Monday, October 22, 2007

The Problem with Pragmatism

Because I was "banned" from posting on the Boundless Blog, I could not enter the discussion today. However, I do still read the blog, and one of the discussions caught my attention. It was about my previous article on Scott Croft. Motte Brown wrote the following:

I understand that people have different opinions on this issue. But one of the main points Scott makes is that the long you date, the more prone you are to sinning physically.

No reasonable person would argue that physical temptation does not increase — a lot — the longer two people date who are attracted to each other and who grow to love each other. Sadly, statistics and anecdotal experience both indicate that even the vast majority of Christian couples who spend time in dating relationships of any length, sin physically.

I've yet to see any of the "From 'Hi' to 'I do' in One Year" detractors address this inconvenient truth of long-dating relationships. Is it simply a matter of self-control and accountability? Or do you believe a certain amount of sinning physically just comes with the territory of any dating relationship?

If this is one of Mr. Croft's main points, then it is easy to see why there are so many detractors. Allow me to be "unreasonable" here, and try to address Mr. Croft's [what I believe is] pragmatism. First, Mr. Croft says that "the statistics" indicate that, the longer the relationship goes, the better the chance for physical sin. I want to know, what statistics? There is no footnote, or citation for that. I think what I would probably get back is something like a survey in which the rate of premarital sexual relations would be shown to be higher in those who have dated for more than a year.

However, that is easily challangable. First of all, who was surveyed? Were only Christians surveyed? If only Christians were surveyed, then how committed were the majority of them to their Christianity? Were they people who only attended church on Sunday, and maybe singles ministry because it gives them a good time? How involved were their parents? How many of them were dating for the purpose of marriage? Did they already have problems with sexual sin before this? Were they still virgins when they engaged in sexual sin? You see, there are a huge host of questions, and it is funny for Motte to think that this is even a good enough point to bring up. The reality is that most of the time there is going to be more than one factor.

Secondly, I know more than enough people who have dated for more than a year and are still sexually pure. In fact, two of my best friends are about ready to graduate from college, they have been dating since High School, and are still virgins. My parents are, likewise, a good example of this. We also need to keep in mind that our generation never heard of this modern view of courtship before folks like Joshua Harris came out with it. There were many people who got married as virgins after long engagements before and after these books came out.

However, again, the fatal flaw in the reasoning of modern courtship is the idea that the physical can cause us to sin. The Bible does not tell us that our sin comes from our situation, but rather, from our heart. Worse than that, as I mentioned in my previous post, by adding unbiblical commands to the scriptures, the Lordship of Christ is thrown out the window. Again, I have to ask why it is that Joshua Harris, Albert Mohler, Boundless, etc. keep adding to the word of God. By doing so, they are setting up boundaries for couples that are not under the Lordship of Christ. Because the command "You must get married in a year" has absolutely no Biblical authority, and therefore, it is an easy one to break. Notice, as I said on my last post, Eve tried to do the same thing. They figured "Hey, we will be less likely to eat the fruit if we don't even touch it." If this reasoning didn't work in paradise, what makes them think it will work here?

In fact, here is a parody on this argument. 1 Corinthians 10:14 tells us we are to flee idolatry. Now, does that mean that I should not witness to a Hindu, because I will be more likely to be deceived, and thus commit idolatry if I witness to a Hindu? 1 Timothy 6:10-11 tells us that we are to flee the love of money. Does that mean that we are not to be rich because it is more likely that we will end up loving our money if we are rich? The problem with this is that 1 Corinthians 6:18 was never intended to be a command to not do things that might increase your chances of being tempted.

Worse than that, back in Biblical times, you would often times have the man work for the girl's hand, such as Jacob who worked seven times the amount prescribed by Mr. Croft in his article. Such could not be wrapped up in a year, and the couple would have to wait for it to be done. There simply is no Biblical evidence for this viewpoint, and, in this case, there is evidence against it.

Again, we have to ask ourselves the question. Where does sin come from? Why do people sin? That is the heart of the error of the modern courtship movement. James tells us in James 1:14 that sin comes from the heart. As long as modern courtship advocates keep focusing on environment rather than the heart, it will be impossible for them ever solve the problem altogether. The only consistent modern courtship advocate is the one who would be willing to go up to their girlfriend or boyfriend and tell them that they would hurt them in a second if they were ever in another environment. I do not know of any girl that would ever date a guy who said that to them.

Again, this is what happens when you go to pragmatism rather than trying to wrestle with these issues from the word of God. You will always end up with an inconsistent, irrational view of reality rather than allowing the scriptures to tell us about these things. That is the problem with pragmatism. What "works" is not going to necessarily be what is the most Biblical. For instance, if you are angry with someone, and want them to go away, threatening them with a gun will certainly accomplish that goal. However, is such Biblical? And if we would not accept a pragmatic, unbiblical solution to a problem such as that, why do we accept a solution that binds to the contience of God's people something not found in God's word?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Scott Croft Keeps Throwing up Circular Arguments

Most people are aware of Scott Croft, the attorney who has wandered into Biblical Studies. A while back, Scott Croft presented this argument against premarital kissing:

I believe the Bible to teach that all sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, and all romantically oriented physical activity is sexual activity. In my view, this includes premarital kissing.

His argument appears to be in this form:

1. All sexual activity ouside of marriage is sin.
2. Premarital kissing is a romantically oriented physical activity, and therefore, a sexual activity.
3. Therefore, premarital kissing is a sin.

Of course, we can easily challange premise #2. First of all, what does Mr. Croft mean by a "sexual activity?" His language is ambiguous. However, his definition could only take on one of two descriptions, sinful or not sinful. If he means "sexual activity" in the sense of something romantic that is not said to be sinful in the Bible, then he refutes his own argument. However, if he means a "sexual activity" in the sense of an action which is said to be sinful in the Bible, then he would be under obligation to prove that premarital kissing is sinful sexual action from the text of the Bible. I am pretty sure he wants us to take the second interpretation, however, he retreats to ambiguious language so he doesn't have to prove this interpretation. He can then go off quoting all of these passages which talk about extramarital sexuality being wrong, and no one will bother to challange him to prove that his definition of a "sexual activity" is consistent with how the Bible uses such terminology. Thus, I would say Mr. Croft is wrong to say that a romantically oriented physical activity is a sexual activity, as the Bible never defines it as such.

Also, he uses a really bad argument that says that, if we are not married to someone, then we are to treat them like a biological brother or sister, and then cites passages talking about spiritual brothers and sisters as if it had any relevance. If we want to go that route, we could use the following argument:

1. If we are not married to someone in the church, we are to treat them as biological brothers and sisters.
2. Biological brothers and sisters are not allowed to attend marriage counciling with each other, since it is immoral for brothers and sisters to get married.
3. Therefore, if you are unmarried, you cannot attend marriage counciling.

Or even better yet:

1. If we are not married to someone in the church, we are to treat them as biological brothers and sisters.
2. Biological brothers and sisters are not allowed to marry each another.
3. Therefore, no two Christians are allowed to marry each other.

Of course, now Scott Croft's argument has destroyed marriage altogether.

Now, I keep on wondering how it is that Mr. Croft could make such bad arguments. I mean, what is the modivating factor for such horrendus argumentation? Well, Mr. Croft has now penned an article allegedly proving that relationships that are over a year long are somehow wrong, and I think it is very telling.

His arguments are, again, assuming things that have yet to be proven. He assumes that long relationships are the cause of sexual sin, completely ignoring James 1:14 which says that it is by our own evil lusts which we are tempted. He also tries to quote 1 Thessalonians 4:6 which has absolutely no relevance whatsoever since the context is about sexual sin, and has nothing to do with how long it takes to get to marriage. Worse than that, he, again, assumes that it is somehow "defrauding" someone because you have not made a commitement to that person. The problem is that Mr. Croft, and virtually everyone else in the modern courtship movement, makes the mistake of thinking that commitment can only occur in marriage. Thus, all I need to do is hold that commitment can occur outside of marriage, and the problem is gone.

The reason I bring this up is that Mr. Croft has pretty much admitted that his entire series has been one long circular argument. In the very same article, Mr. Croft writes:

To put it simply, "not acting married before you're married," perhaps the sum total of the principles we've discussed in the rest of these columns, gets exponentially more difficult the longer a pre-marital relationship persists.

Now, where in his entire series did he ever prove from the scriptures that premarital kissing and long relationships are "acting married before you are married?" I hope he does not mean that they are acting like you are married because it is something that married people do. Married people do a whole lot of things that even modern courtship advocates do. I think what he means is that these actions that he is saying are wrong are inherently marital. However, where does he ever bother prove from the scriptures that these things are inherently marital? He doesn't, and what that tells me is that this entire series of articles were nothing but one long circular argument. His fundamental premise assumes that these things are only to occur in marriage, and low and behold, when we get to the conclusion we find that the fundamental premise is that these things are only supposed to happen in marriage.

Again, the circularity of Mr. Croft's arguments just scream out the fact that he has terrible prejudices against long relationships and romantic physical activities, and these series of articles have been nothing more than an attempt to rationalize his prejudices. He has never even attempted to prove this foundational premise from the Bible, and he, and other modern courtship advocates assume it with every argument they make. Of course, this is this mindset of modern courtship advocates. While Mr. Croft may have gone to the scriptures in this series, he has not gone their to prove his basic assumptions, and thus, his basic assumptions must be rejected as unbiblical. If that is the case, then his entire argument comes down with them. Thus, Mr. Croft has not presented "Biblical Dating," because, at the crutial points of his arguments, he refuses to go to the Bible, and just keeps on throwing up circular arguments.

Mr. Croft is an attorney. Thus, it is unbelievable to see him throwing up arguments that would make him fail any class in first order predicate logic. Why does he do this? I think because he has a prejudice against premarital kissing and long relationships, and knows that he cannot defend that prejudice from the Bible. However, this is not a game. Because of the fact that the boundaries Mr. Croft is asking people to set up are unbiblical and irrational, he is asking people to set up boundaries which have no authority. What is the problem with this? The problem is that if you set up boundaries that are based upon unbiblical principles, then they have no authority behind them. Whenever you are tempted to cross these boundaries, you have no reason to keep your boundaries because they have no authority behind them. Once you cross them, the authority of your boundaries as a whole have been effectively undermined. However, if you build your boundaries upon the word of God, then you have boundaries that have the authority of the almighty king of the universe behind them. That is the only chance we have of remaining pure before marriage.

I would like to close with pointing something out from the story of Adam and Eve. God gave Adam a commandment when he first created him. As we all know, Adam and Eve disobeyed that commandment. However, I don't know if people have noticed that, when Eve tells the serpent what God has commanded, she doesn't exactly get it right. Here is a comparison between the commandment that was given to Adam, and the way Eve relayed it to the serpent:

Genesis 2:16-17 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

Genesis 3:2-3 The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'"

Now, where did the bold phrase come from? The woman appears to be adding a phrase making the command much more rigerious than what God had actually commanded. However, did it end up working? Did adding a more severe command to the command God had already made in any way shape or form prevent Eve from eating of the fruit? Of course not! And if this didn't procedure didn't work in paradise where there was no sin, what makes the modern courtship advocates think that it will work now, when we live in a culture of sin? You see, Eve had an easy answer for the serpent. It was "Thus Saith the Lord." However, she refused that lordship of God over her life, and she fell into sin. That is where sin comes from. That is why boundaries must be set up with Biblical authority so that we can say that it is God who is Lord over our lives, and when temptation comes, we will recognize that the boundaries we have come directly from our Lord. That is the only chance we have of defeating temptation.

One of my pastors would like to see courtship simply defined as a relationship in which there is parental involvement. I agree. I know that most of the modern courtship advocates agree that parents must be restored to a more preeminent role in their children's relationships, and for that, I commend our modern courtship friends. I only wish they had stopped there. The rest of this stuff is nothing more than a relic of 19th century parenting. I propose that we, instead, go back to the word of God, and allow our relationships to be based upon the sound exegesis of the holy and God-breathed scriptures.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Could Debbie Maken be Courting Open Theism?

For all of those who are concerned about the mandatory marriage issue, I would like to ask everyone for prayers for Debbie Maken. I will sometimes visit her blog to get information for my book, but mostly don't read the comments because it is mostly just Debbie Maken's ascerbic language disguised as an answer to her critics. I have kept on responding to her, firstly because there are people who do not know that Debbie Maken is saying is easily challangable, and secondly most people do not know how to answer her, and also because I believe that God can turn her heart so that she will repent of her sin, and turn to Christ. I have been praying for this woman, and hoping that such will happen. She is around reformed teachers, so, I was hoping that some of their teaching could be used of God to turn her heart.

However, her days in reformed churches might be limited. Today, I happened to go over to her blog, and I decided to take a look at the comments section to see if Farmer Tom tried to respond to her. I was startled to find the following message by an anonymous poster. For those of you who follow Gene Cook's ministry and remember this debate, you will find this comment very interesting:

Hi Debbie.

I stumbled upon your book on Amazon about a year ago and enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, I began following the whole singleness discussion/debate on your blog and others. I had no idea this discussion was even going on in some Christian circles, and I could definitely relate to the frustration I saw expressed about the current marriage crisis. I was pleased to find that many others were rethinking the modern Church's teachings about singleness and marriage.

I'd like to offer my thoughts on what I believe is the source of the Church's faulty teaching on this subject. You have been right to point out the harmful effects of the well-meaning platitudes Church leaders tell singles about their situation - i.e. "If you're single, it's God's will for you right now"; "Wait on the Lord and He'll bring you the person He has for you"; and, of course "Singleness is a gift." I certainly agree with you that these ideas have been quite painful and paralyzing to many Christian singles.

But the question must be asked: What do all these pious platitudes have in common? Answer: The implicit notion that God has chosen a particular person for each of us to marry and that He will bring that person into our lives at some "appointed time," if it is His will for us to marry at all. A typical Christian hears the expression "the person God has for you" literally hundreds of times in his life - at Church, from family and friends, on Christian TV and radio, in books and magazines. The idea is so ubiquitous in Christian circles that it goes largely unquestioned. Not to mention the belief, so common in pop culture, that we each possess a "soul mate."

By the way, one very overlooked passage of scripture that implies God does not have a particular person picked out for each of us is 1 Cor. 7:39-40 (NKJV):

" 39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment-and I think I also have the Spirit of God."

"To whom she wishes."

I don't think the common mistranslation of 1 Cor. 7:7 in some modern Bibles to say, "God gives to some the gift of marriage , and to others the gift of singleness" is the primary source of the "Gift of Singleness" teaching, although it certainly didn't help. Rather, I strongly believe that all these erroneous ideas flow quite logically from the fatalistic worldview that has permeated Christianity for many centuries.

Ever since the Neo-Platonist movement at the time of Augustine, Christianity - and all of Western culture (think Doris Day… "Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be" ) - has been greatly influenced by Greek philosophy, especially the writings of Plato. Augustine is "credited" with harmonizing Platonic thought with Christian theology. In his 'Confessions' he admitted that his commitment to the Greeks was so great that he refused to become a Christian until Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, showed him how he could interpret Scripture through the prism of Greek philosophy. Augustine had seen a clear distinction between the way the Bible presents God and the Greek's conception of divinity, and he preferred the latter (!)

In contrast, for the first 300 years of the Body of Christ - before the influence of Augustine - notable Christians like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome, etc. taught that because God possesses genuine freedom of will, and because man is created in His image and likeness, we do too. In the book "God's Strategy in Human History" (Marston & Forster, 2000 Ed.), Alister McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford, is quoted as saying (p.296), "The pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will." McGrath considers the Church's later denial of true libertarian human will to be a good thing, so his admission here is quite notable.

The commitment to humanistic philosophy continued into the Reformation with Luther - an Augustinian monk - and Calvin, who revered Augustine's writings. Calvin's theology is considered to be in many ways a revival of Augustinianism. Many Reformation seminaries placed an equal emphasis on the study of "The Classics" (Greek philosophy) as on the study of Holy Scripture. In short, the Reformation broke the Body of Christ free from Rome, but not from Greece.

This isn't to say Greek philosophy is totally without value. One of the factors that led to the advancement of science in Western Civilization - besides the presence of Christianity, with its belief that God created an orderly universe - was the development of the laws of logic by the philosophers of ancient Greece. However (and I know you agree with this) whatever truth may exist in any man-made philosophy, especially any attempt to describe the nature of God, man and reality, must be discerned by reading it through the prism of God's Word, and not vice versa.

The concept that the future is eternally settled (preordained) and therefore that it cannot be altered in any way is a superstitious, pagan idea, not a Biblical one. The Greeks called it "Fate" while many Christians call it "God's Will" or "Providence", but it's the same superstitious worldview that has been common in pagan cultures throughout history - most significantly in ancient Greece. By the way, the term "providence" was actually coined by the Greeks, and later adopted by Christian theologians.

The Body of Christ is steeped in this worldview and it has a direct impact on practical life matters such as how Christians pursue marriage - or don't. Countless singles have had Church leaders tell them they should not proactively pursue marriage because it would all just happen in "God's perfect time," or that they don't want to "get ahead of God" or other such nonsense. Even the dreaded "Contentment Lecture" that singles are clobbered over the head with whenever they express their desire to be married, flows logically from this fatalistic worldview. After all, if every facet of life - including one's marital status - is following a sort of Divine Script, how can anyone be discontent with where God "has him"?

A while back you posted an article by Blaine Smith on your blog, titled "Is God A Matchmaker?" It's a good illustration of the paralysis these ideas can create in the lives of Christian singles. He wrote:

A member of the church I attended as a single Christian wrote a song that became a favorite at weddings there. Many couples included it in their wedding ceremonies, and Evie and I began our own service with it. The first verse sets forth the theme that continues throughout the song: "Before God gave us life . . . He planned us for each other."

The song proclaims a belief which Christians have long held sacred--that God predetermines whom you marry. If he wants you to be married, he has one ideal choice in mind. And he works in many mysterious ways to bring you to the one for whom you are destined....

...I find that...[frequently] this viewpoint has an adverse effect on Christians....

...Most the paralyzing effect this notion sometimes has on single Christians who want to be married. Some conclude that any personal effort to find a spouse is outside the bounds of faith. Changing jobs or churches to improve the prospects of meeting someone compatible, for instance, is out of the question. Faith demands that you sit still and wait for God to bring the right person to your doorstep.

In one extreme case a Christian woman told me she felt she must avoid any situation that would make it too easy to find a husband. She had four opportunities for missionary service. In three of these situations there were single men whom she would consider marrying. Thus she felt compelled to choose the fourth. Though this woman, who was past forty, deeply wanted to be married, she greatly feared getting her own will mixed up with God's in the matter. Making it as difficult as possible for God to bring a man into her life would help ensure that marriage would come about only if God willed....

...My that most Christians do not find this notion [the premise of the song] helpful when it comes to decisions related to marriage....

No, not helpful at all.

You might ask, "So, if this fatalism has infected the Church for centuries, why is it only recently - in the last few decades - that we've experienced such passivity regarding the pursuit of marriage?" Fair question. Here's my take on it:

I think if you had asked most Christians even fifty years ago, "Do you think God has chosen a particular person for each of us to marry?" they likely would have said, "Gee, now that you mention it, I guess He probably has" even though most of them wouldn't have given it much prior thought. It wasn't a particularly helpful idea for them to keep in mind as they were thinking about marriage. Since the cultural stigma about pre-marital sex was still intact, most people - especially men - were very eager to get married (just as God intended). Their more intentional attitude toward the pursuit of marriage was not a logical result of their theology, but existed in spite of it.

When the trend of marital delay began in the Western world in the 1960's - due mainly to the Sexual Revolution - the Body of Christ was faced with the challenge of ministering to millions more single people in our society and began to develop a sort of Theology of Singleness -- the foundation of which, unfortunately, was the superstitious worldview the Church has applied to every dilemma and tragedy in life.

There's an excellent audio presentation that is highly relevant to this issue, titled "Predestination & Free Will" by a man I greatly admire named Bob Enyart. He's a radio talk show host ( and pastor of Denver Bible Church in Colorado. His ministry has had a tremendous impact on my life for about 15 years. The presentation is a six-hour seminar he held on this topic. Here's the description from his website:

So much is at stake when people consider predestination and free will. Strong emotions often surface with a discussion of this topic. That passion points to our critical need to understand the truth regarding whether or not God has predetermined who will go to heaven and who will go to hell.

Also, the question of whether or not God has planned out each person's life affects us. Does God have a plan for your life? Does a blueprint exist for your future? Did God predetermine whether or not you would get married, and to whom? Did God plan whether you would be wealthy or poor, happy or sad? If God does plan your life, does He do so in minute detail or in general themes? If God has a plan for your life, are you able to alter that plan? This topic directly influences people concerning how they live their lives [AMEN! - me]. As Christians, we must seek God to accurately portray the LORD to others. For any misrepresentation of God will dishonor Him and perhaps bring harm to those misled.

I believe many people have misrepresented God - even if unintentionally - and have brought great harm to Christian singles through bad theology.

I think you would enjoy reading a fascinating debate on this topic that took place at between Enyart and Dr. Samuel Lamerson, a professor at Knox Theological Seminary: link. And here's an excellent article about Predestination and Free Will that talks about Greek philosophy's influence on Christianity: link.

In following this discussion online for some time, it's been clear to me that most of those involved – and both sides in every tangential debate - are from a Reformed background. Perhaps the folks in these churches are more concerned with this particular topic than other believers are -- I don't know. I'm aware that my analysis strikes at the heart of Reformed/Calvinist theology. For this reason, I deliberated whether or not I really wanted to interject my thoughts. I know how contentious the subject of Predestination and Free Will is, and how defensive we all can get - myself included - when our long-held doctrinal beliefs are challenged.

Because I feel strongly that the current analysis of this issue – though accurate in many ways - wasn't quite getting at the heart of the issue, nor identifying what I believe is the root cause of all the confusion and false teaching about singleness, I decided it was worth offering my two cents. I guess I'm asking you and your readers to rethink a few more things. ;-) I hope you will at least give my ideas some consideration.

I want to thank you for your effort to kick-start this conversation and for challenging some of the modern Church's teachings on the subject of singleness - and taking the heat for it. It was long overdue! Thank you also for encouraging Christian singles to be more intentional about pursuing marriage and family. Of all the obstacles Christian singles must dodge in their efforts to get married, hopefully we can soon eliminate bad theology as a wholly unnecessary one.

Thank you for your time.

In Christ,

Now, I was waiting to see if Debbie Maken would attack this man for his heretical theology. Remember, in Gene Cook's dialogue with Enyart [Part 1 here, and Part 2 here], he got Enyart to say that it was possible that, from all eternity, the father could have hated the son. Not only does Enyart not believe in providence in the classic Christian sense, he also denies that God has exaustive foreknowledge of future events. Indeed, if Debbie Maken were a good Reformed Presbyterian, one would expect her to repudate such a heretical position. However, I was greatly disappointed in Maken's reply:


Thank you so much for adding "more than two cents worth" to the discussion. Your observations are quite astute about the confusion most singles suffer. My husband often says this of Christians in this culture-- "these people are thinking this thing to death; it is so simple." And I can hear that sentiment in your examination of a bachelor who would have married sooner in spite of theology. Very good. Please contribute again.

Debbie Maken

Now, this is very dangerious. I have said before that Debbie Maken's views on God's sovereignty are Arminian to the core, and one of the most man-centered views I have ever encountered. Isn't it amazing that Anakin, Andreas Kostenburger, and myself have tried to tell Maken this, but she refuses to listen because we are supposedly "speaking out of both sides of our mouths." Now, pure Open theism is presented, and she bites.

We all need to be in deep prayer for this woman. She is walking down a very dangerious road, and her soul is in grave danger. It is amazing that all of this started from a movement which decided it would add a command to scripture by calling protracted singleness a sin when the Bible does not say that it is a sin. I do believe her idolatry is finally taking root. Man always wants to make a God in his own image, and that is exactly what finite-godism is. It fits with Maken's theology, as she really believes that the only reason that any man is not married is because he hasn't done something right. There is no room for providence in her view of marriage. Thus, Open Theism is perfectly suited to her theology. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if, in the future, Maken ends up saying that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of future events, and there is no providence. I don't know if any of you remember our dialogue, but in it, Maken complained that the classic reformed view made God the "author" of sin. So I asked her the following question: If God foreknew that someone was going to sin, then why did he create them? This is a classic argument that Calvinists have used in theological dialogue with our Arminian brothren for years. It is interesting that Open Theists have started using this exact same argument against Arminians. What is interesting is that Maken had no answer for this, and only said that greater minds than ours have discussed this issue, and therefore, we should not seek to improve upon them. In other words, she never answered the question.

Now, as far as the man's arguments, they are bogus. First of all, with regards to 1 Corinthians 7:39-40, there is no doubt that people choose who they wish. However, it is God who has control over the desires of man. Thus, "who a person wishes" has nothing to do with the debate, as both people believe man does what he desires. That has nothing to do with whether or not God has also ordained what man now desires.

Secondly, while there are many erronious teachings in modern Christianity that are fatalistic, Reformed theology is not one of those teachings. Why is that? Because fatalism is the belief that God has ordained the ends but not the means. In other words, you can try to avoid sinning in the future, but you will not be able to do so. Why? Because no matter how much you try, you will not be able to resist it, because it is your fate. That is not Calvinism. Calvinism teaches that God ordains the ends as well as the means. Thus, when someone sins, it is not because it was their fate. God ordained the ends [their act of sin] as well as the means [their evil desire to sin].

Secondly, Enyart says that we makes God limited because we say that he cannot do some things. Several things can be said in response to this. First of all, it is unbiblical and incoherent to say that "God can do anything." God cannot sin [1 John 1:5], God cannot lie [Titus 1:2], and God cannot deny himself [2 Timothy 2:13]. Thus, to say that, for instance, the father cannot hate the son is only to say that he cannot deny himself. It is part of his nature and character. Also, here is a classic, but thorny problem for the open view. Can God make a stone so big that he cannot lift it? Well, if you answer "yes," then you have to admit that God is not "free" to lift that stone. If you answer "no," then you are forced to the conclusion that God is not "free" to make this stone. In other words, because you depart from the scriptures, you run into logical problems, as is always the case.

Finally, it is the Open Theist's view that has roots in Greek Philosophy. The open view states that God is a finite creature who is ignorant of many things. In the same manner, the gods of Greek mythology are finite, limited, and, in many cases, immoral.

Also, where does Augustine say that Ambrose taught him to interpret the scriptures through the lens of Greek Philosophy? I am translating Augustine's confessions right now, and the reason why Augustine was converted is because God changed his heart so that he stopped loving the perverse sexual behavior to which he was enslaved. Nowhere does he ever mention Ambrose ever teaching him to interpret the scriptures through Greek philosophy.

Open Theists such as Enyart are engaging in wishful thinking when they promote these arguments. Maken is going down a dangerious road by thinking that these arguments have merit, not to mention the fact that this whole position is totally against the Westminster standards held by the Presbyterian Church in America and most people in the PCA believe that Open Theism is heresy, as do I. We need to be praying that God will stop Debbie Maken from thinking that it is so "simple" when her supposedly "simple" viewpoint is putting her heart in incredible peril. This is what happens when you always think you are right, and you do not listen to other people when they try to tell you that you are wrong. This is what happens when you have a man-centered, idolatrous view of marriage. Andreas Kostenburger wrote the following in his dialogue with Debbie Maken:

It seems that Maken’s emphasis is almost unilaterally on man’s (or woman’s) initiative, while God’s providence and the Holy Spirit’s leading are disparaged. Are we not to trust God as to his timing and his way of leading in this intensely personal area of our lives? In the end, one wonders just how Christian Maken’s thinking is and to what extent shallow theology masks a focus on people going out and trying to force the hand of a recalcitrant and ambivalent God who has largely left humans to their own devices.

Now, Maken's soul is in grave peril because of the fact that she would not listen to anyone. Again, we need to be praying that God would show mercy to Debbie Maken, and turn her heart before she ends up believing, not just the unbiblical idea that protracted singleness is a sin, but out and out heresy. The sad thing is that Maken has this idea that the church's current teaching on singleness with relation to God's sovereignty is a modern invention so, not only does this play into the hands of the Bob Enyarts of the world, but it also means that there is no stopping her from going all the way. That is why I recommend that we be in prayer for her, and ask God to turn her heart before it is too late.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Captain Sensible's Silliness

Just recently, Captain Sensible has written this post on her blog. In this post, I am going to respond, both to the comments, as well as to the substance of the post itself. Now, I certainly have heard the old, "You think Barrenness is the same as being a nerd in school" misrepresentation over and over again by people who refuse to see that their argument from Hanna has been exegetically refuted, but that is not the main reason I write this post. The main reason I write this post is because, just as these folks in the radical mandatory marriage movement cannot interpret me properly, they also seem to not give the same kind of care to the scriptures. First of all, Captain Sensible says she is going to post that discussion. I already have, here. I have already dealt with the silliness of Darran Allan and Captain Sensible on this topic. Their problem has to do with this statement I made in my dialogue with Debbie Maken when asked about Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. Here is what I said:

With regards to Hanna, it is more than likely that Hanna was weeping over not having a child mostly because, at that time, being barren was as bad as being a nerd in school. You were often the subject of immense ridicule and that may be what Hanna is upset about.

Notice what I said. I was not referring to what barrenness is, but what barrenness "was" "at that time." Never did I ever say that the way the ancient Jews viewed barrenness was correct, nor would I ever defend such behavior. However, it happens to be a fact that that barren women experienced the same kind of disgrace, and low class place in society that nerds in High Schools do today. Of course, Darran Allan, who sees only what he wants to see on a page, wrote the following response:


Are you joking????You are comparing being barren and childless to being a nerd??????????She was upset being ridiculed????I don't know what sort of la la land you live in but you have lost credibility in this debate.

Now, let us ask a simply question. Where in my comment did I ever compare being barren to being a nerd? I compared the social status of a barren woman at the time in which Hannah lived to the ridicule and low status given to a "nerd" in school, yes. However, if Darran Allan thinks that this makes me loose all credibility in this debate, let us see who else has absolutely no credibility.

One of the standard works on Biblical backgrounds is Ralph Gower's The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times. In his book, he said the following:

If a woman could not have children, that was therefore seen as a curse from God because it was as good as extinction. Rachel told Jacob that if she had no children she would die (Genesis 30:1). Hannah believed her childlessness was God's punishment (1 Samuel 1:16), and Elizabeth knew that reproachful looks she received from the people because they believed she had done something to upset God. When John was born she knew that the Lord had "taken away my disgrace" [Gower, Ralph The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times. Moody Press. Chicago Illinois 1987. p.61].

So, Darran Allan is upset with the idea that I said that she was being ridiculed because of her barrenness. It sounds to me like people who were barren were treated as pagan sinners. It sounds to me like the people believed that God was punishing them for something they did. However, here is another scholar:

The Bible records that joy was felt by mothers centuries ago just as it is today, expecially because a woman grew in status in the community when she helped to perpetuate the family line. That is why childless women such as Hannah were not only sorrowful themselves, but were scorned by others [Thompson, J.A. Handbook of Life in Bible Times Inter-Varsity Press. Downers Grove, Illinois 1986 p. 80].

Indeed, Walter Brueggemann in his commentary on 1 Samuel says the following:

The birth of a child to a barren woman is not a routine matter at any time, certainly not in ancient Israel. The birth is first of all an occasion for unmitigated celebration. The deepest yearning of the mother has been in explicable fulfilled. Hannah's worth, her dignity, and her rightful place with her husband have been restored [Brueggemann, Walter First and Second Samuel from the commentary series Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. John Knox Press. Louisville, Kentucky 1990. pgs 15-16].

Interesting that this commentator said that Hannah did not have her worth or her dignity when she was barren, and that they were restored at birth. Again, we have another scholar Darran Allan would have to say has no credibility.

There, I saved Captain Sensible all of the trouble. I reposted it, demonstrated were these folks have misrepresented me, and showed that I have many people in the scholarly realm who agree with what I actually said. Also, in case these guys haven't noticed, I have had that dialogue posted, and have linked to it for a very, very long time. I think that their interpretation of what I have said is the clearest example of a mindset that refuses to acknowledge exegetical error, and admit that Debbie Maken's use of Hannah was based on a gross misunderstanding of the historical backgrounds of 1 Samuel.

Not only that, it is an example of only seeing what one wants to see on a page. Debbie Maken had absolutely no response for anything I said in that dialogue. She was totally refuted, along with all of her followers. Hence, they have to do something to try to destroy my credibility so no one would listen to me. Thus, rather than seeing on the page that which I actually wrote, they saw on the page what they thought they could use against me. Thus, you have this repeated error over and over again by these folks because they simply have no answer for what I said, and have to find some way of destroying my credibility before men who are attacked by these women actually read my blog, and learn how to answer these people's abuses of scripture. I have not seen Captain Sensible, Darran Allan, or Debbie Maken take apart any of my posts on this blog, nor do I expect to see them do so. They are totally exegetically bankrupt when it comes to this issue, and cannot handle any exegetical refutation of their position.

I have been so blessed by the guys that have written me and thanked me for dealing with this issue in a fair, exegetical manner. I am not going to get into the blame game, blaming women for all of the problems. I want to deal with the text of the scriptures, and engage the topic with careful, precise Biblical Exegesis. In fact, one girl on the Boundless Blog said:

Ariana had the following to say on May 3 at 8:55 AM:
I think that Adam's point about Hannah stands and is well supported by the text. I don't think that Hannah's desire to have a child was quite the same as the desire of women today to have children, which has largely to do with wanting to enjoy giving love to and receiving love from one's children. That's an honorable thing, but for Hannah, her barrennes was an unjust sign of reproach socially. It was not simply that she did not have the blessing of children, but people's perceptions, treatment, judgments toward her regarding that fact were unwarranted and undeserved. And her reproach was not limited to a few mean people, but came from society at large. I think that there is a close similarity in Hannah's desperation followed by joy, and that of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, when Elizabeth says, "Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when He looked upon me, to take away my reproach among people." (Luke 1:25) Elizabeth, too, had been barren and suffered unfairly for it.
The issue in both of their instances is not that the Lord enabled them to fulfill a command--it wasn't that their lives were not already glorifying to Him. Nor were they under His reproach. But he took away their societal reproach.
The irony of this contemporary marriage debate is that those who elevate marriage to a divine command risk creating a similar situation to that experienced by Hannah and Elizabeth who would have had children were they able. The reality is that many, many singles would very much like to be married despit their single status. The prevalence of dating sites and sites like this one testify to that fact. To turn to singles and say, "You have to be married in order to fulfill God's will in your life," can unfairly imply that how they are currently striving to follow Christ is not good enough. And sometimes our form of obedience isn't good enough; but in this situation, speaking of getting married as if it were a command that you can just obey or not obey also implies that singles have control over a situation that they really do not have. And it also risks throwing salt on an already hurting wound.

Now, if Ariana can understand what I am saying, and has absolutely not problem with it, then why is it that Captain Sensible and Darren Allen cannot? I think it is simply because they only see on a page what they want to see on a page.

However, Captain Sensible has gone and done the same thing with the text of scripture, namely, only seeing on a page what you want to see on a page. It is one thing to treat what I have to say that way, it is a whole other issue to do that to the Scriptures:

Childlessness - Not just a female curse

'..."Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime..."'(Jeremiah 22: 30)

Again, the utter disrespect that these women have for the Old Testament should make any Christian shutter. Where is the exegesis? Why was only half the verse quoted? Did Captain Sensible not notice that we are talking, in context, about a king? Here is the entirety of the context:

Jeremiah 22:24-30 "As I live," declares the LORD, "even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pull you off; 25 and I will give you over into the hand of those who are seeking your life, yes, into the hand of those whom you dread, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans. 26 "I will hurl you and your mother who bore you into another country where you were not born, and there you will die. 27 "But as for the land to which they desire to return, they will not return to it. 28 "Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out And cast into a land that they had not known? 29 "O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD! 30 "Thus says the LORD, 'Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper Sitting on the throne of David Or ruling again in Judah.'"

Again, we see that Debbie Maken, Captain Sensible, et al just think they can put phrases in a search engine, and when they see something they like, lo and behold it must mean something akin to what Debbie Maken has been saying all along. They refuse to look at the context, and refuse to do the research necessary to understand the issues involved in a passage, because, again, they see what they want to see on a page. First of all, the context of Jeremiah 22 is judgment against Judah for their rebellion. Second of all, the judgment of God spoken of by Jeremiah is in the context of judgment against a nation, and imparticular, their ruler. The curse, therefore, is the fact that this king [there is some question as to whether "Coniah" here is a gloss from earlier in the passage] will not have a dynasty. That is, even though he has children, they will not prosper upon the throne, so, it will be as if he is childless. However, the curse is not being childless, but it is the destruction of his dynasty. Don't believe me? Here is Dr. William L. Holladay, who is an expert on the Book of Jeremiah, and, indeed, his commentary is one of the textbooks for my exegesis class on the book of Jeremiah this semester:

The implication of "childless" is puzzling, since the king had sons (see note on v.28). The word yrIyrI[] does mean "childless" (only otherwise in Gen 15:2; Lev 20:20, 21; Sir 16:3), but the point of course is that since he will see no son of his upon the throne of Judah, he is childless in the only way meaningful for a king.

The colon "a fellow who shall not succeed in his days" supplies a parallel not only to "dethroned" but more immediately to "childless": Tawil believes "shall not succeed" carries here the nuance of "is unproductive."

If "succeed" in the third colon implies "succeed in having sons who will continue the dynasty," the verb "succeed" in the fourth colon implies "succeed in functioning as king." The subject of the second occurrence is of course also different: it is "no one [vyai with the negative] of his offspring." Since vyai and "fellow" (rb,G<) elsewhere, (23:9), and since the two verbs are identical, the shift of subject is ironic. The participles in the last two cola appear to express actions completing the verb "succeed" [Jouon, Gramm., sec. 157g]. Question: Is the adverb "any longer" (dA[) a subtle balance to "in his days" in the second colon? [Holladay, William L. A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, Chapters 1-25 From the Hermeneia Commentary Series Fortress Press. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1986 pgs. 611-612]

For those of you who don't want an overly technical discussion, here is the classic commentary of Matthew Henry:

Now that which is here to be taken notice of is that Jeconiah is written childless (v. 30), that is, as it follows, No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David. In him the line of David was extinct as a royal line. Some think that he had children born in Babylon because mention is made of his seed being cast out there (v. 28) and that they died before him. We read in the genealogy (1 Chron. iii. 17) of seven sons of Jeconiah Assir (that is, Jeconiah the captive) of whom Salathiel is the first. Some think that they were only his adopted sons, and that when it is said (Matt. i. 12), Jeconiah begat Salathiel, no more is meant than that he bequeathed to him what claims and pretensions he had to the government, the rather because Salathiel is called the son of Neri of the house of Nathan, Luke iii. 27, 31. Whether he had children begotten, or only adopted, thus far he was childless that none of his seed ruled as kings in Judah. He was the Augustulus of that empire, in whom it determined.

Now, consider this. You have an expert on the book of Jeremiah, a classic commentary on the book of Jeremiah, and myself who is currently working on my M.A. in Old Testament and Semitic Studies all saying that this interpretation is bogus. What should that tell most people? However, again, they see on a page what they want to see on a page. What it should tell them is that they need to start having some respect for God's word and actually care about doing sound, careful exegesis of the text. To these folks, the Bible, and imparticular, the Old Testament is a place where you can take a phrase here, and a phrase there, but what these folks refuse to do is interpret passages by following an argument, a narrative, or a poem, and allowing the passage to speak for itself.

This is the danger of Christian Fads like the one Albert Mohler and Debbie Maken started. They cause people to think in a particular way, simply because their leaders think in a particular way, and so, therefore, the people that are part of the movement reason that it must be correct. Instead, we should be training up our children to exercise discernment, to learn and study the Bible so they can see errors like this when they come into the church. All I can say is that Thegiftofsingleness blog is the fruits of a society that has neglected such training.
Ann Coulter Speaks the Truth...And Offends

While I do not agree with everything Ann Coulter has to say, she has apparently gotten herself into a whole lot of hot water by saying that she wishes that all Jews would convert to Christianity. Of course, the host, Donny Deutsch, said that he was "offended" by her comments, and likened her to the head of Iran who wants to wipe Israel off the map.

Now, let us deal with Mr. Deutsch's objections. First of all, the idea that saying that we wish that all Jews are Christians is akin to the military force of Iran to wipe Israel off the map is utter nonsense. The only sword that the Chruch bears is the sword of the spirit, and we trust in the Holy Spirit of God to convert the Jewish people. We do not bear the sword of nuclear weapons, bombs, and guns. It is not even a true conversion if someone only says something because they are looking down the barrel of a gun. It is only a true conversion if the heart is changed. However, that is exactly what we trust in the spirit of God to do to the Jewish people.

Now, what about Mr. Deutsch being "offended" at such a comment? Well, either he is in sin and rebellion against God or he is not. There is no middle ground. I have talked with Jews who say the exact same thing about me. This is an issue of factual truth and falsity. Is Christianity true, or is Judaism true? Whichever side is wrong is engaging in an horrendus sin against God, the Jews for allegedly rejecting the Messiah, and the Christians for allegedly believing in a false God, and trusting in a false sacrifice. Thus, because of the self-contradictory nature of the truth claims of each religion, both cannot be right. I would liken Mr. Deutsch's statement to a person who gets offended when they are told that their belief that 2+2=5 is false. The *scholarly* way to defend such a position is to demonstrate that the Jewish faith is true, and the Christian faith is false. However, there is no defense of the Jewish position offered in that interview; just statements about how "offended" the host is. Ann Coulter tried to engage him in the topic, but he just simply would not do it.

What this tells us is that this secularist, like so many others who support religious pluralism, does not realize that religion is founded upon an entire world and life view. If we have a society of religious pluralism, it will lead to utter chaos, simply because the ultimate authority for every person will be different. As Greg Bahnsen once said:

If the authority for those principles derives from nothing more than individual human choice and contract, their authority likewise ends whenever individuals choose -- and leaves unexplained the (apparently involuntary) moral duty to keep one's contracts. Many "creators" is the formula for social anarchy, not freedom.

If we are going to deal with the problems that arise because of different worldviews, we have to get down and deal with the tough philosophical questions of which worldview is true. I believe, as Greg Bahnsen did, that the Christian worldview will turn out to be the only defensible worldview.