13 August 2005

Some reading material for the weekend

Here are two items to help fill your weekend:

  1. Carla Rolfe ponders how to respond to an influential "Christian apologist" who claims universalism is perfectly compatible with the fundamental truths of Christianity.
         The guy acknowledges that universalism is unbiblical. But he insists it's an error that doesn't impinge on any essential doctrine of Christianity. Therefore, he says, it's a "difference of opinion" that ought to be tolerated within the circle of our Christian fellowship.
         I agree with the concerns Carla has raised. Universalism is a denial that God must be feared and believed by those who will be saved, and that absolutely is the most arrogant sort of repudiation of one of the first and most fundamental teachings of Scripture: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
         The error Carla has highlighted illustrates once again the folly of thinking the fundamental doctrines of Christianity can be reduced to a short list of five.
  2. For those with a craving for more controversy about politics and evangelical priorities, mosey over to Triablogue (still one of my very favorite blogs), where Jonathan Felt, AKA Jus Divinum, has kept up his nattering critique of my position on the church and politics.
         Despite my original resolve, I have responded to him at length a few times. In fact, there has been quite a lot of back-and-forth on this issue over at Triablogue this week. Hard to say whether there's been much real progress in the discussion. You decide. Here are some highlights:
    • Jus Divinum followed up his "Neo-Pietism or Ostrich Evangelicalism" with "Ostrich Evangelicalism, Indeed," another very long screed in response to my post last Saturday ("Roast PyroManiac au Jus"). In that post a week ago, I made a slightly derogatory reference to the long-windedness of JD's fulminations against my views on political activism. Apparently, the fact that I even noticed actually encouraged him to step it up. He called my previous responses to him a "perfunctory brush-off" and threatened to reveal that I am guilty of promoting "Popcorn piety and drive-thru-sanctity" if I didn't cut out the snide remarks about the verbosity of his posts.
    • I responded to his second "Ostrich Evangelicalism" post with a brief summary of why so many of his arguments have missed the mark, leaving me less than passionate about answering his logorrhoea line for line.
    • JD responded with "a fairly short reply" in the same comment thread.
    • Then he added "Further Comments on the ECB Dispute," where for one brief shining moment, he seemed to catch a glimpse of the fact that my position might not quite be precisely what he had been arguing against.
    • Perhaps I ought to have let the issue lie there, but JD replied with yet another analysis of the post I made last Saturday here at PyroManiac. In his reply this time, "Slippery Slopes and the Genetic Fallacy," he suggested that my use of the term ecumenism is ambiguous. He proposed two possible meanings, and cited John Frame against the "Slippery Slope" fallacy.
    • In retrospect, that would have been a good place to let him have the final word. Instead, I replied with a short comment clarifying what I mean by "ecumenism," and answering one of his commenters who seemed to caricature my position as the fear that "if a believer gets involved in any type of political activism, that they will consequently drop their faith like a dirty shirt." In my comment, I spelled out once again—this time in a four-point list—what my real concerns are.
    • For good measure, I posted a reply to a rare short post by JD. (He later complained that my comment was no answer at all, but I still think if JD would mine the implications of the comment I left, instead of scolding me for not technically answering the question he posed, there are some important points in what I said.)
    • After a relatively long period (a day and a half) of silence on the issue, JD came back with "Scattered Replies," in which he replied, among other things, to my two previous comments.
    • Meanwhile, the ever-imposing Steve Hays, who had been mostly silent through all of this, weighed in with a severe scolding against those who "are whining about the word-count of what JD and [Steve] write." His ire was directed in particular against "someone who raises objections, and then blows off anyone who addresses the objections he himself has raised."
    • I'm pretty sure I have been the chief "whiner," so I couldn't resist a comment or two in self-defense. Steve replied that the "someone" to whom he referred was not the PyroManiac.
    • JD jumped in at that point with a post that began, "Give me a break!" and went on to give me another scolding, in which he resurrected some misunderstandings that I thought had already been put to rest. ("You're a critic of ECB, whether or not you use the term.")
    • At this point, I threw up my hands, caved in, and replied line by line to JD's tirade.
    • Then I replied in similar detail to the first half of his "Scattered Replies" post.

    I'm inclined at this point to let JD have the final word, no matter what. I don't have endless reservoirs of spare time for that sort of drawn-out disputation. But I reserve the right to pull a Bill O'Reilly and try to get the last word in anyway—especially if JD falls back on a caricature of what I believe rather than responding to what I have actually said. We'll see.
Phil's signature


Tony Kummer said...

Sounds like a circus, blog-debates often are.

DWright said...

My $0.02:

If the debate is not going along constructively, best to disengage.

For example, I have benefitted very much from http://aomin.org/, but I think it would be an even more beneficial place if James White were quicker to give up on "proven" unconstructive debate partners.

I guess I don't want to say that about triablogue (proven unconstructive) just yet. But from your summary of things, I don't think either of you is going to profit much by continuing much longer (and thus the reader probably will not profit much either).

Well, that's as much as my $0.02 is worth.

Denise said...

No, there is no such thing as a "Christian" Universalist. Universalism really does reject the heart of the gospel.

To deny the existance of hell for people (and liars in particular--those who by holding to Universalism ARE calling Jesus a liar every time He preached on hell and God's coming wrath:

Rev 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

SJ Camp said...

No one ever "wins" a debate with a theonomist--it's a theological black-hole brother. Don't get drawn into their rhetoric. Move on... you have more important things to do for the Lord.

Triablogue is really one of your favorite blogs? Are you lost in "The Purple Hayes?" Follow the light--run toward the light... :-).

Grace and peace,

Steve said...

Well, Phil, this is probably going to appear simplistic, but I'm determined to keep this short and don't feel this really deserves extended comments. But I've skimmed through much of the dialogue, and here's my take on what JD is saying: The point from which he is trying to build a big case for a cultural mandate is a rather weak one (Genesis 1:28); he apparently is unable to see how your broad yet succinct responses even apply to his arguments as a whole (he repeatedly accuses you of mischaracterizing what he's saying largely because you're not interacting with his PRECISE words, but with his general concepts, and thus, as you say, he is missing the mark); and he's reading totally unintended meanings into your statements (for example, he seems to pretty much have written you off as dismissing the Christian's responsibility to government when you never said that in the first place). As I read JD, I am reminded of those who have retinitis pigmentosa--that is, tunnel vision that is able to see only a tiny portion of an entire context at any given time, thus making it difficult for the person to interact adeptly with the big picture or the general context of the issue at hand.

I also find the title of Colson's article problematic: "Reclaiming Occupied Territory." Colson correctly sees the world as occupied territory. But where do we ever see a mandate in Scripture to RECLAIM that occupied territory? Here's what's fallicious, in my mind, about JD using Genesis 1:28--it's a pre-fall passage. Can we legitimately appeal to Genesis 1:28, a command given before the fall, as a cultural mandate for a post-fall world? If such were the case, I suspect we would have seen a statement or more to that effect in the Scriptures. We could examine a large number of examples, but perhaps the prime one is the fact we do not see Jesus or His disciples doing anything that could be construed as reclaiming occupied territory from a political standpoint. They respected the governing authorities, and did not attempt to bring about moral reform through political means. And when Jesus gave His final instructions before His ascension, there was nothing stated that even hinted of a cultural mandate.

There's no question Scripture calls Christians to be responsible citizens. We're to be role-model examples to the world. We're to be salt and light, and exhibit love and grace to our neighbors and even our enemies. But we also have to realize that we are merely sojourners in a fallen and occupied world, and so far as I can tell, Scripture hasn't told us to reclaim that occupied territory. Instead, we're to proclaim the gospel so that people might be claimed for God's kingdom. As Erwin Lutzer has observed, the world simply has no interest in abiding by the moral standards set by the Bible and lived out by Christians. You aren't going to change people's minds about abortion, homosexuality, etc., until they've had a change of heart. That's the church's calling--to help change hearts. That can only be done through the gospel message, the one true agent of change. Only when people's hearts are changed will their minds change.

I know I'm going to be accused of vastly oversimplifying the matter at hand with the very basic arguments stated above. There's more I could say in terms of finer points and specific applications...but that's not my purpose here.

Based on the strongly positive and constructive response you've gotten to your blogs over the last couple months, I'd say it'd be a terrible shame for you to have to spend less time providing instruction and encouragement here on PyroManiac on account of having to expend so much energy on reasoning with someone who "isn't getting" what you say, and who insists on making your words say things you never said. I wouldn't be surprised if many readers of the ongoing debate have simply tuned out by now and are eager to move on. I agree with nelmezzo's comment regarding James White. He spends too much time in unconstructive debate that has gone on for far too long when he could, instead, be building up those who genuinely desire to learn. After you've given it your best shot, there just comes a point where it's better to let go. For some reason JD doesn't seem to be interacting with your comments head-on, and thus his "refutations" aren't wholly credible. It's futile to carry on a debate when that happens.

In another context, Spurgeon wisely said, "Are you striving to do good, and do others impute wrong motives to you? Do not be particular about answering them; just go straight on, and your life will be the best refutation of the calumny" (C.H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, vol. 2, p. 35). Again, that was stated in response to a different context, but I'm sure it's easy to "fill in the blanks" to make the parallel to this situation here.

SoccerReformer said...

There are people God raises up to do theological heavy lifting in His church and I firmly believe Phil is one of these people.

He clearly has the head, stomach and passion for these kinds of discussions and its important that there are people like that. fighting these battles Say what you will about the Net and blogs, but there's no doubt there are spiritual babes out there who need to be exposed to truth. It can make such a difference in how greatly they glorify God during their time on earth. The web is one very viable way for them to be exposed to the truth (especially remembering that the alternative is to leave such a powerful medium to everyone else).

So while there is a point where individual debates lose some of their pertinence or usefulness, it is a worthwhile thing to have them and I think we should be thanking God and fellowshiping in prayer with Him about Phil's very real service in this area.

I won't go into a lot of detail but I remember a Sunday afternoon several years ago where I watched Phil engage, with tears in his eyes, a man who had been led astray by a group of false teachers. The man was demonstrating with these people outside of Phil's church and it was then I really saw that Phil's penchant for debate over these issues isn't borne from a love of controversy or the thrill of scoring theological argumentation points. Rather, he really cared about the man, and many other men and women he's been put in a unique position to interact with in person and through cyberspace.

So while it may sometimes devolve into circular arguments, I for one and thankful Phil is out there running laps for us.

Phil Johnson said...

Ok, well this is sure to put me in an awkward position. It will seem self-contradictory to some. And it will ultimately furnish people on all sides with ammunition that could be used against me. But I feel compelled to say a word in defense of the Triablogue guys.

First, thanks to several of you for your kind comments and your expressions of support for me. I sincerely appreciate it.

At the same time, I want to correct a wrong impression I may have given some of my readers.

Triablogue is one of my favorite blogs, and has been for a long time. In the year or so that I've been reading Steve Hays's posts, I have derived hours of edification, instruction, and pleasure from watching Steve systematically dismantle the facile arguments of Dave Armstrong, unmask the fallacies of Jonathan Prejean, expose the stupidity of J.P. Holding, patiently critique the New Perspective, and put to silence dozens of theological miscreants of every imaginable variety—from the slick professionals to the ham-handed amateurs. He does this daily, tirelessly, with grace and good humor, and with indefatigable courage.

I can't read everything Steve writes, for the simple reason that I can't read as fast as he can write. But never have I spent a quarter-hour reading something he wrote and come away thinking I had wasted my time. I've never seen him post anything that I thought was utterly stupid, even if I didn't completely agree with him. He's unusually careful and precise. He's able to deal with an amazing breadth of issues.

When Steve pointed out this week that he always answers direct questions directly, that was not an arrogant boast. It's the truth. He's a worthy opponent in a debate. But much more fun to have as an ally.

Yes, Steve is a theonomist and I'm not. But (with the possible exception of the Church-and-politics skirmish) Christian Reconstructionism is not an issue that comes up very often at Triablogue. (In fairness to Steve and "Jus Divinum," even in their dialogues with me, the subject of theonomy rose to the surface mainly because I first made it an issue, not them.)

My breezy box-score on the politics debate was an attempt to give a recap that was sympathetic to my own perspective, of course, but with a dash of wry humor. I'm not provoked at them. Though it may appear that I gave an exhaustive play-by-play, I left out a lot of detail, and I'm sure Jonathan Felt will soon point out every detail I omitted in one of those dissertation-length catalogues of my "fallacies." I'm bracing for it.

I have enjoyed the discussion with them. They've made me think and rethink. I'm not going to change my opinion. I ceased being personally interested in political activism when I was converted 35 years ago, and my attitude toward politics is probably a metaphor for the way most reformed drunks think about liquor.

For the record (because a commenter at Triablogue raised this question), my attitude toward political activism does not reflect any secret left-leaning tendencies. Before my conversion, I co-founded a chapter of the (very conservative) Young Americans for Freedom at my high school. That was long before political conservatism was in fashion, even among mainstream evangelicals. Several of my best friends were members of Billy James Hargis's Church of the Christian Crusade in Tulsa. I was technically a member of the religious right in its embyonic form. But not one of my Christian friends ever spoke to me about Christ. They wouldn't. I was a member of a liberal denomination (the UMC), and they did not want to jeopardize our partnership. I nearly lost my soul because of their ecumenical approach to political co-belligerence. When I came to Christ, I was deeply impressed with the truth that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God, and politics has never been very appealing to me since. I'm not about to go back to it, though I'm as conservative and as opinionated as ever. I believe I have had a far better testimony and much more effective ministry by being disentangled from secular politics. I've never had second thoughts about leaving politics behind.

I am going to have more to say on the subject. So will Jus, I'll wager. But in the meantime, I want to make it clear that I am not trying to sour anyone's attitude toward the Triablogue guys, and I would hate to see that happen even accidentally. Steve Hays in particular is one of the most important voices in the Christian blogosphere and (when he is not beating the drum for the religious right) I nearly always find myself in agreement with him.

I posted my summary of the church-and-politics discussion because I think both the subject and the thread about it at Triablogue are interesting and thought-provoking. My hope (expressed in the header) is that people will actually read it for themselves, not that someone would read my summary and assume it contains everything they need to know.

Steve said...

Phil, I most definitely did not come away with a wrong impression at all. Your respect for the guys over at Triablogue came through loud and clear.

I trust you when you say it's true that Steve will give a direct answer to a direct question.

But I didn't see that to be the case in your discussions with JD. I skimmed through the dialogue (not your box-score summary, but the full-length discussions) between you and JD a SECOND time--just to make sure I hadn't come to hasty conclusions--and I still stand by my contention that at times he didn't engage you directly (or correctly). So don't be too apologetic about the matter.

'Nuff said. I prefer to refrain from being drawn any further into the vortex of what's between you and DJ. I look forward to your upcoming articles from your messages at Metropolitan Tabernacle.

SJ Camp said...

Dear Phil:

I too went to the "T" blog and read through pages of “around the barn” comments and meandering which you graciously tried to answer. The simple fact that both Hayes and Jus do not develop their arguments biblically and that they consistently coil other’s words to suit their own purposes or theonomist truth constraints is a concern.

The reason I did not respond to every single question or objection of Jus's is precisely the frustration you are feeling. It is an effort in futility. Better to move on and state your case proactively in the articles you write and hopefully that clarity will communicate much--it has to me and many others. Jus has simply moved over from my blog to yours and unfortunately you took the bait. Jus seems to be well-intentioned, but needs time to mature. Case in point, Steve Hayes, in defending Jus, compared an “8 page response” of his with a “200 page book” that Mac wrote and you edited as if they are equal deserving equivalent merit. Jus, like Steve has done, should get his own blog; but the problem is no one would be listening; which is the theonomists worst nightmare.

Triablogue, on this issue, is not well written, nor is it profitable precisely because of the Theonomist convictions that are foundational to their skewed and long winded confusing responses and to the cheap-shoddiness absent of a developing their arguments biblically. Thus producing the volumes of verbiage unnecessarily that further "knot up the ball of yarn" and draw others into the web of their endless circular thinking.

Lastly, one comment you made on my behalf at the "other" blog stated that you weren't sure what I meant by the ECB acronym. It stands for Evangelical Co-Belligerence. Your quote from the “T” blog clearly defines what this represents: "Political alliances for moral crusades do pose certain dangers. They have regularly and often crossed the line into unholy alliances. Evangelical involvement in politics has advanced the ecumenical cause." That says it very well. I have also cited ECT concerns in regards to ECB as you have done. I hope this helps clarify a bit more what ECB represents.

For the record, and this needs to be said here, I have a great deal of respect and love for my brother and friend, Dr. Al Mohler. The reason that I have included him as part of the ECB inner circle, is simply because he had placed himself in that circle—surprisingly to many of us. Joining Dobson’s board; partnering with Romanist Bill Donahue of the Catholic League in this cause who denies sola fide; his paper, “Standing Together, Standing Apart” clearly embraces and lays out an ecumenical evangelical co-belligerence in the culture wars; and turning a Sunday evening worship service, at his own church, into a political rally is unconscionable by a man of his integrity and biblical acumen. He needs to explain this sea change of his publicly—but he continues to remain silent on all these issues to virtually every one concerned. Contrary to Mr. Hayes’s adolescent and slanderous accusations, I have tried numerous times to contact him, Dobson, Perkins, etc. about these things, but to no avail, before I wrote at length about this issue. I have also copied them on my articles

In closing, it is clear that you must have a friendship with Steve Hayes... by the restrained manner in which he addresses you on this issue compared to myself--I understand that. But as you know, theonomists are a very very small, yet vocally loud, minority on this issue. Their “rants” are not worth the time that good, well-thought, biblical interchange usually affords. Again, I am speaking in specific to this issue.

I do appreciate you brother and again am praying that the hours you have spent on this matter trying to educate Jus and Steve, will be better spent on your own articles which are so appreciated by myself and many others, than further reacting to their meanderings. As Proverbs 26:4 so aptly says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him."

Grace and peace,

MTG said...


I'm calling you Mom and getting the popcorn!

Hacksaw Duck said...

Surphing wrote:
No, there is no such thing as a "Christian" Universalist. Universalism really does reject the heart of the gospel.

Steve J.:
The "heart of the gospel" ("good news") is that an eternal hell will be amply populated? What's the bad news?

Historically, universalists do believe in the "second death." They simply believe that punishments after death are remedial in nature. They have a different interpretation than you.

For that, you would deny them the Christian name? For making God too gracious and merciful?

As for proof texts, a universalist can zing them out there, too (even from Revelation):

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

The difference is that the universalist will not deny you Christian status on the basis of such a disagreement.

Phil Johnson said...

Steve Jones:

1. Universalism doesn't actually magnify God's grace; it sullies the biblical concept of His righteousness.

2. Why should it matter to me whether a universalist would "deny [me] Christian status" or not? If the devil himself offered to embrace all of us into his fellowship, would that somehow automatically make him a good guy?

3. Though you posed your questions to Surphing, I'd like to answer at least one of them: Yes, I deny that universalists are true Christians. That was the point of my post in the first place. Sorry if it wasn't clear. But you have to deny some clear, fundamental truths about the God of Scripture in order to be a universalist. Devising a religion out of your own imagination, in order to suit your own preferences isn't Christianity. Truth isn't determined by what seems "nice" to us. See 2 Timothy 4:1-4.

DWright said...

Well, Phil's reply in the comments put this in a different light for me.
I'll put in some time reading the debate through thoroughly. Also, as I re-read my first comment I realized it was too much a pot-shot at triablogue. I'm sorry about that. Phil did an eloquent job of extolling triablogue. Phil knows what he is talking about, so let his positive assessment stand instead of anything in my comment.

Also, I just wanted to re-emphasize how much I do appreciate James White. His attention to detail (attention to detail being a theme in several comments) has been very beneficial for me as I explored several issues.

Carla Rolfe said...

Phil said "But you have to deny some clear, fundamental truths about the God of Scripture in order to be a universalist. Devising a religion out of your own imagination, in order to suit your own preferences isn't Christianity."

EXACTLY, Phil. This has nothing at all to do with accusing God of being TOO merciful, as Steve also posted on my blog on this. The god of universalism isn't God Almighty to begin with.

Bhedr said...

Hey Phil listen to your buddy Campi. I thought Jus was a lot of fun but I see him driving a wedge between your true buddy that has honest conviction. Steve or Jus seem to be good salesmen and debaters. Don't let this get personal. I get a kick out of listening to debaters primarily because my brother is a most excellent one and it tickles me; but as Campi said you are heading into a black hole.

Steve or Jus can pick apart your other opponents but it is very possible that he does it for sport. I don't wish to judge him but I just want you to consider this possibility.

A theonomist won't bow before an eternal God because he trusts in his means so I encourage you to leave it. A theonomist is synonomous with a humanist.

Hacksaw Duck said...

Phil wrote:
1. Universalism doesn't actually magnify God's grace; it sullies the biblical concept of His righteousness.

But why should it? Someone might just as eaily argue that the salvation of anyone sullies God's righteousness.

If God wanted to impute righteousness to all rational beings, why would that diminish any of His attributes? Does God need a certain quantity of individuals to damn in order to fulfill His righteousness?

Phil wrote:
But you have to deny some clear, fundamental truths about the God of Scripture in order to be a universalist.

Suppose you're right and universalists end up denying biblical truths about God. Does it come down to having correct viewpoints about things theological that finally makes the difference? Will Jesus declare, "I never knew you, for you thought my Father more merciful than the Scriptures warrant."

That's a pretty weird judgment scenario, Phil. Especially in light of the Matthew 25 scenario, which hasn't a thing to do with believing this dogma or that dogma.

steve said...

Phil and others,

I just spent a little time surfing Steve Jones' blog and some of his links.

He's apparently an apostate. He denies the inerrancy of Scripture. He denies the deity of Christ.

He denies that Scripture presents a uniform view of the afterlife.

So it's utterly meaningless to debate him on universalism or the nature of God since there is no common frame of reference.

Gunner said...

Steve Jones: The reason why the salvation of the elect (who respond with faith in Christ) does not sully God’s righteousness is that (1) God’s righteous justice has been satisfied in Christ’s atoning death and (2) those who trust in Christ are given Christ’s righteousness, with which they can stand before the holiness of God. God’s righteousness is fully intact. He is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:25).

You said, “If God wanted to impute righteousness to all rational beings, why would that diminish any of His attributes? Does God need a certain quantity of individuals to damn in order to fulfill His righteousness?” The biblical fact is that God didn’t and doesn’t impute righteousness to all rational beings. That’s why there’s an eternal hell, and why unrighteous rational beings go there (I don’t say that lightly). Asking what if He did impute righteousness to all rational beings doesn’t advance your argument, biblically or logically. The question is, “What does Scripture say?”

You said, “Suppose you’re right and universalists end up denying biblical truths about God. Does it come down to having correct viewpoints about things theological that finally makes the difference? Will Jesus declare, ‘I never knew you, for you thought my Father more merciful than the Scriptures warrant[?]’” This isn’t about just anything theological. This is about the Gospel. And that makes a difference. No, Jesus won’t declare, “I never knew you, for you thought my Father more merciful than the Scriptures warrant.” He will say, “I never knew you, for you desecrated the righteousness of My Father and you proudly redefined mercy according to your own worldly wisdom. How dare you think that you are more merciful than Us.”

You said, “That’s a pretty weird judgment scenario, Phil. Especially in light of the Matthew 25 scenario, which hasn’t a thing to do with believing this dogma or that dogma.” If the eternal state of human beings has nothing to do with believing any “dogma” (see also: doctrine, truth, Gospel), then salvation is by works. And if it is by works, then boasting is allowed. But God will have no boasting, except for His own, which is deserved. That’s the whole point of salvation through Jesus Christ - the glory of God.

Habitans in Sicco said...

Steve Jones:
But to the wicked God says:
"What right have you to declare My statutes,
Or take My covenant in your mouth,
Seeing you hate instruction
And cast My words behind you?
When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
And have been a partaker with adulterers.
You give your mouth to evil,
And your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother's son.
These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes.
Now consider this, you who forget God,
Lest I tear you in pieces,
And there be none to deliver:
Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God" (Psalm 50:16-23).

steve said...

Assuming that he's alluding to Bahnsen, Rushdoony, et al., perhaps Brian would like to share with the rest of us which of their books he's read (e.g. Institutes of Biblical Law; Theonomy in Christian Ethics, No Other Standard) that has led him to equate theonomy with humanism. Page references would be appreciated.

Efrayim said...


Just for the blog record, I was not trying define your belief or position in regards to ECB over on Triablogue. I can honestly say that I do not your position well enough to make that sort of evaluation.

I was simply trying to comment on the "Slippery Slope Fallacy" which JD had put forth. There is an amount of merit in that theory that I agree with, nothing more.

In fact, if put to the test, I would probably fall on your side of the debate over ECB. It has certainly been my experience and understanding over the years that political activism is not the plan or purpose of the Good News of our redemption.

I am sorry for the misunderstanding. I will try to be more careful in the future when tossing comments out into the ethos.


Hacksaw Duck said...

Yes, I suppose it is meaningless to debate. On this we agree.

The irony is that I'm not even a convinced universalist myself, though I'm open to the idea. What prompted me to jump in is the cocksureness with which some of you declare who and who is not Christian (always based on theological conformity, not on love). Your confidence as judges is striking.

But I realize that my chances of getting the most microscopic concession on anything here are about the same as my taking a trip to the moons Neptune this summer. So I'll leave you in peace.

Mark said...

Steve Jones said, "some of you declare who and who is not Christian (always based on theological conformity, not on love)."

What does the "not on love" statement mean? I assume it means that we should consider individuals Christians based on love. Can you give an example of how to apply this?


GeneMBridges said...


Steve's only criterion for who and who is not a Christian is ethical, not doctrinal. He's a self-styled liberal Christian. In a nutshell, what our 19th century theologians generally called "Socinian."

steve said...

Mr. Jones,

1.The reason that debate is meaningless is the lack of a common source and standard of truth. You deny the inerrancy of Scripture. So you’re in no position to regard the Bible as a reliable source of information about the nature of God or the afterlife.

Absent that, it is quite unclear what alternative source of information supplies you with your ideas of divine love and justice. Certainly nature raw in tooth and claw is less than promising for universalism.

2.“Love” is a highly value-laden notion. NABLA defines child-rape as love.

3.The Bible lays down certain criteria for a credible profession of faith, such as belief in the Incarnation (1 John) and sola fide (Galatians). So Philip Johnson is both entitled and obligated to judge as unbelievers those who fail to meet these elementary conditions.

4.Again, I realize that you would be unimpressed by (3), because you are unimpressed by Biblical authority.

But if you have a low view of Scripture, the logical consequence is not to be more generous with the title of “Christian,” but to do the honorable thing and drop out of the race.

5.Why are you bothered by who we judge to be Christian or not?

If everyone is going to be saved anyway, then what does it matter who is or is not a Christian?

If the Bible isn’t true, then why would you crave a name (“Christian”) that comes from the Bible? Bertrand Russell wasn’t offended at not being called a Christian. Indeed, he would have been offended had he been called a Christian.

Your problem, Mr. Jones, is that you lack the courage of your lack of convictions.

6.You’re also trying to play both sides of the fence, here. For you are also rendering your own value-judgment. Inclusivism is just as judgmental as exclusivism.

You clearly think that Phil Johnson is wrong. Which must mean that you think you are right or more likely to be right. When you deem a universalist to be a Christian, you are applying your own standards. So you have no monopoly on intellectual tolerance.

The difference is that Phil Johnson has a consistent position—as position consistent with his rule of faith.

7. BTW, over on my blog I have written three long reviews of three major books defending universalism. So it isn’t as if I haven’t given your side a fair hearing.

Gunner said...

Steve Jones:

1. Remember that certainty is not inherently arrogant. Although you haven’t specifically said this, you are decrying the “cocksureness” of some as though being sure were a bad thing. But it is not necessarily “cocksure” to be certain about what God has said, and to say so. Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and Paul spoke with certainty. What you have to show is that the other side’s certainty is unfounded scripturally. You haven’t done this.

2. Unless you’re referring to lots of other discussions along with the universalist discussion, it’s inappropriate for you to say that others judge “always based on theological conformity, not on love.” In many peripheral, non-Gospel issues, the people you’re speaking of don’t demand theological conformity (for a concrete acknowledgement of brotherhood). But this is not a peripheral issue.

3. No one is saying that love is unimportant. We’re saying that the Gospel is essential, and that Christian love is fellowship in and an overflow of Gospel truth. And we’re saying that universalism threatens that Gospel truth.

Phil Johnson said...

Here's Tom Ascol's take on the church's role with respect to political activism.

Bhedr said...


Is that where you get your theology from? Books of leaven?

My family would play monopoly years ago and if a move my brother made was called into question we would then check the rules. The rules would teach that his move was incorrect; but he was so skilled in the art of debating that by the time he was finished we were all convinced that he was correct and the rules were wrong. He is a very polished man with quite an inquisitive spirit. These characteristics did help him to become one of the nations best pianists so I give him that.

Steve I am not after fleshly talent in discovering truth. The flesh is profitable for a few things but nothing spiritual.

The English language can only reveal about a third of what the Word of God is. This is why I now seek to spend most of my time Studying a Hebrew/Greek word study and seeking true exegesis. Ironically It was my brother that got me started on this and away from books of leaven. May we both seek YHVH His Spirit and not our humanistic tendencies that seek to justify our moves on the monopoly board.

Bhedr said...

Steve was Constantines Theonomy humanistic or from YHVH? Not in regards to providence but as in his individual theory? I mean if we want to broadbrush it we can safely say China is a Theonomy.

How about England when we rebelled against her and her theonomy?

North or South? Which one?

Wasn't Israel the only one clearly ordained? I am not talking about what man hoped.

Is the Vatican a theonomy? I guess it must be since Dobson and company seek her allegiance.

P.S-Wake up and smell the Romans. Our justices are half Roman as well as Senators. Maybe we are a theonomy since they have to swear an oath to the Vatican BEFORE THEY SWEAR ALLEGIANCE TO ANY OTHER NATION. So maybe you are right being theonomistic is not humanistic. Wake up Steve!

steve said...


I take it from your effortful efforts to duck the question that you haven't bothered to actually read the standard literature on theonomy by Bahnsen or Rushdoony before you indulge in sweeping attacks. That seriously erodes your moral standing.

Steve said...

Phil: Thanks for pointing out the Tom Ascol article. He said it well.

Bhedr said...


You have the habit of trying to make people play on your ballfield which is a weak and insecure way of debating. No I haven't read your books that define your thoughts on Theonomy. I am trying to argue from a biblical perspective yet you never seem to want to. Jesus said men have always been trying to press into His kingdom and seize it. The fact is the only theocracy that has ever existed and was given orders to be so was Israel.

Now please answer my questions that you seem to be ducking while unfairly assasinating my character. Another weakness you have by the way. I will continue to point out your weaknesses yet I will not assasinate your character.
I hope that you will one day see your blind spot and rather glory in your weaknesses so that you will understand that God never uses your means only His.

Bhedr said...


I will grant you! You are a pontificating giant. As i told Jus...if I ever need a lawyer, I will come see you.

....and who is my neighbor?

steve said...


Your problem is that you only read one side of the argument. I have given an exegetical defense of my position on several occasions.

If you haven't bothered to read the standard literature on the opposing position, then the honest and honorable position for you to take would be to reserve judgment since, by your own choice, you are not competent to comment one what you have never studied first-hand.

Phil Johnson, by contrast, has read the standard literature, as well as having participated in internet debate in which both sides of the issue were presented.

So Phil has a right to render a judgement on "theonomy." You, however, by your own admission, do not since you refuse to acquaint yourself with the arguments.

One of the few exegetical questions you ever posed was Jn 18:36. I answered that one. You have responded with deafening silence to the answer.

You posed another one which JD answered. Followed, again, by studied silence on your part.

Bhedr said...

You answered? Where?

Who defines theonomy? You and your books 1st and then we can talk scripture? Did you know Thomas Jefferson used to cut the portions of scripture out that he did not like? Have you studied any on Ben Franklin?

I give you the last slur....

Denise said...

I'm no theologian, I just play one on Paltalk. Just kidding.

Seriously, in the ocean of theology, I'm just a wee ameba. =) Nevertheless, here's my take on what Jones said re: Universalism.

To accept "Christian Universalism" is to deny a few things, a few BIBLICAL things, namely:

God's holiness
God's wrath
God's Word

It is to deny verses like:

Joh 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Heb 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Rev 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

Also see 2Peter and Jude.

Steve Jones,is that enough Scripture for you?

I could go on, but I think these passages are sufficient to show the folly of Jones' ridiculous claims.

Sadly, I've noticed professing Christians who are well-educated, well-read, and look up to as some sort of authority, are also giving room to this view. At the very least they defend such people who say there IS such a beast as a "Christian Univeralist", and they defend the view itself at worst.

I'm finding that the circle of truly biblical Christians to be extreemly small.

Carla Rolfe said...

Surph - you know... if you'd stop being such a colonialist, you might actually make a friend or two.

Just a tip.

Reformation Truth said...


Misrepresentation from Surphing and Christ Alone

Lately there has been a lot of discourse regarding a position I have on Universalism. Two bloggers have taken it upon themselves to write about me and ask "notable" Christians on the Internet about my position. They have published information on the internet against me in their blogs. The problem is that their information is not accurate.
The two bloggers frequent paltalk.com and have the nicknames of Surphing and Christ Alone. Therefore, I am responding for two reasons: 1) legal and 2) to set the record straight.
For those of you who happen upon this article and have been influenced negatively towards me based on what one or both of their blogs have said, I have questions for you?