Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Clarification of My Positions on Predestination and Calvinism (Especially Total Depravity), in Reply to the Ridiculously Muddle-Headed Insults of TAO and in Light of John Bugay's Manifest Abominable Ethics

The anti-Catholic Presbyterian TAO (The Anonymous One; aka "Turretinfan") has written a hit piece directed towards yours truly for the umpteenth time, playing the game of not naming me (as if that impresses anyone), entitled, Failure to Understand both Calvinism and One's Own Doctrine ... . Nice try, TAO . . .

As is well-known, I don't debate theology anymore with anti-Catholics. This has been my policy for four-and-a-half years, with no end in sight, because there is no debate possible. It's a complete waste of time. At times it is necessary to clarify my position when it has been wildly distorted and misrepresented. This is one such occasion. I'm sure even this distinction will be lost on TAO, and I'll be mocked for doing this: which in turn will perfectly illustrate why I don't take anti-Catholics seriously anymore, in terms of wasting time futilely attempting adult discussion with them. I am simply clarifying what I and my Church believe: matters of fact.

TAO's words will be in blue; John Bugay's in green.

* * * * *

I saw the following comment from a lay apologist of the Roman communion recently, directed at one of my fellow Calvinists:

[ME] If I am going to hell and predestined to do so, then you don't have to pray for me or even have any love at all, according to your warped, hideous, grotesque version of Christianity. You can even hate me.

If THIS is what Christianity means, I would rather be an atheist.

That's me, folks. It is from a comment I made in a recent thread about John Bugay's refusal to accept Catholic charity for his wife's serious illness, that I later removed, because I thought it was too heavily sarcastic, and thus would be misunderstood, as indeed now it has been, from the usual suspects! I was rebuking him because of his atrocious behavior, having actually returned a donation that fellow apologist Devin Rose made, and having insulted myself and my friends by writing:

In the meantime, please take down the link to our PayPal account. One donation has come in from this bunch of mockers, and I’ve returned it. And I will return other donations if I can identify them from you or yours as well. . . . [I had made links to his PayPal account so people could help him (his wife has leukemia), on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages]

Brent, you'll have a hard time convincing me that anything coming from this group is Christian. . . . 

I want to remain as far away from you as possible.

All of this was prime material for a searing rebuke, and I delivered it. I removed it for the above-stated reason and out of charity, not because I disagreed with anything in it: any of the content. I utilized sarcasm (just as Jesus and Paul did in cases of extreme hypocrisy) to rebuke John for not even following Calvinism properly. This was what the above portion was about. I believe I mentioned in the removed comments how I have experienced this, myself: on a Calvinist board, where someone stated that no one should pray for me. This attitude comes from the notion that a person is not in the elect; therefore, if God has predestined them to hell and condemned them, there is no longer any reason for us to pray or even love them. These motifs show up among Calvinists now and then (more on this below), and it shows in how they treat Catholics.

It was also in the context of the original dispute, where John wrote that I should give up my work because of the sexual scandal. The first comment underneath it was from Ron Van Brenk, who linked to his article, "Do NOT Pray for Patty!": one of the most outrageous pieces from a purported Christian that I have ever seen in my life. This was the context. He was saying that; John wasn't disagreeing with it and was returning donations, so it stood to reason that he could quite possibly be of this same mindset: nothing we Catholics do can be good; hence he attacked our motives in trying to help him out financially: calling us "mockers" and returning a donation, and questioning that anything we do is "Christian." It couldn't possibly be good. This is a classic instance of the application of the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity (see articles of mine about that: one / two / three / four / five / six). If a person is unregenerate, then he can do no truly good thing.

This is why I honed in on that very important factor on my blog today, since Bugay showed up. Here is our brief exchange in the combox under the post about him (excerpts; read the entire thing by following the link to the left):

For John, I am an unregenerate apostate. Therefore, all my acts, even if they look good on the surface, must be intended with an evil heart, and are intrinsically evil (doctrine of total depravity). Not all Calvinists act like this, of course, but the anti-Catholic ones do, because they immediately make the ultra-uncharitable judgment of someone's soul. This is a classic case. 

I guess he thinks we would mock someone suffering [i.e., like his buddy Ron did with Patty] because, after all, we are unregenerate and can't possibly do any act of good, or feel sincere compassion and charity. What a sad, pathetic, ridiculous (and radically unbiblical) view . . . I have refuted it from the Bible several times.

Dave, I'm sorry about the loss of your brother, and the other tragedies in your family. But rather than allow such tragedies to exhort you to humility, your whole enterprise may be summed up with this verse: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' I want to remain as far away from you as possible.

It is one thing to understand someone's motivations; it is quite another to describe their behavior. Your behavior is quite easy to describe. 

How could I not lie in the first place: being unregenerate and totally depraved? Or do anything good? 

Dave Armstrong, I have not said a word about you other than that your enterprise very much resembles the pharisee of Luke 18:11. Your rants about what you suppose Calvinism holds you to be have been commented on by Turretinfan at his blog. 

Very interesting. So you deny that I am totally depraved and unregenerate? If so, then I am regenerate; therefore, I would be a Christian, and you would have to explain your recent comment about myself and my friends here:

"Brent, you'll have a hard time convincing me that anything coming from this group is Christian."

Which is it? Please clarify. 

I don't judge you at all.

Am I a regenerate Christian and brother in Christ or not?  You just judged me by refusing my acts of kindness, to try to raise money for your wife's illness, calling it "mockery" and returning Devin Rose's donation, and then using it as a pretext to judge my heart and motivations. Are you truly so blind as to not see this?

It sure got quiet in the room. I wonder what happened?

I went to lunch.

As of writing I have been waiting an hour-and-a-half for an answer to my simple query: "Am I a regenerate Christian and brother in Christ or not?" Perhaps I will be waiting for much longer, or indefinitely. If John ever answers, I will add it to this paper. Alas, he did reply to (not answer) my question three hours and six minutes after I first asked it:

I am not going to answer your question. Aside from that, I have a real job, and you are probably the least important thing on my mind at any given time.

I replied:

Thank you very much for the verification. It will be duly noted in the reply I just made to TAO's usual inanities and puerile insults. God bless you.

This is key to the whole discussion (and I think he knows it full well). If indeed he has classified me as unregenerate, then by Calvinist teaching I am totally depraved, and nothing I do can be with a pure motive: it has to be impure and have at least a high degree of evil and wickedness in it. But if he had guts enough to state this it would run counter to TAO's present reiteration (and my knowledge of) Calvinist teaching: whereby we can't know for sure who is among the elect (and should cease from speculating). So John can't assert that, even though his actions and wicked responses to us recently seem to confirm that this is what he believes.

On the other hand, if he stated that I was a regenerate Christian, he would be in a huge personal mess with his anti-Catholic friends, who would then jump all over him (since they absolutely despise me personally: having been refuted by my apologetics time and again online, for over 16 years now). And it would run contrary to what he has recently stated about yours truly and my friends here. So (like the Pharisees when Jesus asked them a hard question) he was profoundly trapped. Both falsehood and sin have a way of bringing that result about. Thus, John took a pass and decided to insult me instead. Truly the behavior of an intellectual coward . . ..

In any event, the whole issue under consideration hinges on this factor. If John doesn't know whether I am regenerate or not, then he has no grounds for rejecting my act of charity, and classifying it as wicked and therefore to be rejected, because then it could quite possibly be done with the right motive, and he would have no reasonable grounds to reject it or to deny that anything I do is "Christian," or quickly assume that our motivation is to mock his wife's leukemia (like his buddy Ron abominably mocked Patty Bonds' present maladies and urged his oh-so-charitable Christian gentleman friends to not pray for her at all), or his difficult financial situation resulting therefrom. We're not doing that; his buddy is.

Of course, Thomism (which is supposedly acceptable within Rome's communion) and even Molinism also teach that certain people are going to hell and predestinated to do so.  That's not a unique aspect of Calvinism.

There is a big difference. We don't deny free will altogether in matters of salvation as Calvinists do (remember Luther's Bondage of the Will, which was proto-Calvinist?). We don't deny universal atonement (Calvinists hold to limited atonement). Nor do we deny that reprobation is conditional; hence we (both Thomists and Molinists: I am the latter) deny double predestination and unconditional reprobation in the Calvinist sense, while holding to predestination of the elect (with some allowable differences in detail between the two parties).

I noted this 15 years ago, in my paper, Catholic Predestination (Ludwig Ott). It has been online all that time. Dr. Ott stated (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books, 1974 [orig. 1952], 242-245):

Heretical Predestinationism in its various forms (the Southern Gallic priest Lucidus in the 5th century; the monk Gottschalk in the 9th century, according to reports of his opponents, which, however, find no confirmation in his recently re-discovered writings; Wycliffe, Hus, and esp. Calvin), teaches a positive predetermination to sin, and an unconditional Predestination to the eternal punishment of hell, that is, without consideration of future demerits. This was rejected as false doctrine by the Particular Synods of Orange, Quiercy and Valence and by the Council of Trent. Unconditioned positive Reprobation leads to a denial of the universality of the Divine Desire for salvation, and of the Redemption, and contradicts the Justice and Holiness of God as well as the freedom of man.
According to the teaching of the Church, there is a conditioned positive Reprobation, that is, it occurs with consideration of foreseen future demerits (post et propter praevisa demerita). The conditional nature of Positive Reprobation is demanded by the generality of the Divine Resolve of salvation. This excludes God's desiring in advance the damnation of certain men (cf. 1 Tim 2:4, Ezek 33:11, 2 Pet 3:9) . . .

In the question of Reprobation, the Thomist view favours not an absolute, but only a negative Reprobation. This is conceived by most Thomists as non-election to eternal bliss (non-electio), together with the Divine resolve to permit some rational creatures to fall into sin, and thus by their own guilt to lose eternal salvation. In contrast to the absolute Positive Reprobation of the Predestinarians, Thomists insist on the universality of the Divine Resolve of Salvation and Redemption, the allocation of sufficient graces to the reprobate, and the freedom of man's will.

So much for TAO's ignorance about what we teach, and what I believe, as an orthodox Catholic. Thus, we have the amusing spectacle of TAO rebuking me for supposedly understanding neither Calvinism nor Catholicism, when in fact I understand both quite well (having written an entire book critiquing John Calvin), while he does not comprehend our position, as just shown.

Moreover, as in Thomism and Molinism, in Calvinism one is not relieved of one's obligations to pray for someone or love them simply because of God's secret decree of reprobation.

Of course not. I completely agree; always have. I was rebuking John for not only acting outrageously, but also for being inconsistent even with his own Calvinism.  I also noted in the removed remarks that not praying for someone does not at all necessarily follow from the Calvinist position. It comes from human sin and disobedience to God, who told us to pray for all men (1 Timothy 2:1 [RSV]: ". . . I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men," ).

The problem is sin and hypocrisy and contempt for other Christians. Calvinists are supposed to pray and show love like any other Christian (and this is what they teach in their own ranks, except for the most extreme fundamentalist fanatics), yet when Ron Van Brenk makes reference on Triablogue in John's own combox for his post, about not praying for a suffering [Catholic] human being (complete with wicked mockery of her), no one protested. When I made note of it on my blog, no one in your camp protested. It was perfectly fine and dandy. Now you want to protest. This is what I will always describe as a "warped, hideous, grotesque version of Christianity." When even a minimal expression of love is spurned and trampled upon, complete with urging others to not pray for someone who is suffering: that is not the spirit of Christ and Christianity: sorry. It comes from the pit of hell and from the devil's own "philosophy."

I challenge you, then, TAO, to go ahead and renounce Ron's post, and ask that Hays remove the link to it on his site (and preferably renounce it, too). Be my guest. Put your money where your mouth is. Show how marvelously loving and full of charity those in the anti-Catholic wing of Calvinism can be. I'm the one who has upheld universal Christian and biblical teaching about praying for all men. I'm the one who rebuked the person in your ranks who didn't hold to this, because none of you would do that. Yet now I'm being rebuked for supposedly not understanding your teaching that I do grasp quite well. I am condemning the rank hypocrisy and lack of Christian charity in your ranks.

The comment quoted above reflects a fundamental failure to understand Calvinism.  It shows that the person does not grasp even the simple concept that, in this life, we do not know who the elect are.  Just because someone is currently a Saul of Tarsus does not mean that they will not one day be a Paul the Apostle (to take an extreme example).

More classic TAO blundering and imbecilic analysis . . .  Because TAO almost universally (in my case) does not understand how language functions in context, thinks illogically, and commits both errors in large part because of his huge hostility brought on by dumb anti-Catholic theological thinking; and, furthermore, won't trouble himself to see what I actually believe (with 2600+ papers posted online, on my site), he misses this. So he claims that I don't know that Calvinists (per Calvin) aren't supposed to know who the elect are.

I stated the opposite, I'm pretty certain, in the removed remarks: noting that Calvin stated more than once that we can't know who is in the elect. TAO assumes the worst, as he always does with me. My true position is seen in my paper of January 2006: John Calvin: Only God Knows Who is Numbered Among the Elect. It must get wearisome to continually be so dead-wrong on the facts, but it is a tension and cognitive dissonance that TAO (an attorney, of all things!) obviously has long since made peace with.

So, the Roman apologist has (a) identified a first set of views that his church deems acceptable, and (b) drawn unfounded conclusions from them.  

I did no such thing, as shown above. It is yet another case (among innumerable ones) of TAO not getting it.

What should we conclude?  

Obviously, that TAO made another silly mistake (several, actually), and embarrassed himself for the umpteenth time, in trying to argue me down: this time concerning my own beliefs, that I can easily document: stuff from fifteen and five years ago that has long since been posted on my site.

Shall we assume he's just being silly?  Probably not.  The tone of this comment was harshly serious . . .

It was serious: a serious sarcastic rebuke of hypocrisy and sin and a Calvinist not even consistently following his own teaching. Jesus and Paul did the same. I've called no one a "viper" (Jesus) or said that Bugay (or Ron or TAO) should be castrated, as Paul said, with heavy sarcasm.

(the apologist even cursed at my fellow Calvinist in a portion of the comment that I haven't reproduced).

John stated on my blog,  "I want to remain as far away from you as possible." Then (oddly enough) he posted again. Noting this hypocrisy, I replied with, "why don't you get the hell off of my blog, then?" -- since getting as far away from me "as possible" obviously included not commenting on my blog! That is not cursing him! I didn't call him some terrible name.

Of course, TAO's fundamentalist "ears" can't handle this horrific "curse" word. That was entirely predictable. These are the same folks who once objected to my use of "ass" in the sense of a donkey, which the KJV Bible does many times, and which word Shakespeare and Calvin also used in the same sense several times. I pointed this out to them a few years back: to no avail, of course.

Anti-Catholic ranks are rife with hypocrisy on this score. For example, I know that both James White and David T. King are big fans of Rush Limbaugh, and (I've listened to him a lot off and on for over 20 years) he often uses quite ribald humor, sexual double entendre, and minor "curse" words of this sort, and far worse (many times to an extent that I would not want my kids to listen to). But they still listen to him, don't they? Their "principles" don't extend to not listening to a man who regularly uses language and jokes of a sort that they purportedly think is so wicked. It's only when someone like me is the target that they want to make a federal case of it. I think lying and distorting and not praying for others is far, far; infinitely more serious than merely using the word "hell" when it was fully warranted.

Never mind that James White put up a post (10-26-07), citing a hostile professor his daughter had, with three words that he would consider profanity. He had no problem citing the actual words for public consumption, warning, "This blog post contains profanities and vulgarities. I am warning you up front." He could have "bleeped" out the three words, as I have done many times on my site. He chose not to. If anyone searches my site for a certain alternate word for manure, they come up with nothing. But if they search White's blog they will find it. Same for the synonym for a female dog. Just because someone else said it and he merely cited it, is beside the point. It was unnecessary in the first place (especially by White's own -- and general fundamentalist -- stated ethical criteria).

Yet TAO won't even quote me saying the outrageously profane, vulgar word "hell" -- so that people will think what I said is far worse. Because of this vagueness, "Natamllc" in TAO's combox launches into even more asinine jeremiads:

Rather than pray for the lay apologist, though, I would think we should encourage your friend along these lines instead, for both your friend and us as well to do as much as opportunity does for us:

Gal 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

If the lay apologist has cursed him, he has cursed us as well!

Rather, I would think, though, we ought to be praying for your friend whom the lay apologist has cursed especially if he is one you can attest to being such as the ones the Apostle Paul writes about, here?

2Th 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,
2Th 3:2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.
2Th 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.  

Note the assumptions and premises made: I'm a "wicked and evil" man, without "faith." That obviously means I am not in the elect or at least unregenerate (if it is to be that I will eventually be saved). Thus, right under the post where TAO says that Calvinists don't make these judgments, one of his cohorts does exactly that (but of course TAO won't disagree with that, because it blasts me: the one he detests). And it is in part based on this contention that I "cursed" a person, rather than (what actually occurred) simply using a strong expression (of emphasis) to bring across the point that he ought to leave my blog since he himself said he wanted to get as far away as possible.

If a person insists on majoring on the minors (just as sinful Pharisees did), they won't get it. So they didn't and don't. TAO is highly concerned about the word "hell." I am highly concerned about Christians showing love: praying for others, helping others in need. We tried to help his friend John and he spurned that and called us a bunch of names. But I used the word "hell": thus proving beyond any doubt that I am a wicked, evil person. Is it any wonder that the world is in the mess it is in, with Christians acting in such a ridiculous fashion?

It could be that he's just deliberately lying about Calvinism, but what purpose would that serve?

Note how TAO (classically) suggests that I am a deliberate liar. I don't do that with him. I always assume he is ignorant in cases of factual whoppers because invariably, I have always found this to be the case . . .  

We know what we believe, so we're not likely to be fooled by his mischaracterization.  

Rather, his mischaracterization of what he falsely believes was my mischaracterization, because he can't properly read and interpret the English language in context or look up things that would take a minute max with search tools. Ironies abound . . . 

All that's left is that this poor soul doesn't understand. We should pray for him, that God would open his eyes.

Right. Well, folks, I have laid the facts of the matter before you, to decide for yourself what happened here. It's the same-old same-old.



Dave Armstrong said...

I have added a significant amount of new material to the post, as of 5:08 PM ET, documenting a few things, etc.

Dave Armstrong said...

I honed a few things again at 5:20, in case someone read in between the two times.

Paul Hoffer said...

Since this sort of argumentation tactic is so often employed by Mr. Fan and his friends, that is accusing us of what they themselves engage in, I propose that it henceforth be called "TAOism."

I can't believe what got left out of the original comment!

God bless!

Dave Armstrong said...

Taoism it is! A new phrase is coined. :-) A play on words of a humorous acronym which is also a play on words. LOL

It is high time, I agree, to give a category name to such an extraordinarily and singularly unique technique. I don't recall ever seeing anything like it. The sophistries of Bill Clinton look like the Ten Commandments next to Tao's relentless inanities.

And he is never worse than when he is dealing with me. He tries so hard to refute and embarrass me and never succeeds. I almost feel sorry for the poor guy. An "E" for effort and for a final grade. :-)

Spoils23m said...


Please read your Bible more carefully... Christians are not told to pray for all men (each and every individual), but, rather, to pray for all types of men... just like God desires the salvation of all types of men... this is very clear in the Bible. Please read it, sir. ;)


Roberto Jung said...

^ Even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that "for all men" means "for all types of men", wouldn't the list of "types" include "the unregenerate", "the false gospel-believing", and "the idolatrous"? :)

And didn't Calvin himself not deny that some Catholics might conceivably still be Christians even after the "Reformation"?

Dave Armstrong said...

Well, sort of yes and no. One would have to be a bad Catholic (disbelieve several catholic things) in order to be a good Christian. That's been the anti-Catholic standard ever since.

I always will ask, therefore, "can a Catholic be saved and be considered Christian if he believes everything the Catholic Church requires of its members?

To that the anti-Catholic will almost invariably answer "no."

Roberto Jung said...

Ahh, thanks for the clarification. May God have mercy on the souls of such misguided and (almost always) hate-filled people.