Response to JD Hall with Pulpit & Pen Podcast

JD Hall responded to my podcast entitled “Is Calvinism Practical?”

UPDATE: I added a podcast addressing JD Hall’s first broadcast: “Porn, Calvinism and JD Hall”

Here are some initial points of rebuttal:

1. Dump on Stewie:  JD begins by “poo pooing” on the Stewie character in my podcast and addressing him as if he is my co-host who agrees with me, which kind of misses the point.  I picked a condescending voice to play the part of someone who disagrees with me and reminds me regularly that I’m not all that bright, which is probably obvious without the character but nonetheless I find him delightfully humorous.

I know little about the actual character on Family Guy and have never liked the whole “guilt by association,” or “you must condone it if you use it,” or “boycott everything that looks like what we disagree with” approach to life.  I doubt JD does either, but nevertheless he thinks my use of Stewie to lighten the mood makes me not worthy of “being taken seriously.”  I’m actually fine with that.  I don’t take myself all that seriously either.pulpitandpen-03

In short, the podcast begins with the irony of JD condescending my use of a blatantly condescending character.

2. Ad Hominem: This is a debate fallacy where instead of speaking to the issue one speaks “to the person,” or attacks the motives or character of the individual without real justification. JD speculates my podcast is meant to “make a name for myself,” he references that people in my church must not be holy given my views, and lumps me in with the easy believism crowd of the Joel Osteen types.  That would be tantamount me lumping him in with hypers and accusing him of just trying to make an name for himself on his program.  Not necessary nor helpful. I hope any further dialogue, if it were to continue beyond this point, would rise above this level of discourse.

3. Blaming God for Evil: In my podcast, I argued that this culture naturally blames God and runs to sin, instead of blaming sin and running to God. Then I asked if the deterministic conclusions of SOME Calvinistic teachers helps to bolster that false view. JD agrees this is what the culture naturally does, points to Adam blaming God for giving him Eve, and then takes a hard left turn into “Doesn’t Followsville” and asks me if Adam was a Calvinist, as if I had argued that this culture only blamed God for evil because of what Calvinism teaches.  WHAT?!

Back up.  We agreed that man naturally blame God.  Adam is a good example of that.  When did I say that originated from being Calvinistic?  I didn’t.  I asked if the deterministic conclusions (i.e. “God decrees whatsoever comes to pass”) helps to BOLSTER that FALSE view or not.  JD ignored that question to “straw man my argument” and make me sound as if I was blaming his soteriology for the natural tendency of blaming of God for evil.  So, in the debate world that point would flow to my side.  (0-1: Stewie is keeping count, but I’m not.)

4. Helpless Deity: JD refers to my view of “god” as being a “terrible, wimpy, helpless, little, dumb, fragile, deaf deity.” JD sure better hope he is right about his view of God…WOW.  At least if I’m wrong I can rest in knowing God determined for me to be wrong, whereas if JD’s view of God is wrong, then he has just called God all those names by his own free will. Ouch!

Now, this particular argument made by Calvinists is really just question begging because it presumes God didn’t choose for the world to be created in the way we are proposing but that it just “happened to Him” apart from His decision. As if “Arminians” all got together and imposed this world onto God, or God just accidentally got a world with free moral creatures and now He is a helpless divine victim trying to assist us when He can (see “straw man” again).  Allow me to quote from Tozer to give a better perspective of my view of true biblical sovereignty:

“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God

So, as I argue in my podcast over Tozer and Piper, the higher view of sovereignty, according to this perspective is the one in which God decides to grant moral freedom to others, not one where he has to “play both sides of the chess board to ensure His victory.”

Our view of God is not some hapless boob that is caught off guard, as JD would like to paint Him out to be.  I think JD does this because its easier for him to dismiss us as heretical than to deal with what we are actually saying.  In our view, as in JDs, God is WORKING OUT EVIL FOR GOOD, which I think can and should be distinguished from God causing, determining, or in any way bringing about evil.  I can work out something that is evil without being the cause of that evil, so I suspect God can do the same though I may not know how all that perfectly works within the concepts of divine omniscience (an infinite matter we cannot even begin to grasp or speculate about).

JD compares God giving the world over to evil and all its consequences to two dudes watching his kids drown and not doing something to save them, as if that would be equal to the guys holding them under the water themselves. One, I think it far worse had they held the kids heads under water than if they would have passively watched.  Two, God’s permitting sin and its consequences is better illustrated by the prodigal’s father granting him the inheritance (i.e. to go drown in his sin, so to speak), than the passive unloving jerks watching two innocent kiddos fall into a lake.

5. God’s hate for sin: In my podcast I argue that I don’t believe God determines sinful desires and thus choices (in the manner proposed by Compatibilism) and I reference God’s hatred for sin as one of the reasons.  JD accused me of suggesting Calvinists believe God delights in sin, which once again I did not say (see straw man again).  My argument was that God’s expression of hatred for sin strongly implies that he wouldn’t cause it…not even compatibilistically. (James 1: He doesn’t even tempt men to sin)

Now, JD argues, as do most Calvinists that God doesn’t “DIRECTLY” cause sin but then goes on to show how God causally determines it through secondary means, as if that doesn’t afford the exact same argument.  Face it, in that system God determined the nature which determined the desire which determined the choice of the evil agent. Plugging in a thousand deterministic causal links in that chain doesn’t make the argument magically disappear any more so than if I said, “I didn’t kill my boss. I hired someone who hired someone who hired someone else to kill him.”  Do determinists really think adding more links in their deterministic chain somehow relinquishes the truck to which the the chain is attached?

“Why did you just use your truck to pull my tree out of my yard, sir?”

“No I didn’t, not technically.  The chain did.”

“Your chain?  The one you attached to my tree and your truck? How can you say you didn’t pull it up”

“Oh, no, see I put this link here in the chain, so you really can’t blame me for that.”

“Huh, you put the link there.  So, yes I can.  You pulled up the tree.”

“Your aren’t quite smart enough to get it obviously, but because I added several links in the chain that have really hard to pronounce jargon as their titles, I’m not really to blame here. You can’t understand.  You’re too jejune. Just trust me, I didn’t cause it.  Now stop with the nonsensical questions!”

6. Examples of God Determining:  On this point I’ll refer people to my podcasts referencing Phil Johnson and James White as I cover this point more extensively there.  I will just say that JD, like other Calvinists, point to examples of God deterministically bringing about some things as proof that God likewise brings about all things.  And I remind everyone reading along that non-Calvinists, such as myself, may not believe God determines everything but that doesn’t mean we believe God determines nothing.  The crucifixion, the raising up of certain leaders for certain purposes (Joseph), the inspiration of scripture, the setting apart of authoritative messengers (Jonah, Paul) etc, etc, are all things we can agree that God purposed and determined to bring to pass within the course of human history. That is what makes those events uniquely DIVINE.  But, PLEASE NOTE THIS KEY POINT: Proof that God determines some divinely redemptive events throughout the course of human history is not proof that God determines all the evil that needs redeeming.

I know, I know, God doesn’t “really determine the evil” because of all the links in this proverbial causal chain… But why!? Why do you need to create a chain that leads back to HIM!?  Why not lead the chain back to US and stop there? How about we appeal to mystery as to how we choose one thing over the other and not impugn the holiness of God by suggesting He is ultimately responsible for which options I choose at any given moment?  Do what Tozer did and hold to a view of God so high, so sovereign, that He is able to ensure His victory despite creaturely freedom, despite there being other powers and authorities in this world!  It’s the best of both worlds.

7. God is Passive in Condemnation: In my podcast I ask the question, “Who, if not God, determined for mankind to be born with total inability due to the fall.”  JD applauds the question and even replays it concluding that it is a great question and that yes God does indeed make this determination.  But then JD goes on to argue that God is passive in condemnation, as if God didn’t do anything to determined the disabled nature of man from birth. Which is it?

He argues on the one hand that God must actively work to change the nature of the elect, but God is passively allowing the reprobate to be what he was born to be, but this ignores the question he earlier applauded by overlooking that God ACTIVELY decided to punish all mankind with the nature of total inability to begin with.  The same active decree that put man in their totally disabled condition is the same level of activity God uses to decree the rescue of man from that disability, but JD either misses that point or avoids it purposefully.  I’m not sure which…

8. Addictive Sins of Believers: I make an argument for the contra-casual freewill of believers suggesting that those already regenerated are able to refrain or not refrain from sinful actions (like libertarian free will).  Many, if not most, Compatibilists deny contra-causal freewill (LFW) in anyone (including pre-fallen Adam and believers), arguing that it is an “irrational causeless choice” unless it is ultimately causally determined by God.  Apparently JD is not familiar with this particular set of beliefs and thus misses the point all together.  It was good though because he made my case for me considering that we agree with each other on this point.  Too bad he didn’t know that while he was arguing it, otherwise it could have been an actual point of agreement for us.

In summary, I’d say that JD and I aren’t really near as far apart as he seems to think we are in our views.  If he listened to my other podcasts he might see that.  He does not want to impugn God’s holiness or blame God for evil any more so than I do.  Our ways of describing those differences would likely appear semantical to most laypeople. I just think the Compatiblistic system fails to avoid the charge of impugning God’s holiness and maybe he disagrees, maybe he doesn’t–I’m not sure since he never gets beyond the surface of the argument.

Unfortunately, most of his arguments don’t actually engage our points of contention but resort to strawmanning and hyperbole. For example, he said I deny the doctrine of regeneration and original sin, which I do not.  I deny the Calvinistic concepts of “pre-faith regeneration” and “total inability,” distinctions I make very clear in my podcasts, but he never actually addresses.  Hopefully JD will take another stab at engaging me but next time with a little less rancor and a little more substance.  I’d love to hear, for example, why he believes some Christians do sin at times.  Did God grant them what they needed to resist the temptation?  If so, then why did they fail?  Did God fail to grant them enough grace to resist, or where they just contra-causally free?

Thanks for your time in engaging this discussion.

 P.S. One more point.  I was also accused of being Pelagian, which I address in my third Podcast titled, “Am I a Pelagian…” It is the lazy man’s approach in debate to label and dismiss people as heretical instead of actually dealing with their point of view.  Ironically, no writing of Pelagius survived for much of the same reason: the desire of man to do away with anyone who disagrees with him.  I’m just thankful that today that it is “labeling and dismissing” instead of “labeling and burning at the stake.” Shew!

One thought on “Response to JD Hall with Pulpit & Pen Podcast

  1. Finally got a chance to read this great post! I hope more will take the time to read your reasoned and gracious replies to JD Hall’s response. It is so important to do as you have done and point out the logical fallacies that are often used by those who debate without evidence. I also liked your chain of determinism example!

    When you said – “the concepts of divine omniscience (an infinite matter we cannot even begin to grasp or speculate about)”, I had to think you meant that we cannot fully grasp those concepts, but we certainly can speculate about them. Keep up the great work!

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