Coast to Coast Christianity

My internet pal, Steve Hays, has been busting my chops as he is championing charismatic claims of the miraculous against the cessationist claims of fraud. Here’s some selected citations,

The problem I have is that, at least in my admittedly limited observation, some members or follows of the MacArthur circle suffer from Richard Dawkins syndrome. Dawkins has such contempt for Christianity that he can’t bring himself to take Christianity seriously even for the sake of argument. Strange Fire Conference

One of the things I’m struck by when I see some members/followers of the MacArthur circle dissing reported modern miracles is how their arguments unwittingly mimic the arguments of infidels like Hume. The Church of Hume

I think part of the problem is that many members/followers of the MacArthur circle don’t seem to have much experience debating atheists. They generally seem to prefer intramural debates involving eschatology, creationism, &c. That renders them oblivious to the way they are aping atheist objections to miracles in general. The Church of Hume

But if they’re that dismissive of reported mediate modern miracles, then do they believe in reported immediate modern miracles? Or is that just a throwaway line?

If they discount reports of mediate modern miracles because that’s “hearsay,” “my nephew’s cousin witnessed it,” what’s their basis for believing in immediate modern miracles? Or is that just a paper theory? Mediate and Intermediate Miracles

I guess what surprises me about Steve’s commentary is that I believe he knows better. Take for example when he states, “I think part of the problem is that many members/followers of the MacArthur circle don’t seem to have much experience debating atheists.”  What sort of debating is he looking for? If he means a formal  Bahnsen/Stein style debate, then yes, I can’t think of any right off hand that involves a “MacArthurite” and any well-known atheist evangelist in a public forum.

If he means, on the other hand, interactions with atheists in general in which they challenge our Christian faith and we challenge their atheist faith, then that is one of the most gratuitously ignorant statements I’ve ever read from Steve. He genuinely believes us MacArthurites are that out-of-touch?

I’m fairly confident James White is a cessationist in the same fashion as we MacArthurites, and I don’t recall his cessationist understanding of spiritual gifts being a factor when he has debated atheists in the past. I don’t recall David Hume being a factor, either.  I bet K. Scott Oliphint is a cessationist, also; and he just wrote the newest, popular treatment about Van Til’s apologetic theology. Would Steve say he is arguing like an atheist? Heck, I’d bet Van Til was a cessationist. What am I supposed think about his apologetics in light of Steve’s claim of atheism?

Steve chides our skepticism, insisting that we argue exactly like all the internet atheists trying to debunk the claims of Scripture. He goes on to challenge our skepticism by saying we haven’t read such-and-such book, author, or testimonials and thus it is concluded our opinion is misinformed, or lacking any real knowledge to be a well-rounded, meaningful criticism of charismatic claims of healing and the supernatural.

But do I really need to read Craig Keener’s two volumes on miracles and every charismatic commentary on 1 Corinthians 12-14 in order to offer a biblically informed critique of what is passed off as speaking in tongues and healing the sick in charismatic/Pentecostal circles? Why?

That argument can cut many ways. I can offer the same response to those who may deny the existence of a vast underground network of high velocity bullet trains that travel at 10,000 mph and can transfer top secret military personnel from LA to DC in 30 minutes.  Or those who claim the earth is hollow or extraterrestrials are abducting human women in order to harvest their ovaries to produce human-alien hybrids.

I mean, has Steve read all of Whitley Strieber’s books? Has he examined ALL of Richard Hoagland’s photographic evidence from the Apollo missions that show mechanical alien debris strewn across the surface of the moon? Has he watched ALL of the Ghost Hunters TV series? If you haven’t, why should anyone be so dogmatic that those individuals are kooks? Does Steve not realize how he is aping the arguments that are straight from the pages of the Skeptical Inquirer?

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26 thoughts on “Coast to Coast Christianity

  1. I’m just surprised you continue to engage him so seriously. He’s “arguing” like a four-year-old. I don’t see the percentage in engaging him as if he’s not. I mean I admire you, but I just don’t see it ending well. A few proverbs come to mind.

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  3. I’m pretty embarrassed for Steve. Five will get you ten that his response to what you’ve said here (if he offers any) will be something along these lines:

    A. A quick, snippy retort to a minute (and probably nonessential) portion of your argument.
    B. An insult that you’re “part of the MacArthur circle” and therefore haven’t done any really ORIGINAL thinking on the subject at all.
    C. Whinging that you’ve misrepresented his argument (because he NEVER does that!) because you’re fundamentally irrational.
    D. A rebuke on the grounds that you haven’t read all the books that Steve has.

    I’m with Dan on this one–it’s difficult to see any real profit to trying to speak like an adult to someone who’s so obviously impressed with himself as Steve is.

  4. “I guess what surprises me about Steve’s commentary is that I believe he knows better. Take for example when he states, “I think part of the problem is that many members/followers of the MacArthur circle don’t seem to have much experience debating atheists.”

    I’m guessing Steve would modify or retract this statement.

  5. Fred, I don’t know if you read this before from Steve Hays, but he did write this:

    “I should hasten to add that Fred Butler generally argues for his positions.”

    Which I interpret as being a complimentary and positive statement.

    From: Debunking Continuationism.

  6. I don’t take any of his articles against my cessationism personally. I’ve been at the receiving end of his fire hose sprayings on other subjects, and I always took those as intramural rather than some vendetta against me. I think the same with these articles as well.

  7. Fred, that’s a Godly and mature approach.

    Phil Johnson took some criticism personally where I think he should have actually taken your approach instead. It was when Tim and/or David Bayly took him to task for recommending against John MacArthur’s better judgment to use the TNIV or NIV2011 in the MacArthur Study Bible. I think Tim took a great of effort to inform Phil that it wasn’t personal, but instead doctrinal, but Phil ended up removing the Bayly blog from the Pyro blogroll.

  8. Dan,

    Your comment is shameful. Where’s the evidence that Steve is acting like a child? He is obviously well-read on this subject and takes time argue (not “argue”) for his positions. Is it just that anyone who disagrees must be a child because cessationism is so obvious?

    Do you have anything to offer on this subject other than empty ridicule? I expect that kind of behavior from the comments section on The Huffington Post, not adult Christians, especially those who purport to know something about wisdom.

  9. TU writes,
    Phil Johnson took some criticism personally where I think he should have actually taken your approach instead. It was when Tim and/or David Bayly took him to task for recommending against John MacArthur’s better judgment to use the TNIV or NIV2011 in the MacArthur Study Bible. I think Tim took a great of effort to inform Phil that it wasn’t personal, but instead doctrinal, but Phil ended up removing the Bayly blog from the Pyro blogroll.

    I totally disagree. I was offended by them as well. Simple reason is that they were implying some form of filthy lucre on our part, particularly John, claiming that the only reason he was allowing his study notes to be published in the NIV was for money. Even after the background to the MSB in the NIV was explained to them and that finances were never John’s motive, they wouldn’t retract their statements.

    If Steve was imputing some sinful motive to us as to our views of the gifts, then I would not be as dismissive of his comments. At this point, I merely take his posts as sparring back and forth.

  10. Matt,

    It’s interesting that you think DAN’S comment here is shameful, when Steve Hays actually fired the first salvo by calling Dan, Frank, and the so-called “MacArthur circle” a bunch of hypocrites.

    So tell us: have you encouraged Steve Hays to be ashamed of his own behavior, or is your ire reserved exclusively for people you don’t agree with?

  11. I’m not sure what Steve should be ashamed of? Could you clarify? As far as I can tell, he’s made arguments for his position. Where are Dan’s counter arguments?

  12. John,

    Let’s recap:

    Steve BEGINS his discussion by calling Dan and others hypocrites; he calls Ed Dingess “irrational”; he equates the people who disagree with his position with charlatans like Benny Hinn and his ilk; he boasts about how superior he is because he’s debated more atheists and read better books; he asserts that those who sympathize with Dan’s view can’t think for themselves; etc., etc., ad infinitum ad nauseam.

    Then Matt comes here and complains that Dan’s comment here lacks charity, calling his conduct “shameful.”

    Right now, Alanis Morrissette is laughing about how much you don’t understand the concept of irony.

  13. All that, and Steve’s embarrassing pose is that saying continuationism by definition calls for 1900 years of Acts 4:16-level events is just like atheist debunkers. Corrected, he digs his heels in and shouts louder and longer.

    You know, like a four-year-old would do.

  14. I don’t listen to Alanis Morrissette, so that comment is lost on me.

    As far as the rest of your comments, you seem to be missing Steve’s point. He is making a parallel between what Dan does and others whom he (Dan) would find reprehensible. Dan (and others) asks for evidence, but don’t bother to take seriously the evidence provided. Dan (and others) ask for biblical proof, while aiming at the easiest targets on the opposing side of the issue (Hinn, et al).

    Here’s a suggestion, why don’t Fred, Dan, and others refute the best proponents of the opposing position? Like Grudem and Fee (among others), for instance, and stop gunning for the Hinns of the world?

    Seems reasonable to me.

  15. Dan,

    I didn’t pick that up from Steve.

    And where exactly has he been corrected with Scripture?

  16. John,

    Kindly explain how Steve’s intentions justify any of the name-calling, the insults, or the arrogance I mentioned. Then kindly explain why Steve’s cohorts feel justified in calling DAN’S comments shameful, while being willfully blind to what Steve has done.

    But in any case, you and Steve BOTH are off-base in asserting that Dan’s confined his discussions in this regard to the Benny Hinns of the world. You might start here, for example, for a three part series interacting specifically with Vern Poythress, for example.

    So now that you’ve been provided with evidence that directly contradicts Steve’s claim that Dan makes his bread-and-butter on this issue strictly by hacking away at the charlatans, will you confront him on his own blog and demand that he repent of his gross misconduct throughout the entire discourse?

    Seems reasonable to me.

  17. First, I humbly suggest that you dispel the idea that my ire is reserved only for people I don’t agree with. For example, I positively reviewed and recommended Dan Phillips’ book on the Gospel:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/08/book-review-world-tilting-gospel.html

    Honestly, I think you are judging too quickly.

    That said:

    Calling someone a hypocrite and producing supporting argumentation for the charge is significantly different from just claiming that someone is acting like a child. You can disagree with that charge (I myself am not sure it is warranted, but I haven’t followed that particular issue enough to adjudicate the question), but at least you can debate the merits of the charge.

    If someone is acting like a child, then produce evidence. Argue for it. It’s a serious charge to publicly level at an adult Christian, especially one as respected as Steve–whatever his faults, the man is very well read and argues for his positions (which, I assume, is the reason Pyromaniacs has Triablogue on the blogroll), and I know he is respected in the seminary community by godly and learned men. So I’m not against the charge itself, which you seem to be implying–people can be childish, after all–but the complete lack of serious engagement with Steve by Dan and the throwing out of insults that seem to have no other purpose but to demean and ridicule, rather than to provoke someone into a thoughtful response.

    So how is it mature, godly or wise (passages like Proverbs 15:1 comes to mind) to simply claim, without evidence, that Steve isn’t making arguments (even though he is, fallacious or not), but is just acting like a child, shouting, etc.? Even if I were a hypocrite, and thus completely blind to Steve’s behavior, that doesn’t make what Dan is doing right. That’s a popular way to dismiss a charge, but I expect that from secular liberals, where the only true sin is hypocrisy, not mature Christians who do try to diminish or excuse behaviors based on whether the person issuing a charge can be found guilty of inconsistency.

  18. he boasts about how superior he is

    Where do you get this from? What comments in particular? The usual complaint is that Steve is abrasive, not arrogant.

    As for Ed Dingess, it’s fairly obvious he does not some core components of basic logic (at least insofar as what I’ve learned of logic from university courses and personal reading–such as Copi and Cohen), or if he does, does not feel compelled to use it in conversation. He has a long history of being irrational over at Triablogue.

  19. Could you give a specific example of name-calling? I must have missed it.

    I think other Tbloggers feel justified in calling Dan’s comments “shameful” because he doesn’t engage the arguments, just says Steve is acting like a four year old. If that is incorrect, please direct me to Dan’s counter arguments.

    The post you link to doesn’t engage with Poythress, it simply summarized his arguments in an article Poythress published in an ETS journal. If that is incorrect, could you point out where Dan made a scriptural counter argument?

    Thanks

  20. 1. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see where the claim of “name-calling,” “insults” and “arrogance” has been demonstrated. Since that’s a contentious premise that we obviously deny, I cannot see how your conclusion should be reasonable to us. Neither has the (rather arrogant, actually) claim that I’m being “willfully” blind to what Steve is doing. (How is it you have the gift to discern my heart’s intentions through a handful of blog comments?)

    If you want to argue for either of these, rather than assert that they are as clear as day, sure, I’m all ears (although I admit that the second of your propositions has a rather tall requirement and, as of now, seems rather unlikely to be met). I haven’t always agreed with how Triablogue has conducted itself on the “insult” front, so it’s not as if I am immune to such a charge.

    2. I welcome your correction if wrong, as sometimes I have trouble following the exact logic of his writings, but doesn’t Poythress write from the cessationist perspective? For example, the article at Pyro is responding to Poythress’ attempt to discuss gifts within the theological framework of cessationism. That’s not the same as engaging a scholar who is in favor, to one degree or another, of charismata.

    So I don’t see where the serious arguments have been made with top scholars–someone like, say, Craig Keener.

  21. A few comments:

    1. People may not agree with Steve, but he’s certainly offered reasoned argumentation for his position.

    2. There’s nothing wrong with calling someone hypocritical if there’s supporting evidence they are indeed hypocritical.

    3. Generally speaking, Steve makes arguments and cites evidence for his positions. I think he’s done so in his latest posts regarding the charismata as well.

    4. As I’ve said elsewhere, I respect Dan, but I’m afraid I just don’t see how Dan is being reasonable in this case. He didn’t originally offer any reason or rationale for why he thinks Steve is behaving like a four year old. He just said it.

    It’s one thing to make an allegation, but it’s quite another to actually argue and have evidence for it. If Dan had said Steve was behaving like a four year old child and also offered an argument for why he thought so, that’d have been more sensible. But unfortunately that’s not what Dan did.

    Also, sorry, but saying, “Steve’s embarrassing pose is that saying continuationism by definition calls for 1900 years of Acts 4:16-level events is just like atheist debunkers. Corrected, he digs his heels in and shouts louder and longer. You know, like a four-year-old would do” is again hardly a fair representation. Indeed, it’s another hasty caricature. This isn’t arguing in good faith.

    Again, I reiterate that I respect Dan and indeed appreciate much of Dan’s work. But in this particular instance my reading is he’s behaving thoughtlessly and irrationally. (I suspect he’s allowing his former charismatic background to unduly color his reasoning. It’s as if all he sees is red. But in my view Steve’s position is not equivalent to what Dan has argued against in the past.)

    5. If someone wishes to criticize Steve’s position, then it’d be best to engage Steve’s arguments posted on Triablogue. That’s the real issue, isn’t it? As I see it, all this name calling and so forth here is huffing and puffing, blowing down houses of strawmen. But it won’t do for houses made of solid brick.

  22. Pingback: Hunting Benny Hinn | hipandthigh

  23. I have noted that no actual quotes of “name-calling” or actual counter arguments have been quoted from Dan. Therefore, in spite of the above display of indignation from the defenders of Dan, I can’t take your claims seriously.

  24. Pingback: Articles on Cessationism and Contiuationism | hipandthigh

  25. Pingback: Articles on Cessationism, Continuationism, and Spiritual Gifts | hipandthigh

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