13 September 2005

Found in my e-mail out-box


From: Phil Johnson
To: Andrew M______
Subject: Re: Logical fallacies in "Defeating Darwinism"

Dear Andrew,

Many thanks for your message. You wrote:

> Dear Mr Phillip Johnson,
> I have read with interest your book
> called "Defeating Darwinism"

That's not my book. I'm Phillip R. Johnson. The book was written by Phillip E. Johnson, who teaches law at Berkeley. The starting point of my bio at the Web site where you found this e-mail address explains all of this in careful detail.

> Your book was not able to cast
> the slightest doubt in my mind
> that random evolution is and has
> been the primary creative force
> operating on this planet.

I do not wonder at that fact, assuming you read the book with no more care than you took in ascertaining whom you were writing to.

Too bad. It's a pretty good book and would definitely make you think—if you were given to that kind of thing. I recommend you read it again.

Phillip R. Johnson
The Spurgeon Archive

Phil's signature


Kate said...

Priceless! Did you click, "Send?"

:+) Kate

Chris Meirose said...

I think you could make a great "priceless" commercial out of that one.

Big Chris
Because I said so blog

Tony Byrne said...

"I do not wonder at that fact, assuming you read the book with no more care than you took in ascertaining whom you were writing to."

Indeed that is a priceless response LOL. Given the arrogance of the typical Darwinian, it's an apt reply.

I recently attempted my own version of a priceless commercial here: Magic Glasses

Patrick said...


I found you on the Evangelical Outpost's: Know your Evangelicals series.

Oops, wrong Phil Johnshon again ;)

Matthew said...

Ouch. That's got to sting, eh?

marc said...

Dear Philip B.W. Johnson,

I read your book "The Prayer of Jabez". It was great! Thank you sooo much for writing it. My life is changed forever.

A Big BIG Fan

Anonymous said...

I'm sure "the other one" appreciates having you as his e-mail filter.

Do you think he gets email complaints about the use of comic book graphics on his web site? ;-)

Phil Johnson said...


As a matter of fact, Phillip E. Johnson does often get e-mail intended for me. We used to exchange misdirected e-mail frequently, and we corresponded at length a few years ago to try to devise a scheme to halt the confusion. He is very kind, but nothing has worked to keep perople from sending my mail to him and vice versa.

We've stopped forwarding misdirected messages to each other, though, because experience has shown that if someone can't even figure out how to tell us apart, whatever that person has to say isn't going to be very important anyway.

I do have to say, however, that in general, Dr. Johnson's critics seem a lot classier, more literate, and more intelligent than mine. I'm not sure what that means, but there you have it.

puritanicoal said...

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt . . ." Col. 4:6 (ESV).

Is this email an example of what Paul meant by "seasoned with salt?" I have my doubts.

I go back to the bored blog surfer, hitting the "Next Blog" button. He sees, "Pyromaniac" and the citation of Bible verse. "Hmmm, a Christian Blog," the blog surfer thinks to himself. He scrolls down and sees the proud display of verbal sarcasm directed to someone of a different opinion. Then, he looks to the top right corner to see that there is no "Next Blog" button furnished on this site, and smirks to himself, shaking his head. I can't say I would blame him.

Ray said...

I thought it was plenty salty!

Habitans in Sicco said...

Puritanicoal, I'm trying to see your point here, but I don't see anything ungracious in Phil's reply.

And while there's a potent bit of irony inherent in the fact that someone would write to the wrong guy to protest that his book is full of logical fallacies, Phil's reply doesn't strike me as "sarcastic," either. He's polite. He kindly suggests that another reading of the book might do the fellow some good.

It's a fairly soft and mildly humorous reply which (if the guy had enough sense to look in the mirror honestly) might well turn away wrath.

That's how it struck me anyway. It seems to have hit you a whole 'nother way.

So how does one who wants to behave in a Christlike manner answer someone who is both hostile and irrational?

It seems to me that Christ Himself used plenty of sarcasm, name-calling, and verbal put-downs when confronting the pomposity of the Pharisees. I know that's not a blank check entitling us to mock everyone we disagree with. But it does prove that answering a fool according to his folly is not always inherently sinful.

So I'm curious, Puritanicoal: what sort of reply would you think approriate for a message like this? Care to offer a rough draft?

Denise said...

I think many people are too sensitive. Phil's response was a rebuke.

I don't think anyone can claim 'gentleness'(whatever that means) in Paul's response to the Corinthians or the Galatians. He rebuked both sharply, even using sarcasm at some point. God used biting words often in the OT (check out Job 38:1-2 for starters).

Phil wasn't even really sarcastic, just blunt. I think he was fine.

P.S. Phil, what's a "perople" ("He is very kind, but nothing has worked to keep perople from sending my mail to him and vice versa.")? A virus of some sort? A Poxo Upon the Peroples!! LOL. Couldn't resist.

Denise said...

I will admit recently I made an error in saying that someone was a speaker at a liberal college endorsing a Jesuit philosoopher. Turns out the man who was there had a similar last name (an "a" instead of an "o") but was not the man whom I thought I was referring to. (Did that just make sense?) I apologized for that immediately.

Confessional now over.

puritanicoal said...

Rough Draft:

Dear Andrew,

There are two Phillip Johnsons, and I am not the one who wrote the book you are corresponding about. (Optional, if you are feeling like going the second mile) His email address is ________.

Grace to You,

Chris Freeland said...


Don't you think Colossians 4:6 would also apply to nitpicking every single thing a fellow brother does?

Just a thought...

puritanicoal said...


Ignoring the argumentative portion of your familially biased, emotionally-charged rhetorical question; no, that's not what Colossions 4:6 is instructing. Notice the important word in verse 5: "outsiders." It is not talking about my dealings with a "brother."

Matthew Henry says in relation to this verse, and directly on point with my initial comment:

"The apostle exhorts them further to a prudent and decent conduct towards all those with whom they conversed, towards the heathen world, or those out of the Christian church among whom they lived . . . for evil communications corrupt good manners; and to do not hurt to them, or increase their prejudices against religion, and give them an occasion of dislike. Yea, do them all the good you can, and by all the fittest means and in the proper seasons recommend religion to them."

Just some truth.....

Phil Johnson said...


I do appreciate your feedback. You've been a regular reader and frequent, thoughtful commenter at my blog, so you have every right to challenge me. I'm grateful for the admonition and the spirit in which I think it was given.

By way of explanation: There was a larger context to my exchange with this fellow.

The guy was not an atheist or someone hostile to religion. He called himself a Christian, and he insisted there was no conflict between his "scientific belief" in evolution (which he insisted was based on fact and fact alone) and his "religiou belief" in Scripture (which, to me, sounded suspiciously similar to unbelief).

The points he was making (very poorly, I might add) were the exact points Dr. Johnson's books have systematically dismantled. He clearly had not read the book with anything resembling care or thoughtfulness.

But his message to Dr. Johnson was a long, tedious, rationalistic, and condescending diatribe about Dr. Johnson's supposed "logical fallacies," offering no actual argument of his own and certainly no evidence for his view. But he capped it all with this pronouncement:

"My belief in evolution is based on fact, including that from both the bible and from scientific research, and fact alone. I hope that you are also able to come to the logical conclusion rather than stick to a pure creationist hypothesis which has little plausibility and has been shown by extensive evidence to be false. To stick to a hypothesis after this long would be to show an extremely closed mind and to cast a bad impression on Christianity. This can ultimately only reduce the number of people who can be saved and increase the resistance to religion that is becoming alarmingly prevalent around the world."

It occurred to me, and still seems right, that Paul's words in Titus 1:9-13 applied to this situation, and the fellow needed a sharp rebuke. I did try to be polite and measured in what I said, but it was, after all, meant as a rebuke. I still think that was fitting. I suppose someone with a sterner constitution than mine might even argue that my rebuke wasn't sharp enough.

Some of the more outspoken defenders of the faith might likewise be inclined to make a reflex judgment that any reply like the one you drafted above sounds just a little bit wimpish or too spongy for a rascal like this guy. Allowing for differences in people's personalities, I think we should all be slow to accuse one another for sin over things like this. I'm sure you would agree.

And the point I think you are making is also an important one that we should all heed and remeber: "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell" (James 3:5-6).

puritanicoal said...


First, let me say, if Paul was the chief of sinners, I am the chief of spouting off sarcastic remarks, and have hit "send" on a few emails that I wish I hadn't of. So, I am not saying I think your email was a "sin." The truth that a person notices the things in others that they too are guilty of applies to me in this situation.

That being said, I am glad you took my comment in the spirt in which it was presented. I mean really, do you want a bunch of "Way to go Phil" comments, or do you want to spark intelligent conversation? I am sure you want the latter. Anyone reading these comments, I think, will come away with a well-rounded Biblical view of how to respond to "outsiders."

Jeremiah Johnson said...

Way to go Phil.

Daniel said...

Perhaps the verse people were looking for was:

"A Word Fitly Spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
- Proverbs 25:11

John R. said...

There's always more to a story--background, unknown facts, etc. More of the background info that came in the comments was interesting and helpful.

Blogs are supposed to be entertaining, provocative, witty, and brief (somewhat brief)...Right?

And how can you know the "spirit" in which something is given when so much of that "spirit" is communicated by means that a computer screen cannot relay?

Personally, I like to see a naturalist's dogma get a jolt, but I also know we have to be careful to make the offense come from the Cross--and not from us.

Anyway...Give the Darwinians a nice boot to the head.


Chris Freeland said...

For the record, my comment has nothing to do with my familial relationship and everything to do with Christians who love to talk about grace, but refuse to use it in their dealings with one another - especially other Christians.

I don't know you, so I don't know if you fit into that category on a regular basis. But I read a lot of Christian blogs, and am sick and tired of the two or three guys on each blog that seem to only read the blog in hopes that they'll be able to find things to nitpick, and for ways they can rebuke the author for not being "Christian" in his approach.

Seems to me that if those guys want to be truly Scriptural in their approach, they'd approach him privately before approaching him publicly, huh?

John R. said...

Woops, sorry to double comment...

Maybe the recipient of Phil's response was not a naturalist. But seriously confused...


Scott Hill said...

Has it ever crossed your mind that an unbeliever might stumble across this site, read Phil's blog and say, "Hey Christians aren't all push over wimps that walk around scared of thier shadow."

Jeremy Weaver said...

Hey, Phil,
I for one liked your response. I just think there are some people out there with beams in their eyes trying to pick the splinter out of yours. They usually just end up knocking you around with their beam though. That's gotta hurt.:-)
BTW, shouldn't we always find out the whole story before we start spouting off?

puritanicoal said...


This is a blog. People debate publically on blogs. I went back and re-read my initial comment, and I believe it was laced with sufficient grace. By having a blog, Phil is, by definition, asking for public responses to his posts. I am not one of the people who always has something negative to say. In fact, this is the first time I have challenged anything on this blog. I didn't call Phil a sinner. I simply raised the question as to the appropriateness of the email. He filled in some blanks, threw out some applicable scriptures of his own, and we move on to Wednesday's blog. Another day in blogdom.

Iron sharpens iron.

Read the responses by Habitans and others. Good stuff, and good points. They didn't take it personally.

Chris Freeland said...

"This is a blog. People debate publically on blogs."

My point exactly.

And if you "raise the question of the appropriateness of his email" by citing a Scripture you see him in violation of, how can you not be calling him a sinner?

I'm done hijacking the comment thread. For now. (sorry Phil)

FX Turk said...

Well, THAT wasn't sarcastic.

"if you were given to that sort of thing". Oh Phil: I wonder if he realizes how deeply you have wounded him.

puritanicoal said...

I don't think "hijack" is the word for it. I am thinking of another "H" word....ah, yes....a Hissy Fit.....


Jeremy Weaver said...

I'm still mad! And the sun has gone down! I blame you Puritancoal! :-)
I'm jus' kiddin'.
I didn't mean to lump you in with everyone who regularly looks for some fault in Phil's character. Like his post on being selected for jury duty, someone made the comment to the effect that he should have been witnessing, or his comic book covers, or whatever he writes it seems like everyone points a finger at him and says, "Here's how it should be done."
I'm sure Phil has flaws. But it doesn't seem like he should always have the finger pointed at him on every post!
Once again, I'm sorry to have lumped you in with all those others, (read BHT).

puritanicoal said...

No offense taken, but thanks, nonetheless. Actually, you were right in saying that we should get the whole story before spouting off.

Group hug?

Jeremy Weaver said...


Chris Freeland said...

Doxobiologist said:
"I'm sure Phil has flaws"

Funny you should mention that. After puritanicoal accused me of coming to Phil's defense because he's family, I started working on an expose of the Phil nobody else knows to prove that our familial tie isn't necessarily something to be proud of.

I'm going to enlist Pecadillo's help, and we'll have something posted in the future. Phil may be a theologian by day, but Bubba Hyde comes out at night.

dogpreacher said...

I thought puritanicoal brought up something we should be careful of...I just don't feel it applied here, after hearing... 'The Rest of the Story'.

The only thing I think is just as bad as nitpicking a blog to death, is when someone 'Amens' someone on one blog, and then the same person 'Amens' the post on another blog where the thoughts are 180 degrees (or at least 90...left..)the other direction.

Do you remember those school days when you just wanted to fit in, and be thought well of by the important people?...hmmm...

Phil Johnson said...

Let me just say that I do agree with everyone who has commented on this post.

What amazes me is how the biggest controversies in the history of this blog are all attached to the shortest posts.

Is it that the perennial critics just don't read the longer posts because the words-to-pictures ratio is too high?

Or is it that when I take time to explain myself more carefully and qualify everything to death, it's harder for my critics to take a poke at me?

Or do short-and-pithy posts just make people angry?

It's an intriguing phenomenon. I'm posting a longer entry tomorrow, because I have a busy day and won't have time to answer a lot of riled-up people. Perhaps sometime before week's end, I'll have time to post a short message that will give everyone an opportunity to engage in a real brawl.

In the meantime, please play nice. Darlene is starting to worry about my safety.

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

Well done, Phil.

Evolution. Continuing to have man make a monkey out of himself since Psalm 14:1-2.

On a related note (regarding sarcastic comments), what do you folk think of Paul's...uhmmm... 'suggestion' that the folks whom he called the agitators would 'go the whole way and emasculate themselves' in Gal. 5:12 ?

Or Elijah in 1 Kings 18 making fun of the prophets of Baal ? Is there a legit time for 'Christian sarcasm' while rebuking or defending the faith ?

Aspiring Girl said...

when it comes to sarcasm, just make sure you're clear on it. It can do more harm then good which totally kills the joke.