Requiem for a Blockhead: Steve Hays on Marvin Wilson and on Calvinism

When last we left Steve Hays he was trying to rebut our material on Calvinism by playing dodgeball. Since then we have wondered what credentials Hays has to speak to any such topic (no, he is NOT the professor at Ohio U.; that worthy knows of this Hays, though, and says his work is -- and I quote -- "CRAP"). We do now have some information on this, and will share and comment upon it at the appropriate time, after arguments have been processed.

In any event, deftly avoiding mentioning me by name (because he knows what would happen, but it will happen anyway), Hays now takes his chances against infamy by addressing the concept of "block logic" described by Marvin Wilson in Our Father Abraham. Not surprisingly, Hays botches the matter uncontrollably and persists with his usual hayseed diatribes, thus:

Wilson is an ecumenist. That’s why he wrote the book in the first place. So he has an agenda. This doesn’t mean that we can dismiss his arguments out of hand. But he does not come to the data as a disinterested exegete.

Hays here is no better than Skeptics and atheists who do the same thing: "The man is biased. Not that this means he's wrong, but he is biased. Biased biased biased. Not that we should make an issue of this. Biased." My response to this is, Hraka! If that is the card to be played in this childish game of Go Fish, it is just as accurate and worthwhile to say that Hays has an "agenda" too, as does every writer; as do we. That Hays resorts to this sort of well-poisoning at once shows that he is NOT a capable commentator but one that seeks to undermine Wilson's factual data with emotional irrelevancies. It is a falsehood, moreover, to say as he does that it is necessary for Wilson to take the church down a few notches in order to narrow the distance between the church and the synagogue. Wilson does no such thing anywhere in his book. This is nothing but a baseless and crass smear and Hays ought to be ashamed of himself, but he won't be, for it is apparent that in his world, a smear in the service of authoritarian Calvinism is a good thing. (At the same time, if Hays is not sensible to the point that a church infected and infatuated with such tomes as The Purpose-Driven Life and Left Behind does NOT need to be taken "down a few notches," he has obviously not been out from behind his computer for quite some time!)

Hays' second "point" is no better, as he also whines that Wilson is "hostile to Calvinism" -- so what, even if true (he isn't)? Hays is hostile to Wilson, and tries to disprove Wilson. So this means we can dump Hays' rhetoric in the garbage? So be it! Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of little minds like Hays'; that he now brings up TWICE the issue of Wilson's alleged "biases" -- all of this, completely prior to any actual dealing in arguments -- while out of the other side of his mouth with a forked tongue solemnly declaring that his rampant repetitive warnings of bias should not let us prejudge anything -- bespeaks a commentator of depth dishonesty. And it will not be the last time. With the third point, Hays finally gets his feet wet but jumps right back out into the briarpatch:

The facile appeal to “paradox” and the like is, of course, popular in liberal and evangelical theology alike. In the case of evangelical theology, this serves an apologetic purpose. If you can’t win by means of logic, you can achieve a stalemate by the opportunistic appeal to paralogic.

This non-specific skein of gobbledygook is an answer to nothing at all, and is indeed, a THIRD effort at poisoning the well with insult ("facile" -- which has yet to be proven) and accusation (it is implied that Wilson uses paradox "to prejudge and preempt unwelcome exegesis" again with no proof as yet; as if Wilson, prior to writing his book, sat in some dark corner mulling over ways to circumvent Calvinist exegeses, and came up with "block logic" out of his vile imaginations to circumvent glorious Calvinist truths about Romans 9). Here Hays is again no different than the backwards preacher who pounds the pulpit and threatens hellfire and damnation to anyone who doesn't serve communion in the "right" size cups. The next point offered is little better:

The Bible was written to be understood. Scripture is the revelation of man’s duty to God and to his fellow man. It is our duty to believe what is true and to disbelieve what is false. And it is our further duty, where feasible, to act in accordance with our belief. You cannot act on a paradox, as Wilson uses the term, for a paradox would present you with mixed signals.

Translated roughly, this is advice to put one's fingers in one's ears and sing loudly LAA LAAAA LAAAAAA LAAAAAAA. Where, first of all, does Hays find an exclusion for paradox under the text in the Bible that says, "the Bible was written to be understood"? There is no such text, and never can be; and it is spoken directly against by the very text of the OT, which is full of mysteries not understood by those who read it first, and those who read it for centuries to come, and is even full at come points of paradox (try the books of Job and Ecclesiastes for a change). Hays' blind, mouth-foaming bibliolatry is without a shred of basis in any text. Paradox, moreover, presents mixed signals only to the blithely ignorant who do not wish to take the time to exercise their mind -- as Hays himself will soon (contradictorily!) admit.

The next point is a mere pomp for Calvinism, and no answer to anything said by Wilson; then:

For all his talk of paradox, Wilson seems not to know what a paradox is. In particular, he fails to draw an elementary distinction between a literary paradox and a conceptual paradox. A literary paradox is a rhetorical device designed to express the truth in a provocative fashion. It is true on one level, but false on another, and the duty of the reader is to decrypt the truth-claim by discerning the intended level of meaning.

Having read Wilson's material -- indeed, having copied the very pages on block logic for someone today -- I know this to be a patent deception. Hays is burning a straw man; Wilson did not draw any such distinction (though he did draw others, between types of expression of block logic -- and that, we will see, will come back to bite Hays on the behind) because nothing in his context of explication required it. Ironically, Hays' very last sentence agrees with what I have just said above. Oddly though he doesn't see any sort of "duty" for the reader where the Bible is concerned; no, "understanding" he thinks is handed to us on a silver platter -- presumably, along with knowledge of Koine Greek!

Hays then hoists yet another ladle of poison, breathing out threats about what "fun a liberal would have with Wilson’s glib invocation of paradox" and provides an example so absurd that it hurts the eyeballs:

Yes, the Bible forbids adultery, sodomy, and bestiality, but this must be held in creative tension with what the Bible has to say about the love of God and neighbor-love.

What! An example like this would never work using Wilson's measure, for the two subjects can not even be connected in a paradoxical form: Hays is insensate to the point that "love" in a Biblical sense means striving for the greater good, not a smarmy sentimentality that withholds punishment. Hays' counter is a farce, and an utter misrepresentation of Wilson. (Actually, the only "tension" that could possibly be invoked here is not the forbiddance of such things, but punishment for them -- and that in itself is indeed paradox, but one resolved in grace and forgiveness, in this era offered through Christ, within which the punishment is taken for us to resolve the paradox.)

Hays next strives for more bigotry and well-poisoning, muttering on about "Jewish liberals like Lapide and Sandmel" and yet again out of the other side of his forked-tongued mouth reminds us that all of his well-poisoning shouldn't be paid any attention to. Then this:

On the face of it, Wilson’s description of historical theology is ill-informed at the very point where it needs to be well-informed regarding the long history of Jewish philosophical theology and its impact on Scholastic theology and beyond (e.g., Philo, Saadia, Gabirol, Costa ben Luca, Halevi, Isaac Israeli Maimonides, Gersonides, Crescas, Spinoza).

Given the patent miseducation Hays showed with respect to other philosophers in his prior effort, we doubt he knows Halvei from Havati, and suspect that all of this name-dropping came after a few hours of slumming some years ago through some title like The Story of Jewish Philosophy, which he picked up only because he needed to write a paper at 11 PM that was due at 8 the next morning and knew he needed to work hard for a C. In any event, he does not quote Wilson on any point of this, much less offer any specific correction rooted in any of these names he carelessly drops like tares. The next point is no better:

Wilson has a very low view of the church. He almost treats 2000 years of church history as a wrong turn. Does he think of gentiles as squatters on hallowed ground? No doubt the church has much to learn from the synagogue. And the synagogue has much to learn from the church.

Once again, mere well-poisoning; Hays is clearly frustrated by his inability to provide or answer specifics, as he was in our first encounter. Only a bigot would find it completely inconceivable that the church could not learn from its Jewish forebears; to those who say otherwise, we are reminded that (for example) Calvin had no objections to using Jewish commentators, and Piper himself appealed to Qumran texts. Nothing to learn? Baloney! Hays' bigoted anti-Semitism shines here like a movie studio light.

Having now finished insulting Wilson, Hays engages in blather about Calvinism, in a section that says zero about Wilson or block logic. We will skip all these exercises in chest-beating, which Hays pursues like some emaciated Tarzan; our own answers are in articles Hays has already had his chance to answer, and lost. We highlight only this sort of self-contradictory nonsense:

All that Scripture assumes is that man is able to entertain hypothetical situations, to grasp the moral and practical consequences of each action, and to take appropriate action if he is so inclined. A sinner was free to do the right thing had he wanted to do the right thing. But he was not free to choose what he wanted to do. He was, rather, in bondage to an evil heart.

So in other words, Hays says sinners can because they were free, but they can't, because they are in bondage. When he decides which he actually believes, perhaps he will advise. Finally back to Wilson, where it is said:

It is quite unscriptural to say that the deed is more important than the creed. What’s the difference between a good deed and a misdeed? You can only do the right thing if you know the difference between right and wrong in the first place. You can only do the truth if you know the truth. Certainly the Bible has no use for a deedless creed. But neither has it any use for a creedless deed. In fact, there is no such thing as a creedless deed. Behavior is belief in action. It is pretty pathetic when an Evangelical teacher like Wilson can indulge in such breezy and morally disreputable principles.

Excuse me? Hays has probably never learned about Semitic Totality (books that would assist in evidential apologetics being forbidden by the Inquisition), but it is the Jewish idea that agrees that "behavior is belief in action." That is where Wilson would stand, and it is also where Scripture stands: "Faith without works is dead." In other words, deed is indeed more important than creed, for a creed can be mouthed in vain, but works that come of believing that creed cannot be falsified. But in fact Hays is even more than misguided here, but also dishonest; he quotes a single line out of a huge section, in which the "deed more important than creed" statement is not about morals (as Hays would have twisted it for his unknowing reader) but with tension of ideas and statements, and with experiencing and walking in the truth versus knowing and rationally analyzing the truth. Hays has botched the theme of the passage he quotes, and again, ought to be ashamed of himself, but will not be.

Next Hays says it is "is misleading and quite inaccurate to set up a contrast between the divine and human perspectives in Scripture." How this works out with books like Psalms and Job, for example, is not explained; Hays is oblivious to the idea that God inspires the recording of the human perspective to accomplish his purposes. After this he again retreats into vagueness to criticize Wilson:

To speak of reconciling the irreconcilable begs the question. To say that we should make no attempt to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable teachings is to canonize a snap judgment, as if our first impression were sacrosanct. Now, to begin with, paradox is person-variable. The examples that strike Wilson as paradoxical may not strike someone else as paradoxical. And this brings us to the next point. Wilson is confounding his subjective impression with the objective sense of Scripture.

We're waiting for an example of Wilson allegedly "confounding" anything, but none is presented yet, much less are we given an example of a worked-out non-paradox, properly worked out. Once again, as with his reply to me, Hays is simply flapping his jaws and saying nothing of substance. If a paradox is person-variable, it is only because of ignorance or imagination by one person. But Wilson is dropped like a hot potato to drop now onto Sandmel:

For Sandmel to claim that a fixed future would contradict God’s omnipotence and mercy is not a claim which he derives from the teaching of Scripture—to judge by Wilson’s quote. No exegetical argument is offered in support of this claim.

Not that Hays actually shows that Scripture proves any such thing (so much for his hypocrisy in saying, "no exegetical argument..."). Sandmel's quote actually says, not what Hays claims here in his summary, but what he quotes and misses, that what contradicts God's mercy and omnipotence is that a "totally unalterable future lay ahead" -- not a "fixed future". Hays himself, we assume, does not deny God's omnipotence and does not think that God is powerless to change the future, even if it is fixed in His sovereignty. Or perhaps Hays is actually an open theist, as we once suspected. I might add that Sandmel is reporting historic Jewish views, not making the claim himself as Hays, poor reader that he is, indicates. But Hays' next excuse is ripe to pluck:

And, frankly, his theory fails to survive rational scrutiny. If the future were fated in some way independent of God nature and will, then that would, indeed, infringe on his sovereignty. But if the future is predetermined because God himself has predetermined the course of future events, then it is nonsensical to say that this infringes on God’s freedom of action, for the fixity of the future is, in that case, the tangible transcript of God’s freedom to choose.

But Sandmel in fact says neither thing in his quote. Sandmel presents no "theory" of any sort here -- he reports views, and none he reports resemble what Hays has described in his blattering. Thus Hays' description of Sandmel's views is a caricature as it stands. It does not require a "finite, fickle, and fallible God who is riddled by doubts and second thoughts about his plan for the world" but one in which counterfactuals could be proposed and considered, even if not enacted. Once again we wonder if Hays denies either God's omnipotence or omniscience. Perhaps he really is the heretic here, or more likely, he is just grossly confused.

Likewise, Sandmel’s claim that predestination and prayer are nonsensical is not something given in Scripture itself. There is nowhere in Scripture in which his claim is taught, either expressly or implicitly.

Let the falsehood speak for itself, since Sandmel makes no such statement either. What he actually says is, "Unless God's proposed destiny for man is subject to alteration, prayer to God to institute such alternation [sic] is nonsensical." Hays' mangled version of what Sandmel actually said is an injustice to a serious scholar whose boots Hays is unworthy to untie. As for finding it in Scripture, we suggest Hays look for a story about Hezekiah being given more time to live after prayer, and for another where Moses pled for relief from the destruction of the Jewish people. Note carefully that Sandmel says proposed destiny -- not final destiny. Hays errs once again when it comes to simple reading. Hays' pompous refrain to Calvinism's illogical fatalism (which we demonstrate, using his own favored text, here) will not save him, nor will his distraction claiming that Sandmel "doesn’t even offer a rational argument for his claim." Is a "rational argument" needed for the obvious claim that 3 is less than 5? We ask again: Is Hays an open theist? Or not?

Hays next whinges that "there is nothing in Wilson’s argument, such as it is, which is based on the psycholinguistic conditioning of the Hebrew language, per se," for whatever purpose that served. I said no such thing myself, but no doubt Hays imagines that I did. Finally, having poisoned the well sufficiently such that two-thirds of the inhabited world has perished from it, Hays at last retires to Wilson's exegetical examples, and it is here that he leaves the exercise of hardened botching and enters into the realm of irreconcilable flabbergasting. The first example is that of Pharaoh's hardened heart, and Hays' reply is much shorter than the one we examined from Piper in the link above, but no less an excuse; indeed Hays is more pomp and less action than Piper was. The second and remaining examples are dealt with at one blow, for they show that Hays doesn't pay attention, as usual:

2. “The prophets teach that God is both wrathful and merciful (Isa 45:7; Hab 3:2).”
This is only a paradox if you insist, in simple-minded fashion, that God is both wrathful and merciful at the same time with respect to the same object. But the Bible itself is guilty of no such simplistic reasoning.

We'll stop right there, because Hays has done one of his usual shell games. Wilson does not call this a "paradox" -- he calls it an example of block logic, which is an umbrella term for what is expressed, variably, in many forms, including paradox, for one, but also including antimony, contradiction, and polarity. This particular example would not be paradox, but polarity. Hays has thus once again played games with the oppositions' text, as he did with me. Indeed he admits polarity here, and thus validates Wilson: It distinguishes between the way in which he views people in Adam and how he views them in Christ. In other words, a polarity.

The remaining examples -- two through ten -- Hays mishandles and flubs the same way. He thinks Wilson identifies them as "illogical" but Wilson says no such thing; he says that they are examples of "block logic" meaning not that they are necessarily illogical (some examples of block logic would appear that way), but to some degree in tension -- whether resolvable or not, and this includes literary as well as conceptual paradoxes (again, Wilson did not claim such categories, and did not need to, despite Hays' gross mishandlings). Thus Hays cannot, as before, even represent his opponents correctly, and we leave this portion highlighting otherwise examples of Hays' monumental misguidedness:

“Hell is described as both ‘blackest darkness’ and the ‘fiery lake’ (Jude 13; Rev 19:20).” This is even more inept than #3. It commits the same fallacy as #3, but adds yet another blunder by juxtaposing one writer’s figurative usage with another writer’s. But if there were such a thing as block-logic, it could not be attested by taking two different authors who may be ignorant of each other’s usage. At most, it could only be attested by showing that the same author reasons in self-contained units of thought.

WHAT! Earlier in his diatribe, Hays had informed us in his wisdom, "It is misleading and quite inaccurate to set up a contrast between the divine and human perspectives in Scripture." But in this very complaint, he not only commits the same error as in the rest, as noted, but also speaks of "two different authors" -- as though denying that God is the author of both Jude and Revelation! So which is it, Mr. Hays? Is there a contrast between human and divine perspective in the Scipture (as you say) or not (as you say also)? Maybe Hays is trying to give us an example of "paradox" to figure out! More likely he is simply too insensate and too intent upon insulting Wilson to recognize his own patent contradictions. (But taking the "human" aspect: Jude and Revelation were written in the same Judeo-Christian thoughtworld, and the two descriptions, darkness and fire, are found from the mouth of one person, namely Jesus. Perhaps Hays forgot his New Testament.)

And so it ends, with Hays insulting his better (Wilson) again for not being "sensitive to literary imagery, be[ing] able to read a text in context, know[ing] how to handle figures of speech," and saying absurdly that Wilson "is a gentile trying to get inside the Hebrew mind" (never mind that he used Jewish scholars as sources! but the bigotry of this sort of statement speaks for itself, as if the Hebrew mind were somehow impenetrable!) -- all the while as he himself has misread Wilson's commentary, mangled his material out of its contexts, and mishandled Wilson's comments from start to finish. Steve Hays, to put it bluntly and succinctly, has made himself, with these pre-emptive well-poisonings, falsehoods, and manipulations, a disgrace to the Body of Christ. If his career leads him to actually perform apologetics of any sort, we may as well give up to Dan Barker and C. Dennis McKinsey now and save ourselves the trouble. And with his errancy now proven, we proceed to share the information about his "credentials" that we have been seeking. A Semptember 2004 item by Hays for another organization says that he doubled-majored in history and classics at Seattle Pacific University and is currently both a student and teacher’s assistant at Reformed Theological Seminary. Strong evidence indicates he is or has been a teaching assistant to John Frame, to the point of sharing his byline in at least one journal article, but the sole result of this seems to have been to inflate Hays' head to gargantuan proportions, such that he considers himself too mighty to stoop to documenting his own "shoddy work" (as one other critic -- likewise an RTS student -- of Hays said, with respect to a tortuous item of his encouraging people not to go and see The Passion). To put it bluntly, Hays is no one worth our respect, and is certainly unworthy to attack his credentialed betters with the sort of vague calamity-posing he has prospected in past exchanges. If you are going to be a loud mouth on short pier, one had best deal from the top of the deck with a veritable alphabet soup of credentialed authors, not your own rantings and ravings. Hays does no such thing beyond childish name-dropping, so may eternity help us if he ever becomes representative of what will be doing "apologetics" in years to come. We may as well hand Farrell Till the keys to the steamroller and lay down at once.


And it seems Hays just can't control himself, and despite his earlier pledge to be done responding to me, does so anyway. Not surprisingly, Hays whines incessantly about our proper identification of him as a spade, and cuts off his nose to spite his face in a way of which he is surely unaware: "Holding has filthy mind and a filthy mouth," he says; Hays has apparently been locked (as his academic level indicates) in Romper Room for much of his life, but one wonders what he makes of the "filthy mouth" of Elijah, who said to the prophets of Baal, "Keep shouting. Maybe your god is on the toilet"? And what does he think of the statement of Martin Luther, that great and hallowed hero of the Reformed tradition, "Almost every night when I wake up the devil is there and wants to dispute with me. I have come to this conclusion: When the argument that the Christian is without the law and above the law doesn't help, I instantly chase him away with a fart"? Perhaps he would say that Luther also had a "recurrent obsessive-compulsive anal fixation." And heaven forbid Hays' virgin ears end up tainted by such passages as Malachi 2:3 and Ezek. 23:20. Let me show you where believers like Hays end up in 20 or so years without help: Out of the church pew and right next to Dr. Jason Long of the Apostates' League -- because they immunize themselves with a sanitized Jesus contrived by Western sentimentalism and plenty of Rick Warren fare, then suffer serious cognitive dissonance when confronted with the reality. And let this reality hit home by the fact that the worst atheists quote passages like Mal. 2:3 to suggest that God, too, has a "recurrent obsessive-compulsive anal fixation."

Hays of course said nothing of substance in his initial look at Wilson, and so it is no surprise that his defense offers less of the same:

In the same vein, he quotes a professor who describes my work as “crap.” Nothing like an inspirational appeal to lofty standards of secular academe to drive home your point.

And of course, it is manifest that Hays does not meet those standards, and can say nothing in his defense -- and we are also wondering why does not mention my specific reason for quoting this professor, his namesake for whom readers have confused him. We can only suspect that Hays wishes to encourage confusion of himself with this credentialed and serious scholar in order to cheaply gain credibility he does not deserve. Next we are belabored with a tortuous excuse for Hays' rampant well-poisoning:

Actually, all I’m doing here is to obey the admonition of Scripture. Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John all warn Christians to be on guard against false teachers. What I’ve done is to heed their admonition and apply it to the present.

Actually, all Hays is doing here is illegitimately baptizing his dishonest tactics with Scripture, after the manner of cultists. Hays tries to pull a fast one, as usual, by saying that the apostles and Jesus were "warning Christians to beware of false teachers who have an ulterior and anti-Christian agenda." They certainly did warn of false teachers -- briefly, and after refuting their teachings! They did not produce paragraph upon paragraph and line upon line of poisoned water, and another thing they did was represent their opponents' position accurately. Hays' description of Wilson, on the other hand, offers so many opinionated caricatures of Wilson's view that we may as well have been reading a Russian novel rather than Wilson, as inaccurate as it was. Hays' nauseating self-justifications do not charge that one who addresses opponents has a responsibility to address their position accurately and not use deceptive tactics, such as paragraphs of misguided "dung" (Phil. 2:8, as that filthy-mouthed Paul would say), to bias the reader beforehand where a sentence or two of stock rhetoric for the sake of interest and theme would have sufficed. And if Hays wishes to play that game, then why is not my effort to call a spade a spade in his case, just as much "obeying the admonition of Scripture" to warn about "false teachers" like he is? Once again Hays cuts off his nose and spites his face, unwittingly.

Hays claims, "to simply quote the opinion of the non-Christian partner as the final authority on the meaning of Scripture is credulous and naïve." Oh it is now? Then perhaps Calvin needed Hays' correction when he used rabbis as the final authority on the interpretation of the OT. Maybe Hays is simply YHWH's gift to academia after so many decades. I have sad news for Hays: If he ever hopes to get anywhere in academia beyond the confines of rigorous fundamentalism, he needs to stop playing the game of the atheists and claiming that a source is "biased" or suspect simply because the author is not a born-again, baptized, KJV-toting Bob Jones clone. I quote these informed comments (not merely "opinions," which is another disrespectful throw-off by Hays to scholars several hundred times his better) because these people have shown themselves to be reputable and trustworthy authorities, acclaimed by their peers of various ideological persuasions, and that their ideas are confirmed by equitably credentialed sources. It speaks well enough that I have corrected Hays so soundly that he now admits what he implicitly denied before with his diatribe: That "their opinion is only as good as their evidence." That's at least a step forward from, "they're biased" repeated nauseatingly again and again and again without basis, and criticizing every person that "pisseth against a wall" as that filthy-minded author of the book of Kings (1 Kings 16:11-12) says.

Hays finds no relevance to what I note of Warren and LaHaye, which I can only say proves that the room to his ivory tower has been locked for too long. He then continues to santize his excuses for heaping poison onto the beginning of his prior essay, and in so doing, sounds more like Farrell Till than any apologist ought to. I'd like to see where Aquinas started his replies to opponents by laying down false and unsubstantiated accusations about their motives, but since Hays never backs up his assertions with quotes, we won't ever know. Hays' claims to have "no ulterior agenda" is also of no relevance -- if he has an agenda, period, he is every bit as suspect as he wants to be of Wilson and others; the only difference is, he compounds his slander by accusing Wilson of conspiracy as well.

To my extensive point about the Bible being "written to be understood," Hays posions the well again:

“Bibliolatry” is, of course, the classic charge which liberals level against conservatives. When we affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, they accuse us of “bibliolatry.” When we affirm the necessity, sufficiency, authority, and perspicuity of Scripture, they accuse us of “bibliolatry.”

Of course, Hays merely throws the word "liberal" around gratuitously for lack of any substantive argument, not because he can back it up; he may be reminded that according to a King James Onlyist, that is what he is as well. Hays claims to be reaffirming a "commitment to the classic Protestant doctrine of Scripture" -- though he does not describe what this doctrine is; he merely drops names. Well, we will never get a consistent position from Hays, any more than from we did from White. If Scripture is "sufficient" as it stands, then Hays is obliged to throw out his Greek lexicons, along with anything he has on his shelf like Manners and Customs of the Bible. He is also obliged to leave seminary, because he does not need to go; Scripture is sufficient. He does not need to read Calvin or an NIV. Once he opens the barn to any of these, the whole herd of externals comes rushing in like unto a flood. It is clear by now, though, that Hays, like most stultified fundamentalists, will only admit externals that have undergone a thorough screening for appropriateness to Calvinist Inquisitorial standards.

Hays then refuses to answer, typically, my request for a Scriptural proof that Scripture was "written to be understood". In short, he has none to validate his thesis. It is then said:

Holding’s appeal to the OT is self-defeating, for he would only be in a position to know how it was fulfilled in the NT if it were written to be understood.

Hays of course skips right over the point, which is that for hundreds of years, the NT did NOT exist to interprtet the OT, and so it is absurd to say, simply, that "Scripture was written to be understood". Indeed Hays admits as much when he says:

What was an OT Jew unable to grasp? Not what was in the text, but what was not. Because OT prophecy and typology did not spell out the precise who, when, or how of fulfillment, that is something an OT Jew was in no position to fully grasp. Yet his incomprehension was not owing to something God did say, but to something he kept to himself until the fullness of time.

And thus Hays admits -- to his own detriment -- that the OT did not contain the exegetical tools necessary for its own proper and full interpretation! Does this sound "sufficient"? It is not, if we define "sufficiency" as Hays would have it: No externals (that we do not hypocritically approve versus others we do not). And thus Hays must amend his statement that "the OT was written to be understood" to, "the OT was written to be understood, with the proper interpretive keys -- and we haven't even gotten past what to do about presenting the Bible to other cultures that have no idea what the text is saying. Hays shoots himself in the foot for my sake yet again. I thus am able to turn the common atheist sentiment back on Hays: If it is so easy to grasp, why do I need to constantly correct atheist misreadings? (The simplified, presuppositional hyper-Calvinist answer of course is, "they're sinners" -- though they can't explain why being a sinner makes people unaware that, ie, Paul is actually quoting opponents in 1 Cor. 14 when he says women need to keep their mouths shut. It may make them refuse to believe it after solid evidence, but it doesn't make them ignorant in the first place.)

Hays goes on to deny that Job and Ecclesiates had any "part of Wilson’s case" (which does not answer the point that they do contain paradox, as stated) and merely pawns off to one of his prior essays; so we will do the same and say in turn that when a disputant like Hays repeatedly raises an objection which has been repeatedly answered, without offering any acknowledgement of the answer, much less a reasoned rebuttal, it is the disputant who has no answer.

We now finally get to Wilson, and where I showed that Hays misreported and falsified Wilson's position. Hays rewards the effort by (no surprise) doing the same to me, yet again. Please note what was said, In full. Hays said:

For all his talk of paradox, Wilson seems not to know what a paradox is. In particular, he fails to draw an elementary distinction between a literary paradox and a conceptual paradox. A literary paradox is a rhetorical device designed to express the truth in a provocative fashion. It is true on one level, but false on another, and the duty of the reader is to decrypt the truth-claim by discerning the intended level of meaning.

And I said in reply:

Having read Wilson's material -- indeed, having copied the very pages on block logic for someone today -- I know this to be a patent deception. Hays is burning a straw man; Wilson did not draw any such distinction** (though he did draw others, between types of expression of block logic -- and that, we will see, will come back to bite Hays on the behind) because nothing in his context of explication required it.

Hays, however, stops my quote at the double star (**) and leaves out the very critical last phrase! He then tries to shebang the reader with a claim that:

But, of course, that’s exactly what I said all along. Wilson “fails to draw an elementary distinction between a literary paradox and a conceptual paradox.” That’s precisely my point. And this is a failure on his part, not merely because he didn’t do it, but because such an omission is fatal flaw in his overall argument.

And yet, I noted that NOTHING Wilson said required this, and Hays does not explain why this is any sort of "fatal flaw" but just rambles on excessively:

I said he didn’t do it. Holding says he didn’t do it. So Holding agrees with me that he didn’t do it. But if I say it, that’s a “patent deception” and a “straw man” argument. This is a classic example of someone so blinded by animus that he can’t hear his own words.

...without any explanation as to why this was a "flaw" in Wilson's "overall argument"! As an aside, to my words:

that, we will see, will come back to bite Hays on the behind).

To which it is said:

This is not the first time that Holding has taken a personal interest in my backside. Holding would be well advised to resist his unsavory attraction so many homoerotic illustrations.

We are well-advised to not wonder in what way Hays has become so familiar with "homoerotic illustrations" that he has these sort of powers (claimed) to recognize one. It is not such an illustration, but perhaps Hays also sees "homoerotica" in 1 Chr. 19:4, "Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved them, and cut off their garments in the midst hard by their buttocks, and sent them away." One can only speculate what puritanical gyrations Hays must contort when he hears someone say, for example, that we were "caught with our pants down" on September 11th.

At any rate, after skipping that critical line completely, and denying his status as a spade for treating scholars like Lapide and Sandmel and their work as dirt merely because they are Jewish, Hays skates over real issues further, describing Wilson's book as a "popular-level paperback" (published by Eerdmans, which of course is always putting out garbage like The Jesus Mysteries) and staking my argument on "three pages" (as has been said time and time again, if the brew is potent enough, the size does not matter -- oh dear, what sexual overtones will Hays read into that, we wonder?), I am accused of not reading "the standard scholarly literature on the historical interplay between Greek, Jewish, Islamic, and Christian philosophical theology" (though we're still waiting for something from any of those that shows that there is some problem with what Wilson offers), and then, we finally get to "comments" on Wilson's words, where it is replied to with -- a list of books to read! Hays assures us that had Wilson or I read any of these books, we wouldn't have been so stupid, but Zeus forbid Hays should actually bring any of these books out of his freezer and actually soil his hands getting anything specific out of them to "refute" Wilson. And so we are left with the usual Hays games of dodgeball, with no actual answer given, and thus again history repeats itself, with Hays leaving the field in flames.

On to a second entry, Hays of course denies his bigotry in simply waving off Jewish sources, and says nothing of Calvin and Piper using them; Hays merely repeats his bigoted dismissals and well-poisoning, pointing out, i.e., that because Lapide is a non-Christian, his readings of the NT could not possibly be "normative." All of this is followed on with an extended biography of one person Wilson quoted, as if this proves a single thing about the validity of anything that this source said. This kind of laziness reflects Hays' methods: Just paint the idiot purple and leave!

We are also offered a quote from "Backgrounds of Early Christianity" about Josephus that is set against "Wilson's thesis" though in fact, Hays does not say what "thesis" of Wilson all of this refutes, nor quote any part of Wilson that his quote allegedly affects. But let us see the two points that Hays claims destroys Wilson's "thesis" (whatever he imagines it to be for his convenience this week):

You have a 1C Jew using Greek philosophical categories to reclassify Jewish schools of thought. And even before Josephus we, of course, had Philonic Platonism.

And we ask: SO? What has Wilson said that this causes a problem for? Likewise:

You have the same Jewish historian distinguishing three different schools of thought on the relationship between divine and human agency. The Mishnaic quote, cited by Sandmel, and the Talmudic quote, cited by Wilson, codify the Pharisaic outlook—since Rabbinic Judaism is the lineal descendent of the Pharisees. Wilson even says so himself. Ibid. 77-78; 88.

This is all very nice, but we are not given one quote from Wilson that any of this allegedly contradicts. That Josephus noted schools of thought -- for the sake of his own patrons, the Hellenized Flavians -- tells us nothing in this context. There is no reason why Wilson should run in fright at any of this. Hays is simply mumbling away uncontrollably, hoping to hit any target with his random diatribes. In that light, he fits the mold of the dog that returns to his vomit, as that filthy mind Peter (2 Peter 2:22) would say. All we get is a summary:

It should be needless to say that Pharisaic theology takes quite a beating in the NT. So one wonders why Holding and Wilson elevate this to the gold standard by which the Bible is to be construed.

Hays of course merely pulls his usual dishonest tricks: He pretends that because one aspect of Pharasaic theology took a beating, this means that the whole ball of wax was trashed as well! Of course we may have missed that part of Hays' Bible where Jesus also trashed the "theology" of the Pharisees with respect to believing in one God, for example, or recognizing hypostatic Wisdom, or the doctrine of resurrection. Things such as Wilson cites were that which Jesus and the Pharisees, and other Jews, held in common.

To my pointing out of Hays' inconsistency regarding the will of sinners, Hays merely repeats the compatibilist contradiction: "[F]ree to do otherwise had he wanted to do otherwise—but not free to want to do otherwise." I am aware of this distinction, and also aware that it is just more of the same contradiction that Calvinists refuse to recognize in defense of their bankrupt theology. Then we get to the deed and creed, and here Hays just poo-poos his responsibility to correspond Wilson's views with Dahl (whom he has obviously not read, but merely looked up in a card catalog, since he thinks it is about nothing but the glorified body of 1 Cor. 15), and makes the incredibly asinine (is that a bad word?) statement:

Even on its own grounds, the idea of a "unitive notion of human personality” would not justify prioritizing deed over creed, for that move would be disunitive rather than unitive.

That of course is nonsense; prioritization does not in the least lead to separation, any more than knowing who is a husband and who is a wife dissolves a marriage. Then:

Holding then indulges in a bait-and-switch scam as if saying that “faith without works is dead” is equivalent to saying that “deed is more important than creed.” Wilson doesn’t quote James, so this is another instance of Holding’s attempt to shore up a weak argument; but even if James were in play, James never says that works are more important than faith. There is no prioritization one way or the other. Holding would rather falsify the witness of James than disagree with Wilson.

As usual, Hays is merely babbling incoherencies; the above answers nothing. Whether Wilson quotes James or not is of no relevance; and what James says leads inexorably to the conclusion that works have a priority in terms of the context of identification that I (and James) specified. But I also noted that the statement was not about morals at all, but about tension of ideas and statements, and with experiencing and walking in the truth versus knowing and rationally analyzing the truth. In response Hays cries:

As to Holding’s further assertion that the statement is not about morals, Soloveitchik goes on to say: “We [Jews] are practical. We are more interested in discovering what God wants man to do than we are in describing God’s essence.” So it is about morals—about praxis, about doing.

This is again patent dishonesty, for Hays has taken a case of priority ("MORE interested") and turned it into a case of exclusion; and he has also falsely equated concern of theological knowledge with concern for accuracy of belief! He also purposely leaves out the most critical part of Soloveitchik's quote: "As a teacher, I never try to solve questions because most questions are unsolvable." In short, the rabbi speaks much as some Christians in church do who find no value in apologetics because their faith is enough. This has nothing to do with the sort of soteriological issues Hays is carelessly and/or dishonestly trying to foist onto Wilson's text as he ravishes it for his perverse pleasure (to use a metaphor that that filthy prophet Isaiah [13:16] would be familiar with).

My request to explain divine vs human contrast with respect to Job and Psalms is merely palmed off as not required to answer, which leads us to note Hays' point that it must be the disputant who has no answer. We then get to where I noted that Hays offered no exegetical argument himself versus Sandmel, whom he accused of the same lack of provision, and once again, Hays palms off responsibility and merely repeats his stultified, "solo flight scripturas, no externals I can't stomach" canard. In short, Hays wants the burden proved from Scripture, unless it happens to agree with Calvinism, and you are headed to perdition if you so much as touch anything by the Context Group. Hays also proudly repasts to his irresponsible use of Warfield ("go read it all, it refutes you!"), so I suppose he won't mind if I tell him he needs to read everything by Esler, Malina, Rohrbaugh, Witherington, etc. and stop replying until he does. Hays also fails to see any distinction between a "fixed future" and a "totally unalterable future," apparently missing the fatalistic implications of the former and the non-fatalistic content of the latter. Here is the distinction I am making, which upon reflection I will concede Hays may not have been able to understand from my writing: God cannot change a fixed future; He can (but does not) change a "totally unalterable" one. Sandmel is comparing human and divine perspectives -- as Hays claims, falsely, lacks in what Wilson says. If Hays does regard the two terms as equivalent in his own mind, then I withdraw the point, and retire to others.

Hays also has problems comprehending my Molinist-style replies, and hauls out the old "grounding" objection which has been refuted time and time again; so if Hays wants to haul out his bibliography, we'll just do the same and tell him that if he ever bestirred himself to read the philosophical defenses of Molinism and libertarianism raised by such theologically diverse writers as Robert Kane, Thomas Flint, Alvin Plantinga, and Thomas Morris, he might get past the point where all he is doing is reading names off of a subject catalog and hopefully seeing how utterly inadequate his statements are at even sketching any model of providence, much less a coherent model.

To resolve just one problem: if God is choosing which future to fix in response to what the creature would do, God has already foreseen that choice and so the creature’s hypothetical choice is not at all causally prior to the Creator’s hypothetical choice. It is Hays who flirts with academic ruin by denying the credibility of arguments sown by his intellectual betters who recognize his work for what it is (to allude to that filthy mind Paul again). Hays also ignores the correction that Sandmel is reporting views, not stating his own.

Hays goes on to excuse his patent misreading of Sandmel by claiming that the cookie jar flew off the counter and into his arms; no, he was just "summarizing " or "paraphrasing" what Sandmel said, but it remains utterly inaccurate, Hays' contrived excuses notwithstanding. It would be nice if (for once) Hays was able to defend his view rather than make excuses, but his answer to Sandmel's point about prayer versus fatalistic destiny is not properly represented by saying that Sandmel claims that "that predestination and prayer are nonsensical" and is not in ther least "conceptually equivalent" to what Sandmel actually said: "Unless God's proposed destiny for man is subject to alteration, prayer to God to institute such alternation [sic] is nonsensical." If anything, Sandmel calls a system of theology nonsensical -- not "predestination" or "prayer". But given that Hays pompously subscribes slavishly to the Gestapo incarnation of Calvinism (as opposed to the mild forms that don't insist that unless you follow them, you deny God His glory), he no doubt believes that there is no other system to be believed in.

My references to Hezekiah and Moses are, as might be expected from Hays by this point, waved off without any answers: Wilson didn't use these, so Hays is under no obligation to address them; this is open theism and Mormonism (Hays can enlighten himself here to see why what I offer is not) and go read something else somewhere else by someone else, they'll shut you up, fool. Actual answers? That's heresy.

Finally, we get to where I gigged Hays like a corn dog (hopefully he is not now having an idea that this is some oblique sexual reference) for misrepresenting Wilson. His excuse this time is that because Wilson used the words "paradox, antinomy, apparent contradiction" etc in a literary order, he most have been trying to say that they were "interchangeable synonyms". I see. So when Hays makes a grocery list, he regards the words for the butter, eggs, milk, pancake batter, etc. as "interchangeable synonyms" and ends up with a grocery cart filled with nothing but pickled beets. The long and short of it is that Wilson must have been really stupid to use words with different meanings (albeit nuanced ones) in such a stupid way, and thank Zeus the genius of Steve Hays was here to rescue us from infamy, and to see that a word Wilson used in paragraph 2 on page 153 was meant to be applied to what he said in paragraph 5 on page 155. Hays considers himself free to scramble around Wilson's vocabulary as though on a Tilt-o-whirl, and the end result is about the same -- a bout of projectile heaving. But don't let that filthy mind Peter in on that metaphor.

And last, I gigged Hays for his mishandling of the metaphors of hell; for this, Hays tries to excuse away his incompetence by claiming a "bait-and-switch scam" from "an editorial contrast between the divine perspective and the human perspectives of Scripture--which I deny--to a figurative contrast between one writer’s choice of metaphor and another’s--which I allow--as though these were convertible propositions--they’re not." Sorry, but once you open that barn door, they are -- if you allow two authors, then you allow for their effects to be seen at every level. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Hays tries to squirm out of this error by now ratcheting to the convenience (proper as it happens) of "the secondary viewpoint of the human authors" but once he does that, and once God lets writers do their own thing to any extent, it can also be done, as I and Wilson maintain, for books like Job and Ecclesiates. Hays isn't holding categories in his head, but stuffing in and removing categories at his convenience, not according to any systematic form of thought (other than, "Calvinism rules!" perhaps). Indeed, Hays only magnifies his own conundrum with statements like these:

Inspiration is not telepathy. It doesn’t make John a mind-reader of Jude. God knows what both are thinking, and God controls what both are thinking. But one writer’s usage does not control another writer’s usage.

Well, if God controls what both think, then Hays has just said it openly: God has contradicted himself. The ground pioneered rather by the The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy -- properly understood and contextualized -- resolves the ridiculous and self-contradictory dilemmas that our ostrich-counsin fundy friends like Hays put themselves into.

The simple fact is that Hays is indeed, so far by this account, a "mouth-foaming bibliolater" -- which makes his view of Scripture indeed very low, for rather than speaking for itself as Scripture written within its contexts, it speaks for the theological system of Steve Hays and what he wants it to say. Any violation of that hallowed inner sanctum by contextually informed exegesis is as welcome as an abomination in the congreagtion of the Lord. I'd list some of those, of course -- but we wouldn't want Hays' innocent ears to be soiled by mentions of such things as excrement (Deut. 23:12:14) or genitalia (Deut. 25:5-9), would we?

No wonder Hays doesn't understand his Bible. He's not allowed to read it.



2/18/05

Regrettably, Hays reveals himself no more interested in depth study than White. His comments are, as White's, in the form of a blog, and he as much as admits his inability to deal with the case holistically as he too deigns to deal with only what he calls "major arguments." This is a grave mistake, as with White. In what follows what Hays quotes from me is in bold; his response in italics; my counter in normal type.

It is our contention that Romans 9 may be better understood in terms of the rubric of primary causality. But we anticipate the objection that we would be thereby reading into the text a concept not found therein. Our answer is that we would not expect it to be found within Romans 9 or any explanation offered by Paul -- because such an "explanation expectation" would be the product of a Western low-context mind rather than a Hebrew high-context one, like Paul's.

Even if we were to accept this description of the Hebrew mind, this amounts to a preemptive admission that he's not doing exegesis on Rom 9. Instead, he's using the Aristotelian category of primary causality as an interpretive grid through which to filter Rom 9. But, in that event, this has nothing to do with what Paul meant. It does even attempt to construe the text in light of original intent.

It didn't take long for the ostrich to find a level patch of sand and stick his head in. Of course there is the mere waving-off of high and low context -- there is no "even if" about this; it is a recognized, endorsed concept noted by social science and anthropological scholars, supported by the consensus -- but more than that, there is the pompously arrogant designation of what I offer as not being "exegesis" simply because it appeals to an external. That is the same nonsensical argument White has been throwing around all this time. The definition of exegesis is, Critical explanation or analysis, especially of a text. It does not say, "Critical explanation or analysis of a text without reference to anything outside the text used to understand it." No external -- not even Aristotelian categories -- is exclusive to exegesis. Hays, like White, cuts off his own nose to spite his face, unwittingly also eliminating the use of lexicons and grammars. As for the rest of the blather, we will see.

At this point there's nothing for the Calvinist to rebut. The Calvinist has exegeted Rom 9 (e.g., Murray, Piper, Schreiner). Holding has offered no contrary interpretation, based on text and context.

One suggests that Hays clean his glasses, as such was indeed provided, even if not in the atomizing sense he desires. Of course if there is nothing to rebut, one wonders what Hays spent 11 pages writing about.

The thinking of the ancient Hebrew is not, as ours, concerned with precision. As Marvin Wilson points out in Our Father Abraham, "The nature of Hebrew [the language] is to paint verbal pictures with broad strokes of the brush. The Hebrew authors of Scripture were not so much interested in the fine details and harmonious pattern of what is painted as they were in the picture as a whole. Theirs was primarily a description of what the eye sees rather than what the mind speculates."

This strikes me an obvious exaggeration. It depends on the subject-matter. It depends on what they're interested in. When it came to personal and social ethics, Jewish thinkers could get very detailed and draw very precise distinctions indeed.

Here again Hays proves himself in over his head with subject matter. He does attempt something of an answer beyond the vague, non-specific appeal to what "Jewish thinkers" did (yet were these thinkers influenced by Hellenism, like Philo?), though it is grossly misdirected:

As long as we're going to indulge in breezy generalities about the Hebrew mind, here's one from a more qualified source than Wilson:

More qualified? Wilson is a professor of Biblical and theological studies at Gordon College and a leading scholar of Christian-Jewish relations. Hays' reply source is Cyrus Gordon, citing Harry Wolfson -- a professor of Hebrew literature and philosophy, who died in 1974. More qualified? Doubtful; though perhaps equitable, and certainly not up to date as Wilson would be. Nevertheless, the quote used isn't even relevant, and in fact, only supports my point, to wit:

'I once asked Prof. Harry Wolfson of Harvard U, a savant in ancient and medieval Greek as well as Jewish philosophy, how he evaluated the Greek mind, as exemplified by Aristotle, vis-a-vis the Talmudic mind. He replied, "if you compare a Greek philosophic treatise with a Talmudic tractate, obviously the Greek is orderly and easy to follow, whereas the rabbinic is disorderly and circuitous. But if you compare the mental horsepower of the Greek philosopher and the rabbinic sage, the latter is superior." That was not the answer I expected, but eventually I realized that Wolfson was right,' C. Gordon, A Scholar's Odyssey (Society of Biblical Literature 2000), 5-6.

That's very nice, but if anything, this only tends to support my point. "Disorderly and circuitous" is precisely how a Greek mind would see expressions of block logic. Mental horsepower isn't germane to the particular of expression I cited, so it ends up that Hays only ends up proving my point with his displaced quotation.

'In terms of theology, this means that God's existence is never argued, but assumed; "God is not understood philosophically, but functionally." God is thought of in terms of what He does.'

This is another exaggeration. Because the Bible is ordinarily addressed to the community of faith, it ordinarily takes the existence of God for granted; but when addressing outsiders, such as Isaiah's indictment of idolaters (Isa 40-48), the Bible does launch into an apologetic for the existence of the true God.

It would be nice if Hays had done more than refer to a broad swath of eight chapters to prove his point, but that he admits that the point is nevertheless overall correct speaks for itself. And what of that exception, Is. 40-48? Hays apparently has exegeted some new definition of "apologetic" with which the rest of us are unfamiliar. There is nothing of such an apologetic anywhere in these chapters -- nothing like a kalam cosmological or a moral argument in sight. At most there is a polemic against ineffectual false gods, but this is not at all the same thing as an argument for God's existence. Hays offers thus yet another misplaced retort.

'Wilson concludes, therefore, that the Hebrews would have had "little or no interest" in many issues we consider important, including the debate over free will and predestination.'

On the face of it, this claim is palpable false. For starters, just read Warfield's article on 'Predestination' (Works 2:3-67), in which he lays out quite a lot of the Biblical data on this topic.

There's nothing like a non-specific non-answer composed of a reference and nothing else. I will not endorse Hays' laziness by looking up what he should have provided in the first place -- actual data. If this is how Calvinist response is done, little wonder pomposity is a primary weapon of their apologists. Please note that mere statements of predestination (as for example Jer. 1:5) do not in the least constitute "interest" in depth understanding of predestination, any more than a comment on the pleasant weather indicates "high interest" in the science of meteorology. Perhaps for those of Hays' repute, such simplicity is what amounts to depth, but that is why apologetics is in such a depraved state to begin with, with the likes of McDowell at the top of reading lists when they are better left for kindling.

'Second, Jewish thinking, unlike our own, involved the use of what Wilson calls "block logic." In this item we explained some points about ancient Jewish and Near Eastern wisdom literature which has applicability here:

The paradoxical nature of Ecclesiastes -- a book filled with statements regarded as being in tension (for example, on one hand mulling over the despair of life, then shortly thereafter encouraging the enjoyment of life) -- has been variously identified as being because Ecclesiastes is either a dialogue of a man debating with himself, "torn between what he cannot help seeing and what he still cannot help believing," [Kidner, Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, 91], or else as the author's "challenge to the man of the world to think his own position through to its bitter end, with a view to seeking something less futile." I prefer the second interpretation, but in either case, the compositional principle is the same, and derives from the ancient Near Eastern methodology, which we might loosely compare to a Hegelian case of combining thesis and antithesis, to arrive at a synthesis; or else for sports fanatics to a game of tennis in which the ball is batted back and forth between opposing points to arrive at a consensus.

In this regard Ecclesiastes is related to other ANE literature with the same, or similar, content and methodology. Works like A Dialogue About Human Misery and Pessimistic Dialogue Between Master and Servant (on which, Murphy comments, the "dexterity the slave displays in affirming both the positive and negative aspects of a situation is reminiscent of [Ecclesiastes'] own style" -- Murphy commentary on Eccl, xliii] from Babylon; The Man Who Was Tired of Life from Egypt; and the book of Job from the OT, are all examples of this genre in which problems were discussed and resolved via dialogue. The modern Western mind has little patience with this sort of logical construction, and it is no surprise to see that critics have no appreciation for the implied intent of such literature: "Work out the problem yourselves," vs. "Give me an answer in a can, to go."'

i) Holding is extrapolating from one particular literary genre (wisdom literature) to Hebrew psychology. This is a huge leap of logic. It extrapolates from one genre to all genres, and then extrapolates from a literary genre to national character. Indeed, the fact that Bible writers alternate between different genres goes to show that they are not intellectually straight-jacketed.

This is a remarkably idiotic comment, since psychology is what produced the texts to begin with. More than that, I am not "extrapolating from one genre to psychology"; Hays has merely confused order of presentation for steps in argumentative progression. No, psychology is at the root; wisdom literature is merely the most clear expression of the block logic format that could be used for illustration purposes. This has nothing to do with genres per se. It remains that psychology is at the root, and thus the expression indeed would not be limited to genre, but appear in ALL genres, even epistles like Romans. Hays is once again badly misdirected. Moreover, ability to leap between genres is no pointer for being able to escape mental pathways. Perhaps we will be given the excuse that the Spirit inspired Paul to think like a Renaissance churchman specially for this occassion.

ii) There is nothing Hegelian about Job or Ecclesiastes. In both cases, the existential problem lies with God's inscrutable providence. I have offered my own interpretation of both books in my essay on 'Vanity of vanities.'

One wishes Hays would provide an actual answer to the real point that we "might loosely compare to a Hegelian case of combining thesis and antithesis, to arrive at a synthesis". Is he denying that this is what is done as process? "God's inscrutable providence" is not the point here; the point here is resemblance of a particular method of Hegel to a particular method of the wisdom genre. Hays is manifestly lost at even grasping the point, and merely throws out some pious remarks guaranteed to keep the staunch Calvinist reader shouting Hallelujah!" rather than understanding what is being said.

iii) It should be needless to say that the dialogical genre is a staple of Western philosophy, viz., Socrates, Plato, Berkeley, Hume.

Another non-point. At most it would only suggest that we could find Western parallels to the Eastern practice, without disproving my point. More than that, the most critical point is missed: Do these Western dialogues take the tack of "work it out yourselves" or do they give the answer in a can, with the dialogue as merely a vehicle for the "crash test dummy" to act as a talking head to which the genius responds with the answers -- or to actually give answers? Hays once again grossly simplifies the matter in order to provide an answer of no worth or relevance.

'Hebrew "block logic" operated on similar principles. "...[C]oncepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern, particularly when one block represented the human perspective on truth and the other represented the divine. This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antimony, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension -- and often illogical relation -- to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic." Examples of this in practice are the alternate hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God, or by Pharaoh himself; and the reference to loving Jacob while hating Esau -- both of which, significantly, are referred to often by Calvinist writers.'

i) There is nothing paradoxical about the hardening of Pharaoh The Bible cues the reader with a couple of programmatic statements (Exod 4:21-22; 7:2-3), the function of which is to supply a hermeneutical framework for what follows in the subsequent narrative. The text is flawlessly logical. The problem lies with careless readers like Wilson and Holding.

This is just more pious Calvinist blatherskeit; more "give glory to God, you heathen" pulpit-pouding. We are told that we'd better find it "flawlessly logical," by gum, or the flames of hell await you! But in fact Hays has merely picked one word out of my paragraph (paradox) and assumed that this would adequately represent the whole of the point. It does not. This story is cited more broadly as an example of polarity and dialectic, as Glenn Miller has described it:

God seems to deal with us (in many cases) in spirals...in other words, if I choose to reject his truth in my life in favor of a lie, he will resist me for a while, but eventually will 'turn me over' to what I want--to teach me a lesson.

There is thus a polarity in the treatment God gives to us. The same can be said of the Esau example, to which Hays offers this equally misdirected comment:

ii) The second illustration is even worse that the first. We would only have an antinomy of God was said to both love and loathe Jacob, both love and loathe Esau. Holding's illustration is simply incompetent.

Once again Hays arbitrarily selects the word "antimony" from out of its place and applies it where he pleases, in order to manufacture a problem. But no, as even he admits, there is a polarity: Love and hate, Jacob and Esau. In other words, block logic. (As an aside, I should make clear that I refer to Jacob and Esau, as Paul does, in corporate terms; they and their descendants -- not just the single persons.)

Wilson continues: "Consideration of certain forms of block logic may give one the impression that divine sovereignty and human responsibility were incompatible. The Hebrews, however, sense no violation of their freedom as they accomplish God's purposes." The back and forth between human freedom and divine sovereignty is a function of block logic and the Hebrew mindset.'

i) I've already shown that block-logic is a fiction foisted upon Scripture by Wilson and Holding.

Hays is welcome to his fantasies in thinking that a quote that actually supports my point refutes it.

ii) But, assuming for the sake of argument, that block-logic is a feature or even fixture of Scripture, then should that not be normative for Christians?

Why? Would it be a threat to Hays if it were? Whether it ought to be "normative" for Christians is up to each person; but if it was normative for the writers of the inspired text, then it had darned well better become part of our interpretative grid, otherwise we will be disrespecting the text and making it a ventriloquist dummy for our own ideas and preferences. What does Hays hope to accomplish with this silly implied threat, which amounts to gross ethnocentrism?

Wilson and Holding are treating the logic of Scripture as a culture-bound casket which they are at liberty to bury in an unmarked grave. But the Bible-believing Christian is honor-bound by the logic of Scripture.

No more idiotic statement could be made. Hays exemplifies the sort of person who decontextualizes the text under the thin veneer of pompous piety. One may as well speak of Scripture as "language-bound" to Hebrew and Greek. The grave is unmarked only to those who hide their heads in the sand and refuse to confront the text in its original contexts -- ALL of them, not just the ones that make us happy.

'What this boils down to is that Paul presents us with a paradox in Romans 9, one which he, as a Hebrew, saw no need to explain. "..[T]he Hebrew mind could handle this dynamic tension of the language of paradox" and saw no need to unravel it as we do. And that means that we are not obliged to simply accept Romans 9 at "face value" as it were, because it is a problem offered with a solution that we are left to think out for ourselves. There will be nothing illicit about inserting concepts like primary causality, otherwise unknown in the text.'

What paradox? Paul repeatedly explains the relation between divine and human agency in terms of divine priority and purpose (9:11-18,21-23).

No, he does not. This is the same mistake White makes above, pretending that statements of authority are "explanations" when in fact they are really commands for us to mind our own business. God of course does have that right. Yet:

If you really think that Rom 9 presents a paradox, a paradox which Paul saw no need to relieve, then it is illicit of Holding to relieve the paradox.

And why is that? Presumably because the pious ostrich in Hays would assume that God's paradoxes are also something we ought to sit down and shut up about. Ironically Hays here exemplifes the very thought he claims is not found in the text of Romans 9!

'The rabbis after the NT explicated the paradox a bit further. They did not conclude, however -- as is the inclination in the Calvinist camp -- that "a totally unalterable future lay ahead, for such a view contradicted God's omnipotence and mercy." They also argued that "unless God's proposed destiny for man is subject to alteration, prayer to God to institute such alteration" is nonsensical. Of course the rabbis were not inspired in their teachings. Yet their views cannot be simply discarded with a grain of salt, as they are much closer to the vein than either Calvin or Arminius, by over a millennium and by an ocean of thought.'

Let us remember that Rabbinical Judaism codifies the Pharisaic school of thought. It is therefore rife with synergism and merit-mongering. Yes, I know, Sanders would demure, but I've addressed the new perspective in my essay on 'Reinventing Paul.'

We have already addressed this sort of bigoted ethnocentrism above with White. Apparently Calvin didn't find that "synergism and merit-mongering" too disturbing; nor do scholars of today.

'Consider this now as well with reference to Pilch and Malina's observation that in an ancient context, "mercy" is better rendered as "gratitude" or "steadfast love" -- as in, "the debt of interpersonal obligations for unrepayable favors received." Mercy is not involved with feelings of compassion, as today, but the "paying of one's debt of interpersonal obligation by forgiving a trivial debt." To say, "Lord, have mercy!" (Matt. 20:31) means, "Lord, pay up your debt of interpersonal obligation to us!" Far from being a plea of the hapless, it is a request to pay back previously earned favor from our client (God) whose patron we are.'

i) Yet another exaggeration. There are basically two forms of petitionary prayer in Scripture. One is where the suppliant calls upon God to remember his covenantal promises. The other is a confession of sin, and plea that God not judge us according to our sins, but be merciful.

What this has to do with anything I wrote, is hard to say. I don't say anything contrary to the above, though perhaps Hays means to imply that the latter examples are not examples of covenant obligation. Since he gives no example from the text, no specific answer can be made, but it can be noted that such prayers of confession come from persons in a covenant relationship with God, for whom indeed "mercy" would mean that they are calling on God to fulfill His promise to forgive sin.

ii) Even in the former case, we did nothing to earn God's covenant promises. This isn't back-pay for services rendered. To cast the divine party in the role of the client, and the human party in the role of the patron, is such a grotesque inversion of Biblical priorities that we might as well class it with other heresies such as gnosticism.

No one said anything about "earning" God's covenant promises. They were given by God; God does not lie; so God will fulfill His promises. I am having a good discussion with "Lee" in the TWeb thread linked above that captures this point. Beyond this I will claim responsibility for an error: I did mix up client and patron in the last sentence. This is now corrected.

iii) Whoever said that the Reformed definition of divine mercy must ascribe certain feelings to God?

Whether it does or not is beside the point; I refer here to a general definition of mercy, which is indeed associated often with compassion. Though we assume that Hays believes that God displays compassion, feelings or not.

'Consider again our example of the three worlds. There is no possible world in which all are saved. God as Prime Mover, He who in sovereign freedom chose one world over all the others possible, in this manner thereby in essence decrees as well who the elect and non-elect will be, without in any way removing our ability to freely choose. Remember that just because God knows we will do X does not mean that we must do X, as if by force.'

i) This, of course, is classic Molinism. Holding offers no exegetical support for such a position.

No, just what I support exegetically with interpretive externals that by Hays' stulted definition of "exegesis" are not allowed to interpret the text. As for the rest, treating Molinism like a curse word is not an answer, as in:

ii) He also ignores philosophical criticisms of Molinism, such as the grounding objection. In addition, some libertarians (open theism) are critics of Molinism. So the attack is not limited to the Reformed front.

That's nice. So what? As noted, I had no idea that I was offering Molinism when I first wrote this. The key issue is, can Hays (or anyone) show that the illustration is wrong? What does he deny? Does he deny that God was free to choose among possible worlds to create? Does he say that God's knowledge forces us to do things? What is it he wants to actually criticize? Is he indeed capable of more than throwing around vague references?

After this come extensive quotes from my excursus on Jer. 7:22; and:

And thus we now pose the Calvinists another question: Is there any reason why the "not" in Romans 9:16 (as well as in a similar passage, John 1:12-13) should not be read in the same sense as the "not" in Jer. 7:22 -- as a negation idiom, not excluding the thing denied, but rather, stressing the prior importance of God's sovereignty in contrast? Given the Hebraic background, I think the burden is upon those who would read "not" absolutely rather than otherwise.'

i) John and Romans were not written in Hebrew to Hebrew-speaking Jews. The linguistic culture of 1C Jews is not all of a piece. According to Angel Saenz-Badillos, in A History of the Hebrew Language (Cambridge 1996), Greek was the lingua franca, while Hebrews was spoken by Judean Jews and Aramaic by Galilean Jews.

Sorry, but John and Romans were written BY Hebrew-speaking Jews, and Romans was written to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles, and the matter of bilingual interference makes it Hays' burden to show a disconnection. We have already answered this point above, and vague references to a huge book are not answers.

And what does Holding identify as the linguistic community of Hellenistic Jews like St. Stephen or the author of Hebrews?

What's the point of asking? Stephen would probably not have been raised in Hebrew culture; so likewise Hebrews' author (who I take to be Luke).

ii) In this general connection, many of the ancients were multi-lingual. Are we to suppose that everyone whom Abraham came into contact with, in his far-flung travels, spoke the mother-tongue of Ur. Moses was at least bilingual (Hebrew, Egyptian), and his royal education may well have trained him in languages of the Levant and Mesopotamia. Did Solomon, the most cosmopolitan of kings, speak only one language? Paul was at least trilingual (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic).

And this only adds to my point. Even multi-lingual persons retain the affectations of their native tongue. The question, "Are we to suppose that everyone whom Abraham came into contact with, in his far-flung travels, spoke the mother-tongue of Ur" is just plain asinine in its irrelevancy. Moses, raised Egyptian, would retain "interference" from his Egyptian linguistic habits even as he learned Hebrew, and that would remain the same no matter how many new languages he learned. The same for Paul, though the degree of interference would vary, and be in accord with factors about the life of Moses and Paul about which we have little information. Hays' comment hereafter is grossly naive and sadly misinformed:

You cannot acquire any conversational fluency if you are consciously translating from your mother-tongue to a second-language. There comes a point when you are no longer thinking in your native language. Kids from one linguistic community who play with kids from another linguistic community quickly pick up an idiomatic command of the second language.

I offer as a retort to this gross oversimplification the material I relate from Casey here. It remains that the matter is far from as simple as "people could have learned more than one language" as he makes it out to be.

iii) Holding's thesis is self-refuting. If it's impossible for one linguistic community to get inside the mind of another linguistic community, then it is impossible for Holding to get inside the 'block-logic' of a 1C Jew.

How this works out is not explained. Hays is obviously oblivious to the virtues of native informants to say nothing of being pompously denigrating to the work of scholars like Wilson. My reader answered this sort of pettifoggery above.

iv) To invoke a Hebrew idiom does not discharge Holding of responsibility for showing if and how that idiom figures in any particular passage of Scripture. I'm sure, for example, that an antinomian would love to convert all the negations in the Decalogue to affirmations (you shall lie, you shall steal, you shall murder, you shall philander...).

Suppose we converted all the negations in Rom 1-3 into affirmations: no one is sinless=everyone is sinless.

Yes indeed, there's nothing like a pulpit-pounding threat to keep the congregation gasping. In all of this I did indeed show how it figures in Romans 9; the matter is just that Hays did not like the conclusion, and he did not answer it. Let him try that panic-button method against Jeremiah 7:22. Does that explanation for it mean we can reverse the Decalogue? Unfortunately for Hays, neither Jer. 7:22 nor Rom. 9:16 is in the form of a command imperative, which is the main reason that an antimonian can't play with those. As for Rom. 1-3, Hays is playing the same game as atheists if he tries that tack; see here. If anything these are perfect examples of "black and white" polarized expression of thought which we have maintained is to be found in the text all along. So how does Hays explain the "not" in Jer. 7:22?

'In that light I am waiting for an explanation of how receiving grace somehow equates with "deserving" it. '

This varies with the theological system. In Roman Catholicism you have the category of congruent merit. In fact, this comes close to Holding's stated position: 'Sproul's observation that "if grace is obligated it no longer becomes grace" becomes essentially of no relevance once we are beyond the first round of "gracing."'

There's not much to answer here as no answer is given but a vague reference to variation. Much less is there any answer to what I say about grace.

'And a point I have yet to see explained as well is how making a decision qualifies as a "work." The Jews were forbidden to work on the Sabbath; did this prohibit them from thinking or making a decision? Is there any evidence that the Greek word behind "works" (ergon) ever refers to a thought or a decision? It is my earnest wish that an enterprising Calvinist will step to the plate and answer this question, for it seems to me that this is a flawed premise upon which the Calvinistic case rests.'

For starters, try Gal 5:19-21, where works of the flesh include a variety of iniquitous mental acts.

Yet another misplaced answer. Gal. 5:19-21 refers to the "works of the flesh" and therefore would be referring to the outworking of a decision, not the decision or thought itself which takes place in the mind. Which of these items Hays has in mind as "mental acts" I can only guess but none are merely decisions or thoughts, much less are they comparable to the sort of decision that accompanies a conversion.

'Our conclusion, such as can be reached prior to any possible answer to questions offered above, is that the U in TULIP is not grounded as much in Scripture as it is in Western philosophical assumptions and thought-forms being applied to Scripture.'

Isn't that exactly what Holding does when he glosses election in terms of Molinism and Rom 9 in terms of Aristotelian primary causality?

No, because when I wrote I had no idea I was doing either. But if we want to play that game, then Molinism just happens to restore a properly Hebraic element to the text. It remains that Hays has yet to show that a single point is wrong or that any step in the argument is false.

'To speak of God doing A "because" of B implies a chain of causality that would be impossible for a being who transcends time ... indeed such would again be impossible for a timeless being, since a linear or logical order requires the passage of time to exist and be enacted.'

i) A logical order is an abstract object, not a concrete, spatiotemporal object.

What the point of this was I do not know. I say nothing of the sort.

ii) When God decrees the configuration of the world, he decrees ends-means relations, for causal-chains do exist in the natural world.

There's not much more than blather to this either, though from appearances it is not something I disagree with, nor is it contrary to my point, which is how God acts in relation to the world, not in relation to what occurs within the world, among temporal beings, once created.

'My question for Calvinists in this context would be, does it deny the sovereignty of God, His freedom to do as He pleases, to say that at times He may accomplish what He pleases through the most minimal of actions, and then allows what follows to take its natural course, because it likewise suits His purpose and will to do so? If so, how does this denigrate Him?'

This is a trick question. If God could accomplish his purpose by merely setting up the initial conditions, then that would not detract from his sovereignty. But this assumes the very answer at issue. You might as well ask if a painter can paint part of the canvass, then let the canvass fill in the gaps. A painting doesn't paint itself. Holding has no doctrine of creation. If a painter leaves the canvass half-finished, it stays half-finished.

There's no "trick question" here, Hays' paranoid suspicions notwithstanding. But at least he does admit that there is no detraction from sovereignty. In the meantime Hays' own answer assumes the very answer at issue, that we are equitable to a canvass. What if the painter used a canvass that was partially composed of nanobots that finished the painting for him?

A long quote follows from what I say about deSilva, grace, and faith. Hays' first reply speaks for itself:

i) I've only read the first chapter of DeSilva's book. The experience did not inspire me to intensify my acquaintance. There is nothing revolutionary here. It's a rehash of commonplace sociological concepts like shame culture/guilt culture, ascribed/achieved status, &c. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's hardly breaking any new ground.

The ostrich mentality requires no further comment. This also bespeaks the ostrich mentality:

ii) He claims that the shame culture rubric represents the 'primary axis of value' among 1C Christians and Jews. He offers next to nothing to substantiate this claim. He cites all of three little verses from Proverbs, plus a lot of stuff from the OT Apocrypha. Most of his supporting data comes, not from Scripture, but Greco-Roman writers.

In other words, Hays wishes to promulgate the asinine supposition that Scripture existed in a vacuum insulated from its primary culture and context. Let that speak for itself.

iii) There's no doubt that Greco-Roman society was a shame culture. This is hardly a revelation. You could get that much just from reading about the dutiful Aeneas and the vainglorious heroes of Homer.

Where no answer is open, it appears that simple denigration will do. Yet this does seem to be a "revelation" to Calvinists who have yet to incorporate or deal with the data related to this point.

And, for this reason, a number of NT passages address themselves to the pagan honor-code. However, they do so, not to endorse the honor-code, or supplant it with another honor-code, but to subvert the whole framework. Salvation is by grace, not by ascribed status or achieved status.

Nothing is done here but an enormous begging of the question, one that refuses to accept the definition of "grace" as it was known by contemporaries of the text. Beyond that it is too non-specific to reply to.

iv) Notice Holding's bait-and-switch. Calvinism is wrong because it fails to take into account Hebrew block-logic; no, Calvinism is wrong because it fails to take into account the Greco-Roman honor-code. Okay, which is it? A Hebrew mindset or a Greco-Roman mindset? To paraphrase his (Holding's) criticism of Calvinism, DeSilva's conceptual scheme is not grounded as much in Scripture as it is in ancient Western philosophical assumptions and thought-forms being applied to Scripture.' Reading St. Paul through the Aristotelian lens of the Nicomachean Ethics is far from Mosaic morality.

It is that it fails to account for BOTH. There is no bait and switch; it is a matter of one plus one that are not paid attention to. But Hays has created this dichotomy out of a partially false reading: Block logic was exclusively Hebrew, but honor codes were part of the Hebrew and Greco-Roman thoughtworld alike. The paraphrase is based on this false reading.

v) A client-patron paradigm is so generic that it would be an easy matter to formulate a Reformed client-patron model, or a Pelagian model, or Deist model, or Muslim model, or Hindu model, or Catholic model, or what have you. A patron can make a donation, demanding nothing in return--or a loan, demanding repayment with interest.

If it is an "easy matter" then let's see Hays work each of these out. Merely bragging that it can be done is just bluster; even more so to claim it and not make any sort of application -- and sorry, there is in fact no room in this model, in the Greco-Roman world, for "demanding nothing in return". Reciprocity of some sort was always involved, and adding in the concept of limited good meant that "demanding repayment with interest" above and beyond what was reasonable (hence the OT law against usury) was a dishonorable practice.

vi) Holding uses this rubric as an all-purpose short-cut to the spade-work of detailed exegesis.

Merely more bluster. As noted versus White above, and now Hays above, consideration of such things as these is part of genuine exegesis, and that it is not done in the atomistic fashion Hays and White define as "exegesis" is not an answer. The spade-work is done; it is just that White and Hays do not like the shape of the hole they have fallen into.

vii) He fails to draw any distinction between man-to-man patron/client relations and God-to-man patron/client relations. He further fails to draw any distinction between guilty clients and innocent clients. What does it mean to suggest that if God does us a favor, we do him a favor in return? This is the theology of heathen witchcraft.

The pulpit will soon crack if it is pounded on any further. First of all, Hays himself merely begs the question that such a distinction exists in the crucial elements under consideration and particular to the patronage model. The matter of guilt or innocence in clients is an irrelevancy in context; it has to do with the reason and basis for the offer of patronage, not with the structure of the relationship itself. Finally, if patronage and grace is "heathen witchcraft" then all that means is that witchcraft also resembles a patronage model. The attempt to taint the conception by association is mere bluster and weakness of one who cannot actually rebut the equation.

viii) To talk about degrees of regeneration evinces conceptual confusion.

Why this is so is not explained. Presumably when Hays has his automobile fixed the repairs get done all at once and not a piece at a time.

ix) Yes, you can redefine faith as faithfulness. And if you say that, you then have to say that we are justified, not by faith, but by our faithfulness. And if you say that, then you're right back to justification by works. This is not Paul, but Pelagius.

And once again, we're still waiting for something that shows that thought-orientation is a "work". The one attempt with Gal. 5:19-21 failed rather miserably.

x) Yes, you can redefine faith as infused grace ('the gift of fidelity'). This is Romanism. And it fails to do justice to the vicarious character of justification, as articulated by Paul.

If it is Romanism, so be it; nevertheless applying tags of bigotry and buzzwords guaranteed to upset the Calvinist is not an answer. The remainder is yet again non-specific and deserves no answer.

xi) No, a human patron cannot engender faith. News flash--God can do things man cannot!

News flash in reply: If this refers to Eph. 2:8-9, then the "faith" there is not ours, but God's loyalty to us.

xii) Holding defines faith inclusive as of trust, but denies faith as inclusive of cognitive assent. How can the client exercise trust in the patron unless he assents to the proposition that his patron is trustworthy?

I see no place where I deny such a thing, so obviously no answer is needed to this red herring.

'In conclusion, I think it is clear that we are doing the Scriptures a disservice when we allow writers of the 16th century, or even the 4th century, to determine for us what men of the first century were thinking or saying. Neither Calvin nor Arminius, as far as may be seen, knew anything of Hebrew block logic or of client-patron relationships, which look to be essential keys to understanding important texts in this debate. '

i) Augustine (4C) knew nothing of client-patron relations? Wasn't Ambrose, a Roman aristocrat, his patron? Calvin knew nothing of client-patron relations? Wasn't Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, his patroness? One could multiply examples.

Since I did not say Augustine in particular did not know of patronage, this retort is a red herring. As for Calvin and his "patroness" one could properly use the term of her, but only in the same sense that Constantine became a "patron" for Christianity. The relation of d'Albert to Calvin is nothing like the relationship between the Father, Christ, and the believer as this model sees it. There was certainly nothing in the relationship to inform Calvin of the nature of Biblical patronage.

ii) And what is socio-rhetorical criticism if not an extended exercise in block-logic? It treats people, not as individuals, but as social units.

What we have here is little more than an exercise in linguistic trickery as Hays attempts to equate treatment of people as social blocks with rhetorical presentation of ideas in the form of blocks. But in a sense he is right: It is indeed about treating people as they saw themselves in the first century. In other words, it is consistent with what the context demands, whereas what Hays offers when he denies their relevance is not.

And now a bit more as well. Hays was made aware of White's use of his material, and had some further comments we now address, except for some which he directed towards one of our consults, a seminarian noted above (though he did not pay close enough attention to see that it came from someone else, not from me). Our comments as required:

1. I'd just note in passing that Holding's reply is larded with an extraordinary amount of personal invective directed against Dr. White. I'll leave it to better men than myself to judge whether this sustained ad hominem attack is either good moral theology or good polemical theology. Certainly, though, it contributes nothing to the cogency of his arguments--although it may serve to deflect attention from the lack thereof.

Presumably Hays would agree with White that there is no "invective" in White's references to false teachers, the NWT, etc. Considering that White himself admits to have said NOTHING in the course of his commentary as yet, what else can his comments be so far but "polemical theology"?

On what I say of the inadequacy of blogs, Hays complains:

i) This charge proves too much or too little. Is there really that much difference, technically speaking, between what Holding does at his website and what White does at his?

Yes. Especially since White, again, admits that he has said nothing at all as of this date. Moreover, how many sources has White cited so far? One: Piper. And that not even for anything but a record of what I was responding to. Next asinine question? Here it is:

ii) As to Holding having "the discipline to wait until he's finished with all his research before posting his findings," Holding has elsewhere said:

"Let me add here that I had no idea, when I started that essay, what Molinism was or how it was defined,"

as well as:

"Update: To my surprise there is a name for this view I have proposed, and it is one advocated by various Christian philosophers like Plantinga and Craig, in various forms: it is called libertarianism. Well, you never know when you'll cross paths with some things. :-)"

So who's the one doing his theology on the fly?

Not I. Hays mistakes objective investigation for "on the fly" simply because I didn't deign to close my mind and pigeonhole myself into a Calvinist or Arminian straitjacket before presenting my findings. Not "finish my research" but declare for a winner, as White has already done.

iii) It should be unnecessary to point out that a blogger can also do all his research in advance of posting it. The fact that a blogger may post on the installment plan doesn't necessarily mean that he hasn't thought through his position before depressing the "send" button. But perhaps Mr. Holding is speaking from personal experience--to judge by the above.

I am. I have had the "personal experience" of dealing with atheists whom White is imitating in his procedures, to a T. Hays, White, and their ilk are the careless Christian apologists of today fomenting the fundamentalist atheists of tomorrow. Of course neither Hays nor White were as generous with me in supposing that I had done the "spadework of exegesis" and that it was behind my own article, so why should I be any more generous in giving them the benefit of the doubt and regarding this as anything more than a contrived excuse formed to soothe wounded pride?

3. Holding makes repeated appeal to "credentialed scholars." Now, since Holding is an intelligent man, I don't see the point of such a patently fallacious appeal. You can find credentialed representative for almost every position and opposing position. Reformed theology certainly has its share of credentialed scholars. So this appeal, which Holding reiterates ad nauseum, like a verbal talisman, is bereft of probative force.

This sounds so much like Farrell Till that it ought to frighten Hays, as it perhaps would if he knew who Till was. Like Hays, Till merely appeals to the spectre of diversity while missing the point: That the support of scholars demands that the position be taken seriously, not merely waved off with one-liners or blog paragraphs or namecalling ("that guy is a liberal"). Yet this is indeed all the likes of Hays and White are capable of when confronted with matters beyond their ken: Such it is that the buzzwords like "liberal" become grasped like security blankets as they suck on the thumbs of "exegesis" and rest in the comfort of their benighted ignorance, oblivious to the closing of the casket over their heads as the rest of the Christian world moves on beyond their stultified fundamentalism which does more harm than good, and aids and abets only the likes of KJV Onlyists and fundamentalist atheists.

4. On a semantic point, Holding says that "It goes this way for us: 'I will fulfill covenant obligation upon whoever I fulfill it upon, and I will satisfy kinship obligation upon whoever I satisfy it upon.' I should note here that my same source defines compassion likewise in terms of the social state of the Biblical world; 'compassion' means 'caring concern that ought to be felt and acted upon between real and fictive kin.' [30] 'So then, it is not of the one willing, nor of the one exerting himself, but of the covenant-fulfilling God.'"

i) But this commits a classic word-study fallacy. The interpretation of Rom 9:15 turns, not on a dictionary definition of "compassion," but on the meaning of the entire sentence and the way in which this literary unit functions in the whole flow of Paul's argument.

Sorry, but the news flash is that "the meaning of the entire sentence" also supports the view I hold, and fits in just fine with the flow of Paul's argument. Not that Hays bothers to explain why this isn't the case, he merely blathers on piously:

Holding is confusing the meaning of words with the meaning of concepts. What the verb means and what the verb refers to ("real and fictive kin") are two different things. The bare idea of "compassion" does not select for "kin."

Sorry again, but Hays is out of touch with the conception of fictive kinship in the ancient world, upon which all covenant and patronage relationships were grounded. There is no confusion except by Hays, in his ignorance of the social world of the NT: Note that my words come from a scholarly source, with which Hays once again does not deal seriously. "Compassion" DOES "select for" kin in the ancient world -- there is always a kinship relationship of some sort, whether Hays likes it or not. If he thinks not, let him provide examples to show otherwise. It ought to be worth some yuks, since being unfamiliar with ancient principles of kinship he will no doubt unwittingly pick examples that only prove my point.

What is worse, he is confusing the meaning of different concepts. All members of a covenant community may be real or fictive kin, but it hardly follows that all real or fictive kind are members of a covenant community.

Sorry again, but being a member of a covenant community makes one fictive kin within that community. Hays is essentially saying that "all relatives may be part of a family, but it hardly follows that all family members are relatives." It is only ribald ignorance of the collectivist nature of the ancient world that enables such mouth-foaming blindness.

ii) And in his multiplied confusions, Holding manages to make the verse mean just the opposite of what Paul intended. Paul's argument is that election and reprobation cut across all external bonds.

This is non-specific and so deserves no answer; enough to simply say back that in his multiplied ignorance, Hays manages to make the verse mean just the opposite of what Paul intended: Paul's argument is that election and reprobation are worked out within bonds.

5. Holding refers the reader to "Pilch and Malina's Handbook of Biblical Social Values, which describes the ancient mind as one practiced in dualistic thought."

i) Notice that Holding constantly refers the reader to the same little thimbleful of sociorhetorical scholars. This, however, begs the very question at issue. Is sociorhetorical criticism the only prism through which we ought to read the Bible? He quotes sociorhetorical scholars to prove the primacy of sociorhetorical criticism. What a thoroughly vicious specimen of circular reasoning!

Notice how Hays runs around the field of dirt looking for the perfectly level patch of sand to stick his head into. The same little thimbleful? What of it? Does number have any bearing on truth? Let it be said in reply that material of sufficient concentration requires but a thimbleful to be effective -- and if Calvinism is so weak that a mere thimbleful delivers it a knockout blow, that is a reflection of its own weaknesses and that of its apologists.

No, sociorhetorical criticism is not the only prism, nor is it the only one I use. It is however a sorely-neglected prism, one that is extremely critical and which Calvinist commentators completely ignore thus far. It also happens to be the one relevant prism which causes the disagreement; other prisms are neutral in terms of this debate, and hardly require any further treatment, so that Hays is erecting a strawman of undone work without specifiying what neglected "prism" changes anything I have said. Hence let there be no complaints about the use of them here. As for "circular reasoning" that is yet another Tillism: It is the hapless plea of one incapable of addressing the scholastics on their own terms, such that they are constrained to denigrate and insult their intellectual betters and accuse them of fallacy, without having any knowledge of their scholarship or methodology. This will work well for the dazed and gullible who want only pious confirmation and "Praise the Lord" shouted in the ears, but for those who actually want to understand the text in its contexts, it is merely a joke, and a bad one at that.

ii) But just suppose, for the sake of argument, that we agree with Pilch and Malina at this juncture. What follows then? Notice that the attribution of "dualistic thought" doesn't single out the "Jewish" mind or the "Hebrew" mind or the "Semitic mind." No, we are told that this extends to the "ancient" mind. But, if so, then Holding is in no position to drive a wedge between a Jewish mindset and a Greco-Roman mindset, and then play one off against the other.

Hays is making rather too much (as is the wont of one desperate to score points) of a change in verbiage; one is reminded of Till, yet again, writing paragraphs at a time about an opponents' typographical errors. But in fact, one remains in a position to drive whatever wedge the evidence demands. Jews and Greeks did share certain values, apart from moderns; while Jews had certain values of their own, apart from Greeks and ourselves. Hays is merely twiddling his thumbs without giving out a specific where this alleged problem of dichotomy hurts my case.

iii) Holding is sure that he is right, and White is wrong. How very dualistic of Mr. Holding! Doesn't Mr. Holding realize that he is in bondage to that ancient binary logic whereby either he is right or Dr. White is right? Isn't the time past due for Mr. Holding to emancipate himself from the quaint old law of bivalence? From these moldering old "polarities" of primitive thought?

All of this is likewise a pretense for inserting a red herring into the pond: That I somehow argue by this that binary logic does not exist today when in fact the point is, and has been, that expression of dualism was much more pronounced in the ancient world, and among the Jews more particularly, than it is today among Western thinkers. Hays is yet again collapsing my arguments into caricatures of what they really are, no doubt because the specifics are too difficult to counter with actual argument.

6. Holding says that to defeat his contention, "White must show one of any of these things: Paul was not Hebrew or subject to Hebrew thought patterns To; he was one or both, but these passages are to be taken as exceptions for X reason."

i) But this is tendentious. Dr. White would only have to do so on the prior assumption that Paul's neuropathways moved in the groove of "Hebrew thought patterns." But why should Dr. White assume that Paul in particular, or Jews in general, were so intellectually inflexible?

This ranks as truly one of the most idiotic questions of the age. Psyhcological science itself tells us that "neuropathways" learned in childhood are extremely inflexible; however, that matter of psychology aside, it would remain that it would be the burden of the critic to show that a Paul diverged from a normal pathway for his background. My thesis works within what would be the normal pathways for a Paul. Calvinism does not, but insists upon meanings for words and concepts that a person like Paul would have had to change his mindset over in order to adopt. It is the Calvinist's burden to prove "flexibility" -- though we remind the reader that "flexibility" is a hallmark of...eisegesis. It is what permits JWs to do their work. Now how is that for sauce?

ii) Sociorhetorical criticism, being a subdivision of sociology, shares the same bias as sociology. In the perennial nature/nurture debate, the so-called social sciences (sociology; anthropology) come down heavily on the nature side of the debate, treating the human mind as a blank slate which is pencilled in by culture. And, like any half-truth, there's some evidence for that.

Not much needs be said here; this is yet another imitation of the worst sort of atheists, who, when confronted with material they cannot refute, resort to charges of "bias". Beyond this there is nothing of worth; this is yet more vague claptrap and well-poisoning, with no effort made to apply the statement to a specific claim of my own. Vague blatter about "essential generic mental attributes" may impress others, but it will not impress the informed.

7. "To suggest further that we could argue that Paul was some kind of exception ("transfers over to Pauline usage") is itself a counsel of despair, ad hoc special pleading at its worst."

This is a lovely example of a first strike straw man argument. You charge your opponent with your own fault to preempt him from doing the same to you. Since Dr. White would reject Holding's operating premise, he has no need to carve out "some kind of exception" for Paul. The special-pleading is all on Holding's part by trying to slyly foist this faulty premise on Dr. White in the first place.

We still await some actual argument showing my "fault" in this regard, for treating Paul as a person of his time and not a churchman of the Renaissance era. Nevertheless it stands that for White to even maintain his premise against my case, he must (and has, in what little we have seen) begged for Paul to be an exception for the sake of the Calvinist elect. This is nothing but Hays trying to reverse a well-deserved stigma with topspin.

8. According to Holding, "White's own classification of Romans 9 as 'logical' is similarly obtuse. Indeed, logicians would call what Paul does in Romans 9 a fallacious 'argument from authority'".

i) Holding's charge is faulty logic and worse exegesis. To begin with, an argument from authority not automatically invalid. The appeal is only fallacious if your opponent does not acknowledge the authority of your source. But if Paul is shaping his reply with a view to Jewish opponents, whether real or hypothetical, then the appeal to Scripture is perfectly legitimate inasmuch as both sides of the debate acknowledge the authority of Scripture.

Hays purposely confuses the issue, which is not that an argument from authority is valid or invalid, but that it is not logical, which was what White was indeed trying to claim. Here the appeal is to the authority of God; and that appeal, by its nature, is not logical, but it does transcend logic; much as any statement of fact ("that ball is red") isn't "logical". Meanwhile Hays quietly dodges the real point, which he admits by his own explanation lacking defense: That indeed, Romans 9 is NOT a "logical" argument in any sense of the word.

ii) In addition, Paul's reply is not limited to an argument from authority. In addition to that, he also invokes a theodicean rationale for election and reprobation (9:17,22-23; 11:32).

That "rationale" is fine but it remains that it is not a "logical" argument.

Hays wrote more, though in reply to comments by a seminary student (which he mistakenly attributes to me), and we will leave reply on those points to that student, if he so desires to make one. (He has done so; it is in the TWeb thread, linked above.)


2/21/05

White now appears to be content to rest his laurels a bit and relax under the headdress of the Drama Queen while allowing his parrot Hays to handle his affairs. With that we are content; as before, our comments original in bold, his reply in italics, our new retort in plain type.

"He [Hays] as much as admits his inability to deal with the case holistically as he too deigns to deal with only what he calls "major arguments." This is a grave mistake, as with White."

I, of course, admit no such thing. It is no more of a "grave mistake" for me to be selective in what I choose to comment on with respect to Holding than it is a grave mistake for him to be selective in what he comments on with respect to his book reviews. I'm simply exercising rational discrimination, which I happen to regard as an intellectual virtue. And I'll exercise the same rational discrimination in this reply.

Yes, Hays does admit such a thing, whether he has the ability to recognize his own error or not. Naturally those "incompetent and unaware of it" by their very nature, in their failure to recognize the need for a holisitic approach, will never recognize their failure, for if they did, they would not fail in the first place. Calling such selective ignorance "rational discrimination" is trumpeting one's failure to completely clean a kitchen floor by noting that at least the tile slightly to the left of the stove is free of debris. Hays is making a sorrowful attempt to santizize his incompetence and lack of knowledge and preparation, but I'm sorry, that will not pass with me; I know this trick, and Hays is no more than a tame ape with a dictionary at his disposal, able to use his vocabulary as a bludgeon to fool the ignorant into thinking he is actually saying something. Such are the disgraces of popular apologists with their heads in the sand. As for my book reviews, I challenge Hays to find a single comparable exercise in one of them. I take particular care to critique only points from books that are able to be isolated from larger contexts, and with respect to areas about which I have broad knowledge.

"It didn't take long for the ostrich to find a level patch of sand and stick his head in."

Notice the gratuitous invective.

There is nothing at all "gratuitious" about my analogy of Hays to an ostrich. His attitude is obvious and the designation is completely warranted. Persons like Hays are the cause of the decline and dearth of American Christianity. As for invective, such it is, and when warranted ("whitewashed tomb") it is warranted. If Hays cannot stand being accurately pegged as an ostrich, then he should leave the savanna and seek his fortune in some urban setting.

"Of course there is the mere waving-off of high and low context -- there is no "even if" about this; it is a recognized, endorsed concept noted by social science and anthropological scholars, supported by the consensus -- but more than that, there is the pompously arrogant designation of what I offer as not being "exegesis" simply because it appeals to an external."

i) I'm waiting to see Holding cite one sociorhetorical scholar who interprets Rom 9 in Aristotelian categories.

Here again Hays plays one of his standard rhetorical manipulation games for cheap points. Nowhere was "Aristotelian categories" argued with the use of sociorhetorical scholars; in fact, note that in my quote, the particular of high and low context is what was appealed to, and Hays conveniently and manipulatively ignores this. Hays offers a disgusting and disgraceful example of a Calvinist "politician" seeking to poison the well.

As an aside, let me add here that these complaints about use of "Aristotelian categories" obscures further blunders by Hays. The word "category", according to Aristotle's logic, means "that which is predicable of a thing", and there are 10 of them: substance, quantity, quality, relation, action, passion, time, place, position, and habit. But that is a minor issue. Of more relevance is that Hays' whining about my talking of primary causality because it is "Aristotelian" is a load of nonsense. Aristotle did not invent the notion of primary causality any more than he invented logic; he simply deduced or inferred rigid, systematically stated truths from conventional language-use, and put a name on something already known. Would Hays deny that God was the "primary cause" of Gabriel's announcing to Mary that she would conceive the Christ? Or that the Holy Spirit was the "primary cause" of Luke's recording the fact? And this is indeed comical -- Hays blatters about Scripture being "logical," and Aristotle specifically says, in his Topics, that though others before him had treated of rhetoric, none before him had given a systematic treatment of "logic" -- the point being, were one to play Hays' game, one could with more justice pettily accuse Hays himself of being anchored in Aristotle's "categories" in his ruthless and misplaced appeals to "logic" further on.

ii) As to the "pompously arrogant" designation (note the gratuitous invective), Holding did not "simply appeal to an external."

Once again there is not a thing "gratuitous" offered. Hays is arrogantly dismissing the work of serious and credentialed scholars, and no amount of hiding his refusal to engage with the pretty words of "rational discrimination" will change that. One may as well be a solider acting as a coward, hiding from the enemy and declaring himself to be doing "rational discrimination" in engagement. The "simply" is not what I did, but what Hays did in his refusal. Hays could stand once again to read carefully what is written, but no doubt the urgent need to produce a blog overstepped any careful consideration.

Neither White nor I would deny the potential legitimacy of background material. But to begin with, not all "externals" are relevant to the text. The Religionsgeschichte Schule (e.g., Bultmann; Bousset) was very fond of appealing to "externals" to "exegete" the text of Scripture.

Yet another non-answer and well-poisoning. Hays erects the strawman of "not ALL externals" and of a particular wayward use of them while avoiding (and poisoning the well against) the use of my particular external. This is the tactic of one frustrated and childish, firing with any and every loose cannon in the hopes of distracting the listener with an 1812 Overture to keep them from hearing the finely-tuned concert violin.

In addition, Holding did a lot more than merely appeal to a high/low context. Remember his exact words: "we would not expect it to be found within Romans 9 or any explanation offered by Paul -- because such an 'explanation expectation' would be the product of a Western low-context mind rather than a Hebrew high-context one, like Paul's."

There is no "in addition" in any of the quote offered. The whole of what is quoted has to do with "high/low context". Hays merely illustrates yet again his profound ignorance of the topic, and thus his gross inability to offer a qualified assessment and critique, by seeing more than that in what he has quoted.

i) Holding has drawn an antithetical distinction between a "Hebrew high-context mind" like Paul's and a "Western low-context mind," then uses the Western context to exegete Rom 9. So he employs an interpretive grid which, by his own definition, cuts against the grain of the text. He is invoking a distinction in opposition to Pauline thought, and then imposing that on the text. In the nature of the case, this would directly subvert original intent. No, this is not exegesis. This is classic Scripture-twisting.

What Hays offers here is little more than misdirected blatherskeit that says nothing of substance. The "antithetical distinction," whether he likes it or not, does exist, and if he has any reason to show why it does not, he certainly does not provide it. Second, Hays vaguely says that I use "Western context to exegete Romans 9" but does not explain how. Thus we can only vaguely guess at what chord out of thousands Hays is trying to strike in his temper tantrum, but I'd have to say that he is complaining that we supply the context Paul does not offer, which if is indeed his point, means that every exegete does the same -- and thus he hoists himself on his own petard, unless he wishes to deny the distinction, which he does not. Furthermore, the antithetical distinction in mindset does not in the least forbid the lower-context mind filling in the gaps with proper information; that is indeed what sociorhetorical commentators do. The distinction in mindset does not in the least require antithetical treatment of texts. I leave it that the real "twisters" here are those who steadfastly and merely deny the relevance of original contexts, in an effort to preserve their pious fantasies.

ii) I'd add that even if, for the same [sic] of argument, we were to redirect the Pauline argument through Aristotelian channels, that would only replace one form of determinism with another inasmuch as primary causality is efficacious as well, which is why Aquinas was just as predestinarian as Augustine.

Yet more vague blather; presumably we are being told that primary causality is also determinative, but as I told a reader who wrote me with the same argument, primary causality offers a "soft" determinism within which libertarian freedom is able to exist. The error made here is the one Craig and others pin on atheists who make the same argument: God's knowledge that we WILL do X is not something that means that we MUST do X, that we are deterministically bound to do it. Hays shows himself to also be less than informed in the department of philosophy. No doubt he had too many Chick tracts to read the day that The Only Wise God was assigned.

"But that he [Hays] admits that the point is nevertheless overall correct speaks for itself."

Once again I did nothing of the kind. I said that Wilson was guilty of exaggeration, and I offered a counterexample to show that it all depends on the target audience.

Yes, Hays did, for he admitted that the OT "ordinarily takes the existence of God for granted." Thus he admits that the "ordinary" expression of the text is exactly what I said it was. If he cannot keep track of his own positions, he should get some techinical or secretarial assistance to remind him of what he believes. We cannot be responsible for reminding his of what he said.

"That's very nice, but if anything, this only tends to support my point. 'Disorderly and circuitous' is precisely how a Greek mind would see expressions of block logic. Mental horsepower isn't germane to the particular of expression I cited, so it ends up that Hays only ends up proving my point with his displaced quotation."

The precise point of contrast was between Aristotelian and Talmudic modes of argument ("how he evaluated the Greek mind, as exemplified by Aristotle, vis-a-vis the Talmudic mind").

Greek philosophy had other forms of argumentation, such as the diatribe, favored by the Stoic school (cf. Fitzmyer on Romans, p91--whom Holding references without--evidently--having actually read), which you find reproduced in Paul as well as Rabbinical debate. If you harness up the raw horsepower of the Jewish mind to that technique, as occurs in Romans, you generate a lot of logical argumentation.

What these last two paragraphs amount to is a dodge of Hays' gross and enormous error in misusing a quote that doesn't even contradict what he put it against, and indeed, agrees with it. "Modes of argument" was exactly my point of difference: Block logic versus a more linear form of logic. The second section is of absolutely no relevance; granting that indeed Paul had access to GR technique of rhetoric, this was also taught even in Jerusalem. May we remind the reader further that Hays has STILL not figured out that it was not I, but Jaltus, the TWeb seminarian, who referred to Fitzmyer. As an aside, since Fitzmyer is a liberal, Hays by his own rules has no business citing Fitzmyer, since he is a tainted source. Let the fundy tangle himself in his own woven web.

"Hays apparently has exegeted some new definition of 'apologetic' with which the rest of us are unfamiliar. There is nothing of such an apologetic anywhere in these chapters -- nothing like a kalam cosmological or a moral argument in sight. At most there is a polemic against ineffectual false gods, but this is not at all the same thing as an argument for God's existence. Hays offers thus yet another misplaced retort."

I don't know who the "us" has reference to, unless Holding is in the habit of talking to himself. As to novel exegesis, if Holding were to crack open the covers of a standard commentary from time to time, he might not be so easily knocked off his pins. This is how Brevard Childs has outlined apologetic strategy in Isaiah:

We'll look at that in a moment; but "us" here refers to several of us on TWeb following this discussion, as well as readers who have commented on Hays' trained-monkey antics. I've cracked more commentaries than Hays has sat on to reach the dinner table in his lifetime, from the looks of it; mainly because I don't limit myself to those on a reading list approved by the Inquisition. But as it turns out, Childs says nothing here of an "apologetic" and assuredly nothing of a proof for the mere existence of God, per my original point:

"The unit [41:1-7] opens with Yahweh summoning the nations to appear in court for a trial. The claims of the foreign gods will be tested according to legal rules…[21-29] The force of the argument in both parts of the trial appears to be that the claim to true divinity rests on the ability not only to control the course of future events, but also to have predicted the events before they occurred. Consequently, the ability to match the prediction with its fulfillment can then be tested rationally in the trial," Isaiah (Westminster John Knox Press 2001), 317,321.

Since Dr. Childs is a highly "credentialed" scholar, I trust that Holding will pay proper homage to his social betters in this matter.

I do indeed. Unfortunately for Hays, Childs only agrees with my point: There is nothing here of an argument for God's existence but of YHWH's superiority over the false gods, exactly as I said. Thus the retort remains utterly and completely misplaced, and Hays is so insensate that he thinks he has rebutted me by providing yet another authoritative quote that says the same thing I do! The last person who did that was a Jehovah's Witness, which says much of Hays' own mental horsepower.

"There's nothing like a non-specific non-answer composed of a reference and nothing else. I will not endorse Hays' laziness by looking up what he should have provided in the first place -- actual data. If this is how Calvinist response is done, little wonder pomposity is a primary weapon of their apologists."

i) Let's clarify the burden of proof here. Holding was the one who initiated an attack on Calvinism. The onus is therefore on him to acquaint himself with the supporting arguments for Calvinism in order to render an informed judgment on the system under review.

Since I did, there is no more for me to do. Hays is merely dodging his inability to back up his argument.

ii) If it is lazy for me to refer the reader to a classic exegetical defense of predestination, then it is just as lazy for Holding to refer the reader to his sociorhetorical critics.

It most certainly would be, if I did not provide quotes from said critics. Hays provided not so much as one word from Warfield; he merely threw the reference at us like an elephant, as though this was some sort of data-argument. So be it: Hays is incapable of supporting his point, and would be better off returning to his daily duties of sorting milk cartons at the 7-11.

"This is a remarkably idiotic comment, since psychology is what produced the texts to begin with."

i) Notice the gratuitous invective.

Once again, there is nothing gratuituous for the comment was indeed idiotic; and the invective is therefore warranted. Of course we may note that Hays is no stranger to such language (calling me a "quack" for example) but I make no record of such wrongs because unlike Hays, I do not live in a diaper and do not look for ways to throw the contents of it at others for cheap rhetorical points.

ii) Notice, also, the patent equivocation here. To say that psychology is prior to text is not to say that "block logic" is prior to the text. Holding is smuggling his conclusion into the premise.

Yet another confused and misplaced comment. Block logic is a product of Hebrew psychology; therefore it indeed must be prior to the text along with every other psychological element, and it certainly is absurd to suggest that psychology associated with the particular people emerged after the text. If Hays wishes to argue either that block logic did not exist and that Wilson is an idiot, or that block logic did exist but emerged after Paul, maybe one day we'll get some actual explanations to that effect.

"The point here is resemblance of a particular method of Hegel to a particular method of the wisdom genre."

Instead of trafficking in these fact-free abstractions, why doesn't Holding reproduce a few representative pages of Hegel's Logik or Phanomenologie des Geistes alongside a few representative pages of Job, perhaps in parallel columns, and let the reader judge for himself the validity Mr. Holding's exercise in comparative philosophical method. Or, better yet, surely he could point us to some sociorhetorical study which does the same.

Why would I need to do this? Hays is once again offering excessive lines of verbal diarrhea to cover his enormous bungle in misreading my point. I ask again: Does he deny that there is actual dialectic in these pages of the OT? Does he deny that dialectic was a characteristic of Hegelianism? Does he then deny in turn that the OT shares this particular description with Hegelianism? No, there is no need for any pages from Hegel any more than there is a need to reproduce the complete works of Charles Dickens just because I say someone is cheap like Scrooge. This is a distraction by Hays from his own inadequate treatment and egregious bungle, and nothing more.

"Another non-point. At most it would only suggest that we could find Western parallels to the Eastern practice, without disproving my point."

Western parallels to Eastern practice? Does this mean that Holding would now apply to himself the line about how " it didn't take long for the ostrich to find a level patch of sand and stick his head in. Of course there is the mere waving-off of high and low context."

No, but how Hays thinks to cross the street and make this suggestion will remain a mystery. One point has nothing at all to do with the other in this last paragraph.

Holding had been staking his case on the contrast between a Western low-context mind and a Hebrew high-context mind. Now, however, he's "waving off" that disjunction in favor of cross-cultural parallels.

I am? It's a shame Hays can't explain how I am. Perhaps Hays is so culturally and scholastically insulated into the Chick School of Theology that he thinks that cultures are either uniform in their similarities or completely different on every count.

"More than that, the most critical point is missed: Do these Western dialogues take the tack of 'work it out yourselves' or do they give the answer in a can, with the dialogue as merely a vehicle for the 'crash test dummy' to act as a talking head to which the genius responds with the answers -- or to actually give answers?"

This assumes that Solomon and the author of Job were rough-drafting their way to an answer. But such finished literary products as Ecclesiastes and the Book of Job bespeak a thorough mastery of form and content from start to finish.

Yet another vague non-answer from Hays. That the product is "finished" in terms of text hardly equates with being "finished" in terms of logic presentation (from a Western view). In the meantime we still await some actual answer to the expertise of scholars like Wilson. Christians should be ashamed of Hays' verbal equivocations here, which are the sort of embarrassments which lead honest Christians, unwilling to cover their cognitive dissonance with such rhetorical tricks, to apostasize.

"This is just more pious Calvinist blatherskeit [sic]; more 'give glory to God, you heathen' pulpit-pouding [sic]. We are told that we'd better find it 'flawlessly logical,' by gum, or the flames of hell await you!"

Compare this unresponsive reaction--one can hardly call it a reply--to what I actually said: "There is nothing paradoxical about the hardening of Pharaoh. The Bible cues the reader with a couple of programmatic statements (Exod 4:21-22; 7:2-3), the function of which is to supply a hermeneutical framework for what follows in the subsequent narrative. The text is flawlessly logical."

Yes, compare it indeed. A perfectly accurate description, is it not? No explanation of how the text is indeed "logical", much less any admission of yet another compositional error, as I noted.

i) What I did was to take a specific claim of Holding's, and rebut it by pointing the reader to the promise/fulfillment pattern of Exodus. If anyone is "pounding the pulpit here, it is Holding, with his verbal bluff and bluster.

Pointing to a "promise/fulfillment pattern" is not rebutting the matter stated, which is that the example of Pharaoh is one of block logic and dichotomy. It doesn't even answer the claim Hays falsely gave to me, that it represented a paradox.

ii) However, just to prove to Holding how accommodating and agreeable a Calvinist can be, I'm more than happy to stipulate to his claim that Calvinism has a monopoly on logic.

That's fine. I know of more than a few atheists and Mormons who have made the same stake. But I made no such claim anywhere, of course.

"Once again Hays arbitrarily selects the word 'antimony' from out of its place and applies it where he pleases, in order to manufacture a problem. But no, as even he admits, there is a polarity: Love and hate, Jacob and Esau. In other words, block logic."

I do, indeed, admit that there's a polarity here. It is not, however, a literary or psychological polarity. Rather, it is based on the "fact" of divine election and reprobation. Malachi attributes this to God. So, if it's "block-logic," it's divine block-logic. It's divine psychology.

Note yet again that Hays refuses to admit to his gross error of merely picking a word out of my paragraph to make an application I never made. The level of disingenuousness is frankly disgusting. Not that this is any better, since I also made no statement about what kind of polarity was in view. Calvinists may see indeed a divine polarity; I would agree but all use of the word "divine" too general, and place the "election" at the earlier level of primary causality. Nevertheless, let it speak for itself that Hays is forced to both ignore his gross error as well as admit that the text really does have what I said it did in reality.

Or will Holding dismiss this ascription as a literary fiction? Will he do an end-run around the Bible by opposing a low-context mind-set to a high-context mindset, and relativize away the claim of Scripture by the intrusion of an alien outlook?

No. Will Hays continue to refuse responsibility for his gross errors of representation?

"Why? Would it be a threat to Hays if it were? Whether it ought to be 'normative' for Christians is up to each person; but if it was normative for the writers of the inspired text, then it had darned well better become part of our interpretative grid, otherwise we will be disrespecting the text and making it a ventriloquist dummy for our own ideas and preferences. What does Hays hope to accomplish with this silly implied threat, which amounts to gross ethnocentrism?"

Once again, Holding resorts to a childish game of verbal bluffery: "I dare you--I double-dare you!"

Once again the pot calls the kettle black. Does Hays then deny that bypassing what was normative for writers of the text leads to false interpretations? Is he content to roll out the red carpet for the midrashim of the cults? No doubt for the preservation of his Calvinist fantasies, that is a worthwhile price to pay to allow Mormons to use the Trinitarian texts for their purposes.

I had not issued a threat to anyone. But as long as Holding chooses to recast the issue in these terms, I'm happy to call his bluff. Whether Scripture is normative may well be up to each "person," but it is hardly up to each "Christian." If you do not venerate the normative force of Scripture, then you are not a Christian. It's a simple as that. And Scripture will prove to be just as normative for unbelievers as well--just not this side of the grave.

I did not say that Hays "threatened" anyone; I asked if something was a threat to him, which shows once again that he reads texts with all the care of an antelope threading a needle. I also did not say that whether Scripture is normative is up to each person; that reference was made to defining externals. I am sure Hays does not think we still need to put barriers around the edges of our roofs (or maybe he does, since Jack Chick tells us to). Yet another false representation by Hays.

Holding has resorted to this flailing hyperbole as a way of defanging the charge by co-opting it. I had never leveled such a charge. But let no one be misled by this rhetorical gimmick.

I asked a question and I got my non-answer. Good enough.

When Holding sets up an antithesis between Hebrew thought and Western thought, and when he substitutes Western thought for Hebrew thought, canceling out original intent in a zero-sum game, then he is, indeed, turning the inspired text into a "ventriloquist dummy" to voice his own ideas and preferences.

Imagine that! By appealing to defining contexts -- which we are still waiting for an ounce of response to -- and then explaining it in a way my own readers can understand, that is ventriloquism. So therefore are all attempts at commentary. This is of course much easier for Hays than actually proving an argument wrong.

"No more idiotic statement could be made."

What statement could I have made to justify such a sweeping condemnation? Must have been pretty outlandish, right? This is why Mr. Holding is responding to. I had said that "the Bible-believing Christian is honor-bound by the logic of Scripture."

No, Hays said far more than that, and he purpusely isolates that portion to create a red herring. His full statement was: Wilson and Holding are treating the logic of Scripture as a culture-bound casket which they are at liberty to bury in an unmarked grave. But the Bible-believing Christian is honor-bound by the logic of Scripture. Let the dishonesty speak for itself, and that Hays thereafter isolates my first sentence from the rest of the paragraph:

Holding goes on to say that "Hays exemplifies the sort of person who decontextualizes the text under the thin veneer of pompous piety. One may as well speak of Scripture as 'language-bound' to Hebrew and Greek."

i) Actually, the quickest way to decontextualize a text of Scripture is to set up an antithesis between the mentality of the Biblical writer and the mentality of a modern reader, like Holding does, then substitute your "Western low-context" mindset for the "Hebrew high-context" mindset of the original author.

Let it speak for itself again that Hays believes that contextualization is decontextualization, that black is white, good is evil, and chocolate is peanut butter. This is precisely the error that credentialed scholars whose work he merely waves off have pinned his type for. See above on the context dicotomy and why Hays is blowing smoke.

ii) As to whether the analogy between Scripture as logic-bound and language-bound, there are both analogies and disanalogies, although neither is supportive of Holding's high-handed dismissal.

Language is the medium. And at that level, it is also the vehicle of logic. Now, once you arrive at the meaning, by exegeting original intent, you can translate the propositions into other tongues. And those propositions are normative for believers. That acknowledgement is one of the things that makes a believer a believer. Holding hides behind his customary fog-machine of invective ("the thin veneer of pompous piety"), but an essential element of genuine piety is submission to the authority of Scripture as the word of God.

In essence, yet another distractive non-answer which dodges the point, which is that Hays even in his use of the original language of Scripture is "bound" in a way that he decries when we make use of other externals. Thus our retort: You arrive at the meaning, by exegeting original intent, and that involves consideration of externals which can and must include social science externals, as well as others. Then you can translate the propositions into the mental language of other mindsets (despite the false charge re high-low context). And those propositions are normative for believers. That acknowledgement is one of the things that makes a believer a believer. For Hays, though, "an essential element of genuine piety is submission to the authority" of not Scripture as the word of God, but his backwards, enforced readings of the text through the lens of the 16th century, and a refusal to acknowledge the lens of the first.

"We have already addressed this sort of bigoted ethnocentrism above with White. Apparently Calvin didn't find that 'synergism and merit-mongering' too disturbing; nor do scholars of today."

i) For Holding to say that Calvin didn't find synergism or merit-mongering too disturbing evinces a total ignorance of what the conflict with Rome was all about. And it certainly disqualifies him from offering a halfway accurate critique of Calvinism.

Hays once again plays a disgusting game of verbal equivocation. The retort was that Calvin did not find these elements to disturbing in the rabbinic writings to use them in his commentaries; there was not a word said about Calvin and his interactions with Rome and their expressions of synergism and merit-mongering.

ii) As to "bigotry," when Holding has no argument, he resorts to abuse. I would not deny, however, that there is evidence of bigotry and ethnocentrism in some modern-day scholarship. It is true that Sanders and his epigones have tried to upwardly revise our estimate of Pharisaic theology. Sanders is of the opinion that the Protestant Reformers caricatured the Pharisees. But his historical and theological revisionism is more radical than that. Sanders is also of the opinion that Paul himself caricatured the Pharisees. And surely nothing is more bigoted or ethnocentric that the spectacle of a late 20C gentile Englishman who fancies himself to have a firmer grasp of 1C Pharisaic theology than a 1C Pharisee like Paul who studied under the greatest rabbi of the age (Gamaliel). And I, simple-minded Christian, take my stand with the NT view of Pharisaic theology.

I let it speak for itself that Hays admits to bigotry in modern scholarship. On the other hand, it also bespeaks his ignorance in that he childisly returns to "the NT view of Pharasaic theology" which really means, "the NT view as Hays in ignorance understands it." The NT is indeed right about Pharasaic theology; but Sanders has been corrected by others such as Esler. That indeed does leave the "simple-minded Christian" gasping, and we can only pray that the sort of ignorance Hays exemplifies will be confined to his corner of the body of Christ.

"No one said anything about 'earning' God's covenant promises."

Really? Let's go back to back to my verbatim quote of Holding: "To say, 'Lord, have mercy!' (Matt. 20:31) means, 'Lord, pay up your debt of interpersonal obligation to us.' Far from being a plea of the hapless, it is a request to pay back previously earned favor from our client (God) whose patron we are."

There you have it. Earning God's favor and thereby casting God in the role of debtor. And this line of reasoning runs directly counter to Rom 4:1-4. If that's a representative slice of sociorhetorical criticism (Pilch & Malina), then so much the worse for sociorhetorical criticism. I choose to line up behind Paul, not against him.

There we have it, yes -- another case of dinshonestly and verbal equivocation by Hays. He has dishonestly used the words "covenant promises" to substitute for the word I did use, "favor" and now is trying to equate the two in a desperate attempt to justify his original falsehood. Hays divorces the comment from the paragraph following, which explains the whole matter fully:

Let it be remembered that this is not said snobbishly as though God "owes" us something naturally. By comparison God made a compact with Abraham and willingly underwent the ritual of contract (passing between the halved animals) which essentially indicated that if He broke His contract with Abraham, He would be divided in half like the animals! God in His love was willing to send His Son, and is also willing to place Himself under contractual obligation to us, to start a relationship of "ongoing reciprocity," in which "those toward whom one has such a debt are equally obliged to maintain the relationship by further favors..."

In other words, Hays purposely obscures that this "earned" is made in the context of God's own covenant promises in which God obliged Himself and thus set up the entire system of return. So now will Hays argue that God can break His promises and release Himself from His own covenant obligations? Does a covenant obligation make God a debtor? If God says, "I will do this" and God cannot lie, is there or is there not an obligation present? Rom. 4:1-4 only draws from the most critical example of this -- the covenant within which YHWH set up mutual sets of obligations for Himself and Abraham.

"That's nice. So what? As noted, I had no idea that I was offering Molinism when I first wrote this. The key issue is, can Hays (or anyone) show that the illustration is wrong? What does he deny? Does he deny that God was free to choose among possible worlds to create? Does he say that God's knowledge forces us to do things? What is it he wants to actually criticize? Is he indeed capable of more than throwing around vague references?"

The illustration is wrong on many counts, but let's confine ourselves to four:

i) Even if Molinism were true, toying with Molinism is not the same as doing exegesis on Rom 9. Let Holding cite even one of his precious sociorhetorical critics who uses Molinism to exegete Rom 9.

That's another non-answer; I am waiting for something that is actually to be denied, and we also have as yet no showing of why Molinism would not be relevant to exegesis of a passage like Rom. 9 if it is true. Furthermore, even if no critic cited it, that also would not make it of no relevance by itself. We need some reason to think it is actually mistaken, not just this sort of bluster.

ii) Rom 9:11 rules out the possibility that election and reprobation are based on what the objects of election and reprobation would or would not have done.

Yet another non-answer and non-explanation. It's a shame that we can't be allowed to do "exegesis" like this and not explain ourselves, isn't it? How does Rom. 9:11 rule this out? It doesn't. All it states is that election was determined before birth, before the humans could have done anything about it: For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth... It does not say a thing about the basis for election, much less does it deny that it had anything to do with prior knowledge of God of what these persons will do. As a reader has put it:

The general problem with White is that he thinks that the Biblical language picks out one and only one theory of providence. For example, when the Bible speaks of predestination the grammar does not pick out any specific theory say between Molinism, Thomism, Scotism or Palamitism. What does Predestination consist of? There is some marking off or selecting irrespective of the agent but the Biblical data doesn’t pick out any specific theory. Likewise when the Bible speaks of God causing events or actions it doesn’t specify which theory of causation is being employed. How exactly does God cause these events? The Bible doesn’t say and this is for a very good reason-the Bible is not a text of philosophical theology. This being the case you are only going to get so far with White on the exegetical grounds because it is his theory of providence that is informing and structuring his exegesis. It is his lack of knowledge of the basic philosophical moves that singles out Calvinism for him-such confusions as the idea that causation is identical with determinism or that God can’t will things on account of what agents do without implying that God doesn’t exist a se or that God’s knowledge is some how causative. I think that any decent Molinist for example can admit all of the exegetical facts that he wants while it still does not imply his theory of providence. And I am not a Molinist FYI though I think it is a respectable theory.

With respect to Romans 9, one thing to think about is that strictly speaking there is no “before” in God’s election. God doesn’t choose “before” any event if God is timeless. Whatever “election” amounts to for Paul, it strictly speaking doesn’t obtain “before” any temporal event. God’s atemporal acts have temporal effects but the atemporal acts are not indexed to a time. Something to think about.

iii) If you posit libertarian freewill, then God cannot know what an agent will do in any given situation; for if an agent has libertarian freewill, then he can do otherwise in any given situation.

Incidentally, libertarian freewill is scarcely compatible with an Evangelical doctrine of sin--to which Holding is nominally committed.

These two statements are frankly idiotic beyond belief; they might be more so if they were actually explained. But for the first, Hays at least again is ignorant of the distinction made by Craig (see above). Hays may be right here only if God exists in time; if God exists outside of time, then the agent's action could both be the cause of God's knowledge of the action (rather than vice-versa), and God could "fore"know that the agent "will" do the action.

iv) Holding is acting as though possible worlds were a mail-order catalog from which God makes his choice. This conjures up the specter of preexistence, as if God inherited this catalog as a family heirloom. These possible persons already exist, apart from God, like autonomous storybook characters. God's job is simply to choose which ones to activate--based on what they would freely do, given the chance.

How this "conjures up" such a specter in any place but Hays' own tortured mind is not explained. I assume Hays agrees that all things did pre-exist ideally in God's mind, not actually, but it appears from his comment about an "autonomous storybook" that he doesn't know the difference at all. In any event there is nothing here explaining why this is actually wrong; if God has no such views, how could he have known that Tyre and Sidon would have repented at the works of Jesus? So with all four points, Hays provides no actual response or showing of error on my part; he just tells us how horrifed he is (we knew that already) and throws more vague elephants of hellfire.

But that is highly unorthodox. A possible person has whatever properties that God mentally assigns to him. God knows what "it" would do because God knows what "he" would do "with" it. This is not, then, a model of libertarian freewill.

It isn't? It sure sounds like one in the primarily causal way. Perhaps Hays may wish to expand his mind with a critical thinking course.

"Sorry, but John and Romans were written BY Hebrew-speaking Jews, and Romans was written to a mixzed [sic] audience of Jews and Gentiles, and the matter of bilingual interference makes it Hays' burden to show a disconnection. We have already answered this point above, and vague references to a huge book are not answers."

i) No, the burden is not on me, but Holding. Holding is the one who is making breezy generalizations about the linguistic culture of the NT writers, and, furthermore, extrapolating from that to specific points of exegesis. In order to make good on this claim he would need to do the following:

Yes, the burden is on Hays, not Holding, for my "breezy generalizations" are not such, but reflect normal expressive modes of the authors under consideration. It is Hays who is arguing for non-normalcy and thus it is his burden, one which he is clearly incapable of filling. I fulfilled Hays' requirements (ii) via sound scholarship. All Hays does in reply is offer misdirected and irrelevant bouts of verbal diarrhea mixed with pious outrage.

iii) Incidentally, Holding is quite willing to make vague references to book-length monographs when he happens to think it serves his own purpose.

My references are not in the least vague, certainly not to the educated, and include specific quotes, not merely "go see Warfield, entire section of this book".

iv) In addition, let the reader note that Holding cites no sociorhetorical commentator, or any other commentator, who applies the grammatical analysis of Jer 7:22 to Rom 9. All that Holding has done is to prop up one unsubstantiated claim by another unsubstantiated claim.

Yet more vague blather; but what is Hays saying? Does he deny the analysis of Jer. 7:22? And none of this is a substitute for an actual answer. But why would it matter if some commentator said such a thing anyway, since all Hays will do is call that commentator a name ("liberal", "Arminian") rather than providing an actual answer?

"Even multi-lingual persons retain the affectations of their native tongue."

This assumes that multi-lingual speakers have a single native language. Some do, some don't. Some grow up in homes where more than one language is heard from the cradle.

Well, sorry, but for Paul, Hebrew and Aramaic were the "native" languages. Next irrelevant belch?

"The same for Paul, though the degree of interference would vary, and be in accord with factors about the life of Moses and Paul about which we have little information."

Let the reader take careful note of this admission. Holding had just said that "John and Romans were written BY Hebrew-speaking Jews, and Romans was written to a mixzed [sic] audience of Jews and Gentiles, and the matter of bilingual interference makes it Hays' burden to show a disconnection."

Now, however, he is forced to backtrack with the admission that he knows nothing about the particulars of Paul's linguistic formation--or, for that matter, that of Paul's audience. So Holding's interpretation of Rom 9 turns on a very specific claim of linguistic interference for which, by his own tardy admission, he has, and can have, no specific evidence whatsoever.

I backtracked on nothing. Hays is confusing the matter of Paul's native and original language with what I am saying about the degree of interference. In other words, my case requires only the presence of the baseline of interference, about which, the evidence is clear; Hays is trying to get a "backtrack" out of a comment on the deeper extent of the interference, about which, the evidence is less clear, but which will not in the least affect what I say about Romans 9.

"How this works out is not explained. Hays is obviously oblivious to the virtues of native informants to say nothing of being pompously denigrating to the work of scholars like Wilson."

Holding said this in reference to the following comment of mine: "Holding's thesis is self-refuting. If it's impossible for one linguistic community to get inside the mind of another linguistic community, then it is impossible for Holding to get inside the 'block-logic' of a 1C Jew."

i) Actually, I thought my statement self-explanatory. Holding insists that Paul cannot think outside the box of his linguistic culture--such is the power which Holding attributes to social conditioning. Yet Holding magically exempts himself from social conditioning. He is confident that he can think outside the box of his own linguistic culture--that he, as a native English-speaker, can comment objective on the linguistic box of a Hebrew speaker, or Greek speaker, or Latin speaker.

However "self-explanatory" the statement was, it certainly was self-humiliating for Hays. Next Hays will call all performed anthropological study a fruitless endeavor (as he so belches from his armchair of non-expertise) because social scientists cannot escape their own "social conditioning". Yet part and parcel of such learning is recognizing your own biases as a social scientist. Paul, for his inspiration, was not one of these and we have no indication that he had the social scientists' knowledge and capability to think outside his own box (or that he even thought he needed to). Hays is once again erecting a straw man to distract from his inability to provide an actual answer, showing that scholars like Wilson are in their own box and have put Paul in the wrong one. Furthermore it is absurd to suggest that Hays in his own "box" can do any better.

ii) Let us add that Wilson is the product of a very different linguistic culture than a 1C Jewish native of Tarsus who was educated in pre-70 AD Jerusalem.

In other words, Hays, though too gutless to say so outright, wishes to accuse Wilson of incompetence. One wonders why he thought his quote of Wolfson was of any more use, then, unless he wants to tell us that Wolfson was 1900+ years old and once lived in pre-70 Jerusalem.

iii) This is not the first time or the last that Holding will take refuge in an argument from authority. His appeal to Wilson is a classic argument from authority. Yet Holding himself brands such an appeal to be a logical fallacy. So my "pompous denigration" consists in not committing a logical fallacy.

This error is one we have seen from Farrell Till as well. Sorry, but "argument from authority" is not a fallacy if the authority really IS an authority. Fallacy occurs when authority is quoted for the sake of authority ("Albert Einstein says that basketball is stupid"); not when the expert really knows their business (it is no fallacy to quote Stephen Hawking on black holes). Let it speak for itself again that Hays imitates an atheist opponent of ours to perfection.

"So how does Hays explain the "not" in Jer. 7:22?"

In i) hays claims he does not have to explain it, but out of the other side of his mouth, then does so:

ii) But suppose, for the sake of argument, that we did apply it to Rom 9:16? To what would the first clause be relative? What would supply the comparative? Why, the second clause, of course: "So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." The Reformed interpretation remains totally intact.

Sorry, but the "Reformed interpretation" still dies on the vine if I am right, because the negation idiom is therefore expressed as well in the "not" in the second clause. That this did not occur to Hays as once speaks volumes for the low level of his mental horsepower.

"Yet another misplaced answer. Gal. 5:19-21 refers to the 'works of the flesh' and therefore would be referring to the outworking of a decision, not the decision or thought itself which takes place in the mind. Which of these items Hays has in mind as 'mental acts' I can only guess but none are merely decisions or thoughts.

Oh, what about "jealousy" (Gr.=zelos), for one. That's an attitude, a mental act--not the outworking thereof. It may well issue in some concrete form of expression, but that is not the essence of it. Indeed, it is just because a sinful attitude need not translate into a sinful deed that the NT warns the believer that even unconsummated attitudes can still be sinful.

A blatant dodge. Hays can now find only one item in the list that he thinks works, and even it, he must admit, is followed on by concrete expression. But the issue is once more than I am asking not about attitudes, but about decisions. I want an example of where, "I'd like eggs for breakfast" is a work. Is decision making a work? Then the Jew committed a sin each time he had a thought involving a yes-no or multiple choice, even when he asked, "Should I eat manna now?" "Do I need to use the latrine?" Does Hays dare engage this absurd extreme?

Holding has a problem connecting his own dots. He said that a logical order requires the passage of time to exist. I countered that a logical order is an abstract object; as such, it subsists outside of space and time. He then says: "What the point of this was I do not know. I say nothing of the sort."

The point of all this is that he made a claim about a logical order--to whit: it requires the passage of time to exist. This I denied by pointing out that a logical order is an abstract object. That is directly responsive to his claim.

It is still not explained how this is so. Nothing of what I said makes a logical order an "abstract object" and it really would not make an ounce of difference if it was or not. I write down a logical sequence; is it now concrete or abstract? Hays needs to stop playing semantic games to cover his inadequacies.

This came on the heels of his statement that "'To speak of God doing A "because" of B implies a chain of causality that would be impossible for a being who transcends time."

But this confuses causes with reasons. Scripture often says that God does A because of B. That doesn't imply a causal chain. It just means that God is an agent who has reasons for what he does.

It doesn't? That's precisely my point -- why is Hays wasting time yet again confirming what I am already saying?

"There's no 'trick question' here, Hays' paranoid suspicions notwithstanding. But at least he does admit that there is no detraction from sovereignty."

Sometimes you have to wonder of Holding is uncomprehending or unscrupulous. Did I admit there's no detraction from sovereignty? This is what I said:

"If God could accomplish his purpose by merely setting up the initial conditions, then that would not detract from his sovereignty. But this assumes the very answer at issue. You might as well ask if a painter can paint part of the canvass, then let the canvass fill in the gaps. A painting doesn't paint itself. Holding has no doctrine of creation. If a painter leaves the canvass half-finished, it stays half-finished."

Exactly, as in bold. Hays said it, obviously and explicitly, that it what I argued was so, there would be no detraction, and now he wants to backpedal:

What I obviously and explicitly said is that God's sovereignty would not be compromised if, in deistic fashion, he could accomplish his purpose by merely setting up the initial conditions. I then proceeded to argue that this proviso would not suffice to accomplish his purpose. I proposed a hypothetical in order to debunk it. Is Holding unable to grasp this standard form of argument? I think Holding is smarter than that. The alternative explanation is that Holding, in order to seize a specious tactical advantage, pretends that carefully caveated reply amounts to the tacit admission that his position is basically correct.

Oh! So now he wants to add "deistic" to his little explanation in order to account for his huge bungle in agreeing I was correct. Well, sorry, but one can range divine activity from deism to all levels of involvement. So let's say could could interfere X number of times. When does it "detract from divine sovereignty" then? If God only takes advantage of 10% of those possible times? 20%? 35%? The only one who has "carefully caveated" his reply is Hays, whose trick is now exposed as he has now bungled yet again in only supporting my point. In fact, deism would not at all detract from divine sovereignty, even if true, because it would imply that God made a sovereign decision -- no one forced Him -- to not interfere. Hays confuses, per his normal confusion, possession of sovereignty with expression of sovereignty.

"In the meantime Hays' own answer assumes the very answer at issue, that we are equitable to a canvass. What if the painter used a canvass that was partially composed of nanobots that finished the painting for him?"

So Holding concedes that a painting doesn't paint itself. And he retreats into the postulate of nanorobotic painters. But that is just a shell-game which only pushes the original problem back a step and proceeds to camouflage the evasion with a proxy painter. So he still has no doctrine of creation.

And people are not paintings. Hays made the absurd postulate to begin with, comparing people to paintings; the mistake would be in taking this too literally, as others take too literally Paul's potter analogy, by assuming that Paul was meaning to void all human freedom as opposed to indicating its far secondary nature. This is why Calvinism inescapably leads to fatalism if followed to its logical conclusion. I just took Hays' analogy apart with a reductio ad abasurdum.

On deSilva and Hays' "reading":

Notice that Holding does absolutely nothing here to rebut my summary of DeSilva. In the absence of a rebuttal, my summary stands unchallenged.

In other words, he is an ostrich and proud of it. Not that Hays actually said anything of substance at all re de Silva, much less did he rebut any point made from there.

Holding answers: "In other words, Hays wishes to promulgate the asinine supposition that Scripture existed in a vacuum insulated from its primary culture and context. Let that speak for itself."

Notice how this begs the very question of what constitutes the "primary culture and context" of Scripture, as if the OT as a whole were secondary to the context of the NT. You only have to run through all of the quotes and allusions to the OT in the NT to discern the fatal inadequacy of Holding's preemptory dismissal.

The ostrich mentality continues. Hays can only cock a doodle doo from the sidelines that credentialed scholars are "begging the question" and as if the OT were being ignored. Let it speak for itself that once again all we have is a pompous "go look for yourself" non-answer, perhaps wise, given that Hays has suffered fatally from foot in mouth disease each time he has attempted a specific.

"Nothing is done here but an enormous begging of the question, one that refuses to accept the definition of "grace" as it was known by contemporaries of the text. Beyond that it is too non-specific to reply to."

i) When NT writers like Paul define the nature of grace, they go back to OT models.

And the OT has the same definition for grace. YHWH was Israel's patron. Next dodgeball?

ii) Notice, on Holding's reckoning, how the NT is unable to challenge prevailing pagan mores. For, from Holding's perspective, the NT is dependent on the contemporary culture to supply the conceptual framework.

There's yet another threat from the Jack Chick corner, but it lacks yet again those scary specifics Hays will never engage and if he does, never do right. The NT is perfectly able to challenge pagan mores. This is yet another atheist argument.

Challenged to invent a Hindu, etc patronage model, Hays declines, claiming it has "already been done" and that as an apologist I can "fill in the blanks". It is because I know of these things that I know how inadequate Hays' retort is. Perhaps Hinduism has patron gods, but the mere use of the word "patron" does not make for a full-fledged model. We are working within a specific model known to Paul and his contemporaries. Bringing in other cultures not part of the scene is a red herring.

"The matter of guilt of innocence in clients is an irrelevancy in context; it has to do with the reason and basis for the offer of patronage, not with the structure of the relationship itself."

The matter of guilt or innocence is highly relevant if, as Holding does, you define "mercy" as "a request to pay back previously earned favor."

Sinners cannot earn God's favor because…well…because they are sinners. That's why grace is unmerited favor.

It is not relevant in the least to the structure of the relationship, which was the point, which Hays ignored.

On "degrees of regeneration" Hays once again declines explanation, claiming it ought to be obvious, which evinces Hays not having any idea how to defend his own asinine suppositions and soundbites. Chances are he had no expectation of a reply from me, and now that he has one, is scrambling for some cover upon his ample posterior.

On Eph. 2:8-9, etc. we still have no answer; Hays merely pounds the pulpit and namecalls yet again.

"Since I did not say Augustine in particular did not know of patronage, this retort is a red herring. As for Calvin and his "patroness" one could properly use the term of her, but only in the same sense that Constantine became a "patron" for Christianity. The relation of d'Albret to Calvin is nothing like the relationship between the Father, Christ, and the believer as this model sees it. There was certainly nothing in the relationship to inform Calvin of the nature of Biblical patronage."

i) Since the Augustinian tradition is a cornerstone of Calvinism, Augustine's personal experience with the patronage system is directly germane to the charge that Reformed theology has been superceded and falsified in light of sociorhetorical models of patronage, of which Reformed theology was sadly ignorant.

That's nice, and since I made no such charge, Hays admits in this that I made no error. Perhaps one day he will find one that I did make.

ii) Indeed, until the late 18C, every European culture was structured by a patronage system, for these were all aristocratic, monarchial, hierarchical societies. It was subject to various incidental refinements, such as feudalism, but it was a ubiquitous feature of social life, from Augustine through Anselm and Aquinas to Calvin and Reformed Scholasticism.

That's nice. We're still waiting for somethimg showing that these cultures followed a model of patronage reflective of the one in the NT, and THEN that it informed the Reformers, and that they were aware of it in Biblical times. But all we get is:

"The relation of d'Albret to Calvin is nothing like the relationship between the Father, Christ, and the believer as this model sees it. There was certainly nothing in the relationship to inform Calvin of the nature of Biblical patronage."

This commits a level-confusion. Holding is not beginning with the Trinity. Holding is beginning with Greco-Roman examples and extrapolating from that sociological phenomenon to a more abstract model, thus derived, which he then applies to the Trinity in relation to the believer.

Another non-answer, not addressing the obvious lack of informing knowledge for the NT is what Calvin experienced as patronage. And no, I am not "beginning with the Trinity" -- I am considering the patronage model from the OT and the NT, as a whole. In the meantime we are still waiting for some actual demonstration of error in making the identiciation.

"Neither Calvin nor Arminius, as far as may be seen, knew anything of Hebrew block logic."

Since Calvin knew his way around the Hebrew Bible, if he new nothing of Hebrew block logic, then that's only because there was nothing there to know.

Let the viciously circular ostrich mentality speak for itself. Will Hays insult Wilson again by saying he does not know his way around the Hebrew Bible?

He said: "What we have here is little more than an exercise in linguistic trickery as Hays attempts to equate treatment of people as social blocks with rhetorical presentation of ideas in the form of blocks."

Really, let the reader judge if this isn't a complete about-face from what he said before:

"This is a remarkably idiotic comment, since psychology is what produced the texts to begin with. More than that, I am not "extrapolating from one genre to psychology"; Hays has merely confused order of presentation for steps in argumentative progression. No, psychology is at the root; wisdom literature is merely the most clear expression of the block logic format that could be used for illustration purposes. This has nothing to do with genres per se. It remains that psychology is at the root, and thus the expression indeed would not be limited to genre, but appear in ALL genres, even epistles like Romans. Hays is once again badly misdirected. Moreover, ability to leap between genres is no pointer for being able to escape mental pathways."

Which is it? Is block-logic a merely "rhetorical presentation of ideas in the form of blocks." Or is block-logic the psychological root of which the rhetorical expression or presentation is merely the end-result?

Hays can only "let the reader decide" because it is obvious that he can find no contradiction other than the one he invented on his own. He continues to confuse categories; i.e., block logic is nowhere called a "psychological root".

"Hays mistakes objective investigation for 'on the fly' simply because I didn't deign to close my mind and pigeonhole myself into a Calvinist or Arminian straitjacket before presenting my findings."

This is simply a non sequitur with reference to his original claim that Holding has "the discipline to wait until he's finished with all his research before posting his findings."

How this is so is not explained. I did my work, then posted my findings. The excuse is:

Holding chose to launch an attack on Calvinism. Now, middle knowledge is discussed in such old Reformed standbys as Turretin (Institutes), Dabney (Systematic Theology), Chas Hodge (Systematic Theology), Bavinck (The Doctrine of God), and Berkhof (Systematic Theology), as well as such recent entries into the standard literature as Frame (Doctrine of God), Helm (The Providence of God), Grudem (Systematic Theology), and Reymond (New Systematic Theology). These vary in their quantity and quality of coverage, but they all discuss middle knowledge.

Sorry, but the original article was not "an attack on Calvinism". Thus the whole premise is in error.

Far from waiting to completed his research before posting his "findings," it is now evident for all to see in light of his admitted ignorance, that Holding didn't conduct any serious research into the standard literature before posting his "findings." "Findings" of what? Imagine an astronomer announcing the discovery of a new star by gazing into a telescope with his eyes closed. Apparently Mr. Holding was just winging it all along--hoping that no one would notice.

So now, if I had used all of these, I would have been "arguing from authority" but since I did not, I "didn't conduct any serious research." In all of this we have yet to see any example of actual error cited (other than making Hays feel bad) which would prove that my "eyes were closed". Of course, for the backwards exegete like Hays, the works of the likes of Wilson, Pilch and Malina are off limits, while those of Hodge and Warfield are superior, despite their lack of contextual framing of the texts. Thus indeed is the war of method exemplified: Take it as we say to take it, and keep your hands off of credible contextual scholarship that defies us.

"This sounds so much like Farrell Till that it ought to frighten Hays, as it perhaps would if he knew who Till was. Like Hays, Till merely appeals to the spectre of diversity while missing the point: That the support of scholars demands that the position be taken seriously, not merely waved off with one-liners or blog paragraphs or namecalling ("that guy is a liberal"). Yet this is indeed all the likes of Hays and White are capable of when confronted with matters beyond their ken: Such it is that the buzzwords like "liberal" become grasped like security blankets as they suck on the thumbs of "exegesis" and rest in the comfort of their benighted ignorance, oblivious to the closing of the casket over their heads as the rest of the Christian world moves on beyond their stultified fundamentalism which does more harm than good, and aids and abets only the likes of KJV Onlyists and fundamentalist atheists."

Notice the extremely high ratio of invective in direct proportion to the extremely low ratio of reasoned argument. Indeed, it would be quite a challenge for a reader to salvage any reasoned argument from Holding's reply.

One wonders how much "reasoned argument" is required to reply to inanities such as dismissing credentialed scholars with a wave-off and words like "liberal" and with vague appeals to diversity. Frankly, such deserves nothing more than invective, and itself being devoid of reason, does not warrant a "reasoned response" since it knows as much of reason as does Genghis Khan. That Hays cannot see his own image and thinks it is "honest" bespeaks his own mental benightendness.

"Hays is out of touch with the conception of fictive kinship in the ancient world, upon which all covenant and patronage relationships were grounded. There is no confusion except by Hays, in his ignorance of the social world of the NT: Note that my words come from a scholarly source, with which Hays once again does not deal seriously. "Compassion" DOES "select for" kin in the ancient world -- there is always a kinship relationship of some sort, whether Hays likes it or not. If he thinks not, let him provide examples to show otherwise. It ought to be worth some yuks, since being unfamiliar with ancient principles of kinship he will no doubt unwittingly pick examples that only prove my point."

i) Notice how Holding takes the Biblical category of "covenant," and stretches it out of all recognition to apply, without distinction, to social bonding throughout the ancient world. This is not inductive exegesis.

It isn't? What Hays does is create ad hoc some special "Biblical category" of covenant as though it could be divorced from the other covenants of contemporary cultures. This is the sort of thinking that refuses to see Deuteronomy as modelled on an ancient suzerainty treaty and pretends that, again, the Bible was written in an intellectual vacuum, protected from all undue influences, such that we would arrive at the special truth gleaned only by the Reformers. Poor Joshua didn't know he was writing for Calvin. There is no "stretching" required for any of this. Fictive kinship was a universal. Every document and scrap of evidence, including modern native informants, bespeaks it. Hays is simply, once again, utterly inacapable of actual reply.

ii) Oh, his words come from a "scholarly source." Notice that this is an argument from authority, which Holding elsewhere derides as a logical fallacy.

See above on this.

Unlike Holding, I distinguish between scholarly opinion and scholarly argument. Quoting the opinion of a scholar is not at all the same thing as mounting a reasoned argument. Holding offers assertions in place of arguments: proof by quotation.

No, Hays is just playing yet another postmodern atheist game, that of "that's just an opinion" as a cover for inability to rebut. This is merely a primitive semantic game evidencing unpreparedness.

What I know to know is the process of reasoning by which a scholar arrived at his conclusions. What evidence does he offer? What were his supporting arguments? That's the only intelligent way to sift through the welter of competing opinions.

Given Hays' constant resort to vague non-explanations, it speaks for itself that he now designates his own replies unable to be intelligently sifted through. In the meantime this is nought but an all-purpose excuse to invalidate expertise through one's own sifting process.

iii) Holding seems not to have absorbed my distinction. So I guess we need to move back a few paces. A century ago, Frege drew a distinction between sense and reference. In his textbook example, the morning star and the evening star share a common referent (the planet Venus), but "the morning star" and the "evening star" don't mean the same thing. The bare meaning of the word "compassion," however we define it, does not pick out its denotae. The meaning functions like an abstract universal. The referent must be supplied by the concrete context. That is why you can plug different content into the same nouns and verbs.

All of this blather is just another round of verbal diarrhea, saying nothing and addressing nothing I have said. I do agree that bare meaning is not good enough -- context supplies, which has been my entire point, and the one which Hays has been strenously denying, to the effect, "Yes, we want the context; but not THAT one!"

"Being a member of a covenant community makes one fictive kin within that community. Hays is essentially saying that 'all relatives may be part of a family, but it hardly follows that all family members are relatives.' It is only ribald ignorance of the collectivist nature of the ancient world that enables such mouth-foaming blindness."

i) Note the gratuitous invective--"ribald ignorance"; "mouth-foaming blindness." Yikes! I guess I better get a tetanus shot!

Given that it has been adequately displayed that there is nothing gratuitous about it, I recommend rather a brain transplant.

ii) And notice the patent equivocation, as if "collectivism" is interchangeable with a "covenant community." Holding has secularized the notion of covenant community.

On the contrary, Hays has "desecularized" the notion of covenant community; covenant was an aspect of secular rulers and organizations as well. Also, nothing in what I said infers "interchangebility" but indicates relationship.

It has been over forty years now since James Barr published his seminal work on The Semantics of Biblical Language, yet Holding continues to repristinate the old world=concept fallacy.

It's too bad Hays can't explain how specifically. By the way, that's just Barr's opinion. That's an argument from authority.

All I said was: "This, however, begs the very question at issue. Is sociorhetorical criticism the only prism through which we ought to read the Bible? He quotes sociorhetorical scholars to prove the primacy of sociorhetorical criticism. What a thoroughly vicious specimen of circular reasoning!"

I'll leave it to the reader to judge whether anything in Holding's reply is the least bit responsive to my precise objection.

Once again, there is no answer needed as Hays made no "precise objection" -- he erected a strawman ("only prism") and then cried foul when I pointed out his error and how idiotic it was, never admitting his error.

For the record, I actually own a number of commentaries by sociorhetorical scholars--Kee, Keener, Malina, Witherington, as well as Wayne Meeks' inaugural monograph: The First Urban Christians.

No doubt they serve well for Hays at the dinner table when the phone book is in use.

He said: "All of this is likewise a pretense for inserting a red herring into the pond: That I somehow argue by this that binary logic does not exist today when in fact the point is, and has been, that expression of dualism was much more pronounced in the ancient world, and among the Jews more particularly, than it is today among Western thinkers."

Once again, how is this responsive to the charge? Holding has been telling us that we are not bound by the logic of Scripture because this reflects a culture-bound "block-logic." Now he tries to reduce this qualitative distinction to a quantitative distinction between what was more common back then. But that skirts the real question. If binary reasoning is to be taken seriously whenever Holding uses it in an effort to disprove his opponents, then why is it not to be discounted as soon as Paul uses it to disprove his opponents?

Hays is asking me to "respond" to his "charge" which was nothiong but a gross misreading of what I said to begin with! It is a response that corrects his erroenous reading; and Hays now whines from the corner with the same begged question of "logic" and then claims that I "reduce" what was never "enlarged" in the first place! The real question is answered simply: Expressions of "binary reasoning" in ancient texts are subject to the use of extremes in expression which a judicious and informed reading will reveal more subtlely. The example of Jer. 7:22, which Hays has not had the gall to disagree with, stands as a case in point. So now the real question: How will Hays claim that Rom. 9:16 cannot be such an example, in a way that does not cut the rug out from under him with Jer. 7:22? The answer is that he can't -- which is why he has refused to deal with the question.

He said: "This ranks as truly one of the most idiotic questions of the age. Psyhcological [sic] science itself tells us that 'neuropathways' learned in childhood are extremely inflexible; however, that matter of psychology aside, it would remain that it would be the burden of the critic to show that a Paul diverged from a normal pathway for his background. My thesis works within what would be the normal pathways for a Paul. Calvinism does not, but insists upon meanings for words and concepts that a person like Paul would have had to change his mindset over in order to adopt."

I had accused Holding of begging the question. What is Holding's response? To beg the question all over again, as though, if you continue to beg the question, sooner or later that will escape the gravitational pull of your fallacious methodology.

Notice that Holding is still assuming that Paul was controlled by "Hebrew thought patterns," even though he has had to grant, under pressure, that he knows nothing specific about Paul's formative linguistic exposure.

See above for my exposure of Hays' manipulative abuse of my comments in this regard. I did not in the least beg the question, for again, I worked within the normalcy of Paul's thoughtworld. Hays does not, so it is his dilemma and White's to prove that Paul was different than his background and contemporaries.

He said: "Not much needs be said here; this is yet another imitation of the worst sort of atheists, who, when confronted with material they cannot refute, resort to charges of 'bias'"

If Holding is really that naïve, then it may go a long way in explaining why he's so star-struck by sociorhetorical criticism. All I did was make the elementary, but important observation, that sociology--inclusive of sociorhetorical criticism--is not a neutral discipline which follows the evidence wherever it leads, but rather, comes to the table with certain presuppositions regarding human nature. This carries with it the danger of skewing the evidence to support a foregone conclusion, or ignoring contrary evidence. You shoehorn the evidence to squeeze into your preconceived notions. Remember Margaret Mead?

In other words, but much prettier ones, Hays admits that he is a perfect imitation of an atheist. To make matters worse, he commits the fallacy of guilt by assoication, as though to tar Malina with Mead, without any effort to prove the errors of the former, much less than any error of the former (if any if made) is of relevance to any arguments made here. This is sheer laziness and incompetence, once again, the shameful resort of the worst of atheists.

"Beyond this there is nothing of worth; this is yet more vague claptrap and well-poisoning, with no effort made to apply the statement to a specific claim of my own. Vague blatter about "essential generic mental attributes" may impress others, but it will not impress the informed."

i) Well, since Holding regards it as impertinent to ever question our sociorhetorical "betters," I wouldn't expect him to cultivate the critical thinking skills necessary to see the point of application. However, it goes directly to the central question of which is prior--thoughi [sic] or language? Now, if you let sociology do your thinking for you, then that commits you to the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate, in which case you treat language as prior to thought. If, however, you don't come to the table with that prior commitment, then you don't assume that the human mind is a blank slate, to be pencilled in by culture. And, barring that, you are then open to the possibility that language is a tool kit rather than permanent pair of tinted contact lens.

It is because of "critical thinking skills" that I see this for the red herring that it is. But in fact neither view is of any impact to my case, so I skip Hays' further comments on the difference in approach.

ii) Since Holding subjugates the authority of Scripture to the latest academic fad in Bible criticism, I can see why he would be unimpressed by my comment on "essential generic mental attributes."

Here again Jack Chick rears his ugly head. It may not occur to Hays that one could have called his form of "exegesis" a "latest fad" of the 16th century and been just as competent in answering. Of course this sort of response only comes from those bedeviled by their own fear and ignorance of the truth, or of any point that may disrupt their precious lives. Merely hide in the corner with some Charles Stanley and be done with it.

"Hays purposely confuses the issue, which is not that an argument from authority is valid or invalid, but that it is not logical, which was what White was indeed trying to claim. Here the appeal is to the authority of God; and that appeal, by its nature, is not logical, but it does transcend logic; much as any statement of fact ("that ball is red") isn't 'logical' Meanwhile Hays quietly dodges the real point, which he admits by his own explanation lacking defense: That indeed, Romans 9 is NOT a 'logical' argument in any sense of the word."

What a hopeless muddle! Validity and invalidity are logical categories. For Holding to drive a wedge between what is logical and what is valid betrays a pretty cloudy grasp of elementary logic.

Hays is once again playing semantic games. While validity and invalidity are indeed logical categories, this does not make all valid or invalid statements expressions of logical process. "The ball is red" may be arrived at by some logical process, but it cannot stand by itself and be called "logical" or "illogical". So likewise an appeal to the authority of God, unless it is part of an argument that God has authority, which is not what Romans 9 is in the least.

But in fact this is utterly pathetic on Hays' part. Yes, it is true that the words "valid" and "invalid" have a specific use in logic: an argument is valid if its form is such that the conclusion follows from the premises (e.g., "If A then B, if B then C, A, therefore C"). As such, a valid argument has nothing to do with whether or not its conclusion is true (i.e., only the form of the above argument is valid -- it doesn't, however, follow that "C" actually exists). An argument is sound if it is valid and its conclusion is true (i.e., actually exists in the world). Thus:

  • Valid Argument

    1) Mormonism is true, or I'm a telephone.

    2) I'm not a telephone.

    3) Therefore, Mormonism is true.

    Though it's a lot of nonsense, it is still technically valid; also, because Mormonism is NOT true, the argument therefore is ONLY valid, rather than being valid AND sound.

  • Invalid Argument

    1) If all no mammals have feathers, then no birds are mammals.

    2) No birds are mammals.

    3) Therefore, no mammals have feathers.

    Though all the claims are true, the form is invalid because 3 doesn't necessarily follow from 1 and 2: [i.e., e.g., if you win the lottery, it follows that you bought a ticket, but from the fact that you bought a ticket it does not follow that you won the lottery.]

  • Sound Argument

    1) No Calvinists are Catholics

    2) Steve Hays is a Calvinist

    3) Therefore, Steve Hays is not Catholic

    The form is 'valid' and 1 -3 are true claims, thus the argument is sound.

    What I said is clear enough to anyone not hellbent on reading confusion into what I wrote: Both "logic" and "valid" have understood meanings beyond the manner in which they are understood according to the academic discipline that is philosophy, thus it is petty well-poisoning on Hays' part to bicker about such.

    I said: "In addition, Paul's reply is not limited to an argument from authority. In addition to that, he also invokes a theodicean rationale for election and reprobation (9:17,22-23; 11:32)."

    He said: "That 'rationale' is fine but it remains that it is not a "logical" argument."

    One of the problems here is that Holding fails to define his terms. I'd define a logical argument as a relation between two (or more) propositions in which one is offered as a supporting rationale for the truth of the other, or another. In general, logical arguments can either be inductive or deductive. To give a reason for an assertion is to mount an argument. The argument may or may not be sound, but that is the abstract form of a logical argument.

    Fine. It remains that what Paul offers in Romans 9 is not a "reason" for his assertions about election; any more than saying "shut up" is a "reason" for "why did you drop that plate". It is not illogical either; it is non-logical. It puts the questioner off, and that is what Paul does in Romans (as he has a right to, since it is foolish to question God).

    BTW, if any Christian is laboring under the misimpression that Scripture is unconcerned with logical reasoning, he should read "Jesus the Logician" by Dallas Willard:

    I say no such thing, but since Willard does not give Romans 9 as an example, the article is moot. Hays is erecting yet another strawman, as though denial of use of logic by Paul in this particular case equates with a denial of logic anywhere in the Bible. Let the disgusting dishonesty of Hays again speak for itself.

    As any halfway careful reader can see, I am quoting Holding quoting the seminary student. Holding's original attribution to the seminarian is embedded in the very snippet I quoted. Holding cites this, with evident approval, as a supporting argument for his own contention. It is, therefore, fair game.

    Sorry, but Hays then did go on to say something of the seminarian's words, using MY name as attribution, so it is obvious that he missed his own "embedded" quote and is now seeking an excuse for his gross error. Indeed that he commits the same error above, saying that *I* referenced Fitzmyer, it is obvious more than ever that this is a boldfaced lie on Hays' part.

    Once again, I'm not the one who should have to reconnect Holding's own dots for him. If he's that easily confused he needs to slow down. Indeed, his entire reply would benefit from a less hectic response time--especially from one who is so ungenerous towards the dreaded bloggers.

    In the words of the immortal everyone: "Too bad, so sad." Hays will get the same regard as the likes of Till who carelessly abuse material for their own purposes and seek to draw people away from an informed and secure faith by means of verbal trickery and manipulation.


    2/23/05

    Hays has deigned to reply once again, and given our time, and that we do not find his quality of response to be worth the detailed retort he has been getting, and that he both scrambles the order of reply as well as ignores vast chunks of our material, we will edit down to only the critical points rather than deal with every paragraph and line. We will see that the same tactic remain: Misrepresentation and deliberate obfsucation, and a refusal to do more than vaguely address arguments. (I have also added more above, from advice of readers, that Hays would not have seen; obviously we do not expect that he could have replied to these points -- though given his method of response, he would have ignored it all anyway.) As before original in bold; his response in italics, my new response in plain type.

    "The second section is of absolutely no relevance; granting that indeed Paul had access to GR technique of rhetoric, this was also taught even in Jerusalem."

    So the fact that Paul made use of philosophical reasoning in Romans is of "absolutely no relevance" to the possible role of logic in Rom 9--even though Fitzmyer specifically identifies its presence in 9:14,19-21,30 and elsewhere.

    Hays continues to obscure the point; we remain without proof that Paul DID make "use of philosophical reasoning" on Romans. Hays does well to refer to a "possible role" but as for what Fitzmyer found (why should it matter, since Fitzmyer is a liberal? and what about that Fitzmyer disagrees with the Calvinist view of Rom. 9:11?) let it speak for itself that no quote is provided. Hays has learned well that I will dissect his quotes and show how he misuses them.

    Remember that it was Holding who had patronizingly advised Dr. White to bone up on Fitzmyer--in connection with this very debate. But when someone takes him up on the offer, this is suddenly of "absolutely no relevance."

    Remember as well that this was not MY advice, but that of the seminarian -- Hays has still not admitted his error, and even compounds it, quoting Jaltus' statement and yet again claiming it is "what Holding said to Dr. White". This despite that he admitted and used as a defense that he quoted the portion which attributed the matter to our seminarian. Hays cannot keep his own excuses straight. Now also he denies that he had any point to calling Fitzmyer a liberal, other than citing "theological diversity"!

    I do indeed. Unfortunately for Hays, Childs only agrees with my point: There is nothing here of an argument for God's existence but of YHWH's superiority over the false gods."

    i) Once again, Holding exhibits his usual deficiency in distinguishing between words and concepts. Naturally, Isaiah doesn't use the Greek derivative. The question is whether the concept is present. Apologetics is simply a rational defense of the faith. To quote Childs once more, "the force of an argument" according to which the "claim of true divinity" is subject to a "rational test," certainly qualifies as an exercise in apologetics. If that doesn't measure up to Holding's standards, this says a lot more about his standards than it does about Isaiah.

    This is an enormous dodge for the fact that the point is not whether there is apologetics present, but whether there is a particular apologetic (for the existence of God). Hays continues to bait and switch as his points are destroyed one at a time.

    ii) In addition, there is certainly more to Isaiah's argument than Yahweh's superiority over the false gods. The whole thrust of Isaiah's argument is that the existence of the true God and nonexistence of the false gods can be put to a rational test. His existence is verified by prophecy while theirs is falsified by its absence.

    That is simply false. Isaiah does imply that the false gods are powerless because of their nonexistence; but he in no way and in no place argues for the existence of YHWH or points to His power as proof of His existence. The existence of YHWH is taken for granted. Let it speak for itself that Hays provides no quote from the text illustrating this alleged fact.

    "Hays provided not so much as one word from Warfield; he merely threw the reference at us like an elephant, as though this was some sort of data-argument."

    It isn't my job to do his reading for him. Holding initiated a public attack on Calvinism. As a Christian apologist, the burden on him is to research a topic before he goes on the attack. Warfield's article runs to over 60 pages of closely reasoned argument. No, I'm not going to reduce that to a comic strip.

    A mere dodge. Hays thus admits that he cannot provide the required evidence, not even one example from these 60 pages of these alleged proofs, that there was concern for the atomizing debate over free will and predestination (and not merely bare statements about predestination). This "burden of proof" dodge, also used by certain low-caliber atheists, is oblivious to the point that every arguer is an asserter and an "attacker" and thus would equitably possess the same burden.

    Welcome to Holding's argumentum ad excrementum. When he can't be logical, he can always be scatological. Perhaps, though, he'll accuse me of quoting his obscenities "out of context," or making "abusive" use of them.

    We will bypass such comments further on; I would only like to ask Hays: Was Elijah being "scatalogical, not logical" when he said to the prophets of Baal, "Keep shouting. Maybe your god is on the toilet"? And what does he think of the statement of Martin Luther, that great and hallowed hero of the Reformed tradition, "Almost every night when I wake up the devil is there and wants to dispute with me. I have come to this conclusion: When the argument that the Christian is without the law and above the law doesn't help, I instantly chase him away with a fart"?

    He said: "Yet another confused and misplaced comment. Block logic is a product of Hebrew psychology; therefore it indeed must be prior to the text along with every other psychological element, and it certainly is absurd to suggest that psychology associated with the particular people emerged after the text."

    All Holding does here is to clumsily repackage the original equivocation. Yes, psychology is prior to the text. But to define "Hebrew" psychology as "block-logic" is just another ham-handed effort to smuggle the conclusion back into the premise.

    A non-answer to the correction given Hays for his misrepresentation of my original position, as he even repeats the error ("Hebrew" psychology was NEVER "defined as" block logic).

    Does he deny that there is actual dialectic in these pages of the OT? Does he deny that dialectic was a characteristic of Hegelianism? Does he then deny in turn that the OT shares this particular description with Hegelianism?"

    As I originally said, I've already offered my own interpretation of the wisdom literature in my essay on "Vanity of vanities." Holding's comparison is so sloppy and anachronistic that it would die the death of a thousand qualifications.

    Yet another evasion of a gross error of misreading of my material. Hays is obviously unable to take responsibility for his mistakes.

    "Pointing to a "promise/fulfillment pattern" is not rebutting the matter stated, which is that the example of Pharaoh is one of block logic and dichotomy."

    What block-logic? What dichotomy? What we have, rather, is teleological reasoning. God will harden Pharaoh's heart as a means to an end--the revelation of the true God (Exod 7:3-5). That is the form of the promise/fulfillment scheme.

    The dichotomy between that God hardens Pharaoh's heart at times, while it is said that Pharaoh hardened his own heart at times. Obviously Hays does not know his OT beyond what Charlton Heston told him.

    "'Do I need to use the latrine?' Does Hays dare engage this absurd extreme?"

    I confess I hadn't gone into this discussion under the assumption that I'd have to recapitulate the fifth labor of Hercules. So I must decline Holding's kind invitation to join him in the cesspool. I haven't the nose for the job.

    Please note how Hays carefully selected from this full paragraph, dodging the most critical question of the nature of a decision, and leaving out the "manna" question that sets the context as NOT being one of cesspool expression. One wonders as well what Hays does with the parts of the OT where YHWH orders the Israelites to bury their excrement.

    A blatant dodge. Hays can now find only one item in the list that he thinks works, and even it, he must admit, is followed on by concrete expression. But the issue is once more than I am asking not about attitudes, but about decisions. I want an example of where, "I'd like eggs for breakfast" is a work. Is decision making a work? Then the Jew committed a sin each time he had a thought involving a yes-no or multiple choice, even when he asked, "Should I eat manna now?" "Do I need to use the latrine?" Does Hays dare engage this absurd extreme?

    He said: " No, Hays said far more than that, and he purpusely [sic] isolates that portion to create a red herring. His full statement was: Wilson and Holding are treating the logic of Scripture as a culture-bound casket which they are at liberty to bury in an unmarked grave. But the Bible-believing Christian is honor-bound by the logic of Scripture. Let the dishonesty speak for itself, and that Hays thereafter isolates my first sentence from the rest of the paragraph."

    But Holding is just stalling for time here--hoping the clock will run out. Yes, what about his first sentence? What about Wilson? Wilson is his great authority on "block-logic." And Holding denies that "block-logic" is normative for the Christian conscience. Hence, Holding denies that the Christian is honor-bound by the logic of Scripture. Like a greedy taxi-cab driver trying to up the meter, Holding has simply taken us the long way round to arrive at the very same destination.

    Notice again a dodge of responsibility for selectively editing, badly, what I said and creating a straw man. Hays also falsely claims that I have denied that block logic is normative for Christian conscience; I have said no such thing anywhere. I have said that each person must deal with the issue on their own as to how to reckon with contexts of the Bible foreign to their own cultural worldview. So this is a lie on top of a lie by Hays.

    He says: "There we have it, yes -- another case of dinshonestly [sic] and verbal equivocation by Hays. He has dishonestly used the words 'covenant promises' to substitute for the word I did use, 'favor' and now is trying to equate the two in a desperate attempt to justify his original falsehood."

    Actually, Holding used several words. He didn't merely use the word "favor," but "earned favor"--indeed, "previously earned favor", no less: "Far from being a plea of the hapless, it [mercy] is a request to pay back previously earned favor from our client (God) whose patron we are.'

    A non-answer for the point that Hays did purposely confuse my words to create a false argument for me.

    Holding then said: "No one said anything about 'earning' [his quotation marks] God's covenant promises."

    Notice carefully just what Holding denies. He doesn't take issue with the phrase "covenant promises." Instead, he denies that such promises were "earned." He places quotation marks around the verb, for emphasis--not the noun. It's the verb, with the scare quotes, that's the object of his negation.

    Now, though, he's suddenly shifting ground--rejecting as "dishonest" a synonym which he had heretofore accepted without protest. He didn't take exception to the synonym at the time. Rather, he took exception to the allegation that covenant promises were "earned."

    We have here little but misdirected gibberish with no actual argument. A verbal shell game, as it were. Let us cut the knot by asking the questions again Hays will never answer:

  • Can God lie?
  • When God makes a promise, will He fulfill it?
  • If the answers to the above are "no" and "yes" then does not this mean that when God makes a promise, he obligates Himself to fulfill it?
  • Can a believer receive rewards in heaven for deeds on earth?
  • What is the definition of "earn"?
  • Does the believer earn rewards in heaven in any sense?

    I asked questions like these before:

    In other words, Hays purposely obscures that this "earned" is made in the context of God's own covenant promises in which God obliged Himself and thus set up the entire system of return. So now will Hays argue that God can break His promises and release Himself from His own covenant obligations? Does a covenant obligation make God a debtor? If God says, "I will do this" and God cannot lie, is there or is there not an obligation present? Rom. 4:1-4 only draws from the most critical example of this -- the covenant within which YHWH set up mutual sets of obligations for Himself and Abraham."

    Does Hays answer? No, he obfuscates, as usual, for lack of answer:

    i) To say that I "purposely" obscure his usage once again credits me with inspired powers of foresight. In the nature of the case, I can only comment on what he said at the time, and not his retrofitted version.

    Then where's the answer NOW? We get none. This is nothing but a technical gloss to avoid a real answer.

    ii) Yet--and here's the real kicker--Holding himself, in his retrofitted version, uses "covenant promises" and "covenant obligations" interchangeably.

    "So what?" is the only required response here. Hays has thrown out a verbal mishmash in the hopes of convincing the gullible that there is some problem is my use of terms. But what about my questions? He ignores them with this close:

    At this point, Holding has his wires so thoroughly crossed that a professional electrician would be hard-pressed to sort them out.

    Let it speak for itself that Hays refuses to answer my questions.

    "Hays once again plays a disgusting game of verbal equivocation. The retort was that Calvin did not find these elements to disturbing in the rabbinic writings to use them in his commentaries."

    Except that that's not what Holding said. It is he who equivocates with his patch-up jobs.

    It was indeed what was said, via the seminarian, and it is Hays who is trying to escape the clutches of consistency with distractive charges to cover up his gross inconsistency. We will never get an answer to what was actually posed.

    "Well, sorry, but for Paul, Hebrew and Aramaic were the 'native' languages. Next irrelevant belch?"

    i) "Belch"? Another example of Holding's unhealthy fascination with excreta.

    Hays may consider that the Bible uses the word "piss" and "dung" over 30 times. Is that an "unhealthy fascination"? Is Martin Luther's reference to flatulence an example of "unhealthy fascination with excreta"? Is Hays' obsessive focus on my use of this sort of thing (even chopping off quotes to make them appear more prominent than they are) a sign of an unhealthy fascination of his own, with statements people make about excreta?

    ii) Holding is in no position to know that. Indeed, the claim is antecedently improbable. Given that Paul's hometown was a Roman city, there is no reason to assume that Paul didn't pick up Greek as a child.

    Equivocation. The languages spoken at home are "native" languages. What is picked up outside is not. Hays' answer admits his own error unwittingly.

    "Yet part and parcel of such learning is recognizing your own biases as a social scientist. Paul, for his inspiration, was not one of these and we have no indication that he had the social scientists' knowledge and capability to think outside his own box (or that he even thought he needed to)."

    Notice that this is precisely the way in which the queer lobby in liberal churches explain away Paul's opposition to sodomy.

    Mere vague poisoning of the well. There are direct commands about homosexuality in the Bible; there are none for social science. And this is a poor substitute for an actual answer to myself, or even the "queer lobby" for that matter. Sloppy apologetics like this deserve fatal execution.

    "In other words, Hays, though too gutless to say so outright, wishes to accuse Wilson of incompetence."

    Actually, this follows from Holding's criterion, not mine. If you take Holding's view of psycholinguistic conditioning, then, by his own chosen standard, no 20C Jew can be an expert on ancient Hebrew thought-patterns.

    Yet another non-answer as Hays backs away from his charge towards Wilson by erecting a straw man of my "view" about conditioning (refuted already above). Note as well that he fails to quote my point about his own inconsistency in citing Wolfson.

    " This error is one we have seen from Farrell Till as well. Sorry, but "argument from authority" is not a fallacy if the authority really IS an authority. Fallacy occurs when authority is quoted for the sake of authority ("Albert Einstein says that basketball is stupid"); not when the expert really knows their business (it is no fallacy to quote Stephen Hawking on black holes). Let it speak for itself again that Hays imitates an atheist opponent of ours to perfection."

    This is really fascinating. Remember what Holding said to Dr. White? "White's own classification of Romans 9 as 'logical' is similarly obtuse. Indeed, logicians would call what Paul does in Romans 9 a fallacious 'argument from authority'".

    Yes, remember it indeed. Why?

    But when Paul quotes from the OT, that's fallacious 'cause the OT really isn't authoritative. The inspired writer doesn't know what he's talking about. Go figure!

    Yes, go figure! Hays is oblivious to the point that he is arguing from inside his own presumptive box within which the OT did indeed have authority. So likewise Paul. But for those outside, the authority has yet to be established; and so objectively, what Paul says in Romans 9 (if the Calvinists are right, which they are not, as I show in the latest commentary) is indeed fallaciously argued. Contextually Paul begs the question of the OT's authority.

    "So how does Hays explain the "not" in Jer. 7:22?

    In i) hays claims he does not have to explain it, but out of the other side of his mouth, then does so."

    For someone who claims to be a Christian apologist, Holding doesn't seem to know much about how to mount an argument. In apologetics it is commonplace to present a two-pronged strategy in which we first challenge the operating premise of the opposing side, and then, for the sake of argument, stipulate that even if his premise were true, his conclusion fails to follow. That is not talking about of both sides of the mouth. That is simply offering a multifaceted rebuttal.

    Yet more spin-doctoring terminology as a way of "prettying up" Hays' obvious inconsistency.

    " Sorry, but the "Reformed interpretation" still dies on the vine if I am right, because the negation idiom is therefore expressed as well in the "not" in the second clause. That this did not occur to Hays as once speaks volumes for the low level of his mental horsepower."

    i) Except for the stubborn little fact that there is no negation in the second clause.

    No negation? So "not" is not a negation? That's fascinating news from the Grammar Front.

    ii) But let us play out Holding's contention to its logical conclusion. According to Feinberg, who is cited in this debate--although Feinberg never exports his interpretation of Jer 7:22 to Rom 9:16--"the idiom does not intend to deny the statement but only to set it in a secondary place," Jeremiah: A Commentary (Zondervan 1982), 75.

    Not that Feinberg needs to make any connection to Rom. 9:16, any more than he needs to make it to any other passage, for the principle to remain sound and require rebuttal.

    So assuming for the sake of argument that Feinberg's interpretation is both correct and portable, how would this cash out in application to Rom 9:16? The only effect would be to subordinate the force of the first clause to the second. It would still be true that election and reprobation (v15-16a) are not dependent on human participation. And this secondary fact would hold true due to the primary fact that election and reprobation are, instead, entirely dependent on the sheer mercy of God.

    Thank you! Hays thus admits to the position that I have argued from the beginning.

    So even if we play along with Holding's misguided application, the predestinarian force of Rom 9:16 remains undiluted.

    Notice the slipped in premise: The passage retains predestrian force; but not to the extent that Calvinists say it does! Hays is pointing to the pretty picture he hung up, hoping you won't see the gaping hole in the wall next to it.

    Since Holding continues to harp on Jer 7:22, as, I guess he must, having so little on which to build his case, it is worth pointing out that his interpretation of Jer 7:22 is not the only viable option or even the best available interpretation of the text. The issue raised by Jer 7:22 is how to square Jeremiah's statement with the divinely ordained sacrificial system in the Mosaic law. A couple of harmonizations are offered. One is the grammatical solution "parroted" by Holding. However, another solution draws attention to narrative sequence and relative chronology:

    Sorry, but that game is up. I consulted commentaries across the board and the solution offered is indeed the only viable option and is the best available. (See summation here. It is the best supported by evidence in the commentaries. Hays tries to get his medal by offering what are supposedly viable alternate solutions:

    "In point of fact, then, God never said anything to them at the beginning--'in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt'--about offerings or sacrifices," G. Archer, Bible Difficulties (Zondervan 1982), 272.

    Hays hoists himself on his own petard with this one, because Archer's appeal is actually conceptually similar -- he merely metaphorizes "day" rather than "not"! Of course God brought the people out of Egypt not in just one day, but over an extended period -- arguably, even 40 years. Overall, Archer's solution is far more questionable.

    "At the time the Sinai covenant was instituted, God required His people Israel to be obedient and to worship Him alone. Only when these prime stipulations were promulgated did God prescribe a developed sacrificial system," R. K. Harrison, Jeremiah & Lamentations (IVP 1973), 87.

    I have read Harrison's commentary. Hays omits the point that Harrison actually supports our reading of the passage.

    "A reading of Exod 19:3-8 makes it clear that the first step in the covenant ceremony was Yahweh's demand for the unconditional acceptance of the covenant. The Decalog is spelled out in Exod 20:1-17, but at no point is the narrative concerned with cultic details. It was only after the covenant has been ratified (24:1-8) that the cultic details of the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices were declared," J. A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah (Eerdmans 1987), 287-88.

    This answer is like Archer's, and would seem to rely on the same stretch of "day".

    "Jeremiah is engaged not in a wholesale critique of the temple, but specifically of certain burnt-offerings and sacrifices that the people brought to the temple, which in turn were not a part of the specified public ritual established at Mount Sinai," P. Craigie (Nelson 1991), 124.

    Hays is not up on the literature. Craigie's answer is not the same as Archer's; it is yet another proposed solution, that the "sacrifices" are of a particular type. But this requires injecting meaning into Jer. 7:22 (though Craigie does not actually directly refer to the verse in his commentary) that is not clearly present.

    It is odd that Holding, who brags of having "cracked more commentaries than Hays has sat on to reach the dinner table in his lifetime," seems to wholly ignorant of this major exegetical alternative--offered by a number of "credentialed" scholars.

    It's not odd at all -- I consulted far more commentaries on this issue than Hays did, nearly two dozen, in fact. All he offers is three commentaries and a popular book on Bible contradictions, and Hays fails to report that one of them gives my answer as well, and performs no critical examination of any of the options. I also reported the specific answer of "particular sacrifices" being at issue in my earlier report on Jer. 7:22. So Hays can "favor that interpretation" until his face turns blue, as it were; it is not the consensus decision, and one (Archer's) depends just as much on metaphorization as mine, only it has no precedent, and works against precedent of how "day" was used in Scripture of significant events (like the "day of the Lord" which is not simply a 24 hour period). The other (Craigie's) is speculative, for Jer. 7:22 does not specify what sacrifices are in view, much less the ones Craigie believes are in view. Indeed the two answers Hays appeals to are mutually exclusive, and he is so misinformed that he fails to realize this!

    He said: "A blatant dodge. Hays can now find only one item in the list that he thinks works."

    Don't you just love the way Holding's mind works? He said that "none of the items" count. Well, it only takes one exception to disprove a universal negative, does it not? He issues a challenge; I rise to the challenge, he calls it a dodge. In other words, whenever you call Holding's bluff, he moves the goal post.

    Hays in the meantime dodges yet again the most critical question: Of whether decisions are works. In fact he has purposely completely disassembled this paragraph.

    BTW, I never said I could only find one item. But one good counter-example will do.

    And where is it? Hays doesn't give one! And he doesn't give more than one item, leaving only the gullible with the pretense that he has more to offer.

    "And even it, he must admit, is followed on by concrete expression."

    This is just a bald-faced lie. I said "may" well issue, not "must" issue. And I went on to note unconsummated attitudes.

    It matters not in the least. If it is "may" then we do not have "works of the flesh" since the flesh does nothing if the thought is unconsummated. And it still remains that this is not the same as what I asked about, and what Hays willfully continues to ignore: Whether decisions consitute works. To this Hays has only this semantic dodge:

    "But the issue is once more than I am asking not about attitudes, but about decisions."

    Notice that he's moving the goal post again. What he said was "decisions or thoughts." Now an attitude is a thought. An attitude is an intentional state, taking an object. It's an attitude about/thought of something or someone. But Holding didn't anticipate this--which is why he suddenly ditches his own choice of words and confines himself to "decisions," although that is not how he originally posed the question. Did he think no one would notice his switcheroo?

    And so where is the answer to my question? Hays hopes his readers are so busy with his blather that they fail to notice his lack of answer to the question. Hays has done nothing here but jumped on his own to define "thoughts" as I was speaking of them in terms of "attitudes" -- where my pairing with "decisions" makes it clear that I am not talking about "attitudes". Hays is playing semantic games yet again, blaming me for not having the definition he imposed upon me. It is all a game which avoids, once again, answering the critical question.

    "It is still not explained how this is so. Nothing of what I said makes a logical order an 'abstract object' and it really would not make an ounce of difference if it was or not. I write down a logical sequence; is it now concrete or abstract? Hays needs to stop playing semantic games to cover his inadequacies."

    Whenever Holding gets caught in a trap of his own making, a favorite fallback is to complain that I'm "playing semantic games." To collapse a logical order into a causal order is more than a semantic game. To further confound a logical sequence with a verbal token only befuddles the distinction all the more. Once again, Holding has no doctrine of creation. And it won't do for him to don these airs of intellectual superiority if he's going to commit such elementary blunders.

    Simply yet more gyration from Hays. Again, as before, he is acting as though the only signification that the word "logic" (and its variants) has is that which is most commonly used by analytic philophers. The following, I think, makes clear the sense of certain words in which HE uses them:

    1) 'logical order': if A, then B

    A therefore, B (note that this is purely abstract: what 'A' and 'B' are has not been defined)

    2) 'causal order':

    event 1: Hays lights a fuse

  • event 2: the fire-cracker to which the fuse was attached blows up event
  • 3: the rug, on which the fire-cracker blew up, starts on fire (e1 causes e2 causes e3)

    3) 'verbal token': a particular string of letters constituting a language symbol indicative of a thing (in other words, a fancy word for 'a name').

    Thus, once more, Hays is playing semantic games and trying to show the world how philosophically adept he is. His biggest complaint (that I am guilty of confusing a "logical" with a "causal" order, since--presumably--"logical" orders HAVE TO BE merely 'abstract') is bogus. Hays is a philosophical toper if he fancies that "logical" can ONLY refer to analytic logic. "Logic" also has another use, commonly used in the Continental tradition (Hegel, von Balthasar, etc.), which is indicative of being, in which case a "logical sequence" would indeed be a "causal sequence" (BUT, in this case, "logic" is being used differently than the abstract sense, outlined in 1 above; "logic" HERE is more like that outlined in 2 above). "If God could accomplish his purpose by merely setting up the initial conditions, then that would not detract from his sovereignty. But this assumes the very answer at issue. You might as well ask if a painter can paint part of the canvass, then let the canvass fill in the gaps. A painting doesn't paint itself. Holding has no doctrine of creation. If a painter leaves the canvass half-finished, it stays half-finished."

    Exactly, as in bold. Hays said it, obviously and explicitly, that it what I argued was so, there would be no detraction, and now he wants to backpedal."

    Once again we have to treat Mr. Holding to a little primer in elementary logic. Any first year philosophy major can tell that my argument takes the form of a contrapositive proof, known in predicate logic as modus tollens. The abstract schema takes the form of:

    We'll skip the lesson in logic from the dodgeball artist par exxcellence. What it amounts to is an excuse that Hays things because he said, "if" he was not explicitly affirming the correctness of my premise within its own boundaries. He has admitted plainly that as I argue, it would not detract from God's sovereignty. Period.

    "Oh! So now he wants to add "deistic" to his little explanation in order to account for his huge bungle in agreeing I was correct."

    At the risk of having to state the obvious and thereby insult the intelligence of the average reader, deism is implicit in Holding's idea of a painting that could paint itself once the painter gets it started and leaves the rest to a nanorobotic apprentice.

    Hays wisely avoids my further questions asking about percentages of involvement. And no, deism is not "implicit" at all in the idea. Deism is defined as, "belief in the existence of a God or supreme being but denying revealed religion, basing belief on the light of nature and reason." Hays is relating a false and popular view of deism, but as deism.com relates, Some Deists do and some believe God may intervene in human affairs. Hays does not even know what deism actually teaches; he has mistaken a variation of it for the totality!

    Let the viciously circular ostrich mentality speak for itself. Will Hays insult Wilson again by saying he does not know his way around the Hebrew Bible?"

    Let the viciously circular ostrich mentality speak for itself. Will Holding insult Calvin again by saying that he does not know his way around the Hebrew Bible?

    A mere et tu Brute, which is not an answer. Hays obviously is loathe to admit his inconsistency.

    It isn't? What Hays does is create ad hoc some special "Biblical category" of covenant as though it could be divorced from the other covenants of contemporary cultures. This is the sort of thinking that refuses to see Deuteronomy as modelled on an ancient suzerainty treaty and pretends that, again, the Bible was written in an intellectual vacuum, protected from all undue influences."

    i) Holding is now trading is yet another equivocation, as if analogy were the same thing as identity. To say that Deuteronomy was "modeled"--note the weasel word--on a suzerain treaty is not at all to say that a suzerain treaty is synonymous with a Biblical covenant--much less the amorphous category of "fictive kinship" or the generic concept of a "patronage" system, or the even vaguer notion of "collectivism." Notice how Holding jumbles all these things together as though they were one and the same thing.

    Hays is once more trying to confuse the issues to cover his lack of an answer. A treaty IS a covenant; covenants can also be "alliances, agreements, compacts, pledges, mutual agreements, promises, and undertakings on behalf of another." Patronage IS an expression of fictive kinship, and there is nothing "amorphous" or "vague" about it, except to those trying to foist a scam to cover their own lack of knowledge. There is no jumble here other than the one that occurs in Hays' own imagination.

    ii) Suzerain treaties were international treaties--treaties between respective heads-of-state. But it hardly follows from that one culture-bound example that every "collective" or "fictive kinship" "always involved reciprocity of some sort" or bilateral "contractual obligations."

    No, sorry, suzerain treaties were ALSO made between vassals and subjects, and Deuteronomy has been clearly identified as one. As for being "bound" this is on no issue: Hays' "hardly follows" is a weak attempt to distract from the fact that he has no actual answer to show anything differently. Sorry, but "collectivism" and the rest are all of a piece -- it is like asking to separate cheese from the category of cheese!

    One of the distinguishing features setting apart the Jewish monarchy from the neighboring nations is that the Jewish king was a constitutional monarch (Deut 17:14-20), whereas the Egyptian, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian kings governed their own people as absolute monarchs. There was no Magna Carta under oriental despotisms.

    Beg pardon??? Is Hays now saying that YHWH's power was not "absolute"? It appears we have been gravely mistaken: Hays is not a Calvinist, but an Open Theist! That facetious misreading imitiating Hays' own games aside, Deut. 17:14-20 is but one speck out of the whole, and the whole recognizes Deuteronomy as a typical suzerainty treaty between suzerain and vassals (read: patron and clients). Deut. 17:14-20 is merely an example of a stipulation within that paradigm. Hays is blowing smoke again.

    iii) The only proper way in which to exegete the concept of divine mercy and compassion in Rom 9 is not to import and intrude some free-floating, reductionistic definition supplied by anthropology or sociology, but to retrace the redemptive-historical trajectory, of which Rom 9 is the apex. Paul himself directs the reader to the relevant background material: Exod 33:11. And how does the concept function in the original? Listen to what a number of "credentialed scholars have to say:

    The whole of this amounts to, "Please, please, don't import any sort of original context which defies the reading I have contrived." There is nothing "free floating" or "reductionistic" in any of this: And as we show in our new commentary linked above, Ex. 33 only supports our point. But in fairness, let us deal with what Hays prostitutes from scholars writing on Exodus:

    "While mercy can be expected because of God's nature and historical actions, it can never be demanded or earned; God freely bestows it. As God said to Moses, 'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy' (Exod 33:19)," D. Garland, ISBE 3:322-23.

    With this we have never disagreed: Covenant membership cannot be demanded or earned. It must be freely bestowed. But this does not mean that a prospective member is not able to request entry. If Hays is intent on refutation, he needs to provide something actually contrary to our case!

    "The reference here is to the Israelites, those on whom the Lord has had mercy and compassion. It is a summary of what God has done for Israel in bringing them out of Egypt, an act of pure mercy," P. Enns, Exodus (Zondervan 2000), 583.

    We agree. God had a prior covenant arrangement with Abraham; so this was indeed an act of covenant compassion and mercy. So where is the refutation?

    "Yahweh follows this promise with a statement of his sovereignty. His favor and his compassion are given only on his own terms," J. Durham, Exodus (Word 1987), 452.

    No less disagreeable than the first one. Maybe Hays needs to remember what it is he is trying to rebut.

    "Rom 9:15 quotes this verse and applies it to the sovereignty of God," W. Kaiser, The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Zondervan 1990), 483.

    Well now isn't that news! So it does. Now all Hays needs is for Kaiser to say, "And the sovereignty of God is fatalistically absolute, as Calvin says." By the way, since Durham and others apparently make no connection to Romans as Kaiser does, doesn't that mean that we can reject Hays' use of them, as he did with Laymon, et al, and his complaint that they don't mention Romans 9:16?

    "Yahweh uses an idem per idem formula to express other important aspects of his nature. This formula, 'favor…favor' and 'compassion…compassion,' signifies that God is autonomous, free to bestow his grace and compassion on whomever he pleases. It underscores the doctrine of the sovereignty of God," J. Currid, A Study Commentary on Exodus (Evangelical Press 2001), 2:305.

    Same as #1 above and Kaiser. So far this is all gravy, because Hays can't find anything at all that addresses issues of difference in our positions.

    "The name of God, which like his glory and his face are vehicles of his essential nature, is defined in terms of his compassionate acts of mercy. The circular idem per idem formula of the name--I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious--is closely akin to the name in Exod 3:14--I am who I am--and testifies by its tautology to the freedom of God in making known his self-contained being," B. Childs The Book of Exodus (Westminster Press 1974), 596.

    Same as #1 again. Yippee!

    "The proclamation will not be just generally speaking before you but literally so; it will announce the name of the Lord [YHWH] and the significance implicit therein, to wit, the attributes to which it alludes--'and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show compassion to whim I will show compassion'--the meaning being; but the exercise of these qualities depends entirely on My will; you may know that I am compassionate and gracious, and that I love to go beyond the strict letter of the law, but the decision to act according to these virtues is at all times in My discretion, and it is impossible for you to know when, or if, I shall act thus. If I were constantly to let the quality of mercy prevail over that of justice, and were to forgive every sinner, I should not be a righteous judge, and every man would permit himself all kinds of wickedness in the assurance that he would be forgiven. I shall be gracious and compassionate if it pleases Me, when it pleases Me, and for the reasons that please Me," U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (Magnes Press 1997), 436).

    The longest one yet, and it's still a bowl of gravy for me and no gumball for Hays. God decides who He enters into covenant with. God decides who His kin is. But when and how? Cassuto isn't in the business of saying, and wouldn't be. Of course it is impossible in many cases for us to know; but that doesn't equate with that it isn't done and known. God has reasons -- we just don't know them, but He still has reasons, and Calvinists pretend that they can exclude them based on singular negations (which if taken literally, make the Bible contradict itself openly). It could thus be rightly said that Calvinism is an exercise in cognitive dissonance: As I said at the beginning to White, that is why its answers inevitably devolve to, "Kneel, you heathen!"

    But note Hays' next admission:

    The common thread here is the unfettered freedom of God. God can, of course, bind himself in covenant. But God is utterly free to choose if, or with whom, he enters into covenant relations. In Rom 9 and Exod 33:19, the compassion in view is not a "contractual obligation of ongoing reciprocity, "much less "back-pay for previously earned favor."

    And the first part is what I have been saying all along! It is with the last sentence that Hays bungles and contradicts himself, for once God enters into covenant -- there we have it! Contractual obligation, ongoing reciprocity (rewards in heaven???); earned favor (not "back-pay," wherever Hays gets that fouled up version of the words), within the covenant relationship. Thus Hays provides his own refutation, suitably unaware of it.

    ii) When Holding claims that "'Compassion' DOES 'select for' kin in the ancient world -- there is always a kinship relationship of some sort," he is guilty of implicitly saying that "compassion" selects for its own referent. And this commits the Fregean intension=extension fallacy.

    "Implicitly" my foot! It says no such thing; the matter is established not on the back of a mere word, but out of the matrix of personal relationships that composes a collectivist society, and sets its priorities. In this setting, like selects for most like first, and selects in descending order as likeness is reduced; it is an essential principle of function in that sort of paradigm! Hays is merely covering yet again his ignorance.

    ii) By way of specific answer, take the following statement:

    "'Consider this now as well with reference to Pilch and Malina's observation that in an ancient context, 'mercy' is better rendered as 'gratitude' or 'steadfast love' -- as in, 'the debt of interpersonal obligations for unrepayable favors received.' Mercy is not involved with feelings of compassion, as today, but the 'paying of one's debt of interpersonal obligation by forgiving a trivial debt.' To say, 'Lord, have mercy!' (Matt. 20:31) means, 'Lord, pay up your debt of interpersonal obligation to us!' Far from being a plea of the hapless, it is a request to pay back previously earned favor from our client (God) whose patron we are."

    This is a textbook example of what Barr dubs illegitimate totality transfer, where a general semantic construct, abstracted from a multiplicity of individual occurrences in a variety of conceptual contexts, is read back into any given occurrence of the word.

    Yet more coverage of ignorance. It is not as though Pilch and Malina and the others have built their case on just the uses of the word! If this is indeed what is happening, let Hays prove the invalidity of it in the specific example(s) given. He cannot, so he resorts to this sort of obfuscation instead.

    What is far worse in this case is that the purported meaning isn't even derived from an inductive study of Biblical usage, but is, rather, a reductionistic, free-floating definition abstracted from the Greco-Roman patronage-system.

    Once again, this amounts to: "It uses external contexts that violate my plain reading of the text."

    "Once again, there is no answer needed as Hays made no 'precise objection'' -- he erected a strawman ("only prism") and then cried foul when I pointed out his error and how idiotic it was, never admitting his error."

    What I actually did was to pose question, followed by a statement: " Is sociorhetorical criticism the only prism through which we ought to read the Bible? He quotes sociorhetorical scholars to prove the primacy of sociorhetorical criticism. What a thoroughly vicious specimen of circular reasoning!"

    Holding has yet to explain how the act of quoting sociorhetorical scholars proves the primacy or even the legitimacy of their assumptions and methods.

    By the same word, Hays has yet to explain how the act of quoting Calvinist scholars proves the primacy or even the legitimacy of their assumptions and methods. If that's the game he wants to play, he can have his ball back; it is too muddy to be of any use. Note at any rate that Hays never actually responds to his error of erecting a strawman.

    "So now the real question: How will Hays claim that Rom. 9:16 cannot be such an example, in a way that does not cut the rug out from under him with Jer. 7:22?"

    Notice Holding's last-ditch burden of proof. It is no longer a case of having to provide positive evidence for his contention. Rather, it's up to me to show that his importation of Jer 7:22 "cannot" be such an example. However, sound exegesis is based on what is most probably, not what is barely possible.

    All a cover, again, for not being able to provide an answer, showing that it is indeed less probable and not "barely possible" (that, against the consensus of the commentaries). One will despair if they ask Hays to provide an actual evidential response to this view of Jer. 7:22.

    My point, which Holding continues to duck and dodge, is that sociology, like any "science" (if we choose to classify sociology as a true science), is theory-laden and value-laden. When it comes, therefore, to the task of evaluating the "findings" of sociology, or some subdivision thereof (e.g., sociorhetorical criticism), we need to consider the metascientific methods and assumptions of the sociologist, such as his prior commitment to psycholinguistic nominalism.

    I dodge nothing; Hays instead dodges the charge that his own effort is nothing but rhetorical well-poisoning; that he has failed to show any actual instance of error by these commentators, much less has he made any effort to "consider" their methods, much less provide an answer to thier claims. Hays only asserts, but never explains, why there is a problem, because he cannot.

    "Fine. It remains that what Paul offers in Romans 9 is not a 'reason' for his assertions about election; any more than saying 'shut up' is a "reason" for 'why did you drop that plate'. It is not illogical either; it is non-logical. It puts the questioner off, and that is what Paul does in Romans (as he has a right to, since it is foolish to question God)."

    It has already been pointed out to Holding that Paul does more than that. As I said before: "In addition, Paul's reply is not limited to an argument from authority. In addition to that, he also invokes a theodicean rationale for election and reprobation (9:17,22-23; 11:32)."

    So Paul is, indeed, giving a reason--is, indeed, offering a supporting argument, for his assertions about election and reprobation.

    Paul no more "gives a reason" than does this "argument":

  • "Why did you move that chair?"
  • "There's a fly in Siberia!"

    One may as well try to make the latter a reason by calling it an "insectian rationale". Given his activities, does Hays exempt himself from these verses?

    And so it ends, and where Hays is concerned, we say, good riddance to bad company. I want to add a final note: Some have wrongly identitied Hays with a certain Steve Hays who is a professor at Ohio University. They are not the same person. There is no indication anywhere of who THIS Hays is and what credentials he actually has. I have spoken to the Hays at Ohio U. and he has confirmed that it is not him.