer include AACs, whereas mine would consist solely of AACs.

(There is a further category we could add to the discussion: non-apparent actual contradictions (NACs). This category isn’t especially useful to our discussion, although it serves to remind us that there may be undiscovered contradictions.)

Furthermore, some of Mr. Manata’s comments in his review of Mr. Anderson’s work appear to reflect an understanding that the “only” that is missing from Mr. Anderson’s definition should be implied. Mr. Manata writes:

Note well the qualifier ‘apparent.’ Thus, a paradox does not entail a logical inconsistency per se, just the appearance of logical inconsistency. This definition “presupposes that a meaningful distinction can be made between apparent and real contradiction.”

(internal quotation apparently from Mr. Anderson)

As a strictly logical matter, the definition quoted above does not presuppose that a meaningful distinction can be made between apparent and real contradictions. It evades that issue, since real contradictions often are also apparent (though sometimes they are secret).

Anyhow, rather than continue to speculate, I’d just pose the question to Mr. Anderson who (I hope) has not given up on reading my comments here.

Is P5 your position?

Did you mean to imply “only” in the definition of paradox that you provided?


Problems with Paradoxes

July 3, 2009

Over at the Triablogue, in the comments box, Mr. Anderson wrote:

Unless I’ve badly misunderstood it, which is entirely possible, your argument is designed to show that the claim that there can be irresolvable paradoxes is itself a paradox.

Your premise (i) states your opponents’ position, for the second of argument. Your (ii) then apparently tries to deduce some further proposition from (i) (since you say “Given (i)…”). What you deduce from (i) is that the negation of (i) (i.e., that there cannot be an irresolvable paradox) would be “either a paradox or a real contradiction”.

But as I’ve pointed out, this is just a non sequitur. You’ve given no good reason to think this follows from (i).

Perhaps the idea is that, if irresolvable paradoxes are possible, then for just any proposition p we affirm, we must also be prepared to affirm non-p. But again, this is simply a non sequitur. It doesn’t follow from (i) at all. Why think that it does?

One might as well argue that, if irresolvable paradoxes are possible, and we believe that the Earth orbits the Sun, then we should also be prepared to believe that the Earth doesn’t orbit the Sun. The problem, of course, is that we have plenty of good reason to affirm the former and no good reason to affirm the latter. So your suggestion (if I read you correctly) that if the irresolvable-paradox view is true then it must (by its own lights) be on a par with the no-irresolvable-paradox view, begs the question entirely.


Mr. Anderson is no lightweight when it comes to critical thinking, so I’ve taken a good bit of time to mull over his comments. Nevertheless, I see a few problems with his critique, or at least a few weaknesses. Let’s see if I can explain.

Restatement of the Main Argument

The main argument against irresolvable paradoxes is this:

Suppose for the sake of the argument, a first premise

(P1) The situation that both proposition P is true and P is false (at the same time and in the same way) is a possible situation for any given P.

P1 actually combines two ideas: (1) irresolvable paradox is possible, where irresolvable paradox is defined by a given statement being both true and false in the same way and at the same time; and (2) paradoxes are not limited to only certain categories of propositions.

If P1 is accepted, and if we further add a second premise

(P2) P1 is a proposition, i.e. a member of the set of “any given P”

then we may conclude

(C1) It is possible that (P1) is also false.

Or in other words, if we accept the existence of unlimitable paradoxes, we must also be prepared to accept at least the possibility of the nonexistence of unlimitable paradoxes.

Enhancement to the Main Argument

The main argument may be enhanced, however, through simplification. One enhancement is as follows:

(P3) Reasoned thought is present IFF (i.e. if and only if) the law of non-contradictions is not violated;

(P4) Paradoxes violate the law of non-contradiction; and

(C2) Therefore, reasoned thought is not present when paradoxes are present.

Responses to Objections

Mr. Anderson’s main objection seems to be to the boundless aspect of P1. Mr. Anderson, if I have understood him correctly, believes in the existence of irresolvable paradoxes, but only within certain bounds. I’m not sure what objection Mr. Anderson would be able to give to the enhancement argument.

Mr. Anderson’s main objection does not appear to be sustainable. It is, of course, handy to say that paradox only exists within special, contained boundaries. And if that were strictly true that would seem to address the problem. Unfortunately, we cannot be assured (within a system that accomodates paradox) that the boundaries themselves are strictly true as opposed to merely paradoxically true.


I don’t see any good reason to accept the existence of irreconcilable paradoxes. Such things, were they to exist, would seem to be outside the realm of rational discussion. Accordingly, it would be odd to call any basis for accepting them a “reason.” Furthermore, I have seen no reason to reject the strongly intuitive position of the universality of the laws of logic and particularly the law of non-contradiction. I also would see no valid reason for setting boundaries on irreconcilable paradoxes if I were to accept them at all. I’m willing to hear arguments for why I should deny the universality of the laws of logic, but so far I haven’t seen any that are logical … and I’m willing to hear reasons to set boundaries on irreconcilable paradoxes but so far, again, I haven’t seen anything beyond simple fiat to support the idea that irreconcilable paradoxes only exist within specific boundaries.


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