A Not So Cerebral Debate

I waited anxiously for Evan Minton of Cerebral Faith to debate Chris Hansen on whether or not morality is relative. I very much enjoyed the debate, however, not for the reasons you may be thinking. The Christian side was absolutely demolished in my opinion and I will tell you why. (You can check out the debate here)

In the beginning opening statements, Evan reads off a transcript, presumably his own blog, simply quoting the moral argument as phrased by William Lane Craig.

I wasn’t a fan of the reading approach, as the cameras were on and it makes it seem that you aren’t prepared, especially when the person who didn’t write anything down seemed more prepared more than you are.

Despite Evan insisting on a week preparation, he was remarkably unprepared for Chris’ arguments. It seemed from the beginning that Evan was arguing in the hopes that Chris held to any moral values as objective, but could not find it because of Chris’ adherence to moral error theory.

There are sophisticated objections to this theory, however, Evan presented none of these. He rarely even challenged the claims Chris was making, instead he brought out emotional examples like a woman being raped or a baby being put in a fire and then freak out when Chris said that right and wrong don’t actually exist.

Evan seemed dumbfounded that this theory even existed and constantly stumbled and went off incoherent rambles. He also interjected many times, where some the members of the live chat as well as the moderator asked Evan to let Chris talk.

A commentator named General Han Solo made a comment that I thought summarized the debate concisely. He said “Evan spends 20 minutes blowing up a balloon, Chris spends 30 seconds popping it.”

It really was like that. Evan seemed to ramble on forever, just to get shut down by Chris’ objections or Chris for the hundredth time telling Evan that he wasn’t getting it. Because Evan really was unprepared for Chris’ position.

Both of Chris’ main objections to the divine command theory Evan was proposing were not sufficiently answered. Honestly, I think Evan came in with a script and when Chris didn’t follow that script of objections, Evan was astonished.

He also managed to recommend his website and books more than five times throughout the debate. As well as recommending his well-read opponent an introductory book on God and Morality.

Overall, Evan’s rehearsed introduction, flagrant self-promotion, incoherent rambling and lack of debate decorum contributed to his loss to Chris in this debate.

Chris on the other hand came off as well-read, he kept a cool demeanor and was polite despite Evan’s behavior during the debate and successfully rebutted every single one of Evan’s arguments.

It seems Evan hasn’t read Craig on moral error theory, so he wasn’t ready to parrot his points.

Chris is an honest skeptic and a genuinely thought-provoking person. I whole heartily recommend his website, he deserves more views than he is currently getting.

Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God: Book Review

“Sinners in The Hands of a Loving God” the provocative re-writing of the title of Jonathan Edwards famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Blog” is a book written by Brian Zahnd. I saw this particular book at my local library, the title caught my attention and after the initial eye roll, I checked it out.

The first thing I noticed was the Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey reviewed the book favorly. Sarah Bessey being the author of the book “Jesus Feminist” and Rachel Held Evans being someone I responded to already when she said that Calvinism made her cry. So, it was no surprise that her review and praise would be featured in a seemingly anti-calvinist book.

The next thing you will find is that the foreword was written by Wm. Paul Young, who wrote the Shack and Lies we Believe about God, in which he admits to being a universalist. These associations mentioned below do not make Zahnd automatically wrong, but I think I could reasonably assume how the book was going to go based on who likes his work. (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Young goes on to figure out the great question of why Edwards could paint such beautiful pictures of God such as in his work “Charity and its fruits” but portray a vindictive God in his sermon. Young went on to blame this sermon on Edwards personal issues, such as being ostracized by his own congregation (due to his insistence on fencing the Lord’s table) and his advocacy for the indigenous tribal people, specifically the native americans.

It’s a foreword, so I don’t expect Young to interact on a deeper level than what he did say, however, it seems a bit disingenuous to not acknowledge that there are plenty of christians who argue that God can be just and wrathful and loving at the same time, God isn’t limited to one attribute.

In the first paragraph, Zahnd recounts the time about his little arts and crafts project, where he used photocopies of Edwards sermon and made his own little booklet complete with highlights and all. That actually sounds pretty cool to me, I may copy his idea and do that myself someday. However, he ends the paragraph by referring to those as his “ANGRY GOD days” in comparison to his “Loving Father” days apparently. I suspected that I would encounter this false dichotomy often throughout this book.

On page 3 his made a statement that made me want to facepalm:
“If Edwards could scare people into repentance , maybe I could too. Evangelism by Terrorism. Conversion by coercion.”

This is not only a pitiful exaggeration but it misunderstands the sermon entirely. Edwards was not in the pulpit with a scary mask on trying to scare the unbelief out of people, he was merely telling people of the reality of what scripture teaches. HIs imagery was vivid and poetic, that is probably why it resonated in the mind more than your average matter-of-fact sermon. To compare poetic language that is simply restating truths of the Bible to “terrorism” is absurd, there is no comparison.  As far as coercion, the sermon is just words, Mr. Zahnd, no one was forcing anyone to anything. They willingly attended the service, they willingly heard the words and they willingly reacted the way they did.

Zahnd then insults the literary nature of Edwards writing by finding it strange that Edwards sermon is taught in schools as a good example of descriptive writing. Here’s the thing, even if you don’t agree with the method of preaching or the doctrine Edwards is defending, it would be far from reasonable to deny that his writing was anything short of descriptive.

Zahnd then quotes Edwards famous spider portion of the sermon, but doesn’t understand the disconnect when he makes snide remarks such as it making God into some “sadistic juvenile”. If Zahnd would have read Edwards observations on Spiders, he would realize that Edwards found their intricate webs as evidence of their design by God and that he thought they were a beautiful creation. This isn’t some “you’re like a bug, gross!” childhood insult, it actually has a double meaning. Today, we commonly have people who like and people who dislike. Spiders are commonly disliked but some people like them. What makes spiders worthy of dislike? Well, they scare people. So, as an analogy, you’re appeal that Edwards scared people into the kingdom would be equivalent to you calling him a spider. Edwards is using this same type of analogy when he compares us to spiders. Not that we scare God obviously, but that our sin is as repugnant to God as someone who hates spiders.

On Page 4, Zahnd questions whether God abhors sinners (Hey, Zahnd read Psalm 11, Proverbs 15, Romans 3, Romans 9, or Revelation 2 sometime) and scoffs at the idea of an eternal hell calling it “God’s torture chamber” and “the eternal auschwitz”. Besides being a disgusting comparison, the major difference is that we are all guilty before God (Romans 3:23) and the Jewish people were innocent against the depraved behavior of the concentration camps. You should probably apologize to people affected by the holocaust for comparing some mere words about Hell you disagree with to such a horrific event.

On Page 5, Zahnd refers to Edwards sermon as a “Horror-genre sermon” which I find funny but also kind of agree with because the reality of Hell is horrific but also because horror is my favorite genre, so it makes sense why I like it. (besides the fact that it is merely teaching biblical truth.)

Zahnd shows a misunderstanding when it views sermons like the one Edwards famously preached as a way to “scare someone into the altar call” perhaps not realizing that Charles Finney popularized the altar call and that Edwards would have been against such emotional manipulation. (Even though I’m sure you will accuse him of it for writing the sermon.)

Zahnd consistently repeats the false dichotomy that a God who desires to show his just wrath can’t also be a loving God. This limiting concept is due to Zahnd’s apprently over antrhompizing the emotions of God as if they were filled with the faults that humans have with them. It reeks of greek mythology level of reasoning, where a God can only have one feature, “The goddess of wisdom” or “the god of war.” In page 18, he reviews some biblical passages that are very clear that God is wrathful or displaying wrath and chocks them up to metaphor. How convient that somethign thtat would contridct your entire premise for the book is a metaphor.

On page 34-35, Zahnd gives a nod to his master, Marcion, in disparaging the old testament and seeking to run away from any idea that God had commanded the slaying of the cannaites and used the example of Jesus not reading the vengeful part of Isaiah’s text, the implication he gives is that Jesus was different and that God’s intention wasn’t vengence.

Veenence is mine saith the Lord

Vegenence is wrong, saith the Zahnd”

Zahnd tries to deny that he is anything like Marcion on page 60, but he ends his defense of himself by admitting that “I don’t regard the old testament as the perfect revelation of God” though earlier he says he believes its the word of God, I wonder how its the word of God and also not a perfect revelation from God? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Chapter 4 in his work can be summed up as “hey this thing happened in the Old Testament” “But man, God is love!”

Pg. 101 Zahnd attempts to critque Calvin’s view of the cross, but he ends up Roger Olsoning it and just calling God a moral monster for pouring out his wrath on Jesus in our place. (Because that totally didn’t happen, right?) He says “Punishing the innocent in order to forgive the guilty is montrous logic” Well, Jesus is innocent, we are guilty, what exactly happened on the cross, Zahnd? What was in that cup that Jesus prayed that he wouldn’t have to drink?

On Page 145, Zahnd denies that those who reject Christ will go to hell, because his feelings or whatever.

In the final paragraph, on page 207, Zahnd attempts to use Edwards words against him. That every tree that does not bear fruit will be axed down. He tries to reverse it and say that the tree of Edwards preaching, a.k.a. The “poisionious tree of angry-God theology” is now gone from his life in favor of being in the hands of a loving God. He started with the false dichtomy and ended with it, I congrulate him on his consistency to this fallacious premise.

In reality, God is love, God desires to show his wrath and God is not a moral monster. I will not pretend that there are easy answers to these questions, but what Zahnd presents is emotion over fact, false dichotomies and snide jabs at people who actually believe things in the Old testament aren’t just all metaphors when it contradicts “muh love” theology.

Constructive critcism is supposed to say something nice about something too. So, Zahnd, the cover was nice.

The Chain That Cannot Be Broken

 “Give up my chain, never.” – J. Cole

Many Christians read this verse with great comfort and joy, but some believe that this sequence of actions can stop, that some people could be called but not justified, that some who are justified will not be glorified in the end, These verses are commonly referred to as “The Golden Chain of Redemption” and it would seem some Christians and Pelagians  think this chain can be broken. 

Foreknew?

First, I want to note, that Romans 8:28-30 is continuous, and is clearly focused on the same audience all the way through, there are no shifts, and no indication that any of these actions mentioned are somehow separated from one another. 

Foreknew – This is where the big debate is over, what exactly does “foreknew” mean? 

Foreknowing here is an active verb, and is personal, God is foreknowing persons in Romans 8, a specific people. A parallel is Jeremiah 1:5, God knowing the prophet before he formed him in the womb, Romans 8 is not just for Paul’s audience as some who cannot escape the inevitable continuity of the chain suggest, When Adam ‘knew’ his wife in Genesis 4:1, the passage is clearly not telling us that Adam merely acknowledge the existence of Eve, for she conceived by this knowing, which implies intimate knowledge. Likewise, in Romans 8, God’s foreknowing is intimate, it’s personal, it is not merely the foreknowing of actions. 

Paul keeps up with the theme in Romans 11, when speaking about God not rejecting his people whom he foreknew, and he then cites an OT prophet speaking about the murder of God’s prophets, God responded that he kept 7,000 that wouldn’t bow the knee to ba’al and Paul ties it in to a remnant that would be saved by God’s grace, again personal. Peter, in 1 Peter 1:20, speaking of Christ, mentions that he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, Do you think this is merely saying that the Father knew of Christ’s existence or what he would do? Another example: 

Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.                     (Amos 3:1-2 ESV) 

The Arminian would not foolishly say that God doesn’t know any other families here, so what does God mean? He’s speaking personally again., why else is he singling them out here? 

When God and foreknow are together in scripture, it is always personal. 

The Arminian will say that God is simply foreknowing that they would react positively to a resistible  prevenient grace, this however is an assumption on the text and not from the text itself. I challenge the Arminian to substantiate their belief in a conditional election based on a positive action of acceptance of God’s grace. 

I’ll leave you with two very good quotes on this subject by men much more learned than me

 Faith cannot be the cause of foreknowledge, because foreknowledge is before predestination, and faith is the effect of predestination. ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,’ Acts 13:48.* Neither can it be meant of the foreknowledge of good works, because these are the effects of predestination. ‘We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works; which God hath before ordained (or before prepared) that we should walk in them;’ Eph. 2:10. Neither can it be meant of foreknowledge of our concurrence with the external call, because our effectual calling depends not upon that concurrence, but upon God’s purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 2 Tim. 1:9. By this foreknowledge, then, is meant, as has been observed, the love of God towards those whom he predestinates to be saved through Jesus Christ. All the called of God are foreknown by Him, – that is, they are the objects of His eternal love, and their calling comes from this free love. ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn thee,’ Jer. 31:3. [1]



“as to know is often to approve and love, it may express the idea of peculiar affection in this case; or it may mean to selector determine upon….The usage of the word is favourable to either modification of this general idea of preferring. ‘The people which he foreknew,’ i.e., loved or selected, Rom. 11:2; ‘Who verily was foreordained (Gr. foreknown), i.e., fixed upon, chosen before the foundation of the world.’ I Peter 1:20; II Tim. 2:19; John 10:14,15; see also Acts 2:23; I Peter 1:2. The idea, therefore, obviously is, that those whom God peculiarly loved, and by thus loving, distinguished or selected from the rest of mankind; or to express both ideas in one word, those whom he elected he predestined, etc.” [2]

[1] Robert Haldane, Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, p. 397.

[2] Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, pp. 283, 284. Italics are his.