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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Socinian Sophistry

Last month I noted an interview I heard on Way of the Master Radio. A Master's College alumnus named Dan Mages was telling about his departure from orthodox, biblical Christianity to the embracing of Unitarian heresy.

One of the more interesting exchanges during this staggering interview was Dan expressing his displeasure with how Ray Comfort and the WOTM ministry staff utilize the 10 commandments during their street witnessing. Dan was particularly annoyed with how Ray or Kirk will get a person to admit he has stolen something or lied to someone and then tell the person, "By your own admission that makes you a thieving liar." Dan was insistent with the host, Todd Friel, that this tactic, which accuses a person of having such a terrible character, is a dishonest abuse of scripture because lying once or twice does not make a person a liar. A liar, exclaimed Dan, is a person who continually practices lying. Of course, my immediate thought was if Dan's reasoning is right and a man sexually fondles a child only once or twice, then I guess that doesn't make him a molester because it is not a continual practice of his life.

At any rate, I posted a lengthier blog article pointing out how the Unitarian god is a weak, wormy, impotent god, because he (or she) is powerless to preserve his (or her) truth in the hearts of the devoted. So any time during the course of Church history when someone like the Gnostic Arius or the pantheist new-ager Servetus preached what is really the correct view of Christ's person and denied the Trinity, that person received a water canon blast to the face by the theo-political elite and his teaching, which again is the correct view according to Unitarians, is renounced as heresy. But what can be said about a deity who can't prevent his (or her) self-revelation from becoming distorted by institutional theocrats? What compels me to worship and serve an impotent god?

Well, Dan discovered my post and he was none too happy with what I wrote, so he left a comment testifying to his spiraling descent into apostasy and rebuking me for calling him what he is, an apostate. The words saddens me and sneering remarks were employed.

I don't plan to answer him point-by-point, but I thought I would offer some of my own observations and general comments in return. His entire comment can be read here.

1) One thing common with apostates is how they feel obliged to tell their detractors how they too once clung to traditional Christian doctrine. But now, after an honest re-evaluation of their traditions, they had to go where the truth led them and their spiritual eyes are opened to wider, theological horizons. The word tradition, however, is a dirty word with apostates because they have redefined it to mean "narrow-minded," "bigoted," and "lacking critical thinking." Hence, anyone who holds to traditional Christian doctrine is a narrow minded bigot who refuses to critically evaluate his beliefs. I do find it amusing how those Christians who are critical thinkers and do re-evaluate their traditions, but only solidify the traditional, historic Christian doctrines in their hearts, are still dismissed as narrow-minded by the apostate. I reckon that is because those Christians didn't renounce those traditions like the apostate?

2) Vocal apostates like Dan believe it is virtuous to question every tradition and always embrace the opposite (though he would probably deny this). I believe questioning one's traditions is healthy for a Christian because it trains a believer to discern. Questioning traditions, however, must be accomplished according to a standard. For the Christian that is the Word of God correctly interpreted. I realize Dan would whole-heartedly agree and claim that is what he is doing even though he holds to the Bart Ehrman view of the Bible and doesn't believe we have an infallible, inerrant Word to use as a standard. I believe he is woefully mistaken, because questioning one's tradition does not equate to abandoning orthodox doctrine. Dan believes such questioning will and that it is alright because it is all a part of his spiritual journey and we who disagree with him should be understanding and gracious because we all are on similar theological journeys but coming to wildly different points of view.

3) That of course makes me wonder if Dan has genuinely thought through the implications of his comments. Does he really believe two people can come to the exact same biblical text, and using the exact same tools of exegesis that I am sure Dan was certainly taught at Master's, come to two entirely different conclusions about what the text is saying about God and the person of Jesus Christ? Why would such a phenomenon happen? Does the problem lie with the text, or the person interpreting the text?

4) Dan appeals to a personal anecdote of listening to gobs of John MacArthur sermons:

I especially enjoyed the Q & A tapes where members of Grace Community would ask John questions from a standing microphone. This allowed John to be more candid. It was during these sessions when he would openly admit that he was something like a 2.5/3 point Calvinist. He would openly share the paradoxical statements in Scripture and talk about how he gladly accepted them both. As you know, he has now evolved in his understanding and interpretation, just as I have.

The use of the word evolution to picture John's present theological convictions as opposed to those he may have held 25-30 years ago is entirely dishonest and self-serving to Dan's position. I too recall listening to gobs of Mac tapes and would wager a Costco ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and rolled in almonds that I have probably listened to more than Dan could ever imagine. I have listened to every one of John's Q&As at least 4 times over including the ones that were not released to general circulation. No where can I remember John ever saying he was a 2.5/3 point Calvinist.

Be that as it may, it is self-serving for Dan to compare his freefall into theological error as the same as John's refinement of his theology being one and the same:

"John has evolved from being a 3.5 Calvinist to being a full five-point Calvinist, just like I have evolved from being a Christian who had the right view of God's nature and Christ's person to becoming a pagan worshipping a finite god."

Does Dan truly believe there is a comparison between a person tightening up his understanding of a particular doctrine with a person who abandons wholesale the entire revelation of God's nature as it has been taught historically by both Judaism and Christianity to become an idol worshipper?

Dan also asserts that Christian disagreement over other biblical subjects like infant baptism, spiritual gifts, and eternal security serves as a similar illustration to his current position. But a person will note once again that those believers who disagree among themselves over these issues all confirm the historic, theological understanding of God's nature and Christ's full deity and humanity. Now, there may be an issue of submitting to the authority of God's Word and the clinging to some traditions or personal biases like those who believe in women pastors or deny eternal security, but the nature of God is not up for debate in these disagreements. Perhaps he thinks it is good evolution, but I think he has inherited some fatal mutations.

5) Apostates who do abandon biblical truth will make concerted efforts to justify their heresy with appeals to scripture. In the case of Dan, the Trinity was just too ambiguous for his tastes:

The general tenor of Scripture led me to think that YWHW, the God of Israel, was the God of Jesus. Texts like, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” caused me to re-think my Trinitarian instruction. If the Trinity was to be found, it was not clear, for it seemed to rest on ambiguous Jewish poetic wisdom texts like John’s prologue and possible allusions to Isaiah or Exodus in John 8. I noticed that neither of these were Trinitarian in nature, but only Binitarian at best.

Dan, like many of the historical apostates who deny the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ tend to have a myopic perspective of scripture and the historic apologetics surrounding these doctrine. Does Dan really believe the only passages in scripture where Christians have established the doctrine of the Trinity is only John's prologue and John chapter 8? Surely he is familiar with all of the historic apologetic literature written by Christians over the centuries defending the Trinity against apostates, who like Dan, re-thought their theological convictions? I mean honestly, if a person was preparing to make a radical shift in his understanding of God, at least he would make the effort to read the tons of literature on the subject. Robert Morey, for example, has a 600 page book on the subject. And what do you do with the classic Patristic apologists who wrote before the Council of Nicea defending the doctrines of Christ's deity and the Trinity against such apostates as Praxeas and Noetus? Were they enslaved to their traditions?

6) Apostates seem to leave out the illumination of the Holy Spirit in these matters. I guess for anti-Trinitarians like Dan, I can see how that is possible. He writes:

We are not able to pull John, or Paul aside and ask, what did you mean by that? This leaves us to put the pieces together the best we can. Biblical, or any other interpretation is not a perfect science. Therefore, I am only asking for grace as I am doing the best I can. I acknowledge that my interpretation is just that, an interpretation. Should we not all acknowledge this? I am always open to good arguments, that is what changes my mind, not name calling or personal attacks.

First, it is not naming calling to call someone what he is, an apostate. The biblical writers did this regularly. Believe me, when I call Dan an apostate, I do it with the utmost respect.

Second of all, where is the Holy Spirit leading us into truth? The unique thing about the Christian experience is that we are not left to ourselves to flounder about in our flesh. We have been given the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and help us put sin in our flesh under our subjection. Moreover, we are not left to ourselves to figure out the Bible, but we have been given the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds so we can understand the truth. This is why I can trust my fore fathers in Church history. As they studied the Word and presented their teaching in their writings it reveals hearts set on fire with the Holy Spirit. Does that mean I agree with every thing these men wrote? No, but that goes back to what I outlined in point 4.

Dan treats the Bible as if it is just another ancient book that is ambiguous and no one should be certain about it. But that conclusion is the result of a person who denies God preserved His Word in a manner that can convey truth to a generation 2,000 years removed from its publication. It also denies the continual work of the Holy Spirit to illumine the minds of God's people to protect scripture, read scripture, interpret scripture, and apply it in their cultures and personal lives.

7) Dan was not happy with my comment about his Oliver Wendell Holmes quote:

Fred, in other matters, it saddens me that you seem to be unable to separate a quote from a person’s understanding of the world’s origins. I did not quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes for his evolutionary views, but because he said, “The mark of a civilized man is his willingness to re-examine his most cherished beliefs.” It is possible to agree with him on this point, without accepting everything he believes. You should know this. Furthermore, putting a Supreme Court justice in the class of a “crackpot philosopher” is an ad hominum attack hardly worth commenting on and completely misses the point of his quotation.

It may do Dan well to review the life of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Even though he was a Supreme Court justice, he was a crackpot, because he held to a crackpot world view. The quotation is meant as a challenge to traditional Christian Americans who were resisting the encroaching evolutionary philosophy that was creeping through out our society at the time. Justice Holmes was a champion of Darwinian humanism and favored the eugenics policies being molded by Dr. Harry Laughlin who believed we could purify the human race and improve upon the evolution of man by forcing sterilizations upon those people deemed unfavorable. Holmes helped manufacture a test case with a young lady as the patsy. This gal was chosen to be sterilized for being feeble-minded. Her lawyer, who was also involved with the set up, got her case tried before the Supreme Court where Holmes presided. He declared the eugenics' law constitutional thus initiating one of the darkest moments in American history where thousands of innocent Americans, mostly mentally retarded individuals and blacks with learning disabilities, were forcibly sterilized against their will solely for the purpose of evolving the human race. So Dan may think I am throwing around ad hominems because I am missing the point of Holmes' comment, but I am willing to consider the context of the source of such quotations and this one I find truly disturbing.

8) Dan is also bothered by my resistance to environmentalism:

It never ceases to astonish me that Christians scoff at the idea of preserving and protecting the environment or exploring ways towards a healthier diet. It seems that you are assuming that there is some kind of anti-God agenda behind this, but in reality it is just the opposite. It is the idea that we are to imitate God and be good stewards of the earth and our bodies. Once again, I don’t have to support everything a particular organization is about to support their basic message. This is true for those that attend churches. Many agree on fundamentals and disagree on other matters.

The environmentalism in this case is the radical, new-age pantheistic variety often held up by the likes of Al Gore and other fanatical alarmists who are soundly ignorant of the science behind the environment. Though I am all for the conservation of the environment, I do not have to buy into the pseudo-science of modern day environmentalism and their global warming nonsense. The same goes for eating healthy. Why must I become a vegan, which has roots in eastern mysticism and is a religious practice all to itself, in order to eat right and take care of my body? Dan's sense of the extreme never ceases to amaze me.

9) Apostates never believe anyone has ever offered a meaningful critique of their new found convictions. Dan writes:

I think there are more problems with the classical Calvinistic approach, which I once shared with you, than the Open model. I don’t think God is insecure and therefore feels the need to control every atom. I think God is bigger, wiser, and exhaustively resourceful. Just as history is filled with sovereign kings over kingdoms who did not manipulate every action and reaction in their kingdom, God too can be sovereign without this puppeteer-like control.

Is he kidding? Does he think his position is unassailable? I can name at least 10 books now in print where the authors devastate the openist position. Robert Reymond's chapter 10 in his New Systematic Theology is by itself enough to show the utter failure of open theology to deal with the biblical text and the so-called problems of God's foreknowledge. RK McGregor Wright pointed out in his book critiquing open theism with the difficulty of a god limited in knowing the future and the predictive prophecy of Christ's birth. All of the so-called free-will decisions necessary to get Joseph and Mary into Bethlehem at the designated time is just incomprehensible.

10) A few last remarks from Dan; let me respond bullet style:

Is everyone in church history that disagreed with the majority a “theological crank?”

(Fred) Pretty much. Especially in matters of orthodoxy like those individuals who denied the Deity of Christ and God's exhaustive knowledge.

I continually find it ironic that it is the reformers, should I say it again, the Protestant reformers who bully and push around the significant minorities the most.

(Fred) Protestant Reformers had their foibles then as they do now, but on the issue of Christ's Deity and the nature of God's knowledge they are spot on.

Are you suggesting that Unitarians should not have an honest hearing?

(Fred) Unitarians have had an honest hearing and they have been renounced as heretics. Again, do Unitarians like Dan think no one has answered their anti-Trinitarian objections?

If Unitarianism was the more biblical perspective, how would you know?

(Fred) The Holy Spirit would have confirmed their doctrines in the hearts of the people and protected the truth.

I suppose church history settles it for you.

(Fred) Pretty much. Especially when it comes to affirming the Deity of Christ and God's exhaustive knowledge as taught in scripture.

It’s impossible for the church to be wrong, correct?

(Fred) I'll grant that the Church has been wrong on matters in the past. The historic Protestant Reformation is the classic example. But, however wide the schism between Roman Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation with regards to salvation and the authority of scripture, they all agreed on the Deity of Christ and the exhaustive knowledge of God.

We are safest by just joining whatever group has the largest following, right?

(Fred) No, we are safest by joining that group that upholds God's Word as a final authority in matters of doctrine, faith, and practice. Part of upholding God's Word as a final authority is recognizing its purity and infallibility. By his own admission, Dan denies these things based upon the research of such anti-supernaturalist apostates like Bart Ehrman. That makes his group extremely suspicious.

I understand that you think everything is as God planned, the child molestations, rapes, car accidents, plane crashes, genocides, starving children, holocausts, wars, and murders. Even after God allowed all of these things, you can’t conceive of pastors and people in church being confused about doctrine?

(Fred) Yes, pastors and people in churches can be confused about these things, but that confusion is born from a variety of factors like misunderstanding the Bible, not being taught well by leadership, or out right refusing to submit to what the Bible teaches concerning the problem of evil. That confusion, though, does not mean there is a problem with scripture or that we need to re-read the Bible according to Unitarian-Socinian constructs which have been historically rejected by the true Church of God.

Why are there 34,000 Christian denominations then?

(Fred) There aren't 34,000 denominations. Maybe 34,000 churches affiliated with various denominations. I believe Dan pulled that number out of his belly button. There may be tops a few hundred, and the good portion of them that are orthodox and hold to a high view of scripture as outlined in their doctrinal statements, affirm the Deity of Christ and the exhaustive knowledge of God. Perhaps the leadership may be lacking in explaining those doctrines fully, but they at least affirm them.

Dan seems like a good guy. He appears to be nice and charming; certainly inquisitive, bright and energetic. Those virtues, though, do not make him right when it comes to rejecting the doctrines of Christ's Deity and the nature of God. My hope is that Dan will repent of these heresies, abandon Unitarianism for being the lying, useless religion it is and return to the only savior who can give eternal life, Jesus Christ the Lord; fully God and fully man.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Frank Martens said...

I'm convinced it's a ploy to get more attention. A sad ploy ...

9:41 AM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger Highland Host said...

I've heard RCs saying there are 34,000 denominations. Maybe that's where he got it from.
Worldwide, there probably are. IF (for example) you take every national Anglical group (or Presbyterian group for that matter) as a seperate denomination. Indeed, the number of independent Baptist churches (each of which is practically a denomination of one church) would bump it up to that level. There are also about 100 different presbyterian denominations in South Korea (or so a Korean pastor I know told me). What is more, if (as the RCs do) you add all the sub-Christian cults, the JWs, the Christian Scientists, the Unitarians, and the group that meet down the street and do VERY ODD THINGS, you probably get several thousand. HOWEVER, the claim is basically disingenuous for the following reasons.
1. Independent Ecclesiology. While each independent church is autonomous it recognises and was fellowship with many other independent churches and indeed denominational churches.

2. Liberalism in some denominations has forced conservatives to secede from them. THIS has nothing to do with the Bible being unclear but a lot to do with heretics.

3. Heresies. Much like the above. Heretics form their own churches or take over existing ones, forcing the orthodox to leave.

The TRUE disagreements are much fewer, and no bar to fellowship.
I should know. I've preached for churches of four very different denominations in the last twelve months.

1:05 AM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

I often hear Catholics using that "34,000+ deonominations" as a way of being coy. They think it's a cute way of showing that were all screwed up for not being Catholic.

3:30 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

In a way I think the "34,000+ denominations" comment is a tool people use to challenge the authority of scripture. It appears to be a way to challenge God's soverignty.

3:32 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger The Emerson Avenger said...

Well the terms "narrow-minded," "bigoted," and "lacking critical thinking" apply all too well to some of the Unitarian*Universalists aka U*Us I know. In fact I could throw in "small-minded" and "suspicious-minded" too boot. . .

2:43 PM, November 15, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(1) Fred, I think to recount one’s past is a very useful way to give context and background to a present discussion. It is meant, not to elevate, but to personalize the author so that the reader has a better understanding of who is speaking and the causes of a current situation. And whether it is liked or not, and provided it comes with a good understanding of the former position, the person leaving has more credibility than someone who was never there. For example, the testimony of a former Mormon who becomes an Evangelical is inherently more powerful against Mormonism than the testimony of one who never was. I’m left, then, to wonder what it is you feel the Unitarian should say about his or her Orthodox upbringing. That they left on purpose? That they willfully chose error? And regardless of whether Dan is even right or wrong, the point is that some of the best Trinitarian education in the world was not strong enough to hold his mind, and it is this that begs for an explanation.
(2) No ‘apostate’ worthy of the name would ‘dismiss as narrow-minded’ any human being who was critical enough of their own beliefs to re-evaluate them. Instead, there would be a mutual respect for having gone through the same battles. If the Christian, after re-examination, came to only strengthen his or her orthodox convictions, the ‘apostate’ would respect that immediately and seek to dialogue with such a person and find out what, if anything, he or she overlooked and just how it is that this person remained convinced. And further, the Christian would have a better understanding of where people like Dan are coming from, because of their similar experiences and were intimately familiar with the evidence and issues…in other words, such a Christian would be a humble, understanding person who was sensitive to the ‘apostate’ because he or she knows what it’s like to doubt and reexamine. But where are these Christians? Do you know what Dan has been through or what any ‘apostate’ has gone through? Let’s be careful to make sure that all the ‘apostate’ ever gets from the ‘orthodox,’ is not an arrogant response meant to ridicule, curse, and mock. I think we can all do better at this.
(3) Fred, truly, I respect your learning. Your writing abilities and education are impressive and I swear I am not shining you on, but you are an intelligent person and a man who is able to articulate and defend his convictions with style and strength. You have my academic respect like it or not…haha. But Fred, some of the language is just not becoming of you. Sure, according to the Evangelical’s technical definition of ‘apostate,’ Dan can be called one. But it is not used in this technical sense as if scientifically describing him in an objective tone: ‘a person who has left orthodox beliefs.’ It is, rather, meant pejoratively with all the derogatory connotations of ‘wolf, deceiver, heretic, etc.’ and what can be said about ‘Idol-Worshiper’ or ‘Pagan?’ There is no need for these words if we think about it. For whose benefit do we use them? Christians? Dan himself? Give the man a chance to doubt and question and think freely without heaping this abuse on him. If he comes back to the ‘Truth’ it will be because the evidence and arguments led him back. Nobody in the history of the world was ever convinced of a proposition because he was called a heretic, and always remember that the first Christians were ‘Atheists,’ and ‘apostates’ themselves. Remember Galileo and Copernicus and if it weren’t for their heresies we would all still be afraid to sail for fear of falling off the ends of the earth. And recall the Reformers and any other minority, and know that it is always the majority that bullies them with threats and names and is unwilling to listen to what they might say. But questioning the status quo is how any progression is ever made and irregardless of your belief that no progression in Theology Proper is necessary, you cannot just assert that and have everyone take it for granted. If there is no progress to be made let us spin our wheels then and we’ll figure it out in time. But don’t call someone suspicious, meddling or troublesome if they check underneath the hood. If the Trinity is true, it is true no matter who denies it and neither It, nor Truth, need to be propped up by a few disparaging terms.
(4) Fred, in the same line of thought, I note that one of your most powerful and consistent points is the historicity of Christ’s Deity and God’s Foreknowledge - that the Holy Spirit has conserved these things in the hearts of the ‘faithful.’ But one cannot assume that these doctrines are what God ever intended to preserve. Perhaps they are accretions to what the Spirit wants us to know? It may just be that the Spirit has kept around in the hearts of the Church the Messiahship and Lordship of Jesus, his relationship to God as His Son, his Death and Ressurection and a constant love for him to follow his teachings and life. That appears to be the essence of the New Testament, and therefore, it is at least possible than that these arguments and debates and heretics and apologies over the Trinity are nothing more than fallible men screaming at eachother that 10,000 angels CAN fit on the end of a pin! We cannot presume that human councils, and institutions, and fallible creeds or even the works of the Chuch fathers are the work of God, or that this was how the Spirit of God worked in History. You don’t agree with everything the Father’s said, why? Wasn’t the Spirit working in them? If they were wrong on one thing, they can be wrong on all things correct? And given the history and development of the Church, her Bishops, leaders, Popes and her Creeds, it appears obvious that God was not anywhere near most of it. The Reformers should have convinced you of this a long time ago. So, indeed, there is room to believe there is progress to be made without compromising the work of God or his Holy Spirit. That is not to say there is new revelation and doctrine to come, only a continued scraping away of build-up that a fallible Church may have imposed. Did the Reformers get everything corrected? It’s a question to at least ponder. That being said, the argument every Roman Catholic makes to a Protestant is just not good, and the irony is that you don’t buy it either – except now when it can be used to help your cause, you use it. The argument is suddenly a stalwart when it comes to the ‘Essentials,’ but again you’re allowing the very same Institution to dictate to you what is and what is not essential! Again, did the Reformers catch everything Fred?

5:18 PM, November 16, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I’m left, then, to wonder what it is you feel the Unitarian should say about his or her Orthodox upbringing. That they left on purpose? That they willfully chose error? And regardless of whether Dan is even right or wrong, the point is that some of the best Trinitarian education in the world was not strong enough to hold his mind, and it is this that begs for an explanation.

(Fred) A couple of things to note. I realize you may find some virtue in Dan's apostasy. Those who allegedly value "Free Thinking" love ambiguity and anything that is anti-traditional and goes against the "norm" so to speak, all the while deluding themselves into believing they are honestly evaluating the facts and hungering for truth. The real truth of the matter is that Dan did leave orthodoxy on purpose, because he found some "intellectual" heroes who fed his unorthodox tendencies he was already inclined to believe.

Moreover, It appears clearly to me that Dan willfully chose error, because nothing in his published web papers even suggests he even attempted to respond to the answers to his anti-Trinitarian objections. That why I pointed out that apostates like Dan carry on as if no one has every provided any meaningful criticisms to their corny ideas about God. He may wish to ignore the vast body of published literature from the last 1800 years that has exegetically established the doctrine of the Trinity, but ignoring it doesn't affirm his apostasy in the least.

No ‘apostate’ worthy of the name would ‘dismiss as narrow-minded’ any human being who was critical enough of their own beliefs to re-evaluate them. Instead, there would be a mutual respect for having gone through the same battles. If the Christian, after re-examination, came to only strengthen his or her orthodox convictions, the ‘apostate’ would respect that immediately and seek to dialogue with such a person and find out what, if anything, he or she overlooked and just how it is that this person remained convinced.

(Fred) Baloney. What would Dan say to those former open theists who realized they were deceived by the teachings of Clark Pinnock and his ilk, only to embrace the doctrines of grace and become a solid, 5 point Calvinist? I have it on good word from someone who use to be close to Dan that he despises these individuals. This is an intellectual hypocrite. When it comes to people leaving orthodox, biblical Christianity and embracing idolatry, the apostates are all high fives. However, they all turn nasty if one of their free thinking pals abandons his idolatry and becomes a Bible believing Christian renouncing his previous beliefs as error, he is booed and mocked.

But where are these Christians? Do you know what Dan has been through or what any ‘apostate’ has gone through? Let’s be careful to make sure that all the ‘apostate’ ever gets from the ‘orthodox,’ is not an arrogant response meant to ridicule, curse, and mock. I think we can all do better at this.

(Fred) Those Christians are like me calling for folks like Dan to repent of his errors and come back to the truth. There is no need to sympathize with him, other than realizing that he is like all men who can become easily deceived by the father of lies. But the truth of God in Christ smashes all philosophies of men who snare the minds of men. Sadly, the apostate does not receive rebuke and equates it with arrogant responses, ridicule and mocking. That is a mind that refuses to submit to the truth.

Sure, according to the Evangelical’s technical definition of ‘apostate,’ Dan can be called one. But it is not used in this technical sense as if scientifically describing him in an objective tone: ‘a person who has left orthodox beliefs.’ It is, rather, meant pejoratively with all the derogatory connotations of ‘wolf, deceiver, heretic, etc.’ and what can be said about ‘Idol-Worshiper’ or ‘Pagan?’

(Fred) Like I stated up above, those who are apostate despise being called one. Why should I alter my language that is based in scripture to describe those people who have rejected the truth and deny the faith just to appease an apostate's sensibilities? I don't believe in fraternity over truth. Open theism is straight out paganism, pure and simple.

There is no need for these words if we think about it. For whose benefit do we use them? Christians? Dan himself?

(Fred) We do it for the sake of biblical clarity and the conformity to the truth. This is way more important than if Dan or any other apostate is offended by such language.

Give the man a chance to doubt and question and think freely without heaping this abuse on him. If he comes back to the ‘Truth’ it will be because the evidence and arguments led him back.

(Fred) You seem to be ignoring the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Christian's stay orthodox and submit to the truth because the Holy Spirit sanctifies them in the truth. Dan, in spite of his evangelical up bringing and being trained at one of the most biblically sound college, lacked this in his life. The Bible tells us that this is not an uncommon occurrence. John was clear in his first epistle, that they went out from us because they were not of us, if they had been of us they would have remained with us, but they went out from us so that it would be manifested that none of them were of us (1 John 2:19). Dan fits this description perfectly.

If the Trinity is true, it is true no matter who denies it and neither It, nor Truth, need to be propped up by a few disparaging terms.

(Fred) It is not propped up by a few disparaging remarks. There is 1800 years of sound exegesis of the biblical text that Dan now rejects as being infallible that demonstrates that the Church's affirmation of the Trinity is sound. Dan, as well as many apostates like him, refuse to acknowledge that body of study or twist it to their own purposes.

Fred, in the same line of thought, I note that one of your most powerful and consistent points is the historicity of Christ’s Deity and God’s Foreknowledge - that the Holy Spirit has conserved these things in the hearts of the ‘faithful.’ But one cannot assume that these doctrines are what God ever intended to preserve. Perhaps they are accretions to what the Spirit wants us to know?

(Fred) Are you telling me that God can't preserve the truth of His self disclosed revelation in the hearts of his people? That is my whole point. If he can't, then he is not God. The Lord Himself told us that the holy spirit would lead his people in all truth. Obviously, you don't believe this.

it is at least possible than that these arguments and debates and heretics and apologies over the Trinity are nothing more than fallible men screaming at eachother that 10,000 angels CAN fit on the end of a pin!

(Fred) Nope, it is not that simplistic.

You don’t agree with everything the Father’s said, why?

(Fred) Because there is a higher standard than the Father, the holy scriptures. I may not agree with the father on baptismal regeneration, or perhaps his quirky views about being celibate, but none of them who were orthodox denied the Nature of God as revealed in scripture and affirmed the Deity of Christ.

Wasn’t the Spirit working in them?

(Fred) Yes.

If they were wrong on one thing, they can be wrong on all things correct?

(Fred) No. You keep forgetting the infallibility of scripture and the sanctifying work of the spirit. Sanctification is a process in an individual's life.

And given the history and development of the Church, her Bishops, leaders, Popes and her Creeds, it appears obvious that God was not anywhere near most of it. The Reformers should have convinced you of this a long time ago.

(Fred) Indeed, the Reformers did.

So, indeed, there is room to believe there is progress to be made without compromising the work of God or his Holy Spirit.

(Fred) But denying the exhaustive foreknowledge of God and the Deity of Christ is not progress and it is compromising the work of God. Besides, the nature of God and revealed in scripture was not first discussed during the days of the Reformers. These were discussions taking up in just the century after the close of the canon and the Trinity was vehemently defended by the Christian Church and affirmed by the Church.

The argument is suddenly a stalwart when it comes to the ‘Essentials,’ but again you’re allowing the very same Institution to dictate to you what is and what is not essential!

(Fred) Yes. Because the doctrines of God's nature and Christ's deity is so clearly taught in the Bible there is no denying it. To deny it, as Dan has, reveals a deeper spiritual problem than a lack of clarity in the Bible.

Fred

10:32 AM, November 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred

Why are you even interested in talking with Dan at all? You are obviously not interested in actually debating and discussing this issue. Your mind is made up and you are only concerned with defending the orthodox position rather than researching the arguments on the other side and understanding why Dan believes what he believes. Also, Dan's response to you seemed sincere, honest and respectful. Your response seems degrading, vitriolic and abusive. To me it is shameful for you to treat anyone, even an "apostate" (in you opinion) the way you are treating Dan. Isn't the way you commuinicate the message as important as the message itself?

12:21 AM, November 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Fred, Good discussion, I appreciate your time and insights. I think, however, we’re missing each other on just a few points if I may highlight some points of contention. Fortunately, I should like to add, I think these are readily fixable.
(1) I sense, perhaps, an unnecessarily hostile view toward ‘Free Thinking’ that could be ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ if you will. Freedoms to think and of conscience, as opposed to the contrary, are jewels all of us ought to treasure immensely and should not be taken for granted or derided. Now certainly, I would agree with you, there is absolutely no virtue in a love for ambiguity and an a priori rejection of anything traditional. That is childish, intellectually irresponsible, and has nothing to do with Truth or even Thought itself. So for what it’s worth, perhaps we can give Free Thought a higher and more virtuous place among the labels, as without it, again I have to reiterate, no intellectual progress can ever be made, and every one of us would still be attending Mass and buying indulgences were it not for it.
And, at least for myself, and if I may speak for Dan as well (I’ve been a close, personal friend of his for nearly 10 years now), neither of us delights in ambiguity, instead, we love certainty like anyone else, believing objective truths exist and are attainable. Further, neither of us rejects a doctrine simply because it is traditional, but because it, at least in our understanding, does not stand the test of Biblical examination. Moreover, Dan still retains many traditional convictions -- a clear indicator that he does not reject Tradition just for being traditional. In all then, we might be deluded, and we could be ignorant, but we have never been dishonest or in love with meaningless rebellion, and we certainly, as sure as I am about anything, never willfully chose to believe an error.
Fred, regarding, what Dan would or would not say to someone, or what Dan’s papers may or may not say in response to 1800 years of orthodox apologies, I’ll try to be brief. First, It is simply an error to say that Dan ‘despises’ certain former Open Theists and you have my word on that as someone who is very close to him. I’ve never known Dan to despise anyone in any matter - it is just not in his personality to carry that sort of venom. And to my knowledge, unless he’s hiding a dark secret from me, there is not a single soul he would not talk to, laugh with, or befriend. Sadly, he has always been the one that was rejected over doctrine, not the other way around. Secondly, I have not read everything Dan has published so I cannot speak definitively on what is or what is not on the website. But I have read plenty (almost all of it) and being close friends the last 10 years, not to mention living 4 minutes from him; I have talked with him exhaustively. He has never been one to ignore an objection. He has never once skirted an issue or difficult text, and I’ve seen him in countless dialogues answering question after question, objection after objection, to the best of his ability. He is constantly studying and reading both sides of any issue, so he is not oblivious to, nor ignorant of the orthodox answers to his objections. So perhaps he has not done a perfect job in highlighting those answers, responding to them, and publishing. Maybe that can be one of his next projects – I will suggest it to him. In fact, if you could list for us the top orthodox answers to his objections you would like to see him respond to, that would be beneficial.
(2) Another point that we might need to fine-tune is your understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit and the preservation of doctrine. To repeat, Fred, you cannot assume that the doctrines you believe are the very doctrines God needs to preserve in order for him to qualify as God. Moreover, you cannot assume that what you affirm as essential is what the Spirit of God finds essential to preserve. It is arbitrary to say God is still God even though he let the Church fumble on at least 95 points, but should he let the Church slide into error concerning his Son’s and His exact ontology, he cannot be God and John 14:26 is a lie. Why must we draw that conclusion? I had said that the essence of the New Testament appeared to be very specific things, namely, the Life, the Messiahship and the Lordship of Jesus, his relationship to God as His Son, his Death and Ressurection, and that the Spirit would keep these things, as well as a love for and devotion to Jesus’ teachings in the hearts of the Christians. Where does the New Testament instruct us to go beyond this? Anything beyond the NT is therefore an accretion, never intended by the Spirit of God to be affirmed, taught or preserved.
And quoting 1 John 2:19, divorced of its context makes the verse meaningless as anyone can use it against anyone and it doesn’t prove a thing. The same verse can be applied toward yourself. Any church, pastor, priest, or teacher who disagrees with you can quote this and say, “See, Fred, never really was one of us” and what does that prove? Nothing, until, they first supply a contextually sound interpretation of the verse and then check to see if it applies. However, the verse has to do with people leaving for the ‘love of the world’ along with warnings to watch out for the liar who is the person that ‘denies that Jesus is the Christ.’ Contextually, then, this verse doesn’t apply to Dan or yourself.
(3) Lastly, and I think this final point of contention might be the very root of our disagreement. It is that you are certain the Bible is crystal clear about Jesus’ Deity and the Triune nature of God. You said, “…the doctrines of God's nature and Christ's deity are so clearly taught in the Bible there is no denying it. To deny it, as Dan has, reveals a deeper spiritual problem than a lack of clarity in the Bible.” This is fascinating, and it is at this exact position that all the logic comes to a head. This conviction that one’s dogmas are so clearly taught in sacred scripture precludes even the possibility of someone sincerely missing them or honestly disagreeing. Therefore, since they are so indisputably plain, the defector must of necessity be a wolf, a deceiver, in love with error, enamored with dissention, and a willful and deliberate apostate. And so it is at this very point that we are certain you are not correct; it is how we know you are not being honest with the data. For what we do know is that we are honest, we are sincere, and that we want only to believe true things about Jesus and about God, and to come to the most accurate interpretation of the Biblical Text. You can call it baloney, you can resort to hearsay, and you can deny it for as long as you care to, but we know ourselves and so none of it will change the facts. The facts of our own consciences, our own hearts, our own life experiences, our own honest pleadings to God and searching of the Bible – it is this that we cannot deny, and as we cannot deny that, we know that you are not telling the truth when you say we willfully choose error.
Further, because of this, we know the Church exaggerates the case when they say that the Bible is perfectly clear on these matters. Once again, don’t let an Institution dictate to you what is ‘undeniably clear,’ when reality and history is telling you that it is not. If you start out as axiomatic the undeniable clarity of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ, you will be unable to account for people like Servetus, Arius, Dan, Myself, the many scholars, and the millions of genuine people who are non-Trinitarian, except to call them insincere, dishonest, error-loving pagans. Furthermore, how would one account for the various quarrels or ‘heresies’ (like Modalism) that have arisen? If it so clear, why so many misunderstandings? It makes little sense and it is very unconvincing to say all these teachers and people deny the obvious and choose error. So as this is not the case, you are left with another option. Perhaps they are deceived by the Devil and other false teachers. But this is entirely untenable for how could anyone trick someone into ‘denying’ the ‘undeniable?’ What form of deception could any agent, spirit or human, use to show Fred Butler, or myself, the New Testament did not teach that Jesus was the Christ? There could be no possibility of this. Now that is one truly undeniable teaching of the New Testament and to say that the Trinity is just as clear is disingenuous and false. So there is a third option: The Bible is not perfectly clear about the deity of Jesus or the Trinity, there is room for differences here, and there have been sincere, honest men and women who are arriving at diverse conclusions. In addition, given the track record of the Church, it is at least possible, perhaps even likely, that these doctrines are accretions to the New Testament that were not caught by the Reformers, and were never intended by God to be nuanced, detailed and made into stumbling blocks of fellowship. Instead, in the spirit of Christ’s goodness and love, one should not only be at peace with these differences but should welcome them and know that such diversity, in the spirit of free inquiry, will produce the conclusion that best fits all the relevant Biblical data. And if it turns out that the Trinity is the true teaching of scripture, be patient with the ‘weaker brethren’ we will eventually get there if it’s the truth, you just cannot blame a Protestant for not trusting the Catholic Church. Let’s examine all her merchandise together, for she has sold us disgraceful imitations before.

Steve

1:56 PM, November 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to see some real discussion over real Biblical texts. Fred, why don't you lay out a couple sound biblical arguments for the Trinity and force Dan to respond to those arguments? Perhaps Dan could do the same. The rest of us can observe, offer insights where helpful, and moderate the discussion to make sure neither side slides into cheap shots, logical fallacies, or diversions. Keeping this about the NT texts would be great, and I and many others would love to see this really focus on the nuts and bolts of the issue.

10:59 PM, November 25, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I answer Adam and Steve here

9:41 PM, December 04, 2006  
Blogger Una said...

Fred,
On a quick reading of your posts it seems you place great confidence in the fact that God has preserved His truths in the established church(es). God is of course well able to preserve in the lives of the faithful for this is surely the written testimony of Scripture both for Old Testament Israel and the New Covenant community where the understandinmg of a remnant in prominant.
As unthinkable as it currently may sound to you, those through 'church history' who have held to a unitarian monotheistic faith could well be that faithful remnant based on the apostles teaching itself. Their history is largely unrecorded and they have often been on the receiving end of persecutions.
As the time of Christ's return draws near we can reasonably expect an enlargement of the remnant as the time for the restoration of all things approaches.
My own testimony is similar to Dan's and in fact there are many who are being led worldwide in this direction through serious study and concern for truth, often at significant personal cost.
The promise that the Spirit will lead into all truth still stands.
It can be a shocking thought even to entertain the possibility that what one once considered orthodox is not in fact the result of the Spirit's leading but a diversion, even a deceptive intrusion on the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
A radical re reading of John's epistles for instance can, and perhaps more accurately, point to cherished doctrines such as the Trinity being a part of 'the spirit of error' and 'going beyond the doctrine about Christ' that he was earnestly warning about.
The error was not denying that God has come in the flesh (in Jesus)as most christians cannot help but interpret it, but denying that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. Coming in the flesh, or coming into the world, is a basic Hebrew expression for being born as 100% fully human being. To deny this was the denial of the Father and Son relationship John taught.
The greatest requirement for a student or teacher of Scripture, and indeed anything in our walk with God,is repentance. That is willing to change our minds and think and act differently when shown we are in the wrong.
I fear that many will be unable to repent in areas of doctrine as the strongholds in the mind are too strong. I personally have come to the conviction that trintarianism is THE most powerful stronghold in human experience and nothing less than the wonderful grace of God impacting a soft and teachable heart can bring freedom form it.
There is most often a softness and humilty displayed in many ex-trinitarians together with a deep hunger for truth that is quite often not in evidence by dogmatic trinitarians. History is on our side here.
By their fruits (behaviour, attitudes AND doctrine) you will know then said Jesus.

1:42 PM, October 21, 2009  

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