Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ponter's Last Stand

Ponter seems to be unable to justify his position with respect to Bullinger and has reduced himself to simply insulting those with whom he disagrees. (link to insult-riddled post)
Leaving aside the barrage of insults, I'll summarize his points (implicit and explicit), and explain why they don't avail him any support.

1) Mischaracterization of the Criticism

Ponter asserts that: "Our opponent has made a claim that comes to this, when Bullinger, for example, uses the term ‘world’ he does not literally mean world." That is not, of course, the criticism. The criticism is that Ponter puerilely assumes that "world" means something like "each and every person who has ever lived, is now living, or will live" whenever it suits his agenda. It's the same "WORLD MEANS WORLD" argument that we are used to seeing from novice Arminian debaters who haven't figured out that "world" has a broad semantic range.

Ponter cannot plead the excuse of inexperience, so Ponter's mischaracterization of the criticism must be attributed to something other than ignorance.

2) A Second mischaracterization, and a Bit of Silliness

Ponter continues by stating, "His arguments for this naked assertion in essence, come down to this: ...." Before we get to the rest of his description it's worth noting that poor Ponter cannot decide for himself whether the supposed position of his critic is a "naked assertion" or an assertion supported by "His arguments."

Ponter characterizes the arguments this way: "Because the Arminian (1620s) and Amyraldian (1640s) debates had not occurred yet, the early Reformed felt no need to be careful about their terms, and so we cannot assume that by their language they literally meant all the world." (emphasis omitted) Of course, again, Ponter has thrown in his false definition of the issue already address in (1). Furthermore, Mr. Ponter has made the argument more extreme than it is. Instead of saying that "the early Reformed felt no need to be careful about their terms," the argument was more narrowly focused on the lack of need to be wary of an Arminian or Amyraldian misunderstanding of the Biblical terms.

Ponter then argues that, "This of course presupposes the claim that they were somehow unable to state or have an opinion on the extent of the expiation as per its substitution and sin-bearing," but Ponter is wrong. At least, if the characterization he presents presupposes what he claims, it is only because he has chosen to attack a straw man. In fact, there is no presupposition that the Arminian or Amyraldian controversies were necessary to in order for one to have an opinion regarding the extent of the expiation Christ made (with or without the further detail of substitution and/or sin-bearing) or in order for one to state an opinion in that regard. In fact, I myself illustrated Knox (or at least his adversary) speaking to the issue before those controversies.

Ponter than argues that: "Our opponent therefore claims we must assume that by “world” they meant it in a non-exhaustive sense," but again Ponter is wrong. Ponter's invalid induction is premised on his multiple straw men. Furthermore, it's not my intent to suggest that one must "assume" anything. Instead, one must not read the Arminian and Amyraldian controversies into earlier writers. One can readily establish that the word "world" had a broad semantic domain not only in Scripture but in the writings of the Reformers. With that in mind, to make an infantile assumption that a given usage of the word happens to carry the precise meaning helpful to one's case is to engage in what can only be pleasantly described as wishful thinking.

Ponter than continues with his rebuttal of his caricature of the criticism placed against his position. He states, by way of preface, "Well, firstly, it is nonsense. The discussion now has well and truly gone into twilight mode. Let me posit a few common sense rejoinders." Only the straw men, however, are nonsense.

Ponter claims, "1) Just because a topic was not debated, does not mean a given person could not have had an opinion on a given subject. Or that they could not have explicitly meant what they quite apparently said." The first of these two points is - of course - fully acceptable, since Reformers (such as Knox) did have an opinion and did express their opinion. They didn't have an opinion on the controversies per se, and of course they couldn't have - without the gift of prophecy. The second of these two points just begs the question. It is only "quite apparently" the case that they said what Mr. Ponter would like to imagine they said, because Mr. Ponter has an axe to grind. In fact, (at least in some of the instances we've explored) they simply used a word that has a wide semantic domain, and Mr. Ponter has made the common lexical error of just picking a definition that suits him.

Ponter next asserts, "2) However, we do know the topic of limited atonement was debated in Bullinger’s time. It was clarified by Prosper in the 5thC. It was debated again by Gottschalk in the 9thC. It was settled and clarified again by Lombard in the 12thC. Lombard’s synthesis was reaffirmed by Thomas in the 13thC. We know that Bucer debated it in the 16thC, in some form or another. We know that Trent condemned limited atonement in the 16thC. So the issue was known to the Reformers." This is, perhaps, the most bizarre of Mr. Ponter's claims.

The Council of Trent, one may recall, stated their doctrine of "universal atonement" in terminology that would be more amenable to a hypothetical sense than to an actual sense,

Him God hath proposed as a propitiator, through faith in his blood, for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world. [Chapter III] But, though He died for all, yet do not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated. For as in truth men, if they were not born propagated of the seed of Adam, would not be born unjust, - seeing that, by that propagation, they contract through him, when they are conceived, injustice as their own, - so, if they were not born again in Christ, they never would be justified; seeing that, in that new birth, there is bestowed upon them, through the merit of His passion, the grace whereby they are made just. For this benefit the apostle exhorts us, evermore to give thanks to the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, and hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption, and remission of sins.


Note especially the term "proposed" and the clear acknowledgment of the fact that "not all receive the benefit of His death." In fact, if we dig deeper into Trent, we discover not only that it does not affirm a universal redemption of mankind, it in fact opposes the Reformed doctrine of complete redemption of the elect, for it canonizes: "CANON XIV.--If any one saith, that the satisfaction, by which penitents redeem their sins through Jesus Christ, are not a worship of God, but traditions of men, which obscure the doctrine of grace, and the true worship of God, and the benefit itself of the death of Christ; let him be anathema."

And again, the unlimited satisfaction for the sins of the elect is opposed by Rome who states, "CANON XIII.--If any one saith, that satisfaction for sins, as to their temporal punishment, is nowise made to God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, by the punishments inflicted by Him, and patiently borne, or by those enjoined by the priest, nor even by those voluntarily undertaken, as by fastings, prayers, almsdeeds, or by other works also of piety; and that, therefore, the best penance is merely a new life; let him be anathema."

These absurdities are - of course - the very things opposed by the Reformers (Bullinger and others). Thus, Trent hardened itself not into an Arminian or Amyraldian view (per se) but into an anti-Reformed view in particular with respect to the scope of the redemption and satisfaction made by Christ for the very elect. In point of fact, the original Arminians and Amyraldians would certainly have agreed with the Reformers (and against the unscriptural Tridentine notions) that Christ's redemption and satisfaction for the elect were universal and complete - leaving no sin to be satisfied through penance, indulgences, or Purgatory.

Ponter continues with more of the same, "We also know unlimited expiation was being defended in the 1570s by Kimedoncius no less: against the Socinians and Universalists. That indicates the issue was already getting attention before then, in order to warrant Kimedoncius’ dedication of an entire book to the defense of the doctrine. We know that Ursinus is defending, what Richard Muller calls a non-speculative hypothetical universalism against the Socinians (recall Richard Muller identifies Ursinus, along with Bullinger and Musclus as holding to this form of non-speculative hypothetical universalism)."

It's not really clear whether Ponter understands what non-speculative hypothetical universalism is.

Mr. Ponter continues: "3) Our opponent has assumed the onus or burden of proof here, as he must show that they never could have spoken of the extent of the expiation in literal or actual universal terms, denoting all mankind literally. Of course, his problem is, if just one example of an exhaustive use of “world” could be found, his whole thesis is imploded. That is why he has got to such absurdities." Of course, this criticism only applies to the caricature, not to the actual argument. In fact, the opposite is the case. The onus is on Mr. Ponter to prove his thesis that Bullinger taught Universal Atonement - not on his critic to rebut him.

To be continued ...

5 comments:

natamllc said...

TF,

at it again, I read?

This very first thought jumped off the page as I read Ponter's response:

[Its not meant as a pejorative term, but as a way to describing an attitude of willful defiance.]

I have one question for you and Ponter after posting, pasting some verses and thoughts:

Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--

These verses recall for me this from Isaiah:

Isa 26:17 Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD;
Isa 26:18 we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
Isa 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

My question:

How does any one "dead" have an attitude of willful defiance?

It seems to me when we allow Isaiah's next words bite us and "kill" us so that we too are one of many among those dead of Isaiah, we shall be among those with "Living" Hope while living til' we die a natural death!

Isa 26:20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.
Isa 26:21 For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.

So, for me, I am going to Proclaim the Gospel until I die a natural death then!

Turretinfan said...

"How does any one "dead" have an attitude of willful defiance?"

It is an interesting question, but more for Mr. Ponter than myself, I think.

natamllc said...

Man, TF, you are very very insightful and playful at best!

I do find it somewhat of an offense with the degree these blokes go in their pejoratives by way of the hypocrisy in their staged pretense in this debate with you.

One must be "born again" from death, to be alive with and in Christ.

There must be a cessation of that Adamic affect effecting the outcomes as we march to our natural end, the salvation of our soul before we die that natural death. That indeed is God's promise and work to His Elect Children, past, present and those born in the future. God only knows.

Paul rightly stated it so much so the Holy Ghost made sure it became a part of the cannons of Life for all God's children to read and receive His Faith by:::>

Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Rom 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Rom 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
Rom 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Rom 8:27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


It is so bad with dead people like me, I am ever receiving from the Mind of the Spirit's intercession for me to stay "alive" in Christ in this life/bios and I know you are adequately receiving from Him as well for that same end!

My only hope and prayer is for David and others joining with him in this debate that they receive the same Living Hope I am living with and in now as I type away on your blog making my comments!

As we both agree, there are only two outcomes for the dead: death, Life.

I stake my claim with Isaiah then!

David, would you kindly answer my question in as simple and forthright a manner without the pejorative expressions used with the answer?

Oh, and another thing, one would have to conclude that for all time from Adam forth, universally, all human kind will suffer "death". The Bible only shows us two who went up without suffering death, right, or are there more than Enoch and Elijah?

It is only by His Faith that any one of us has an assurance of certain "Life" now and "Life" after our natural "death" however and whenever it comes.

If your cause, David, if it is for that aim, the salvation of the Elect, I commend you for your passion in this debate. On the other hand, if your passion is simply to be established with pretense and be right, I do shun you, but with respect seeing we all have a mandate to "love" our enemies and do good to those that hate us showing due respect for what one believes respectible in their own eyes.

Of course, there are limits to giving due respect and at times one can "scorn" a people or a person for their idiosyncrasy or stupidity as Micah says:

Mic 6:15 You shall sow, but not reap; you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil; you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.
Mic 6:16 For you have kept the statutes of Omri, and all the works of the house of Ahab; and you have walked in their counsels, that I may make you a desolation, and your inhabitants a hissing; so you shall bear the scorn of my people."

So, David, the level of scorn you have come to in this debate with TF rises to the level of being "scorned" by the People of God.

You could debate a bit more decently these things if our end is the salvation of the Elect?

natamllc said...

Oh yeah, another thing comes to me as I reread Ponter's words. It occurs to me that most mindsets of these eras of debate cited by Ponter thought of the earth as a saucer and not as a globe! We do find in Scripture several warranted thoughts of the earth to be what we now know the earth to be, a globe, and in light of eternity, not an overly "old" globe at that!

Especially here:[[...However, we do know the topic of limited atonement was debated in Bullinger’s time. It was clarified by Prosper in the 5thC. It was debated again by Gottschalk in the 9thC. It was settled and clarified again by Lombard in the 12thC. Lombard’s synthesis was reaffirmed by Thomas in the 13thC....]

One comes away with this idea of his mindset being an ethereal world created through the prosaic imagination rather than one poetic imagination when one ponders Ponter's words above quoted.

Maybe now I am a bit dull myself in forthcoming with my observation of Ponter's mindset?

GeneMBridges said...


Ponter next asserts, "2) However, we do know the topic of limited atonement was debated in Bullinger’s time. It was clarified by Prosper in the 5thC. It was debated again by Gottschalk in the 9thC. It was settled and clarified again by Lombard in the 12thC. Lombard’s synthesis was reaffirmed by Thomas in the 13thC. We know that Bucer debated it in the 16thC, in some form or another. We know that Trent condemned limited atonement in the 16thC. So the issue was known to the Reformers." This is, perhaps, the most bizarre of Mr. Ponter's claims.


I. Lombard is not our rule of faith.

Bucer is not our rule of faith (but I can't help but notice that your opponent glosses over Bucer's connection to Calvin).

Prosper is not our rule of faith.

Gottschalk is not our rule of faith.

The irony here being that the statement culminates with a mention of the Council of Trent.

Of course, Trent is not our rule of faith.

But Trent has quite a lot to say about the rule of faith for the Church.

Am I, TF, the only one who sees the irony here...that this discussion is quickly becoming not about what Scripture says but what the "Reformed Fathers" say...it's rather like debating with a Roman Catholic who argues from a different rule of faith...and, to date, what has your opponent placed on his blog to refute the Roman Catholic rule of faith, the Romanist Gospel, etc.?

II. With that in mind, I would like to highlight a statement in the article by your opponent:

For examples, we would be stupid if we said that prior to Augustine, the early church had no settled understanding of eternal security, or before Athanasius, the early church had no proper understanding of the deity of Christ, that they had no need to be careful in their terminoloty. Or that we could not make warranted inferences from these men before the issues were debated.

Here! Here! Perhaps your opponent could, therefore, do those of us arguing with Arminians, Romanists, and the Orthodox could take a break from the atonement to do us a great service and help us by providing some quotable source material for our use. Indeed, why not argue over the early church and eternal security with an actual Arminian on the internet, for they often cry that the early church did not believe this (and many other things)? After all, if this debate over the atonement has, indeed, been settled, and those of us who differ are foolish and invincibly ignorant and dishonest (since the "honest" reader, according to your opponent will agree with him), then continuing these posts surely will do nothing more to convince us.