“Straw Men” Reproduce in Paul Dohse’s Hatchery

I just read some comments by Paul Dohse on my post “‘Straw Man’ Arguments about Justification and Sanctification.” I will have to confess I learned something I had never realized. “Straw men” can actually reproduce. I suspect trying to keep up with the fallacious arguments and misrepresentations at Paul’s Passing Thoughts would be a futile effort, but perhaps I can stamp out a few of them before they become even more of a blight on the theological landscape.

Before I proceed, let me define what a “Straw Man” argument is. It is an argument that caricatures or otherwise misrepresents an opponent’s position in an effort to make it easier to answer. If you want an excellent example of this tactic, pay close attention to the Obama re-election campaign and the statements the President and his surrogates are making. As an aside, it is my view that this explains why the President failed so abysmally in the first debate. It is difficult to use “straw man” arguments when ones opponent is in his face saying, “I’m sorry but that is not my position.”

From the time I first began sparring with Paul Dohse, I have insisted that views he imputed to me were not my views. He has insisted on telling me what I believe rather than listening to what I believe and then interacting with my views. It is impossible to have a meaningful discussion with someone who refuses to listen to another person’s views but, instead, insists he knows more about the person’s views than the person himself.

On my other blog, http://www.new-covenant-theology.org, I have a list of rules for discussion. One of those rules is “One must restate his opponent’s argument to his satisfaction before attempting to answer it.” Paul would do well to follow that rule.

I would like to respond to a few of his newly hatched “straw men.” First, I founding it quite revealing that at the beginning of his post he stated, “I will skip the usual Reformed crybaby stuff that prefaces the introductions to Reformed writings about “unity,” “secondary issues” etc, and get to the meat of the issue.” It is interesting that the “usual Reformed crybaby stuff . . .about unity” came from the apostle Paul himself. It is a direct quotation from Ephesians 4:3. In this verse, based on the indicatives he has stated in chapters 1-3, he exhorts us to our duty. It is our duty to maintain unity among believers, not by denying truth, but by speaking the truth in love. I am surprised Paul D. is so willing to acknowledge that the apostle was “Reformed.”

1. Straw Man– Paul D. wrote: “The Reformed view of imputation then becomes a progressive imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to uphold the standard of the law during our sanctification.” I am not sure how Paul D. understands the word “progressive,” but the way I understand it is “gradually advancing in extent.” If this is what he means by the term, “progressive,” it would mean he is suggesting that Reformed people believe the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience is gradually advancing in extent. That would mean Reformed writers hold that believers become more and more righteous in God’s sight as time goes on. When I emailed Paul to ask him if he could give me actual quotations from Reformed writers in which they suggest believers may progressively become more righteous in God’s sight than they were the first moment they believed the gospel. He responded, “I could, but I am not going to because your questions are stupid.” But, is that a stupid question? If he charges that Reformed thinkers teach that believers may gradually advance in righteousness before God, is it really stupid to ask him to provide documentation?

Let me provide just a few quotations from Reformed confessions that might shed a bit of light on what the Reformed truly believe about justification.

The Westminster Large Catechism states:

Q. 70. What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.

The Belgic Confession states:

And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.

Notice the words, “. . .and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, WHICH IS OURS WHEN WE BELIEVE IN HIM”

There is no room for the idea that believers gradually advance in righteousness before God.

J. C. Ryle wrote,

“Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes” (Ryle, Holiness, p. 39).

I still welcome quotations from anyone speaking authoritatively for the Reformed community who suggests that believers gradually advance in righteousness before God in the matter of justification. The simple truth is, that is not the Reformed position on justification.

Paul D’s views on the “active obedience Christ,” i.e., that there is no imputation to the believer of Christ’s righteousness defined as his perfect obedience to the Law, are in line with the Federal Vision view and N.T. Wright’s “New Perspective on Paul.” There is no question the Reformed position has been and is that God imputes Christ’s active obedience to believers as one part of the basis of justification. What the Reformed do not believe is that Christ’s obedience is imputed to believers in sanctification so that they don’t need to be personally obedient. Anyone who advances that view does so as a departure from the Reformed position, not as an advocate of it.

2. Straw Man–“Notice that in true Reformed tradition, the author [a reference to my initial post on Straw Men] denies “the infusion of Grace”; ie, the new birth, of which Christ said we must have for salvation.

I have difficulty deciding whether I believe Paul is simply stubborn, mentally deficient, or deliberately and maliciously misrepresenting his antagonist’s views. Whatever the reason for his prodigious misrepresentations, he should be muzzled until he is able to voluntarily speak the truth. I have told him time after time that no one in the Reformed community denies that God infuses grace to believers. What the Reformed position denies is that the infusion of grace, in this case defined as ability to obey, and the believer’s proper response to that infusion of grace forms any part of the basis of justification before God. That is to say, though God infuses or imparts enabling grace to believers to sanctify us, that infusion of grace forms no part of the basis of our right standing before God.

Jonathan Edwards wrote,

There is a two-fold righteousness that the saints have: an imputed righteousness, and it is this only that avails anything to justification; and an inherent righteousness, that is, that holiness and grace which is in the hearts and lives of the saints. This is Christ’s righteousness as well as imputed: imputed righteousness is Christ’s righteousness accepted for them, inherent holiness is Christ’s righteousness communicated to them. (Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 14, 340-341.)

3 Straw Man– “The rest of the article is just a bunch of doublespeak with intent to fog the issue. It can be summed up this way: we supposedly work, but our work is not in combination with God for a result in sanctification. We work because God works first, and oh, by the way, Christ’s obedience must be added to it as well.”

I am amazed that Paul was able to discern that my intent in writing the rest of that post was to “fog the issue” with doublespeak. Even I was not aware of my sinister motives. I guess that is why we need “discernment ministries” like Paul’s to make sure the sheep who blindly follow him understand what the rest of us are up to.

All a person needs to do is to read what I have written here about sanctification to know I don’t teach “we work, but our work is not in combination with God for a result in sanctification.” It is true, I believe the determining work is God’s not ours. It is also true, I believe the next part of his statement, i.e., “We work because God works first.” Frankly, I don’t even know what the last part of his statement “and oh, by the way, Christ’s obedience must be added to it as well.” Christ’s righteousness is indeed communicated to us in that we are, by the Spirit, conformed more and more to his image, but never in such a way that we are relieved of the responsibility to obey God.

It seems to me, Paul D is a Deist in regard to sanctification. That is to say, he seems to believe God “winds the clock” in regeneration and the work of sanctification occurs solely as a result of our hard work and obedience after that. So it is a co-operative work between God and the believer. God does his part in winding the clock and we do our part in working hard as a result of our new nature. I, on the other hand, believe it is God’s work that continues to prompt us and empower us to obey.

In intend to further dissect Paul’s response to my article in a future post relative to his faulty and self-contradictory “interpretations” of pertinent passages of Scripture, but for now, this should be sufficient material for you to chew on.

Disagree with me if you wish, but please don’t misrepresent me.

1 Response to ““Straw Men” Reproduce in Paul Dohse’s Hatchery”

  1. 1 Dan
    October 14, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    The veritable plethora of straw men out there provide fertile training ground for becoming mor proficient at the art of intelligent discourse for those misrepresentated and a continuous demonstration of exactly how faulty presuppositions can rot the brain.

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