Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, June 27, 2005

Critiquing a Critique of My Critique

My Webmaster over at Fred's Bible Talk alerted me to my second official blogspotting. My first was a nice mention on the blogroll over at the Sharper Iron blog of an article I had linked. This time, I am mentioned on the Free Thinking Faith blog by curator, Steve Jones. I was surprised when I was alerted to the blogspot, because I haven't heard the name "Steve Jones" for some time.

Let me fill in a little history...

About seven or eight years ago I made my foray onto the Internet and began frequenting theological discussion groups and web boards. On one particular discussion group that I no longer visit, I encountered a self-proclaimed street preacher who made it quite clear with nearly every one of his posts that he despised the theology of Calvinism. He would post venomous diatribes against any teaching about God's sovereignty in man's salvation with special emphasis against the doctrine of eternal security. As a Christian who believes the 5 points of Calvinism reflect an accurate exegesis of the biblical text, and being the only Calvinist who frequented this discussion group, I was compelled to provide an answer to his nonsense.

We exchanged a handful of posts and it quickly became apparent that my street preaching opponent was embarrassingly misinformed about the theology of Calvinism and demonstrated a profound biblical illiteracy. Rather than answering my posts directly, he took to linking me to articles written by others who also had a disdain for all things Calvinistic. One of the articles he linked was a testimonial written by a fellow named Steve Jones, now the blogger of Free Thinking Faith. My street preaching acquaintance boasted that he had never met a Calvinist who could answer the arguments put forth by Mr. Jones. He further bragged that I too would be unable to answer this article and dared me to try. I normally do not back down from arrogant challenges, so I picked up his gauntlet, printed out Mr. Jones's article, and spent an entire weekend reviewing it and writing up a response. Heeding the challenge of my rival, I was anticipating a withering critique that would put me through a theological wringer. However, I was underwhelmed by the arguments presented in the paper. In fact, much of the presentation was typical, anti-Calvinist strawmen routinely set ablaze by those who revile any notion of God's absolute sovereignty in salvation. Moreover, I began to observe that Mr. Jones didn't necessarily care for orthodox Christianity in general, let alone, Calvinism, and that he had a severe, unorthodox, liberal bent with his reading of scripture.

After I posted my response to the street preacher, he left the group believing we were unwashed heathens, unworthy to be recipients of the truth. Later, I edited my response and formatted it to Fred's Bible Talk where it is today. That was a 3 years or so ago.

Then I saw that Steve Jones had blogged about my critique. It is short, just noting some points I raised in my review; but it is apparent that my article got under the skin of Mr. Jones. He states that I gave him a "pretty sound thrashing," which wasn't my overall intention. Hopefully, he understands I never wanted to just beat him with out mercy, but that my critique was meant to be a corrective whipping. I am sorry Mr. Jones sees it as just a thrashing, but he sort of brought it upon himself as soon as he went to print with an article claiming Calvinism is biblically deficient, yet not providing any support for what is really a baseless charge.

Furthermore, he makes the passing comment that I engaged in ad hominem argumentation when I pointed out his dependence upon heretical men. Rarely do folks properly apply the charge "ad hominem" against those who are critiquing their work, and the same goes for Mr. Jones. An ad hominem argument is one made against a person directly, rather than dealing with his or her overall argument. In other words, a personal slur against an author. So, I would had been engaging in ad hominem if I had written something like, "Mr. Jones doesn't know what he is talking about because he combs his hair wrong" or "Mr. Jones doesn't understand Calvinism because he only wears pirate clothing." Nowadays, however, a person is charge with using ad hominem arguments if he challenges the beliefs of someone else as being in error. What I did by pointing out the positive reference Mr. Jones gave to heretical works was not ad hominem. He made passing comments appealing to such individuals as Clark Pinnock, Socinus, and other Unitarian writers, without alerting his readers to the fact these individuals are gross heretics. Most Christians reading his testimonial (especially the fundamentalist Pentecostal street preacher I argued with) would be ignorant of the heresy Socinus taught in the 16th century and Clark Pinnock teaches in our present day. Mr. Jones is inadvertently engaging in a Michael Moore way of presenting the "truth" by selecting only the "facts" you want your viewers to see. I would think an honest critiquer of Calvinism owes it to his readers to let them know he no longer likes Calvinism because he prefers the open theist views of Pinnock or the anti-Trinitarian views of Socinus. I thought his friendly remarks of these individuals were troubling and I saw a need to point out who these folks were and why Christians should not trust them.

Then Mr. Jones closed off his post by pointing out some alleged "irony" between the name of my blog and my claim that his article was condescending. The irony is supposedly found in the description of my blog which says, "Smiting Theological Philistines with a Mighty Slaughter." Apparently, I have no room to allege condescension on his part if I have a blog with such a harsh, condescending description. Even one of the commenters picked up on this so-called irony and expressed dismay that I could see things in such black and white terms to the point I know where the black starts and the white ends. Well, I see it this way: I can make such black and white statements because I have an authoritative standard with the Word of God to make such statements. Further comments to this post suggests an affinity for theological heretics, because they are known to be outside the status quo. Heretics are cool because they always think outside the Bible box, so to speak. Even Jesus Himself is outside the status quo and can be considered the ultimate heretic. Sheesh.

Judging by the theological bent I see displayed under the links and in some of the posts of Free Thinking Faith (even the title suggests a spiritual buffet where a person can pick and choose those beliefs from scripture that suits him), Mr. Jones and his Free Thinking pals don't believe the Bible is necessarily authoritative. Hence, no one really has the right, or business, making judgmental statements against anyone else. Thus, a person who makes an authoritative judgment is viewed as closed minded, rude, attacking with ad hominem, or any other number of black and white pejoratives. If that is the case, then I am happy to wear the labels.


I thought it may be good to link to some articles and audio lessons for those uninitiated with the Doctrines of Grace as Calvinists articulate them:

Of course there's my MP3 audio series located at Fred's Bible Talk.
Along with the notes to the series. (Scroll down for the notes).

Lots of articles at the Monergism site.

And I would also recommend probably the most extensive audio lecture series by Curt Daniel. His information about the history of Calvinism is pure gold. The hosting website did not place all of the lectures in proper sequence, so you may have to skip around to listen to them in order.


Blogger BlackCalvinist said...

Fred wrote: "Hence, no one really has the right, or business, making judgmental statements against anyone else. Thus, a person who makes an authoritative judgment is viewed as closed minded, rude, attacking with ad hominem, or any other number of black and white pejoratives."

The problem of course, is that for him (and anyone of the 'free thinking theology' brand) to make definitive statements calling others closed-minded, rude, etc.... is to condemn themselves as well.

Love those double standards.

Keep blogging Fred :) Good job.

4:53 PM, June 27, 2005  
Blogger SteveJ said...

I read with interest your critique.

You point out that you did not intend to administer a "thrashing" but only a "corrective whipping." Fair enough. To some degree it worked. I contacted as many people as I could who tend the websites containing my old article (I'm not affiliated with any of them) and asked them to change the most glaring error: the incorrectly cited Hebrew word in Ecclesiastes. One of them actually made the change, for which I am grateful. (I suppose that correcting one of the myriad errors isn't adequate, but at least it's a start.)

You're probably right about my misunderstanding the whole "ad hominem" concept. Maybe I should have said "guilt by association" or something else.

But truly the lowest blow was to draw parallels between me and Michael Moore. You know how to hurt a guy, Fred.

And yes, I think the title of your blog does lack for humility. That deficit isn't offset, either, by the fact that you think you're right and your opponents are wrong. After all, everyone is right in his own eyes. Certainly, your street preacher acquaintance thinks he's right, and justifies his "venomous diatribes" accordingly.

Let me just say one thing about that article. I wrote it long ago. I never asked anyone to publish it on their site. (I have no objection to it, but it wasn't my doing.) And yes, I should have gotten more of my facts straight and been more scholarly. But in those days, I was young and knew everything. Now, being a scholar is no longer on my life's to-do list. So I'll take my lumps.

Having made all of those concessions, I still think there are some pretty fair arguments in that article that you never addressed. But I certainly understand that no one is required to tit-for-tat respond to every point.

Anyway, peace.

8:32 PM, June 27, 2005  
Blogger Fred Butler said...


It warms my heart that you have a good attitude about what I wrote. I never wish to attack the individual personally, but the ideas or doctrine the person advocates. The Lord knows I have had a few theological butt whippins myself in the past, so I know what it is to take lumps. I am also glad to hear you making corrective steps in chasing down all of those sites where you article is posted. I am sure that will be a daunting task.

However, where I believe we depart company is in the matter of authority and the place we have to confront error.

You write:

"And yes, I think the title of your blog does lack for humility. That deficit isn't offset, either, by the fact that you think you're right and your opponents are wrong. After all, everyone is right in his own eyes. Certainly, your street preacher acquaintance thinks he's right, and justifies his "venomous diatribes" accordingly."

Sad to say there are "theological Philistines" out in the world who desire to destroy God and His people. They do this by misrepresenting God and His Word and leading people astray after them into error. Sadder still, though, are those individuals who think it is inappropriate to confront these "Philistines" with the Truth and silence them before they can do more harm. I hope this is not where you are coming from. My Pentecostal opponent was promoting grevious, soul destroying error and he needed to be silenced. The Biblical precedent is to confront error and correct it when it is contrary to scripture. Surely, you recognize this mandate from God? Peter, Paul, Jude and even our Lord Himself, confronted error. Never did they concede to the person that he may be right even though the person was sincere and was eloquent in justifying his beliefs. I believe I am right because I have a standard in God's infallible Word by which to judge other's wrong who depart from orthodoxy. I believe it is my further duty (as it is of all who name Christ) to defend the faith, guard the truth and cast down all arguments that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:4,5)

I am fearful, after reading over your blog and some of the opinions you advocate, that you do not necessarily adhere to a fixed standard of Truth with God's Word or find it expedient to correct biblical error and thus, the tension between our disagreement.


5:45 AM, June 28, 2005  
Blogger SteveJ said...

Thanks for the cordial tone. You have some valid points.


2:36 PM, June 28, 2005  
Blogger Timothy said...

It is still an 'ad hominem' argument if you propose that we reject what a person postulates because they are 'heretical'. Which if i can remember well what you pretty much did, or you used their heretical statis as one of the reasons for rejecting them, either one it isn't that great to do (logically).

5:10 PM, July 05, 2005  
Blogger Fred Butler said...


You illustrate what I was saying to Steve about the charge of Ad Hominem: the charge is rarely accurate when someone levels it.

Heresy is defined by ideas, or a rejection of ideas. To call a person a heretic reflects an interaction with that person's ideas. If you return to my original rebutal article found at my home website (linked in the post above), you will note that when I accused Steve of a Michael Moorish attempt to cover up the theological heresies of Socinius and Pinnock, I discussed what those individual's believe and why it is heretical. Hence, I did not just attack them as stupid people, but the false ideas they promote as Christianity.

You see, Tim, I believe scripture contains propositional truth that defines what an orthodox Christian is. Gathering from the articles and links at free thinking faith, you guys have more of a postmodernist perspective of truth. In other words, truth is sort of left up to what an individual wants it to mean. I could be wrong about that, so please correct me.

At any rate, if you don't believe the Bible contains knowable, propositional truth, I can see how you would be aggitated by my comments.


7:14 AM, July 07, 2005  
Blogger TruthBeToldNJ said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:26 PM, July 11, 2005  
Blogger TruthBeToldNJ said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:29 PM, July 11, 2005  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Sorry, Truth,
I appreciated the comments, but I thought they were off topic for this particular entry. I moved them over to the entry at this date:

June, 24th


5:10 AM, July 12, 2005  

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