Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reviewing a Blog Exchange Between Hays and Hubner

I've been watching, with some sadness, a blog exchange between two guys with whom I'm on good terms. I thought I'd post my thoughts on the exchange here for what it's worth. It's a long post and probably only of interest to me, the two guys, and a few of our mutual friends. Nevertheless, I offer it up for your reading enjoyment, if you so choose. I had considered entitling it "Scoring a Debate," but I think there is a pretty clear outcome to the exchange, and perhaps I can just leave the reader to draw his own conclusion about how I would score it.

1. A Brief History of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology (Jamin Hubner)

In this post, Hubner writes (amongst a lot of other stuff):
Eventually, in the last half of the century, Dispensationalism became popular enough that it started affecting mainstream politics and foreign policy regarding Israel and Palestine.[2]

[2] See Gary Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise? (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2003).
In response, Steve Hays posted:

2. Sleeping with the enemy (Steve Hays)

In this post, Hays did not challenge the question of whether Dispensationalism affected mainstream politics and foreign policy in America. Hays, however, objected to Hubner "plugging Gary Burge’s tendentiously entitled Whose Land? Whose Promise?: What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians."

Hays took the position that "Burge is basically a shill for Hamas." Hays also posted links to three negative book reviews of Burge's book.

In response, Hubner posted:

3. Steve Hays, Hubbub, and Hamas

In this post, Hubner expressed confusion ("One is simply left wondering: why was this written, and why now? Whatever the case, I’m not the only one left scratching my head ... .") at the point of Hays' post, after first impugning Hays' motives: "Today he wrote an entire blog post ... for (what appears) no other reason than to make me look bad through association" and "now Steve stoops to a new low in trying to solidify his “pattern” theory." In support of this criticism of Hays' motives, Hubner introduced some prior criticism of Hubner that Hays had provided.

Then Hubner posed three questions, to wit:
  1. Who is the one “sleeping with the enemy” and who is the “enemy” in the title of your blog post, and why did you see those terms as fitting?

  2. How were you hoping your readers would respond to your particular post, in thought and/or action?

  3. Did you read Gary Burge’s book Whose Land, Whose Promise? prior to when you wrote your post essentially criticizing the book, and if not, are you willing to read it and discuss the arguments he raises? (I certainly am.)
The first two questions may be interesting to Hubner, but they don't have any logical relation to Hays' argument. The third question also doesn't appear to have much to do with Hays' argument. Hays cited three reviews of Burge's book (he didn't claim to have read the book himself), and Hays was not addressing a specific argument that Burge presented.

Hays responded with:

4. Siding with the enemy

In this post, after addressing some of Hubner's complaints about being criticized, Hays pointed out that there is a difference between culpable and inculpable association. Hays wrote:
ii) Jamin isn’t merely “associated” with Burge, in some purely incidental way, because he happened to reference a book of his.

No, Jamin agrees with Burge. For instance:
…Israel is guilty of committing countless war atrocities that qualify and surpass the covenant obligations in Scripture. Mass murder. Torturing men ages 14-60s. Unjust use of water supply and the abusive treatment of aliens and foreigners. The creation of millions of refugees. And so on and so forth.[14]

[14] See chapter 2-3 of Burge, Whose Land, Whose Promise?

Notice how he defaults to Burge as an unquestioned authority, to validate Jamin’s incendiary allegations.
It should be noted that here Hays is quoting from a different blog post than the originally quoted post. Thus, Hays has now identified two places where Hubner has positively cited Burge's book.

Hays then went to argue that the purpose of his post is self-explanatory from the content. Responding to question 1 above, Hays wrote:
i) Burge is the immediate target, but to the degree that Jamin is rubberstamping Burge, then he’s complicit, too.

ii) Because we’re in a counteroffensive against global jihad and creeping dhimmitude. In a conflict of that nature, it’s crucial to know the difference between your allies and your enemies. Burge is siding with the enemy.
In responding to the second question from Hubner, Hays wrote:
By considering Burge’s affiliations and reading the reviews, to alert them to Burge’s agenda.
In response to Hubner's third question, Hays wrote:
i) Jamin is recasting the point of the post. That’s a red herring. As I pointed out, the question at issue are the political (contributor to Sojourners) and theological (PC-USA minister) presuppositions which Burge brings to his book. And you don’t have to read his book to know that, for his book is not the only thing he’s written on the subject. For instance:

ii) And I don’t need to read Burge to know about the nature of the Arab/Israeli conflict.
In response Hubner posted:

5. Steve’s Reply, and My Take On Present-Day “Israel”

In this post, Hubner leads by essentially calling Hays dishonest ("Until then, I think everyone should be wondering, for a well-known blogger who gives advice on how to do apologetics, why didn’t he just say so? Enough sowing seeds of doubt against another fellow Christian, and making assertions with unstated conclusions. Just be honest and say what you believe") .

Hubner then adds:
and saying my citation of a book “ought to alert one to his presuppositions” is anything but helpful for readers, as it hardly begins to explain why that is the case, or what “presuppositions” they are, or why they are wrong, why any of these things are significant, etc.
This is a strange statement, since what Hays had actually written was: "The fact that Burge is a PC-USA minister, along with the further fact that he’s a contributor to Jim Wallis’s leftwing rag Sojourners, ought to alert one to his presuppositions." It's unclear how Hubner's statement bears any reasonable relation to what Steve actually said. Moreover, that comment was not Hays' only comment. Hays was pretty explicit in saying that "From what I’ve read by him and about him, Burge is basically a shill for Hamas." That was Hays' very next line after what Hubner quoted.

Hubner also writes:
Indeed, publicly calling on the people of God to be on the “alert” for the presuppositions of a certain Christian apologist is a serious charge, and whether anyone likes it or not, it cannot just be brushed aside (though I’d sometimes like to!).
It appears that Hubner has similarly mistakenly interpreted Hays' criticism of Burge for criticism of Hubner.

And then Hubner expresses yet more confusion:
Now I am really confused. Is Steve actually saying that these historical events just didn’t happen? Or, if they did, that they are irrelevant to discussing…whatever conflict he means when he talks about “taking sides”? I hope Steve can provide some answers to this.
Hubner then goes on to state his position on the Jews.

In short, it appears that at this point in the back-and-forth, Hubner still has not addressed Hays' challenge to Burge's presuppositions, perhaps due to Hubner assuming this is all about him, not about Burge - despite Hays' clear statement that it is about Burge.

Hays responded with:

6. Voodoo dolls

Hays begins by pointing out Hubner's seeming desire to make this discussion about himself, rather than about Burge and briefly noting Hubner's double standard of casting doubt on Hays while complaining that Hays is casting doubt on Hubner.

Moving on from there, Hays addressed Hubner's question/point about the readers needing to be alerted about what presuppositions are at stake in this way:
i) I trust that most readers of Triablogue are capable of drawing their own conclusions. I’m sorry that Jamin can’t give his own readers that much credit.

ii) Is it really so hard to follow the trail of breadcrumbs?

If Burge is ordained in the PC-USA, that tells you something about his theological sympathies, or tolerance for liberal theology. If Burge is a regular contributor to Sojourners, that tells you something about his (leftwing) political sympathies. Those are presuppositions that he brings to his analysis of the Arab/Israeli conflict.
Then Hays addresses the fact that Hubner had misinterpreted Hays words about Burge as being about Hubner with some rather colorful analogies.

Hays then turned to Hubner's question about whether the events described in Hubner's post actually happened. Hays initially explained:
i) I didn’t take a position on that one way or the other. Rather, as I specified, the question is whether he should be getting his information from a guy like Burge.
At this point, Hays could have stopped, because the question of whether people should be getting info from Burge was really the point at hand.

Nevertheless, Hays went on to question each of the quite general assertions set forth in the second instance that Hays had identified where Hubner had cited Burge favorably.

Finally, Hays turned to address one point from Hubner's discussion of his own view of Israel:
[quoting Hubner]
I don’t believe any human being (or nation for that matter) should support – either by word or deed – any secular nation regardless of what it has done, is doing, and intends to do.

You’re entitled to your Pollyannaish blather, but the US has a prefect right to support nations that support us in a military alliance against a common enemy. The president of the US has a sworn duty to defend the homeland.

It’s also simplistic to describe Israel as a “secular nation.” Aside from the sizable number of observant Jews in Israel, let’s not demean the leavening presence of Messianic Jews in Israel.

I think it would be a good idea for James White to do another show with Michael Brown, only this time he can ask Dr. Brown to discuss the Arab/Israeli conflict.
Obviously, at this point, the areas being discussed are expanding.

Hubner responds with:

7. Steve Stoops Lower Still

After complaining about the tone of Hays' prior post and the fact that he thinks Hays is not interested in talking about what Hubner wants to talk about, Hubner states (I'm omitting the bold that was generously used in Hubner's post):
First things first. Steve ought to read Burge’s book before his public ignorance of its arguments grows larger than his apologetics blog can handle.
Of course, Hays never claimed either to have read the book or to be familiar with the arguments in the book. Hays had already clarified that his point was about the problem with Burge's presuppositions.

Next, Hubner suggested that people read Burge's book because "Burge’s book contains a fair argument ... , namely, that if Jews want to claim their God-given right over “their land,” they should at least be consistent in applying the God-given conditions for possessing that land." Hubner distances himself from other of Burge's arguments. Nevertheless, Hubner's point here again does not address Hays' contention regarding the presuppositions behind Burge's book. Additionally, in neither instance where Burge was cited by Hubner above was Hubner citing that argument from Burge. Instead, Hubner was citing Burge as a fact witness.

Hubner continued by arguing (bold and italics were generously used - I've omitted them):
Third, as if it even needed to be said, Steve’s entire argument made thus far (if there is one to be identified) is by and large, fallacious. Gary Burge could be the most evil person on the planet, a racist sexist homophobic Marxist Mormon murderer, and none of that would change the facts, or change the legitimacy of the facts if they are spoken by such a person. Steve knows that it doesn’t matter who is making an argument, what matters is what is being said.
This response confuses categories. First, there is a difference between the validity of Burge's arguments and the truthfulness of Burge's factual claims. The validity of Burge's arguments doesn't hinge on Burge being a good person. However, second, if Burge hates Jews (assume he does for the sake of the argument), then one should be naturally suspicious of him as a source of anti-Jewish facts. That doesn't automatically invalidate his factual claims, of course. Nevertheless, it means one might be better advised to quote as a fact witness, someone without the presuppositions that Hays has alleged that Burge has.

Hubner continues the category confusion with this:
But, how does this even matter if Steve is incapable and/or willing to demonstrate how those presuppositions render Burge’s argument in his book that I cited from (which is how all of this got started) wrong or invalid?
But Hays didn't interact with any of Burge's arguments and (until this post) Hubner had cited Burge for facts, not arguments. Hubner didn't say, "As Burge argued Israelis need to be consistent." No, Hubner had accused Jews of war crimes and atrocities and had suggested a connection between dispensationalism and a pro-Israel foreign policy citing Burge for those alleged facts.

Hubner then complains about his attempts to make this about himself being largely ignored by Hays.

Hubner then provided additional complaints, alleging his misreading of Hays was reasonable and complaining about the tone of Hays' response to his error.

Hubner then provided some responses to Hays' questions regarding Hubner's factual assertions for which Hubner had cited Burge.

Finally, Hubner posed several additional question to Hays, namely:
  1. Is it even possible for the modern-day nation of Israel to do anything worthy of condemnation?

  2. And have they done anything that is worthy of condemnation in the past?

  3. If they have, would it not be helpful to acknowledge and understand those events before blindly conceding to every effort to “support Israel”? (Because, if my neighbor commits sin, I don’t want to be responsible for having helped that sin to occur. Wouldn’t you agree? Or is present-day Israel incapable of doing something wrong as a national entity?)
These questions, of course, don't address any of Hays' arguments. They might move forward a general discussion about the merits of Israel as a nation, or the Israel-Palestine debate, but that wasn't the debate that Hays had offered or one for which Hays had provided arguments, beyond questioning Hubner's factual allegations.

Hays responded with:

8. Dupes for Hamas

In the post, Hays noted Hubner's attempts to make the discussion about himself and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than about what Hays actually wrote in his original post.

Hays commented that Hubner's first comment about "public ignorance" is ironic, because it implies that one cannot take Hubner's word that Burge states what Hubner cited him for.

Hays then pointed out that Hubner has again not followed Hays' argument, identifying a new instance of what Hays referred to as "bait-n-switch."

Hays then addressed Hubner's claim to ignorance of what Burge has written by pointing out that Hays has not only provided reviews of Burge's book but also a link to an article where Burge "tips his hand," according to Hays.

Using some colorful analogies, Hays explains (as I did above) that actually person's presuppositions (and who they are in general) do matter when the person is being treated as a fact source:
Actually, it does matter. It goes to the credibility of the witness. Whether a reported “fact” is, indeed, a fact, involves a consideration of what motivated the witness. That’s pretty standard stuff in sifting testimonial evidence. Take C. A. J. Coady’s Testimony: A Philosophical Study.

If a guy with a clinical history of psychosis assures me that he saw bear-sized rats in the basement, who is making the claim factors into my evaluation of the claim.
Hays then accuses of Hubner of dishonesty:
[quoting Hubner]
That’s why I am so amazed that Steve is willing to pass by the substance of arguments themselves (apologetics -argument-truth) in order to attack people via their associations (politics-ad hominem-people).
Notice that Jamin isn’t making the slightest effort to be honest. For I specifically distinguished between culpable and inculpable association. Does Jamin interact with that distinction? No. Rather, he ignores it, then acts as if I’m the one who fails to draw distinctions. Go figure.
Hays then goes on to provide a detailed refutation of the remaining points related to Hubner's previous questions about whether Hays accepts Burge's factual assertions. Hays explains how Hubner is not addressing the issues and not properly characterizing Hays' responses.

Hubner responded with:

9. And That Answers That

Hubner starts off his post with this remarkable string of assertions:
I’d love to continue to respond to his questions (e.g. discussing such events as Deir Yassin massacre and the history of the secular state of Israel, etc.) and correct his argumentative errors and double-standards, but, as I indicated in the conclusion to my last post on this subject, answering a whole set of questions from a person who refuses to do the same (only with Steve’s case, he is refusing to answer the most basic questions) is fruitless. It’s like debating the doctrine of atonement with someone who you don’t even know believes the Bible is the Word of God, or discussing inerrancy with an atheist who won’t tell you if he’s an atheist, or what have you. It’s 100% pointless. Until we know where each other is coming from, there can be no progress. And it is by all means clear that Steve does not want to (and perhaps, because he cannot) provide a positive case for his own position, let alone summarize it. He simply wants to criticize without following through and without providing anything more. I refuse to take part in that, as should everyone else.
First, Hays never offered to carry on a debate or discussion about those things. Instead, Hays had been attempting to make the point that he started with, namely his challenge to citing Burge as a fact source with respect to the Isreal/Palestine discussion, given Burge's presuppositions. Moreover, while Hubner may not like all the answers that he has been given, there is documentation above showing Hays answering Hubner's questions, even questions that are not actually germane to Hays' points.

Hays' position was that Burge isn't someone who should be a trusted source, and Hays documented that position. Hays didn't offer a position on a number of other topics, but why should he?

Hubner continues by stating: "in this part we realize that Steve has no interest in talking about the fundamental issues of present-day Israel and Christian theology." I'm not sure why this comes as a surprise to Hubner. Hays' objection wasn't couched in terms of the fundamental issues of present-day Israel and Christian theology. Why on earth should Hays care about such a thing? Simply because Hubner has irrelevantly dragged it into the discussion?

Hubner then goes on to impugn Hays' motives for not quoting a larger segment of Hubner's post (at the second portion).

Hubner goes on to argue:
“Doesn’t subject his sources to rudimentary scrutiny?” Uhhh, what? Steve hasn’t even read the source that I have cited from and that he criticizes. Why would I think that providing more sources would be adequate? I wonder, if Burge wasn’t a PCUSA minister and didn’t write for Sojourners, would his book magically become a credible source – credible enough that Steve would bother to read and understand its argument? (And I wonder, if I switched around and asserted that the Palestinians have done bad things in the past instead of Israel, would Steve criticize these factual claims just the same? Would he have even looked up the bio of the author of the source I was citing, like he did for Burge? Given what he has written, I doubt it.)
In point of fact, though, Hays didn't criticize the factual claims until Hubner insisted on Hays commenting on them. Hays' initial point was the untrustworthiness of Burge as a source. As Hays explained already, one does not have to read Burge's book to know that. One can read reviews and one can read other things that Burge has written.

Moreover, Hays' comment about Hubner's lack of discernment in citing an alleged "shill" of Hamas as a fact source regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict stands on its own two feet. That comment is not undermined even if Hays himself is someone who doesn't exercise proper discernment or doesn't properly do his homework (not that such accusations are true). Thus, Hubner's argument that appears to be an attempted tu quoque falls flat.

Hubner states:
We already know Steve is convinced Burge’s works are generally bunk – not because what Burge says is actually wrong, but because Burge was ordained in the PCUSA and has contributed to a Christian-leftist publication.
Again, this is not an accurate characterization of what Hays said. Hays said Burge is not trustworthy on this topic as a source of facts. That doesn't mean that everything Burge says is wrong, or that any given argument from Burge is wrong.

It's absolutely astounding to me that Hubner still doesn't get Hays' point. I assume that Hays will leave it at this, because I can't imagine that Hays could be any more clear than he has been.

UPDATE *** Hays provided one further round of comments in the following (which it appears he wrote before seeing my summary above, though I don't know that for sure):

10. Instant-expert syndrome

In this response, Hays points out that the "Deir Yassin massacre" is not particularly cut and dried, and that it would be prudent to suspend judgment about it.

Hays also addressed comments (quoted at the top of 9 above) in this way:
I realize that it’s in Jamin’s self-interest to change the subject, but the thesis of my initial post was very modest and narrowly-targeted. So, no, I don’t have to chase Jamin down diversionary rabbit trails.
which, of course, is the case. There's no requirement for Hays to discuss other topics.



Coram Deo said...


I've been following this back and forth as well, although I'm not on any sort of personal terms with either of the interlocutors.

I think your analysis here brings some reasoned and dispassionate objectivity to the dialogue from the perspective of someone "without a dog in the fight", as it were.

I also agree with your conclusions; you articulated what I was thinking.

Thank you.

Also I noticed a couple of editorial housekeeping items:

It's a long post and probably only of interested to me, the two guys, and a few of our mutual friends. - "interested" should be "interest".

In short, it appears that at this point in the back-and-forth, Hubner still has not addressed Hays' challenge to Burge's presuppositions, perhaps do to Hubner assuming this is all about him, not about Burge - despite Hays' clear statement that it is about Burge. - "do" should be "due".

In Christ,

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for the corrections.

Ryan said...

Turretinfan wrote this post. I don't trust that guy...

Randall van der Sterren said...

I wish I had the time to this in more detail.

Rather, I'll point out that you miss the silliness of Hays and his onslaught of ad hominems. He ought to investigate the merits of American Christians supporting Israel against her enemies.

Instead, Hays pounds the table about his opponent's alleged bad character and emotional problems. He also obsesses on a citation from a PC(USA) author about a non-controversial claim, that Dispensationalism is popular enough to influence foreign policy.

The issue of quoting liberal sources on issues not directly Gospel-related is not something to fight about. The fact that someone has leftist views does mean he spreads false-hoods on every subject. We all read and cite people with bad political opinions, including Hays.

Turretinfan said...




Thanks for your contribution! I have no idea who you are, but thanks for sharing your mind.


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Good score-keeping!

Coram Deo said...


RvdS is a resident troll at T-Blogue.

In my limited experience he seems to show up there - and apparently wherever else something that might seem vaguely favorable to Steve materializes - in order to cast aspersions and generally act as a foil to Hays' cogitations.

He styles himself as an "anti-Steve" of sorts; which seems to me an odd lot in life.

In Christ,

Randall van der Sterren said...

Coram Deo:

What do you consider trolling?

Notice how Hays fires away at Jamin Hubner, a particular Baptist writer, with the same vitriol and antagonism that he uses with his usual targets: modernists, Tridentine Catholics, and village atheists. He’s done this in the past with other Christians who disagree with him, including myself. He takes the same insufferable, pedantic tone with everybody, trying to score points in imaginary debates.

Look at his last missive, where Hays refuses to "provide a positive case for his own position" (as JH pointed out). Instead he wants to uphold a "narrowly targeted" thesis, which is the myopic complaint about Burge.

Further, he becomes downright anti-intellectual when he says no one can speak seriously on the Israel Question without speaking both Arabic and Modern Hebrew. That's like saying you can't understand the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan without speaking Russian and Farsi.

So I suspect Hays is out of his depth on the Middle East. If he knew his position he wouldn't waste so much time dancing around the core issue.

Note that in an earlier post, Triablogue plugged the works of Michael Brown, the MJ scholar formerly associated with the Brownsville Revival. Brown's views are hard-core Christian Zionism of the sort that treats the Reformed as evil "replacement theologians." That’s amazing, especially considering the precedent set by the complaints about Burge.

Coram Deo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coram Deo said...


I suggested that you are a "resident troll" which is to be differentiated from the general trollish class.

But I think the rest of my comment fleshed out your M.O. pretty clearly.

Look, I'm no fanboy of Steve's, in fact I've been on the receiving end of a litany of his "vitriol and antagonism" (as TF can testify) so I think I speak from a fairly objective position here.

My well considered opinion is that JH simply can't stand criticism, and has allowed sinful pride to creep into his apologetic.

Does this mean Steve is pure as the driven snow and doesn't have a drop of pride in his rarified soul? No. We all carry around our share, and I'm painfully aware of my own problems in this area.

But the bottom line, as TF has clearly pointed out and Steve has repeatedly affirmed, is that Steve's original complaint was indeed JH's citation of Burge as a source of fact. This simple point remains unaddressed throughout JH's screeching screeds as he waves his hands and stamps his feet in protest.

I think this is a sad debacle for an otherwise gifted thinker, but JH is still rather young and I think he will mature in time.

With respect to the rest of your comment you're free to complain about Hays' alleged double-standard if you'd like, but that still does nothing to diminish the validity of his original point.

In Him,

Turretinfan said...


That makes sense, I guess. It explains why RvdP seems not to interact with Hays' objection except to apply disparaging terms to it, and why he seems to think Hays is obligated to debate other subjects than those he signs up for.


Rhology said...

The issue of quoting liberal sources on issues not directly Gospel-related is not something to fight about.

...he said, thus perpetuating a fight about something not Gospel-related.
Irony vortex dead ahead!

Jim Pemberton said...

Thanks for the summary, TF. The Israel/Palestine issue is fraught with much disinformation and we do need to be careful of our sources. I can appreciate Jamin's approach to Israel in general, but Steve was right to challenge Burge as a source whether or not one would consider his approach tasteful. It's sad that Jamin doesn't see Steve's point as well-considered as I've seen him be on many things.

steve said...

Randall van der Sterren said...

“Further, he becomes downright anti-intellectual when he says no one can speak seriously on the Israel Question without speaking both Arabic and Modern Hebrew.”

Was that the issue? No. The issue was the dispute involving the correct interpretation of the so-called “Deir Yassin massacre.” And Jamin was the one who cited that incident.

What would it take to have an informed opinion on that dispute?

“Note that in an earlier post, Triablogue plugged the works of Michael Brown, the MJ scholar formerly associated with the Brownsville Revival. Brown's views are hard-core Christian Zionism of the sort that treats the Reformed as evil ‘replacement theologians.’ That’s amazing, especially considering the precedent set by the complaints about Burge.”

Why did I recommend Brown? That isn’t hard to figure out.

i) Jamin posted the allegation about Israel, along with the reference to Burge, on the AOMIN blog.

ii) James White and Michael Brown do mutual guest-show appearances. Therefore, given that framework, Brown would be a logical choice to present the other side of the argument.

iii) The question at issue isn’t theological, but historical. Is Israel guilty of the “atrocities” or “war crimes” that Jamin/Burge alleged? I daresay Brown is more conversant with the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict than Jamin. So that’s the point.

steve said...

A final point: I would take Brown's own presuppositions into account. But since everyone has a bias, it's useful to compare and contrast different biased explanations. For some people do have the better of the argument.

Moreover, not all biases are created equal. Both John Spong and Darrell Bock have written on the historical Jesus. Both men have presuppositions. But Bock's presuppositions are far superior to Spong's.