Vantillian Shadow Boxing – Round One

shadowboxingPaul Manata is in attack mode and frothing at the mouth after he saw the little video I posted from Pastor Kielar exposing the danger of affirming irreconcilable paradoxes in Scripture, which, for the human existent are indistinguishable from every day run-of-the-mill contradictions. You can read Manata’s tirade here and here.  It’s important to keep in mind the definition of paradox used by Van Til and his supporters. Dr. Robert Reymond carefully defines what it is these men mean by paradox: “two truths which are both unmistakably taught in the Word of God but which also cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason….” Keep that definition in mind as we proceed.

In his defense of Biblical paradox, Manata assures us that “the paradox is a paradox only for us.”  He explains,  “It’s analytic, Sean. It results from an unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.”  Note carefully, the paradox which cannot possibly be reconciled before the bar of human reason is due to “an unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.” God just failed to reveal His mind to us in Scripture so as to avoid seeming contradictions stemming from His “unarticulated equivocations.”  That’s reassuring.

Manata goes on with the usual Vantilian bilge about paradoxical for us, but reconcilable for God:

Obviously, the paradox is reconcilable, at least by God. But why think we must be able to reconcile them? The dictionary says nothing about paradoxes needing to be resolved by us.

Indeed, the dictionary doesn’t say anything about paradoxes needing to be resolved by us. I mean, what else can you expect when God is guilty of “unarticulated equivocations” in His propositional revelation to His children.  But how does Manata or any Vantilian know there is no paradox for God? By an appeal to Scripture? Impossible, since according to Van Til “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.” Thankfully, Manata doesn’t want to go quite as far as Van Til here, but he still asserts that for God there is no contradiction; no paradox.  Evidently, and in opposition to the paradoxical and equivocal testimony God has given us in Scripture, we are just to believe there is no paradox for God.

Magic “faith,” divorced from logic and Scripture, becomes the means by which he asserts “there is no paradox for God.” But how can he possibly know this?  Perhaps God either cannot or will not resolve the paradoxes that Manata assures us are the result of “an unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.” Wouldn’t it be better to assume that any so-called “paradox of Scripture” is nothing more than the result of articulated error on part of the interpreter? At what point do Manata’s paradoxes become just regular old contradictions in Scripture? Is there a time limit? Perhaps the antinomies of Scripture are eternal and can never be resolved?

Beyond that, Manata has no way of knowing that the Bible contains even one “unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.” He just assumes it.  Why? Because it’s unarticulated of course. It’s unsaid. It’s just an assertion he and Anderson use to defend their belief that the Bible teaches what appears to be contradictions to us, but for God, not so much. It’s an assertion that’s made completely apart from any Biblical evidence or inference, but it helps them sound all “RE” as they claim to be “rational” to all their colleagues in the faculty lounge for believing in an incoherent Scripture, and equivocating God,  and a contradictory faith (not that Manata hangs out in faculty lounges like Anderson, he just wants to look cool to all his Vantilian blog buddies).

Wouldn’t it make more sense, even as a matter of simple intellectual honesty, to conclude that if Van Til, Anderson and Manata are right and these so-called paradoxes of Scripture are logically irreconcilable, then perhaps God himself is contradictory? There is and can be no warrant in Scripture – since Scripture itself is contradictory – for asserting that God is non-contradictory.

In response to this last objection Manata said, “It would seem that it simply follows from the nature of an all-knowing God.” Would it now? Doesn’t seem that way to me. If Scripture contradicts itself elsewhere, say, concerning the Trinity, the Incarnation, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, particular election and God’s so-called universal desire for the salvation of all, or any other place, perhaps the above assertion that God is “all-knowing” is the result of another “unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer.” God wasn’t really teaching us that He is “all-knowing,” perhaps He just equivocated on the word “all” or “knowing” or both?  Who knows? Since that is evidently the answer to any number of supposed Biblical paradoxes, why not one more?

Of course, in order to be a modern Vantilian, one doesn’t have to resort to accusing God of equivocation in His authorship of His perfect and holy Word. Vantilian David Byron claims that the reason for Biblical paradox is due to the fact that God has failed to reveal the necessary propositions required to harmonize the various truths in His Word. Not exactly equivocation (although it can certainly result in equivocation), just not enough information so that the truths of Scripture might cohere. Consequently, the Trinity may in fact turn out to be The Pentanity: Scripture simply doesn’t tell us about the Mother and the Daughter.  Given that Rome has basically deified Mary, perhaps Benedict and his team of Jesuits should incorporate Byron’s arguments.  Given their track record a Romanist Pentanity can’t be far off.  Can everyone say “Mother Theresa.”  Or maybe it is the Octinity, with the Dutch Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin thrown in.

If that isn’t enough to show the absurdity and blasphemy entailed in defending the idea of Biblical paradox, shall we revisit some of the incredible nonsense — along with outright and open heresies — some of these men have defended all in the name of “biblical paradox”? It is no coincidence that virtually all defenders of the false gospel of the Federal Vision are self-professed Vantilians. It’s no surprise either that virtually all of the Federal Vision opponents that happen to be Vantilians remain utterly incapable of doing anything to stop it’s advance  and instead call the FV men currently disturbing the church “our brothers in Christ.”  I guess one good  paradox deserves another.

Now, for those unfamiliar with Manata, he is well known to Scripturlists as an ubiquitous Internet bully infamous  for viciously lampooning Gordon Clark as the Pablo Escobar of epistemology. Manata compared Clark to a Methamphetamine dealer who cuts his crank (read Scripturalism) with poison and employs John Robbins and others, including yours truly, to push his drug on the unwary.

Admittedly, when I exposed Manata on the Greenbaggins blog for his unconscionable libel against Clark and Robbins, he feigned an apology stating he would remove the offending references, not because it was in bad taste or even sinful, but because he was evidently embarrassed by Lane Keister’s lack of  appreciation for the smear.  Keister, who is a fellow Vantilian (so I guess Manata expected a warmer reception for his so-called “humor”) wrote: “I would certainly not have used that metaphor with regard to Clark, as I certainly did not and do not regard Clark as dangerous.”

Calling Manata out again on his sinful treatment of Clark, who was easily the most important Christian thinker of the last century,  and Robbins, who was Clark’s most able and best known defender, became the catalyst for another tired attack on Scripturalist epistemology.

Steve Hays, one of Manata’s blog buddies and defenders, starts the ball rolling with the following:

How do these accusations follow from a Scripturalist epistemology? How does Sean deduce the existence of Clark, Robbins, and Manata from Scripture? How does Sean deduce the “liable” (libel?) from Scripture. Where does Scripture ever state, either explicitly or implicitly, that Manata libeled Clark or Robbins?

Or is Sean merely opining? But if his opinion falls short of knowledge, then what does Manata have to apologize for?

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Manata libeled Clark. But, on Scripturalist grounds, Manata has no way of ever knowing that Clark is a real person. For all Manata knows, Clark is a fictional character, like Tinkerbell. At most, then, Manata is guilty of libeling a fictional character. Perhaps Manata owes a fictional character a fictional apology. Would that suffice?

Now, I never claimed that one could know that Clark, Robbins, or even Manata exist. Frankly, since the word “exists” can be predicated on everything from hallucinations to Klingons, I would argue that everything exists. Regardless, perhaps “Gordon Clark” was the nom de plume of some ghost writer. I honestly have no way of knowing. Seeing that Paul Manata has posted under the name Tom Bombadil, perhaps Bombadil is really Manata or perhaps both are Steve Hays? The Internet is a funny place. Yet, somehow men like Hays and Manata think that if I cannot account for the existence of a given person apart from Scripture and can’t “know” they exist in the sense of a justified true belief, then any opinion I may have of these men, even if true, is therefore moot.

I have to wonder if these men while claiming to be Christians (something I also cannot know, but can only presume) would agree that Scripture does in fact prohibit false witness along with slander in many places including Colossians 3:8; “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”  So, the question is, does Manata and Hays think Gordon Clark and John Robbins are men? Notice, the question is not do they know they are men? This is important, because Hays is correct, if Manata really thinks Clark is a fictional character, then he can’t libel Clark anymore than he can libel Tinkerbell.

On the other hand, Manata has given no indication that he thinks Clark is a fictional character, therefore if Manata thinks Clark was a man he is under the command of Scripture not to slander Clark  (libel being just slander in written form) and is therefore guilty of sin.

The argument would be simply:

Scripture teaches that slander/libel is sin

Manata slandered/libeled Clark

Manata sinned against Clark

Notice, it doesn’t matter if Manata or I know that Clark is a man or that he exists. If Manata thinks Clark is a man then he is required by Scripture to admit he sinned against Clark, either that or explain how painting Clark as the philosophical equivalent of a crank dealer looking to create a bunch of strung out Scripturalist tweekers somehow isn’t libel.

Years ago Michael Sudduth with the help of another one of Clark’s critics tried to trap Dr. Robbins in a similar ruse. One of Clark’s critics wrote:

If it is not possible for us to know that we exist or to have self-knowledge, as Clark says in response to those who suggest that self-knowledge is a species of extra-Biblical knowledge, how is it possible to know that we are sinners in need of grace? It seems that the latter must presuppose the former.

Sudduth replied:

… I think Clark would say that it is sufficient that you believe it. I believe I heard Clark provide an answer like that on the…Clark and Hoover debate. You believe that you exist and are a sinner, just as you hold opinions on many things. But you know that sinners are in need of grace (because that is in Scripture). So you deduce the conclusion that you are in need of grace. Problem is, I think, that one might ask whether the conclusion is known if it is deduced from two premises, only one of which is an item of knowledge. I agree. This is a problem.

To which Robbins replied:

All men are sinners.

Michael Sudduth is a man.

Therefore, Michael Sudduth is a sinner.

The syllogism is valid. Do you deny that Michael Sudduth is a man? If so, you have a problem.

It matters not that Scripture nowhere says that Michael Sudduth is a man. If you think you are a man, you are required by the syllogism to think that you are a sinner.

The syllogism remains valid however you arrived at the conclusion that Michael Sudduth is a man. If you happen to think you are an angel, Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous. You have excluded yourself from salvation.

It matters not whether you have knowledge or true belief of the minor premise. The conclusion follows. The syllogism is valid.

This is enough to render Hays’ objection sterile and to demonstrate that he fails to even touch Scripturalist epistemology.  Hays and Manata are throwing a lot of punches, but hitting nothing but air.  That’s because Hays and Manata are just game players who like to thump their chests  claiming to have shown Scripturalism to be self-refuting, but are just unwilling to do the work.  To do that, Hays or Manata would have to show that the Scriptures really do teach insoluble paradoxes that are forever beyond the bar of human reason. This would admittedly render the Scriptures, taken in and of themselves and as the axiom or starting point for the Christian faith, contradictory and self refuting because we would know then at least some of Scripture is false.  That’s because one side of any given contradiction must be, and not may be, false.

To refute Scripturalism requires they refute Clark’s axiom and the axiom of the Christian faith; the  Scriptures.

Yet, even when it comes the “full-bucket difficulty” of the Trinity, Manata concedes:

In fact, Anderson went to great lengths to show that there were—so long as the desiderata of orthodoxy is to be prized. So, you’d have to deal with those arguments. Of course, holding to some kind of social trinitarianism can help you with the paradoxical point [see Clark’s groundbreaking treatise on The Trinity – SG], it’s light on the orthodoxy point.

One would have thought that even for these paradox mongers the desiderata of orthodoxy would be that it be first and foremost Biblical.  Evidently not according to the law firm of Manata, Anderson and Hays. They clearly desire something entirely different.

Notice above that these men assert, rightly or wrongly, contradictions in traditional confessional formulations.  I can only assume they’re referring to the Reformed Confessions.  If correct, one would think that rather than imputing errors found in the secondary standards to the Scripture, they would view  the existence of any paradox or apparent contradiction in the traditional formulations as giant clues that more work needs to be done. Didn’t the Confession writers assert that the Scriptures present to the mind of men “the consent of all the parts” and that the meaning of Scripture is “not manifold, but one”?  Evidently not according to Manata, Anderson and Hays.

Perhaps if men like Manata, Anderson and Hays spent more time trying to solve any of the remaining the so-called “paradoxes of Scripture,”  rather than attributing them to “an unarticulated equivocation on the part of the revealer,” they might actually contribute something worthwhile to Christ’s church.  If the traditional formulations need improvement then they should be revised in the light of Scripture. It wouldn’t be the first time in history  confessional statements have been revised. I thought we left the infallible teaching of the church hoax to Roman Catholics.

Stay tuned for round two….

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26 Comments on “Vantillian Shadow Boxing – Round One”

  1. Pulpitpastor Says:

    Sean,
    1.) I was wondering if you have ever struggled with difficulties and seeming contradictions in the Bible, that at this time you have not known the answer for yet of how they are reconciled?

    2.) Also I was curious about Robbin’s response:
    Given his syllogism:

    “All men are sinners.

    Michael Sudduth is a man.

    Therefore, Michael Sudduth is a sinner.”

    I would agree with you that “the syllogism is valid.”

    But in light of Scripturalism epistemology, can the second premise be shown to be true?

    The response given was “Do you deny that Michael Sudduth is a man? If so, you have a problem.” I agree that this would be a problem, since I wonder if Scripturalism’s epistemology could demonstrate this premise is true.

    The statement is made that “It matters not that Scripture nowhere says that Michael Sudduth is a man.” But doesn’t it matter, that the necessary premise “Michael Sudduth is a man” needs to be true in order for the conclusion to be true, that “Michael Sudduth is a sinner”?

    As a younger Christian than you Mr. Gerety, I wonder if it was appropriate of Dr. Robbins to simply leave the truth claim of the second premise to the level of saying, “If you think you are a man, you are required by the syllogism to think that you are a sinner.” Why base the status of the truth claim to nothing more than if the Van Tillians think so, or to anyone’s subjective opinion, intuitition, etc, especially in light of Scripturalism’s epistemology.

    Robbins also said, “It matters not whether you have knowledge or true belief of the minor premise. The conclusion follows. The syllogism is valid.” I know I might have missed something, but isn’t the truth claim important as well in argumentation? I agree the syllogism is valid, but the truth claim of the second premise does matter if the conclusion is going to be shown to be true.

    Or does the conclusion “Michael Sudduth is a sinner” which can be subsistuted as “Sean Gerety is a sinner” according to Scripturalists?

  2. Pulpitpastor Says:

    Woops, my last sentence does not make sense.
    What I mean to say is,

    Or does the proposition “Michael Sudduth is a sinner” or for that manner, “Sean Gerety is a sinner”, “Pulpitpastor is a sinner” not true according to Scripturalism?

    Sorry for this mistake.

  3. Sean Gerety Says:

    1.) I was wondering if you have ever struggled with difficulties and seeming contradictions in the Bible, that at this time you have not known the answer for yet of how they are reconciled?

    I have struggle with many difficulties and seeming contradictions in the Bible. At one time I was a convinced card carrying Arminian. Unfortunately for my Vantilian friends (and, yes, I do have some), my first real introduction to the doctrine of predestination and the faith of the Reformers was Clark’s book by the same title. To make a long story very short, I was ready to use my Bible as kindling if the parts couldn’t be made to fit. After all, the faith of the Reformers is qualitatively and dramatically different to the Christianity I had been taught when I first came to accept Christ out of complete darkness (something Manata and I both have some experience with). Thankfully, and praise be to God, I continued to read Clark and saw that Christianity is indeed a rational system of thought reflective of the rational mind of God, and, as such, the pieces do indeed fit.

    Had someone given me, say, VT’s Intro to Systematics as an introduction to Reformed thought at that point, I’m quite sure I would have thrown my Bible on the fire and would have been convinced that all Calvinsts were nuts. Actually, not long after joining the PCA someone gave me Frame’s “The Problem of Theological Paradox” and I knew right away why Calvinism is in the backwaters of Evangelicalism so-called.

    As for more current struggles, I do find doctrines like the Trinity and the Incarnation extremely difficult simply because they are so difficult. I think Clark toward the end of his life made some real headway here as well. Frankly, I think his books on theology are arguably his most important.

    2.) Also I was curious about Robbin’s response:
    Given his syllogism:

    “All men are sinners.

    Michael Sudduth is a man.

    Therefore, Michael Sudduth is a sinner.”

    I would agree with you that “the syllogism is valid.”

    But in light of Scripturalism epistemology, can the second premise be shown to be true?

    The response given was “Do you deny that Michael Sudduth is a man? If so, you have a problem.” I agree that this would be a problem, since I wonder if Scripturalism’s epistemology could demonstrate this premise is true.

    I have no idea how that premise might be shown to be true? I’m open to argument if you’d like to give it a shot. Frankly, the truth or falsity of the minor premise is not that important. If Sudduth thinks he’s a man he’s required by Scripture to think he’s a sinner. It’s like those who want to *know* they’re saved persons. People often confuse assurance with knowledge, but that’s another story I suppose.

    FWIW Dr. Robbins was asked a similar question per that debate I referenced between he and Sudduth. I think his reply here is spot on as well:

    In the strict sense no one in the twentieth century knows that he is a man, for he has not deduced it from the Bible. (Now perhaps such a deduction is possible, and I would be open to an argument on that point.) It is an opinion we hold. You do not know that you are a man. Your opinion may be true, but unless you can show me the argument, it does not rise to the level of knowledge. If you claim to know that you are a man, please show me the argument. Please do not water down, dilute, or make ambiguous the definition of the word “knowledge.” Don’t blur it with opinion. Don’t bother citing immediate “self-knowledge” or some such notion, for the Scriptures explicitly say: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” What you take to be easily come by, the Scripture says is impossible. Why should anyone believe you rather than Scripture?

    “So if we have the opinion that we are men, then the syllogism I provided [all men are sinners, ___ is a man, therefore ____ is a sinner] is neither absurd nor irrelevant; it is right on target. We may or may not be correct in our opinion, but if we have that opinion, if you have that opinion, you are required to believe that you are a sinner.

    “In addition, Paul in 2 Cor 10:5b tells us that we are to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” and this would include our opinions as well as our knowledge.”

    The statement is made that “It matters not that Scripture nowhere says that Michael Sudduth is a man.” But doesn’t it matter, that the necessary premise “Michael Sudduth is a man” needs to be true in order for the conclusion to be true, that “Michael Sudduth is a sinner”?

    Yes. And I believe the minor premise is true, but since I have no idea how to account for the truth of the statement, Sudduth is a man, I have no reason to raise my belief to the level of knowledge. To do that I would have to redefine what I mean by knowledge. It would be more like an opinion. In that case I would probably be a so-called “Reformed Epistemologist.”

    As a younger Christian than you Mr. Gerety, I wonder if it was appropriate of Dr. Robbins to simply leave the truth claim of the second premise to the level of saying, “If you think you are a man, you are required by the syllogism to think that you are a sinner.” Why base the status of the truth claim to nothing more than if the Van Tillians think so, or to anyone’s subjective opinion, intuitition, etc, especially in light of Scripturalism’s epistemology.

    I think the first part of the above Robbins quote that I left off might be helpful here (I’m sure you’ll let me know if it isn’t):

    “[This] objection is of the same ilk as those who say, How can I obey the Ten Commandments if I don’t know who my wife is . . . The statements and commands in Scripture apply to all our thoughts, whether they rise to the level of knowledge or not. We are to bring every thought into captivity to Christ, that is, into captivity to Scripture.

    “I distinguish–as the Bible and Plato do–between three noetic states: knowledge, opinion, and ignorance. Perhaps [some] do not so distinguish. But why would [someone] not distinguish between knowledge and opinion, or knowledge and ignorance? It seems to me that a refusal or failure to distinguish between these three states can lead only to greater confusion. Knowledge is always true. One cannot know that 2 + 2 = 5. Opinions may be true or false. Ignorance is neither true nor false. What distinguishes a true opinion from knowledge is an account of that opinion: It is giving reasons.

    “Sudduth dared me to provide any passage of Scripture that so defines knowledge. It seems to me that there are many. For example, “Be ready to give a reason….” “To the Law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to that Word, there is no light in them.” “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” All, not some. Hidden, not available to discovery by men. The Scripture is both the content and the account on knowledge.

    Or does the proposition “Michael Sudduth is a sinner” or for that manner, “Sean Gerety is a sinner”, “Pulpitpastor is a sinner” not true according to Scripturalism?

    These are opinions that we have and an opinion is something that may be true, I just don’t know how you would account for it? Per the above, rather than confuse noetic states and surreptitiously raise an opinion to the level of knowledge seems to me, while quite a popular practice, patently dishonest. Of course, the consequence of not holding the opinion that Sudduth, Gerety, Pulpitpastor are sinners, Dr. Robbins makes clear in his argument.

  4. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Sean,
    If there is no paradox for God, as Manata would have us believe, well, then there is no paradox at all!

    Denson

  5. James A. M. Says:

    Sean, I know this is off topic, but could you answer this quick question that I have (that I’m sure you’ve come across many times before)?

    If saving faith is no more than the mere assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel, how would you understand the situtations of apostates like Dan Barker? Since you define knowledge in the way you do, I’ll phrase my further questions in the hypothetical. If a Dan Barker once understood and assented to the propositions of the Gospel, and now no longer assents to the propositions of the Bible, was he ever justified? Is he still justified? No longer justified? It seems to me that you would need to say that if he (as a human) ever really did understandly assent to the propositions of the Bible he would still be saved, even if he no longer assents to them.

    This would be a position that would be very similar to various
    (Dispensational) Non-Lordship Salvationists positions (e.g. the late Zane Hodges and possibily also Charles Ryrie’s view).

    How would you understand such a situation? Or what would be your opinion on it? How many kinds of Scripturalists or Clarkians are out there? I’m really only familiar with the late John Robbins, W. Gary Crampton, you, and the modified Clarkian position of Vincent Cheung (whose works I’m familiar with best).

    Btw, I’m a Van Tillian myself, but have great respect for Gordon H. Clark and appreciate modern Clarkians (even though for the meantime have many disagreements with them/you all).

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    If there is no paradox for God, as Manata would have us believe, well, then there is no paradox at all!

    Hi Denson. If only they attributed their professed belief in a coherent God to His revelation in Scripture. As you know, the problem lies is their little magic formula, or, what I would call the Vantilian sleight of hand. They maintain that while Scriptural truths contradict, at least in the mind of the human existent, since there are no contradictions for God, the contradictions they claim are in Scripture are not really contradictions, they’re paradoxes. And, while they remain paradoxes for us, there are no paradoxes for God. After all, and as Manata said, “The dictionary says nothing about paradoxes needing to be resolved by us.”

    Consequently, what appears to us as contradictions or even paradoxes so-called, we’re assured they’re not real and that these intellectual points of tensions, dissonance and incoherence we might find in Scripture are resolved and relieved in the Godhead. But, of course, they don’t know that either, which is why Frame says this is where faith comes in. Vantilianism is a fraud.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    If saving faith is no more than the mere assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel, how would you understand the situtations of apostates like Dan Barker?

    While I’m mildly familiar with Dan Barker’s story, and, oddly, I recall listening to a debate between him and Manata some time ago, I am not sure why the word *mere* needs to modify assent? I don’t think there is anything mere about assent, but there is nothing in addition to mere belief in order for men to be saved. Regardless, I don’t know why Barker would be any different from say a Sungenis or an Akin or some other convert to Romanism. They too claim to have been “Protestants” once and to have believed the truths of the Reformed faith and even the Christian Gospel at one time too. Do you believe them?

    What exactly does the addition of fiducia or trust add to notitia and assensus that would have made these professions genuine and that would have saved them from their descent into atheism or Romanism?

    Admittedly, some so-called Protestants now Romanists have men like Norm Sheperd and Doug Wilson to thank, but why would I assume these men were ever Christians and understood and assented to the truth of the Gospel? Can someone believe the Gospel and be lost? Isn’t that Arminianism?

    I would say in all these cases, these men at one time professed to believe, but really did not. Didn’t John tell us; “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”

    Since you define knowledge in the way you do, I’ll phrase my further questions in the hypothetical. If a Dan Barker once understood and assented to the propositions of the Gospel, and now no longer assents to the propositions of the Bible, was he ever justified?

    I’m not sure how defining knowledge as a justified true belief (a definition Van Til shared BTW) has any baring on the fact that the man evidently didn’t believe what he claims to have believed. I’ll take him at his word and that he is an atheist who perhaps at one time convinced himself he was a Christian and professed genuine belief in Christ, but in fact did not. How would you account for the Dan Barkers in the world? And, how would the tri-fold definitions of saving faith change your answer?

    Frankly, given what passes for the Christian faith these days, I think it’s easy to pretend to be a Christian. Many are considered Evangelical or Protestant in the most nominal sense (i.e., that they’re not Catholic). Perhaps Barker’s professed belief was in a Christianity that is not even Christian. From what I’ve read, one of Barker’s claims to confirm his so-called Christian credentials is that one of his “Christian songs…was performed by Rev. Robert Schuller’s television choir on the “Hour of Power” broadcast.” I’m sold. How about you?

    Is he still justified? No longer justified? It seems to me that you would need to say that if he (as a human) ever really did understandly assent to the propositions of the Bible he would still be saved, even if he no longer assents to them.

    Why do you presume he ever assented to the proposition of Scripture and the Gospel of Christ? Maybe he genuinely believe another gospel. After all, there are plenty of them out there, some being taught in P & R churches as I write. But, can a man come to believe in Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel and be justified one day and lost the next? Didn’t Jesus say; “no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

    Again, I fail to see how adding fiducia as the sine qua non of saving faith adds anything. Care to explain?

    And, if you don’t mind please being by defining exactly what you mean by fiducia?

    Andy Webb says it’s the emotion of love. Wilson & Co. say it’s action; faith means doing. In either case I would say we are saved by the finished work of Christ completely apart from anything that might be wrought in us, including the emotion of love.

    This would be a position that would be very similar to various (Dispensational) Non-Lordship Salvationists positions (e.g. the late Zane Hodges and possibily also Charles Ryrie’s view).

    I’ve heard that too and in another blog post, Clark vs. The Bogeymen, I think Dr. Robbins dispels this notion.

    How would you understand such a situation? Or what would be your opinion on it? How many kinds of Scripturalists or Clarkians are out there? I’m really only familiar with the late John Robbins, W. Gary Crampton, you, and the modified Clarkian position of Vincent Cheung (whose works I’m familiar with best).

    I honestly don’t know anyone who would mistake Zane Hodges and Charles Ryrie for Scripturalists. However, I think I would to a certain extent include Robert Reymond to your list, with certain minor caveats (see Clark Speaks from the Grave). And, while I very much appreciate much of what I’ve read from Cheung, I don’t think he would consider himself a Scripturalist, although I think he has been greatly influence by Clark. I certainly don’t agree with some of Cheung’s more Charismatic tendencies.

    Btw, I’m a Van Tillian myself, but have great respect for Gordon H. Clark and appreciate modern Clarkians (even though for the meantime have many disagreements with them/you all).

    And I certainly don’t think all Vantilians are that bad either. You seem downright agreeable. 🙂

    — Blessings.

  8. James A.M. Says:

    It’s me Again (Annoyed Pinoy at Triablogue).

    Sean,

    But Clark has noted, the word “faith” or “believe” in the New Testament is the same word. There are no special words in the NT differentiating between genuine “pistis” and false “pistis”. How then do you deal with Luke 8:13

    “8:13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”

    These people seemed to have genuinely believed (at least psychologically. The only way to avoid a blatant contradiction between Luke 8:13 and John 5:24 (and other verses) is to argue that the “faith/belief” in Luke 8:13 is not genuine saving faith. It’s a “dead faith”. It’s not a belief in the propositions of Gospel that’s a result of regeneration. And so, it seems to me that here’s a genuine case of an “unarticulated equivocation” in Scripture. Fiducia has been defined as that trust, recombency and resting in the work of Christ that involves a heartfelt affection and love for Christ (indeed the entire Godhead (by implication, inclduing each person of the Trinity).

    My mention of it being “by implication” brings up another point. Clark argues that saving faith is assent to the UNDERSTOOD propositions of the Bible. But not all genuine Christians had/have all of the essentials propositions of the Gospel or fully understand them. How does one escape the sorites paradox when it comes to how much one must “understand” to have saving faith? Prior to the council of Nicaea I, there was no formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Christian Church that really and nearly comes close to Nicene Orthodoxy. Were there any saved prior to Nicaea?

    BTW, I’m a Calvinistic Continuationist (not a cessationist) Baptist. So, I actually appreciates some of what Cheung says on the charismata. However, I think he goes too far in (what appears to be) accusing cessationists of being heretics. But I would need to read his words again to see if he actually does charge them with being heretics. Maybe of just teaching heresy.

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    It’s me Again (Annoyed Pinoy at Triablogue).

    One of the Triablogue boys, eh?

    I’ll tread lightly. 😉

    But Clark has noted, the word “faith” or “believe” in the New Testament is the same word. There are no special words in the NT differentiating between genuine “pistis” and false “pistis”. How then do you deal with Luke 8:13…. These people seemed to have genuinely believed (at least psychologically. The only way to avoid a blatant contradiction between Luke 8:13 and John 5:24 (and other verses) is to argue that the “faith/belief” in Luke 8:13 is not genuine saving faith. It’s a “dead faith”

    That’s certainly the way Calvin dealt with the verse in The Institutes:

    We do not doubt that such persons, prompted by some taste of the Word, greedily seize upon it, and begin to feel its divine power; so that they impose a false show of faith not only upon the eyes of men but even upon their own minds. For they persuade themselves that the reverence that they show to the Word of God is very piety itself, because they count it no impiety unless there is open and admitted reproach or contempt of his Word. Whatever sort of assent that is, it does not at all penetrate to the heart itself, there to remain fixed. And although it seems sometimes to put down roots, they are not living roots. The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself. Yet let those who boast of such shadow-shapes of faith understand that in this respect they are no better than the devils!

    Notice, Calvin argues that “Whatever sort of assent that is,” etc., it is not a true asset to the truth of Christ and the Gospel. It is the feigned faith of the hypocrite or self-deluded. Or, as Calvin said, it is “a false show of faith not only upon the eyes of men but even upon their own minds.”

    Now, I suppose what you’re saying is if Jesus was teaching in that verse a person can believe the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then He contradicted himself in John 5:24 and Paul was wrong in Romans 10:9 and in any number of places. For example, in Acts 16 when he and Silas told the jailer when he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” But I can see how a Vantilian might successfully exploit Luke 8:13 to demonstrate that belief alone is not enough to save a sinner. They could simply ignore the Reformed hermeneutic and the analogy of faith and just chalk it up as another paradox as it relates to justification. Of course, the other objection might be they are guilty of a little mischief and eisegesis and are attempting to read more into the verse then is actually there. Either way works for me.

    It’s not a belief in the propositions of Gospel that’s a result of regeneration.

    Of course not. Regeneration results in the belief in the propositions of the Gospel, not the other way around.

    And so, it seems to me that here’s a genuine case of an “unarticulated equivocation” in Scripture.

    Perhaps if Luke 8:13 were the only verse on the subject, but it isn’t. Those I suppose who want to employ Luke 8:13 as proof that belief alone is not enough are poor exegetes and should have done more work comparing Scripture with Scripture. But, I suppose if you believe in Biblical paradox, why bother. I’m not saying this is true in your case, but I can certainly see someone saying that Luke 8:13 and John 5:24 do not cohere, therefore this is just another case of the Creator/creature distinction; i.e., just another “apparent contradictions” of Scripture that we are to bow to and passionately embrace as we delude ourselves that we are just “thinking in submission to Scripture” and hope that for God there are no contradictions. While it may seem ridiculous I can’t tell you how many Reformed men I’ve met like that over the years who have been very influenced by Van Til. Not necessarily as it pertains to your example, but the example really isn’t as extreme as you might think.

    Fiducia has been defined as that trust, recombency and resting in the work of Christ that involves a heartfelt affection and love for Christ (indeed the entire Godhead (by implication, inclduing each person of the Trinity).

    I realize what it’s been defined as, but it would seem to be a case of defining a word with itself. To trust someone is to believe what they say and visa versa. Belief and trust are synonymous. That’s why Clark argued:

    The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.

    Further if the fiducial element that is supposed to make ordinary belief saving “involves a heartfelt affection and love for Christ,” per someone like Andy Webb (who is no Federal Visionist, just confused), then it really is true that saving faith isn’t just resting and receiving Christ finished work alone completely outside of ourselves, but involves an additional element that is wrought in us. If that’s the case, how far away can we really be from Rome?

    FWIW the FV men have made great use out of this so-called fiducial element of faith in spreading their faith/works scheme of salvation.

    My mention of it being “by implication” brings up another point. Clark argues that saving faith is assent to the UNDERSTOOD propositions of the Bible. But not all genuine Christians had/have all of the essentials propositions of the Gospel or fully understand them. How does one escape the sorites paradox when it comes to how much one must “understand” to have saving faith? Prior to the council of Nicaea I, there was no formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Christian Church that really and nearly comes close to Nicene Orthodoxy. Were there any saved prior to Nicaea?

    I hardly think this is a very strong objection, since we know men were saved prior to Nicaea, after all we have the Apostles and those brothers mentioned in Scripture. It seems to me that the weasel word in your objection is “fully understand.” No one needs to “fully understand” the Gospel in order to be saved. And, yes, perhaps there are those who are saved by so-called “blessed inconsistency.” But one would think that the parable of the mustard seed suggest that salvation is not premised on how much one believes. After all, how much did the thief on the cross believe and yet was saved.

    Beyond that, it seems to me if Vantilians (again, I’m not picking on you) understood what truth is, they would know that it is non-contradictory, and one valid inference from true premises cannot contradict any other true proposition. If an inferred conclusion contradicts Biblical teaching, the inference must be invalid. Biblical teaching is non-contradictory. But the Vantilian method assures us in advance that valid inferences from Scripture will eventually, to quote John Frame, “force us to deny other Biblical teaching.”

    BTW, I’m a Calvinistic Continuationist (not a cessationist) Baptist. So, I actually appreciates some of what Cheung says on the charismata. However, I think he goes too far in (what appears to be) accusing cessationists of being heretics. But I would need to read his words again to see if he actually does charge them with being heretics. Maybe of just teaching heresy.

    I am a former not very enthusiastic Charismatic who later became a very convinced cessationist. There were a number of arguments that convinced me, certainly Warfield’s book was instrumental. One of the best books on the subject I think is The Charismatics and the Word of God, by Victor Budgen – particularly his use of Edwards arguments concerning “the perfect” in 1 Cor. 13. Good stuff.

  10. James A. M. Says:

    Sean, you’re right. I was trying to show how mere assent (assensus with the precondition of notitia) cannot, of itself, lead to justification since in Luke 8:13 the Lord Jesus clearly states that those type of people “believe” or have “faith”. There’s no indication in the context that Jesus meant anything other than the correct propositions of the Gospel. Remember it was the seed (word) of the famer (Christ Himself) that was “planted”.

    You’re a Calvinist who believes:

    1. that justification is an irrevocable and irradicable declaration by God of a sinner (Rom. 4:5) being just in His sight on account of the imputed righteousness of Christ alone (via the instrument of faith alone).

    2. (believes) in the Calvinistic doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.

    So I still think the Clarkian idea that saving faith is mere/only assent requires that one have to conclude (if one were a consistent Clarkian) that there’s a genuine contradiction in Scripture.

    My affirmation of Luke 8:13 and John 5:24 as an example of an unarticulated equivocation in Scripture wasn’t meant to imply that this is one of those Scriptural paradoxes that can’t be resolved. I apologise for giving that impression. Though, I do think there are such currently unresolved paradoxes in Scripture which I suspect cannot be resolved in this age (and maybe even in the age to come).

    You said…

    Belief and trust are synonymous. That’s why Clark argued:…”

    But one can believe facts like 2 + 2 = 4 or that Australia is the smallest continent on Earth without placing one’s trust in those facts. Trust is a personal attitude toward another person. While it’s true that the NT doesn’t use two different words for mere assent and trust, there are many contexts in the NT where “believe/faith” in relation to God is more than assent but trust and confidence in God’s goodness, truthfulness and faithfulness in fulfilling his promise (for example, “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and
    believes in Me will never die.”).

    It’s the difference between believing “THAT” some fact is such and such, and believing “IN” someone (i.e. having confidence in him/her).

    The problem with Clark’s factual point that “fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith)” is that etymologies are not the final basis upon which we interpret Biblical words. We’re supposed to interpret Biblical words in the context of the passages in Scripture they’re found. It’s like the word “world”. As a Calvinist you know that there are different words in the NT for the word “world”, and that each of those words have different meanings depending on the context.

    For example, John 1:10

    “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

    “en tw kosmw hn, kai o kosmov di’ autou egeneto, kai o kosmov auton ouk egnw.”

    Therefore, later theologians are justified (pun intended) in making the distinction between the different types of faith (“saving” and “dead” based on James 2) and different elements of genuine faith (notitia, assensus, fiducia) because logic necessitates we do. That is, if we’re going to assume the consistency of Scripture. Just as we make the post-Biblical distinctions between ceremonial laws, civil laws, and moral laws in the OT. So, with all due respect, Dr. Clark had it backwards.

    You said:


    Of course not. Regeneration results in the belief in the propositions of the Gospel, not the other way around.

    But historically, Calvinists have believed (in contradistinction from Arminians et al.) that regeneration preceeds (not logically, if not also temporally) faith. And since faith can only be exercised *after* the knowledge of the contents of the Gospel (notitia), faith, must of necessity, come after regeneration.

    You said…

    Further if the fiducial element that is supposed to make ordinary belief saving “involves a heartfelt affection and love for Christ,” per someone like Andy Webb (who is no Federal Visionist, just confused), then it really is true that saving faith isn’t just resting and receiving Christ finished work alone completely outside of ourselves, but involves an additional element that is wrought in us. If that’s the case, how far away can we really be from Rome?

    Again, historically, Calvinists have held that regeneration preceeds faith. Even Scott Hahn argued that Calvinists are more Catholic than they realise in that, while Calvinists deny the Catholic position that sanctification leads to final justification, they (we Calvinists) let in the back door what we kicked out the front door because they (we Calvinists) believe that regeneration (what Hahn sees as a form of sanctification) preceeds faith.

    The reason why Calvinists have argued against Arminians that regeneration preceeds faith is because we affirm Total Depravity. The depravity of man precludes him from savingly believing the gospel because the natural man cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God.

    They need to be regenerated first. Only when the spiritual eyes of the lost are opened can they then enter the Kingdom of Heaven (since apart from being born again from above, one cannot *even* see the Kingdom of God (John 3)).

    You said…


    And, yes, perhaps there are those who are saved by so-called “blessed inconsistency.” But one would think that the parable of the mustard seed suggest that salvation is not premised on how much one believes. After all, how much did the thief on the cross believe and yet was saved.

    This actually supports my view that the more important element is that of trust, and not mere
    assent. Impersonal doctrines (even correct orthodox doctrines) do not save; the personal Christ Himself saves as we put our trust in Him.

  11. James A. M. Says:

    While I was typing up my original response, I accidentally erased some portions that left some of my statements incomplete or with typos.

    typo correction:
    Remember it was the seed (word) of the famer (Christ Himself) that was “planted”.

    “famer” should be “farmer”

    In the discussion of the word “world” in Greek, my original response pointed out that John Gill and John Owen had shown that unless the word “world” (used 3 times in that verse) is used in different senses, then that verse cannot make any sense whatsoever.

    typo correction:

    But historically, Calvinists have believed (in contradistinction from Arminians et al.) that regeneration preceeds (not logically, if not also temporally) faith.

    “…(not logically, if not also temporally) faith.” should be “…(logically, if not also temporally) faith.”

  12. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean, you’re right. I was trying to show how mere assent (assensus with the precondition of notitia) cannot, of itself, lead to justification since in Luke 8:13 the Lord Jesus clearly states that those type of people “believe” or have “faith”. There’s no indication in the context that Jesus meant anything other than the correct propositions of the Gospel.

    And I argue there is no indication in the context of only Jesus’ parable, the verse itself, or the rest of Scripture that it *does* mean that the person believed the truth of the Gospel. 1)You haven’t even established you point exegetically. You’ve only suggested it earlier and now are simply asserting it (a conclusion you don’t even accept BTW). And, 2) it’s always dangerous to build a doctrine, in this case that a man is not saved by belief alone, on the back of a parable. A good example of the danger here is how FV men try to establish that Christians can be lost based on the parable of the vine dresser and the dead branches.

    So I still think the Clarkian idea that saving faith is mere/only assent requires that one have to conclude (if one were a consistent Clarkian) that there’s a genuine contradiction in Scripture.

    Uh, no, this doesn’t follow at all. It would be a genuine contradiction in Scripture if it could not be harmonized. At best it’s a paradox not of the Vantilian kind, but of a Clarkian sort. Clark said a paradox “is a charleyhorse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage.” Not even remotely the position of C. Van Til.

    My affirmation of Luke 8:13 and John 5:24 as an example of an unarticulated equivocation in Scripture wasn’t meant to imply that this is one of those Scriptural paradoxes that can’t be resolved. I apologise for giving that impression.

    No apologies necessary. I knew what you were up to. You were implying that if belief is defined as a combination of understanding and assent and that Luke 8:13 provides an example of a person who believed and was not saved. However, your argument rests on your unestablished assumption that the person receiving the word with joy, actually believed the truth of the Gospel. But the verse doesn’t say what you claim it does and as Calvin demonstrated. It’s no different from those who claim Christian can be lost based on Hebrews 6:4-6.

    And, you also have not shown that some ill-defined and tautological third element is needed to make faith saving. Consequently, I maintain Clark was right when he argued that the difference between faith and saving faith are the propositions believed, not some additional psychological ingredient.

    Though, I do think there are such currently unresolved paradoxes in Scripture which I suspect cannot be resolved in this age (and maybe even in the age to come).

    Well, if it isn’t an example of a Vantilian paradox that is the result of an unarticulated equivocation in Scripture, simply because it can be resolved and quite easily, then you haven’t provided any real example at all, have you?

    But, rather than trying to manufacture one that you don’t even agree qualifies as a Vantilian paradox, as opposed to the Clarkian variety, a couple of good ones that I’m sure almost everyone is familiar with are:

    God’s supposed universal desire for the salvation of all and particular atonement, and,

    God’s sovereign determination of whatsoever comes to pass and human responsibility.

    These are perhaps better examples, because per the latter example Van Til excoriated Clark as a “rationalist” and worse for claiming to have solved this particular problem that VT said maintained could never be resolved. The former is familiar to all those who deny the so-called Well Meant Offer of the Gospel and reject the Murray/Stonehouse reply to Clark and who have been equally excoriated slandered by Vantilians as “hyper-Calvinists” among other nasty pejoratives.

    Why not defend Vantilian paradoxes that Van Til claimed “cannot be resolved in this age (and maybe even in the age to come)”? Why waste my time with fabricated ones that you don’t even believe defy harmonization?

    The problem with Clark’s factual point that “fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith)” is that etymologies are not the final basis upon which we interpret Biblical words.

    He never claimed it is, but it does result in a tautology that adds precisely nothing to our understanding of what faith is. Further, and as I’ve argued, and as has been painfully demonstrated in the FV debate, the addition of this nebulous “fiducial” element, besides just adding nothing to the definition of saving faith, has been a highly effective tool in the hands of the FV false teachers to undermine the truth of Gospel and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. So, while at one time this debate might have been of simple intellectual interest, today it’s a matter of life and death.

    Therefore, later theologians are justified (pun intended) in making the distinction between the different types of faith (”saving” and “dead” based on James 2) and different elements of genuine faith (notitia, assensus, fiducia) because logic necessitates we do. That is, if we’re going to assume the consistency of Scripture. Just as we make the post-Biblical distinctions between ceremonial laws, civil laws, and moral laws in the OT. So, with all due respect, Dr. Clark had it backwards.

    Well, you certainly haven’t established that he did have it backwards. It seems to me you’re the one who has it backwards and are still living in some mythical Vantilian past. But you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. As for James 2, I covered this topic on another blog, Demonic Theology.

    Of course not. Regeneration results in the belief in the propositions of the Gospel, not the other way around.

    But historically, Calvinists have believed (in contradistinction from Arminians et al.) that regeneration preceeds (not logically, if not also temporally) faith. And since faith can only be exercised *after* the knowledge of the contents of the Gospel (notitia), faith, must of necessity, come after regeneration.

    James, *I am saying* that regeneration *precedes* belief. I read your statement; “ It’s not a belief in the propositions of Gospel that’s a result of regeneration” as saying that belief precedes regeneration. My apologies if I misunderstood you. I think we’re on the same page.

    And, yes, perhaps there are those who are saved by so-called “blessed inconsistency.” But one would think that the parable of the mustard seed suggest that salvation is not premised on how much one believes. After all, how much did the thief on the cross believe and yet was saved.

    This actually supports my view that the more important element is that of trust, and not mere assent. Impersonal doctrines (even correct orthodox doctrines) do not save; the personal Christ Himself saves as we put our trust in Him.

    I don’t see how this follows. I said one doesn’t need to believe the truth of the Gospel fully or exhaustively and that a belief the size of a mustered seed (i.e., understanding and assenting to even a few proposition of the Gospel) can move mountains. Finally, to trust Jesus Christ is to believe what He said. There is no personal Christ apart from what he said and taught. A good example of this is John Robbins piece on R.C. Sproul on Saving Faith:

    SPROUL: It’s an intellectual awareness. You can’t have faith in nothing; there has to be content to the faith. You have to believe something or trust someone.

    ROBBINS: Notice that Sproul here uses the verbs “believe” and “trust” interchangeably, as synonyms. This is both good English and sound theology. Belief, that is to say, faith (there is only one word in the New Testament for belief, pistis) and trust are the same; they are synonyms. If you believe what a person says, you trust him. If you trust a person, you believe what he says. If you have faith in him, you believe what he says and trust his words. If you trust a bank, you believe its claims to be safe and secure. Strictly speaking, trust is belief of propositions in the future tense, such as “he will be good to me” or “this bank will keep my money safe.” This is important, because Sproul’s incorrect analysis of saving faith, his splitting it up into three parts, the third part being trust, depends on denying that belief and trust are the same thing. But here he correctly implies they are the same by using the words interchangeably.

    Anyway, I think we’ve exhausted this exchange. You can have the last word, but I would recommend you read, What is Saving Faith.

    I think it would be useful for you to actually spend time studying Clark’s arguments even just to refute them. Because so far, you haven’t been very successful. In this sense your comments are right on target with the topic of this blog and this is just more Vantilian Shadow Boxing 😉

  13. Roger Mann Says:

    I’m not sure if this will be helpful to the discussion at this point, but here’s something I wrote earlier regarding Clark’s view of saving faith for a somewhat related post.

    I think it’s important to emphasize that while Clark’s view acknowledges such a thing as “non-saving faith,” he meant something quite different than most Reformed theologians mean by this term (i.e., a faith that is lacking the mystical element of fiducia). Correct me if I’m wrong, Sean, but Clark argued that “non-saving faith” consists of believing non-saving propositions about Christ. For example, Jesus addressed “those Jews who believed Him” (John 8:31) in a well known passage of Scripture. Yet what they believed regarding Christ were clearly non-saving propositions, for the Lord Himself went on to say:

    “My word has no place in you.” — John 8:37

    “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” — John 8:43-44

    “But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell you the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words: therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” — John 8:45-47

    This is a good example of the “temporary,” “vain,” or “dead” faith referred to in Scripture. These Jews may have believed some true things about Christ, but they certainly didn’t believe or assent to all of the propositions that are necessary for salvation — with only the mystical element of fiducia being absent.

    It seems to me that this same type of non-saving “belief” (of only some true things about Christ) may apply to Luke 8. Yes, the passage says that they “believed for a while” and then fell away (v. 13). But it doesn’t say that they believed all of the propositions that are necessary for salvation. That’s simply an assumption that is imposed upon the passage — much like the Arminian assumption that this passage teaches that a regenerated, justified, genuine believer can lose his faith and wind up in Hell. Neither of those assumptions are explicitly taught in this passage — and both assumptions contradict other clear passages of Scripture. Therefore, they ought to be rejected. As Clark wrote:

    “What better conclusion can there be other than the express statements of the Bible? Permit just one outside of John. Romans 10:9-10 says, ‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your mind that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.’ There is no mystical getting behind, under, or above the text; the only consent there is, is belief in the propositions. Believe these, with understanding, and you shall be saved. Anyone who says otherwise contradicts the repeated rheemata of Scripture.” (What is Saving Faith, pg. 158)

    This is why Clark said that it is a “psychological impossibility” that unbelievers may assent to all of the propositions that are necessary for salvation. Only believers assent to all of the propositions that are necessary for salvation and are justified.

  14. Tim Harris Says:

    It seems to me that the phrase in Luke 8:13 “which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” can be read as a figure of speech, such as “which for a while seem to believe” or “which for a while fancy they believe.” The mistake some people are making here is genre identification. It is similar to Wilson’s mistake in pushing endless implications of the grape vine. Parables make a point; they do not make every point.

    Jumping back to the first comment:

    It seems to me that, as to practical application of the faith, the Clarkian is left with hypothetical propositions only, ones that can never be cashed out as declaratives, i.e. he can only assert props like:

    if I am a man then I am a sinner
    If (I am a man AND I believe) then I am saved
    If I am now preaching to men then I ought to preach the gospel to them

    etc etc.

  15. Chris Duncan Says:

    Sean Gerety quoting the late Dr. Robbins:

    John Robbins:

    ==In the strict sense no one in the twentieth century knows that he is a man, for he has not deduced it from the Bible. (Now perhaps such a deduction is possible, and I would be open to an argument on that point.) It is an opinion we hold. You do not know that you are a man. Your opinion may be true, but unless you can show me the argument, it does not rise to the level of knowledge. If you claim to know that you are a man, please show me the argument. Please do not water down, dilute, or make ambiguous the definition of the word “knowledge.” Don’t blur it with opinion. Don’t bother citing immediate “self-knowledge” or some such notion, for the Scriptures explicitly say: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” What you take to be easily come by, the Scripture says is impossible. Why should anyone believe you rather than Scripture?

    “So if we have the opinion that we are men, then the syllogism I provided [all men are sinners, ___ is a man, therefore ____ is a sinner] is neither absurd nor irrelevant; it is right on target. We may or may not be correct in our opinion, but if we have that opinion, if you have that opinion, you are required to believe that you are a sinner.

    “In addition, Paul in 2 Cor 10:5b tells us that we are to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” and this would include our opinions as well as our knowledge.”==

    Robbins did not know he was a man, and thus he did not know he was a sinner. Since he would say that his heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, he could not even know that he was not being deceived into thinking he was saved. And Gerety says that the truth or falsehood of the minor premise isn’t even that important. Well, if it’s not that important, then it logically follows that the conclusion isn’t that important either. Clarkians cannot make any certain judgments about anything. They might as well just shut up, because all of their opining is possibly meaningless.

    See:

    http://www.outsidethecamp.org/efl270.htm and:

    http://www.outsidethecamp.org/efl61.htm

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Chris, I confess, I almost blocked your post as spam since anyone remotely associated with Outside the Camp is just generally a click more loony than even the most crass Viagra ad.

    So, thanks for your endorsement. It means a lot. 🙂

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    One additional note per Chris Duncan’s post…I had really forgotten what a bunch of miscreants the Carpenter Ants really are.

    Just a sample from Chris’ blog (http://chriscduncan.blogspot.com/):

    A. A. Hodge: Heretic
    John Owen: Heretic

    Hey, if you go to OTC, I’m assuming Chris’ home church since it only consist of Marc Carpenter, Chris and Marc’s dog:

    John Calvin: Heretic
    Horatius Bonar: Heretic
    Charles Hodge: Heretic
    Gordon Clark: Heretic
    John Robbins: Heretic
    Gresham Machen: Heretic
    Jonathan Edwards: Heretic
    A.W. Pink: Heretic
    John Gill: Heretic

    OK, I’m tired of writing. But, make no mistake, Chris, Marc and Marc’s dog are the only Christians left, and I’m not so sure about Chris or Marc. OK, there is one Christian left.

    But, seriously, Chris, how far out do you have to be to be outside the camp?

  18. Chris Duncan Says:

    Hey, Sean-

    Do you agree with the late John Robbins’ statement that the hearts of Christians are deceitful and desperately wicked?

    How do you *know* that you are not a Carpenter Ant miscreant?

    In your reply–that is, if you reply–please remember to use the two word qualifer, “I opine.”

  19. Chris Duncan Says:

    Sean wrote: “But, seriously, Chris, how far out do you have to be to be outside the camp?”

    And how far out does a “bag ‘o bones heretic” have to be in order for you to back up all the billows of bombastic bluster with some actual backbone? The aforementioned heretic is Doug Wilson. I see that you call him a wolf. People like Lane might say, “now, now Sean don’t be so harsh and unloving.” And perhaps (I am opining here) you say to yourself:

    “Lane, and all those others who would tolerate Doug Wilson and the Federal Vision are compromising.”

    But what some may not realize is that when you cry “wolf!” you don’t really mean it–at least not what the Bible means by it. Those whom Paul anathematized in Galatians 1:8-9 would be considered wolves. But since you would differentiate systems from people, then it must be that the apostle Paul was not anathematizing the persons of heretics or wolves, but just the heretical systems they were holding to by virtue of a felicitous inconsistency.

    Machen, if consistent–and of course unbelievers are not since they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness–would have rebuked (albeit gently) the apostle Paul for anathematizing the mens’ actual persons with this “letter.” Like an effeminate and spineless Gerety, he would write:

    “The greatest menace to the Christian Church today comes not from the enemies outside, but from the enemies within; it comes from the presence within the Church of a type of faith and practice that is anti-Christian to the core [billows of bombastic bluster–CD]. We are not dealing here with delicate personal questions;[Oh yes, delicate. Be very delicate with those liberals who scorned the cross and believed in a sort of pantheistic Christ–CD] we are not presuming to say whether such and such an individual man is a Christian or not. God only can decide such questions [There goes all the commands of Jesus to judge by their fruits right out the window–CD]; no man can say with assurance whether the attitude of certain individual ‘liberals'[Federal Visionist wolves or even Galatians 1:8-9 wolves–CD] toward Christ is saving faith or not [It is believed by many that those whom Paul anathematized at least professed the deity of Christ. Paul must receive a gentle tsk, tsk, for contradicting Machen–CD]. But one thing is perfectly plain–whether or no liberals [Federal Visionists, wolves, Judaizers of Galatians 1:8-9–CD] are Christians, it is at any rate perfectly clear that liberalism [Wolfism, Federal Visionism, Galatians 1:8-9 Judaism–CD] is not Christianity” (Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 159-160).

    Chris: God in His Word says that wolves are lost–these wolves being judged by their fruits. But spineless heretics like J. Gresham Machen will say that whether or not they are wolves is much too delicate a matter. Sean, on the other hand, has no problem with calling them “wolves,” but completely drains this word of its biblical meaning.

    But at the end of the day, Sean Gerety and Gresham Machen are saying the same thing about those wolves who despise the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why is that? Machen did not wish to say with assurance that those who scorn the cross and call it foolishness, were necessarily perishing. Perhaps for Sean, he does so due to a blessed inconsistency found in the wolves–they are wearing sheeps’clothing!

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    “billows of bombastic bluster”

    Nice use of alliteration. Too bad you couldn’t come up with anything for “effeminate” and “spineless.”

    I see from your website that you really do claim to be a member of Carpenter’s cult, Sovereign Redeemer Assembly in Rutland, VT.

    As I recall, a few years ago the church, which met at his home consisted about 10 followers, and that is including Marc and his family and perhaps Andrew C. Bain.

    I see that they’ve finally whittled the number of true Christians to the proper “remnant”:

    Sovereign Redeemer Assembly
    Address: P.O. Box 995, West Rutland, VT 05777
    Denomination: Not listed
    Website: http://www.outsidethecamp.org
    Service Times: Not listed
    Members: 1

    ROFLOL!

  21. James Vandenberg Says:

    1.) To Carpenter, “anyone who considers at least some universal atonement advocates to be regenerate” is an unbeliever. And his definition of “universal atonement” is broad enough to include 5-point Calvinists as Robert Dabney, Thomas Boston and Charles Hodge, not to mention John Calvin himself. If you get caught saying ANYTHING along the lines of “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect,” you will be deemed unsaved.

    (Some of the examples Carpenter claims, like Chalmers’ “Fury Not In God,” are ripe for criticism, but others are out of context.)

    2.) Carpenter’s other problem is that he imputes a theological premise to Calvinists that we do not profess: that we “speak peace to Arminians.” This is not actually correct. While many in our ranks have erred through overgenerous ecumenicism, there is nothing wrong with saying, with Clark, that “an Arminian may be a truly regenerate Christian.”

    Now, I don’t see how our constant stream of rebuke and calls to repentance count as “speaking peace.” The phrase gives one to think we are saying all is well. That is simply not so.

    3.) John Piper is not my favorite theologian, but he is on point here:

    “Many people have been saved without hearing the language of justification. The same is true with regard to the words and realities of “regeneration” and “propitiation” and “redemption” and “reconciliation” and “forgiveness.” A baby believer does not have to understand all of the glorious things that have happened to him in order to be saved. But these things do all have to happen to him. And if he comes to the settled conviction, when he hears about them, that he will not trust Christ for any one of them, there is a serious question mark over his salvation. Therefore, it is misleading to say that we are not saved by believing in justification by faith. If we hear that part of the gospel and cast ourselves on God for this divine gift, we are saved. If we hear that part of the gospel and reject it, while trying to embrace Christ on other terms, we will not be saved.”
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/OnlineBooks/ByTitle/2480_The_Future_of_Justification/

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    James V. Don’t give Carpenter’s remaining cult member the satisfaction. If you attack them as irrational it’s like a papal blessing. It confirms their illogic as mystical sign that they really are the standard of doctrinal purity.

    As John Robbins once said to me in a slightly different context; Don’t try to reason with the unreasonable.

    Of course, don’t answer the fool according to his folly is another good one. Oh, and there’s the one about the pearls and the swine.

    🙂

  23. James Vandenberg Says:

    I don’t see that there is much of a substantive response to Carpenter. I’ve seen people make charges of hypercalvinism, but that term is so abused that it does no good.

    For example, James White accuses him of the “Perfection of Knowledge Required for Salvation heresy,” but I don’t see that MC actually claims that. Rather, he believes that agreeing the MC version of TULIP is necessary evidence of regeneration. In another place, he accuses him of professing truth “without love and without balance.”
    http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=256
    http://vintage.aomin.org/HyperCalv.html

    Well, MC affirms duty-faith, so he’s technically NOT a hypercalvinist, wonder of wonders. And his problem is not that he lacks love or balance, but that he is systematically wrong.

    Behind the bombast, he’s making theological claims that should be answered with more than invective. If even a pro cannot answer him properly, then he is not the only one with a problem. My fear is that decades of airhead Evangelicalism has made us so afraid of the sharp edges of theology that some wind up embracing the straw man that MC set up.

  24. Chris Duncan Says:

    “Oh, and there’s the one about the pearls and the swine.” Thus says Sean.

    So, are you actually judging me lost? Have you forgotten your own criticism of not differentiating between systems and persons? And while I’m here, do you believe that Doug Wilson is lost? By what standard–it’s certainly not by the axiom of Scripture–do you judge either of us saved or lost? Are you ignorant? Or just apathetic? Don’t know; don’t care, huh?

    As some say, I’ll let you have the last word. This will be my last reply since I don’t want to sin in trying to reason with the unreasonable. Anyway, I was just considering that the last time we “talked” was many years ago. One of our topics was John “the Pied” Piper.

    And lastly, I was thinking that a good name for you would be: Sean “the boy who cried ‘wolf’ but didn’t really mean it ‘cuz he was spinning ‘dizzily in a whirlpool’ of equivocation when he said it” Gerety.

  25. Sean Gerety Says:

    And lastly, I was thinking that a good name for you would be: Sean “the boy who cried ‘wolf’ but didn’t really mean it ‘cuz he was spinning ‘dizzily in a whirlpool’ of equivocation when he said it” Gerety.

    Stick with alliterations. Coining names is not your forte.

  26. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t see that there is much of a substantive response to Carpenter.

    James V. You are free to engage Carpenter or his remaining cult member all you want. Many of us have went down that road a long time ago and realized it was a dead end. Someone even set up a website, Carpenterism Discerned, some time ago and I see it hasn’t been updated since ’06 and even then it was old news.

    Carpenter has been engaged, corrected and refuted so many times that it became painfully clear early on that exposing his anti-Christian illogic and methods only fuels his hatred for Christians. He has “anathematized” everyone from Gordon Clark to John Calvin and everyone in between. His only defense and response to passages like 1 John 2:11 is that he has no brothers therefore his so-called “judgments” are not sin or evidence of his seeming reprobation.

    I remember when his website had dozens of links to other sites and now he has none, because every Christian organization or person has proved to be in his warped mind, damnable heretics teaching a false gospel. It doesn’t even strike the man as ironic (I don’t even think he’s capable of irony) that all those he used to “endorse,” have all ended up in his moronic “Heterodoxy Hall of Shame.” He’s like PETA who call everything animal abuse to the point where virtually nothing is actually animal abuse.

    So, if you want to take Carpenter seriously and spend hours discussing their little system with men like Chris above or the notorious Andrew C. Bain, or Marc himself, I would suggest starting your own blog and wrestle with them there (WordPress can have you up in minutes and it’s free).

    My fear is that decades of airhead Evangelicalism has made us so afraid of the sharp edges of theology that some wind up embracing the straw man that MC set up.

    I don’t think I can be accused of being afraid of the “sharp edges of theology.” Of course the beauty of Marc’s lunatic theology is that it guarantees that those who embrace it cannot abide for very long without themselves being “exposed” as false brethren. There is a reason they use Koolaid instead of wine in their celebration of the Lord’s Supper.


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