July 9, 2009

Dan Philips' Karate, or Kah-rrah-tay?

For those of you who are familiar with Seinfeld, you may recall the pathetic episode in this sitcom when Kramer was involved in Karate classes. He eventually told Jerry and Elaine about it, and Kramer called it "Kah-rrah-tay" so that he sounded like he was deeply knowledgeable about it. Kramer even boasted about being "top in the class" in order to give inspiration and encouragement to Elaine to run the J. Peterman catalog. Jerry and Elaine eventually discovered that Kramer was top in his class because he was merely fighting little crumb crunching kids. Elaine's inspiration turned to disillusionment, and the J. Peterman company eventually produced the hilarious-looking urban sombrero.

Well, it seems that Kramer is not the only one involved in Kah-rrah-tay. Dan Philips on TeamPyro has reposted his "Karate exegesis [requested classic re-post]," wherein he discusses his view of "effective redemption" in order to show us how and why he is "top of his class." From the looks of it, he, too, is just fighting kids.

Dan seeks to illustrate his method of giving theological karate chops by showing how he might discuss...
Purposeful Redemption — that is, the view that our sovereign Lord died so as actually to save particular people (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 1:15), not to save everyone in general but nobody in particular. (Or "Effective Redemption," in that we affirm that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners [1 Timothy 1:15], not merely make it possible for them to add the necessary critical ingredient to save themselves.)
First of all observe his overly simplistic either/or dilemma:

1a) Either the Lord died so as actually to save a particular people, or
2a) to save everybody in general but nobody in particular.

Apparently he is only concerned to contrast his view with his perception of Arminian teaching on the subject. Dan's own view is that Christ not only came to save the elect in particular, but that He also only died for their sins. This is strict particularism. From the rest of Dan's statements in his post, it would also seem that he is unwittingly suggesting that Christ actually saves the elect at the time of the cross.

He describes Arminianism as if they believe Christ came "to save everybody in general but nobody in particular." Their view would more fairly be described as saying that Christ came to save everybody equally (and nobody especially), and He therefore died for the sins of all men. Also, what is absent from Dan's simplistic either/or dilemma is the classic dualistic position held by many Calvinists; namely that Christ came to save all men according to God's revealed will (and He expressed this in sufficiently dying for the sins of all men), but Christ especially came to save his elect. This is another variety of particular redemption, as acknowledged by J. L. Dagg, that Dan leaves out of the picture altogether.

Again, Dan suggests that either:

1b) Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, or
2b) Christ came into the world merely to make it possible for men to be saved if they just "add the necessary critical ingredient to save themselves."

For those who are not used to the language, "sinners" above is just code for "the elect." So, either Jesus came into the world to save the elect, or Christ came merely to make it possible for all men to be saved if they believe (presumably by a faith arising from their free will). First, there's no hint in Dan's presentation that Christ came in to the world to save any of the non-elect in any sense, even though Dan has stated that he believes that elsewhere. And, given that Dan thinks that God is expressing a willingness to save all men via common grace, and common grace flows from the cross, why doesn't he think that Christ came into the world to save all those that receive common grace by virtue of his death? He omits these things.

Moreover, Dan uses the term "merely" to qualify the second option, that Christ "merely" came into the world to make it possible for all men to be saved. Why say "merely"? Does Dan also think that Christ came into the world to render all men saveable by his death? If so, how can he consistently believe this since Christ only suffered for the sins of the elect in his view? The rest are without a remedy, and thus utterly without the hope of being saved. Consequently, there's no need for the qualifying term "merely," since Dan cannot consistently say the non-elect are rendered saveable at all on his view.

Missing again is the classic dualistic position; namely, that Christ came into the world to especially save his elect, but also to render all men saveable by an all-sufficient sacrifice that grounds the well-meant offer to all men, and leaves them without any excuse. The only barrier remaining to their salvation is their own moral inability, not the need of a sacrifice for their sins as well.

After these overly simplistic dichotomies, Dan brings up defeaters that his opponents might use against him, along with his own Kah-rrah-tay responses. The first is 1 John 2:2:
Our friend pulls out 1 John 2:2 — "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world," and slaps it on the table with the air of a gambler laying down the winning card.

"The whole world," our friend emphasizes meaningfully, perhaps tapping the verse in his Bible. "Not for ours only."
Rather than produce a long defensive dissertation in response, Dan wants to turn things around and suggest that 1 John 2:2 is a problem for his opponents. Rightly expecting a puzzled look in response, Dan choppingly says "kiyai!," and then asks, "Your idea is that 'world' means every human being who ever was, or ever will be born, right?" (Nod.) "So, do you believe that every human being ever born will go to Heaven?"

Remember, his Kah-rrah-tay opponent is merely a theological kid, so hence the rash "Nod" to the question about the meaning of "world." "World" does not have to mean either every human being who ever was or will be, as opposed to a) all of the elect or b) some of the elect. It's as if Dan hasn't considered the possibility that the "world" is all living unregenerate humanity on earth, or some of these in some given place at some point in history. Observe the following chart [click the picture to enlarge]:

The proper view of what the "world" is biblically is not (A), (C1), or even the entire class of all the elect considered in the abstract. Rather, it is (C2), or all living unregenerate humanity on earth at any given point in time, which includes the unbelieving elect and non-elect. Some eventually come out of the world by the effectual grace of the Holy Spirit [i.e. the believing elect in C1] and eventually enter heavenly bliss (D1), while others remain in the world and eventually die in their unbelieving state (D2). Dan, again, sets up a simplistic picture of what his opponents believe on the term "world," as if they all think it is (A). Then, since they cannot biblically prove that the "world" is ever used of class (A), or all humanity that will ever exist, he can suggest that it may mean all of the elect as such or perhaps the believing elect in some contexts. He never pauses to consider if (C2) would make sense, as in John 3:16 or 1 John 5:19. It's as though Dan can't conceive of a consistent Calvinist saying what Ezekiel Culverwell said, i.e. "I profess I cannot find any one clear place where [the World] must of necessity be taken for the Elect only."

There are a number of factors driving Dan to think of the "world" as the elect in some instances. One of them is the double payment argument. This is why Dan asks his opponent who thinks of the "world" as more than the elect according to 1 John 2:2 the following question: "So, do you believe that every human being ever born will go to Heaven?" He thinks his opponent will have a "real problem" with 1 John 2:2 since it is said that Christ is [not 'could be,' etc.] the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Since propitiation "is a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God," all those for whom Christ propitiated cannot possibly run the risk of going to hell. Dan employs Owen's double payment argument and asks his Kah-rrah-tay opponent:
So, if you're right about 'the whole world,' then John is saying that Christ has turned away the wrath of God for the sins of every human being ever born — you, me, Judas, the Beast, the False Prophet — everyone.

On that understanding, how can anyone be under God's wrath, which Christ propitiated? How can anyone be in Hell? Why are they there? For what are they being judged and punished?
Dan doesn't seem to realize that this is a double-edged sword. Wasn't Dan under God's wrath when he was in unbelief (Eph. 2:3), despite the fact that Christ died for his sins? Didn't Dan stand under the condemnation of God when in unbelief (John 3:18), despite the fact that he was one of the elect for whom Christ died? Was God making sham threats about perishing to unbelieving Dan in the gospel call, since Dan was never really in a damnable state? On Dan's system, it would seem, the elect are never damnable and the non-elect are never saveable. The elect are not receiving sincere threats and the non-elect are not receiving sincere offers, by implication. If Dan rejects this thinking or conclusion, then on what basis was he subject to God's wrath and standing condemned? Because of his unbelief? Well, didn't Christ die for that unbelief? We could say to Dan as he says to his opponent:
On that understanding, how can any of the elect be under God's wrath, which Christ propitiated? How can any of them really be subject to damnation and therefore sincerely threatened with perishing? Why do the unbelieving elect stand condemned? For what are they being judged and punished?

"For their unbelief," Dan may say.

"Oh, I see. Is unbelief a sin?," I ask innocently.

"From what I read, unbelief certainly is a sin." I can conclude sympathetically, "you have a real problem. On your view, either unbelief isn't a sin, in which case God is a liar; or none of the elect can be under God's wrath, in which case, again, God is a liar; or Christ really isn't a propitiation for all the sins of the elect—in which case, one more time, God is a liar. Do you think God is a liar?"
Dan would not accept the view that all of the elect are justified at the cross, or in eternity, but he has opened to door to that position in order to get the conclusion he wants, i.e. a strictly limited atonement based on the commercial causal categories involved in the double payment argument. If Christ can be the propitiation for the sins of all of the elect and yet they, when in unbelief, can stand condemned and be subjects of God's wrath, then why can't Christ also be the propitiatory sacrifice for more than the elect? Our Kah-rrah-tay exegete needs to consider the arguments of Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney, John Davenant, Edward Polhill, Curt Daniel, among others, who are Calvinists that rejected the double payment argument. Carl Trueman doesn't even think it is a strong argument.

On 1 John 2:2, Charles Hodge rightly said:
This is what is meant when it is said, or implied in Scripture, that Christ gave Himself as a propitiation, not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world. He was a propitiation effectually for the sins of his people, and sufficiently for the sins of the whole world. Augustinians have no need to wrest the Scriptures. They are under no necessity of departing from their fundamental principle that it is the duty of the theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what the Bible teaches."
 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:558–559.

Along the same lines, R. L. Dabney said:
In 1 John 2:2, it is at least doubtful whether the express phrase, “whole world,” can be restrained to the world of elect as including other than Jews. For it is indisputable, that the Apostle extends the propitiation of Christ beyond those whom he speaks of as “we,” in verse first. The interpretation described obviously proceeds on the assumption that these are only Jewish believers. Can this be substantiated? Is this catholic epistle addressed only to Jews? This is more than doubtful. It would seem then, that the Apostle’s scope is to console and encourage sinning believers with the thought that since Christ made expiation for every man, there is no danger that He will not be found a propitiation for them who, having already believed, now sincerely turn to him from recent sins."
 R. L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2002), 525.

"Maybe now our friend might be willing to consider that the text is capable of a better construction." Either way, we would encourage Dan to study what other Calvinists have said on 1 John 2:2.

The simplistic either/or dilemmas, the faulty conceptions of the "world" and the employment of the double payment argument (and Owen's Trilemma that is built on it) may seem like "karate exegesis" to some, but it really results in Kah-rrah-tay eisegesis, and merely inspires others to create theological urban sombreros :-)

Here are the funny scenes from Seinfeld:

UPDATE: I linked to this post in the comment section of Dan's post on TeamPyro, but he deleted it. I was accused of using the comment section as a "link depot." One cannot win. If you engage at length in the comment section there, you're "trolling." If you leave a single link to some extensive response that's too long to leave in a comment section, then you're using the place as a "link depot." It's standard in the blogosphere to leave a link to a longer response, but he apparently "disagrees."

It's really about information control.


Steve said...

Kah-rrah-tay. LOL. A lot more to speak of ... but one must refrain from speaking evil. Very tough to do sometimes.

Thanks for the good post, Tony.

Steve said...

"It's the ferocity" ... LOL

Tony Byrne said...

I figured you would like the Seinfeld reference, Steve ;-) I'm just waiting for Joseph [from Paltalk] to read the post. He's also an avid Seinfeld fan, as you may know.

Bobby Grow said...

That's funny, Dan has disallowed at least one link of mine at "their" blog as well (it was on an 'expose' I did on the Pyros). I guess he believes in censorship, . . . but hey, it's blogging, so it's a "personal" thing ;-).

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your work and your attempts to educate folk like Dan. He certainly does appear to want to control information.

My personal attitude is that I want to understand the scripture and if someone can help me do that then that's great.

I cannot stand the attitude of those who already know everything.

God bless!


Anonymous said...


i wish you could have worked a little of Dwight the Sempai from the Office into this.

it does seem to be par for the Pyro-course to create false dichotomies and straw men in order to throw red meat to the pyro clones...

sad, because all three guys have much to offer and are in their own ways (Phil exegetically; Dan on Proverbs; Frank apologetically) very good.