Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Abortion: Talking Past Each Other
The abortion debate has been heating up here in Chicago with the building of a new Planned Parenthood clinic in Aurora, a suburb not to far from us. It depresses me whenever these clashes get started, as the tactics and rhetoric of both sides sense to turn me off. I don't want to be identified with either extreme.

One thing I’ve notice about the abortion debate (being able to see both sides to some degree) is that both sides seem to be talking past each other. Both sides seem to be unfairly projecting opposition to their own key issues onto the other side.

So the pro-choice side, whose key concern is women’s rights, accuse the other side of being motivated primarily out of a desire to control and restrict women. And the pro-life side, whose key concern is the life of the child, accuses the other side of being all about abortion-on-demand and devaluing human life in favor of personal convenience. And it seems that anything either side says get interpreted by the other through the lens of these assumptions.

Of course neither side really matches up to the caricatures painted by their opponents. Pro-life people really are primarily motivated by a deep passion for the life of the child and not usually by an anti-feminism agenda. And pro-choice people really are motivated by a similar passion for the rights of women, not because they want to kill babies. And both to me seem like noble motivations, which is why I so often find myself in the middle on these debates and not wanting to identify myself with the poisonous rhetoric of either side.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 11:10 AM | Permalink |


29 Comments:


At 9/19/2007 06:55:00 AM, Blogger jazzycat

Hmmmmm! Seems to me, if you are concerned about "justice", you would stand solidly for the lives of unborn children, rather than feeling so strongly both ways.

All of your social justice activism is meaningless if you can't support the concept that killing human life for ones convenience and "choice" is not a good thing. The partial birth abortion procedure in particular goes past being murder and is in fact cruel murder.

If you can't be so repulsed and against the partial birth procedure (that all of your democratic presidential candidates support) and against politicians that support it, then how do you expect anyone to take your religion seriously.

Can you at least come out solidly against partial birth abortion? Certainly a mother’s life threatening physical health comes first, but to yank a baby out of the womb and kill it because of the so-called “mental health” of a woman is absurd and amounts to no restriction whatsoever.

To make the absurd allegation that tax cuts causes bridges to collapse and support candidates that support partial birth abortion shows that your religion must conform to your liberal social activism.

 

At 9/19/2007 08:18:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

Nice straw man Jazzy. I'm sure Mike can point you to other parts in his blog where he's clearer about his stands on abortion. The main problem I have with your argument is that animal rights activists use almost the exact same rhetoric, but you still eat meat, don't you?

Animal rights activists argue "industrial farms murder animals cruelly; therefore, if you eat meat, you support industrial farms and are therefore a murderer yourself". In much the same way, arguing "Partial Birth Abortions are bad; therefore, if you don't condemn all abortions and condemn all pro-choicers to hell, you're condoning Partial Birth Abortions and therefore an amoral communist liberal" (forgive the satire) may seem noble, but it's a clear case of faulty reasoning. You don't have to be staunch Pro-Life or Republican to be repulsed by late-term abortions. You don't have to support late-term abortions to be a Democrat.

The fact is, preventing unnecessary deaths and protecting human rights are both noble ends. The abortion debate is a polarizing issue and some of us want to see both sides enter into some common ground and put an end to this culture war.

 

At 9/19/2007 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Actually Jazzy, I never did say where I ultimately stand on the abortion issue, not in this post or in any other, and I don't intend to explain my views to you in a comment either. Maybe I'll do a full post on it sometime, maybe I won't. But the fact is that your assumptions about what you think I do or do not support are entirely baseless, and thus the rest of your accusations based on these assumptions are misguided as well.

As for politics, I am not a single-issue voter, so it could very well be that I don't support Democratic positions on abortion, but still find them the lesser of two evils when it comes to all the pro-death policies of the Republican party. After all, I don't really see how you can call yourself a pro-life party when you support things like the death penalty and preemptive war. (I might similarly ask how can you expect anyone to take your religion seriously if you support these things?)

But I'm not a Democrat and have never claimed to be, so I have no obligation to defend all of their party platforms anyway. I like some of what they say, and dislike much of it too. A few of the current candidates I support because I judge them to be the lesser of many evils, but that still doesn't mean I wholeheartedly support anyone. There's no such thing as the perfect candidate.

 

At 9/19/2007 05:36:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
Animal rights compared with human life, condemn people to hell.
Please, get a grip.

Mike,
You said....."but still find them the lesser of two evils when it comes to all the pro-death policies of the Republican party."

While I am a conservative and not a Republican, but I would sure like to have an example or two here. Although I am personally neutral on the death penalty, God clearly sanctions the death penalty.

 

At 9/19/2007 06:04:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Well, I thought I already gave you an example or two, namely the death penalty and preemptive war. There are many other Republican policies I could list as well that likewise contribute to an overall culture of death, but as many of these have to do trade and economic policies they're a little too involved to get into here in the comments.

 

At 9/19/2007 06:25:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Jazzy,

Please do not insult me. I was comparing similarities in rhetoric, not human life to animal rights. Your knee-jerk reaction does nothing to produce worthwhile dialog.

 

At 9/19/2007 10:02:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
Would you please re-read your first comment and and see if perhaps it could have been insulting to me? Do you really believe that the contempt and intolerance that liberals hold for conservatives goes unnoticed?
I am a bit curious, what is the middle position on taking a partially born baby and killing it with a pair of siccors through the brain?

Mike,
I think both of the examples you give apply to Democrats as well as Republicans. I assume you are referring to the Iraq war in which democrats voted to give Bush the authority to proceed. Also, many top democrats (Gore) stated prior to Bush ever taking office that Iraq had WMD's so the ole Bush lied charge they make is the actual lie. That leaves you not citing a single thing that approaches a pro-death policy that has the brutality and cruelty of partial birth abortion.

Brother, I wish you the best and I wish you could state that you oppose partial birth abortion being legal. Until you do, any talk about trade and economic policies being a culture of death is laughable.

 

At 9/19/2007 11:41:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Sure, I'll certainly state that I unequivocally oppose partial birth abortions.

And I'll also remind you that I've repeatedly stated that I don't wholeheartedly support the Democrats either. They're just as culpable in most of this stuff as the Republicans. Both parties generally suck IMHO. But that doesn't excuse the Republicans, and especially President Bush for the untold death and suffering he has inflicted on the world these past 7 years all in the name of "freedom" and "security" and all while claiming to be "pro-life".

 

At 9/20/2007 07:36:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

Well Jazzy, as I did not imply that you needed to "get a grip", I don't think it was directly insulting. However, the hyperbolic portrayal of your rhetoric may have been undeserved.

I wasn't saying let's find a middle ground between partial birth abortions and no abortions. I'm saying let's find some common ground for discussion so that at a minimum each side can get their ideas across to one another more clearly. Because Mike's right; right now nobody's getting through to the people on the other side.

The point I have been trying to make can be found in what I stated above: You don't have to be staunch Pro-Life or Republican to be repulsed by late-term abortions. You don't have to support late-term abortions to be a Democrat. Not all abortions are partial birth abortions, and you keep arguing as though they are.

President Clinton vetoed a congressional ban on partial birth abortions because it failed to include an exception for where the health of the mother was threatened. What is your feeling on the current administration's refusal to ban the torture of war prisoners? Does that mean that Republicans condone torture? Both are pretty repugnant to me.

 

At 9/20/2007 09:50:00 AM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
You said....."What is your feeling on the current administration's refusal to ban the torture of war prisoners? Does that mean that Republicans condone torture? Both are pretty repugnant to me."

Great question and I just posted this question on my "Jazzycat" site for discussion. Please stop by and give your view on the question as I framed it.

 

At 9/20/2007 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Jazzy,

On your blog you call me "a liberal" and then go on to say that my kind "are more upset over the U.S. military dropping a Koran in a toilet than they are jihadists beheading people and placing it on the internet".

I am not a liberal, and I am not a conservative, though I am left of center on some issues. I agree, disrespect of a religious group is a serious problem; however, I absolutely find publicized beheadings far more disturbing than irreverance towards any book, holy or otherwise. I have a soul, after all.

But that may just be me. And you may have no problem dropping a Quran into a toilet. It's a free country.

I have not stated my position on abortion; you have assumed it, and that may be why you consider me "a liberal". You really shouldn't be so quick to throw around labels when I haven't taken the time to present myself fully.

But know that even in my conservative Christian upbringing I considered performing abortions in extreme cases where the life of the mother is at stake acceptable. After all, how can you possibly tell a pregnant woman that she has no right to live because killing her baby is wrong? How can anyone possibly dictate the right choice in that situation? How is deciding ahead of time who gets to die in that situation pro-life?

 

At 9/20/2007 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Jazzy, let me put it this way. Given the choice, would I drop a Quran into a toilet to save a Christian's life? Absolutely. Now, would I drop a Bible into a toilet to save a Muslim's life? Ditto on that.

Here's the thing Jazzy. I don't hold any one religion to be the One True Faith, and I don't believe Americans or Christians or Europeans or Muslims or any other group is "special" amongst human beings.

I don't believe that human life should be expendable, and I don't believe that sacrificing American OR Arab lives is the path to peace.

I believe that some people's religion is very important to them and people of every religion should be at a minimum understanding of people of other religions, especially Christians who have the mandate from Jesus: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

If that translates to, I would rather let an American be beheaded on the Internet than drop a Quran in the toilet, then I've somehow misrepresented myself.

But, would you really rather let an Arab be beheaded than drop a Bible into the toilet?

 

At 9/20/2007 05:00:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
My comment at my site: Although I am aware that liberals are more upset over the U.S. military dropping a Koran in a toilet than they are jihadists beheading people and placing it on the internet, I think it would be interesting to open this question up to discussion and wrap it around the following hypothetical scenario:

Derek, I have drawn this conclusion from observation. I have seen liberal bloggers upset over the treatment of jihadist prisoners at least 10 to 1 over the beheadings. The same goes for the tv shows that I've seen with one Hollywood star after another finding fault with America. 10-1 is really being charitable.

I did call you a liberal but the toilet remark as you can see above was generic and did not necessarily include you. I don't mind being called a conservative and I did not think calling you a liberal would be offensive. I should have learned by now that the majority of liberals do not like being called liberal. Hey, if you don't consider yourself a liberal, then so be it.

You said...."I don't hold any one religion to be the One True Faith,"

I would certainly like to proclaim to you that Christianity is the only true faith. Jesus certainly said the same thing.

 

At 9/20/2007 05:34:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Jazzy, what version of Christianity is the One True Faith? Are versions other than the "true" version Almost True Faiths? Close Enough Faiths? How wrong do you have to be before your faith is incompatible with the One True Faith?

Christ did say that no one comes to the Father except through him. He didn't clarify what "through him" meant. He also didn't say "Christianity is the One True Faith", especially since the term "Christian" wasn't invented until Acts 11, and Christ ascended in Acts 1.

It's not so much that liberals are offended by the term "liberal". It's more that you assumed I am in all ways liberal based on my rejection of conservative rhetoric. I am far more centrist than liberal, and you shouldn't assume I'm liberal just because I'm not conservative.

 

At 9/20/2007 07:53:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
From the following statement you made a couple of comments back: Here's the thing Jazzy. I don't hold any one religion to be the One True Faith,
I surmised that you were talking about Islam, Hinduism, etc. Now you seem to be questioning me about theological systems or doctrinal/denomination differences. Let me try to answer both of them briefly.
(1) Lets compare Christianity and Islam. From a logical perspective they are contradictory in major ways especially concerning eternal life. It is logically possible that they are both wrong. Islam could be true or Christianity could be true. However, they both cannot be true. It is sheer nonsense to think they both can be true especially in the crucial area of salvation.
Ask yourself the following question:
Would the creator of the universe come to planet earth and die on the cross for the sins of the redeemed if there were a bunch of other ways to obtain salvation other than faith in his atonement? Are we to throw all logic and reason out the window and believe that the painful death on the cross was just one of many ways to salvation? Would you give all of your blood to your son or brother and die, if they could get the blood from the blood bank and accomplish the same thing?

(2) God’s plan of redemption is clear in the Bible. Denominations or theological systems have no power to save. Please read Romans and/or Hebrews and this plan should be clear.

You say that I am misreading you and perhaps I am, but I get the feeling you are also doing the same thing and imputing Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell belief systems into my thinking and world view. I do not care for Pat Roberson at all and my opinion of Falwell was only slightly better.

I hope this clarifies my position somewhat, and also hope Mike is not too mad that we have carried this forward on his blog.

Thanks

 

At 9/20/2007 11:31:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

No, please feel free to continue your discussion. I've often been disappointed that more people don't feel free to use my blog as a forum for conversation.

 

At 9/22/2007 09:28:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

Hey Jazzy.

Sorry for the small lapse. I've been kind of busy lately and I wanted to write a focused response.

Islam could be true or Christianity could be true. However, they both cannot be true.

Ah, the old appeal to first-order logic. In symbolic logic that would be thus: if A = !B then A + B but !(AB). Here's the deal though. That's fine when A and B are one-off propositions, not whole belief structures. I can agree with your statement if you modify it like this:

Islam could be fully true or Christianity could be fully true. However, they both cannot be fully true.

However, the only thing that argument really says is that two logically contradictory belief structures cannot both be fully accurate. As they are both belief structures, the propositions that compose them could individually be true or false, and as such the appeal to first-order logic is a false dilemma.

As a simplification, if I say, "I ate a banana for breakfast today and wore a green shirt to work", and my brother says, "Derek ate an apple for breakfast today and wore a blue shirt to work", and my sister says "Derek ate a banana for breakfast today and wore a red shirt to work", only one of those statements can be fully true, if any (I may have eaten toast for breakfast and worn a brown shirt), but in the absence of verifiable data, any of them may be partly true. Similarly, if Christianity is fully true, Islam cannot also be fully true but it may still be partly true, or both may be partly true, or some other combination.

I'm no stranger to apologetics, so I know this faulty appeal to first-order logic is usually a setup for the next step, which is an appeal to emotion to prove that Christianity is the "right one": Would the creator of the universe come to planet earth and die on the cross for the sins of the redeemed if there were a bunch of other ways to obtain salvation other than faith in his atonement? All I can say there is that it's not directly provable that that actually happened and as such it's a leap of faith, and only valid for logical argument if your audience accepts the premise.

God’s plan of redemption is clear in the Bible. I would disagree with you. Christ says some very clear things about who doesn't "get saved", and it doesn't have a whole lot to do with believing the right things and "accepting" atonement. Indeed, you don't even quote Christ but Paul's epistles to the Romans and Hebrews.

Let me ask you, why is it that Christians appeal to Paul for the "unambiguous plan for salvation" and Christ is so often relegated to a footnote? From what I read in the Bible, Paul and Christ seem to actually conflict on how to "get saved", and I wonder why Paul always wins out over than the bodily incarnation of God Himself.

 

At 9/23/2007 01:13:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
I am glad I checked here again and found your reply.

My comparison of Islam and Christianity was mainly concerning a spiritual difference and not that I believe every single historical fact in the Koran is false. I believe the Koran mentions Jesus and Abraham who are historical figures. However, when it comes to the person and work of Christ, the nature and attributes of God, the plan of salvation, etc. there is no way both of these religions can be true in the essentials of salvation and who God is.

Jesus spoke in parables and in language that was somewhat veiled. What if he had gone around shouting from the rooftops that he was fully God as well as fully man? Do you think his ministry would have gotten off the launching pad? However, he did make the plan of salvation very clear in many places including the book of John. You do not need to go any further than John to get the plan of salvation directly from Jesus. There is no contradiction with Paul on this plan and I would be glad to reconcile any apparent contradiction that you may think exists. Romans and Hebrews are a part of the Christian Bible and are every bit as much God’s word as is the direct quotes of Jesus found in the gospels. They go into much more detail than Jesus and that is why I recommended them to you.

Give me your best shot on how Paul and Jesus differ in how to get saved and let me have a crack at reconciling it for you. Paul’s passage and gospel quote of Christ. Book, chapter, verse(s) for both please.

 

At 9/23/2007 06:18:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Jazzy -- citing a single verse (John 3:16) and claiming it is indicative of an overarching scriptural theme is called proof-texting, and it is a poor means of exegesis. For one, John uses far more metaphorical language than the synoptics and he tends to use the term "Eternal Life" when the synoptics prefer "Kingdom of Heaven". They both seem to be referring to the same thing.

I am totally aware of how evangelical apologists try and reconcile the ostensibly contradictory passages about "getting into heaven when you die" and I see you've intentionally shifted the burden of proof upon me. However, because you have expressed concern that I am not giving you enough credit, I will accept your challenge honestly. Why don't I take them one at a time. Mike... feel free to intervene if you feel we've gone too far off topic or this discussion should take place elsewhere.

So here's my first shot.

Paul: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Rom. 10:9)

Christ: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Mat. 7:21)

Now the obvious resolution is that "the will of my Father" is that you believe the right things and pray a canned prayer. Does that cheapen Jesus' message at all to you?

 

At 9/23/2007 06:25:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

Well, and also "the will of my Father" could refer to the Christian concept that in order to get into heaven you have to be perfect, and nobody's perfect so that's why we need Jesus. My question in that case would be why Christ is being so misleading; why he doesn't use that as a hook to reiterate John 3:16, for example.

 

At 9/23/2007 10:20:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
As to John I was not just referring to John 3:16. You are the one who selected that one verse and then charged me with poor exegesis and proof-texting. I was referring to the entire book of John which gives the same message that Paul gives in Romans. John 1:1-13, chapter 6, etc. all give a message that is consistent with Paul.

You selected the following two verses that supposedly show a difference and then gave what you thought my answer would be. I am going straight to the texts rather than your explanation of what you though my view would be. The two verses you gave are as follows:

Paul: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Rom. 10:9)

Christ: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Mat. 7:21)

As Paul has worked his way through Romans he has presented the need for a savior in Rom. 1:18 through 3:20. In Romans 3:21 he begins the good news of justification by faith alone. He explains these concepts thoroughly in chapters 4-7. In Chapter 8 he explains the work of the Holy Spirit and begins an explanation of sovereign election. He then begins in Romans 9 to discuss ethnic Israel and develops sovereign election further. (Jesus talks about election in John 6). This is the context as we get to your selected verse of Romans 10:9. In chapter 10 Paul is still talking about the Jews and Israel and how they missed the point by seeking to establish their own righteousness rather than submitting to the righteousness that comes from God. Romans 10:2-4 states this fairly clearly. Earlier in Romans (3:20) he has made it clear that no one can be justified by their works and deeds. In verse 9 he is stating yet again that eternal life is by belief (faith) in the atonement (resurrection).

I suspected you would go to Matt. 7:21 so I am not surprised. First, notice in the very next verse (22) the people, who Jesus rejects, cite their self inspired good works as the basis for their entering into the kingdom. They were making the same error that Paul describes in Rom. 3:20 and that is they were trying to establish their own righteousness through good works. Jesus covers the same principle in Luke 18:18-27 where the rich young ruler asks Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life. Notice he asked what must (I) do. The focus was on himself and Jesus gave him the answer for those who want to establish their own righteousness. After the ruler left sad, the Apostles asked Jesus, “then who can be saved?” Jesus replied in Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” A few verses earlier in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and gives the same principle of a Pharisee claiming to have righteousness and a tax collector asking for mercy. The message of Jesus about eternal life is consistent throughout John and that is belief (faith) in him is the way of salvation. In John 3:3 and John 1:13 he introduces the concept of regeneration which changes a person’s heart and empowers him to have a lively active faith. In chapter 10 of John he introduces the atonement in v. 11. Matthew 7:21 is not affirming a works righteousness, but is stating that there will be false Christians who claim to be followers. These false Christians are counting on their self inspired deeds as the basis for their entrance into the kingdom rather than their faith in Jesus (the rock of v.24) and their hearing his words and doing them. Rather than trust and obey, they were counting on doing their man-centered works in his name.

To claim Matthew 7:21 teaches something other than justification by faith would not only contradict Paul but it would also contradict the teaching of Jesus throughout the book of John.

 

At 9/25/2007 08:58:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

Jazzy,

Is the message of salvation consistent throughout John or throughout all the gospels?

First of all, I figured you'd catch me on the proof-text accusation. Remember that it was you who asked me to cite chapter and verse. Second, illustrating a contradiction is not the same as proof-texting. Proof-texting, a form of confimation bias, seeks confirmation of what you already believe and is not sound reasoning. No number of positive examples is enough to prove the truth of something. By contrast, showing just a single counterexample is enough to prove it false.

As an example, I could say "All numbers are even" by showing you 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc. You could easily disprove that by showing me "1" and I'd have to revise my statement, or I could ignore your example and continue showing you more numbers, 14, 16, 18, one billion and fourteen...

Refuting a single counterexample does not prove a claim.

Again I'm going to ask, why just John? If you really mean John and the synoptics, say the gospels. If it's just John, then let me remind you that not only is John considered the latest of the gospels by some scholars (whom I don't expect you to accept), but he also writes in very different language from the synoptics and since we have three of those, maybe John should be interpreted in light of them.

In the case of the rich young ruler, Jesus gave a specific answer -- sell all you have and follow Me. The rich young ruler walked away because he didn't want to sell all he had. Did Jesus give an intentionally false answer because he knew the ruler wouldn't do it? Or if the rich young ruler did sell all he had and follow Jesus would he have been saved? What if the rich young ruler decided to follow Jesus without selling all he had but keeping some for himself? Would he have forfeited his salvation?

Jazzy, I've read the whole book of Romans and I know that it's basically an expose on the essence of Faith for Salvation. Number one, I'm not convinced that the Bible equates "salvation" with "getting one's ass into heaven after they die". I'm just not clear why an all-powerful God would create beings that he knew would choose imperfection and condemn them to eternal torture for being imperfect, but since he loves them so much, sacrifice Himself to Himself to satisfy a loophole He created to allow only people who choose to believe without hard evidence to escape that punishment. You can cite foolishness of God being wiser than the wisdom of man all you want; it's just a cop-out to say God's smarter than you so you shouldn't question it.

I disagree about the context of Mt. 7. From what I see, the context is about "producing fruit", which some might say means doing good works. In church terms it might say there will be people professing to be Christians without the good works to back it up. This seems to go hand in hand with Christ's quite universal condemnations of people who pretended to be righteous by following superficial rules to the letter but then turning around and oppressing the weak.

And I would definitely make a distinction between true "good works" and profession of righteousness by adherence to a moral code, and I'm pretty sure Christ is making that distinction in Mt. 7.

So it really seems Christ is backing up James here rather than Paul. Paul seems to be saying "No works, just faith". Like James, Christ seems to be saying, "Faith, yes, but works too."

As for John, if you take John 15 as a whole it has some rather harsh warnings for people who profess Christianity but don't do good works.

But we probably disagree on our respective methods of exegesis. Believe me that I am approaching my reading with an honest mind and not out of a preconceived desire to reject Christianity.

 

At 9/25/2007 02:02:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
You said…..
So it really seems Christ is backing up James here rather than Paul. Paul seems to be saying "No works, just faith". Like James, Christ seems to be saying, "Faith, yes, but works too."

We must distinguish between justification and sanctification. James is warning against a professed or claimed faith rather than a real or genuine trust and faith. A real genuine faith produces works and deeds. These works and deeds flow from a true faith and are the result of such a true faith. The Bible term is sanctification. A true genuine faith results from a person being born again and instantly produces justification and eternal security. Justification/being saved is not based on works or deeds. James is saying if you claim to have faith but have no works, you are kidding yourself and do not have a genuine faith. Paul says the same thing in Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Confusing justification and sanctification is what leads to these problems. In the reformed Calvinistic view that I hold, it becomes clearer with the understanding that a person’s heart is changed at regeneration and salvation is wholly from God. This causes a person to willingly accept through faith in Christ the free offer of eternal life. That person then through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit produces good works. James, Paul, and Jesus all agree that if no good works are in evidence, then there has been no true salvation. This is a consistent message in the NT and you are right that any one verse used as a proof text can be used to prove something else. The whole of Scripture must be considered.

 

At 9/25/2007 04:45:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

So, Jazzy, by your own admission according to your distinction between justification and sanctification, would you say that failure to produce good works renders one's salvation null and void, i.e. it never happened?

Because that was always a central tenet of Calvinism that I choked on even when I was a Christian. The problem is, under Calvinist doctrine, due to the (in my opinion) rather distasteful concept of Election/Predestination, you can never know if you're really saved until you're dead.

You can pray the prayer, believe in Christ with your whole heart, "feel the Holy Spirit" in you, produce good works, feed the needy, "lead sheep into the fold", strictly adhere to the Christian moral code, and tithe in secret, but if you ever walk away from it all it means you were never saved/elected/predestined in the first place.

If failure to produce good works precludes salvation, then I cannot see that salvation is a "free gift" and a product of faith alone. I know the Holy Spirit is supposed to be compelling the elect to a desire to produce good works, but that relies on a person's personal experience to affirm or deny whether or not that is actually happening.

 

At 9/25/2007 05:29:00 PM, Blogger Derek Berner

A thought occurs, Jazzy.

By-the-book Calvinists say that nobody can believe in God of their own free will unless God selects them and compels them to believe.

I don't know if you are a by-the-book Calvinist, but if you are, why discuss issues of salvation with a heathen such as myself at all if you believe that I am irreconcilably blinded to "Truth" short of God Himself willing me to believe?

I certainly haven't had any irresistible divine revelation yet, which by some manifestations of Calvinist Theology would mean that I would have been sent straight to Hell if I died even when I was a Christian.

 

At 9/25/2007 09:34:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

Derek,
(1) Your first comment since my last comment concerned assurance. 1 John would be a good place to go to sort that out rather than my explanation. Your view of Calvinsm is incorrect (see #2 below). The fact that you find it distasteful or that I believe the Bible teaches it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not it is true. It is either true or not true and human opinion is irrelevent.

(2) As to your question in the second comment. Until a person dies, the offer of salvation through faith in Christ is open to all that will accept it. I was nearly 50 before I came to be a believer. The fact that a person must be quicken by the Holy Spirit in order to believe is God's business. Nobody is able to determine who and when a person will be "made alive" by the Holy Spirit and come to faith. Therefore, the responsibility that Jesus gave to Christians is to witness to everyone in the world of every nationality.

Your perception of Calvinism is incorrect. If you really want to know my view, I have the major tenents of Calvinism posted on my blog. They are in my own words and are posted under Photo Devotionals by the title of Doctrines of Grace. I would be happy for you to check them out and give your opinion.

 

At 9/26/2007 08:56:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

No, Jazzy, I think I am pretty clear on what Calvinism says. I think that my perspective of the practical conclusions of Calvinism are displeasing to you.

You adhere to the Five Points, correct?

In other words:

-Total Depravity (I can't believe until the Holy Spirit compels me)
-Unconditional Election (The Holy Spirit won't compel me if God hasn't chosen me)
-Limited Atonement (If God hasn't chosen me, Jesus didn't die for me)
-Irresistible Grace (If God compels me to believe, I will be unable to say anything other than yes)
-Perseverance of the Saints (If I come to faith, it will manifest in my works and will continue to do so until I die)

Here is the logical result as I see it (and mind you that this is echoed by very conservative theologians far smarter and better-versed in scripture than I):

* If I cannot choose to accept a gift of salvation of my own volition, then God has not truly offered it to me.
* If God chooses who will receive the gift of salvation ahead of time, it is not free to everyone, only those he has chosen.
* If grace, once offered, is irresistible, anyone who turns away from it DOES NOT have a genuine faith and was never saved.
* People who do not manifest their faith via "good works" do not have a genuine faith and are not saved.
* If genuine faith manifests itself as good works, then a saving faith includes good works, and a lack of good works precludes saving faith. Therefore, morality is NECESSARY to get into heaven, and it is not a "free gift".

Calvinism claims to be the only theology that is truly "faith only". But they get around it by redefining faith, since by their definition good works are essential to "genuine faith".

Can you please tell me why you feel my conclusions are wrong?

I would love it if God were to produce a revelation that I couldn't refuse. I'm just not so sure that has ever happened to anyone. I have people's testimonies, sure, yours included, but while I respect that you/they had an experience that I cannot understand, I can't immediately rule out for myself that these revelations are (a) truly irresistible, (b) genuine but resistible but the person chose it anyway, or (c) a deeply spiritual, emotional experience that was totally physiological but interpreted as revelation by the person or the person's church.

Besides, I know lots of Christians who have fruitful, faithful lives that don't claim to ever have had unequivocal, irresistible revelations. Maybe they did have revelations and just didn't realize it?

I'm going to post a quick reaction to 1 John on my blog. Feel free to check it out.

 

At 9/26/2007 03:56:00 PM, Blogger jazzycat

The truths of Calvinism come directly from Scripture and are not displeasing at all to me. The fact that God chooses to save some is an act of mercy on his part, since without his intervention none would give up their rebellion and come to faith. Sometimes caricatures are displeasing such as the ones you present. My explanations that I referred you to on the five points are quite different from your mischaracterizations here. However, there is no need for me to try to defend what you will not accept. One example of your error is the charge that Calvinism claims to be the only theology that is by faith only. For example, many Arminians hold to justification by faith alone.

I will check out your blog.

 

At 9/27/2007 08:21:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

Actually Jazzy I didn't say Calvinism was the only theology that claimed to be truly "faith alone". I said that it claimed to be the only one that had "faith alone" truly figured out.

But I think that this may just be where we disagree.

I believe that Calvinism is a systematic theology, not necessarily the "true reading" of scripture. I apply critical thinking to its tenets just like any other regardless of how scriptural it is, and my logical conclusions from studying the five points do not match yours.

I don't know that we can know whether any reading is correct and I don't really believe in inerrancy and infallibility. But these are a priori assumptions that, valid or otherwise, we do not share.

 

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