Three Rules for Christian Debate on the Internet

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Christian debate (polemics) is often a dirty business in the Christian Blogosphere and social media. It’s almost as if Christians think their words can be separated from the condition of their hearts (even though Christ argues otherwise: Matt. 12:35-37). Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (or types) (Luke 6:45). Tim Keller at The Gospel Coalition offers three helpful rules for debate among Christians. Keller believes these rules “will help us neither avoid polemics nor engage in them in a spiritually destructive way”:

1. Carson’s Rule: You don’t have to follow Matthew 18 before publishing polemics.

2. Murray’s Rule: You must take full responsibility for even unwitting misrepresentation of someone’s views.

3. Alexander’s Rule: Never attribute an opinion to your opponent that he himself does not own.

You can find Keller’s reasoning for the above rules here. It’s worthy of your time and attention. May we participate in debate online and in public in way that brings honor and glory to God.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Comments

  1. Rick Patrick says

    Agreed. Specifically regarding rule one, I am SO glad Carson called out the widespread misapplication of Matthew 18. When the person in question is not in our own local fellowship, there is no “tell it to the church” involved.

    We are NOT obligated to go to them first and discuss our critique of their theology or, for that matter, of some action taken by a public religious figure.

    Don’t misrepresent your opponent. Make sure the labels and beliefs you attribute to them accurately reflect their position. When possible, quote their exact words rather than restating in your words.

    Jared, my only quibble would be with the headline. These are not merely great rules for Christian debate “on the internet.” They are great rules for debating ANY TOPIC whether on the internet or any other form of media.

  2. Jess Alford says

    The way I see it, anything on paper, television, or the internet is subject to scrutiny. It must be done with a Christ like approach, and not like some of us on SBC voices.

    Jared, You’ve done it again, Great post.

  3. Christiane says

    ‘a rule of a different order’ :)

    from the Rule of St. Francis for those Christians
    whose lives are immersed in the Resurrection of Christ,
    comes this recommendation:

    “Mindful that they are bearers of peace
    which must be built up unceasingly,
    they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony
    through dialogue,
    trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone
    and in the transforming power of love and pardon.”

    • Christiane says

      As per the former comment made yesterday, this:

      the name chosen by the new pope is FRANCIS
      was this a bit of foresight on my part?
      not really, but I am pleased that they chose someone who lives in a small apartment, cooking his own meals, and taking a bus to his work in Buenos Aires . . . (he did this so anyone who wanted to speak with him had a chance to hop on the bus and do so)

      I like what I know of this man.

  4. says

    4. You must take full responsibility for your own view by substantively engaging any substantive rebuttal of your view. To claim validity based on popularity, or to claim that substantive debate is futile, or or to merely offer Bulveristic explanations of the opposing view is to shirk your responsibility and concede by default.

  5. says

    Job, just one time, I would love for the comment section of an article I write to stick to the content of the article. That’s why your comment was deleted.

    • Greg Harvey says

      I humbly suggest that it’s deletions breaking time ordering of comments based on Jared’s comment posted before mine being listed after it…

    • Donald says

      Just wondering why the whole Calvin/Servetus discussion was not deleted, if being on-topic is your actual criteria…

      • says

        Donald, moderating comments isn’t an exact science. I thought the Calvin/Servetus thing and Rick Patrick was a good test case of the 3 points mentioned in the article, and Patrick’s own 4th point.

        • Donald says

          Sorry Jared, I’m not sure why I posted that snarky comment. I must have been in some wierd mood.

  6. Rick Patrick says

    Job sought to discredit Tim Keller’s view of debate rules based on Tim Keller’s view of evolution.

    Maybe this is another rule: just because someone is wrong about A does not mean they are wrong about B.

      • Rick Patrick says

        No, not in the least. I think Calvin’s view of God’s love for people can indeed be inferred from his view on killing folks. It’s apples and apples.

        I also think you could make some statements about Keller’s view of creation and even inerrancy based on his view of evolution. Again, that would be apples to apples.

        My problem is when you take two things as totally unrelated as evolution and debate rules and try to connect them. That’s apples to oranges.

        Obviously, I question Calvin’s view of God’s love based on the character and degree of love he showed to Servetus.

        But thank you for seeking to understand my position, as rules 2 and 3 require, since it gave me the opportunity to point out the difference between what you were saying I believed and what I really believe.

        • says

          What is Calvin’s view on killing folks? Can you infer the fullness of his view based on Geneva’s execution of Servetus? Does corporal punishment rule out the possibility of a high view of God’s love?

          • Rick Patrick says

            From the perspective of Servetus, I think he thought Calvin was okay with killing folks.

            Servetus would consider the fullness of Calvin’s view to have been expressed when Calvin condoned the killing of Servetus.

            Capital punishment for a mass murdering rapist does not rule out the possibility of a high view of God’s love. Capital punishment for someone who disagrees with you about God does.

          • says

            Rick,

            I’m okay with killing folks. That is not incompatible with a high view of God’s love, no matter what the liberals may say. And I trust you realize the issues surrounding Servetus were slightly more complicated than a simple theological disagreement. I also trust you realize Calvin’s role was not simple and straightforward.

          • says

            Rick, you and those like you totally ignore the circumstances surrounding Servetus. Capital punishment is not the same as “being ok with killing people,” and being the prosecutor in a case where someone is put to death is not the same as “lighting the wood on fire.” You’re not representing Calvin fairly.

            Furthermore, everyone I know who affirms Calvinism does so because the prophets, apostles, and Christ taught the doctrines of grace long before Calvin’s name was ever associated with them. The fact that Calvin sinned does not prove Calvinism wrong, just as the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in favor of slavery does not prove inerrancy wrong, baptism by immersion wrong, etc. Every argument must be considered based on its own merit irregardless of the sins of the so-called proponents of such views.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Jared,

            I am at least applying Rule One, which states that I don’t have to check with John first before offering my critique. This is particularly helpful in this case since he is no longer alive on earth, and necromancy would violate my conscience as a Christian anyway.

            As for Rule Two, I must not misrepresent John’s views, which I have not. He truly did desire to have Servetus decapitated instead of incinerated. Farel even chided him for his leniency in seeking this. In the link, Murray would have me to check with Calvin and be sure he really did want to behead Servetus. Again, the whole necromancy thing gets in the way here, but when I get to heaven, I will ask John if by beheading he meant to cut off Servetus’ head or if this was just some figure of speech, like “I laughed my head off” or something. To the best of my knowledge, Calvin wanted Servetus to die for his views about God. I happen to think that’s really, really mean, and probably ruined Servetus’ whole day.

            As for Rule Three, Alexander would have me clarify the opinion of another very carefully, without attributing anything to him that is not his own. Here’s a quote about the love of God for the non-elect that will have to suffice:

            “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)

            I’m not attributing anything to Calvin. He says it in his own words. The reprobate really have no chance–no access, if you will. That’s not the view of a Loving God I espouse.

          • says

            Rick, since God knows all things, “the reprobate” is already “the reprobate” in God’s mind since God knew he/she would never trust in Him, yet God still created them knowing they would burn forever and ever. How does that fit with your definition of “love”? How is it “loving” according to your theology for God to create those who He already knew would never repent and believe, and who would only glorify Him by revealing His eternal justice by burning forever?

            Furthermore, you didn’t prove a connection between Calvin’s belief in God’s love for the elect and Calvin’s belief in capital punishment for heresy. Your connection makes no sense. After all, did Calvin execute all unbelievers in Geneva? Nope. He preached the gospel daily, and trained missionaries, and sent them to France. Millions repented as a result.

            You’re misrepresenting Calvin. At least represent his views accurately.

          • Rick Patrick says

            “After all, did Calvin execute all unbelievers in Geneva? Nope.”

            At least on this matter we agree. Although Calvin was responsible for approving of the death of Servetus for heresy, he was clearly not guilty of mass genocide.

    • Randall Cofield says

      Job sought to discredit Tim Keller’s view of debate rules based on Tim Keller’s view of evolution. Maybe this is another rule: just because someone is wrong about A does not mean they are wrong about B.

      How Calvinists can take their cue regarding God’s love for sinners from a Sixteenth Century born non-Southern Baptist theologian who approved treating his theological opponents in such a manner is an absolute mystery to me. If a theologian can get murder wrong, it is certainly fair to question his understanding of other truths as well.
      http://sbctoday.com/2013/01/18/incineration-vs-decapitation-what-to-do-with-servetus/#more-9826

      • Rick Patrick says

        Randall,

        As I pointed out to Jared above, certain comparisons are indeed fair game, in my opinion. If Calvin believes A about loving Servetus, we can and should look more carefully at his belief in A about God’s love for Servetus and others.

        My problem is when we go A to B. Finney believes in inclusivism, so therefore he must be wrong about evangelism techniques.

        • Randall Cofield says

          Rick,

          I happen to agree with you concerning your proposed “4th rule.”

          It just happens that you, like the rest of us, are, on occasion, guilty of violating that rule.

          Your categorical error of placing God’s love and man’s love in the same grouping (and thus equating apples to oranges) does not relieve you of having violated the rule.

          • Rick Patrick says

            I suppose Calvin was not singing, “I love you with the love of the Lord, Oh I love you with the love of the Lord, I can see in you the glory of my King, and I love you with the love of the Lord,” while Servetus was burning.

            I am beginning to see your point. God’s love for Servetus was indeed a very different thing in quality and degree from Calvin’s love for Servetus. They are distinct.

            I suppose my point is that they should be a bit closer.

          • says

            Rick,

            One hopes no one would sing those words. I can see in you the glory of my king? Seriously? If what you mean by that is the Imago Dei, that’s a pretty terrible way to express it. The saints, not the lost, participate in the glory of God, and being created in the image of God is not enough to free a person from the death penalty.

            Your arguments against Calvin’s actions are bizarre since I assume you would otherwise defend the death penalty (as indicated in a previous statement you made) yet almost everything you are saying against Calvin could be used against any defense of the death penalty.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Capital punishment depends on the crime. Murder? Yes. Jaywalking? No. Messed up theology? No.

          • Randall Cofield says

            Rick,

            To insinuate Calvin was supposed to see glory of Christ in a man who dogmatically denied the Trinity is…ummm…warped.

            …Oooops! Wait. I just violated rule #3.

            Let me try that again:

            Are you saying that if Calvin were as righteous as…say…yourself…he would have seen the glory of Christ in Servetus?

          • Rick Patrick says

            This praise chorus expresses the love of Christians for one another. As I experience God’s unconditional agape love in my life, I pass the same onto you. The lyric “I can see in you the glory of my King” is simply a way of expressing that I see Jesus in you, my fellow Christian. The idea is that as we let our lights shine for Jesus, we should be able to observe Christ in one another.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEy8wE8BQXU

          • Randall Cofield says

            Rick,

            Two questions.

            First, are you contending that one who dogmatically denies the Triune nature of God can be considered a fellow Christian in which we may see the glory of our King?

            Secondly, please read the historical account of the Servetus incident linked by Matt below.

            Place yourself in Calvin’s boots. Same circumstances, same historical context, bound by the same ecclesiastical laws, etc. etc. Try to objectively separate yourself from the non-historical rhetoric surrounding this incident and deal only with the known historical facts.

            Would you then be so kind as to tell us–with absolute certainty–exactly what you would have done differently?

          • Rick Patrick says

            Chris,

            I disaffirm the unitarian theology of Servetus in favor of the orthodox Christian view espoused by Calvin. On the other hand, Servetus did get anti-paedobaptism correct, so on that matter, I affirm Servetus over Calvin.

            When you say we are not talking about a Christian, but about Servetus, I suppose you believe there is absolutely no chance that the name of Servetus is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he went from being burned on earth to being burned in hell.

            If so, his torturers are even more blameworthy than before. At least if he died a Christian martyr, albeit one with some lousy theology, his burning on earth would result in a heavenly reward. But if he died hell bound, and they did not spare him so as to give him more time to repent, then what does this say about their love for him?

            I believe some people may have been saved by placing their trust in Jesus without ever really grasping the concept of the Trinity to any significant degree, possibly never even hearing the term.

          • says

            Rick,

            And all those evil executioners who put to death countless men and women on death row who died apart from Christ. Again, your arguments are hardly helpful.

            As for his Christianity, one might recognize that a proper view of God is a wee bit more central and vital than a proper view of baptism… I agree that there are many who are saved without a real grasp of the trinity, but such people would generally be lower in their knowledge of Scripture and biblical theology. Servetus could not make that claim: his error was culpable, willful, and defiant. He had every reason to know the God of the Bible, yet he rejected that God.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Randall,

            1. I have no idea whether Servetus was saved or not. When I get my copy of the Lamb’s Book of Life, I’ll get back to you. I do believe some people with lousy theology may be saved, while some people with quite sophisticated theology may very well be lost. It’s not a matter of conceptual head knowledge, but a heart that has truly experienced repentance and faith.

            2. You’re asking me what I would do if I were John Calvin? I would renounce my own theological views in favor of Traditionalism, stop baptizing infants, and plead for mercy from my highly placed friends, begging them in Christ-like fashion to sacrifice me instead of Servetus, knowing that my death would only send me to heaven, and hoping that in the the additional time purchased by my sacrifice on his behalf, Servetus might be persuaded of the error of unitarianism, thus making his profession of faith in Christ more theologically correct. Jesus taught us to die for our faith, not kill for it.

          • Randall Cofield says

            Rick,

            1) Servetus dogmatically rejected the Trinitarian God of the bible. Read 1 John and you won’t need a copy of the Lamb’s Book of Life.

            2) Wow…I only aspire to one day be so righteous as to know with absolute certainty that I would willingly embrace substitutionary martyrdom for a heretic…

            Kudos.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Chris,

            You asked: “Are you willing to offer that exchange to all people on death row, or only those whose crimes were deemed acceptable to you?”

            No, I am not willing to die for all the people on death row. Also, I am not willing to die for those people whose crimes you seem to believe are acceptable to me. So no on both counts.

            I have been trying to tell you, but I feel you are not listening or understanding, that I see a categorical difference between capital punishment for crimes against society and Christian martyrdom for one’s beliefs, whether theologically valid or invalid.

            I do not have to be consistent with your construct, because I believe it to be a false comparison.

            By the way, the hypothetical issue Randall created was not me in the present day anyway, it was me in the place of John Calvin in 1543, presumably by some means of fictional time travel.

          • says

            “I see a categorical difference between capital punishment for crimes against society and Christian martyrdom for one’s beliefs, whether theologically valid or invalid.”

            It isn’t Christian martyrdom if the one killed is not a Christian. It might perhaps be unjust, but it cannot be Christian martyrdom. That doesn’t make the killing right, but let’s not glorify the heretic by claiming he died as a Christian martyr.

          • Randall Cofield says

            Rick,

            And you seem amazingly certain that you could voluntarily die in the place of a heretic.

            Let us hope so.

          • Randall Cofield says

            Rick,

            By the way, the hypothetical issue Randall created was not me in the present day anyway, it was me in the place of John Calvin in 1543, presumably by some means of fictional time travel.

            You are unfamiliar with the concept of attempting to place oneself in a historical setting for the sake of honest circumstantial evaluation?

          • Donald says

            So, Chris and Randall, do ya’ll also declare Oneness Pentecostals to be heretics and non-Christians? I wonder because they look to Servetus as a martyr and spiritual ancestor.

            BTW, any defense of Calvin’s sin in the death of Servetus is shameful. You cannot even give the defense that he is a man of his time, as Balthasar Hubmaier wrote against the murder of heretics in his essay “On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them” almost thirty years before this terrible event. Do you guys realize that you would have been burned as a heretic because of your views on Believers Baptism? Would you have the same attitude that you hold now if Zwingly or Calvin arrested, tortured and burned you?

          • says

            “do ya’ll also declare Oneness Pentecostals to be heretics and non-Christians?”

            Depends on the person, but on the whole, correct – ie, TD Jakes and the Elephant Room controversy.

            “Do you guys realize that you would have been burned as a heretic because of your views on Believers Baptism?”

            Unfair speculation which has nothing to do with the Servetus event.

          • Donald says

            “Unfair speculation which has nothing to do with the Servetus event.”

            Except that you have a very cavalier attitude about the whole inexcusable affair. If it were you, you’d feel a bit differently. The fervent persecution against Baptist by the Reformers makes that particular speculation very fair.

          • Donald says

            “Fervent persecution?”

            Fervent (e.g. enthusiastic).

            But, nevermind. I’m bowing out as I am not really contributing. I’ve gotta get these drive-by posts under control. It’s amazing that you can still surprise me with what escapes your keyboard!

            Blessings!

  7. says

    Job, either interact with the content of the article, or don’t comment. Moderating comments isn’t easy. If you’re a Southern Baptist, do an article on Keller’s theistic evolution, and send it to Dave Miller. I just don’t want this comment section to turn into another discussion.

  8. says

    Jared, I think these are very good and helpful points. Thanks.

    While some people are sincere, others use the “Matthew 18 rule” to shut down dissent. In the days before internet, an editor used this on me when I submitted an article with a different viewpoint from one he had published. I referenced the original article and he told me to “go to my brother” first. I did, but he still did not print my article (and never intended to). Matthew 18 is about private personal matters, not public differences on theological matters. Anyone who puts forth their positions publicly should not be surprised if they are critiqued publicly. It certainly cannot hurt to check with someone and make sure we understand them, but no one should expect to be able to write and say whatever they wish with impunity.

    The expanded comments in Keller’s piece were helpful to me on point 3. It can be kind of tricky — a fine line — in trying to point out the implications of one’s belief and actually accusing them of believing the implications. Keller explains by writing, “if you believe that Mr. A’s belief X could or will lead others who hold that position to belief Y, do not accuse Mr. A of holding to belief Y himself, if he disowns it. You may consider him inconsistent, but it is one thing to say that and another thing to tar him with belief Y by implying or insisting that he actually holds it when he does not. (emp. mine)”

    I also like the point made there that we should “strive for truth, not victory.” I find debates useful and informative, but often the debaters themselves are trying to win rather than just promote the truth. It is also quite an art to “know when to put a stop to controversy” in a comment stream that came “go on forever” — that is, unless the e-medium breaks down!

    • Christiane says

      LOL (sorry)
      Gosh, David, you look just like the new pope! He’s maybe a little bit thinner, though.

      If it’s any comfort, you look good in white. :)

      • Christiane says

        sorry, LES

        Francis is (was) appointed Ordinary for the Eastern Rite Catholics in Argentina . . . they practice immersion (three dips into the water as was the ancient custom in honor of the Holy Trinity)

        Catholics of the Eastern Rite use immersion the same way that Eastern Orthodox do.

    • Greg Harvey says

      Well…I remember the installation if the automats–filled with self-service milk, sandwiches, and pie–in the basement of the student center at SWBTS as they were finishing it in the late 60s. But that’s the first autobaptistry I’ve ever seen…

      • Greg Harvey says

        I’m pretty sure I recognize that painting, too. Is it standard issue BSSB from the 60s??

  9. Greg Harvey says

    The connotation of the word polemics itself is often viewed as “win at any cost”. I would add that another nomination for a 4th rule:

    “If you are unwilling to acknowledge any area of a debate where you are willing for the other person–or side–to have the last word, then you probably should admit you’re more interested in propogating self-aggrandizing propoganda than in having a meaningful conversation.”

    • Rick Patrick says

      Matt,

      Thanks for the helpful link. It includes this verbatim quote from Calvin’s letter on February 13, 1546:

      “Servetus wrote to me a short time ago, and sent a huge volume of his dreamings and pompous triflings with his letter. I was to find among them wonderful things, and such as I had never before seen; and if I wished, he would himself come. But I am by no means inclined to be responsible for him; and if he come, I will never allow him, supposing my influence worth anything, to depart alive.

      (Cue “You’ve Got A Friend in Me” from Toy Story.)

      As for me “going on and on and on,” I am pretty sure the Banner of Truth essay, published by a Reformed organization adhering to the Westminster Confession and thus possessing a pro-Calvin bias, is actually much longer in word count than my one short essay on the subject.

  10. Dave Miller says

    Can someone explain how a post on rules for blogging becomes the 4,364,444th discussion of Servetus?

    Don’t you guys ever get tired of this nonsense?

    • Randall Cofield says

      Dave,

      After stating his agreement with Keller’s “3 Rules,” Mr. Patrick wrote the following:

      Don’t misrepresent your opponent. Make sure the labels and beliefs you attribute to them accurately reflect their position.

      It occurred to me (and possibly to Jared) that Rick, in clear violation of rule #2 and his own statement, had recently attributed the motive of murder to Calvin in the case of Servetus; viz

      If a theologian can get murder wrong, it is certainly fair to question his understanding of other truths as well.

      Hence the discussion of Servetus.

      • Rick Patrick says

        Randall,

        Do you believe I have misrepresented Calvin by calling him a murderer?

        This is what the man said: “I will never allow him, supposing my influence worth anything, to depart alive.”

        I’m really not trying to misrepresent Calvin. That was a murderous threat if I ever read one.

        • Randall Cofield says

          Rick,

          Your willful rejection of the historical facts is truly breath-taking.

          Calvin did not sentence Servetus, nor did he carry out the execution. IF he influenced the Council (and it is not certain that he did), that is condemnable–but it does not rise to the level of murder.

          Your charge of “murder” is very serious, brother, so I’ll leave this discussion with you on this question:

          Have you ever considered the ramifications if your attribution to Calvin of the motive and act of murder—500 years removed from the incident—is false?

          • Rick Patrick says

            “I will never allow him, supposing my influence worth anything, to depart alive.”

          • Jim Shaver says

            “If a theologian can get murder wrong, it is certainly fair to question his understanding of other truths as well.”

            Doesn’t this put the whole SBC on questionable grounds? After all our SBC Founders were pro-slavery. If they got slavery wrong, it is certainly fair to question their understanding of other truths as well – Right?

            Just sayin’

          • Rick Patrick says

            Jim,

            Yes, it is fair to question SBC founders. That process led to the statement of apology for slavery, as well as a soul searching process of repentance. Some even believe the name “Southern” was worth questioning in light of these matters. Although I disagree with their conclusions, I think it is fair to question the views of a theologian THAT ARE RELATED to their other views that have been proven to be in error.

            Just because Servetus was wrong on the Trinity doesn’t mean he was wrong on infant baptism.

            Just because Calvin was wrong to promise that he would never allow Servetus “to depart alive” does not mean he was wrong on the Perseverance of the Saints.

            Just because Keller was wrong on evolution does not mean he is wrong on his suggested debate rules.

            Unlike Chris, Randall and Jared, I do not believe this rule means that you cannot draw inferences from someone’s accurately quoted position when it is clearly related to the subject. In my case, I argued that Calvin’s view of love can be seen in the way he exercised love toward Servetus.

            As for charges I misrepresented him, all I can say is that I quoted his exact words. I don’t know how to get any closer than that.

          • says

            Rick,

            Do you know the reasons why Servetus opposed infant baptism? Is it enough that he opposed it even if all his reasons differed from your own and were problematic in their own right?

  11. will f. says

    Another post, bear with me, but I think this is an important thing to discuss, thank you to the host. I’m concerned about Randall’s cognitive dissonance. He says “Servetus dogmatically rejected the Trinitarian God of the bible. Read 1 John and you won’t need a copy of the Lamb’s Book of Life.” ie we know he’s not in the Lamb’s Book of Life because he didn’t meet the standard of 1 John. So I read 1 John. “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…love one another…dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God…whoever does not love does not know God…since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…whoever loves God must love his brother…if anyone says ‘i love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar… and on and on. Love is central, nothing supercedes it. Now Calvin himself said, quoted above, that as far as it was up to him, the guy he disagreed with wouldn’t leave town alive, he used his influence to recommend the guy’s head be severed from his body, he was not being loving, certainly not showing love to one’s enemies the way John’s teacher, Jesus, and John’s student, Polycarp did. So Calvin fails to meet Randall’s test to get onto the Lamb’s Book of Life. I hope Calvin is in the Book. PS I think the internet is a very problematic place for serious debates. It builds up one’s own confirmation bias and little else–building walls between hostile tribes instead of shattering them with Christ like love. The medium, by its very nature, distorts the message. How much more productive in the cause of creating real shalom would it be if we were having this out in person, with some good food etc, frisbees, etc. Maybe someday…

    • Randall Cofield says

      will f.

      Cognitive dissonance often takes the form of proof-texting. Consider your proof-text in the context into which you have forced it:

      “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for those who dogmatically reject the Trinitarian God of the bible …love those who dogmatically reject the Trinitarian God of the bible…dear friends, let us love those who dogmatically reject the Trinitarian God of the bible, for love comes from God…whoever does not love those who dogmatically reject the Trinitarian God of the bible does not know God…since God so loved us, we also ought to love those who dogmatically reject the Trinitarian God of the bible…whoever loves God must love those who dogmatically reject the Trinitarian God of the bible…if anyone says ‘i love God’ and hates those who dogmatically reject the Trinitarian God of the bible, he is a liar…”

      Just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

      I have clearly stated that to whatever extent Calvin influenced the Council it is condemnable. To accuse him of “murder,” as has Mr. Patrick, is to simply ignore the historical facts.

      • will f. says

        Randall Cofield: Thank you for your reply. I appreciate your time. Where’s the proof-text? You recommended we use 1 John as a litmus test, so I read it. I don’t think it’s ‘proof-texting’ to point out that sacrificial, indiscriminate Christ-like love is the centrepiece of the Christian view. It’s the whole POINT, LOVE is how Jesus summarized the whole law. He said we are to be like rain, and the sun, that lets their blessings fall on all–we are supposed to pray for and do good to all…You say, “Just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?” but to me, YES, of course, it most certainly does. I wonder why it doesn’t have the same ring to you, and it may be because I’m missing something, or as I said, an imperfection in this mode of communication. We are supposed to love and pray for those who reject the Trinity. We should certainly be willing to lay down our lives for those who reject God. Jesus and Polycarp forgave their Trinity-denying killers with their dying breaths…are you saying Christians shouldn’t be loving, and be willing to die for, humans who deny the Trinity? I have never heard this before.
        western shores of Lake Ontario
        will f.