[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Johson's 400 pound Gorilla

by HK Flynn

Phil Johnson claims to view our FG challenges as not serious, and that that is his motivation for not allowing a full give and take on his blog. I don't think that deserves much comment, but it is absurd how his repeated announcements that he would respond to any challenge as long as it was over on Pulpit petered out~~vividly demonstrating how non-serious he himself is.

I challenged him on James and his response at first was expansive. He didn't dive into the specifics but talked broadly of James and the commentary tradition. Phil ended his remarks with this statement:
If we’re going to spend time debating this, can we at least deal with the big-picture issues first?

So, we had a few rounds discussing his view of the big picture problems he detects in FG take on James. (semi-pelagian, Hodges insincere motivation in his interpretation of James, and so on) Since he was on vacation I went ahead and posted my own big picture view of James during what I thought was a lull. But it turned out he had disappeared for good. No moving on to the diatribe. No comment on the analogies of faith/works, body/spirit. Phil just disappears. While I was naively checking for his return after a vacation and a trip to Mexico City, he opened up the 400 comment "window" on his own blog. Hilarious.

When I came across Rose's nudge (thanks, Rosie) the comments had exploded to the mid-300's so I quickly slipped in the issues on the demons remark and the analogies, writing:

Phil, you switched your offer. I was waiting for you to finish on James over at Pulpit.

In the NT period, the format of the diatribe (where an imaginary countering voice temporarily entered a prepared discourse) was rather strict for obvious reasons. That is, the listener of the speech had to be confident as to when the main voice reentered the discourse after the "objector's" statements. The main speaker's "re-entry" statement was therefore (1) always sharp and (2) often included a direct address. (Please see 1 Cor 15:35-36 and Romans 9:19-20.) This format proves that the demons remark was part of what was being mocked by the Apostle James. Therefore, the demons remark should never be quoted by you or your theological teammates because it is not what James himself was exhorting. He was mocking it.


And then:

Since these spaces are filling up, I will continue with your 400 spots in mind.

The analogy that closes the section in James 2 on works and faith is a comparison of two pairs. If I were comparing faith and works to a spirit and a body, I would compare the visible and more tangible things, works to body, and also compare faith to spirit, since these are hidden things. But, Phil, James is linking a body with faith. And he is observing the similarities between a spirit and works. For James, works are needed because they animate faith. This supports the idea that the faith in question is a faith in the here and now power of God which easily becomes a platitude-heavy dead-orthodoxy, far better than it supports the idea that it is saving faith that is the topic at hand.


Famous blogger Phil Johnson's serious reply:
I'm not expert in ancient literature, but the problem with your statement is that I cannot find a single credible Bible scholar who agrees with Zane Hodges about that. And I can cite thousands who agree with the historic understanding of the text. Hodges argument looks to me like the very thinnest nearly-invisible gossamer strand—so thin that an intense look at it still doesn't make clear if it's real or an illusion. Yet he's trying to use it to hold up his entire theology. If that's the best no-lordship doctrine has, it would take a fool to abandon the historic understanding of James in favor of Hodges' view—especially when Hodges himself virtually acknowledges that no one in the history of the church has ever understood James that way before.

Apparently, he's a smoke and mirrors kind of a guy, intent on protecting his lambs from the Scriptures.


  • Hi Jodie,

    Stop by and let me know if you are anathemized.


    By Blogger Gojira, at Sunday, November 19, 2006 4:50:00 PM  

  • Thanks Gojira,

    What is your thinking on the without notice 400 comment post on this debate.

    Doesn't 400 comments mean that there's been a death of the death of the lordship debate?


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Sunday, November 19, 2006 8:42:00 PM  

  • It was very good that you participated, Jodie.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, November 20, 2006 1:25:00 AM  

  • Hi Jodie,

    What is my thinking? My thinking was that the deck was stacked to begin with, and stacked in his favor. Now Phil is a smart man, and you seen how that smartness came out in his rules. The thing is, and he knew this, he didn't have to define his position nor present the evidence for his position, and present what he tought was wrong with the opponent's position all in the space of three twelve line paragraphs. But that is something that he forced on his opponents. How in the world did he expect anyone to mount a serious defense of their position in three paragraphs? The answer was that he knew you couldn't. And then, to make it worse, those who did try were made to look stupid. "Is this the best you got" type thing, when in fact, he wouldn't let you bring out an argument. Then the person would get hit by an ad hom. For example, the "Zanies" or the "Zane groupies" (which is funny and I laughed like crazy because if he is going that route, then he is a MacArthur groupie). Go through that thread and see how many ad homs the LS people chunked, and their biggest fallacy poisioning the well. It wasn't set up to be anything serious. It was set up to be a mockery of everyone who disagreed with him. Which in itself is ironic considering the importance that is (and rightfully) put upon maturity in the Christian life -- they failed the one thing they promote. But that is how I see it with my jumbled up monday mind.

    By Blogger Gojira, at Monday, November 20, 2006 9:40:00 AM  

  • Yes, it did stink a bit. Then he threw in his 400 limit.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, November 20, 2006 1:35:00 PM  

  • Phil denied Calvin believed certian assurance as the essence of saving faith

    Phil denied that Calvin rested his doctrine of assurance on looking to Christ in faith alone

    Phil later says, "well, I believe that there is some assurance in faith" But doesn't explain how, and what degree, and how one is to gain assurance from something that can be spurious/temporary faith

    I asked Phil to define spurious faith and what the psychological understanding of one who possess it is -- he failed to answer

    Phil denied that Calvin said not to look to works for certain assurance

    Phil later admits that Calvin DID believe this

    Phil then said he believed it too and that the practical syllogism is compatible with Calvin's conviction that works are not to be viewed for the benefit of assurance

    Can Phil understand that the practical syllogism, which makes the assessment of works indispensible for possession of 'assurance', cannot be compatible with Calvin's insistence that works have nothing to do with it?

    Phil asks me to give some links to posts that he would respond to. I posted 3 links which he failed to respond to.

    Phil overlooks D.A. Carson, R.L. Dabney, and A.A. Hodge's (not to mention TMS's Beeke) comments that show that for Calvin, that certain assurance was of the very essence of saving faith, and their comments that Reformed theology has abandoned the Early Reformer's principles on the matter.

    It was nothing but a circus over there.

    Has Phil ever had a substantive post at Pyromaniacs treating actual LS texts? No. But neither has anyone else there.

    At a purely dispassionate and unbiased level, any person can see the blatant, and serious shortcomings of the man on this subject. The only arena that he can argue in is that of the popular and emotional level. He relies on his wit and sarcasm to press his untenable positions.

    My take,


    By Blogger Antonio, at Monday, November 20, 2006 2:31:00 PM  

  • Yes, Phil's sarcasm is not always edifying.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, November 20, 2006 3:35:00 PM  

  • Hey Antonio,

    Just curious, why didn't you present him with Dabny who said that assurance being the essence of faith was his (Calvin's) big error.

    By Blogger Gojira, at Monday, November 20, 2006 5:40:00 PM  

  • Thanks Matthew :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, November 20, 2006 8:39:00 PM  

  • Hey Gojira,

    I wish my mind could come up with that on Monday...

    Nice analysis!

    And Matthew, good one line understated observations.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, November 20, 2006 8:46:00 PM  

  • Antonio,

    I'm glad you compiled a list of what really happened in terms of substantive give and take on your challenges.

    I thought as I was reading through what you wrote that he seems to let the cat out of the bag, but he can rely on his fan base to carry him through.

    A circus, yes. A thought keeps coming to my mind of a lot of frisbees flying through the air.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, November 20, 2006 8:51:00 PM  

  • Also Antonio, let me go on record as saying I believe my source over Phil's memory of MacArthur never pulling out of a debate once Hodges had agreed there would be no recording devices present. I suppose it's possible Phil never was made aware of it.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, November 20, 2006 8:55:00 PM  

  • Dabney had the willingness to blatantly say things others only thought, a lot like MacArthur used to do and Piper still does.

    In general, I think it's a feather in the cap of all the grace bloggers that Johnson had to resort to such show business in the attempt at burying us.

    Does anyone out there feel buried?


    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Monday, November 20, 2006 9:01:00 PM  

  • Douglas,

    That was where I would have headed. Dabney is very concrete on the matter. Johnson went so far as to invoke Dabney's name as a support for his contention. Dabney, in his Discussions and his treatise against the Plymouth Brethren, makes very bold claims that Calvin was in error concerning his doctrine of faith and assurance.


    has anyone read Berkouwer's treatment he kept bringing up? I should see if the library at my school has a copy.


    Phil buried himself

    By Blogger Antonio, at Tuesday, November 21, 2006 3:08:00 PM  

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