1 Cor. 10:13 Re-revisted: Substance Vs. Sophistry

Update: Regarding Steve Hays’ embarrassing blunder documented below concerning Ardel Caneday, it seems that Hays is still unwilling to admit error as documented in the combox of a later post here.  This, coupled with the fact that he later went back and deleted his reference to Caneday being a fictional candy man in his initial post, raises serious questions concerning his methodology and trustworthiness as a debater and teacher.  As it stands, it seems that he is happy to re-write history for the sake of saving face in order to perpetuate the facade that he is incapable of error and to disagree with Steve Hays is simply to be wrong.  To view a saved copy of his original post in which the Caneday reference still appears, see here.

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Hays responded to my latest post and made several assertions that deserve investigation.  He also engaged in quite a bit of rhetorical bluster which, again, served only to divert attention away from the issue at hand.  I will be careful to address everything that pertains to the exegesis of the text in question, and point out where Steve has either misunderstood or misrepresented my view.  Steve has introduced a lot of material that does not bear directly on an exegesis of the text, but is concerned with Calvinistic criticisms of Arminianism based on issues of foreknowledge, and how foreknowledge might impact free will or perseverance.  Those are important matters, but I will not be addressing them in this post for the sake of keeping focus and keeping this post as short as possible (as it is ridiculously long anyway).  I will make some brief comments concerning those other issues at the end of the post.

In Steve’s response, he quotes me and then interacts with my comments.  Those quotes and interactions will be in yellow block quotes with my responses in between.  Any time I quote myself, or other references, that will also be in yellow block quotes. This will be my final post on the matter and the reasons for that will be expressed throughout this response.

“I was going to respond to Steve’s second response point by point and exchange rhetorical blows with him along the way, but I think such a response would only serve to distract us from the main contentions at issue here.”

Steve: An alternative explanation is that Ben found the exegetical material which I quoted from Garland and Fitzmyer to be unanswerable, so he’s trying to deflect the reader’s attention away from his inability to deal with it by taking a detour around the unanswerable material.

There was nothing to answer beyond what I wrote.  Neither of them concluded with Steve that 1 Cor. 10:13 was a specific and exclusive reference to the “temptation” to “deny the faith”;  neither do they suggest that the believer cannot fail but to take the “way of escape” provided by God.  I already explained how the material concerning idolatry and apostasy does nothing to falsify my position, but rather complements my interpretation.

I am troubled, however, by Steve’s suggestion that I was being dishonest in my stated reasons for avoiding a point by point exchange.  I would hope that such attempts to read my motives and question my honesty would be a level of rhetorical device that Steve would not find necessary to employ.  Honestly, I find the manner in which Steve responds to be, on the whole, extremely immature and unhelpful for advancing the discussion.  Many of his responses seem to amount to little more than “nuh uh” answers, inflated with rhetorical bluster and even blatant insults.  As a result, I have to waste a lot of valuable time just dealing with such unnecessary and unhelpful language, time that should have been spent on more substantial matters.

“Steve also cited a commentary by Fitzmyer, which I pointed out actually agreed with my view against his own.”

Steve: Ben falsely alleged that Fitzmyer actually agreed with his view.

Well, let’s allow Fitzmyer to speak for himself in the quote that Steve initially provided concerning 1 Cor. 10:13 (emphasis mine),

“It is not clear whether this verse is to be understood generically of every trial that a Christian may face, or the eschatological trial involving one’s salvation? The noun ekbasis, ‘way out,’ certainly could mean the latter, the eschatological trial, but Christians may also rely on God for the ekbasis of lesser struggles throughout the course of life. In this context, Paul seems to be thinking primarily of trials involving idol meat or seduction to idolatry,” J. Fitzmyer, 1 Corinthians (Yale 2008), 389.

Fitzmyer first offers what he considers two possible interpretations.  One interpretation would look at this verse as specific reference to an eschatological trial (probably based on an erroneous understanding of what Paul intended by the phrase “end of the ages” in verse 11,)  Fitzmyer rightly rejects the “eschatological” interpretation and concludes that “Christians may also rely on God for the ekbasis of lesser struggles throughout the course of life.” (Fitzmyer deals directly with the meaning of “end of the ages” on page 388 and opts for an interpretation that does not see it as referring specifically to end times, but to the separation of “ages” between the Old and New Covenants [following J. Weiss]).

This supports my understanding that “No temptation” has reference to “No temptation” (i.e., no [not any] temptation to sin that a Christian may face in life), rather than to the sole temptation to deny the faith in apostasy.  Fitzmyer’s further comments concerning the specific context having to do with idol meat and seduction to idolatry does nothing to contradict my view.  Such trials would certainly be included among any and every temptation that a believer may face in life.  This is probably the reason that Fitzmyer does not draw the same conclusions as Steve and thereby try to limit “No temptation” in 10:13 exclusively to the specific temptation to finally deny the faith.

If  Fitzmyer sees “No temptation” in 1 Cor. 10:13 as a reference to the specific and exclusive temptation to finally deny the faith, then all Steve has to do is quote where Fitzmyer draws that conclusion.  Steve has yet to produce that quote (maybe he is still saving it in his “reserve”), and so his claims that Fitzmyer agrees with him are empty, while the quote above certainly does support my interpretation.  So I haven’t “falsely alleged” anything.  In fact, we can find further support for my position on page 388 where Fitzmyer concludes his discussion on what “ends” means in verse 11,

“No matter which interpretation of “ends” is preferred, Paul’s implication is that such events about our “ancestors” have been recorded in the OT for the instruction of Christians, to admonish them in every age about God’s reaction to human complaints, rebellion, testing, and probing.” (388 emphasis mine)

We see here that Fitzmyer understands that Paul is addressing each of these specific sins to the Corinthians (just as I argued in my last post), rather than applying a general principle of apostasy.  If Steve’s understanding of Fitzmyer is correct, then he is essentially saying that every instance of “human” complaining, rebellion, testing, and probing, constitutes a final denial of the Christian faith.

“In my response, I pointed out that Steve had really painted himself into a tight spot.”

Steve: In his response, Ben made a feeble and failed attempt to paint me into a tight spot.

Not at all.  I simply pointed out the size of the task Steve had created for himself in stating that my interpretation was false (with some very bold rhetoric), and asserting that his interpretation was so obviously correct.  The “tight spot” is the burden of proof that rests on him to show that 1 Cor. 10:13 cannot possibly have reference to every temptation a believer may face in life (my interp.), while proving that “No temptation” must have specific and exclusive reference to the temptation to finally deny the faith (his interp.).  Steve put himself in that position and put the burden of proof upon himself with his arguments and his use of rhetoric in his initial response (he actually needs to show that my interpretation is impossible, considering his claim that my “warehouse” was entirely “empty”).  So it is false to say that I tried to paint him into a tight spot (and it is certainly false to say I made a “feeble and failed attempt” to paint him into that spot).

Notice again that in both of his replies above, his arguments are devoid of substance, but merely reflect more “nuh uh” type responses.

“I countered by showing that Paul references numerous sins in the surrounding context and that Steve’s narrow view seems obviously forced in light of Paul’s specific use of language in 1 Cor. 10:13.”

Steve: Ben countered by adding his misinterpretation of OT texts to his misinterpretation of NT texts.

And Steve accuses me of avoidance?  You will search in vain for any specific interaction, on Steve’s part, with any of the exegetical points I made in both my posts.  All you will find is Steve quoting commentaries that he imagines agree with him, and making passing remarks on those quotes.

“Since Steve seemed to suggest that my interpretation was so obviously wrong, and since Steve seemed to build his entire case on two sources (one which ultimately did not even agree with him).”

Steve: Both of which completely agree with me. I corrected Ben on that contention–among others.

See above on Fitzmyer, who in no way agrees with Steve that “No temptation” in 1 Cor. 10:13 has exclusive reference to the specific temptation to finally deny the faith, nor does Fitzmyer suggest that the believer will inevitably take the way of escape provided by God (the two main points that Steve needs to exegetically establish).

“I concluded my response by citing numerous commentators that agreed with my interpretation against Steve’s.”

Steve: He cited a number of popular and/or dated commentaries, along with one or two scholarly commentaries. Of these, Thiselton is the most significant, and even Thiselton doesn’t actually support his contention.

And so we can add all of these commentators, both “popular” and “scholarly”, to the list of “gesticulating” fools that agree with me concerning the proper understanding of 1 Cor. 10:13.  That list could surely be multiplied.  We can add to Steve’s list ….no one, not a single commentator who takes 1 Cor. 10:13 to be a specific and exclusive reference to the temptation to finally deny the faith.  Perhaps Steve will still find that elusive commentator or two, but even then, the fact that so many are against him, even Calvinist ones, serves to underscore how strained and marginal Steve’s interpretation is (especially against the backdrop of Steve’s very bold and confident claim that any interpretation besides his own was completely baseless and empty).  The simple fact alone that I have so easily found a great deal of support for my interpretation, completely falsifies Steve’s bold claims and outlandish rhetoric.  Notice also that Steve does not show that Thiselton doesn’t agree with me, he only asserts it.  Anyone can read my first post to see if Steve’s claim is accurate.

“(Several of them written by Calvinists, including John Calvin himself).”

Steve: Really? How many of the commentators he cited believe in limited atonement or double predestination or irresistible grace or unconditional election or the perseverance of the saints? Let’s see the documentation.

None needed.  All that is needed is the documentation concerning their interpretation of I Cor. 10:13 which agrees with me against Steve (we are not talking about the five points of TULIP, but about a proper understanding of 1 Cor. 10:13).  That documentation has already been provided.  If he means to insist that these commentaries were not written by Calvinists, then he can take that up with Calvinists Leon Morris and FF Bruce, for starters (and I am pretty sure John Calvin was a Calvinist).

Steve: By definition, a Calvinist doesn’t think that you can lose your salvation. Therefore, no Calvinist would construe 1 Cor 10:13 as a prooftext to disprove the perseverance of the saints.

That is not the issue.  The issue is whether or not this passage is a prooftext for perseverance of the saints, as Hays insists.  If it is not, and if “No temptation” is being used in a general sense to describe any and every temptation a Christian might face, then Steve’s interpretation is proven false, and my use of the passage to establish the presence of free will whenever we are tempted, is firmly established.  The best Steve can say is that these Calvinist commentators believe Paul is speaking of every temptation a Christian might face except for the specific temptation to deny the faith.  That would be essentially opposite of Steve’s suggested interpretation (but there is no indication in those commentaries even of that).  Perhaps these Calvinist commentators were just allowing the text to speak for itself, and being as honest with the verse as possible, without trying to defend any particular theological view point in the process.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that their comments support my view against Steve, and that has been documented.

By the way, below Steve quotes a Wesleyan Arminian (a contributor to The Arminian magazine) who left a comment in my combox, imagining that this person agreed with Steve’s interpretation (when he doesn’t).  According to Steve’s above logic, this Arminian would never construe the passage as Steve suggests, since no Wesleyan Arminian would ever construe this passage as a proof text for inevitable perseverance.  Yet, Steve tries to use his quote as support for his view.

But perhaps we should excuse Steve since he couldn’t have known that this person was a Wesleyan Arminian (which should have given him some caution before jumping all over his comments as support for his position).  However, Steve should have known that this commenter based his comment on a reference to another non-Calvinist (whose book argues strongly against the Calvinist view or perseverance).  Therefore, according to Steve’s logic, it is impossible that this could serve as support for Steve’s view since a person who plainly rejects inevitable perseverance would never construe 1 Cor. 10:13 as support for inevitable perseverance.  Once again, Steve can’t seem to play by his own rules.

“Steve has raised the bar very high in suggesting the passages can only be understood to be addressing the ‘temptation’ of finally denying the faith, and for that reason needs to produce a tremendous amount of compelling evidence in order to lend any credibility to that claim.”

Steve: I don’t need to produce a “tremendous about of compelling evidence” to support my interpretation. I only have to show that my interpretation is the best interpretation of the verse.

And Steve has still not even come close to showing that his interpretation is the “best interpretation of the verse.”  Don’t be fooled here by Steve’s attempt to soften his task.  Of course he needs to show that his interpretation is best, but in doing that he needs to deal with the specific language of 1 Cor. 10:13 and explain how that language supports his view of a specific and exclusive temptation to deny the faith, while showing how the language excludes my own view.  He needs to explain why Paul applies each specific temptation to sin (including such sins as complaining and craving evil things) to the Corinthians, if he were really just trying to apply a principle of apostasy by using those OT references. He needs to show that my view is totally unreasonable, based on his claims that my interpretation amounts to “empty…gesticulating”, etc.  He needs to show that the context completely excludes my view (rather than just showing ways in which he imagines it might support his own).  He also needs to show that the passage teaches that the believer will always take the way of escape, (assuming the correctness of his interpretation).  It would also be nice if he could find more than one person, throughout the ages, that agrees with his assertion that “No temptation” in 1 Cor. 10:13 refers exclusively to the specific “temptation” to deny the faith (though even this would not make his case), or as Steve put it in his first post,

“In sum, this verse is not talking about temptation in general. Rather, it’s talking about the specific temptation to deny one’s faith–of which idolatry was a paradigm-case throughout Scripture. And it says that, due to God’s fidelity, a Christian can never give in to that particular temptation.”

That’s a lot to produce as far as I am concerned, and it seems to me that he hasn’t even gotten started yet

“After reading his last post, I can’t imagine how Steve would think he has offered sufficient evidence to prove my view untenable while establishing his own view as the only plausible interpretation.”

Steve: That’s rhetorical posturing.

Actually, it was just stating my honest opinion (assuming Steve isn’t trying to question my honesty again).  However, if this is Steve’s idea of “rhetorical posturing”, then I wonder what he considers comments like,

What’s so odd about this claim is the way in which kangaroodort infers something from the text that simply isn’t there…

Despite his hyperbolic verbiage and sanctimonious tone, kangaroodort is making totemic use of Scripture. He pays lip-service to the words of Scripture in swelling, self-congratulatory rhetoric, but his interpretation doesn’t begin to represent a close reading of the text or context...

He’s like a man standing in the doorway of an empty warehouse, gesticulating about his discovery of contraband merchandise within. Well, I’ve examined every square inch of the warehouse with a flashlight, and the evidence is entirely wanting.”

…and those are just a few examples from Steve’s first post!

“Rather, he has only succeeded in clouding the issue and diverting attention away from his monumental task of proving, from the text, that Paul is speaking solely of the temptation to deny the faith in 1 Cor. 10:13, while actually guaranteeing that no believer ever will fall to that specific temptation.”

Steve: i) If my task is “monumental,” then Ben’s contrary task is equally monumental.

Not at all, since my interpretation represents a more natural reading of the text, an interpretation that has been well supported by scholars of all stripes throughout church history, and cannot be dismissed based solely on the context (without importing Calvinist presuppositions into the text, while ignoring specific use of language).

Steve: ii) I “clouded” the issue by quoting two leading commentators (neither of whom is a Calvinist) who document that Paul’s statement in v13 is framed within the context of idolatrous apostasy. That material is directly on point.

Steve clouded the issue by refusing to personally interact with the text (and my specific comments about the text), and by presenting these quotes as amounting to necessary proof of the correctness of his interpretation.  Neither of his two commentators drew the conclusion from the “context” that “No temptation” in 1 Cor. 10:13 had exclusive reference to the specific temptation to deny the faith (as I pointed out in my last post, and several other times as well).  This is so because there is nothing in the context to force such an unnatural limitation to the promise of 1 Cor. 10:13.

“Steve spends a significant portion of his post complaining that I have dismissed the only book that gave him any support for his unusual interpretation of the passage.”

Steve: i) I measured Ben’s sources by his own yardstick. By that yardstick, most of them came up short.

Except that I never “measured” his sources by any “yardstick” at all.  I neither dismissed them nor criticized them.  All I did was identify them and point out that one agreed with me against Steve.

Steve: ii) Nothing unusual about my interpretation–as I’ve documented. And a commenter in Ben’s meta agrees with me:’

“I’m convinced that the ‘fall’ mentioned in 1 Cor. 10:12 is referring to apostasy from Christ and the Christian faith that can occur if the believers in Corinth persist in idolatry and the attending immorality that is common place at these social events/banquets. In my research I have found several commentators and academic works on 1 Cor 8:1-11:1 that hold to this view as well. The work that I have found the most impressive is . . .
Paul and Apostasy: Eschatology, Perseverance, and Falling Away in the Corinthian Congregation (Paperback)_by B. J. Oropeza”

https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/revisting-1-cor-1013/#comment-2676

Steve just isn’t getting it.  First, the idea that “fall” can have reference to apostasy does not establish his interpretation.  This has been explained very clearly in my first two posts (especially my last post which looks at the broader context of chapter 8 and Paul’s view on the danger of apostasy resulting from continued sin).  Second, as mentioned above, the commenter in my meta does not agree with Steve, and has since left a comment verifying that Steve was wrong to draw those implications from his comments (just as Steve was wrong to draw similar implications from the two commentators who supposedly agreed with him).

Perhaps this demonstrates a pattern of Steve jumping to unwarranted conclusions from what other’s write.   Steve jumped to conclusions concerning Fitzmyer, wrongly concluding that he supported Steve’s interpretation based on a quote that actually worked against him, and now Steve has wrongly concluded that the commenter in my meta agreed with him on 1 Cor. 10:13, simply because he sees “fall” in verse 12 as a reference to apostasy.  This is one of the reasons that I will not be having further dialogue with Steve (as well as his tendency to be insulting and question the intentions and honesty of those he disagrees with, as he has done again in a post ridiculing the above commenter’s clarifications in which he pointed out that he did not actually agree with Steve at all).

Perhaps this also reveals a level of desperation on Steve’s part.  He can’t find any sources, other than Schreiner, that agree with his interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:13, so he is forced to lift comments from a combox in order to try to bolster his position (comments that were misread in a similar way as he misread Fitzmyer).  Steve appears so desperate that, upon recognizing his mistake, he wrote a post trying to do damage control in which he basically questioned the integrity of the Arminian commenter whose comment Steve tried to make use of as support for his position.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, the work by B. J. Oropeza is what the commenter says was “most impressive” in helping formulate his views (a work that argues against the Calvinist view of inevitable perseverance).  According to Steve’s logic (see above), such a work would never construe 1 Cor. 10:13 in a way that supports his position.

“When I said that Schreiner’s work was ‘popular’ I did not mean to suggest that it was worthless or should be discounted.”

Steve: Now Ben is dissembling. The only reason, in this context, to mention that Schreiner’s monograph was allegedly “popular” was to prejudice his readers against this source.

It must be nice to be able to read the thoughts and intentions of fellow believers (something Calvinists typically assert no one has the power to judge, since no one can “know the heart”).  I wasn’t trying to prejudice readers against Schreiner’s book (and I would ask Steve to produce anything to that effect in the post where I called Schreiner’s work “popular”).  The idea that “popular” could be understood as second rate, or less than scholarly, didn’t even enter my mind when I wrote the word.   I only meant that it is well known and well read among Calvinists, and that it represents a popular Calvinist view on inevitable perseverance.  That’s it.  If Steve refuses to believe this then he has essentially called me a liar, and that is as unnecessary as it is false.

I suppose I could counter with the way that Steve keeps referring to Schreiner’s book as a “monograph”.  It is a monograph in the sense that it is focused on a single topic (though it is written by two authors, unlike most “monographs”), but many people see the use of “monograph” as an indication of especially scholarly material.  Perhaps Steve is trying to exalt his single source as especially scholarly and credible by continually referring to it as a monograph.  In his last post he mentioned that Schreiner’s monograph had 377 pages (plus index), as if this is a true mark of scholarship (lots of pages and an index- by the way, the Book of Mormon has 531 pages, plus index!).  Again, this is in no way intended to be a slight on Schreiner’s book, but only to demonstrate how easily reversible Steve’s argument is (and just notice what a waste of time this whole issue of what I meant by “popular” has been in this discussion, serving only to divert the discussion away from the important matter of a proper exegesis of the text).

Steve: Ben is now upset because I applied his yardstick to his own commentaries.

Not at all, as explained above.

“If Steve sees that as a negative, then that would seem to be his problem, not mine.”

Steve: Aside from Ben’s dissembling, his hasty retreat from his original insinuation is counterproductive. If he doesn’t have a problem with popular works, then he should have no problem with Schreiner’s “popular” monograph–as he chose to classify it.

I never said I had a problem with it (as mentioned above).  I only mentioned that it was the only support he could find for his view (a view which Steve may have adopted exclusively from reading that single work).

“However, I do not think it is irrelevant to mention that Schreiner’s work is not a commentary, since commentaries are typically less biased and are more concerned with exegesis than upholding or dismantling a particular theological systematic. Schreiner’s work, on the other hand, is specifically focused on defending the Calvinistic view of inevitable perseverance.”

Steve: i) Really? And are we to suppose that Ben Witherington’s commentary on Romans–to take one example–doesn’t have a theological agenda?

It may.  But it is not a work specifically focused on promoting a certain soteriological position.  And if we want to say that Witherington’s work has a theological agenda, then we should assume the same of the Calvinist commentaries I quoted (despite the fact that I said commentaries are usually less biased and not as concerned with defending certain theological systematics), yet none of them agreed with Steve concerning 1 Cor. 10:13!  It is also fair to conclude that commentaries focused on a specific book of the Bible and its entire context from beginning to end, might serve as a better guide than a book (or “monograph”) drawing on various verses from Scripture in order to support a particular controversial doctrine.

Steve: ii) It’s also a false dichotomy to drive a wedge between exegesis and defending a particular position. For example, monographs are also written to uphold the deity of Christ against unitarian cults. Does Ben think their exegesis is inferior to the exegesis of a Jehovah’s Witness?

I never tried to drive any such “wedge”.  Monographs can have both solid and strained exegesis.  They can contain unbiased exegesis as well as biased.  They can allow the text to dictate their theology, and they can allow their theology to wrongly dictate their exegesis (just as Steve is doing with 1 Cor. 10:13).  By the way, you won’t find any extensive “exegesis” of 1 Cor. 10:13 in Schreiner’s work.  You will only find some assertions and a footnote referencing someone else’s work that they found “helpful”.  You will not find any detailed analysis of the text or Paul’s specific use of language (just as you won’t find any of that in Steve’s posts to date).

“My point was simply to identify these works and their purposes along with the fact that Steve’s post was totally dependent on quotes from these two works.”

Steve: His point was simply to marginalize the material I cited. It’s a standard tactic: if you can’t address the material on its merits, you try to marginalize the material.

Well, Steve is simply wrong about this and should apologize for trying to paint me as deceptive (just as he tried to paint me a fool in his initial response).  I addressed both of his sources.  I addressed Schreiner and Caneday with my own exegesis of the passage, and I addressed Fitzmyer by pointing out the fact that he agreed with me against Steve.

“One essentially agreed with my exegesis against Steve, and the other did not.”

Steve: Ben keeps reiterating his misrepresentation of Fitzmyer–even after he’s been corrected–in the hopes that a repeated falsehood will efface the truth.

I repeat it because it is true (as shown above), and I will continue to point it out if necessary.  Steve hasn’t “corrected” me on anything since he has merely asserted that Fitzmyer agrees with him, without showing how the comments I highlighted can possibly comport with his claim (and of course there is that thorny issue again of Fitzmyer not concluding with Steve that “no temptation” in 1 Cor. 10:13 has specific reference to the exclusive temptation to deny the faith, nor does he suggest [in any way] that the believer cannot fail to take the “way of escape” provided by God).

“Based on these two sources (one, really), Steve concluded that my exegesis was out of harmony with the context.”

Steve: No, I merely cited two standard works to illustrate my point.

Actually, those works (“work”, really) amounted to his point.

“Yet, Steve did not spend any time interacting with the context himself. He just quoted two sources and assumed that everyone would see these sources as conclusive on the matter.”

Steve: The level of my response was calibrated to the level of his original argument–such as it was. If he gives more detail, I can give more detail.

My initial post didn’t quote a single commentary.  It didn’t quote anybody at all.  It contained some personal exegesis, but did not draw on any other sources.  How then did Steve reply in kind by arguing from two quotes, and not spending any time interacting with the passage itself?  Maybe he needs to re-check his calibrations?  I later gave more detail and it was met with more quotes and just as little actual interaction with the text on Steve’s part as in his first response.

“My response was an attempt to actually do some detail work.”

Steve: Yes, he offered a detailed fallacious argument in follow-up to his simple fallacious argument.

What did Steve call this earlier?  Rhetorical posturing?  Perhaps we should just call this more “nuh uh” rhetoric.

“I further pointed out Steve’s double standard in not abiding by the rules of ‘detail work’ that he imposed on me (i.e. reading things into the passage that are not there, etc.).”

Steve: In Ben’s odd little mind, he imagines that if a person quote a sentence or two from a one or two sources, then that’s all he has at his disposal. Needless to say, both Schreiner and Fitzmyer say much more on the subject than what I quoted for illustrative purposes.

In order for those quotes to be for “illustrative purposes” they would need to illustrate a contextual or exegetical argument that Steve was already making.  Since Steve spent no time personally interacting with the passage or context, his sources were his argument, rather than illustrating his argument.  You can’t support your case with other sources if you haven’t built any case to support.

If Steve has more at his disposal, he is sure taking his time revealing it.  As far as Fitzmyer and Schreiner having much more to say, I have read both sources, and have found nothing more substantive than what Steve has already cited as supposed support for his strained interpretation.

Furthermore, the above quote had reference to the fact that Steve read the concept of inevitable perseverance into 1 Cor. 10:13, by asserting that the believer will always take the way of escape provided by God (which is nowhere to be found in the text).

By the way, should we categorize Steve’s reference to my “odd little mind” as more “rhetorical posturing” or a calculated insult?

“If my ‘evidence box’ and ‘warehouse’ were ‘empty’, then the same must be said of Calvin, Morris, Bruce, Thiselton, Blomberg, Barrett, and others.”

Steve: Ben is standing in front door of an empty warehouse, shouting into a microphone to stall for time while he gets someone to go around to the service entrance in the rear and hustle a few empty packages in the warehouse so that when the inspectors come back, he can then exclaim that the warehouse always had a few packages in storage.

Talk about rhetorical posturing!  Also, notice how his rhetoric here completely avoids dealing with the substance of my point in the above quote.

“I wasn’t trying to create a battle of commentaries or pit scholars against one another. Nor was I rating some scholars (like Schreiner) as less important than others.”

Steve: I’m sure he wasn’t–since Ben is too shortsighted to anticipate the countermoves. Some commentaries are obviously more important than others for ascertaining the sense of a particular verse or passage.. That’s because some commentaries are more detailed or up-to-date than others. If you’re serious about the exegetical literature, you turn to the best available commentaries and monographs–and not just whatever you can lay your hands on, regardless of how dated or skimpy the coverage is. Ben is trying to make up for in quantity what he lacks in quality.

It can actually be quite helpful to cite dated material for the purpose of demonstrating that a certain interpretation has strong historical precedent.  Is Steve trying to “prejudice” my readers by calling several of the commentaries I cited “dated or skimpy”.  Perhaps Steve is just trying to say that the only sources worth anything are those that agree with him (in this case the single source of Schreiner’s “monograph”).  Notice again that Steve just can’t help throwing in another insult in order to make his point sound more impressive (calling me “too shortsighted to anticipate the countermoves”).  Notice also that Steve seems to see this as some sort of chess match, the aim of which is simply to come out the “winner” rather than discovering divine truth by giving an honest and detailed treatment of the text in question.

Steve: Does he seriously think a Puritan commentary is the best resource to ascertain the meaning of 1 Cor 10:13?

Not at all.  I think anything written by Puritans is nothing but poorly argued garbage.  This would, of course, include anything by Owen or Edwards.  And I wonder if Steve would ask the same question if this old, worthless Puritan work had happened to agree with his extremely marginal interpretation? [for the sake of those who may get the wrong impression here, the second sentence was tongue in cheek- mostly anyway]

“I never would have mentioned a single commentary if Steve hadn’t first criticized my post based solely on two quotes. He can go on and on about what he had in ‘reserve’, but the fact remains that his post was all about those two quotes, and lacked any effort on Steve’s part in supporting his argument, or showing mine untenable, through a careful examination of the text.”

Steve:  As I said before, I answered Ben on his own level. That’s how it works. You say something, I respond in kind. You say something, I respond in kind. My response is calibrated to the level of your statement.

And I already showed that he didn’t “respond in kind” since I never quoted a single source in the post he initially criticized.

“In short, it would be an understatement to say that Steve had taken what was at best a minority view, and then painted me the fool for not agreeing with it.”

Steve: In short, it would be an understatement to say that Ben is doing a patch-up job to salvage the inadequacy of his initial foray.

More rhetorical posturing.  It never seems to get old.  It is a real challenge to respond seriously to responses of such caliber.

“All of this about different commentaries and reading more into ‘popular’ than was intended, amounts to little more than a red-herring that diverts attention away from the fact that he has still not managed to conjure up any substantial support for his strained interpretation.”

Steve:  All of this is about Ben’s attempt to win in the post-game recap what he lost on the field. So, before he ever gets around to his reply to my latest post, he treats the reader to his slanted, self-serving version of previous exchanges.

And still more rhetorical posturing.  Rather than address my point, Steve seems to try to claim victory with a colorful and inaccurate analogy.  Anyone could follow the hyper-links I provided for every single post between us, to see if I was slanting things.  On the other hand, Steve provides no hyper links in his posts.  He provides a link that must be cut and pasted into a search engine.  I mentioned to him in the meta of one of his responses that I thought this tended to discourage people from following the provided link to the primary source, and asked him if he could include hyper-links in future posts (especially since it is so easy to do).  That comment was completely ignored.

“The bulk of Steve’s response is concerned with finally emptying the great ‘reserve’ of information that supposedly supports his initial claims; but all Steve can produce are several comments by various commentators which mention the background of idolatry and apostasy in several of Paul’s OT allusions in verses 5-12.”

Steve: Which is the necessary lead up to what Paul is referring to in v13. Idolatry, apostasy, and the connection between the two–over against which is God’s promise to the believer.

Steve needs to provide more than just a “lead up”, and I have already demonstrated why such a lead up does nothing to secure his interpretation or refute my own.   I can’t help but wonder if Steve’s “lead up” will actually ever lead to anything.

“This is apparently true of the sources Steve now makes use of, since he did not produce a single quote that agreed with him on 1 Cor. 10:13.”

Steve: Ben can’t follow his own argument. I already quoted two scholars on v13. But he accused me of taking the verse out of context. Therefore, what I did in response was to cite some of the supporting material. Putting the verse in context.

Correction: one scholar (two if you count coauthor, Caneday).  The context doesn’t argue against my interpretation as I pointed out in my other posts, but rather supports it, nor does the context lead to the conclusions Steve wants us to accept concerning 1 Cor. 10:13, even if Steve’s narrow view of the surrounding context were completely granted.

“Steve would have saved himself considerable time and effort by just reading what I had written in my last post. Nothing he has produced is contrary to what I have said above. In fact, it seems that all of his sources would be in basic agreement with me.”

Steve: What they agree with is the context of v13, which has reference to idolatrous apostasy–and that, in turn, supplies the background for God’s promise to the believer.

Idolatry and apostasy provides some of the background, but certainly not all of it, since the context does not have sole reference to either (nor do Steve’s sources take such a narrow view of the context, and they certainly don’t agree with any of Steve’s conclusions concerning 1 Cor. 10:13).   In fact, any mention of apostasy is mostly indirect even in his quoted sources (and only one quote directly mentions “apostasy” at all).  For example, Garland references Ps. 106 as the best place to gain background on the “litany of Israel’s sins”.  If one reads Psalm 106, he will discover that far more is mentioned besides idolatry or apostasy.  For example, they “craved intensely” in the wilderness (cf. 1 Cor. 10:6 which sets up the entire discussion of Israel’s sins and resultant judgment in 1 Cor. 10: 6-12).  This “craving”, in Psalm 106, is the result of “forgetting [God’s] works” and not waiting for God’s counsel (hardly what we would call acts of apostasy).

He later quotes Fitzmyer in support of his “idolatry must equal apostasy” interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:6-12 (emphasis mine),

Paul warns the Corinthians about the danger of idol worship…Paul now alludes to Exod 32:1-6…Aaron consented and took their gold rings to fashion them into a molten calf…This was the classic incident in the Exodus from Egypt when the grumbling Israelites became idolaters. Their grumbling and craving had led even to such idolatry. To emphasize the seriousness of such craving Paul quotes the OT verse about idolatry, which is the only explicit OT quotation in this passage, J. Fitzmyer, 1 Corinthians, 385.

Notice how Fitzmyer does not equate grumbling and craving with idolatry, but instead said such grumbling and craving “led” to “such idolatry” (notice also that he refers to them as “grumbling Israelites” prior to their initial act of idolatry, i.e. “the grumbling Israelites became idolaters”).  Furthermore, Fitzmyer tells us that Paul’s OT quotes are meant to underscore “the seriousness of such craving”.  So instead of supporting Steve’s claim that the passage is only concerned with idolatrous apostasy, Fitzmyer sees Paul’s allusions as going beyond just idolatry, but including those sinful things that may simply lead to idolatry (even such grave idolatry as that committed by Israel in the golden calf episode).   This is far more in line with my interpretation than Steve’s (see below), and again, one cannot overlook the fact that despite Steve’s claims that the views expressed by Fitzmyer and Garland must lead to Steve’s conclusions concerning 1 Cor. 10:13., neither Fitzmyer or Garland agree with Steve’s conclusions concerning 1 Cor. 10:13! (By the way, I would counsel anyone who finds Steve’s quotes convincing to read them in their full context).

Garland also speaks of “grumbling” in a similar way, a way that does not necessarily constitute idolatry or apostasy,

The image of grumbling characterizes the whole wilderness experience of Israel (Num. 14:36; 16:41, 49; 17:5, 10) but is particularly associated with putting God to the test (Exod. 17:2-3). Their grumbling about food kindled God’s anger against them (Num. 11:1; 14:2-4). (463).

“Paul perhaps singles out ‘grumbling’ because the Corinthians have been guilty of murmuring against him (so Robertson and Plummer 1914: 206; Moffatt 1938: 132; Oster 1995: 235), particularly because of his hard-line stance against their participation in idol feasts (Fee 1987: 457). As Moses protested the people’s idolatry, so Paul has protested the Corinthians’ participation in sacrificial meals. As the people of Israel grumbled against the leader appointed by God, so also Paul insinuates that the Corinthians are no less guilty of rebelliously grumbling against him and refusing to listen to his counsel.” (464).

Notice that, just like Fitzmyer, Garland sees the “grumbling” as starting prior to any acts of idolatry on Israel’s part.

It is important to remember that Steve made the claim that the idolatry in the context of 1 Cor. 10 must be understood as limited to that idolatry which constitutes apostasy (final denial of the faith).  His quotes and sources certainly do not establish that claim.  It is also very important to ask why Paul is writing this to the Corinthians.  Was he just trying to safeguard them from getting involved with idolatry, or was he addressing a problem that was already present (there involvement in idolatrous practices, cf. verses 14-29)?  I mentioned this in my first post, and Steve ignored it (perhaps I should claim victory based on his avoidance here?),

As noted above, Paul’s admonition to flee idolatry leads him into the next section where he again focuses on specific temptations facing the Corinthians regarding eating food sacrificed to idols. In these verses we see Paul speaking of idolatry in such a way that it does not have reference to repudiation of faith or out-right apostasy.  Paul is both warning the Corinthians to avoid idolatry as well as calling on those who may already be involved in such idolatry to repent, take the way of escape provided by God, and flee from idolatry in the future.

If he was addressing their present involvement in idolatry at all (and surely he was), then are we to conclude that Paul saw them as a bunch of apostates without hope?  Not at all.  Paul is steering them towards repentance.  But if Paul saw them as involved in idolatry as typified by some of his examples in verses 5-12, and yet did not consider them apostates, then Steve’s interpretation is proven entirely false.

There simply is no necessary correlation between idolatry and apostasy in the context of 1 Cor. 10:13, despite Steve’s claims.  The context has to do with various degrees of rebellion against God which can take many forms (and one could consider just about any sin as a type of rebellion).  It can be the rebellion of craving things beyond what God has provided. It can be the rebellion of complaining about present situations, or grumbling against God in doubts or frustration (or against those God has called us to serve and obey).  It can also be the rebellion of idolatrous acts of various degrees, even to the degree of apostasy.  But nothing in the context forces us to limit any and all of these types of rebellion to the exclusive rebellion of finally denying the faith.

“Steve seemed to primarily rely on Schreiner and Caneday as a credible source…since he was not able to produce a single source (outside of Schreiner and Caneday).”

Steve: “Caneday”? Apparently the only way that Ben can document his claims is to invent fictitious scholars like “Caneday.” Is Caneday related to the Gingerbread Man? Do they live in a Sugarcane mansion?

This response, even if accurate, would alone be extremely childish.  When we add to this the fact that the only source Steve can so far find that agrees with him on 1 Cor. 10:13, The Race Set Before Us, was coauthored by Ardel B. Caneday, Professor of New Testament Studies & Biblical Theology, Northwestern College, Saint Paul, Minnesota, it should be down right embarrassing for him.

Maybe Steve just thought I had misspelled his name and jumped on that as another opportunity to engage in rhetorical posturing and paint me as an idiot, but sure enough, it is spelled C-a-n-e-d-a-y, just as I spelled it above.  I think this serves to further illustrate Steve’s apparent lack of focus in reading other people’s material, as well as the lengths he will go to in order to ridicule and mock those who disagree with him.  Maybe Steve should write an apology to Ardel B. Caneday for calling him fictitious, suggesting he is related to the Gingerbread man, and giving him zero credit for coauthoring the only source he can find to support his position.  Steve’s comments here further highlight the reasons why I will be halting any further interactions with him.

“These are specific sins and none of them necessarily constitutes apostasy. If Paul was speaking only of apostasy here, then he sure went about it in a strange way. We would have to conclude that whenever we ‘grumble’ or ‘complain’ or ‘try the Lord’ or ‘crave evil things’, that we have denied the faith to the point of final apostasy.”

Steve: I quoted from the expositions of Fitzmyer and Garland to document what these sins had reference to in their OT historical setting. Ben blows right past the contextual definitions and redefines them to suits his purposes. That isn’t exegesis. That is acting in defiance of exegesis.

It may be acting in defiance of Steve’s sources (or at least how he wrongly interprets those sources, as we already showed above), but that is a far cry from “acting in defiance of exegesis.”  Maybe Steve correlates exegesis with reading commentaries.  That would mean that no one can exegete a passage without reading a commentary (especially those commentaries that Steve thinks are particularly important)!  If I never read a commentary, does that mean I can’t draw intended meaning from a particular text?  I did exegesis based on the context and specific language being used.  Here is the context of the above quote that Steve decided to “blow past”,

The problem for Steve is that Paul is quite obviously doing more than just painting a broad picture of apostasy with several specific allusions, for the sake of warning the Corinthians against the danger of apostasy alone.  This is clear because Paul addresses each specific OT allusion to the Corinthians’ present situation as individual temptations that they might face and must overcome.  For example,

Do not be idolaters, as some of them were…nor…act immorally, as some of them did…nor…try the Lord [e.g. by complaining, cf. Numb. 21:4-7], as some of them did…Nor, grumble, as some of them did…

What is especially interesting is that Fitzmyer says essentially the same thing in his commentary,

No matter which interpretation of “ends” is preferred, Paul’s implication is that such events about our “ancestors” have been recorded in the OT for the instruction of Christians, to admonish them in every age about God’s reaction to human complaints, rebellion, testing, and probing. (388 emphasis mine)

[Notice he doesn’t say “God’s reaction to apostasy”]

“Paul does not give general references to apostasy on a whole and then apply that principle to the Corinthians. Rather, he takes pain to apply each sin directly to their present situation and the various like sins (those common to man) they might be tempted to commit.”

Steve: He cites specific historical precedents to illustrate a common motif.

Wrong, as shown above (unless the motif Steve refers to is a motif of various forms of rebellion and sinning against God).

“It is likely, though, that Paul intends for them to keep in the back of their minds that continually giving in to such temptations can eventually lead to the terrible consequence of drifting from God to the point of final apostasy.”

That’s a conclusion without a supporting argument.

The argument is in the context as I have explained it in my posts.  And if you really want to see a conclusion without a supporting argument, just read Schreiner’s section on 1 Cor.10:13 (as mentioned earlier).

“Notice Paul doesn’t say that this person commits apostasy. Rather, Paul says that in such an act the weak believer’s conscience is ‘defiled’. A defiled conscience is a far cry from a final and deliberate act of apostasy.”

Steve: In this verse, the weaker brother isn’t committing idolatry. (See below.)

Wrong (see below).

“Notice Paul doesn’t say that this person commits apostasy.”

Steve: Notice Paul doesn’t say this person commits idolatry.

A simple quote should be sufficient to refute that claim,

“Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as being sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak [i.e. they cannot help but to view this as an act of honoring a deity other than Yahweh], it is defiled.” (1 Cor. 8:7)

“Rather, Paul says that in such an act the weak believer’s conscience is ‘defiled’. A defiled conscience is a far cry from a final and deliberate act of apostasy.”

Steve: Irrelevant. Paul is dealing with a variety of scenarios. One scenario isn’t interchangeable with another. In chap. 8, he’s not dealing with actual idolatry, but imagined idolatry.

Where is the “supporting argument”?  Where does the text say it is “imagined” idolatry?  If a person views the act as idolatry, then for him it is certainly idolatry.  Does Steve mean that it is not real idolatry because Paul says that an idol is really nothing, since there is only one true God?  That would mean that God condemned Israel (and Judah) and judged them severely by the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions for “imagined” idolatry, since those idols weren’t real gods after all.  The point is that the weaker believer doesn’t yet have this knowledge that the idols represent nothing at all (cf. verse 7, “not everyone has this knowledge”), and therefore defiles his conscience by eating meat sacrificed to these idols.   If Steve is trying to suggest that the weak believer doesn’t realize it is idolatry, then there is no reason for such an act to defile his conscience or “ruin” him in anyway (see below).

“This is very problematic for Steve’s position, but fully supports my own. Paul says that the weak believer, who eats as a result of the stronger believer’s example, is ‘ruined’. The KJV says that the weak brother will ‘perish’, and the NIV says that the weak brother will be ‘destroyed’. All of these sound pretty serious. Perhaps Steve would jump on this as supporting his case that such an act constitutes apostasy. But if this is apostasy being described, then Paul plainly tells us that a true believer ‘for whose sake Christ died’ can be ‘destroyed’ by an act of idolatry spurred on by the actions of a stronger believer. Steve, of course, denies that any believer for whom Christ died can ever be destroyed, and so would think twice in seeing this as an act of final apostasy. But if he does not see it as apostasy, then his position crumbles, for here would be an example of a believer committing idolatry in a similar manner as Paul describes in chapter 10 (even in the same context of food sacrificed to idols), and yet that idolatry not constituting apostasy.”

Steve: Multiple problems with this claim:

i) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this refers to eschatological judgment, the damnatory deed is not idolatry, but acting in violation of one’s conscience.

So if a believer ever violates his conscience he is damned as a result?  There’s Steve’s insecurity again!

Steve: ii) One needn’t to be a Calvinist to reject the eschatological interpretation. For example, in commenting on the parallel passage in Rom 14:15, one scholar says:

“Paul uses the powerful verb apollumi in the present imperative, which implies an ongoing process rather than once and for all ‘being lost before God.’…Horst Baltz is therefore closer to the nuances required by this context in suggesting the translation of lupeo in this verse as ‘injured/deeply troubled,’ which implies an ongoing state…That ‘that’ person is ‘being destroyed ’is clearly a ‘metaphorical’ use of the word, but it does not imply the temptation to apostasy except in a secondary sense…References in the commentaries to ‘eschatological ruin’ or ‘spiritual ruin’ not only overlook the tense of the verb but also provide scant explanation of the effects of conscience violation,” R. Jewett, Romans, 861-62.

The use of the verb tense by Paul does not negate my interpretation.  The idea of progressive ruin or destruction supports my view quite nicely.  Even eschatological ruin can be seen as an ongoing state, or this could be seen as progressive “ruin” that culminates in eschatological ruin.  As they continue to defile their conscience, they are in the process of perishing (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18).  This is basically what I said in my last post,

Another solution would be to see the passage in a similar way as I suggested we see the passages in 1 Cor. 10.  We could see Paul warning first of a resultant sin that does not constitute apostasy, while bringing to the forefront the possibility that such a sin, as a result of the weak believer being emboldened to continue in it, may indeed eventually lead to the final destruction of the believer in question.  As the emboldened “weak” believer re-engages those idolatrous practices that he had once been accustomed to, he will likely be led further and further away from God (his conscience being more and more defiled, hence becoming less and less sensitive to the Spirit’s conviction).  The end result may very well be apostasy.  So Paul warns of the immediate consequences of such sin (a defiled conscience), and looks ahead to the possible future consequences of such sins if continually practiced to the point of falling away (“destruction”).

Since Steve sees Garland as a credible source, it might serve us well to see what he has to say on the matter,

The verb apollytai (apollytai, led to ruin, perish [middle voice]) is placed first in the clause for emphasis. It connotes utter ruin, destruction, and annihilation; but some interpreters reject this extreme meaning and soften it to mean moral ruin from a lapse into paganism (D. Black 1984: 122). They interpret it to mean that the person is led to sin (Grosheide 1953: 197) or is stunted in the Christian life (Bruce 1971: 82). But Paul always uses the verb apollysthai (apollysthai) to refer to eternal, final destruction (Barrett 1968: 196; Conzelmann 1975: 149 n. 38; Fee 1987: 387-88; Schrage 1995: 265; Cheung 1999: 129). If salvation means that God has ‘rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son’ (Col. 1:13), then returning to idolatry and the regime of darkness means eternal ruin. He fears that the individual will rejoin the ranks of the perishing (1 Cor 1:18; 10:9-10; 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; 4:3). [some actual Greek font replaced by transliteration] (389)

A few important things to notice here: First, the significant point of the uniform Pauline usage of apollysthai as a reference to “eternal final destruction”.  That presents a considerable challenge to any interpreter who wants to try to soften the use of the word here.  Generally, the only ones who are willing to soften the word here do so in an effort to uphold their Calvinist doctrine (i.e. the argument for suggesting the word is being used in a way that is contrary to uniform Pauline usage, is based not on context, but on the belief in inevitable perseverance).  Second, Garland clearly sees this as a genuine act of idolatry (rather than an imagined or unintentional act as Steve is trying to argue for), which can culminate in “rejoin[ing] the ranks of the perishing”. 

Steve: iii) Even if we accept the eschatological interpretation, a warning merely states the ultimate consequences of an action; it says nothing about the probability that such a warning will be violated. Indeed, a basic function of a warning is to serve as a disincentive to all such actions.

Unless the probability of violating the warning is zero (i.e. impossible).  In that case there is no reason to give the warning in the first place since the consequences cannot possibly be realized.  For more on this see here.

To suggest that the warnings are a means by which God guarantees the perseverance of the saints (i.e. God makes sure that the “elect” will always heed the warnings), is not a conclusion based on exegesis (since the Bible nowhere makes such a claim), but an assumption that is read into such warnings for the sake of preserving the P in TULIP.

Steve: iv) The Reformed doctrine of the atonement isn’t based on verses which simply state that Christ died for X. Rather, it involves verses which describe penal substitution.

Which, if true, only serves to further illustrate how problematic Reformed doctrine is, since one is then forced to see Christ dying for the non-elect for a purpose other than their salvation (something the Bible nowhere suggests).  Furthermore, this illustrates that Calvinists, unlike Arminians, do not formulate their views on the extent of the atonement based on those passages which speak directly to the scope of atonement (e.g. the universal language of John 3:16-18, 36; 1 Tim. 2:1-6; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9, etc.).

“Truly, he is on the horns of a dilemma here. Either deny that such a case of idolatry necessarily constitutes apostasy (contrary to his prior claims), or affirm that one for whom Christ died can be ‘destroyed’ (contrary to his Calvinistic belief in limited atonement and inevitable perseverance).”

Steve: False dilemma. Idolatry involves idolatrous intent. Not simply eating meat which happens to be dedicated to an idol–by someone else. But eating such meat with the express intention of honoring the deity to whom it was dedicated.

Paul, himself, goes out of his way to accentuate the importance of intent to distinguish true idolatry from incidental appearances.

This is an interesting claim, but without any “supporting argument”.  Nowhere in the passage does Paul say the weak believer’s actions are unintentional.  The only actions that might be classified as unintentional are the actions of the strong believer, whose conscience, as a result, remains clear (with respect to idolatry), rather than being “defiled” as is the case with the weak believer.  The weak believer is defiled because he sees the act as honoring another god, and is emboldened to participate in what he perceives to be the honoring of that false god by the actions of the stronger believer (again, because he does not share the knowledge that the idols are really nothing, but sees them as real and therefore willingly engages in honoring a god other than the true God by eating the meat).  Therefore, any distinction between intentional or unintentional acts of idolatry that might be drawn from the text work against Steve’s claim, rather than support it.  So, despite his best effort, Steve has still not managed to wriggle free from the horns of the dilemma his position has created for him.

I am going to cut it short here since this post is already ridiculously long, and the exegetical material has been dealt with.  All that follows in Steve’s post is re-assertions of claims what have already been refuted, more unnecessary instances of “rhetorical posturing”, and widening of the discussion into areas of perseverance and foreknowledge that go beyond the strict exegesis of the text in question.   My original aim was to address every single comment made by Steve in his post (since he claimed I was guilty of purposeful avoidance in my last post and tried to claim victory as a result).  This post, however, is already around 20 pages long, and if it grows any longer it may discourage anyone from reading it at all.  I would rather leave some issues unaddressed in this post (though all of the issue Steve raises have already been addressed in other posts I have written, or by other Arminians whose material has been linked to in the side bars of my site), than to risk the possibility that some people won’t bother to read it at all based on its sheer volume.

I am confident that any unbiased reader will readily see that further correspondence with Steve is unlikely to bear useful fruit.  After all of these exchanges Steve has still not met the burden of proof he imposed on himself in his initial critique, nor has he even demonstrated that his position is very reasonable at all.  He has also proved that he has difficulty reading and understanding the material of others (Fitzmyer, the commenter in my meta, etc.), and tends to jump to unwarranted conclusions concerning such writings in order to muster some semblance of support for his extremely marginal interpretation of 1 Cor. 10:13.  Apparently, he has even mocked me for “inventing a fictitious scholar” who is actually the coauthor of the single source he can find that agrees with him on 1 Cor. 10:13.   That doesn’t speak well for Steve’s focus, attention to detail, or basic reading skills.  Steve has also engaged in what can only be classified as intentional mockery and ridicule, unbefitting of a man of God who desires to be the teacher of others (e.g. such references to my “odd little mind” and “silly little mind”, etc. [the latter insult is found in the last portion of Steve’s response that I do not address in this post]).

It needs to be mentioned that if Steve’s claims are accepted, then he has essentially robbed us of one of the most precious promises that Scripture offers.  His claims concerning 1 Cor. 10:13 would lead to the conclusion that no Christian can rely on God’s faithfulness in providing a way of escape whenever they are tempted to sin.  Rather, the believer can only rest in the reality that temptation may often overcome us in such a way that we were entirely powerless to resist.  If we fall to any temptation to sin (except of course the particular final sin of apostasy), we can truly say that we couldn’t help ourselves, and sinned of divine necessity based on the irresistible and irrevocable eternal decree of God.  This is a terrible price to pay, in revoking such an important promise of God to believers, for the sake of preserving exhaustive determinism.  But thanks be to God, contrary to Steve’s claims and Calvinistic presuppositions, no temptation we face is irresistible, according to the promise of 1 Cor. 10:13.

If anyone thinks that there is a specific claim that Steve makes in his post that needs to be addressed, feel free to let me know in the combox (I mention this in anticipation that Steve might try to make another empty claim of victory, based on the fact that I didn’t address the last few pages of his response).  I will address it there (when I get the chance), address it in a later post, or refer you to resources that address it from an Arminian perspective (though I will not be engaging in any more back and forth discussions with Steve for the reasons already mentioned).   I want to sincerely thank anyone who has taken the time to follow this exchange and carefully consider our respective arguments.  I am content, at this point, to leave the matter up to the reader  in deciding who has been more honest with the text in interpreting 1 Cor. 10:13.

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3 Responses

  1. Great job Ben! 1 Cor 10:13 simply contradicts exhaustive determinism and implies free will. It has been a pleasure to watch you refute Hays so soundly and convincingly on exegetical grounds. It’s hard to imagine anyone with an open mind not agreeing with you against Hays and his extremely unusual interpretation, at least on the exegesis of the text (Calvinists of course will want to try and avoid the inescapable implications of that exegesis, that believers have genuine free will, which contradicts exhaustive determinism). And you did it with class, managing to avoid getting involved in an insult match with Hays and returning his insults with the same sort of insults and derogatory tone. Of course, you did express unhappiness with his rudeness toward you, and rightly so. He downright embarrassed himself at times. His apparent attempt to ridicule you for mentioning the name of Calvinist scholar A.B. Caneday was really bizarre and perhaps shows how little support he has for his position. In light of such antics, it makes sense to end the discussion and let readers look at the exchange and decide who has been more faithful to the word of God. As I said, I am convinced that anyone with an open mind will easily see that you have proved your case. Thanks for your work. I praise God for you and all you do to advance God’s truth.

  2. Excellent treatment of the concept of defiling one’s conscience by eating what’s offered to idols.

    “I countered by showing that Paul references numerous sins in the surrounding context and that Steve’s narrow view seems obviously forced in light of Paul’s specific use of language in 1 Cor. 10:13.”

    Steve: Ben countered by adding his misinterpretation of OT texts to his misinterpretation of NT texts.

    You weren’t even speaking concerning the Old Testament there, but rather of the New Testament passage’s immediate context. That’s sophistry in its purest form coming from Steve.

    Steve: By definition, a Calvinist doesn’t think that you can lose your salvation. Therefore, no Calvinist would construe 1 Cor 10:13 as a prooftext to disprove the perseverance of the saints.

    You pointed it out already, but I’ll reiterate: Someone arguing that 1 Corinthians 10:13 means that God gives us sufficient grace to escape temptation does not mean they are using it to try and disprove eternal security. Plenty of Calvinists and Arminians who accept ES also accept sufficient grace against temptation. It is illogical to conclude that accepting it as such entails arguing against eternal security. I’ve stated before that Hays has dreadful reasoning skills, and that outmaneuvering him is a trivial task…unfortunate to see that nothing’s changed since I made that assessment.

    “If my ‘evidence box’ and ‘warehouse’ were ‘empty’, then the same must be said of Calvin, Morris, Bruce, Thiselton, Blomberg, Barrett, and others.”

    Steve: Ben is standing in front door of an empty warehouse, shouting into a microphone….

    Is it just me, or does he seem to have terminal difficulties actually addressing what people have actually said instead of throwing out irrelevant analogies?

    Steve: “Caneday”? Apparently the only way that Ben can document his claims is to invent fictitious scholars like “Caneday.” Is Caneday related to the Gingerbread Man? Do they live in a Sugarcane mansion?

    I believe that’s the funniest thing I have ever read all year. Oh, but it gets even better…Hays himself has cited Caneday by name before:

    McKnight and other Arminians also misconstrue the function of Biblical admonitions. As Schreiner and Caneday point out:

    Conditional warnings in themselves do not function to indicate anything about possible failure or fulfillment. Instead, the conditional warnings appeal to our minds to conceive or imagine the invariable consequences that come to all who pursue a course of apostasy from Christ.12

    12 Schreiner, T. & A. Caneday, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance (IVP 2001). – The Admonitions in the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Steve Hays

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/11/admonitions-in-epistle-to-hebrews.html

    Is Hays now trying to ‘invent fictitious scholars’ to support his case?

  3. I just do not understand how someone like Hays just keeps going and going, and going – despite all glaring errors and childish behaviour pointed out.

    One of those mysteries of life.

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