Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Raid on the Speak-Easy

It always happens. It never fails. The party just gets going and the joint is hopping, and along comes some G-man trying to make a name for himself. He shows up at the secret entrance, axe in hand, hoping to smash all the barrels of our best Prohibition hooch. He wants to be Elliot Ness. He wants to make the evening papers as an Untouchable.

Okay. Generally, we at the Mafia consider this the cost of doing business.

The aspiring hero is named Josh, and he's come looking for our stash of the good stuff, the Perseverance of the Saints. This is the text of an email I received.

Greetings to all members of the 'Reformed Mafia,'Rhett, Joshua, Seth, Douglas, Sam, Gordon, and sure,Trevor too if he's reading.

I have posted a challenge to the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, and would like to present it to you directly and give you the opportunity to publicly respond to it if you wish.

The challenge in a nutshell is this: There are several extremely clear and unmistakable warnings against Christians falling away unto perdition given in scripture (Matthew 5:27-30, Hebrews 4:9-11, and Revelation 22:18-19 specifically), establishing the fact that it is possible for a believer to forfeit salvation. All attempts to explain the warnings and consequences in the passages away or reconcile them with teaching eternal security are either completely untenable, or in the tradition of the Scribes and Pharisees, make the biblicaladmonitions of no effect.

You can read the challenge in its entirety at:
http://www.indeathorlife.org/soteriology/calvinism/reformedchallenge.php

I look forward to your response, and may God bless you.

And we've found that at the same site, he's got a chart posted with all of our names on it, with blank spaces awaiting the dates of our responses. Like wanted posters back at the squadroom. LOL.

Well, copper, Knuckles ain't a-scared a no heat, ya hear?! As soon as I post this, I will begin posting the first part of my personal response to this challenge. I'm going to do that at Incrediblog! in order to keep from clogging the Mafia blog with this messy business. [Late edit: Part 2 and Part 3 are now up as well.]

Other members here may or may not respond. Or, they may simply pass me ammo. Either way...

31 comments:

Bob Hayton said...

Interesting challenge. Personally, I think he is off the mark.

He might have nailed the typical Baptist pseudo-Calvinist on this one. They're the ones that are all big on once saved, always saved (OSAS), but as I interpret point 5 of TULIP, OSAS doesn't cut it.

Sure all who are truly saved are saved truly. But Scripture repeatedly holds out the potential that we might make shipwreck of our faith. In the Luke 8 version of the parable of the sower & the seed speaks of those who believe for a while, but later fall away (vs. 13).

1 John 2:19 clarifies everything. How do we view the people who fall away? John tells us they were never truly saved, they fall away to manifest that they weren't truly "of us".

So with the many warning passages [Col. 1:23, Mark 13:13, 1 Cor. 15:2, Heb. 3:6, Heb. 3:14, Jn. 8:31, 2 Tim. 2:12, Rom. 8:13, Gal. 6:9 (in context), Heb. 12:14, etc.], they are as my pastor John Piper says, a means to our perseverance. For true believers, they are a prod to keep believing, for false believers they describe a true reality -- apostasy.

I think this issue is serious, because so many believers treat salvation like a "get out of jail free card". They said the prayer, joined the club, and they've got the card. Now they can live like they please.

Biblical salvation, that is real, changes you. All who are truly saved will persevere and will grow and will bring forth fruit that remains, some just a small amount (30 fold), others a big amount of fruit (100 fold).

All that is to say, he isn't really hitting true Reformed doctrine. His challenge is weak.

For those interested in grasping what I'm talking about with perseverance, you can start with my blogpost "Once Saved, Always Saved?!?!", and my follow up posts "My 219 Epiphany: part 1, and part 2".

Blessings from the cross,

Bob Hayton

Bob Hayton said...

I tried leaving a response on the guy's site, but it didn't let me. It gave some error. So I thought I'd post my response to his longer article here, thinking he might read this post (or maybe you could forward it on to him).

Here's my comment:

Hi,

Interesting challenge.

I think you are a bit off the mark though. I think you are equating the Calvinist doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, with a modern counterpart, the idea that once saved, you are always saved (OSAS).

I agree that OSAS does not line up with the repeated Scriptural warnings that we must continue to believe and not make shipwreck of our faith. But the Perseverance of the Saints doctrine (PS) teaches that true saints will persevere. God secures there perseverance, yes; but only those who actually persevere prove to be the elect.

These warnings are given as means to our perseverance. For true believers, the warnings prod us to keep believing and trusting Christ alone for salvation. For professing, yet not true believers, the warnings are true. To the professors, they stand ready to be surprised on judgment day (Matt. 7:21-23). They need to heed the warnings and examine themselves to see whether they be in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

Everyone loves to slice and dice Scripture too much. In this book the author is ONLY addressing believers, in that passage there he addresses unbelievers. We forget about real life concerns. In almost any crowd of people gathered on a Sunday morning, there is bound to be potentially quite a few false believers. Those who think they are believing, those who assent mentally to some facts, but aren't actually trusting Christ. In real life the potential is quite clear. Why can't the writers of Scripture, under inspiration, be addressing both kinds of people who might be reading?

And there's one passage you need to bring your beliefs into alignment with. 1 John 2:19. That verse is a key and it teaches us how to think about those who do fall away.

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

We are supposed to think of those who fell away as those who never had true faith, who never were saved truly. This jives with Jesus' declaration in Matt. 7 "I NEVER knew you", not "I used to know you, but don't now".

Of course, PS is also attested by a host of Scriptures. And given the truth of the other 4 points of Calvinism, since God predestined the very salvation of certain people, then it follows those people are infallibly certain to persevere in their faith.

But of course there's a catch, not even the people themselves will infallibly KNOW that they are one of the elect. Therefore, they work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, trusting in the God who works and wills in them according to His pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13).

For more on my particular take on all of this, feel free to read my posts: For those interested in grasping what I'm talking about with perseverance, you can start with my blogpost "Once Saved, Always Saved?!?!", and my follow up posts "My 219 Epiphany: part 1, and part 2".

Blessings from the Cross,

Bob Hayton

Bob Hayton said...

One other thought. Not that you guys aren't great minds and all, but don't you think he should send his challenge out to some Calvinists a bit higher on the totem pole.

Man this sounds bad! You guys are great, and replying to E-D makes you all light years smarter than me, but...

Couldn't this guy have emailed Desiring God, or John Hendryx at Monergism.com, or left a comment at Reformation Theology blog, or commented on Triablogue or something?

Maybe he wants to just embarass people that he can, and doesn't want to get blasted out of the park by the likes of those guys or maybe one of the Pyromaniacs.

Just my few cents worth.

Scribe said...

Brother Hayton...thanks for visiting, you bring up some interesting points...

It would appear to me that Joshua Thibodaux is riding his extra-biblical hobby horse to throw a pharisaical yoke that he himself is not able to bear. He seems to veer towards a pretextual usage to eisegetically foist upon the text what is simply not there.

Maybe he wants to just embarass people that he can

I agree. The tenor of his site seems to have a narcissistic flair bent on trying to humiliate others but we've locked horns with greater minds (E-D, DM) so this guy poses no real threat.

I'll check out your references later...I've gotta go now. Thanks for your comments.

PS I too tried leaving a comment on his site but received an error message...

gordan said...

Bob,

Great, great comments. My thoughts exactly, re:confusing PS with OSAS.

And, LOL about him aiming a little low on the Calvinist pole. You got that right, brother!!!

I think he picked on us precisely because we're small-fries in the Reformed world. Like the lions who hunt the old, the sick, and the weak languishing at the back of the wildebeast herd.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

As far as equating OSAS with PoS, I addressed that on your blog Gordon. Actually, I have already addressed some of the higher level Calvinists, C. Matthew McMahon, James White, and John Hendryx with Revelation 22:19 specifically; none could give a very good answer.

Secondly, and if trying to refute a specific view makes me narcissistic, then why are you trying to refute Arminianism? I have no intention of humiliating others, simply to show that Calvinism cannot stand scriptural scrutiny.

gordan said...

JC,

I think the nacissism he was referring to was not in the simple attempt to refute a system you don't agree with.

I think he was speaking specifically about the tone of your site, which (maybe you'd be interested to know) from the emails I've been getting, seems to strike folks as arrogant. As a guy who jokes around a lot, I think you can get away with some of that as long as you also include some clearly self-deprecating humor as well. That way people know you don't really take yourself that seriously.

gordan said...

By the way, maybe you could post the links to the places where guys like James White responded to you, and so obviously failed to provide a good answer.

At the end of every boxing match which has gone to final bell, both boxers raise their hands in victory. They both think they won.

So you'll forgive us if we don't just take your word for it that you crushed all these Calvinist heavyweights, without seeing the evidence.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

have already addressed some of the higher level Calvinists, C. Matthew McMahon, James White, and John Hendryx with Revelation 22:19 specifically; none could give a very good answer.

No one could give a good enough answer to suit because they do not begin with the same presuppositions as you do. You are already convinced that Calvinism is not biblical, so no matter what anyone says, you will reject it as being unbiblical, despite whatever exegesis of the text they provide. However, who makes you the decider of what is consistent with Scripture or not? For someone who rejects men who are much smarter than yourself, by rejecting commentaries, you can't expect us to take you very seriously.

Rhett said...

Gordan,

Funny thing... I never even got an email about the "challenge", yet my name and address appears on this fellow's site as if I had a clue he was pulling this stunt. (The first I heard of it was when you emailed me about it!!)

The whole tone and way J.C. is handling this challenge is actually a big incentive for me to ignore it altogether and let him continue to go around tilting at windmills. In spite of all that, I am working on a response...

Oh Yeah, I'd love to see the debate with James White too!

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Rhett, sorry the email never got to you, maybe I mis-copied it. I sent it to rhettswhips ATTTT a site named for some guys in a Jonathan Swift novel.

White actually had Escobedo write me with the answer. Their conclusion: Revelation is not a didactic book, and therefore is not authoritative as books that are (e.g. Romans & John). That was it. Kind of a lackluster answer from such a good author (you know that whole "all scripture is inspired" thing). I give a response to it on my pages concerning Rev 22. You can find my debate with one of the guys I mentioned at http://www.indeathorlife.org/debate/taleprologue.php

I'll let you guess which one it is. His ultimate analysis of the passage was that it was an anthropomorphism, though he never specified for what.

I lost the other email with the other guy, but it is hardly worth publishing. He relied almost solely on appeal to authority (which I've even read another Calvinist complain about him doing) and never actually addressed my question :(

Josh, as I indicated in my email, I don't reject commentaries entirely, though I don't rely on them either, I don't think I'm smarter than generations of writers combined (probably substantially dumber than many of them), but they are not my teachers, for I have only one true teacher. Also, quotes and ideas from any commentary you like are welcome if you write a response.

Gordan (got the spelling right this time!), thanks for the advice. I try to sneak a bit of humor into my stuff every now and again, though it's very subtle. My sense of humor is...bizarre. Though today at work I came up with a way they could have made Star Wars Episode 3 better:

Anakin: "If you're not with me, you're my enemy!"
Obi-Wan: "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."
Anakin: "Are you absolutely sure?"

Anyway, it's good talking to you guys. I don't know if you're a native to the area Rhett, but I'm also a from the South (Mississippi).

Bob Hayton said...

Hey guys, thanks for the kind words. I work nights so I can't always follow discussions as closely as I might like to.

I left a response on Gordan's second challenge response post on his incredible blog, which focuses on what Scripture tells us about how to view those who do appear to fall away.

One other thing about the challenge, he says you can't really harmonize or explain passages away. A seeming contradiction is a real contradiction. But then he does that very thing himself with 1 Pet. 1 "kept by the power of God through faith". Ultimately we all need to aim to be honest with all the Scriptural evidence and do our best to avoid pitting passages against each other. The Biblical message should harmonize well, this is all part of rightly dividing the word of truth.

I wish JC would interact with 1 John 2:19, too.

Anyways, this discussion has been interesting and I pray we all are prodded along into a more heartfelt trusting on Jesus' alone for our eternal acceptance with God.

Blessings from the cross,

Bob

Scribe said...

Secondly, and if trying to refute a specific view makes me narcissistic

Your parlance towards theological frameworks that you vehemently oppose make you narcissistic.

Exhibit A:

8/7/2007 - Put the hit on the Reformed Mafia, Rhett Kelley, Josh Hitchcock, Gordon Runyan, Sam Meza, Seth Fuller, Douglas Mabry. I might also add Trevor Almy of Reformed Orthodoxy, but I couldn't find his contact info.

Exhibit B:

February 2, 2007 - The Cowardly Lion[sic] gets tamed in my Rebuttal to "The False Gospel of Conditional Security".

Exhibit C:

J.C. Thibodaux biblically thrashes infant damnation fanatic[sic], K.B. Napier.
Exhibit C:

Unconditional Security proponent and debater Kent Brandenburg gets hammered in debate that took only 2 posts.

I sense gratuitous pride and arrogance...hence my comment on your narcissicism.

Need we any further witnesses?

Scribe said...

Obi-Wan: "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."

Obi Wan was a post modern? [[goes into a secluded corner to weep bitterly]]

Hey J.C....can you update your website given the fact that some of us have responded to your charges?

Scribe said...

Hey Bob...thanks for your thoughtful insights...it's a pleasure having you meander around the "Mafia" ;D

Bob Hayton said...

It's been fun, just don't tell my fundy friends I've been hanging out near the mafia's stills!

Scribe said...

Bob...your secret is safe with me, LOL!

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Cute. Yeah, yeah, motive accusation is the first tool of those with no case.

A. You guys use the word 'hit' in a similar context all the time, forgive me for stealing your pun.

B. A person who makes sweeping accusations of heresy then insist on not backing them is cowardly; it's called unfounded accusation: spade == spade.

Ca. Did you actually read that guy's article? He truly is a fanatic. My response was actually rooted a bit more in emotion than most of my articles, but it wasn't pride...

Cb. Brandenburg bragged quite a bit about his debate, a little humble pie won't hurt him. I didn't put my name in the title, but I can't help if you don't like the language I employ for my introductions sometimes.

D. You're sure quick to throw such an accusation (I wish I could sense motives through HTML). But for sake of argument, you are free to assume that I'm the most narcissistic jerk on planet earth, which has absolutely zero bearing on the argument itself. God bless!

Bob Hayton said...

JC,

I don't blame you for emotion in your response to Brandenburg! I feel for you. He is a ferocious opponent. I should know! He would as vociferously oppose our position as yours, though. He's a strict fundamentalist with his own extremely modified, Calvinistic-like view. He eschews the words Calvinist and Arminian alike.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

Joshua, if you want to prove us wrong about the accusations of your prideful mentality, it won't be with coments like the one you have just written. The wording you use is very prideful. All I am doing is admonishing you to use more edifying words than hammered and thrashed. Saying you hammered another believer or thrashed him, I do not believe is very glorifying to God...Just a thought...

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Ah yes, argument by outrage. You know, I know not a few people who'd find Gordan's Homer with a small brain picture a bit offensive in that context (can you say 'Raca'). It didn't bother me. But if you wish to preach about non-mushy descriptive metaphors...well, need I say more?

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

what's your deal man...we have been showing you exegesis....thats all you wanted, so update your site, and go challenge some other folks. We will deal with your assertions one at a time. There is no need for further commenting here.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

In fact, send your challenge to amohler@sbts.edu

Scribe said...

Cute. Yeah, yeah, motive accusation is the first tool of those with no case.

I was merely stipulating why I thought you were rather narcissistic... We've not interacted, how know ye what I have outside of assumption?

A. You guys use the word 'hit' in a similar context all the time, forgive me for stealing your pun.
I see your point...though I do not see why you wish to engage in this discussion/debate as you will neither convince us nor we you.

B. A person who makes sweeping accusations of heresy then insist on not backing them is cowardly; it's called unfounded accusation: spade == spade.

Perhaps...but I feel that you are merely being perjorative for the sake of some egotistic trip...though I could be wrong.



Ca. Did you actually read that guy's article? He truly is a fanatic. My response was actually rooted a bit more in emotion than most of my articles, but it wasn't pride...

No I have not nor am I familiar with him. You would know better than I would...

Cb. Brandenburg bragged quite a bit about his debate, a little humble pie won't hurt him. I didn't put my name in the title, but I can't help if you don't like the language I employ for my introductions sometimes.

D. You're sure quick to throw such an accusation (I wish I could sense motives through HTML). But for sake of argument, you are free to assume that I'm the most narcissistic jerk on planet earth, which has absolutely zero bearing on the argument itself. God bless!

True, but I've not so much as called you a "jerk"...are you hyper-emoting?

Scribe said...

Hey J.C...let's "bag" the Ad Homs. and move through the real issues at hand, k?

Rhett said...

I have posted my reply...

Rhett said...

...on my Rant blog that is!

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Alright gentlemen, then at Josh's request I will conclude my posting here. Josh, thanks for the email address, I assume that's Albert Mohler. Scribe, you're free to at any time. Like your avatar btw, Vincent was always my favorite FF7 character even before the movies/quasi-sequels came out. Actually a big fan of the series myself (I'm not a geek -- I'm THE geek). And Rhett, thank you for your answer, I'll update soon as I can. God bless!

Scribe said...

. Scribe, you're free to at any time

Nope...not going to call another brother a jerk. ;D

Like your avatar btw, Vincent was always my favorite FF7 character even before the movies/quasi-sequels came out. Actually a big fan of the series myself (I'm not a geek -- I'm THE geek).

Isn't Vincent the coolest FF7 character? He needs his own cinematic debut. I just wish Square -Enix would remake FF7 on the PS3...now THAT would be cool!

Your fellow "geek",
Scribe

David B said...

Hello brothers. This is Dave Block from Apostate Arminian. Perhaps you have seen my name somewhere; maybe on the very same hit list of Mr. Thibodau? Yes, I received the very same email and challenge as all of you and, I must say, I was planning on responding back. Now that I have seen your responses and his, I have nothing to respond to. You have said everything that I was going to say. So since your comments have seemed to hit the impenetrable wall of eisegesis, I don't think my guns will have much effect either. Josh, if you read this, I'm sorry buddy, but I'm not going to jump down this rabbit hole. I'll let the mob handle this one.

Keep up the good work, men. You're welcome to visit our hole in the wall, anyday. Will keep the good stuff for ya.

gordan said...

David,

Welcome to the Speak-Easy, on behalf of the rest of the Mafia.

You got lumped-in with us: that either means you're doing something right, or something wrong...

It's always good to find a new "friendly" though! God bless.

Gordan