What to make of Apostates

Evangelicals have a hard time knowing what to make of apostates. The Calvinists such as "Dr." White say that we were never truly saved to begin with. His position is apparently the same as a former Pastor of mine who used to say: "A faith that fizzles at the finish had a fatal flaw at the first."

One problem with this view is that one will never know for certain if they are truly part of the elect until they die. Once they have "persevered in the faith", then there can be certainty that they were truly saved. Until that time one can never really be certain that they are part of the elect. This applies to "Dr." White just as much as any other Christian. It could be that "Dr." White is not truly saved. Perhaps at some future point, "Dr." White will "see the light" and he will also apostasize.

"Dr." White refers to his hero, Jonathan Edwards, on the subject of "true regeneration." He says: "Edwards, in essence, had suggested that the greatest evidence of true regeneration is not the common religious affections that many possess, even in false religions: the greatest evidence of true regeneration in the heart is whether we love those very aspects of God's nature and character that are the most reprehensible to the natural man."

I guess if you love the aspect of God's nature that caused him to order the extermination of infants and toddlers along with their parents in the OT, then that is a good sign that you are truly regenerate. Of if you love the aspect of God's nature that results in him receiving glory for the eternal torment of the unsaved, including those who never heard the name of Christ, then you are truly regenerate.

25 comments:

Zachary Moore said...

Show me a True Christian(tm) and I'll show you an atheist waiting to happen.

John W. Loftus said...

Yes...Yes...Yes.

In this sense, the Calvinist has no more assurance that he is saved than does the Arminian! The Arminian may fear losing his salvation, while the Calvinst may fear whether he is really saved in the first place!

The Jewish Freak said...

>...we were never truly saved to begin with.

A contrived answer that can resolve all difficulties. A miracle!
This answer is also used to resolve the difficulty of professed christians who act immorally. Problem is you end up with only 3 or 4 "real" christians in the whole world. This forces you to admit that christianity is not a very successful system after all. What a quandry!

Former_Fundy said...

Loftus said: "In this sense, the Calvinist has no more assurance that he is saved than does the Arminian! The Arminian may fear losing his salvation, while the Calvinst may fear whether he is really saved in the first place!"

You are right but I would bet that "Dr." White and others would claim assurance of salvation.

I had complete assurance as well when I was a Christian.

Sandalstraps said...

Just because Dr. White disagrees with you and holds untenable positions, there is no need to mock his doctorate, unless you are by your use of "Dr." claiming that he doesn't really have one.

If you wish to claim the moral high ground you ought not resort to the sorts of silly ad hominem tactics of those you are trying to refute.

exbeliever said...

FF,

Are you doing the "Dr." White (in quotations) thing because Dr. White's doctor of theology is from an unaccredited institution or because it is a correspondence degree?

I read the Mormon dude's stuff about his degrees, but I think it is a little overblown. Dr. White also has a D.Min. from Columbia and those are often correspondence degrees anyway. It is odd that Columbia doesn't have on-campus classes (from what I understand, that is) for it's ThD program, but times are definitely changing. One day, I have a feeling a lot of education will be done correspondence.

Accreditation committees will need to keep up with changing technology. Also, isn't it true that your alma mater, Bob Jones isn't accredited either? I know that it was a rigorous program, but I didn't think BJU wanted anything to do with the ATS and its local accreditation agencies.

You definitely don't deserve a "Dr." Former Fundy and I'm not sure that Dr. White does either.

His dissertation was his book, The Forgotten Trinity, which was pretty decent by conservative Christian standards. No, it wouldn't have earned him a PhD at most of the accredited seminaries (and definitely not at any university that I know of), but I would think that your dissertation probably would have been rejected by most schools as well (if, as I suspect, it relied heavily on Biblical texts and theologians from the 16-19th centuries).

I don't mean in any way to question your credentials, but I'm not sure it is appropriate to question Dr. White's either.

exbeliever said...

Oops! I was typing my response at the same time sandal straps was typing his. Didn't mean to gang up on you.

Sandal Straps, there is a little more to this issue than an ad hominem.

Read this and Dr. White's responses.

Former_Fundy said...

Some have questioned why I used quotation marks around Dr. when referring to James White. Perhaps if you take a look at the campus of Columbia Evangelical Seminary you will understand why I did so.

http://www.shields-research.org/Novak/CES/ces.htm

As far as I can tell, there are no language requirements, no residency requirements, no set curriculum, etc. This is not consistent with the Th.D. or Ph.D. programs that I am familiar with. I think it cheapens the degree when a school grants it under such conditions.

Sandalstraps said...

Ah... the difficulty in stepping into the middle of a debate when you didn't see the beginning.

Alan Lund said...

My initial interpretation of "Dr." was that it was a response to White's use of the phrase "'former' Christians".

Being made aware of the perhaps questionable nature of White's Th.D., my preference would be simply to drop the title altogether. If something about the topic makes the validity of his degree relevant, then briefly describe why you think that is so, and why you question its validity.

The main point was good. By repeatedly using "Dr." without explanation when its validity is irrelevant detracts from the main point.

Timothy said...

Perhaps your group has grown in Christian understanding and outgrew your previous churches.

It may be time to listen to Scott Hahn.

http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/resolve.asp?rafile=iq_729.ra

God bless and keep you on your journey home...

Dave said...

I'm a former Calvinist myself, and the assurance of salvation issue is sort of a Gettier paradox for Calvinists. It is possible for someone to "know" he is saved for various reasons, but all of the reasons are fallible ones which "false" converts could also have used to justify their belief in their salvation while they were Christians. So, the truly saved seem only to "know" that they are saved for bad reasons. Hence their beliefs are supposedly true, but not adequately justified.

Ninja_the_Man said...

I have plenty of questions. If you answer these questions, I think it would make your post a lot more convincing.

“One problem with this view is that one will never know for certain if they are truly part of the elect until they die.”

One, I’m not sure why it is necessary that a Christian have infallible knowledge about their salvation. Can you present the Biblical case that a Christian must have infallible knowledge of salvation otherwise Christianity is false? Second, this question seems to presuppose that one can have infallible knowledge about something and that one needs this infallible knowledge otherwise their whole worldview is bunk. Do you have infallible knowledge on something?

“I guess if you love the aspect of God's nature that caused him to order the extermination of infants and toddlers along with their parents in the OT, then that is a good sign that you are truly regenerate.”

I’m curious at why you think extermination is wrong? What aspect of extermination in the Bible do you disagree with? Why? Do you believe extermination is ever right? How about the extermination of all the birds without Avian flu purely because they might have associated with birds who might have Avian flu? And if it is right to kill all these innocent birds, why do the rules change for humans? Because we are more powerful then the birds? But this wouldn’t seem to really work because then the Christian could just say “well God is more powerful then humans”. Your statement seems to presuppose a lot of things. I’m just looking for greater clarification in your next post.

Tim said...

Posted on this issue at http://reformedphilosophy.org/hudgins/archives/65

Feedback is always appreciated.

Tim said...

John, is Blogspot capable of archiving posts as separate pages? I find it useful to have this enabled so other people can link to specific posts without having to wade through them all. Just a thought.

Former_Fundy said...

Lund said:

"The main point was good. By repeatedly using "Dr." without explanation when its validity is irrelevant detracts from the main point."

I regret now that I used "" marks around Dr. because it has detracted from the main point that I was trying to make.

I guess it bothers me that White uses the Dr. title all over his website apparently to give himself more credibilty and then when you examine the degree that he has, it is bogus. Seems almost dishonest to me. Nevertheless, I did not want to make that the main focus of my post.

sdanielmorgan said...

Not sure if you guys knew that James White addresses the objections to his doctorate here and here.

It was archived by the wayback machine before he took down the original pages:
www.aomin.org/CrEd2.htm
www.aomin.org/CrEd.htm

Personally, I think that while addressing an opponent's arguments one should never resort to calling into questions their credentials, unless they have claimed them and then demonstrated a marked lack of background in the very area they claim expertise within. I know virtually nothing of Dr. White, so I have no idea how using his very words to appraise his own scholarly abilities would go:
James White said --
"I recognized, when I enrolled with Columbia, that given the nature of my work in apologetics, I'd undoubtedly hear attacks upon my school and my scholarship because Columbia is too young to be "accredited." Such ad-hominem argumentation is the norm for many of those with whom I have dealings. It wouldn't matter where I go, or what school I attend, that kind of attack will follow. I have experience teaching in accredited schools, and a Master's degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. That hasn't stopped such folks from using ad-hominem argumentation against me. And any person that would be impressed by such argumentation isn't going to be giving me a fair hearing anyway, and I can't worry about that. Instead, the person I'm concerned about is the person who will understand the following statement: A person's scholarship is not determined by the name of the school he or she attended, but by the quality of that person's writing, speaking, and teaching. Anyone who thinks that just because you went to Yale you must be a real scholar hasn't put much thought into the subject. I ask only one thing: look at what I have written, all that I have written, and ask yourself one question: does the nature of the writing, the depth of the research, and the understanding of the subject, indicate a doctoral level of education?"

Those more familiar with his work than I can make a judgment by applying his own words against him.

Former_Fundy said...

Ninja said:

"One, I’m not sure why it is necessary that a Christian have infallible knowledge about their salvation. Can you present the Biblical case that a Christian must have infallible knowledge of salvation otherwise Christianity is false? "

I am not arguing that the lack of infallible knowledge of salvation makes Christianity false. You have misunderstood my point.

My point was that people like White say that apostates such as myself were never truly saved to begin with and my response was that according to his flavor of theology, he cannot even be certain that he is saved. He may also have a false faith.

Ninja said:
"Second, this question seems to presuppose that one can have infallible knowledge about something and that one needs this infallible knowledge otherwise their whole worldview is bunk. Do you have infallible knowledge on something?"

Not my point at all.

Ninja said: "I’m curious at why you think extermination is wrong? What aspect of extermination in the Bible do you disagree with? Why? Do you believe extermination is ever right? How about the extermination of all the birds without Avian flu purely because they might have associated with birds who might have Avian flu? "

If you equate the killing of human beings with birds, then I am not sure I can help you.

The killing of innocent children is universally repugnant, yet the God of the Bible orders it. According to Edwards we are supposed to love those things about God's nature that runs cross grain to human nature. This is certainly one instance of that.

Sandalstraps said...

former_fundy,

I really hate to disagree with you on this, since I agree that the passages of the Hebrew scriptures in which God commands slaughter are repugnant. But you overlooked an obvious Calvinist responce to your claim:

The killing of innocent children is universally repugnant, yet the God of the Bible orders it.

As Calivinism posits "Total Depravity," the Calvinist could simply say that as all people have been equally tainted by their sinful natures, there is no such thing as an innocent person.

This is how they get around the injustice of double predestination, in which God (arbitrarily?) sends some people to heaven and some people to hell, based on nothing other than God's sovereign will.

To them this is not unjust at all, since all deserve damnation. God is just, therefore, when God commits people to hell, and merciful when God admits people to heaven.

If they are willing to reason this way with eternal damnation, then they will perhaps be unmoved by appeals to the innocence of children.

Sandalstraps said...

sdanielmorgan,

Not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious. When someone makes an argument from authority - particularly their own authority - then it is reasonable to question that authority.

Additionally, if someone's argument depends on their credibility - for instance if they are making a claim which cannot be verified or refuted by the information available to all people - then their credibility is relevant to the argument.

I am not familiar with this James White, or the arguments which he made here. But if part of his argument rests on his qualifications, then that his qualifications are questionable at best is immediately relevant to his argument.

John W. Loftus said...

John, is Blogspot capable of archiving posts as separate pages?

Yes, each post is a separate page. Click on the archives and there will be listed on the sidebar separate posts. I hope this helps.

Former_Fundy said...

SS said: "As Calivinism posits "Total Depravity," the Calvinist could simply say that as all people have been equally tainted by their sinful natures, there is no such thing as an innocent person."

Yes, I know. That was my approach too when I was a Christian. I was a four point Calvinist (five if L is defined properly).

My point was that, according to Edwards, the greatest proof that one is really a Christian is that he loves those aspects of God's nature that are most reprehensible to the natural man. Thus, according to Edwards, if one loves the aspect of God's nature that causes him to order the killing of infants and toddlers in the OT and the eternal torment of the lost, then that person is most likely a true believer.

I wanted to state it as bluntly as possible in order to show the moral bankruptcy of such a position.

Ninja_the_Man said...

Ninja said:
"One, I’m not sure why it is necessary that a Christian have infallible knowledge about their salvation. Can you present the Biblical case that a Christian must have infallible knowledge of salvation otherwise Christianity is false? "

Former Fundy said:
I am not arguing that the lack of infallible knowledge of salvation makes Christianity false. You have misunderstood my point.

My point was that people like White say that apostates such as myself were never truly saved to begin with and my response was that according to his flavor of theology, he cannot even be certain that he is saved. He may also have a false faith.

My Response:
You still have not explained why this proves Christianity false. You say it as if it does, but you have provided no evidence of such. While I appreciate that you think everybody (including me) who reads your blog has a PhD in Theology, some of us do not. Please elaborate.

Ninja said:
"Second, this question seems to presuppose that one can have infallible knowledge about something and that one needs this infallible knowledge otherwise their whole worldview is bunk. Do you have infallible knowledge on something?"

Former Fundy said:
Not my point at all.

My Response:
This is the point conveyed however. It is the logical conclusion of taking your position to its ultimate level. Thus, if it is not your point at all, could you please reword it so dumb people like me can understand.

Ninja said: "I’m curious at why you think extermination is wrong? What aspect of extermination in the Bible do you disagree with? Why? Do you believe extermination is ever right? How about the extermination of all the birds without Avian flu purely because they might have associated with birds who might have Avian flu? "

Former Fundy said:
If you equate the killing of human beings with birds, then I am not sure I can help you.

The killing of innocent children is universally repugnant, yet the God of the Bible orders it. According to Edwards we are supposed to love those things about God's nature that runs cross grain to human nature. This is certainly one instance of that.

My Response:
I’m not sure where you get this “universally repugnant” idea from. I thought only Christians made statements like that. I’m just observing that Christians are not really making a far fetched argument. We kill birds because we have the power to do so and we believe we have sufficient reason for doing so. God kills humans because he has the power to do so and he believes he has sufficient reasons for doing so. Thus, I do not see how this is an argument against Christianity unless we are consistent and say killing birds is wrong.

Thank your for taken the time to enlighten me and I hope you will continue to do so.

Former_Fundy said...

Ninja, the problem is that you think the purpose of my post was to "disprove" Christianity. It wasn't. The purpose was to show that Calvinists don't know exactly what to make of apostates. On the one hand they want to say that we were never truly saved to begin with but then they claim that they are truly saved. My point was that according to their theology, they cannot be certain. That was my whole point. I did not present it as an argument against Christianity.

As it relates to the extermination of infants and toddlers, I think you will find near universal agreement among humans that it is wrong. This is true regardless of the religon. Killing children is repugnant, and therefore, it would be one of those aspects of God's nature that runs contrary to man's nature. And if you love this aspect, then that is a strong sign you are a true believer, according to Edwards.

What is my point here? To show how morally bankrupt Edward's position is.

Ninja_the_Man said...

Former Fundy:
My point was that according to their [Calvinists] theology, they cannot be certain. That was my whole point. I did not present it as an argument against Christianity.

My Response:
However, you have yet to still explain why not having infallible knowledge of one’s salvation is a problem with Calvinism. Do Calvinist’s claim to have infallible knowledge that they are saved?

Former Fundy:
As it relates to the extermination of infants and toddlers, I think you will find near universal agreement among humans that it is wrong.

My Reponse:
I’m not so sure about that. Infantcide is popular in countries such as India and China. Furthermore, the West loves to perform late-term and partial birth abortions. If killing children was considered universally repugnant, I would imagine these practices would become practically nill.

Former Fundy:
What is my point here? To show how morally bankrupt Edward's position is.

My Response:
The only way so far you would succeed in doing this would be to also undermine your own position and thus declare yourself morally bankrupt as well E.g., You would kill birds because you are more powerful then them and God ordains the killing of humans because he is more powerful then them. You say God is wrong in doing this, but if that is the case, then you are wrong for killing the birds. Maybe there is another way you can show that Edwards is morally bankrupt without declaring yourself morally bankrupt as well.