Archive for the ‘Objections’ Category

Responses to Atheist Objections

April 16, 2008

I received the following comments on my earlier post, “Away with the Atheists!” I assume that the person commenting is an atheist, and I am going to use “A” to designate his comments below, but whether he is an atheist or not is not central to the matter:

Objection 1 – Atheism Misclassified as Faith
A: “Um… atheism isn’t a faith, it isn’t focused on death and damnation.”

Answer: Of course atheism is a faith. It is a humanist faith. It may not be a well-organized or systematized faith, but it is a faith. Everyone believes something and trusts in something – even atheists who believe in and trust in themselves.

Objection 2- God Misclassified as “True”
A: “Also God isn’t “true and living”. This isn’t “God doesn’t exist” but more “if he did that wouldn’t be a good description”. If there is only one God, than by definition there can’t be false gods; the only way to get a true version is to have fakes. You might say the ones belonging to other religions are false gods, but to be false, you’d also have to admit they exist.”


(1) If a deity has to exist to be worshipped, then this objection is the shortest, clearest proof of the existence of God. Since I doubt the objector would grant such a proof, then the objection is itself absurd.

(2) Saying that God is not the True God because he is the only God is a bit like saying that real dollar bills are not real dollar bills unless someone has actually made counterfeits.

(3) Connected with (2), saying that God is not the True God because by definition he is the only God, is a bit like saying that the currency of the land is not true currency, because it is by definition the only currency, and counterfeit money is not currency at all. It doesn’t follow. The fact that God is the only God, does not mean that there are not counterfeits, things/people passed off as though they were God or “a god.”

Objection 3: God Misclassified as “Living”
A: “As for living… God isn’t a living thing. He is immortal, remember? He fails the criteria to be qualified as a living thing because of that and several other factors. You can’t be considered alive if you can never truly die. “


I reject the objector’s criterion of mortality. Things can be alive without being able to die. Where the objector got this idea from is a mystery. Perhaps he simply imagined it. I don’t assign any particular weight to this objection. It’s important to note that God is a spirit – I’m not sure whether the objector has taken that into account or not.


Responses to Three Common Objections to Calvinism

April 13, 2008

The following is a response to three common objections to Calvinism that are made by non-Calvinists. As mentioned below, these are not objections that everyone could make (for example, one calls into question the doctrine of original sin), but they are objections that frequently are made, and to which an answer should be ready. There are, of course, other objections. Those too, by God’s grace, we hope to answer in due course.

Objection 1: Calls to Repentance Invalidate Calvinism

“To me, the most convincing point that God has not predestined all events is His constant plea for man to change. If passages were taken out of context, then one would expect to find only one or two references to man’s need to change. However, repentance is the underlying theme of all prophetic and gospel messages, which by definition implies man can change. These messages are not addressed to the Holy Spirit but to people, from whom action is demanded.” (source)

Response to Objection 1

Calvinism, of course, agrees that man is commanded to repent, and that some men do repent. It’s not the Calvinist’s claim that the calls to repentance are taken out of context. Instead, we simply believe that at an improper inference is being drawn from them.

This objection does not take the form of a rigorous argument. The underlying problem with the argument is the statement, “which by definition implies man can change.” Calvinism does not deny the statement that men can change. In fact, since Calvinism claims that God changes men, how could Calvinism possibly deny that men can change?

What the objector seems to want to say is that man can change on his own, i.e. of his own power. Scripture, however, nowhere teaches such a doctrine, and actually denies it. For example, the prophet Jeremiah explains:

Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

And Jesus himself explains:

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

Some non-Calvinists (such as historical Arminians as well as Molinist Catholics) assert a doctrine of pre-venient grace. If one holds to such a doctrine, one cannot make objection 1, because it applies equally to one’s own position.

Objection 2: God’s Justice Invalidates Calvinism

“Calvinism teaches that God unfairly condemned the human race for sins that He prearranged and predetermined. Can God fairly condemn man for sins that He made Him do? Calvinism blames God for man’s mistakes. It teaches that the guilt for the original sin was unfairly passed down through all generations, condemning children for sins they did not commit. This is also unfair. How can we use the words “equity”, “fair”, “right”, and “just” to describe God’s judgment according to Calvin? Compare Calvin’s vision of God’s judgment with the Bible’s description:

“For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.” Psalm 98:9

The Lord despises injustice and unfairness. How can He arbitrarily choose who will go to heaven or hell regardless of their actions? Punishment becomes cruelty if it is inflicted independent of a person’s actions.” (source)

Response to Objection 2

This first two lines of this objection are the classic objection of Romans 9: if God predetermined that we sinned, how can he hold us guilty, for who has resisted his will? Paul’s answer is that the question itself is impudent. It assumes that God lacks the freedom to create certain people for purposes that include their destruction. The number of times I have seen this objection defies counting, and it is already clearly and emphatically answered in Scripture. In short we learn from Scripture that God creating men unto destruction is not “unfair”: it is the Potter’s freedom.

The second objection regarding original sin is a bit more odd. Of course, many non-Calvinists cannot make this objection, because they acknowledge that the guilt of original sin passed upon all men. Scripture also speaks clearly to this matter:

Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Furthermore, the underlying premise that it is not fair for God to punish people who did not sin personally is not Scriptural either. In fact, it conflicts directly with the words of God written in stone by the finger of God:

Exodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Deuteronomy 5:9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

And repeated again and again:

Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

The moral law is the very definition of justice: if a man will claim that it is not fair or just for God to punish the children for the sins of the parents, then one has to reject or to come up with ad hoc interpretations of the very Decalogue.

This complaint, though, is not a new one. It is recorded by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both of whom reject it. If anyone does what God commands, he will live. Even if the wicked man himself repents, and turns from his wickedness, he will live. Ezekiel in Ezekiel provides an extended discussion of the Jewish proverb (not inspired): ” The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”

In the end, both prophets are making the same point: how can you possibly complain about the guilt of your fathers. God can judge you for your own guilt, and you’ll still die. First live perfectly in God’s sight and then see whether you are judged for someone else’s guilt.

Ezekiel 18:25-32
25Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? 26When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. 27Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. 28Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

29Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? 30Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. 31Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Some actually go so far as to imagine that Ezekiel should be read as though God never brings about harm to children because of their fathers, but just read on to the sobering words of the twentieth chapter:

Ezekiel 20:25-26
25Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; 26And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.

See how God takes responsibility for the child sacrifices of these wicked men? He even gives his reason: to make the men desolate. That is a punishment on the firstborn children for the sins of their fathers. What else does that remind one of? Why of Egypt on the day of Passover, of course. The Angel killed all the firstborn of Egypt in a single night: as many as did not have the blood of the Paschal lamb on their door-posts.

The ultimate absurdity, of course, is that it is only sinful men who make the objection that God is unequal because he punishes the children for the sins of the fathers. But those who make the objection overlook God’s mercy: if they will repent and turn to God they will not be punished, but if they simply continue their father’s sins, they can expect the same condemnation.

There is a third part to the objection here, expressed as: “How can He arbitrarily choose who will go to heaven or hell regardless of their actions? Punishment becomes cruelty if it is inflicted independent of a person’s actions.” This part is wrong for several reasons.

1) Election is not arbitrary, it is wise and based on God’s special love, which is called foreknowledge. The fact that the choice is not based on consideration of things we have done does not make the choice arbitrary, because God is the creator.

2) Making election dependent on man’s actions is clearly contrary to Scripture, especially to Romans 9.

3) Punishment is not inflicted independent of a person’s actions: God decrees both a man’s actions (such as Pharaoh hardening his heart) and the consequences (punishment). God raised up Pharaoh to demonstrate God’s power in the destruction of Egypt, but God did not do so independent of Pharaoh’s actions. Pharaoh refused to obey God, and God punished Pharaoh for that, even though God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and even though God interacted with Pharaoh specifically for the purpose to perform that punishment. In short God ordains not only the ends (punishment) but the means (sin), the two are not independent.

Objection 3: God’s Love invalidates Calvinism

“Although these words may seem shocking, please consider the following implication. Not only does Calvinism make God to be an arbitrary Savior, but it necessarily implies that God was motivated by glory rather than love. According to Calvin, God never sought man’s best interest, else He would have extended salvation to the entire race. Instead, He arbitrarily selected some, condemning others. Why did God do this? According to Calvinism, it was performed for God’s glory.” (source)

Response to Objection 2

The “arbitrary Savior” (instead, apparently, of a merits-based Savior) objection is already addressed above. Furthermore, the objection raises a false dichotomy.

God was motivated by love for the elect, as noted above. Nevertheless, God had his own glory in mind, as Scripture says.

John 13:31-32
31Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.

The statement, “God never sought man’s best interest, else He would have extended salvation to the entire race,” is of course not Calvin’s own statement. God did not, of course, intend the best interest of each and every individual person. Instead, God intended each and every person for His (God’s) best interest.

The objector seems to think that God needs to have the same humility as a man. This is just so odd. God is God. He destroys the glory of man, so that He will receive glory. Remember the tower of Babel? Remember Tarshish?

Isaiah 23:6-10
6Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isle. 7Is this your joyous city, whose antiquity is of ancient days? her own feet shall carry her afar off to sojourn. 8Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth? 9The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth. 10Pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish: there is no more strength.

But God loves his elect. Indeed, it is written:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Therefore, God – in his love – does save some men. God is not helpless to save those he loves. He is not some modern Casanova attempting to woo as many as possible, but reliant only on external means. No, he is a powerful and gracious king who will take the bride of his choice. He does so, not according to our desert, but according to his grace, as it is written:

2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,


The foregoing objections were all drawn from the same web site, but are all objections that I’ve heard before. There are certainly other objections that have been made, and responses that have been given to those other objections. (Consider this excellent response to this other objection.) I’d never suggest that anyone should accept the doctrines of grace simply because the three objections above had been defeated: instead one should accept those doctrines because they are the consistent teaching of Scripture: God saves.

Therefore, we need to preach the gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone, not according to him who wills or runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Let us do so!


2 Thessalonians 2:15 – Responding to "Orthodox"’s Counter-Objections

April 8, 2008

One reader of the blog, “Orthodox,” has provided some counter-objections to the rebuttals I’ve presented so far on the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

I think “Orthodox” is a bit confused, as some of his objections have already been answered in earlier posts. For example, “Orthodox” seems to think that he can use a verse any way he pleases, and it is up to the rest of the world to prove that the verse cannot mean what he says it means.

Thus, his counter-objections turn the matter on his head, as he complains first that:

1) You haven’t established that it is only about “the gospel”, since the immediate context is about things of a wide range of concerns.

a) The short response is that the burden is on those who attempt to use this verse to support their position to show that it does. They cannot, which demonstrates that their reference to this verse is pretextual.

b) The long response is that, not only is the burden not on me (since I’m objecting to an abuse, not trying to make a positive case), but I can actually demonstrate that “the traditions” refers to the gospel, by reference to the immediately preceding verse.

But “Orthodox”‘s confusion about the burden that the abuser faces doesn’t stop there, for his second objection is similar:

2) Even if it did thus limit it, you cannot claim victory without proving the EXACT boundaries of “the gospel”.

a) This counter-objection clearly misses the point that the burden of establishing that usefulness of the verse to the abuser’s position is the abuser, not the objector.

b) This counter-objection is also odd, because – of course – one doesn’t have to know the EXACT boundaries to have useful knowledge. For example, one may not know the EXACT boundaries of Russia, while still recognizing that London, England is not in Russia. If someone was arguing that we have to accept London, England as part of Russia because we don’t know the EXACT boundaries of Russia, we’d laugh.

c) Finally, of course, Orthodox doesn’t explain why I’d have to know the boundaries at all. It should be noted that much of the objection to the abuse of this passage would remain, even if it were stripped from its context, and we had only the word “traditions” and nothing to help us understand what it meant. It would still be the burden on the person who sought to use this text to justify his view of “tradition” to establish that what Paul was referring to was the same thing that the person is referring to. In other words, if someone, let’s call him “O” wants to claim that he is entitled to hold fast to icons because Paul said to hold fast to “traditions” then it is up to O to demonstrate that icons are within the boundaries of “traditions” as the term is used by Paul. If O cannot, then O has used the text in a pretextual manner.

“Orthodox” continues, by demonstrating that his passion for the matter has overwhelmed his reason, for he states:

3) Asking if you can “demonstrate” that an oral tradition was taught to the Thessalonians is the equivilent [sic] of asking to “demonstrate” that Peter wrote 2 Peter. You can’t really do it, and thus you are hypocritical.

a) The demonstration is simple:

2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:


2Pe 3:1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:

That’s one of the easiest challenges of Scriptural demonstration that I’ve ever been presented with. Does anyone think we can expect a sincere and heartfelt apology for “Orthodox”‘s false accusation of hypocrisy?

b) Those challenges are not the equivalent of one another, unless I was asserting as either my argument, or a premise to my argument, that 2 Peter was written by Peter. If I were to assert such a thing, though, the demonstration above would be provided to support it.

“Orthodox” false accusations continue with his next assertion:

4) The question of “can you prove they weren’t the same as what was written down” is classic sophistry. It’s like saying “can you prove you haven’t been beating your wife”. You can’t? Ok, well we’ll leave that question open and assume you may or may not have been beating your wife.

a) Calling it sophistry (whether or not one qualifies it as a “classic” sophistry) doesn’t make it so. Let’s see whether “Orthodox” can substantiate his accusation, or whether this is simply another false accusation.

b) “Orthodox” compares the question to the question “can you prove you haven’t been beating your wife.” This is improper for several reasons:
(i) First of all, of course, the classic sophistry is to ask, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” That’s a sophistry, because the question is loaded: if you answer “yes,” it will be understood that you were beating her before. If you answer, “no,” it will be understood (via a denial of the antecedent fallacy) that you continue to beat her. It’s a sophistry because it is a rhetorical trick to make someone say something they don’t mean. It’s a trick question.
(ii) The present question is neither complex, nor trick. It is simple and straightforward. Can you demonstrate [x]? If you can, you can, and if you cannot, you cannot.
(iii) The comparison question asked by “Orthodox” is also simply and straightforward, though it is on a somewhat inflammatory subject. Detectives ask this question of suspected criminals all the time. “Do you have an alibi?” they may inquire, or perhaps they may phrase it as, “Can you prove you weren’t downtown during the shooting?” If a suspect cannot, a good detective certainly would, as “Orthodox” indicates, “leave that question open and assume you may or may not have been [doing whatever you are suspected of doing].” Indeed, only Clousseau (the detective from the “Pink Panther” movies) or some equally buffoonish detective could be pictured simply taking a suspect’s word for it, that the suspect is innocent.
(iv) Furthermore, the inflammatory nature of the question confuses the issues a bit further. After all, we generally (i.e. when we are not acting as detectives) prefer to assume that someone is innocent until they are proven guilty. Thus, we would expect that the accuser needs to prove that the man WAS beating his wife, and not that the man prove that he wasn’t beating his wife. In other words, the nature of that question carries with it an underlying burden of proof, if it is placed in a criminal context. This confuses the issue, because there is a very different burden of proof here. Recall how the verse gets abused: someone (let’s call him “O”) claims we have to accept “oral tradition,” because this verse says so. We respond by challenging “O” to demonstrate that the verse says so, and if he cannot we don’t accept his supposed proof. The analogy to the wife beating scenario would if “O” were to claim that the bruises on his neighbor’s wife were proof that his wife had been beaten by her husband. We’d ask “O” to demonstrate that the bruises weren’t caused by the wife being in a car crash, particularly if we saw a highly damaged car sitting in her driveway. If “O” couldn’t demonstrate that the husband was the cause of the bruises, we wouldn’t call the neighbor a wife-beater, because “O” couldn’t meet his burden of proof, just as “O” cannot meet his burden of proof with this verse.

“Orthodox” continued by making an interesting comment:

If you make the positive assertion that they may have been identical, it is up to you to establish that assertion, otherwise the assertion fails and there is no need to consider such an unfounded contention.

a) Does “Orthodox” read what “Orthodox” writes? “Positive assertion that they may …”? That something may be is rarely a positive assertion, and it’s not a positive assertion here.

b) Does “Orthodox” remember the context of the discussion? It is the abuser of the text that has made a positive assertion, namely that the text teaches “traditionism” (for lack of a more succinct word). It’s up to the abuser of the text to demonstrate such support. If they cannot, then, as Orthodox puts it: “the assertion fails and there is no need to consider such an unfounded contention.

Next, “Orthodox” shifts gears, and makes a new category of error, this time the error is an allegation of misrepresentation:

5) Discussing a “class of knowledge called Sacred Tradition which is separate from scripture” is a misrepresentation of the opposing view. The claim is that there is one class of knowledge called sacred tradition, of which the written record is a part. This, coincidently, is the exact way that Paul categorises things in 2 Th 2:15. Hold to the “traditions” whether written or oral. Not “hold to the oral traditions and s acred [sic] writings”.

a) It’s not a misrepresentation. Catholics sometimes talk about “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture” as though they were two parallel bodies of knowledge. If “Sacred Tradition” can only mean (to Catholics) a genus that includes Scripture, then the statement would be a bit like “Fruits and Apples.” See, for example, CCC 84 and CCC 97 (in which the genus is “Word of God” and the species are “Sacred Tradition” and “Sacred Scripture”). Furthermore, I’ve personally heard Catholics discuss the matter that way, specifically excluding Scripture from Tradition as being in different categories.

b) The fact that “Orthodox” wants to use different nomenclature,
(i) doesn’t make the Catholics disappear as one category of folks who use the text; and
(ii) doesn’t really make much substantive difference: whether one wants to call the genus classification using the word “traditions” or “word of God” or whatever, the underlying issues are the same. While “Orthodox” is welcome to have the debate over whether the Catholics should lump “Sacred Scripture” in with “Sacred Tradition” in their theology, I leave to “Orthodox.”

c) Ironically, Orthodox himself provides an example of the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 with his comment: “This, coincidently, is the exact way that Paul categorises things in 2 Th 2:15. Hold to the “traditions” whether written or oral. Not “hold to the oral traditions and s acred [sic] writings”.” There a couple of errors here:

(i) The major abuse here is due to the underlying assumption that by “traditions” Paul means what “Orthodox” means by “traditions.” There’s no reason at all to suppose that. “Orthodox” assumes it, but we have no reason to accept his claim.
(ii) A minor abuse here is due to “Orthodox” misreading “our epistle” as though it were a reference to “written traditions” in general (again, basically assuming “Orthodox”‘s definition of “traditions”).
(iii) Another (and still more minor) abuse here is due to “Orthodox” misreading “taught … by word” as thought it were a reference to the class of “oral traditions” rather than to specific things that had been taught by Paul to the Thessalonians (again, underlying that misreading is “Orthodox”‘s assumption that Paul means what “Orthodox” means by “traditions”).

Turning from abuse of the text and false accusations of misrepresentation, “Orthodox” reverts to his previous false accusation of hypocrisy, this time with a different basis. I was hesitant even to include this item, because it has nothing to do with 2 Thessalonians 2:15, but I ask the reader to be patient with me. “Orthodox” contends:

6) Saying you don’t know if Chrysostom wrote this thing is another case of “have you stopped beating your wife”. You have zero reason to think Chrysostom didn’t write it, but you think maybe if some doubt is cast on it, we can devalue the whole thing. Again hypocrisy. What if this reasoning was applied to the scriptures?

a) The historical question of whether Chrysostom wrote the homilies cited is not comparable to the loaded question (at least this time “Orthodox” correctly relates the question) of whether someone has stopped beating his wife. There’s nothing complex or loaded about an historical inquiry as to authorship.

b) And of course, I didn’t even ask that question, I just indicated that I didn’t know.

c) Despite “Orthodox” claim to the contrary, I do have reason to think Chrysostom might not have written it. As I previously told “Orthodox” (link – does he read carefully?), “John Chrysostom’s legacy is muddied by time and various strains of thought all attributed to him, but not necessarily all his own.” (or, for another example, in the post itself to which “Orthodox” was responding, I wrote: “John Chrysostom wrote a a large amount, and even more that he did not write has been attributed to him over the years. “) Even the Catholic Encyclopedia at “New Advent” admits that “numerous” apocryphal writings are attributed to him (link), and additionally mentions the role of editors in the release of at least some of his homilies. So, authorship of these particular homilies, and – more particularly – these specific words is certainly open to reasonable doubt.

d) “Orthodox”‘s guess as to my reason for mentioning it is mistaken. I mentioned the open question of authorship to avoid dogmatically asserting that it was Chrysostom, and not one of his editors or a pseudo-Chrysostom that abused 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Furthermore, it was important to point out that the second homily from which I quoted was not the same homily, since one wouldn’t necessarily interpret Chysostom in view of what pseudo-Chrysostom wrote, or vice versa. Thus, I cautioned the reader, to soften the force of my own argument.

e) “Orthodox”‘s final comments, “Again hypocrisy. What if this reasoning was applied to the scriptures?” are likewise off the mark. In this case, the charges are more absurd than usual. Far from hypocrisy, the matter was a simply clarification of the record, so that Chyrsostom’s name might be somewhat removed from the stain of the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15, just as one might say that one’s neighbor’s wife’s face was bruised, without dogmatically asserting that it must be the husband that did it. As for the application to Scripture, I simply believe what Scripture says. I don’t treat Scripture like I treat the writings attributed to the church fathers. If 2 Peter says it was written by Peter (and it does), then I believe it. If Scripture says nothing about the authorship of a particular book, I refuse to be dogmatic about that matter myself.

As his next-to-last point, Orthodox makes another faulty comparison on the tangential issue of what the passage attributed to Chrysostom is alleged to teach:

7) You say that what Chrysostom means by tradition is ambiguous, but the issue is that it goes beyond what scripture is, and that is not ambiguous in the context. Your argument is equivalent to saying that scripture lists no canon, therefore we can safely ignore scripture. i.e. hypocrisy.

a) Is it really clear that Chrysostom means something beyond Scripture? I’m not sure. The “in context” comment is bogus, because the alleged statement by Chrysostom is practically devoid of context.

b) Furthermore, if someone is going to cite Chrysostom as supporting their position, it is important to establish what Chrysostom was referring to. Otherwise, the same pretextual quotation abuse that we’ve documented with respect to 2 Thessalonians 2:15 can be made with respect to Chrysostom.

c) Since “Orthodox” pretends to hold to that which was received by all the fathers, it should matter a lot to “Orthodox” what Chrysostom himself meant by what he wrote. It’s much less important for me, though, because I am willing to admit that all the church fathers were men, and consequently fallible and errant.

Finally, Orthodox provides a last argument, finally apparently attempting to return to the text.

8) You say that 2 Th 3:6 is about discipline and not about doctrine, so tradition=discipline. Then you claim that 2 Th 3:15 is about the gospel, and not about discipline, therefore tradition=gospel. So you contradict your own restrictive agenda by which you desperately try and shrink the categories out of existence.

a) Actually, my comment about 2 Thessalonians 3:6 was to relate to the reader Chrysostom’s comments on the verse, not my own. Chrysostom, when considering 2 Thessalonians 3:6, clearly did not have in mind either the Catholic category of “Sacred Tradition” or the category “Orthodox” prefers of something akin to “everything the church uses to convey information.”

b) The verse that we have been discussing, which is about holding fast to the gospel is 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (not 3:15).

c) My only agenda here is to stop the abuse of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that I’ve seen way too often, as well as to expose the fact that it is used as a pretext.


Hopefully, by now it has been demonstrated that there is no rational way to justify the use of 2 Thessalonians 2:15 as though it were evidence of the Bible teaching the “traditionist” position with respect to the relationship between Scripture and Tradition.


Objections Regarding Original Sin Answered

March 18, 2008

An anonymous poster provided some comments regarding this earlier post on the natural depravity of children (link). The comments by the anonymous commenter are in italics, with all the typos being as submitted.

I think some thoughts are being omitted from your interpretation of Psalms 58. First off, they go astray after they are born. They were not born lost.

No. They are already estranged in the womb, and they stray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.

Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Secondly the whole point of the Psalm, describing the eickedness of certain people, is to contrast them with the righteous, those that did not stray but remained faithful. They will be avenged when God judges men according to their deeds (Matt 12:36-37, Rom 2:6, 2 Cor 5:10, Rev 20:12, 1 Peter 1:17).

The whole point of the of the Psalm is actually to call for judgment on the wicked. The “righteous” (as such) is not even mentioned until the next-to-last verse. There’s nothing about a comparison between the righteous and wicked. In short, your claim about the verse is plainly incorrect. The righteous (singular) may even here be a reference to Christ. Regardless of whether it is Christ himself, or someone to whom Christ’s rigteousness has been imputed, the string citation of other passages doesn’t solve the anonymous commenter’s problem.

Ezek 18:1-4 The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.

Ez 18:14-17 “If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise … but has executed My judgments and walked in My statutes— He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!”

This appears as if no matter how evil the father is, the son does not bear the iniquity of the father. Adam’s sons would not bear the quilt of their fathers.

They would not bear the guilt of their fathers IF they repent of their fathers’ sins. The error that the prophet is correcting is the sense of hopelessness. There is hope for those who repent, regardless both of their own prior sins and the sins of their fathers. That is the gospel message: Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. It was the same message preached by Ezekiel, and it is the same message we preach.

Ezek 18:19-20 “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Presumably this is intended to be grouped with the Ezekiel passages above. It is already answered.

The gospel requires action a baby can’t do:
“Unless you repent you will perish”: Lk 13:3
“Repent and be baptized … for forgiveness of sins”: Acts 2:38
“Work out our own salvation”: Phil 2:12

The gospel requires repentance from sin and faith in Christ. That faith and repentance is evidenced in baptism, confession of the Lord (not listed above), and progressive sanctification. That a child can have faith in Christ seems to appear from John the Baptists miraculous reaction to the voice of Mary, the greatly blessed mother of our Lord.

Man is capable of making choices himself:
– Gentiles do by nature the good things of the law: Rom 2:14-16
– Cornelius was devout, feared God, righteous, Acts 10:1-4, 22 yet unsaved: 11:14
– Man has a freewill and can choose to do good or evil: Josh 24:15 “Choose this day…”

Doing those things “by nature” refers to the light of nature, not to the nature of the Gentiles. The obedience of the Gentiles is still not righteousness, because it is not motivated by love for God.

Cornelius was already a worshiper of Jehovah. He simply had not yet heard that the Messiah had come. Like others in a similar position, when he heard of Christ, he (and all his house) believed on him immediately. This is dramatically different from the Jews who had an outward show of worshiping God, but who did not believe on Christ.

Man certainly does have a “free will,” in the sense that he makes decisions and moral choices. The choice by Israel to serve God (mentioned in Joshua 24:15) was a moral choice. The fact that men do make choices, and that some of those decisions are free, does not mean that they are free in the sense required by Arminian, Molinist, or Open Theist interpreters.

God said that the king of Tyrus was “blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you.” (Ezek 28:15) This would not be possible if he was born in sin.

One might think that. Nevertheless:

a) That verse is frequently referred to Satan, who was created innocent and fell.
b) If that verse refers to man who was the king of Tyrus, it also says (in the immediately preceding verse): “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” If that doesn’t clue you in to the fact that the verse is speaking poetically (assuming it is speaking of a mere man), then I’m not sure what would. The use of “blameless” or “perfect” as relative terms in the Old Testament is not rare.

Sin is committed by individually breaking God’s law. (1 Jn 3:4) Infants have done nothing. Isa 59:1-2, “Your sins have separated you from your God”, not Adams. In Exodus 32:31­33 this passage, Moses wanted to receive the punishment for someone else’s sin. In verse 33, the one who sinned is removed from the book, not the one whose parents have sinned.

a) All mankind (and the whole creation) is punished for Adam’s sin.
b) God visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto multiple generations of those that hate Him.
c) Infants are themselves sometimes punished for the sins of their father, recall the death of David’s first son by Bathsheba.

Newborns do not know the difference between good and evil. God allowed the children to enter Canaan but not the parents: “your little ones who…have no knowledge of good and evil shall enter”. (Deut 1:34-39)

Newborns don’t have a developed understanding of the moral law. I don’t think many people would suggest otherwise.


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