Friday, October 07, 2011

Your Argument is Invalid, Sir

So you ask me to write a contract. After considerable time (and even more considerable cost) I present a 54 page, bound document with embossed paper. It includes every clause imaginable, taking into consideration every contingency; it even includes a section on the Rule Against Perpetuities, Dower, Curtsey and Nuclear War. There are headings and definitions and an index, and, notarized signature lines with triple attestation.

The notice requirements are detailed as to means, time, place, with intricate specificity. Everything anyone could ever hope to be in a contract is included. You are suitably impressed.

However, you see a small section at the very end stating the other party can modify any provision in the contract at any time for any reason--it doesn’t have to be in writing--without any notice to you.

Now how impressed are you? What good are all those sections, clauses and words, if the person can take it all away with a mere thought? Why bother with specific notice requirements as to time, date, means, etc. when the other person can say tomorrow, “Meh. I can change that” or even “I don’t have to send any notice at all.”

Makes the other 53 ¾ pages pretty worthless, doesn’t it? Somehow, I don’t think I will be paid for preparing such a contract!

I noticed a similar approach recently where the Christian apologist makes this long argument, but at the end says, “Unless God convinces you, this argument won’t be persuasive.” So why bother with the argument in the first place?

If your argument won’t convince absent Divine Intervention; what good the argument? If a God decides to get involved, why waste time with the puny humans’ words?

Dr. Clay Jones wrote a blog entry entitled Let’s Connect the Moral Dots for “Good” non-Christians where his stated goal was:

We need to connect these dots for the non-Christians who are adulterous murderers in their hearts but still believe they are good people. If we do, they might recognize their sinful condition and cry out for the grace available through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Boz correctly pointed out using Bible verses to convince a non-Christian they are really a murderer is probably not the most effective means. Dr. Jones replied “The Holy Spirit does the convicting. We just speak the truth.”

I see. So all that quoting of verses, and words and framing of thoughts was 53 ¾ pages of detail. All of which is irrelevant if the last sentence is, “but none of this matters if the Holy Spirit isn’t interested in giving you the secret handshake.”

This was later reiterated when Vinny questioned the splitting of hairs between the difference of a person refraining from an immoral action for selfish reasons (which according to Dr. Jones was bad) as compared to a person repenting of an immoral action for selfish reasons (which according to Dr. Jones was good.)

And what is the difference between those two persons? Simple—God picked one over the other according to Dr. Jones.

There you have it. All the words, argument, theories, discussions and interactions in the world won’t make a bit of difference.

If God wants you—you get it. If He doesn’t—you are screwed.

This creates an incredible exclusion for the apologist. They never have to fear regarding the quality of their arguments. No matter how bad the claims are made, if we aren’t convinced, it is God’s doing.


  1. When my daughter was in middle school, she came across some evangelical Christians on the internet who told her that Catholics (which I was at the time and she still is) went to hell because they weren't born again. She asked me whether I thought that might be true. I told her there was no way to know for sure until we died, but that I could not reconcile a God who acted that way with any concept of a loving parent that I knew. I said that the only way that I could see to live my life was to use the brain that God gave me. I didn't see any point in trying to guess whether a concept of God that made no sense to me was actually the right one. That seemed to satisfy her.

    I wonder if Jones has any idea how unworthy of worship his God appears to someone who has thought about the implications of His scheme of salvation?

  2. Well said. The ramifications are just as profound. Either it's an admission that there is no logical reason strong enough to make you decide on your own to worship God, or God actively interferes with people's ability to understand the attraction behind worshiping God.

    If it's not a logically attractive enough offer to choose on my own, why would I want it? If God actively prevents people from understanding, why would I want to worship Him?

  3. And why would a God who gave the capacity to reason want worship that depended on the renunciation of that gift?

  4. I've always found the idea that if hating one's brother is the same as murdering him/her, then it really trivializes what an actual murder does -- it kills another person.

    Plus, would those who firmly believe in the equality of the two viewpoints actually *want* to live in a society that way?

    **No matter how bad the claims are made, if we aren’t convinced, it is God’s doing. **

    And it's a very nice way of avoiding personal responsibility, too. And by implication, if one never has to accept responsibility for where something might go wrong, then one is hard-pressed to experience any sort of growth.

  5. I'm famous on the internets!

  6. I've always had trouble reconciling biblical statements about whether or not the intentions of the heart constitute sin. I've found statements that seem to support both sides. Intuitively, it feels as if contemplating the wrong and then acting is worse than just desiring to do wrong. And the two obviously have vastly different outcomes. At the same time, we all experience the difference in refusing to act on a desire and moving on and refusing to act but continuing to harbor the desire. When we harbor that desire (to harm for example) it does eventually change our behavior. At some point, we need to choose whether or not to continue with a particular attitude, feeling, or belief. However, desiring to change and actually making the change are often two very different things. I may want to stop resenting someone, but there doesn't seem to be a button I can push to turn it off the same way I can clamp my mouth shut and refuse to speak negatively about the person I resent.

  7. This does strike me as odd coming from an Arminian (or anybody who is not a Calvinist), but it makes perfectly good sense from a Calvinist perspective. Arguments are ineffective on those God does not regenerate. We give them anyway because we don't know who God will regenerate and who he won't. Arguments can be persuasive to those God regenerates. They are not superfluous in their case since the arguments may be part of God's meanings of getting people to change their minds. It's a false dichotomy to say that it's either God or the arguments that cause the change, but not both, since God uses means to accomplish his ends. I wrote a blog about that here.

  8. Sam,

    Thanks for the link. Yes, I understand under a Calvinistic paradigm God could use argumentation as a means to become saved. But is that really saying anything?

    God could also emotional appeal as a means. God could use testimonies as a means. God could use rainbows, logic, or small rocks as a means. Alternatively, God could use logical fallacies, evil, or blinding flashes of light. God could even use nothing as a means.

    As there is no way to determine what God could or could not use as a means, there is no way to say what God did or did not use a means. The fact one didn’t argue could be a means!

    Why, for example would one care if the argument is logical, if God could use an illogical argument (+ the Holy Spirit) as the means to save a soul? Again, why care to use argumentation at all—the very fact one does not COULD be the very means to convince another!