Thursday, July 02, 2009

Refuting David Ponter's Bunyan shuffle

[continued from here]

David Ponter has decided to attempt a response on the interpretation of John Bunyan on his blog here. Besides numerous ad-hominem and non-sequiturs which I will address later, Ponter's response to my interpretation can be summed in as follows: "The key text to interpret Bunyan's entire article is the quote in the middle of the section which we have previously quoted". This gives rise to Ponter's (and presumably Byrne's) hermeneutical matrix as follows:

Ponter's interpretation of Bunyan's middle section => Interpretation of Bunyan's article Reprobation asserted

I think what has been said has been said, so I will let the readers decide: What does it actually mean to "read in context"? Is reading in context equals

1) Coming up with a certain interpretation of the middle section of Bunyan's article, then categorically state that this particular interpretation of the passage in the middle of the article is the key to understanding the entire article by Bunyan?


2) Start at the beginning of Bunyan's article, understanding Bunyan's manner and terminologies, and then follow the flow of Bunyan's thoughts from beginning to end?

I think the answer is self-evident.

In order to reveal fully the numerous logical fallacies that Ponter actively engages in, it would be instrumental to look at his entire post just for once and point out specifically the logical errors Ponter makes. Ponter's words will be in dark red, and mine in black.

At first glace Mr Chew makes something which is really quite simple, that a child could follow, into something complex and obscure

Logical fallacy: Petitio Principii and false appeal to experience. I can easily say (and mean) the same thing; in that I find Ponter and Byrne's interpretation "mak[ing] something which is really quite simple, that a child could follow, into something complex and obscure". What does it prove? Nothing.

[Responding to the first part of the interpretation regarding Bunyan's two-fold aspect of Visible and Invisible Reprobation]

Of course, however, from God’s side, he knows who are the reprobate by eternal decree, and still says Bunyan, Christ’s desires their salvation, insofar as they are his creatures (see below). Mr Chew’s quip, therefore, really is off point.

Logical fallacy: Petitio principii! Did Bunyan say that Christ desire the salvation of actual reprobates, or reprobates in Bunyan's "temporal, visible sense" or both? This is a matter of interpretation which must be argued, not simply asserted. Ponter as usual refuses to let Bunyan speak for himself. After conceding that Bunyan does indeed teach a two-fold reprobation, Ponter ignores that and asserts that Bunyan does in fact have the "invisible reprobation in view", without any proof whatsoever.

[Referring to the difference between the collective and the individual]

4) Mr Chew thinks all this this is “probably” what Bunyan had in mind.

Logical fallacy: Red herring. Nevertheless, Mr. Ponter "probably" thinks that this is not what Bunyan has in mind? Given the growing emphasis on Covenant Theology in that era, which assumption has a higher probability of being correct?

[Referring to my discussion of the difference between actions towards the collective and the individual]

Of course there is some truth to this, for example, as some statements to a group can imply a condition, or the condition can be explicit, which means that of any who fail to meet the condition may not be the direct objects of the original predicating statement

Logical fallacy: Ignoratio elenchi! This is NOT what the logical fallacy is discussing. An example of the fallacy of composition is as follows:

Sodium is a dangerous chemical which can explode. Chlorine is a highly toxic chemical. So therefore, Sodium Chloride is a dangerous and toxic chemical which can explode?

Or with regards to humans and society:

No man without tools possess the ability to build the Great Wall of China. Therefore, China with her men could not build the Great Wall of China?

Here is an example of the fallacy of division:

Ancient Greek society with its promotion of pederasty is utterly decadent. Therefore, if you were living at that time, any Greek you meet would be utterly decadent and promoting pederasty.

I find it truly illuminating that these self-proclaimed theologians do not even have an idea what these logical fallacies are.

I) Where now did Mr Chew follow his own strictures in coming to this conclusion? He didn’t. He has totally discarded them.

Logical fallacy: Ipse dixit and Petitio Principii. Of course just what "strictures" Ponter thinks I have come up with is beyond me.

III) What evidence is there from Bunyan’s text that Bunyan operated by this idea? There is nothing. Mr Chew adduces not a single shred of evidence that this is so from Bunyan directly.

This is willful blindness. Having acknowledged that Bunyan taught a two-fold reprobation, Ponter conveniently forgets that fact this very instance. Of course, I am not proving that Bunyan taught my position (that would be anachronistic and commit the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent); what I am saying is that my interpretation makes the most sense of Bunyan's concept of two-fold reprobation and God's dealing with them, unlike Byrne's and Ponter's total neglect of Bunyan's concept.

I will say this as forcefully as I can, only a dishonest man would deny or still try to claim that by the phrase “sinners as sinners” Bunyan means to exclude the reprobate (as normally defined), or, that he meant only to speak of a collective but not to all the individuals within that collective.

Logical fallacy: Non sequitur and ipse dixit. Just because Ponter does not see it does not mean it is not there. Unless Ponter wants to claim ex cathedra authority that is. I certainly have no problem seeing that concept taught in the passage Ponter quotes!

The phrase meant to cover all sinners. His point is easy to comprehend: as any man stands in the capacity of being a sinner, he is to be offered and tendered the gospel. Even those who turn out to be finally reprobate, are tendered the gospel.

Agreed, but....

As any man stands in the capacity of being a sinner, God is willing to save him.

Logical fallacy: Non sequitur. The truths of the previous sentences do not logically imply this lone assertion. This by the way commits the fallacy of inferring intentions from imperatives which I have shown to be both illogical and unbiblical in my PDF repudiation of Byrne's arguments here.

Further, this section from Bunyan is followed almost immediately by the disputed section (see below), showing that it is “in context.”

Yes, this section from Bunyan is followed almost immediately by the disputed section. However, why is the direction of interpretation backwards from the disputed section to the section preceding it, instead of forward exegesis? Furthermore, since that section is disputed, shouldn't it be the case that other sections be used to interpret it instead of the other way around?

Mr Chew quite anachronistically pulls this idea [of federal representation] out of the brain of Herman Hoeksema, who, though borrowing it from Bavinck, distorted it.

I did not learn my theology from Hoeksema and the PRCA, and I am not too enamored of the PRC's doctrinal stances either, so Ponter is grasping at straws here. I learn most of my doctrinal foundations from Dr. James White and Dr. Robert Reymond, both godly ministers who have been slandered by Tony Byrne as "hyper-Calvinists". As for the issue of anachronism, what does Ponter think the Reformed and Presbyterian churches based their view of infant baptism upon? How do they argue their case for baptizing infants who may grow up to be reprobate? I rest my case.

Then the question comes to this, how can Christ be said to be the federal head of the man who finally perishes in hell?

In the same way as those reprobates who are baptized as infants in Reformed and Presbyterian churches are considered saints and members of Christ's church even though they finally perish in hell. Seriously, does Ponter even understand what he is critiquing? Christ is not the federal head of the man in hell; God offers to all Man, based on the federal representation of Man in Adam as sinners, the Gospel; Christ is the federal head only of the elect who respond to the Gospel. Logical fallacy: Ignoratio elenchi and Strawman.

This certainly reads as if Bunyan is rehearsing a scenario of a man over whom Christ weeps but ends his days in hell.

Logical fallacy: Non sequitur and Ipse dixit! Bunyan did not talk to the man who goes to hell, but who is in danger of going to hell. Big difference!

[In discussing my interpretation of Bunyan's two-fold reprobation]

The upshot is, Bunyan is only speaking of our view of Gods desire to save those who seem to us to be reprobate. My, my, how far we left behind the “sinners qua sinners” step.

Logical fallacy: False dichotomy! It is not either/or but both/and. The way Ponter replies, it is as if Bunyan was writing a modern technical treatise on this subject on a few pages instead of the tens of pages in which he develop his ideas and arguments.

Bunyan is not referring to an amorphous collective, or to men who appear to us to be reprobate, but to men who finally perish, to the reprobate who finally perish, to all who finally perish, even to man qua man (as the creature of God).

Logical fallacy: Ipse dixit!

The reprobate who finally perish [sic] is not the ‘temporarily appearing reprobate,’ which is not Bunyan’s meaning here at all, but the reprobate as normally defined.

Logical fallacy: Ipse dixit. It seems in Ponter's view Bunyan should have just skipped the preceding sections and start writing in the middle! One wonders why Bunyan would even bother to write near the beginning of the article his definition two-fold definition of reprobation.

In conclusion, it can be seen that Ponter commits many logical fallacy just in this piece of his. Ponter therefore is in error and his case is lost.

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