Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Rebuttal of "Calvinism Critiqued" by Steve Jones (part 2)

[continued from here]

Total Inability and the Gospel

Jones here fell into philosophical language. While there is nothing wrong with arguing philosophically, there is something wrong in trying to portray oneself as being above the fray of philosophizing, as he did previously in the chapter on original perfection, and then engage in philosophizing.

Jones basic argument here is that total inability contradicts human responsibility and the call to obey. That of course is an "unproven philosophical assumption," to use Jones' words in the previous section. Sure, it sounds natural to Man as a proper assumption to make, but an assumption it still is. Jones of course tries to prove this assumption, which we shall now look at.

In the first few cases involving Moses and Joshua, Jones is merely repeating the conclusion as premise, or begging the question. Assuming the conclusion as premise to prove the conclusion does not an valid argument make.

The only argument that does not beg the question is the citation of Is. 6: 9-10, and Jesus' proclamation in parables (Mt. 13: 10-15) citing the passage in Isaiah. Jones here claimed that Jesus' proclamation in parables meant that "had he [Jesus] preached the truth openly they would have turned and be forgiven." The problem however is that this is an invalid conclusion to make. Logically, just because "If p, then q" does not mean that "If not p, then not q." In other words, just because "If Jesus preached in parables, therefore they do not believe" does not necessitate that "If Jesus did not preach in parables, then they would believe." The argument is therefore one large logical fallacy. There is also a problem for Jones' argument: the person of Judas Iscariot. Judas heard the explanation of the parables (thus openly and plainly) and yet he did not believe. Jones' argument is therefore invalid and false.

The fact of the matter is that God uses means, which is why passages such as Is. 6:9-10 and Mt. 13:1-15 exist. Proclaiming in parables is God's way of veiling the truth to others in judgment, not that they would have believed if they only heard it openly.

Jones' argument against total inability therefore fails again.

The hardened heart

Here, Jones make a categorical confusion, as if hardness of heart does not have degrees to it. Just because Man is born dead in sin does not mean that he (and/or God) couldn't harden his heart further. One wonders just how much exposure Jones had to Calvinism before he rejected it.

With this, let us turn to the biblical passages.

Rom. 3:10-12

Jones here ignores how Paul uses the text of Scripture, but instead merely look at its Old Testament background. To be sure, David the poet is using it to describe the fool, and thus it is a "poetic exaggeration." Yet, Paul is utilizing these and other texts drawn from the Old Testament to make a point. The entire section from Rom. 3:10-18 is a collection of verse drawn from various parts of the Old Testament in differing contexts. With such a mishmash of verses, how can it be said that they even cohere together?

Paul is thus using these verses to draw out a deeper point from them which they individually do not seem to point to. In other words, Paul is interpreting these verses, not just merely citing them, to prove his point that "both Jews and Greeks are under sin" (Rom. 3:9). The verses cited is an interpretation by Paul of what these verses actually mean in the light of redemptive history — in the light of the Cross. Therefore, the deeper meaning of these verses are to show the symptom of what sin is for all people, not just for "the fool." Instead of limiting the description of moral inability to the mere "fool," Paul and Scripture is calling upon us to see all men as in some sense a "fool" because of their sin.

1 Cor. 2:14

Here Jones' main point is that the passage is not speaking of "men in his native state" but "that man who relates to life apart from a spiritual paradigm." That however does not solve the problem. In fact, Jones presupposes that man in his native state can have a life with a spiritual paradigm. While he accuses Calvinists of bringing in their presupposition, he is in fact bringing in his own presuppositions.

If we look at Scripture, the soulish Man (ψυχικος) is the person who is in Adam (1 Cor. 15: 44-47), which is to say "man in his native state." Jones ignores the teaching of Scripture here but smuggles in his presuppositions into the text.

Jn. 6:44

Here, Jones makes the error that just because God uses means therefore God's calling is not irresistible. This is however a misrepresentation of Calvinism, whereby God ordains both the ends and the means to those ends.

Eph. 2:1

Exegesis is certainly not part of Jones' skill set, most certainly not here. Jones quotes one person, Edward White, to say that being "dead" here is equivalent to "as good as dead." Citing many verses (apart from the immediate context), White denies that there is such a thing as spiritual death but rather that being "dead" in Eph. 2:1 basically means that all the unregenerate are "as good as dead," with a final destination of hell.

The problem comes when we look at the immediate context. We were "dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked." Where in the passage is the idea of being dead conceived of as a tense and not a state? Nowhere! It is an idea imported from other places of Scripture which deals with other issues. The immediate context contrasts the state of being dead with the state of being alive in Eph. 2:4. Are we to imagine that Paul had in mind a person who is alive but who is going to die in Eph. 2:1? So Eph. 2:4 must then read "But God... even when we are alive but going to die ... make us going to be be alive"? What does this nonsense even mean?

White's and Jones' interpretation of Eph. 2:1 is therefore eisegesis, not exegesis. It reads into the text what they want it to mean, rather than what it actually teaches in context.

Faulty Application?

Jones addresses a few verses here. He correctly states that the immediate context refers to Israel in her specific historical situation, yet fails to understand their relevance in the context of redemptive history where Paul for example interprets the Old Testament in passages like Rom. 3:10-18. As it can be seen, Jones rejected Calvinism for a philosophical assumption that God cannot be just for requiring an impossibility of justice from depraved humans, an assumption that assumes that God owes men the ability to be just, as if God owes men anything at all! To put it bluntly, Jones' "god" owes men what He commands men to do, the quintessential assumption made by Pelagius and all his theological progeny. This is the crux of the matter, and shows to all that the denial of Calvinism logically leads to Pelagianism (of which Socinianism is one such variety), not just to Arminianism which is inconsistent with itself.

With this main point done, let us look into Jones' view of the other 4 points of Calvinism.


Jones here first depicts both the views of Calvinism and Classical Arminianism. He then rejects both of them and views election as a mystery. His citation of Eze. 18:23 shows his inability to distinguish between God's revealed will and His secret will. Furthermore, Eze. 18:23 is indiscriminate to all men (Universal collective), not an application that God does not reprobate certain men (Particular individual).

Jones' next mangles the text of Mt. 23:37. The text speaks of Jesus weeping over the children of Jerusalem because of the unwillingness of her leaders. Jesus is not weeping over the reprobation of the leaders of Jerusalem, but rather over the state of the children of Jerusalem whose leaders prevented them from coming to Jesus. The leaders were unwilling, not as Jones mis-state it, the children who were unwilling.

Jones' relegation of the doctrine of election to mystery is due to his unwillingness to embrace Calvinism out of his eisegesis of Scripture, and his clear perception of the error of Arminian election. Having rejected both, he does not know what to do with it and therefore relegates it to mystery.

Particular Redemption

Jones here does not take a position on the topic. Rather, he points to various texts which he thinks show that Particular Redemption has a problem with. The appeal to 2 Peter 2:1, 2 is in error because the word used is δεσποτην (accusative form), which is brought over to English in the word "despot." The master here therefore has the connotation of the idea of being owned by virtue of creation, not of being saved. The appeal to Rom. 14:15 is hypothetical, not that such a destruction is in mind by which a brother can lose his salvation.

Efficacious Grace

As Jones' main point of contention is the idea of Total Depravity, he does not interact much with the other points. His main disagreement here is that Scripture does not seem to reveal it. In fact, his disagreement here is the denial that regeneration is necessary for faith. However, this truth can be seen in passages like Eph. 2:1-10, where God made us alive in Christ even while we were still dead in our trespasses (Eph. 2:4), not to mention of course Rom. 9.

Jones continues in this trajectory by saying that Man is not wholly active in conversion and other such endeavors. The problem is that nobody denies that. The issue before us is not conversion but regeneration. Conversion requires our faith to be sure, but regeneration as a gift of God is purely monergistic. In Eze. 37 in the prophecy of the valley of dry bones, the bring of life is purely a work of the Spirit, not of anything sinners do.


Jones here attempts to keep the tension and to some extent he succeeds.


In conclusion, Jones' article in unbiblical. He is logical however, and with the rejection of Calvinism reverts to some form of Pelagianism. He exhorts us to "adopt a Berean approach" and "honestly rethink [our] Calvinism," an exhortation which is certainly good by itself. Calvinism is grounded in the Scriptures, as we have proven above, and a Berean approach to it will show that to be the case. Jones' article has been examined in the light of Scripture, and found wanting.

May we therefore do examine everything with an open Bible, and reject articles like Jones' when they fall short. Amen.

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