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A Critical Assessment of the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis – Vintage


While the church has, from its earliest days, recognized that the Old Testament is a part of her heritage, there has by no means been a consensus view with regard to its interpretation. Origen, and others of the Alexandrian tradition, favored an approach to Old Testament theology that saw the entire work as an allegory–beneath any Old Testament text there could be found, if one looked hard enough, an allegorical reference to a New Testament event or person. While such a Christocentric view of the Old Testament is certainly laudable, this approach did not show respect for the fact that the books of the Old Covenant were written within a historical context by historical figures. In the formative years of the church there were various attempts made at criticism of the Old Testament both inside and outside of the church. Some with Gnostic leanings declared the Old Testament to be the creation of a lesser god than the God of the New Testament.1 Porphyry argued against Daniel having written the work ascribed to him, and dated it to the time at which the prophecies were fulfilled (i.e., during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175-163 B.C).  He doubted that anyone could prophecy with that degree of accuracy, so it must be an eyewitness account.2 In the latter years of the first millennium A.D. there were further attacks against the chronology of the Old Testament, especially among Muslim apologists.

It was not until after the Reformation, however, that the level of attack against the fidelity of the Old Testament was raised.  While there were, evidently, questions raised concerning the origins of the Old Testament books, many people looked to the church for their interpretation and for guidance in their understanding of these issues. The Reformation changed things.  The authority of Rome as the interpreter of the Scriptures had been challenged.  On the one hand, this meant that people recognized the fact that Scripture itself is its own interpreter.  On the other hand, this also meant that, in the eyes of some, people had license to develop their own ideas on the meaning and origin of Scriptural books apart from an external authority.3

The rise of humanism aided and guided this adverse development.  Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), a Dutch pantheistic-rationalistic philosopher who, like many of his kind, denied the possibility of the miraculous, and hence denied the possibility of divine revelation, rejected the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.  While various suggestions were made as to who wrote what parts of the Pentateuch, it was Jean Astruc, a French physician who, in a 1753 work entitled Conjectures, proposed that Genesis (and other places in the Old Testament) can be divided based on the name for God used.  Some portions utilize Elohim as the name for God, while others use Jehovah (Yahweh).  Hence, one detects the presence of Elhoistic sections from the hand of one source, and Jehovistic sections from the hand of another source.  J. G. Eichhorn developed Astruc’s theory to the point of recognizing a distinctive stylistic difference between the Elhoistic and Jehovistic authors, even suggesting that their handiwork can be observed elsewhere beyond the book of Genesis.  It is worth noting, though, that Astruc and Eichhorn at least credited Moses as the compiler of these sources.4

W. M. L. De Wette supported the Astruc-Eichhorn documentary theory, and added to this the notion that the copy of the Book of the Law discovered at the time of Josiah constituted the core of the book of Deuteronomy.  Hence, one could identify possibly three sources at work in the Pentateuchal narrative:5 an Elhoistic source, a Jehovistic source, and the book of Deuteronomy.  In 1853, Herman Hupfeld identified a secondary Elhoistic source; that is, a source that used the name Elohim as opposed to Jehovah, yet whose style was unlike the Elhoistic author and more like the Jehovistic author.  This source was called “2nd Elohist,” or E, while the former Elohist was designated “P” in light of his “priestly tendencies.”6

Up to this point, the Elohist document was considered to be the earliest source for the Pentateuch, and this would be dated somewhere between the time of the Judges and the time of King David.  In 1866, there was a radical departure from this view when Karl Heinrich Graf published his book, The Historical Books of the Old Testament.  Influenced by his teacher, Eduard Reuss, Graf proposed that, while the historical sections were relatively old, the priestly laws were inserted after the exile, and hence the basic document for the Pentateuch was not early, but late.7  John William Colenzo (1814-1883) went further and also denied the historicity of any of the historical content of the Pentateuch’s primary document.  In addition to this, he postulated that the Book of the Law discovered during the reign of Josiah was the book of Deuteronomy, and that Chronicles was composed with the sole purpose of promoting priestly and Levitical interests.8  Abraham Keunen voiced his disagreement to this dating scheme.  He held that the Jehovistic document was the basic source document for the Pentateuch, supplemented by the Elhoistic document, Deuteronomy, the exilic laws, and the Priestly document, which was considered to be from the time of Ezra.9

Finally, by way of background, it is important to note the work of Johann Karl Wilhelm Vatke (1806-1882). Vatke, applying principles of Hegelian philosophy, took the position that religions move from a primitive to a more advanced form over time. Applying this position to a study of Israelite history, and incorporating his comparative study of Canaanite and Egyptian religion, he concluded that Israel’s religious life did not deteriorate from a high point at the time of Moses.  Rather, it started as a primitive astral religion, and developed later into a cult of Yahweh.  On this basis, he regarded most of the Pentateuchal foundational document as exilic in date.10

Julius Wellhausen

Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) is sometimes credited with formulating the documentary hypothesis, but, as is evident from the above, his work was mainly as a popular exponent of the views coming out of the German school of the time.  He studied under Ewald at the University of Gttingen, and later served as professor at Greifswald, Halle, Marburg, and Gttingen.  The work that brought his views to the attention of the public was his Prolegomena to the History of Israel, first published in 1878.  In this book, Wellhausen gives a brief history of how he first became interested in the documentary hypothesis:

In my early student days I was attracted by the stories of Saul and David, Ahab and Elijah; the discourses of Amos and Isaiah laid strong hold on me, and I read myself well into the prophetic and historical books of the Old Testament. Thanks to such aids as were accessible to me, I even considered that I understood them tolerably, but at the same time was troubled with a bad conscience, as if I were beginning with the roof instead of the foundation; for I had no thorough acquaintance with the Law, of which I was accustomed to be told that it was the basis and postulate of the whole literature. At last I took courage and made my way through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and even through Knobel’s Commentary to these books. But it was in vain that I looked for the light which was to be shed from this source on the historical and prophetical books.  On the contrary, my enjoyment of the latter was marred by the Law; it did not bring them any nearer me, but intruded itself uneasily, like a ghost that makes a noise indeed, but is not visible and really effects nothing.  Even where there were points of contact between it and them, differences also made themselves felt, and I found it impossible to give a candid decision in favour of the priority of the Law.  Dimly I began to perceive that throughout there was between them all the difference that separates two wholly distinct worlds.  Yet, so far from attaining clear conceptions, I only fell into deeper confusion, which was worse confounded by the explanations of Ewald in the second volume of history of Israel.11  At last, in the course of a casual visit in G€ttingen in the summer of 1867, I learned through Ritschl that Karl Heinrich Graf placed the law later than the Prophets, and, almost without knowing his reasons for the hypothesis, I was prepared to accept it; I readily acknowledged to myself the possibility of understanding Hebrew antiquity without the book of the Torah.12

From this account, one can see clearly that Wellhausen’s point of departure from his earlier views was not a critical examination of the texts, but a discomfort that something did not seem right.  It is his testimony that thanks to Ritschl, Graf, and their predecessors no doubt, he gained enlightenment that enabled him to let go of his previous convictions regarding the integrity of the Biblical text.  This paper will, hopefully, demonstrate that at the root of the documentary hypothesis there is not a firmly established, historically defensible presentation of the fragmentary nature of the Torah.  Rather, at its root is a theory based on the application of the naturalistic assumptions of seventeenth and eighteenth century humanists to the Biblical text.  As Walter Kaiser points out, some modern proponents of the documentary hypothesis would like to wish that foundation does not exist, however it must exist for them, or the whole building collapses.13

In 1880, Wellhausen published an overview of his Prolegomena, which was the basis for the 1881 Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Israel.  The publication of this edition exposed the English-speaking world to German critical scholarship, and it caused a scandal.14  Today, however, Wellhausen’s views, whether challenged, adapted, or accepted at face value, have become integral to any study of the Old Testament.  Even among those who may question the existence of specific J, E, D, and P sources, the questions raised by Wellhausen have caused many to abandoned traditional, and even Biblical assertions regarding the authorship and dating of the Old Testament.15  For this reason, it is extremely vital that those engaged in Old Testament study be aware of Wellhausen’s work, as well as the reasons why the documentary hypothesis as it stands today cannot be held as an adequate explanation of Pentateuchal origins.  Indeed, it is important that the problems of the Graf-Wellhausen documentary hypothesis are presented to the student of the Old Testament, in the hope that, by the grace of God, his confidence in the Biblical record may be strengthened.

The critique presented in this paper will be organized in the following way: firstly, there will be a presentation of the major themes of the documentary hypothesis along with arguments in support of them.  This will be followed by a critique of each of those themes.  The paper will then close with some observations and conclusions.  It should be noted that not every argument and not every theme apparent in the writings of documentary hypothesis supporters will be dealt with; such a task is beyond the scope of this paper.  The purpose of this paper is to present the major themes and arguments in the hope that the refutation of these will provide the basis for critiques of others not covered.

The Elimination of the Supernatural

Wellhausen’s position on the place of the supernatural and divine revelation does not seem to be as cut-and-dried as it might be to many of his modern-day followers.  In his Prolegomena, he does not deny the existence of God, nor does he reject the claims of the Old Testament writers to having received the Word of God.  On the other hand, his obvious willingness to move outside the Scriptures to find naturalistic answers to his questions that were, in many ways, contrary to the Scriptures shows, at best, a highly deficient view of the authority of the Word of God.  Indeed, to arrive at the conclusions he arrived at, one would have to abandon completely the notion of God-breathed Scripture, given the amount of error, myth, and misrepresentation that his view necessarily demands.  Nevertheless, W. Robertson Smith, in his introduction to the English translation of the Prolegomena states quite emphatically that the book is for the person “who has faith enough to see the hand of God as clearly in a long providential development as in a sudden miracle.”16

What is undeniable, however, is that the foundation of the documentary hypothesis is heavily influenced by naturalistic, humanistic philosophy.  Orr reports the view of Keunen, who stated that the religion of Israel is one of many religions, and not anything more; this is, apparently, the view of “modern theological science.”17 In his work, Prophets and Prophecy in Israel, Keunen states:

So soon as we derive a separate part of Israel’s religious life directly from God, and allow the supernatural or immediate revelation to intervene in even one single point, so long also our view of the whole continues to be incorrect… It is the supposition of a natural development alone which accounts for all the phenomena.18

In other words, the moment one admits the intervention of special revelation or the supernatural into the study of the Israel’s religious history, it is at that moment that one is guaranteed to come up with erroneous results.  It is only by considering religious history along natural processes of development that one is, according to Keunen, guaranteed to come up with satisfactory results.  This view was also expressed by Pfeiffer: “The Old Testament owes its origin to the religious aspirations of the Jews.”19

Prior to Pfeiffer and Keunen, Comte (1798-1857), representing what was known as the “Positivist” approach, applied a methodology to the study of religion that was founded on the premise that science, with its verifiable laws of succession and resemblance, can explain all natural phenomena without the need to appeal to the supernatural.  It is evident that this approach of “positive science” greatly influenced the thinking of the liberal higher critics of the nineteenth century.20

In short, the documentary hypothesis emerged out of a time of growing emphasis on the centrality of man in history and nature.  This thought found its apex with Darwin’s speculations on evolution, and this incorporated itself with the view of history adopted by the proponents of this hypothesis.  Such an emphasis on the importance of rationalistic thought and the preeminence of man could not tolerate a view of history that placed God in Sovereign control, and that allowed for His guidance and intervention in the affairs of men. Their rejection of the supernatural was based on the assumption that all things happen as a result of natural phenomena, and therefore they could be assured of a natural explanation for everything.21

The Evolution of Religion

By the time of Wellhausen, the traditional ideas of how religious belief came about were being questioned.  The conservative view that the people of Israel were always monotheistic was replaced with the idea of religion moving through an evolutionary process, starting with primitive man’s belief in spirits, through ancestor worship, fetishism, totemism, magic, and then eventually to defined personifications of divinity as in polytheism, culminating in the elevating of one deity above the others in a precursor to monotheism.  G. E. Wright has given a good summation of how this view of the development of religion was applied by Wellhausen and his followers:

The Graf-Wellhausen reconstruction of the history of Israel’s religion was, in effect, an assertion that within the pages of the Old Testament we have a perfect example of the evolution of religion from animism in patriarchal times through henotheism to monotheism. The last was first achieved in pure form during the sixth and fifth centuries. The patriarchs worshipped the spirits in trees, stones, springs, mountains, etc. The God of pre-prophetic Israel was a tribal deity, limited in power to the land of Palestine. Under the influence of Baalism, he even became a fertility god and sufficiently tolerant to allow the early religion of Israel to be distinguished little from that of Canaan. It was the prophets who were the true innovators and who produced most, if not all, of that which was truly distinctive in Israel, the grand culmination coming with the universalism of II Isaiah. Thus we have animism, or polydemonism, a limited tribal deity, implicit ethical monotheism, and finally, explicit and universal monotheism.22

For examples of Patriarchal animism, the “higher critics” looked to passages such as Genesis 12:6 where the Lord appeared to Abram at the oak of Moreh at the site of Shechem, the oaks of Mamre in Genesis 13:18, where Abram built an altar to the Lord or the stone set up at Ebenezer by Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12. Also, they note the numerous references to wells, and springs of water in places such as Genesis 14:7, Numbers 21:17f, and Joshua 18:17.23  Apparently, the association of these objects with divine activity was enough to convince the “higher critics” that these things in themselves were seen by the early Israelites to have power to affect the lives of people. It was not that these were simply designated as memorials, but that God actually existed within the object.24

In addition to uncovering traces of animism in the Old Testament, Wellhausen associated polytheistic tendencies with passages where place names were connected with God, Baal, sanctuaries, or Canaanite worship (e.g., Joshua 15:11; Numbers 25:3; Deuteronomy 32:13; Judges 3:7).25  He also “discovered” elements of totemism in the names of people and places in the Old Testament (e.g., Rachel (“ewe”), Caleb (“dog”), Eglah (“calf”)).26  Such totemism, they theorized, developed into ancestor worship. This can be seen, supposedly, in the sanctity of their burial sites (e.g., Genesis 23:1ff.), and also in the teraphim or “household gods.”  Some scholars associated this word with the Hebrew term rph’im, “shades of the departed,” implying that they represented deceased ancestors.27

Among other examples of primitive religion ascribed to early Israel by the “higher critics” was human sacrifice. Keunen suggested that there was a connection between Moloch and Yahweh, since human sacrifice was a part of Moloch worship, and he saw such practice in events such as the offering of Isaac by Abraham (Genesis 22), the killing of the Egyptian first-born (Exodus 13:2, 11-12, and subsequently the concept of offering one’s first-born or first-fruits), the slaughter of Agag by Samuel (1 Samuel 15:33), and the hanging of the seven sons of Saul (2 Samuel 21:1-14).28

The latter stages of Israelite religion, according to Wellhausen, are marked by, at the very least, a henotheism, where Yahweh is regarded as the pre-eminent God above other gods for Israel–a kind of tribal god.29 This eventually gave way to the ethical monotheism of the prophets.30

It is evident that such an attitude toward Israelite history has a major impact on one’s view of the authorship and dating of the Old Testament. Any passages that display an “advanced” monotheistic or henotheistic persuasion necessarily have to be considered to be at the very earliest pre-prophetic; certainly not of the patriarchal, and perhaps only just from the Davidic era. This would further bolster the claim that Deuteronomy is of mid-seventh century origin, since it is very strongly monotheistic (or henotheistic) in tone.31 It is plain to see, therefore, how important such a theory as this is to the documentary hypothesis.

The Late Date of Deuteronomy

About the origin of Deuteronomy there is still less dispute; in all circles where appreciation of scientific results can be looked for at all, it is recognized that it was composed in the same age as that in which it was discovered, and that it was made the rule of Josiah’s reformation, which took place about a generation before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldaeans.32

Such was the opinion of Wellhausen, echoing the belief of De Wette that the document recovered during the reign of Josiah was nothing other than the Book of Deuteronomy itself (2 Kings 22). This belief was not merely asserted, but based upon a couple of observations from the text and the period. Firstly, the themes discussed in Deuteronomy reflect both the nature of the reforms that Josiah enacted, and also echo the tenor of prophetic utterance around this time (640-609 B.C.). The call for ethical purity among the people, and the call to worship in one place as opposed to many are echoed in Deuteronomy 12, 14, and 23, for example.

Wellhausen argued that the Jehovistic document lay at the foundation of Deuteronomy, but Deuteronomy itself is clearly later. This is evident from the overturning of previous laws by new ones that focus worship in a central location:

…For example, when he permits slaying without sacrificing, and that too anywhere; when, in order not to abolish the right of asylum (Exodus xxi.13, 14; 1Kings ii. 28) along with the altars, he appoints special cities of refuge for the innocent who are pursued by the avenger of blood…33

Wellhausen thus notes the changes in legislation made in accordance with this “new attitude” toward the one true place of worship for God’s people. Since there is no body of legislation known to Israel since “the book of the Covenant” in Exodus 20-23, the sudden appearance of a document in the reign of Josiah that brings about sweeping reform seems, at least to Wellhausen, very suspicious. Some who follow Wellhausen’s view regard the book to have been a “pious fraud”–that is, certain prophets composed the work under the name of Moses in order to bring about the reforms that Josiah enacted. Others believe it to be a work that was composed in the style of Moses with no intention to deceive.[34]  Whichever view one follows, both necessarily conclude that Deuteronomy is not a Mosaic, mid-late second millennium B.C. work.

It is critical to realize the impact of this conclusion. As James Orr notes:

If Deuteronomy is a work of the age of Josiah, then, necessarily, everything in the other Old Testament books which depends on Deuteronomy–the Deuteronomic revisions of Joshua and Judges, the Deuteronomic allusions and speeches in the Books of Kings, narratives of fact based on Deuteronomy–e.g., the blessings and cursings, and writing of the law on stones, at Ebal, all must be put later than that age.35

Indeed, as far as questions of dating and authorship are concerned, Deuteronomy is the keystone of the whole documentary hypothesis.36

The Unhistorical Nature of the Patriarchal Narratives

Naturally, if the Pentateuch cannot be dated within the lifetimes of those about whom it is written, then the very historicity of those accounts might be drawn into question. According to many who hold to the documentary hypothesis, the Patriarchs were not historical figures, but were either personifications of the various clans that bear their names, or they were works of fiction.37 They point out that many of the genealogies are given by tribal or clan name, not according to the names of individuals. For example, the so-called “Table of Nations” in Genesis 10 refers constantly either to the toldot, or “generations,” of certain people, or to the be, the “sons of,” certain people.  This is in stark contrast to, say Jesus’ lineage as presented in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38, where the genealogy is given from person to person.

In connection with the idea of the evolution of religion, the high ethical values, and “advanced” moral and religious ideals exhibited by the Patriarchs in the Pentateuch call into question their historicity.  If it is to be assumed that religions evolve over many generations from primitive to complex forms, then any display of “complex” religious worship or ideals by that religion’s earliest representatives must surely be a later imposition onto the historical narrative. Wellhausen asserted that Abraham was not even spoken of until the later prophets: “In the earlier literature… Isaac is mentioned even by Amos, Abraham first appears in Isaiah xl.-lxvii.” 38 The implication of this statement is that the stories of Abraham come from the same period in which he is spoken of and referred to as a role model, i.e., the later prophetic era. If there are no direct references to him during the pre-exilic era, then none of the stories about him could be derived from any earlier than the exilic era. In the words of Wellhausen:

It is true, we attain to no historical knowledge of the patriarchs, but only of the time when the stories about them arose in the Israelite people; this later age is here unconsciously projected, in its inner and its outward features, into hoary antiquity, and is reflected there like a glorified mirage.39

Finally, since the existence of the supernatural has been eliminated as an option for the “higher critic,” the stories of miraculous interventions in history (angelic appearances, revelatory divine messages, the parting of seas, and so forth) must be considered as mythical additions to the text in order to heighten their appeal and cast the heroes of the stories as being particularly favored by God, and, hence, to be admired and heeded. For the “higher critic,” one cannot maintain the idea of a God working in history along with an objective, scholarly approach to the Biblical text.40

The Late Date of the Mosaic Law

Due to the assertion that religious belief evolves over time from simple to complex, the view that the Mosaic Law, or the Book of the Covenant as preserved in Exodus 20-23 (with Exodus 20:1-17 forming the Decalogue), was composed at one time by Moses in the mid-second millennium simply had to be false. The ideas expressed in these chapters were not of a primitive religious group, but an advanced ethical people. Also, some of the legislation in these chapters (particularly chapter 22, and also, to some extent, in chapter 23) seems to reflect an agricultural situation. This best fits the post-settlement period of Israel’s history, when they had already established themselves in Canaan. In light of these observations, the Book of the Covenant cannot be original with Moses, and must date somewhere in the eighth to seventh century BC.

Even relatively conservative scholars have conceded this latter point. For example, in his commentary on Exodus for the Word Biblical Commentary series, John Durham states, “That the Book of the Covenant is a disruption of the Sinai narrative sequence, and that many of its laws are more appropriate to the settled life in Canaan than to the nomadic life of the wilderness of Sinai, cannot reasonably be doubted.”41 Also, Wellhausen states:

Agriculture was learned by the Hebrews from the Canaanites in whose land they settled, and in commingling with whom they, during the period of the Judges, made the transition to a sedentary life. Before the metamorphosis of shepherds into peasants was effected, they could not possibly have had feasts which related to agriculture.42

The Existence of Multiple Sources/Editors/Redactors

Astruc and Eichhorn are credited with the identification of the Elohistic and Jehovistic sources based on those two names of God, and the style employed when those names are used. As has already been noted, both Astruc and Eichhorn would still credit Moses as the compiler of these works and, therefore, would not have seen this as evidence of their lateness. However, what had begun with the identification of two underlying documents soon grew. Eventually multiple sources were identified for the Pentateuch (and, in time, other parts of the Old Testament). There was an early E, a late E, the Jehovistic document, and finally Deuteronomy. It was Graf who, utilizing existing theories, differentiated the Levitical code from the Deuteronomic, and ascribed a later date to this Levitical code. He identified the so-called “earlier” E with this Levitical, or “Priestly” code, and hence placed this E document at the end of the process. This “early” E became P, or the Priestly Code, and the sequence was amended to either E, J, D, P or J, E, D, P (there was not agreement whether the former “late” E was earlier or later than J until Kuenen gave the latter sequence his support).43

While Wellhausen cannot be credited with making these divisions, he certainly developed the theory further and gave it popular voice. Much has been written on the alleged contents of these hypothetical sources. Since the documents are hypothetical, evidence is drawn from the texts of Scripture that are thought to represent each document, and these texts are considered in light of their style, the history of the region, geography, and the theory of religious evolution.

The J document is regarded as being from around 850 BC. It contains a history of Judah from creation to the settlement in Canaan. This is evident from the amount of references to territorial expansion and the rise of Judah (see, for example, Genesis 15:18; 27:40; 49:8ff.).44 The E document is considered to be about a century later than J and fragmentary in nature. It supposedly originates from the North, given the prominence accorded to Joseph, and the cities of Bethel and Shechem (Genesis 28:17; 31:13; 33:19f.). Also, it has a distinctive religious and moralistic emphasis, as demonstrated in the story of Abraham offering Isaac. D is considered to be from the time of Josiah, and is identified, by and large, with the Book of the Law discovered during his reign (2 Kings 22:3ff.). For evidence of this, proponents of the documentary hypothesis point to the correspondence between the regulations of Deuteronomy and the nature of Josiah’s reforms. In particular, they note the emphasis on the pure worship of God’s people in one place. Finally, P consists of a variety of laws drawn from different periods in the nation’s history. The various law codes were drawn together to provide a legal basis for the post-exilic community. Lending support to the post-exilic dating of this document is the detailed description of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-27), and also the detailed descriptions of their complex religious rituals.

Of course, if these documents post-date Moses, then Mosaic authorship cannot be held to any of them. Indeed, the scholar holding to the documentary hypothesis will hesitate to name any particular person mentioned in the pages of Scripture as the sole author of any of these works. They would rather claim that these are documents that were passed from hand to hand through a series of editors and redactors. Information was added, or clarification given parenthetically,45 thus altering the original text. Hence, it is the contention of the liberal scholar that the text of the Old Testament has not come to us unchanged, but has grown over generations according to the events of the time.

The basic J, E, D, and P documents were further divided and refined during the years succeeding Wellhausen’s work. Smend identified two Jahwist documents, Eissfelt identified a “Lay” source (L), Morgenstern discovered a Kenite source (K), Pfeiffer thought he had found a Southern (S) source of non-Israelite origin, and so on. However, the core JEDP sources have remain central to the theory, and are still considered at the foundation of the documentary, liberal, approach to the study of the Old Testament.

Having identified six key areas of the documentary hypothesis, the direction of this work shall now turn to offering a critique of these areas. Before beginning the critique, the reader should note that the original Graf-Wellhausen theory was constructed at a time when archaeological study was in its infancy. Had Wellhausen waited until closer to his death to publish, the reaction may have been quite different. In light of modern archaeological finds, liberal scholars today acknowledge that certain aspects of the theory once held to can no longer be considered tenable.46 There is, however, a stubborn streak in liberalism that refuses to let go of JEDP completely, and many modern liberals still hold to the basic tenets of the theory.47 It is the judgment of this author that the six views identified here for criticism represent popular views expounded by Wellhausen that are still maintained in many liberal circles today.

A Critique of the Elimination of the Supernatural

It is often assumed in liberal scholarly circles that complete objectivity in Biblical studies is not only helpful, but also necessary.48 However, it cannot be denied that true objectivity is impossible for anyone, since each person approaches an issue with his or her own set of presuppositions and beliefs. The scholar ought to try to approach an issue devoid of as much prejudice as possible, but complete objectivity is simply too much to ask. As much as the Christian scholar assumes supernatural intervention in history, the liberal scholar assumes the contrary. For the Christian, it would be contrary to his belief system to entertain the possibility of pure “natural” process without special revelation; the same applies for the liberal with regard to the opposite opinion.

Since the advancement of archaeology over the past one hundred years, many aspects of the liberal position have been shown to be tenuous at best. Indeed, the topics addressed in this paper have been addressed by archaeology in ways that make it more difficult for the liberal scholar to maintain the presuppositions that make his position possible. The arguments contrary to the notion of the natural, evolutionary development of religion beg the question of where the particular, and comparatively peculiar, religion of the Israelites actually originated. Questions regarding some of the unusual aspects of Israelite worship, as well as the stories in the early chapters of Genesis need to be addressed in light of recent discoveries. It is a shame, and is often frustrating that the liberal scholars are so frequently unwilling to offer an honest agnosticism over these issues, and instead attempt to assert their presuppositions all the more forcefully in spite of the evidence.

As much as the liberal scholar would like to dispense of the supernatural, and read the text as a work of human hands depicting events that happened without divine intervention, there are too many questions that he cannot adequately answer for such an assumption to be presumed fact. Questions of this nature will be raised in the proceeding pages. It must also be noted, however that as much as archaeology raises questions regarding the liberal position, archaeology by no means “proves” the existence of God, or even the truth claims of Christianity.

Many details of Hebrew history and religion have been confirmed by the spade of the excavator; yet, the main function of Biblical archaeology is to expose the human environment and furnish a properly accredited background to the study of the ancient Hebrews. It should never be expected to demonstrate the veracity of the spiritual truths implicit in the Old Testament, since archaeology is essentially a human activity and cannot therefore as such confirm theology or open the realm of faith.49

A Critique of the Evolution of Religion

The evolutionary view of religion depends upon the idea that religious expression as a whole evolved through the various stages, noted earlier, at various points in history. According to this theory, during the time of the patriarchs, animism would have been prominent. Certainly, according to this theory, the idea that the patriarchal religion was monotheistic (or even henotheistic) could not be true. However, recent archaeological discoveries have indicated that during the time of the patriarchs, Near Eastern religion was far from animistic. Statues of deities in a triad have been found in what has been described as a temple-like structure at an excavation in Jericho. These were dated to around the third millennium B.C.50 There is also evidence of a highly developed polytheism characteristic of the religions of Egypt and Mesopotamia at this time.

The Mesopotamians of this period had already applied categories of personality to the great cosmic powers that dominated their pantheon, and were worshipping them in temples that were regarded as the earthly residence of the deities.51

Also, it would serve the liberal critic well to note that, at this time, the Egyptians had a pantheon whose head god was Re, and the Canaanites had the god El as their chief deity.

From the archaeological evidence, therefore, it seems that animism was far from prevalent during the patriarchal period. Indeed, any lingering artifacts of animistic religion found during this period must be seen as the exception, and not the rule. The religion of the period was far more sophisticated than Wellhausen imagined.

With regard to the “evidences” of animism noted earlier, one must not confuse references to objects (stones, trees, rivers, etc.) that were used as symbols for the worship of such objects. No indication is given in the Old Testament texts that God could not speak to His chosen mouthpiece without the intervention of these objects. “The staff of Moses constituted the symbol of his authority and was not the source of his inspiration or power.”52

The totemism that was supposedly found in the Old Testament by the higher critics is also unsupported by archaeological evidence. Totemism was practiced largely by North Americans, Africans, and Australians and there is no evidence that the practice spread further abroad. It was certainly not widespread enough to be considered a general phase that all religions passed through. While there may be evidence of Egyptian totemism, at least in some form, this appeared only in the later decadence of the religion, and was probably nothing more than simple animal worship. There is no evidence for anything like even the Egyptian practice of mummifying cats and dogs in Mesopotamia or Sumeria. The ascription of the names of animals or objects to people need be nothing more than the recognition of certain characteristics in that person reminiscent of the animal or object. Apart from further evidence of animism in the ancient Near East at this time, it is speculative at best to read anything else into these passages.

The suggestion that human sacrifice was an acceptable part of Israelite worship is nothing short of ludicrous. The passages cited earlier do not support this view. The command to sacrifice Isaac that was issued to Abraham was clearly a test of Abraham’s faith. The ritual was not completed, at the Lord’s command. Furthermore, the Lord provided an acceptable sacrifice for Abraham to offer in place of his son. Samuel’s killing of Agag does not bear the hallmarks of religious ritual, even though the text says it was done “before the Lord.” This applies to the other passages cited, also. As for the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter in fulfillment of the rash vow he made (Judges 11:30-40), there is doubt over whether his daughter was killed or simply offered into the service of the Lord to fulfill the vow. And even if she was killed as a sacrifice, this one incident hardly proves the rule.

… Admitting that the maiden was actually slain as a sacrifice, and not simply devoted, we may be excused… for not accepting the action of this very partially enlightened Gileadite, in a rude age, as a rule for judging of the true character of Israel’s religion.53

The use of the name “El” or “Baal” in place names or names of people has been cited as evidence of early ancestor worship, or polytheism, where the person is elevated to the status of deity. However, it should be observed that such name designations often occurred as a result of a theophany (e.g., Ishmael, “God hears,” because God heard the cries of his mother, Hagar–Genesis 16:10), or a place of religious significance (e.g., Peniel, where Jacob wrestled with God–Genesis 32:30).54 It is also evident from archaeological discoveries that the teraphim, far from being evidence of either ancestor worship or polytheism, constituted, among other things, inheritance rites. It is clear why, therefore, Rachel secretly packed the household idols when she and Jacob left Laban: she was ensuring that she would inherit her father’s property.55

It is also evident from archaeological discoveries that it was entirely possible for monotheism to exist in the time of Moses, and even before that time. Evidence for this can be seen in the practice of contemporary pagan religions of the same time. For example, a Babylonian find from around 1500-1200 B.C. identifies all the major Babylonian gods with the god Marduk. In this text, Zababa is Marduk of battle, Sin is Marduk as illuminator of night, and Adad is Marduk of rain. Similar practices are observed elsewhere by scholars, even in Syria and Canaan.56

There is much more that could be said with regard to this particular issue, and the reader is referred to the numerous articles and books on the subject. Suffice it to say that there is sufficient reason to question the evolutionary hypothesis with regard to religion. The supposition that such a development occurred is too simplistic, especially in light of the archaeological evidence. Yet, as Orr indicates, the liberal position is found also to be internally inconsistent, even aside from archaeological evidence:

How constantly, for instance, are Jephthah’s words in Judges 11:24, relied on in proof that, in the time of the Judges, Jehovah sustained the same relation to Israel as Chemosh did to Moab. Yet this section is declared by the critics not to belong to the older stratum of the book of Judges, but to be a late insertion of uncertain date: certainly, therefore, on the theory, no real speech of Jephthah’s… Similarly, the statement of David in 1 Samuel 26:19, that his enemies had driven him out of Jehovah’s inheritance saying, “Go, serve other gods”–continually quoted in proof that to David Jehovah was only a tribal god–is, with the chapter to which it belongs, assigned by Kautzsch, with others, to a comparatively late date: is valueless, therefore, as a testimony to David’s own sentiments. Is it desired, again, to prove an original connection between Jehovah and Moloch? Kuenen, to that end, accepts as “historical” the statement in Amos 5:26 that the Israelites carried about in the desert “the tabernacle of Moloch,” though the whole history of the wanderings, which, in its JE parts, is allowed to be older that Amos, is rejected by him. A proof of bull-worship of Jehovah from ancient times is found by some in the story of the making of the golden calf in Exodus 32; yet the story is rejected as unhistorical.57

Both in terms of archaeology and internal consistency, the theory of evolutionary development has been shown to be inadequate to enlighten the background of the Old Testament narratives. As will become evident, the very fact that this theory can no longer be taken for granted damages, perhaps irreparably, the whole documentary hypothesis. So much has been laid upon this assumption that to tear it down destroys the whole structure.

A Critique of the Late Date of Deuteronomy

It was noted earlier that, for the liberal scholar, the dating of Deuteronomy depends largely upon placing its origin during the reign of Josiah (seventh century B.C.), and identifying it as the document recovered during that time (2 Kings 22:8). Evidence for this is supposedly found in the reforms of Josiah that followed the discovery of this document that seem to reflect the Deuteronomic legislation, in particular the centralization of Israelite worship in Jerusalem.

The difficulties with this reasoning are plain from the text itself. To begin with, nowhere does Deuteronomy make the claim that Jerusalem is to be the central place of worship. Jerusalem is not named either explicitly or implicitly. Moreover, one must question the assertion that the concern of Deuteronomy is to centralize Israelite worship, such that people could not worship elsewhere. As Harrison points out, “The real force of the contrast in Deuteronomy 12 is not between many alters of God and one, but between those of the Canaanites dedicated to alien deities and the place where the name of God is to be revered… the question is not their number but their character.”58

It would surely be no strange thing for Hilkiah the priest to have recovered the book of Deuteronomy. As is evident from 2 Kings, both kingdoms had slipped more than once into apostasy, and it would not be surprising to learn that the Mosaic law had been lost at that time.59 The problem comes with then hypothesizing that this book of the law was a recent creation by the hands of the prophets to force Josiah’s hand toward reformation. This is to read more into the text than the text itself permits, and the subjective nature of such an assertion is even more obvious when the presupposition of the evolutionary nature of religion is stripped away. If the high moral nature of the Deuteronomic legislation does not necessarily place it at a late date, then there is no reason to suppose that Deuteronomy cannot be Mosaic.

James Orr, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, raises some very simple yet compelling questions with regard to the liberal theory. For example, how could the priest present to the king a book purporting to be of Mosaic origin when, so to speak, the ink is still wet? Surely such a modern work would not have the look of antiquity and the king, unless he was extremely dull-witted, would not be deceived by such a clear forgery. Also, the text of 2 Kings 22 indicates an awareness of this book’s existence, and the recognition of its authority when it was read. If this book were a novel invention, surely it would not have received such an eager hearing, and be recognized as the book of the law?60

Moreover, as Orr correctly points out, scholars are not in agreement on either the authorship of this work, or its date. Many, including Wellhausen, Graf, Keunen, and Colenso, have no difficulty in asserting that Deuteronomy is a “pious fraud”: a book written at the time of Josiah to provoke reform. Other, more conservative scholars, feeling the force of the “pious fraud” argument, wish to give the work at least some sense of antiquity, so they push its composition back to the days of Hezekiah or Manasseh. However, since they have only their conscience as a basis for this, what is there, apart from an allegiance to the evolutionary theory, that prevents them from assigning its authorship to Moses, or at least to his time?61 Also, if this work is a “pious fraud,” is it one at the hands of the prophets or the priests? Does it reflect a prophetic agenda for moral reform, or a priestly agenda regarding the sanctuary, the priesthood, and the centralization of worship in Jerusalem? Orr suggests that the very fact that there would be a conflict of interest indicates the unified nature of the work apart from either the prophets or priests of Josiah’s time.62

Against the theory of a seventh-century origin for Deuteronomy, Harrison points out that Deuteronomy does, in fact, fit the situation of Israel on the brink of entering the Promised Land. The Israelites were about to enter a land that was under Canaanite rule, and the influence of Canaanite religion would be strong. For this reason, the Lord commanded Israel to destroy all traces of Canaanite worship, so that the pure worship of the Lord would not be tainted by pagan rituals (Deuteronomy 7, and 12, for example).63 The Deuteronomic legislation is clearly preparatory (notice the language in 18:9; 19:1; and 26:1, for example). It is surely presumption to assume that this cannot be the case; only by denying the supernatural and asserting the evolutionary view could one doubt that this legislation was given to Moses to establish the religious framework of the people once they had settled in Canaan.

While it is possible that the reforms of Josiah were influenced in part by provisions in Deuteronomy, the purpose of Deuteronomy went well beyond the reforms of Josiah. As Harrison succinctly puts it, “To set the matter in correct perspective it need only be observed that the reformation of Josiah resulted in an abolition of idolatry, and not in the establishing of a centralized sanctuary, the latter having obtained since the days of Solomon.”64 The suggestion that the purpose of Deuteronomy was fulfilled in the reforms of Josiah surely underestimates the scope of the Deuteronomic legislation, and overestimates the scope of the reforms of Josiah.

A Critique of the Unhistorical Nature of the Patriarchal Narratives

Some of the initial objections to the assertions made regarding the supposed unhistorical nature of the patriarchal narratives have already been addressed in the discussion of the evolutionary theory and the place of the supernatural. There is more that can be said, however, of a positive nature regarding the general historicity of the accounts of the patriarchs.

It is true to say that little is known of the patriarchs themselves outside of the Scriptural record, and archaeology has not helped the Biblical scholar on that front. However, archaeology has provided the scholar with a wealth of information regarding the culture of the early- to mid- second millennium B.C. Near East that enables us to place the patriarchal narratives into this location and timeframe.

To begin with, the account of creation and the flood found in Genesis 1-11 have parallels in Babylonian literature, in particular the Atrahasīs which is dated to about 1800 B.C., though it is based on sources that are probably earlier.65 While some might argue that this document is the source of the accounts in the early chapters of Genesis, it is unlikely that this is the case. This document, and others discovered that are like it, gives insight into the Near Eastern mindset, and the way in which such issues were being discussed at that time. The fact that Genesis 1-11 deals with the same subject matter helps us to place it in this timeframe. However, the numerous points of variation might suggest that Genesis 1-11 serves as, perhaps, an apologetic against some of the myths of creation circulating at that time. For example, in the Babylonian and Mesopotamian texts, creation occurred as a divine afterthought, and initially things were rough but gradually improved over time. The Biblical account, however, states that creation was purposeful, and the creation of man was the apex of God’s creative activity. In Genesis 1-3, rather than being presented with a picture of progression from a hard to an easy life, the text indicates that man was created in perfection with all the benefits of communion with God. However, man fell from this position as a result of sin, and, from thereon, was left to work the ground (Genesis 3:17-19).66 The portrayal of God is also different: the God of Genesis 1-11 is one, omnipotent and holy God, not the multitude of competitive, lustful gods of the other texts.67 Further, as Gordon Wenham points out, “…until the discovery of the Atrahasis epic, it had hardly been appreciated that the command given to Adam to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ showed Genesis rejecting the ancient fear of a population explosion.”68

As mentioned previously, archaeology has been unable to provide parallel accounts of the patriarchal narratives in the Scriptures. However, excavations at and around the site of the ancient royal palace at Mari, the capital of the Semitic Amorites in the eighteenth century B.C., have brought to light some interesting information. In particular, names of Biblical patriarchs were commemorated in the designation of sites such as Serug, Peleg, and Terah.69 Also, from documents and records discovered, it is apparent that names such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Laban, and Joseph were in common use at that time.70 It is also interesting that the occurrence of these names would not fit with a later period.71

The discovery of one thousand clay tablets at the site of ancient Nuzu in central Iraq in 1925 have proven to be very valuable for detailing mid-second millennium Near Eastern customs. In a number of instances, these parallel customs recorded in Genesis.72 For example, the Nuzu tablets provide an example of exchanging inheritance rites for something comparatively trivial (in this case, three sheep). This parallels Esau trading his birthright to Jacob for some stew (Genesis 25: 29-34). Also, the binding nature of Isaac’s blessing, even though it was oral (Genesis 27): the Nuzu tablets confirm that, at this time in Near Eastern society, such oral blessings had legal validity. It was noted earlier that the teraphim, rather than indicating an allegiance to other gods, or ancestor worship of some kind, actually denoted inheritance rights. One of the Nuzu tablets shows that a son-in-law could make a legal claim for the estate of his father-in-law based on his possession of the family teraphim.

These tablets also indicate that it was customary for the marriage contract to require a woman unable to provide progeny for her husband to supply him with a concubine that he may not be deprived of an heir. The concubine would not have the same status within the family as the wife, but it was required that the concubine, and any children she might bear, be made a part of the family. Should the wife subsequently bear her husband a son, this son’s inheritance rights would supercede those of any of the concubine’s offspring.73 In light of this, it is easy to see how the story of Abraham and Sarah falls neatly into the mid-second millennium Near Eastern environment (Genesis 16 and 21). It is clear that when Sarah employed the services of Hagar, this was in accordance with the custom. The hesitation that Sarah had over expelling Hagar and Ishmael is also understandable given the requirement that the concubine remain within the household. However, as Harrison notes:

…it is important in this connection to note that Sarah’s action could have been defended according to the ancient Sumerian code of Lipit-Ishtar (ca. 1850 B.C.), one of the sources underlying the legislation of Hammurabi, which stated that the freedom received by the dispossessed slave was to be considered adequate compensation for the act of expulsion.

Finally, the story told in Genesis 23 of the burial of Sarah and Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah is given context as a result of the recovery of some Hittite legal texts from Boghazky, which is in modern-day Turkey. In the Genesis account, Abraham is seeking a place to bury his wife. He would like to use the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to Ephron the Hittite. He approaches Ephron and offers to buy the cave, which is on his property, for its full price. Ephron offers to give both the field and the cave to Abraham for his dead. Abraham insists on paying for it, and Ephron concedes, asking four hundred sheckels of silver. Abraham weighs this out for him and takes possession of the property. This entire transaction takes place, as the text notes frequently, “in the hearing of the sons of Heth.”

This narrative has a legal air about it, and some of the details are, perhaps, a little peculiar (the repeated mention of the sons of Heth, Abraham’s desire to purchase only the cave and not the full property, the mention of the trees on the property, to name a few). However, the Hittite legal texts from Boghazky go a long way to help us understand what is going on in this passage. Firstly, Abraham’s request to purchase only the cave and not the entire land could be explained by the fact that under the Hittite law, someone who purchases the entire property of the seller is bound to render feudal services of some nature to the seller. Clearly, Abraham wanted to avoid this. When Ephron insisted on selling the whole property, Abraham accepted and, according to documented custom, weighed the full amount out to Ephron in silver in the presence of witnesses. Hittite law required the transaction to be public. Finally, Hittite custom was to indicate the number of trees on the property, hence the mention of trees in the text.74

This is just a small sampling of the archaeological information that is available to the scholar with regard to the cultural background of the patriarchal narratives. At the very least, the correspondence between the accounts in the Old Testament and the documents recovered from the ground suggest that the narratives could date back to the period of which they speak. It is the opinion of this writer, and many others more adept in this field of study, that the evidence is too great for there to be any further question over the subject.75

A Critique of the Late Date of the Mosaic Law

One of the main reasons for dating the Mosaic Law to the fifth, or even fourth, century B.C. is the evolutionary theory. That is, religion was not advanced enough by this time to account for the high moral and ethical standards exhibited in the Mosaic Law. As noted previously, recent archaeological finds have given scholars reason to question the validity of the evolutionary theory of religion. There is evidence of “advanced” religious practices well into the time of Moses, and even prior to that time. As for the high standards of the Mosaic legislation, “The standards represented by the law codes of the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Hittites… have effectively refuted this assumption.”76

With regard to the agricultural nature of the statutes and their supposed relationship to a time of settlement, it should be remembered that the exodus journey from Egypt to Canaan should only have taken a couple of years. It would have been reasonable to plan for a settlement scenario just a few years in advance. The fact that their journey took much longer as a result of Israel’s sin (Numbers 13) was, at least as far as the Israelites were concerned, unplanned. Also, as Harrison points out, the Israelites were not ignorant of agriculture, even during their wilderness wandering:

… the Israelites at Sinai were in fact the heirs of four centuries of agricultural and pastoral experience in a rich and fertile region of the Nile delta, and… neither they nor their forefathers had ever been true desert nomads in the modern Bedouin sense… What is clear is the fact that there was certainly no need for the Israelites to be settled in Canaan before such laws and regulations could be promulgated.77

The existence of other legal codes at the time of the exodus also lends credence to the belief that the Mosaic Law (or the book of the Covenant, as it is sometimes called) dates somewhere around 1500-1400 B.C. These other codes include the Code of Hammurabi (2000-1700 B.C.), and the Hittite and Assyrian Codes (1400-1200 B.C.), which all display evidence of being “advanced” in nature.78

Of further interest with regard to the dating of the Mosaic Law, as well as Deuteronomy, is the discovery of various treaties and legal documents in the area of ancient Babylon. The suzerainty treaties are of particular interest, since these were treaties enacted between a great king who might rule over an empire, and a lesser king. The treaties had a covenant form, and had a specific structure during the second millennium: a prologue, a historic prelude, stipulations, instructions for preservation of the enactments, and curses and blessings that might come about as a result of keeping or breaking the treaty.79 This form fits both the pattern of the book of the Covenant (Exodus 19-24), as well as the book of Deuteronomy. It is of further interest that the treaty form changed over the following millennium such that first millennium suzerainty treaties omitted two of the aforementioned five sections.80 If the book of the Covenant and Deuteronomy are both written in the style of a suzerainty treaty, this places them both in the second millennium, not the first millennium.

On the basis of the aforementioned evidence alone, there is, no confident basis for dating the Mosaic Law in a time period outside of the mid-second millennium B.C.

A Critique of the Existence of Multiple Sources/Editors/Redactors

From the outset, it should be stated that it is inconsistent with the testimony of the Old Testament texts themselves to deny that sources have been used, and that people other than the main author of the books worked on the texts. The problem that most conservatives have with the liberal approach is not that the liberal appeals to sources; it is that they appeal to hypothetical sources.81 Numbers 21:14 refers to the Book of the Wars of the Lord; 2 Samuel 1:18 refers to the book of Jashar; 1 Kings 11:41 refers to the book of the acts of Solomon. Clearly, sources were being used in the composition of these books. Sources, however, neither deny antiquity, nor do they deny authorship.

It is also evident that while, as conservatives assert, Moses wrote the major part of the Pentateuch, editorial work was done by other hands. Moses clearly did not write Deuteronomy 34, which gives an account of his death. Someone else (possibly Joshua), wrote this chapter, and, indeed, could well have written chapters 32-34, since at this point in the narrative the book of the Law was in the Ark of the Covenant.82 There are other points in the Old Testament where some editorializing may, arguably, have occurred.83 However, the claims of the liberal go well beyond the occasional change or addition. As has been documented, the liberal claims that the entire basis for, at least, the Pentateuch is a collection of late documents that have been edited and worked over to fit the desires of the editor.

It should be clear that by undermining the theory of religious evolution, one of the major pillars supporting the JEDP framework has been taken away. Without this, there is no philosophical reason for dating the documents as late as Wellhausen and his followers would. The only other place that the supporters of the theory can look to support their documentary distinctions is within the style of the Biblical texts themselves.

As previously noted, Astruc differentiated the J and E documents on the basis of the names of God used. This was further developed to identify the documents on the basis of style such that J was a document originating in Judah with concerns in that area specifically, and E originated in Ephraim, and is more concerned with things pertaining to the North. However, critics are not united on this opinion, with some eminent critics placing J in the North as well as E.84 The preference for Southern and Northern places allegedly evident in J and E respectively is simply a myth. Abraham had a home in Hebron (a J location), and yet his first home was in Bethel (an E location). Isaac lived in Beersheba according to both J and E, and E records Jacob’s residence as in Hebron.85 In short, the designations of J and E documents are purely and solely at the mercy of the scholar interpreting the texts. The subjective nature of these designations is beyond dispute, especially when the spurious presuppositions of the liberal critics are removed.

With regard to the different names of God used, Dahse studied the divine names as used in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) and discovered significant variations from their use in the Hebrew text.86 This alone should be enough to question the validity of this approach. Liberal critics had also noted occasions where the divine names were combined (Yahweh-Elohim), denoting, for them, a conflation of the two sources. However, as Cyrus Gordon ably points out, compound names for a deity is not unusual in ancient Near Eastern texts. In an article he wrote for Christianity Today, Gordon cites examples of gods at Ugarit with such compound names: Qadish-Amrar, and Ibb-Nikkal. He also notes the most famous deity with a compound name, the Egyptian god Amon-Re, formed from the joining of the god of the capital city, Thebes, and Re, the universal Sun god, after the Egyptian conquest. Though comprised of the names of two gods, Amon-Re designated one god.87

The P document, according to the liberal critics, is the Priestly document, containing details such as the measurements of the Tabernacle and Noah’s Ark. This document is given a late date because of this style, which, in the eyes of the liberal critics, is characterized by this kind of attention to detail. Cyrus Gordon, again, observed that dating this document late on the basis of style is without basis in fact:

… after a four-year hiatus in my academic career during World War II… I offered a course on the Gilgamesh Epic. In the eleventh tablet I could not help noting that the Babylonian account of the construction of the Ark contains specification in detail much like the Hebrew account of Noah’s Ark. At the same time, I recalled that the Genesis description is ascribed to P of Second Temple date, because facts and figures such as those pertaining to the Ark are characteristic of the hypothetical Priestly author. What occurred to me was that if the Genesis account of the Ark belongs to P on such grounds, the Gilgamesh Epic account of the Ark belonged to P on the same grounds–which is absurd.88

Finally, it has been noted that this kind of documentary dividing had been the practice of literary critics for years before Old Testament scholars took up the art. However, literary criticism as a whole has abandoned the practice because the literary critics acknowledge the highly speculative nature of the exercise. As C. S. Lewis put it, “There used to be English scholars who were prepared to cut up Henry VI between half a dozen authors and assign his share to each. We don’t do that now… Everywhere, except in theology, there has been a vigorous growth of skepticism about skepticism itself.”89 Any student of literature knows that a single author can adopt many different styles according to the needs of the work at hand. To use style, then, as a basis for distinguishing between multiple authors is, at best, a dangerous exercise, prone to error.

This critique has been, of necessity, brief. There is much more that could be said with regard to each of these points, and many more points could be added to these. The foregoing ought to be sufficient, though, to demonstrate that the JEDP theory, or the Graf-Wellhausen documentary hypothesis, is of no value for either the student or the scholar of the Old Testament. So much energy has been employed by liberal critics in dividing up the text of the Old Testament into alleged sources, that the beautiful unity of the whole has been lost in the editing. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see a elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.”90 The work of the Biblical scholar should be the text itself, and not hypothetical sources. Enough time has been wasted chasing shadows; may scholarship regain its taste for substance.


[1]R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mi.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969; reprint, Peabody, Ma.: Prince Press, 1999), p. 4.

[2]Ibid., pp. 5-6.

[3]Ibid., pp. 8-9.

[4]James Orr, Problem of the Old Testament, (Ny.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), p. 197. See footnote 5.

[5]In fact, by this time, it was popular to include Joshua with the Pentateuch to make a Hexateuch.

[6]Harrison, p. 17; Orr, pp. 198-199.

[7]Orr, p. 200.

[8]Harrison, p. 20.

[9]Ibid., pp. 20-21.

[10]Harrison, p. 20; Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past & Present, pp. 280-281.

[11]Heinrich Ewald (1803-1875) taught that the books of the Old Testament had gone through the hands of a number of redactors, and divided them into three major works comprising the Hexateuch (pre-exilic), Judges-2 Kings (exilic), and Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah (post-exilic). See Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past & Present, (Downer’s Grove, Il.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), p. 279-280

[12]Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Israel, (n.p. : n.d., 1878, 1883). >From an e-text version available from Project Gutenberg at It appears that this book was called a “Prolegomena” since it was intended to be part one of a two-part History of Israel. The purpose of the first volume was to lay the philosophical foundation for the second.

[13]Walter Kaiser, transcript of a lecture given at the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute Orlando Apologetics Conference, 1991: Exploding the JEDP Theory or the Documentary Hypothesis, pp. 10-11. Transcript prepared by the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, Chattanooga, Tn.

[14]Bray, p. 284.

[15]See, for example, Lester L. Grabbe, Leviticus, (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1993), pp. 16-19, where Grabbe leaves the existence of a “P” document open, but maintains that Leviticus “has undergone a long period of growth with many additions and editings.” He then bluntly states, “scholars are agreed on this point.” Any reading of the works of Harrison, Kaiser, Archer, and others would reveal that this is far from being a universal consensus opinion among scholars.

[16]Wellhausen, Prolegomena.

[17]Orr, p. 12.

[18]Quoted in Orr, p. 13.

[19]Quoted in Joseph P. Free, “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism: Part I: Is Rationalistic Biblical Criticism Dead?” Bibliotheca Sacra 113, no. 450 (1956): 126.

[20]Harrison, pp. 351-352.

[21]See Dr. A. Noordtzy, “The Old Testament Problem Part 1,” Bibliotheca Sacra 97, no. 388 (1940): 471-472, who also notes the increasing tendency (unfortunately prevalent even today) for people to discuss religion in abstract terms, treating it as man’s attempts to reach up to God, or some kind of divinity, and thus regarding all religions of equal worth and purpose, with no intrinsic differences.

[22]G. E. Wright, “The Present State of Biblical Archaeology,” The Study of the Bible Today and Tomorrow, pp. 89-90. Quoted in Joseph P. Free, “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism: Part III: Archaeology and Liberalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra 113, no. 452 (1956): 333-334.

[23]Harrison, p. 353.

[24]Orr, p. 138.

[25]Ibid., p. 354.

[26]Totemism is the belief that there is a relationship between a clan and a group of animals or plants. See Harrison, p. 354.

[27]Harrison, p. 355.

[28]Orr, p. 140.

[29]Suggested, perhaps, in passages such as Psalm 97:9, “For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods.”

[30]Harrison, p. 355.

[31]The Shema (Deut. 6:4-5) is only one of many examples of this.

[32]Wellhausen, Prolegomena.

[33]Ibid. It is of interest to note that, since the legislation focusing on this worship center (which is identified by Wellhausen as Jerusalem) begins in Deuteronomy 12, he considered the “original” book of Deuteronomy to be only the section from chapter 12 to chapter 26.

[34]Orr, p. 249

[35]Orr, pp. 249-250.

[36]Harrison, p. 640.

[37]Hence, Wellhausen states, “Abraham alone is certainly not the name of a people like Isaac and Lot: he is somewhat difficult to interpret. That is not to say that in such a connection as this we may regard him as a historical person; he might with more likelihood be regarded as a free creation of unconscious art” (Prolegomena).


[39]Wellhausen, Prolegomena.

[40]Dr. Gerald Larue made the following comment in a debate with Dr. Walter Kaiser in 1987: “Well, this is a bias, and, of course, what you deal with is interpretation. Something happens and somebody says, ‘Well, this is… because God…’ So we have Christian scholars who are higher critics who have written books called The Mighty Acts of God, dealing with the interpretation of history as God acting within the realm of man. The secular historian doesn’t utilize that kind of belief system.” (Transcript from The John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association of a debate recorded for The John Ankerberg Show, 1987: How Was the Old Testament Written? p. 6.)

[41]John I. Durham, Exodus, (Waco, Tx.: Word Books, 1987), p. 281.


[42]Wellhausen, Prolegomena.

[43]Harrison, p. 501.

[44]Ibid. The author acknowledges his debt to Harrison for this summary of JEDP.

[45]For example, the account of the death of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy, or the references to certain things being so “to this day” (Genesis 19:37-38; 22:14; 47:26; Deuteronomy 2:22; 3:14, to name a few).

[46]An example of this is the discovery of cuneiform writing, demonstrating that people were writing at least as early as the time of Moses, if not earlier. This overturned the prior contention that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch since writing had not been invented.

[47]On the John Ankerberg Show, when asked if he still holds to JEDP, Dr. Gerald Larue stated, “I utilize this as the best we have at the moment… Possibly somebody will come up with something better…” (Transcript, How Was the Old Testament Written? p. 6). Given that Dr. Larue is still subscribing to this 120-year-old theory, one is given cause to doubt that he truly believes this to be the case.

[48]Lester L. Grabbe, “Fundamentalism and Scholarship,” in Barry P. Thompson (ed.), Scripture: Meaning and Method: Essays Presented to Anthony Tyrrell Hanson, (Hull, England; Hull University Press, 1987). This principle is the contention behind Grabbe’s article. He argues that Christians cannot truly be scholars since their work is biased from the outset by their faith. This author has encountered this perspective on numerous occasions.

[49]Harrison, p. 93.

[50]Joseph P. Free, “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism: Part III: Archaeology and Liberalism” p. 334.

[51]Harrison, p. 384.

[52]Harrison, p. 387. It is instructive to note that no images of Yahweh have ever been found.

[53]Orr, p. 140.

[54]Harrison, p. 392.

[55]Genesis 31:34; Ibid., p. 393

[56]Free, “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism Part III: Archaeology and Liberalism,” pp. 335-336.

[57]Orr, pp. 121-122.

[58]Harrison, pp. 642-643.

[59]Harrison, citing the work of Cyrus Gordon, notes that ancient Near Eastern law codes were often discarded in actual life. “Mesopotamian judges consistently omitted any reference to law codes in their court decisions, preferring instead to be guided by tradition, public feeling, and their own estimate of the situation confronting them… Thus the rediscovery of lost Sumerian legal codes some centuries after their promulgation would have constituted as complete a surprise to the contemporary Babylonians generally as the finding of the ‘book of the law’ did to Josiah” (Ibid., pp. 647-8).

[60]Orr, p. 257-260.

[61]Ibid., pp. 260-261.

[62]Ibid., p. 262.

[63]Harrison, p. 644.

[64]Ibid., p. 646.

[65]Donald J. Wiseman, “Archaeology and Scripture,” Westminster Theological Journal (Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster Seminary) 33, no. 2 (1971): 142.

[66]Gordon J. Wenham, “The Place of Biblical Criticism in Theological Study,” Themelios (Leicester, England: IFES) 14, no 3 (1989): 87.



[69]Harrison, p. 106.


[71]Free, “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism: Part III: Archaeology and Liberalism,” p.331.

[72]What follows is a summary of the points made by Free (Ibid., pp. 329-330).

[73]Harrison, p. 108.

[74]Harrison, pp. 111-112.

[75]Harrison, Archer, Kaiser, Free, and Wiseman are but a few of the Old Testament scholars who would support this claim.

[76]Burrows, What Mean These Stones, p. 56, cited in Free, “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism: Part III: Archaeology and Liberalism,” p. 339.

[77]Harrison, pp. 583-584.

[78]Free, “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism: Part III: Archaeology and Liberalism,” p. 338.

[79]Wiseman, p. 144; Walter Kaiser, “Exploding the JEDP Theory or the Documentary Hypothesis,” pp. 6-7.

[80]Kaiser, “Exploding the JEDP Theory or the Documentary Hypothesis,” p. 6.

[81]Ibid., p. 4.

[82]Harrison, p. 661.

[83]For example, the passages referring to things being so “to this day” (e.g., Gen. 19:37; Deut. 2:22; Joshua 6:25; 1 Samuel 5:5 et al.). This is debatable since it is possible that Moses, describing a situation some years ago may indicate that the same was still true at the time of his writing. There are also, however, claims made that the names of certain places have been updated to reflect a more modern usage. For example, the reference to Dan in Genesis 14:14 could possibly be to the Dan that was renamed from Laish in Judges 18:29. Since Moses would not have been aware of the name change, he would have originally written “Laish,” and a later hand updated it to Dan. See Kaiser and Larue, “How Was the Old Testament Written,” pp. 8-9. Such changes are seen by some conservatives as no worse than the way modern Bible translators make use of dynamic equivalence.

[84]Orr, p. 209.

[85]Orr, p. 210.

[86]Harrison, p. 30.

[87]Cyrus H. Gordon, “Higher Critics and Forbidden Fruit,” Christianity Today IV, No. 4 (1959): 132-133.

[88]Ibid., p. 131.

[89]C. S. Lewis, “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” (originally titled “Fern-seed and Elephants”), The Seeing Eye (New York: Ballantine Books, 1992), p. 217.

[90]Ibid., 210.

A Brief Bibliography

Free, Joseph P., “Archaeology and Biblical Criticism” Parts I-III, Bibliotheca Sacra nos. 450-452

Kaiser, Walter C., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991)

Harrison, R. K., Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mi.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969; reprint, Peabody, Ma.: Prince Press, 1999)

Orr, James, Problem of the Old Testament, (Ny.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906)

Thiele, Edwin R., The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mi.: Kregel Publications, 1994)

Wellhausen, Julius, Prolegomena to the History of Israel, (n.p. : n.d., 1878, 1883)

A Reformed Response to the Comments of R. C. H. Lenski on Romans 9 – Vintage

[The following article makes use of the Mounce Greek font.]

Lutheran scholar R.C.H. Lenski wrote a series of New Testament commentaries that are still in circulation today.  His strongly anti-Reformed stance comes through clearly in his writings.  Recently his view of Romans 9 has been promoted widely, so I felt it proper to provide some thoughts on Lenski’s position in the following paragraphs.  I hope they are useful and helpful to those studying the issue.

First, I was a little taken aback by the anti-Reformed polemic inherent in Lenski’s commentary.  I am aware that many Lutherans continue to harbor that kind of anti-Calvinism (I suppose some Calvinists harbor anti-Lutheran feelings in turn, though I haven’t encountered it myself), but what bothered me most was that it became a predominant theme in all of his comments on relevant passages, especially Romans 8:28ff and then in Romans 9.  This resulted in polemically-derived representations of the Reformed position that are anything but fair.  This did, in my opinion, result in exegetical errors that can be seen by a semi-unbiased examination of the text.  For example, his discussion of “foreknowledge” is clearly geared against the Calvinistic position, and as such suffers, in that while he expands his study into all kinds of uses of ginwvskw, he neglects the single most obvious element of any study of proginwvskw in the NT: the actual usage of the term and the fact that the only objects of the verb in the NT are Christ, Israel, and the elect.  This simple consideration forms the basis of the recognition that proginwvskw does, in fact, go beyond mere knowledge to relationship, a fact borne out by the rest of the Golden Chain of Redemption, for, ultimately, all who are foreknown are glorified, and nothing can be more certain than the fact that all the glorified are in Christ and that in a most intimate fashion.

Next, while there are elements of the exegesis that I disagree with in the earlier sections of Romans 9, I would like to focus primarily upon the central passages, 9:14ff.  Only one issue needs to be raised regarding the previous sections: the key to the passage that I hardly ever see addressed by non-Reformed exegetes is the relationship between 9:6 and the rest of the chapter.  Paul is addressing one particular issue in this passage, that being, how is it that so many of Abraham’s physical descendants reject the Messiah?   Why do the great body of Jews reject their Messiah?  This is a personal question.  Paul, as a Jew, embraced the Messiah personally.  Most of his brethren rejected Christ personally.  Why?  This issue is paramount.

I will assume that any person interested in this subject has access to Lenski’s commentary, and we will not reproduce the text here.  Relevant citations will be included.

Beginning on p. 605 Lenski emphasizes the word “mercy.”  This becomes the over-arching element of his presentation.  I would submit that, eventually, the focus upon the concept of “mercy” over-rides the text itself.  Paul will, in fact, speak of mercy both as a verb (ejleevw, a transitive verb difficult to translate into English, since we have no verb “to mercy”) as well as an adjective (in the genitive in v. 23), “vessels of mercy.”  But he uses the verb in parallel with “harden” as well, a fact that cannot be allowed to be diminished due to any preconception.

Romans 9:14

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!

On page 606 Lenski limits the referent of “What, then, shall we say” to a rejection of works righteousness, when the preceding context is clear that the real referent is God’s freedom expressed in his ejklogh;n provqesi”, His “purpose in election” (v. 11).  God’s choice of one over another is utterly free: there is nothing in the creature that limits it or controls it.  This would include works of merit but is not restricted thereto.  What is missed by Lenski, however, is why such a thought would arise on the basis of what came before.  The objection is clearly raised not to God’s mercy, but God’s freedom in choosing Jacob over Esau.  The element of God’s decretive freedom in expressing mercy has already been expressed, and will now be repeated, in the strongest terms, in verse 15.

Romans 9:15


On p. 608 we are given a most unusual assertion, where the meaning of the phrase “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy” is reduced to meaning, “I will not demand works.”  Here Lenski begins to leave the text behind and build a whole new meaning.  He himself has already noted that the verb is transitive: it is an action with a direct object.  God “mercies” whom He wishes to mercy.  The sense is quite different if we change this action of God to “God reserves to Himself the right to offer salvation without demanding works.”  The real emphasis of the passage is missing in Lenski’s comments: the freedom of God in expression of His grace.  Grace and mercy, by nature, cannot be demanded, but only given freely.  God is the only source of grace, and He is free in the giving of it.  Esau did not receive this mercy: the assumption is that it was offered, but simply rejected by Esau.  But this is self-evidently not Paul’s point, for this shifts the focus from God who “mercies” to man who determines if this action of God will, in the end, be effective.  Such is, in reality, to turn the text on its head.

Recognizing the section that is to come (regarding the Potter and the pots), Lenski launches into an anti-Reformed polemic on page 608.  “It has God extend mercy and pity to only a few of the wretched and lost.”  In the sense of salvific grace, yes: God is free to save His elect people and no one else.  To say otherwise is to say that grace must be given to all equally: i.e., there can be no freedom in God’s giving of mercy and grace.  The result of denying God’s freedom in giving grace is always the same: God’s grace becomes something that requires man’s cooperative effort to be effective, rather than the powerful grace of God that brings salvation infallibly to all who are recipients thereof.

Lenski also alleges, “For the great mass of the wretched God has no mercy, no pity but only judgment, damnation.”  No one knows how many men and women will be recipients of God’s grace.  But one thing is for certain: to exchange the biblical description of man as sinful rebel for “the wretched” is to demonstrate that one is not fairly dealing with the issues at hand.  This is seen in what follows, “Mercilessly, pitilessly he lets them perish in their wretchedness, yea, decrees that they shall so perish.  In the mercy and the pity a peculiar sovereignty is substituted for the blessed quality which makes each what it really is in God, the response of his nature to man’s wretchedness and not at all an answer to man’s works” (608-609).  To rightly state it, “With much patience for their constant rebellion, showering them with common grace and the benefits of life, God endures sinners, allowing His sun and rain to fall upon them, all the while bringing about His own glory in their rebellion, as He did with Pilate and Herod and the Jews (Acts 4:28).  In God’s sovereign grace is found the incredible condescension that causes Him to redeem a people unto Himself, all to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph. 1:6).”  I note as well that in Lenski’s system, God responds to man’s estate: in Paul’s teaching, God is the initiator, not the responder.  Paul’s point is the freedom of God, Lenski has disposed of this.

Finally, seemingly feeling that he must finish venting, Lenski writes, “The fact that such a sovereignty in God would be the very embodiment of unrighteousness and injustice is brushed away by simple Calvinistic denial and by such pleas as that God owes nothing to the non-elect.”  First, God owes the non-elect their due: eternal punishment as sinners.  He could bring that punishment to bear immediately, but He does not do so, for He has a purpose He is bringing about (just as the text will point out with reference to Pharaoh).  Despite the delay of His sure punishment, man continues in his sin, loving it, reveling in it, despising God’s kindness and patience.  Secondly, this broadside is little more than the very objection raised in 9:19, only garbed in theological terminology.  [The following pages in Lenski contain a good deal of vitriolic misrepresentation of Reformed theology.   So as to be able to focus upon the actual position Lenski presents, I will ignore the straw-men].

Romans 9:16

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Lenski’s means of dealing with Romans 9:16 is most interesting: the passage is said to extend merely to the provision of mercy, not to the actual realization of salvation.  That is, the offering of mercy is totally of God: there is nothing of man in it.  But, of course, that’s a tautology: God’s mercy has to find its source in God.  Is that all Paul is saying?  Surely not.  Again Lenski, though well knowing that the participle “mercying” is active here (just as “willing” and “running” are active), ignores this and limits this to merely an offer of mercy rather than the actual bestowal of mercy.  Remember, Paul is providing the answer to the question, “Why do so many of the Jews reject the Messiah?”  How can Lenski’s interpretation of 9:16 fit into answering that kind of question?  Obviously, it cannot.  Instead, Paul is saying that salvation itself, not the mere offer of it, not the mere attitude of mercy on God’s part, but the actual work of salvation, is not based upon the will or activities of man, but upon the action of God who actually saves. 

Romans 9:17


Lenski continues his attempt to defuse the passages’ testimony to the absolute freedom and sovereignty of God by saying that the issue here is the demonstration of God’s righteousness.  Surely this came up earlier (9:14), but the answer has already been given: God is righteous because He is God and because His giving of mercy is free and sovereign and man is in no position to question Him.  Lenski’s theology does not allow him to stay with the text, and this will become even more clear as we proceed deeper into the text, for his departure from Paul’s position will force him to ever more obvious eisegesis.  He writes, “The asserting of a sovereignty that is merciful to some and merciless and pitiless to others does not prove righteousness, in fact, it does the opposite.”  Let us retranslate in the proper way: “The asserting of a sovereignty that demonstrates the glory of His free grace upon His elect people, and shows justice and holiness to deserving sinners as well, does not prove righteousness, in fact, it does the opposite.”  Once we remove the rhetoric, we can see the truth. 

Romans 9:17 is tremendously straightforward in Paul’s context: God raised up Pharaoh as leader of Egypt for God’s purpose, not for man’s purpose.  This is clearly seen in the phrase o[pw” ejndeivxwmai, so that I might show….  There was purpose in God’s action, and it was a purpose focused upon God.  While Lenski dismisses Pharaoh as “a minor figure, a side issue” in this passage (p. 614), this misses the point being made.  Paul’s thought in 9:18-19 flows directly from the example of Pharaoh.  It is the personal aspect regarding Pharaoh that seems so desperately improper to the non-Reformed exegete, yet, this is plainly the point of the text.  God raises up Pharaoh so that He might show His power and make His name known throughout the earth.  And how did God do this?  Through the plagues He brought upon Egypt, prompted by the constant refusal to bow before God, God brought glory to Himself.  The patience of God in the case of Pharaoh was not an extension of saving mercy.  Paul clearly says that God was demonstrating His power “in Pharaoh,” not just “with reference” to him.  Paul says God spoke this to Pharaoh, only strengthening the application.

Lenski asserts that the revelation of God’s “name” through all the earth “was full of the gospel of mercy thus mightily carried out” (p. 615) But where does the text give this indication?  Where is there a proclamation of mercy to Egypt?  Lenski speaks of God “executing His mercy in favor of people who believed in Him,” when the text plainly states that God makes His “wrath and power known” (9:22), just as He did upon the Egyptians.  What was grace to the Israelites (wholly undeserved) was wrath upon the idolatrous Egyptians (wholly deserved). 

Romans 9:18

So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

This tremendously plain passage follows directly from the assertion of v. 17 regarding Pharaoh.   Lenski engages in two errors that completely reverse the impact of the verse.  First, he draws from his error in v. 16 to simply dismiss as impossible the idea that “some of the wretched and lost are treated with mercy while other wretched and lost ones are treated with mercilessness” (p. 616).  As we saw before, this is a great misstatement of the truth.  We are not talking about the “wretched” as in the pitiable, the poor, the downtrodden.  We are talking about justly condemned rebels who love their sin and their lawlessness.  And what they receive is pure justice, not “mercilessness.”  We again see the common error of all such systems: the idea that God is not free in the giving of grace, but must give grace to every person equally.  Lenski did not establish his position in v. 16, and he fails to do so here as well.

Following this is a lengthy and obtuse attempt to get around the plain meaning of verse 18 that is based upon the assertion that the phrase “whom He wills He hardens” “cannot mean that God hardens some of the wretched and lost in consequence of an absolute eternal decree.”  It is plain that for Lenski, whatever else might be said, the Reformed view cannot, by definition, be correct.  Hence, some other view must be found.  But how much more plainly can words be used?  The Greek symmetry is striking:

a[ra ou\n o}n qevlei ejleei’,

o}n de; qevlei sklhruvnei.

Literally, “whom He wishes, He mercies; but whom He wishes, He hardens.”  The parallel is perfect, even to the point of word order.  Some receive mercy: personal mercy (again, the transitive verb with the direct object being those whom God “wishes”).  But (adversative use of de😉 some receive hardening, with the verb again being both active and transitive.  Those who receive the hardening are, just as the others, those whom He “pleases.”  It is truly the fact that some are unwilling to believe that God could choose some for hardening and judgment, and this keeps them from accepting these plain, clear, unambiguous words.

Lenski’s gymnastics involve the wholesale importation of all sorts of differentiations regarding kinds of hardening, saying the only kind of hardening God performs is judicial.  But what does this have to do with Paul’s point, or the context of Romans 9?  Almost nothing.  Reading verse 18 in context with 17 and 19 makes perfect sense: yet Lenski’s interpretation atomizes the text, breaking it into separate segments that are related to the others only when it is convenient for him to do so.

The second error made by Lenski (and by Arminians as well) is found in his citation of Exodus 4:21.  Lenski completely misreads the text by saying, “In Exod. 4:21 the Lord tells Moses the final outcome: ‘I will harden his heart’; and ‘all those wonders’ refers to all of them that Moses was to do before Pharaoh” (p. 617).  But note what the LORD really says:

The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’”  (Exodus 4:21-23)

These words are spoken to Moses before he ever sees Pharaoh’s face.  There is nothing in this text to indicate that God here is merely giving Moses “the final outcome.”   In fact, it is patently clear what is going on in the passage.  God tells Moses, before Pharaoh has even heard His demands, that He, God, will harden Pharaoh’s heart for a purpose.  And what is that purpose?  The very purpose we saw in Romans 9:17!  He will harden Pharaoh’s heart “so that he will not let the people go.”  This is seen in that it goes on to say, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh” and this is followed with the identification of Israel as God’s firstborn, along with the promise to kill the firstborn of Egypt.  It was God’s intention to carry out all ten plagues against Egypt so as to establish the Passover and the national identity.  Through these God constantly reminded Israel of His power and His ability to deliver.  Mercy was shown in the Exodus account not to Pharaoh and the Egyptians but to the undeserving, stiff-necked Israelites.  Pharaoh was not rejecting offers of mercy and hence becoming more and more hardened, as if he could have relented after the first plague and all would have been well.  Such a concept is simply absent from both the Exodus narrative as well as Romans 9.  Paul is blunt and honest: God has sovereign right over the pots.  That is why it is wrong to say God’s promises have failed, and this explains the reason why so many Jews reject the Messiah (9:6).  He is about to give the final illustration of this truth.

Romans 9:19

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

Paul had heard the objection before.  Lenski offers little comment, but I would only point out one thing: who is it that hears this objection lodged against their preaching and teaching?  The Lutheran?  The Arminian?  No.  It is the Reformed person who constantly hears this objection.   If Paul had to deal with it, and most modern preaching never hears it raised, does this not say something important to us?

What is more, it needs to be emphasized that the questioner is raising the obvious objection.  Some have gone so far as to attempt to say that this person has misunderstood Paul, for example.  But nothing in verses 20-24 indicate this.  The answer Paul gives to this question goes to the very root of the issue.  It is the common lot of man to attempt to judge God.  It is common for pots to attempt to enter into judgment with the Potter.  The objection is not based upon a misunderstanding of what Paul has said: it is based upon a sinful error regarding who man is and who God is.

Romans 9:20-21

On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Lenski deals with these two verses together as a whole, hence I follow his lead.  There is almost no exegesis offered here by Lenski: when one looks at pages 620-621, all three main paragraphs of commentary are anti-Reformed polemic, nothing else.  In essence, he reduces the entire two verses to one issue: blame.  He writes that the figure “deals only with one point, that of blame: as the potter cannot be blamed by any vessel which he turns out for dishonor instead of making it like another for honor, so also God cannot be blamed by any man whom he hardens instead of saving him….The tertium of the potter and his two vessels extends no farther.  For the figure of the potter and the clay could not picture the self-hardening of Pharaoh and of the Jews in permanent obduracy against God’s mercy, which self-hardening called forth God’s judicial hardening” (p. 621).  This is necessary eisegesis, for Lenski has already shown himself unwilling to hear the passage in its own context.  Let’s note just a few of the errors and how these will result in one of the most incredible examples of eisegesis in the next section.

First, the connection between the objection and the answer is lost on Lenski.  The response of Paul explains why it is that man is in no position to judge God: man is the pot, God the Potter.  What does a potter do?  A potter creates pots.  The potter has utter, total, complete, unquestioned freedom to do with the pots as he wishes.   There is no basis upon which pots can question the potter, since they are dependent, totally, upon the potter for their existence.   There is a fundamental ontological distinction presented here: the Creator and the created.  To say that there is a common law or rule that governs both the Potter and the pots upon which the pots can bring a charge of injustice against the Potter is absurd.   Yet this is the very foundation of all accusations of injustice against God.  Men want to say God is just by human standards.  God says He is just by nature.

Next, Lenski’s response completely ignores the text of the passage.   The Potter is active here: He 1) has a right over the clay (genitive of subordination) and 2) He makes (poih’sai) both kinds of vessels.   God is the one who makes the vessels.   In Lenski’s view, the Potter’s hand is forced by the behavior of the pots as to what kind they will be!  This comes out clearly in the next verse as well.  In essence, Lenski turns the passage on its head.  His position removes the logic from the answer Paul is offering to the objection of v. 19.  The answer is found in the sovereignty of the Potter over pots.  By taking out the very substance of the response we are left with no answer at all, for men “resist His will” all the time, and it is in fact the will of the pots that ends up determining if they are going to be a pot unto honor or a pot unto dishonor!   Such is the result of allowing a system to determine one’s exegesis.

Third, the perfect symmetry of the “honorable vessel”/ “common vessel” image is lost in Lenski’s position.  Only God can make a vessel unto honor, and that by grace.  If it is in God’s power to do this for some, why not for all?  Because it is the right of the Potter to do with the pots as He pleases.  This is the fundamental issue that causes rejection of the plain meaning of this text.  Men desire to have control over themselves.  They reject their creatureliness, and instead insist upon limiting God’s sovereign power.  Lenski and other anti-Reformed writers focus upon the negative idea, “Oh, isn’t it horrible that God would create common vessels!” instead of seeing the real wonder: “What a marvel that He would create vessels of honor without having to do so at all, and lavish such love and grace upon them, despite their corruption!”  Such is the common response of man.

What is truly amazing is the way in which Lenski gets around the clear and obvious connection between verses 21 and 22.  He first treats them separately.  He insists that “vessel unto honor” and “vessel unto dishonor” refers not to purpose but to character.  This is truly an amazing assertion.  Potters make pots for purposes: Lenski says these are all the same pots, its just that some end up honorably and some end up dishonorably.  To work, the image would have to be that God makes pots…generic pots, all the same, and some end up being used honorably and some end up being misused.  The end would have to be in sight, not the freedom of the Potter in making them!  Such eisegesis completely ignores the passage’s own assertion that God has a RIGHT over the clay to make DIFFERENT kinds of pots!  The silence of Lenski at this point speaks volumes.  This leads directly into the clearest example of eisegesis in the section:

Romans 9:22-23

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.

Again I refer you to the exegesis offered in The Potter’s Freedom.  Lenski’s response is amazing, though consistent with the errors that have been piling up in the desperate attempt to avoid the only possible conclusion to Paul’s argument.  The key to his entire (and lengthy) attempt to escape the weight of the text is this:  “When the latter are described, a perfect passive participle is used: “fitted for destruction,” which hides the agent who, therefore, is not God — Satan fitted them.”

When I first read this I could only stop and re-read it again.  How could someone, following this text, ostensibly offering an exegesis thereof, all of a sudden introduce a whole new agent, not once mentioned anywhere in the text, and by so doing completely destroy the obvious, intentional relationship between “vessel of honor/vessels of mercy” and “vessels of dishonor/vessels of wrath”?  Lenski avoids even attempting to make a pretense of seeing the connection between 21 and 22.   It is simply ignored.  But the honest exegete cannot do so.  Next, he ignores the obvious relationship that exists between the first clause of the sentence and the passive participle he focuses upon and makes the “hidden” agency of Satan.  God is said to be willing to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known (as He did with Pharaoh and the Egyptians).  Yet He withholds that wrath that is properly due to whom?  Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.  And why does He delay this wrath and endure with much patience these vessels?  So that He might display the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy which He prepared beforehand for glory.  These are the elect: the demonstration of wrath on the non-elect shows God’s grace toward those that He freely and fully pardons.  Will this not be the case in eternity to come as well?  The sole difference  between the person bowing in humble adoration of God in eternity and the person undergoing eternal torment away from the presence of God is the five-letter word, “grace.”  Lenski’s scheme says no, all are offered mercy, all are offered grace, but it is the character of the vessels that determines, in finality, the difference.  Hence, the vessels of honor are somehow “better,” in the final analysis, than the vessels of dishonor, and the distinction is again made to reside in the creature, rather than the Potter.

Lenski insists that both actions of “prepared for destruction” (kathrtismevna eij” ajpwvleian) and “prepared beforehand for glory” (prohtoivmasen eij” dovxan) “reach back only in time, into the lives of those concerned, and not back into eternity.”  Such logically follows the removal of the Potter’s freedom in making pots, to be sure.  But it likewise has no foundation at all in the text.  Given what is said in Romans 8:28-31 and Ephesians 1:3-11, this assertion falls.

Some of Rome’s Apologists Reveal Their True Feelings – Vintage

After the posting of an article written in response to the conversion of James White’s sister to Roman Catholicism, a flood of e-mails came into the ministry.  Many were very thankful for the information, and greatly encouraged by the stand for truth the article represented.  They were encouraged to redouble their faithfulness in praying for, and witnessing to, their Roman Catholic friends and relatives.

But most other e-mails were simply hate-filled.  And while we have grown accustomed to the fairly regular drum-beat of “nastigrams” from various religious groups, the posting of this particular article brought out a whole new level of hatred.

In the article noted above we reproduced an e-mail from Stephen Ray, Roman Catholic apologist and author of such books as Crossing the Tiber and Upon This Rock.  The reader is invited to read his comments and ponder the attitudes displayed therein.  Most importantly, contrast this unsolicited blast with the attitudes portrayed by Mr. Ray in his writings.

Within a day or two of the posting of that article, Dr. Art Sippo posted his thoughts to Steve Ray’s message board.  We have many years’ worth of documentation, in writing and on tape, of Dr. Sippo’s harangues.  Our experiences with him began in the debate on justification in Toledo, Ohio in 1991, where Dr. Sippo demonstrated a complete inability (or unwillingness) to behave in a respectful, proper manner.  And nothing has changed in eleven years.  Of course, one thing is always constant: Dr. Sippo will insult you in one paragraph, and then complain about how mean and unloving you are in the next.  We reproduce his post below.

Then, the day after Mrs. Bonds’ appearance on The Journey Home, Mr. Mark Shea, author of By What Authority? weighed in on Gregory Krehbiel’s discussion board.  Few of the “nastigrams” from Roman Catholic apologists speak more to the intense hatred and emotionalism of these men than this one does.  We would like to provide more of the thread from Khrebiel’s board, but he deleted it, and this was all he managed to save.  We truly appreciate the Christian brothers who demonstrated the utter irrationality of Shea’s blast, but, sadly, must report that Shea, though apologizing for the thread, did not apologize for what he said.  The interested reader would find a great deal of consistency between Shea’s behavior in 2002 and that in 1997 (click here).

Update as of 3/01/02:

It seems Rome’s apologists are intent upon continuing to provide more and more evidence of their utter desperation as well as their complete willingness to attack the person rather than the issue.  This morning Scott Windsor posted an accusation of plagiarism against me on his website.  He noted that in the apologetics index on our website my name was listed as the author of three articles by Dave Brown, a former volunteer who had been involved with Alpha and Omega Ministries a number of years ago.  As a result Mr. Windsor impugned  and libeled my character and accused me of actually claiming these articles as my own!

The only element of truth in the accusation is that my name is listed on the apologetics index that was added to our site late last year.  What Mr. Windsor did not mention (because, of course, he posted his attack without even contacting us) is as follows:  1) The articles were recent additions, scanned and proofed off of old masters of “information sheets” that we made up back in the 1980s.  2)  They were scanned by a volunteer who has only known about our ministry for about two years, and hence had never heard of Dave Brown.  3)  If the volunteer did not see any other name listed, he assumed James White had written it, and listed it as such.  4)  Rich Pierce, who oversaw this volunteer’s work, was unaware that any of the articles he chose to be scanned and added to the site were written by anyone other than James White.  5)  I was not asked about any of this, and since I have never liked the index itself (and have asked that it be changed or eliminated), I was unaware of even the addition of the new articles, let alone any authorship listing issues.

As any semi-unbiased person can quickly see, to impugn a man’s entire character when you did not have the honesty and temerity to even inquire about the situation  is utterly reprehensible. As a result of this simple mistake, and the desperation to find anything to use as a weapon shown by Mr. Windsor, we have removed all articles on the Watchtower from the website that bear Mr. Brown’s name.  I am surely learning more and more about the meaning of Matthew 5:11-12!

We should add that Mr. Windsor, upon being faced with some of this information, pulled the article from the “featured” article position, and Mr. Brown has apologized for assuming I was personally claiming authorship of his material.  Unfortunately, Mr. Windsor has demanded that I apologize for the incident (despite the fact that he knows I had nothing to do with it in the first place). Sadly, Mr. Windsor has chosen to post another article that, while carefully worded, continues this utterly amazing demonstration. One thing I learned long ago: once someone makes this kind of accusation, it does not matter if it is retracted or corrected. Those who are desperate for some kind of response (outside of actually dealing with the truth) will repeat it ad nauseum.  est autem Deus verax.



Why post the following material?  Because people should know how men like Dr. Sippo, Steve Ray, and Mark Shea behave in personal contact (not just as they appear before an audience or in a published work).  They often lead the chorus in attacking the character of Christian ministers and apologists, and the truth needs to be known.

Posted by Art Sippo (artsippo) on February 11, 2002 at 13:24:08:

In Reply to: Dr. White responds to his sister and Steve Ray posted by Frank Ramirez (Pope St Pe on February 09, 2002 at:

Dear James,

I have had the pleasure of corresponding with your sister over the last 2 years and have welcomed her as my own sister in the Lord.

She is an intelligent, sensitive, and articulate woman who shows not a hint of the emotionalism or lack of reasoning faculties of which you accuse her. In fact she and I share one gift from God that surprised me when she first told me about it: a deep and profound sense of God’s special presence in the reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle.

Many of us in the Catholic apologetic community knew of her conversion, but out of respect for her wishes, we did not publicize it. Out of respect for you and your family, James, she had asked that her identity be kept secret. She did not want you in particular to be humilitated in public. In speaking with her, though, it became apparent that she was no ordinary convert.

Patty is quite articulate and her witness to Christ shines through the things she writes. Your family is blessed with a surfeit of literary talent, James. Many of us encouraged her to write about the faith and what it means to her. She chose to tell her conversion story as a help to others. She now assists new converts in coming into the Catholic Church. She has a sweet and loving personality which makes her an ideal travelling companion for other pilgrims “on the way.”

In the process of doing so, she ran afoul of you. Unlike Patty, you are not bound by scruples, mercy, or respect for the dignity of others. Many people such as myself have been victimized by your arrogance, condescension, and cruelty. You do not care whom you insult or embarrass. This is one sign to a true follower of Jesus of your real status, James. Our Lord and Savior told us that the world would know we were his disciples by the love we would have for one another (John 13:35). He did not say that we would be known by following the opinion of some apostate theologians as if they were the “truth.”

Patty is a child of her Father in Heaven and a sibling to Christ in a way that I believe you are not. I can see the piety in her and the conversion of heart. She is a kindred spirit to us Catholics who is obviously moved by the Gospel of God’s love for men. From you, all we have ever gotten is insults and lies. Nolo contendere.

Your fear of “emotionalism” is really, I believe, a fear of the Gospel itself, for it is “foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews.” You want “truth” based on schoalrship and so you affect phony degrees to make your opinions more plausible. This is a Theological Pelagianism which is typical for Protestants. You deny that “good works” can in any way assist one to gain access to heaven, but you think that “good studies” can earn one access to absolute religious truth. You strain at a gnat but swallow a camel.

In your harping on the notion of “truth” as the ground of the Christian religion, you betray your elitist and gnostic prejudices. St. Paul replies best to your error:

1Cr 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1Cr 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.”

1Cr 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1Cr 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

1Cr 1:22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,

1Cr 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

1Cr 1:24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1Cr 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1Cr 1:26 For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth;

1Cr 1:27 but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,

1Cr 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,

1Cr 1:29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

1Cr 1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption;

1Cr 1:31 therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.”

1Cr 12:1 Now concerning spiritual [gifts], brethren, I would not have you ignorant…

1Cr 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet I will show you a more excellent way.

1Cr 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

1Cr 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

1Cr 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1Cr 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

1Cr 13:5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

1Cr 13:6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

1Cr 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1Cr 13:8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

1Cr 13:9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;

1Cr 13:10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

1Cr 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

1Cr 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

1Cr 13:13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

St.Paul exalted love above faith and in fact taught that a man with faith who lacked love was “nothing.” It was precisely a faith “unformed by charity” which was what the Protestant deformers — especially Luther — meant by their heresy of Faith Alone. In doing so they ran afoul of St, James 2:24, but more importantly, they also contradicted St. Paul:

Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Rom 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Rom 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

You play the typical Protestant game of equivocating on the word of God when it suits your systematic theological prejudices, for your allegiance to the Bible is a sham. What you really seek are out-of-context proof texts for heretical and unbiblical notions.

On the other hand, we Catholics take what Our Lord and Savior said seriously. With regard to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we follow the teaching of Jesus, not the skepticism of apostate men from 15 Centuries later:

Jhn 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

Jhn 6:48 I am the bread of life.

Jhn 6:49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

Jhn 6:50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.

Jhn 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jhn 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jhn 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;

Jhn 6:54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jhn 6:55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

Jhn 6:56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Jhn 6:57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

Jhn 6:58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

Furthermore, in doing so we share the faith of the early Church:

St. Ignatius of Antioch, EPISTLE TO THE SMYRAEANS (@107 AD)

Chapter 7: “They [i.e., heretics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion[of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils.”

This is one of the earliest statements of the Church Fathers on this matter but it sums up Catholic belief rather succintly. It is only one in a line of thousands of similar testimonies written by Historic (i.e., Catholic and Orthodox) Christians from the 1st Centruy onwards. It clearly opposes virtually everything that you stand for, James. Your man-made religion — descended as it is from a mixture of 16th Century apostasy and skepticism — presents a dissenting voice that has no foundation in either Scripture or Tradition. When you deny the Real Presence and the sacrifical nature of the Eucharist, you do so by DENYING the faith of the early Church, not “reforming” it.

The Calvinoid ‘god’ you worship capriciously created some men to be eternally (and irrevocably) damned and other men to be undeservedly “saved” for no greater purpose than his own self aggrandisement. He is a selfish monster lacking in any love or concern for the plight of men. You and your co-religionists worship him not because of his goodness or moral authority, but because of his sovereign power. Basically, your ‘god’ is the biggest bully on the block and you want to be on his side so you can cheer him on while he picks on others who are helpless to be anything other than what he allows them to be. This is the portrait of an abusive and sadistic pagan demiurge, not the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Your advocacy of this horrible religion helps to explain the way you treat people.

I have debated the issues with you many times, James, and I fear that it is you who have failed to respond convincingly on contested matters of faith. You seem to think that merely stating your personal opinion while misrepresenting the views of your opponents (and abusing them) is sufficient refutation. It is not.

I have refuted your errors using the Scriptures alone in the past as other Catholic apologists have. Yet you continue to perpetuate lies such as the claim that the Church of teh Council of Nicea did not believe in baptismal regeneration, the Real SUBSTANTIAL Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species, the Sacrifical nature of the Mass, purgation after death, the imposition (and pardon) of penances for post-baptismal sin, the Spiritual Motherhood of Mary, or Papal Primacy. Indeed, the terminology of later ages was not present in the 4th Century, but the concepts were in nascent form. Meanwhile what is conspicuously ABSENT is any notion of Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, double predestination, total depravity, or other distinctive Protestant errors. Frankly, you know this, but you have tried to misrepresent the facts in order to present a false picture of Christian history that is more to your liking.

You compound your dishonesty by pretending to have earned graduate degrees when in fact you have no such degrees from any accredited institution of higher learning. Frankly, you have not done the work that earns you the right to use any academic title. But as Oscar Wilde put it, “Hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue.” You want a legitimacy for your views that you think an ersatz doctorate will give you.

Those of us who have graduate degrees know how hard you have to work to earn them and how broad your knowledge base must be. The nonsense you proclaim to be “truth” would not be tolerated in any institution of higher learning where graduate students are expected to know their chosen field.

Frankly, your published work is amateurish, selective, and — in places — deliberately deceptive. Unfortunately, it is presented in a style that can lead simple people astray. For this reason it is necessary to refute your lies with extensive documentation. This is not an easy task and takes quite a bit of exposition.

For this reason protecting people from your erros is a full time job and it takes the strength and faith of the Catholic Community to do so. No man is an island, James, and neither faith nor the faithful are ever alone. As the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed begins, “WE believe” as a unitied worldwide Church and as a single family. As a Catholic, I do not profess my own opinion. I profess the faith of the Church along with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Refuting your errors is a necessary apostolate because of the souls you are leading astray and making them more distant from Christ. The ancient Church has preserved its faith and subsists in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church. The several thousand Protestant splinter groups that have arisen over the last 490 years represent a continuum of degeneration and pandemonium all in opposition not only to the witness of the contemporary Catholic Church, but also to the faith “which was delivered unto the saints.”

It very sad that after you are abusive to those folks who have the temerity to disagree with you, you are then surprised and hurt that they do not like or respect you. The merely formal nature of “righteousness” in your religion makes it impossible for you to have any meaningful or constructive introspection. You are already “saved” and so you have no need of personal repentence or reform. For you, being a Protestant means never having to say you are sorry.

Well, I think I speak for all Catholic apologists when I say that I am sorry for any unjust or inappropriate words I have ever said to you. It is not our intention to offend, but it is our intention to tell the truth in love. I have said some harsh things to you in the past in order to convict you of your sins and errors. I do not repent of telling you the truth. I do repent of any unjust offense I may have caused you in trying to do so. You are very easy to dislike James, but for Christ’s sake I love you as an errant brother. I ask your pardon for any such offenses and sincerely continue to pray for your conversion.

I call on you once again to reflect on what has happened between you and people of other faiths. Can you honestly say that you have always acted kindly towards them? If you cannot, then I abjure you in Christ’s name to repent of your behavior and seek forgiveness from those you have hurt.

Patty has found her way home to us, James. As I have told you on numerous occasions, you too are called to repent and believe the Gospel as well. Faith in Luther and Calvin cannot save you. You must have faith in Christ and in the Church HE founded, not the parodies that trace their origins to the opinions of mere men. The time is getting short. You must decide. Please come home. We are waiting for you.

Art Sippo MD, MPH

Below we produce the material provided by Gregory Krehbiel after he deleted this thread from his board.  Only the first page of posts was saved: all my replies were deleted and lost.  Mark Shea’s posting name is “chezami.”  His starting subject title was “It makes my flesh creep.”


 Greg’s Discussion Board

> God talk

> It makes my flesh creep

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Subject Author
It makes my flesh creep chezami
I am not, I hope, the only one who thinks that James White is redefining pathology and bad taste with this weird, cold screed against his own sister, calling her “Mrs.

Bonds” and, alternating between boasts about his debating prowess and his various stuff on sale, while throwing in everything but a claim that she needs to be sedated in order to “win” yet another “debate”.The truly pathetic thing here is that I am perfectly confident James feels he has, once again, triumphed and that he has no idea how unutterably creepy and appalling the essay makes him look. There’s a disturbing quality of psychological disintegration about it that invites both pity (for a man so invested in his ego that he is compelled to call his own sister “Mrs. Bonds”) and revulsion (for a man so invested in his ego that he is compelled to call his own sister “Mrs. Bonds”).

The only thing more pathetic is that, in my experience, I know of no devotee or acolyte of James who is willing to challenge the growing menace to his psychological and spiritual well-being that is now being made evident by such behavior. Defences to the death of his “integrity” (“Why, he hates even his sister, just as Lord said to do!”)? You bet. There will be tons of this stuff from his fans and co-combatants. Anything rather than admit that there’s a real problem here. Why, an *argument* could be lost if it’s admitted there’s a problem. But a serious effort of taking James to the side and saying, “This is waaaay over the top”. I highly doubt it. And it’s a pity since *only* James’ friends can do this. The man will not, of course, listen to his traditional critics.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope *somebody* has the integrity to dare to suggest to the Great Man that he is way out of line and acting pitiably and appallingly. But I doubt it. And that, in the final analysis, is what I think is going to doom the sort of “ministries” that James typifies. There’s remarkably little room for self-policing when you see yourself as a tiny elite engaged in a battle against Evil.




Registered User

2/12/02 10:49:23 am

Reply | Edit | Del All

Let’s have some perspective here Jon Curry
I think when you think about the situation a little more, White’s attitude is quite reasonable. Think about this Mark, and let me know if you think what I’m about to say is way off. I’m curious if you recognize some things about RC apologists and James White. RC apologists live and breathe James White. It is all many of them think about. Seriously. I’ve had many conversations with RC apologists, and I have such difficulty getting them to even interact with me. All they can think about is James White. They say in response to my argument “Here is something that I sent to James what that he NEVER RESPONDED TO” or “James White disagrees with you on this point.” Many times I’ve had to simply say, look, I just checked my letterhead, and my name is not James White. Why don’t you respond to me?

So James White is a man that is always between the crosshairs of every RC apologist. And here is another fact. Many of these apologists (and I would say the vast majority) spend WAY too much time criticizing James White the man, rather than the arguments. I’ve been criticized personally only a few times, and it of course ticks me off pretty badly. James White gets this EVERY DAY. So even if it were the case that he responded poorly, he certainly should be granted some grace. Mark, your own work is some of the worst in terms of the personal attacks. All one need do is look at your own opening statement here. I don’t even need to list the words. How many times did you use the word “pathetic” anyway?

So now these very RC apologists that spend way too much time ignoring arguments and criticizing White personally are going to continue with the fallacious reasoning by using his own sister as if this was in any way relevant to the Protestant/RC discussion. This would be infuriating to me.

Now that RC’s are using White’s sister in this way, White thinks it is important to emphasize that they are not close, that she refuses to even discuss the issues with him, and that she is in no way informed about the issues. One way to convey this is to refer to her as “Mrs. Bonds.” Now, I happen to have a great relationship with all six of my siblings. If any of them were to convert I would still refer to them by their first name. But the fact is, White is not and has not been close to his sister for some time. I’m sure this is not the way he would like it to be. I’m sure he would love to be close to her. But it would be wrong to speak of her as if they were close when in fact they are not. White probably thinks that referring to her in that way would give that false impression. This is his business. I might go ahead and refer to my sister by her first name even if I weren’t close to her, but if I didn’t I don’t think it would be unreasonable, nor would it “redefine pathology.”

You know, even on this discussion board I’ve found myself defending James White a lot. It’s not that he is my hero. I think he’s great, but I’m certainly not an “acolyte.” But I just get so sick of seeing people go after him with such irrelevancies. Do you have a substantive criticism? I’m sure you do. Post it and let’s have a productive discussion. Why don’t we all just assume that Protestants are all “desperate, pathological, angry, anti-Catholics”? We’ll just assume it and you can leave it unstated. Because even if I’m anti-Catholic, angry, and weird, this doesn’t make me wrong. Even if my sister converted I’m not wrong. Let’s assume that the only reason I’m a Christian is because I need a father figure, and I’m prejudiced because of my upbringing, and I’d probably be a Hindu if I was born in India. I have a pro-supernatural bias, etc, etc, etc. I’ll grant all of that. What would that have to do with whether my arguments were sound or not?



Registered User

2/12/02 12:08:20 pm

Reply | Edit | Del

And your screed does the same to mines … Romans45


I am not, I hope, the only one who thinks that James White is redefining pathology and bad taste with this weird, cold screed against his own sister, calling her “Mrs.

Bonds” and, alternating between boasts about his debating prowess and his various stuff on sale, while throwing in everything but a claim that she needs to be sedated in order to “win” yet another “debate”.

I know you are not the only one, but I don’t agree with you or your present screed against what you call a screed. As far as you comments about stuff on sale and debates you know this is typical when apologists are writing articles. The often reference previous articles or debates so that the readers can get more information on a point they are trying to make.


The truly pathetic thing here is that I am perfectly confident James feels he has, once again, triumphed and that he has no idea how unutterably creepy and appalling the essay makes him look.

There is nothing in the article that comes close to Catholics talking about getting information on other family members of Protestant apologist? Where is your outcry? Would Patty Bonds even be known if it was not for the fact that James White is her brother? What is so unique or interesting about her story that she gets to have personal meetings with Steve Ray, personal correspondence with Scott Hahn and family, appear on EWTN, and I’m sure others that I have not heard of? Is it just because James White is her brother? This seems to contradict the NT teaching on favoritism don’t ya think?


There’s a disturbing quality of psychological disintegration about it that invites both pity (for a man so invested in his ego that he is compelled to call his own sister “Mrs. Bonds” and revulsion (for a man so invested in his ego that he is compelled to call his own sister “Mrs. Bonds” .

So is your complaint primarily over the fact that he called his sister “Mrs. Bonds”? And based on that you make all those psychoanalysis about Dr. White’s ego and intent?


The only thing more pathetic is that, in my experience, I know of no devotee or acolyte of James who is willing to challenge the growing menace to his psychological and spiritual well-being that is now being made evident by such behavior.

You are doing nothing but pontificating and grandstanding. Please provide some substance to your charges if you want anyone to take you serious. I sense that you have an axe to grind.


Defences to the death of his “integrity” (“Why, he hates even his sister, just as Lord said to do!” ?

Where does he say he hates his sister? Dr. White makes the following comment:

So it seems to me that you use a thoroughly worldly definition of love and hatred: the Bible tells us that we are to love God supremely. That means true spirituality does not compromise on His truth, His glory, His holiness, His revelation in His Word. It takes precedence over all human relationships, including familial ones. And when a member of one’s family engages in behavior that is directly condemned in Scripture (in this case, open and knowing apostasy) one is faced with a choice: honor God, or compromise and place relationship before one’s service to Christ. The early Christians knew this situation well. And you condemn me as hateful for following the biblical path. What does that tell you, Mr. Ray?

Do you disagree with his statements? If so show where is biblical out of line, otherwise you are just whistling into the wind with your rhetoric about hate.


You bet. There will be tons of this stuff from his fans and co-combatants. Anything rather than admit that there’s a real problem here.

Nice. Silence the other side before they speak so when they speak you can triumphantly say, “I told you so.”, right?


Why, an *argument* could be lost if it’s admitted there’s a problem. But a serious effort of taking James to the side and saying, “This is waaaay over the top”. I highly doubt it. And it’s a pity since *only* James’ friends can do this. The man will not, of course, listen to his traditional critics.

Mr Shea you have not prove a thing. All you are doing is giving you extremely biased opinion and you want everyone to accept it as if it the unbiased Gospel truth.


I hope I’m wrong. I hope *somebody* has the integrity to dare to suggest to the Great Man that he is way out of line and acting pitiably and appallingly.

Actually, I hope you would heed your own suggestion. Furthermore, you should correct you cohorts who were plotting about getting information on the family members of others. Finally, you should probably make sure apologetic is based on something else besides your dislike for Dr. White.


But I doubt it. And that, in the final analysis, is what I think is going to doom the sort of “ministries” that James typifies. There’s remarkably little room for self-policing when you see yourself as a tiny elite engaged in a battle against Evil.

Someone used a phrase that comes to mind about your entire post, “purple flourish”.







(Ambrosiaster 366-384 on Romans 4:5) :

How then can the Jews think that they have been justified by the works of the law in the same way as Abraham, when they see that Abraham was not justified by the works of the law but by faith alone? Therefore there is no need of the law when the ungodly is justified before God by faith alone.







Registered User

2/12/02 12:12:36 pm

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It’s unfortunate that anybody is using this woman… moronikos
to further their agenda.

I might deem it poor taste, but I don’t see the point of another James White thread. I’ve seen base motives imputed to him and noble motives imputed to him. Neither of these is appropriate since we can’t read his mind–and I don’t want to. We should leave it alone.



Registered User

2/12/02 12:22:38 pm

Reply | Edit | Del

This is the one point I’m inclined to agree with chezami
The other posts above are just excuse-making for James grotesque essay.

Apropos your point, I don’t know the woman from Eve, and am not familiar with her history. My impression, however, is that she has not been Catholic very long and I think she should be given her anonymity, not used as a counter in some game against James. My urging to Catholics would be to resist mightily the temptation to turn her into some sort of exhibit.

However, none of this seems to me to really mitigate James’ atrocious behavior here. I should not be terribly surprised if, when I called my brother “Mr. Shea”, my brother got the distinct impression that my “Christian love” for him was simply a grotesque self-delusion. The fact that James’ devotees and acolytes cannot bring themselves to squarely face that and tell James so is, as I say, the death knell for any serious self-criticism or internal policing in that rarified sector of Christian world. Among their own, folks like James have de facto powers of infallibility and even impeccability that the Pope can only dream of.

Well, gotta get back to publicly screaming for Cardinal Law to resign in my impregnable Fortress Church that brooks no room for ordinary people to criticize their leaders.



Edited by: chezami at: 2/12/02 12:48:45 pm

Registered User

2/12/02 12:40:57 pm

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George Stephanapoulous call your office chezami
I’m sorry, but this whole apologia for James’ revolting treatment of his own sister reminds me of the sort of stuff from the Clinton White House. “Don’t talk about his personal behavior. The only thing that matters is his ideas.”

FWIW, I’ve had one go-around with James on in March 1997 (if you are a real glutton for punishment, you can still find the whole exchange on Google). I’m aware of his ideas. It was the same old presuppositional schtick. How, apart from Sacred Tradition and the authority of the Church, do you know what Scripture is?

Two weeks of dancing, followed by the basic “It’s a presuppositional thing and you wouldn’t understand” line. As I pointed out here yesterday, I think this is lame. So I’ve dealt with James’ “ideas”.

I quite agree that there are Catholic apologists who seem to live and breathe for arguments with James. I think this is a foolish waste of time and is, much as it is with James, a way of doing therapy on some sort of imperiled sense of manhood. I wish they would stop. Those rare occasions when I have discussed James or his “ideas” publicly have been to my mind, threefold. First, when he decided to come after me on Second, when he came up in a conversation with Tim Enloe back on Steve Ray’s board a year or so ago and I gave my honest opinion of what sort of person I take James to be and third, today, when I was appalled and disgusted by his egocentric and cold treatment of his own sister.

If you go to my website, you will find that I have no essays on James, no “challenges”, no essays, rebuttals, articles about and basically no interest in James. And the collection in “Sheavings” is, believe me, a very thorough representation of my past work. It’s true that Tim has formed the notion (no doubt caused by his tendency to roll me into the Catholic Apologist Borg Collective) that I am constantly attacking James. But the reality is I seldom interact with him–and for a very simple reason: I frankly dislike James as much as he dislikes me and I think that too much exposure to each other is probably bad for our souls.

Defensive whines about how much criticism he gets are just that: defensive whines. In this case, the simple fact is the criticism is just and those who love him and can speak to him (as distinct from those idolize and do not dare criticize the Great Man) should do their Christian duty and, for his sake, rebuke his egregious treatment of his sister. Since he will certainly not listen to me or any other Catholic, it is up to those who claim to care about him to shoulder the burden. You can make excuses for him all day, but the reality is that he’s wronged his sister and made a public spectacle of himself in the process.




Registered User

2/12/02 1:13:17 pm

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Does this “make your flesh creep” as well? Cyclonus2185
Is it “Christian love” to attack your opponents via their family members? I’m curious if you are as outraged by the alleged interested in investigating the family members of Eric Svendsen and William Webster (in addition to James White) in order to attack them as you are about the use of “Mrs. Bonds” instead of Pat?



Registered User

2/12/02 1:34:40 pm

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Since you questioned Cyclonus2185
“How, apart from Sacred Tradition and the authority of the Church, do you know what Scripture is?”

I thought I would ask:

1.) How, apart from the authority of the Church do you know what Sacred Tradition is?


2.) How, apart from the authority of the Scriptures do you know that the Church is authoritative? 


Registered User

2/12/02 1:39:15 pm

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How would they have known that the Church is authoritative? The Squalid Wanderer
Before the writing of the New Testament? I suppose they believed the Apostles.



Registered User

2/12/02 1:41:34 pm

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O.K. let me rephrase… Cyclonus2185
How do YOU know that the Church is authoritative apart from the Scriptures?


Edited by: Cyclonus2185 at: 2/12/02 1:48:37 pm

Registered User

2/12/02 1:45:06 pm

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Excuses, excuses chezami
Contrarian that I am, I’ve told Steve Ray’s board my problems with thrusting a new convert into the limelight. I am indeed wary of it and agree with Moronikos that Catholics should be wary of the temptation to “use” Patty Bonds. Why?

Pretty much from watching the example of people who (as you do in this protracted bit of tergiversation) attempt overlook the debilitating effects of complete lack of accountability and to say “Our guy is never wrong, can’t be wrong, and if you say he is then you must be opposed at all costs”.

Is it *really* so hard to simply face the fact that James’ inexcusable screed against his sister displays James’ pathologies at their ugliest and least justifiable? Is it really so hard to contemplate finding *any* fault with the Great Man or challenging that? Fortress Catholics on the Catholic Convert might well be ticked at me for rocking the boat of “Yay! Patty Bonds is ours!” Too bad. It needs to be said anyway. But is there *anybody* in James sphere who can say, “James, your weird, cold, self-serving and creepy essay against your sister was out of line?” So far, I see no evidence of that.

Is there nobody close to him who can hold him accountable for his actions? Is it really as bad as that?




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2/12/02 1:45:08 pm

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More pathological excuse making chezami
Is it “Christian love” to attack your opponents via their family members?

With the exception of Art Sippo’s letter (which I thought was out of line) I’ve seen nobody “attacking James”. I’ve seen various people support Patty Bonds (from what little I know, I’ve not been involved in any conversations with her and only knew vaguely that James’ sister had converted).

:I’m curious if you are as outraged by the alleged interested in investigating the family members of Eric Svendsen and William Webster (in addition to James White) in order to attack them as you are about the use of “Mrs. Bonds” instead of Pat?

I’ve heard nothing to this effect. If you have some documentation that somebody out there is “investigating family members of Svendsen or webster in order to attack them” I’d appreciate seeing it. Obviously, that would be wrong. But in White’s case, I’ve seen little evidence of that. Only an unseemly interest in focusing the light of public attention on her conversion (which I dislike).

Now, returning from vague and unsubstaniated charged calculated to divert attention from the subject, I ask you: do *you* have the testicular fortitude to challenge the Great Man on his atrocious behavior to his sister or does he indeed pretty much live in the vacuum of moral responsibility that sycophants too often create for their idols?




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2/12/02 1:53:43 pm

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Re: More pathological excuse making Cyclonus2185
From the post on James White’s website that you have been refering to:


I note in the following e-mail the personal attacks and insults that were posted at me: but what is not mentioned in the e-mail was the discussion of how they might be able to contact other family members of other leading apologists. Eric Svendsen’s name was mentioned, and his wife in particular; I believe Bill Webster was mentioned as well.

Now, of course, it could be argued that the interest in their family members wasn’t to use them against Svendsen and Webster, but to compliment them on the successful ministries of both, but I doubt it. Nonetheless, I said alleged in my post. I do not know for sure if this is true. My question was more of a hypothetical to you.

To answer your question: If James White refered to his sister directly (i.e. in a face-to-face, telephone, or email conversation) as Mrs. Bonds, I would say that he would be wrong in doing so, but to refer to her in a webpage for mass viewing, whose point is to explain that her proximity to him has no relevance to the truth of his arguments, as Mrs. Bonds is not “pathological” although I probably would not do it.



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2/12/02 2:07:00 pm

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Not “know”: believe chezami
The Church is, recall, an article of faith: “We *believe* in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”

Just as no other article of supernatural revelation can be proven from reason, so this can’t be. However, all arguments against it can be rebutted.

If you want the full story, my best suggestion (since I haven’t got round to publishing it yet) is to get the story of my conversion (“How I Got this Way”) in the _Making Senses Out of Scripture_ set of tapes I made for St. Joseph Communications.

I don’t have time to go into it all here, but the basic story is not that this thing or that thing points me to the Church, but that virtually everything does.

“AHA! So *you* make the judgment about the Church being authoritative! HA! Private judgment! Triumph!”

Yes. Quite. I do make that judgement. As John Paul himself says, the task of the Church is to propose the faith in its integrity. The task of the human person is to make a judgement about the truth of that Faith. I (who else is going to do it for me?) judge the Faith to be that which Christ handed to the apostles. Otherwise, I would not be Catholic. When I make that judgement I am also trusting the Church to have the authority Christ gave it to, among other things, know which of its books are inspired and authoritative, based on its tradition and praxis. This frees me from the pretzel logic of the Presuppositionalist who has to say to somebody who want to know why certain books are inspired, “Shut up! You’re talking like Satan. I don’t have to dignify your devil-inspired question with an answer.”

But could we perhaps move this particular discussion to a different thread and not get distracted from the subject at hand: namely, James’ atrocious essay the apparent inability of his acolytes an devotees to muster the gumption to challenge this or any other egregious behavior by their Heroes.




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2/12/02 2:08:01 pm

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I take the scriptures like I take ALL of history FIRST electron1
How do YOU know that the Church is authoritative apart from the Scriptures?
I first read the scriptures ONLY as historical books. They are NOT yet “Scriptures”. I read all other books as historical books as well. So I take ALL writtings of the early Church equally. From this(all of this ONLY looked at as history) I conclude,

1. Jesus made statements that implied his Church was infallible(I will be with you always, I will guide you into ALL truth, Gates of hades shall not prevail, he who hears you hears me, if he refuses to listen even to the Church etc..)

2. Jesus is who he claims to be(rose from the dead)

3. The early Church ALSO clearly saw the PHYSICAL Church as infallible(Them being so close to Jesus, it makes my understanding of Jesus even more probable as true)


From here I conclude that this Church is infallible. Only two groups today fit the category as infallible Churches(trace there roots to the Apostoles) Catholic and Orthodox. Both of these groups now point back in history and tell me that only a certain number of the historical books are inspired. The others are only infallible collectively(else I would not have been able to conclude the Church is infallible )

So again, how do I know the Scriptures are inspired? The Church tells me so. How do I know the Church is infallible? Jesus and the early Church(ONLY seen as history) verifies this.

“My position is that atheism is false for several reasons: It is philosophically absurd, scientifically erroneous, morally bankrupt, socially destructive, aesthetically impotent, and humanly degrading.” –Robert Morey in a debate with an atheist

Edited by: electron1   at: 2/12/02 4:52:15 pm

Registered User

2/12/02 2:08:40 pm

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Re: Let’s have some perspective here Tim Enloe
Jon, all I can say to this, is AMEN. It is obvious that the “sister of James White” connection is only relevant because a certain faction of ultra conservative RC epologists are eager to discredit Dr. White in any way they can. I’m sure Mr. Shea remembers a particular post of his to the Catholic Message Board that I remind him of whenever he gets into this little self-righteous mode of his–a post where he used the most vicious, unChristian like language imaginable against Dr. White, basically calling him every name under the sun and making the most outlandish accusations about his mental and emotional processes that I have EVER seen anyone say about anyone on the Internet. Yet this same Mr. Shea doesn’t waste any opportunities to portray himself as the very spirit of lovingkindness and reasonable dialogue, complaining constantly about the rhetoric of others against him. There’s a word for this sort of thing, and it begins with “h”. And no, I won’t apologize for that remark or retract it. These ultra conservative RC epologists simply MUST be made to see the constancy with which they substitute insults for arguments, the deep, deep irrelevance of their shameless personal attacks on people who don’t share their views. I truly believe it’s one of those “If you can’t stop the message, stop the messenger” things.

Perspective is indeed very much needed here. Whatever complaints one has about Dr. White’s descriptions of his sister, there is really only one issue of apologetic importance here: By her own admissions, Patty Bonds does not know the issues involved in RC / Protestant disagreements, and she is only being held up by these ultra-conservative epologists *because* she is the sister of the Great Thorn in Their Flesh, the Evil, Anti-Catholic Pseudo-Doctor James White. This is nothing more than one more personal attack, and it is utterly reprehensible for that reason.

To state it baldly: The significance of the conversion of Patty Bonds to Romanism is precisely ZERO. Like most of these converts, she was just one more ungrounded wanderer on the sea of ecclesiastical possibilities. She did not and does not understand the issues. One wonders how many “ordinary”, “no-name” converts suddenly find themselves with Scott Hahn’s private number, having lunch with Steve Ray, receiving glowing letters of defense from Art Sippo, and so on. It will be interesting to see if any of the “big name” RC apologists choose to take the high ground here and not even mention the affair–or perhaps if they do, mention it only to chide their colleagues for making useless polemic hay out of it.




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2/12/02 2:10:18 pm

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Re: George Stephanapoulous call your office Jon Curry
Didn’t I just ask you to assume whatever you want about my character and leave it unstated? Fine. I’m a Clinton apologist. Am I wrong?

My point regarding those that focus on White and those that bash his character was not so much to make excuses for his behavior, but to provide background as to why he would want to make sure that everyone knew that he was not close to his sister. The very people that do all of the insulting and personal attacks are the very ones that are using his sister as a tool to get their digs in. Their digs would be all the more deeper if they can convince people that she became an RC in spite of a close relationship with James White. With this background, I think his attitude is very reasonable, though like I said, I don’t know that I would take the same approach. Pathological? I don’t think so.

I didn’t suggest that you have offered nothing by way of interaction with White. My whole point is it is only interaction that I am interested in. I am less interested in the personal stuff. Except I think it is important to point out that it is often substituted for meaningful discussion. Especially with regards to James White as I hope even you would agree. He’s outnumbered. And we both know that a lot of apologists on both sides of the fence are unreasonable. What this means is that White is the focus of a lot of unreasonable RC apologists and hence he is the focus of a lot of bad argumentation. This whole Mrs Bonds thing is another example of it.



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2/12/02 2:13:04 pm

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Re: Not “know”: believe Cyclonus2185
“But could we perhaps move this particular discussion to a different thread and not get distracted from the subject at hand”

Absolutely. Perhaps you could post a very short summary of your conversion to get the ball rolling.



Registered User

2/12/02 2:18:31 pm

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Re: More pathological excuse making chezami
Now, of course, it could be argued that the interest in their family members wasn’t to use them against Svendsen and Webster, but to compliment them on the successful ministries of both, but I doubt it. Nonetheless, I said alleged in my post. I do not know for sure if this is true. My question was more of a hypothetical to you.

And, of course, the answer is no, it would be dead wrong for those guys in the chat room to do this. That’s a no-brainer. And the reason this excuses James grotesque essay against his sister is…?

:To answer your question: If James White refered to his sister directly (i.e. in a face-to-face, telephone, or email conversation) as Mrs. Bonds, I would say that he would be wrong in doing so, but to refer to her in a webpage for mass viewing, whose point is to explain that her proximity to him has no relevance to the truth of his arguments, as Mrs. Bonds is not “pathological” although I probably would not do it.

Yep. The man seems to have nobody around him who will challenge a thing he does. With friends like you, he will not need enemies, Cyclonus. Such deference and obsequious defensiveness of his worst and most self-destructive impulses will harm him far more than a million emails from stupid Catholics in a chat room.




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2/12/02 2:18:54 pm

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Re: Let’s have some perspective here chezami
Jon, all I can say to this, is AMEN. It is obvious that the “sister of James White” connection is only relevant because a certain faction of ultra conservative RC epologists are eager to discredit Dr. White in any way they can.

Of course it *could* also be that Catholics, being remarkable like human beings, have mixed motives and that some of them take an interest in Patty because she’s a convert in a particularly tough spot. But that would, of course, humanized Catholics and not suit your argument at all. No. It must be simply and solely that Catholics are interested in her only to attack James.

: I’m sure Mr. Shea remembers a particular post of his to the Catholic Message Board that I remind him of whenever he gets into this little self-righteous mode of his–a post where he used the most vicious, unChristian like language imaginable against Dr. White, basically calling him every name under the sun and making the most outlandish accusations about his mental and emotional processes that I have EVER seen anyone say about anyone on the Internet.

Boy! You must not get out on the web much! It’s true that I gave my honest assessment of James. I said as much to Jon. I don’t pretend to like the man.

: Yet this same Mr. Shea doesn’t waste any opportunities to portray himself as the very spirit of lovingkindness and reasonable dialogue, complaining constantly about the rhetoric of others against him. There’s a word for this sort of thing, and it begins with “h”.

Oh brother. Tim, this reminds me of nothing so much as those wonderful old movies with the town biddies who say, “As a Christian woman, I won’t speak ill of others, but that awful new woman in town is rich with a capital B!” As I said, I gave my honest assessment of James’ character in that post. I have not spent much time interacting with or talking about James and his acolytes and devotees since. I do, in general, try to conduct my conversations without the ranting hysteria that so often seems to affect you, and I know that ticks you off. But what do you prefer? That *everything* I write be like that long ago post about James? At least then I wouldn’t be a hypocrite, right?

:And no, I won’t apologize for that remark or retract it. These ultra conservative RC epologists simply MUST be made to see the constancy with which they substitute insults for arguments,

HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! As a lazy-minded, hypocritical, etc. I will have to closely study your rhetorical strategies in this regard. Keep that eagle eye out for violations of the niceties, Tim.

: the deep, deep irrelevance of their shameless personal attacks on people who don’t share their views. I truly believe it’s one of those “If you can’t stop the message, stop the messenger” things.

Tim, as I’ve already pointed out, I virtually never interact with James and I think it’s dumb for Catholics to do so. He’s written vast oceans of his gaseous prose with no peep from me. I don’t think his “message” is particularly interesting or important and I don’t think it’s worth “stopping” or bothering with. I feel the same way about Webster and Svendsen. You guys write about my work, I don’t write about yours for a simple reason: its boring and irrelevant to the lives of everybody but a few popinjays on the internet.

:Perspective is indeed very much needed here. Whatever complaints one has about Dr. White’s descriptions of his sister, there is really only one issue of apologetic importance here: By her own admissions, Patty Bonds does not know the issues involved in RC / Protestant disagreements, and she is only being held up by these ultra-conservative epologists *because* she is the sister of the Great Thorn in Their Flesh, the Evil, Anti-Catholic Pseudo-Doctor James White. This is nothing more than one more personal attack, and it is utterly reprehensible for that reason.

As I told moronikos, I quite agree that Catholics should not be taking a new Catholic and making a big deal of her. My one qualification on this (since I don’t know Patty Bonds and I don’t know the substance of what she’s got to say) is that it’s *possible* she simply an interesting and articulate convert. My tendency is to doubt this, but I suspend judgement there till I’ve heard her speak. There is the possibility that she shares her brother’s obvious verbal talents and is just a plain interesting guest for some show like “Journey Home”. But, as I say, I am skeptical.

However, none of that justifies James atrocious treatment of her. And your loud and protracted scream of avoidance of that fact does not speak well of you.

:To state it baldly: The significance of the conversion of Patty Bonds to Romanism is precisely ZERO.

Ah! Then it’s even more mysterious that James seems to think otherwise. Admittedly James can generate ASCII by the ton with the slightest provocation, but one does get the impression he thinks her conversion means a bit more than zero.

One wonders how many “ordinary”, “no-name” converts suddenly find themselves with Scott Hahn’s private number,

probably the same way I got it in 1993, by using this cool thing called “directory assistance”. You may not know this but Scott and Kimberly have mid-wifed a huge number of totally unknown people into the Church.

: having lunch with Steve Ray,

Send an email? Make a phone call? These people do not live in Trump Tower.

: receiving glowing letters of defense from Art Sippo,

How many people need them? Again, email is not that hard to use. (By the way, I dislike Art’s letter.)

: and so on. It will be interesting to see if any of the “big name” RC apologists choose to take the high ground here and not even mention the affair–or perhaps if they do, mention it only to chide their colleagues for making useless polemic hay out of it.

I’ve already written a letter of concern about it to Steve’s board. Do *you*–does any of James’s acolytes and devotees–have the gumption to even *slightly* criticize his embarrassing and creepy abuse of his sister? Has James ever been criticized by his sycophants for anything he’s ever said or done? I’m beginning to wonder.




Registered User

2/12/02 2:46:26 pm

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I already did chezami
The short summary is in the post to which you responded.




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2/12/02 2:48:39 pm

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Scripture Index for The Forgotten Trinity – Vintage

A Brother in St. Louis Kindly Generated This Index

Genesis 1:1 35, 49 Isaiah 10:21 81, 82
Genesis 1:2 147 Isaiah 31:3 81
Genesis 1:26 166 Isaiah 40:13-18 38
Genesis 18:1 63 Isaiah 40:21-28 38-39
Genesis 27 111 Isaiah 40:25 25
Genesis 43:33 111 Isaiah 41:22 100
    Isaiah 41:22-24 44
Exodus 3:14 98 Isaiah 41:4 44, 87, 98, 100
Exodus 4:22 111 Isaiah 43:10 36, 98, 99
Exodus 19:5 77 Isaiah 43:25 99
    Isaiah 44:24 44
Numbers 23:14 43 Isaiah 44:6-8 36-37
    Isaiah 45:18 45
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 35 Isaiah 45:18 99
Deuteronomy 7:6 77 Isaiah 45:21 128
Deuteronomy 10:14 35 Isaiah 45:21-22 37
Deuteronomy 10:17 81 Isaiah 45:23 128
Deuteronomy 14:2 77 Isaiah 46:4 98
Deuteronomy 21:17 111 Isaiah 46:9-10 39
Deuteronomy 29:29 34, 173 Isaiah 48:11 91
    Isaiah 48:13 133
1 Kings 11:3 135 Isaiah 51:12 99
    Isaiah 52:6 99
2 Chronicles 6:18 41 Isaiah 53:1 136, 137
    Isaiah 53:2 125
Nehemiah 9:32 81 Isaiah 55:8-9 35
    Isaiah 57:15 42
Psalm 19:1 133    
Psalm 22:1 157 Jeremiah 10:10-11 40, 105
Psalm 24:1 133 Jeremiah 23:24 41
Psalm 24:8 81 Jeremiah 31:9 111
Psalm 33:6,9 43, 50 Jeremiah 32:18 81
Psalm 45:6-7 74    
Psalm 45:10-12 75 Ezekiel 37:23 76-77
Psalm 78:69 133    
Psalm 89:11 133 Hosea 11:9 43, 81
Psalm 89:27 111, 113    
Psalm 90:2 42, 97, 102, 133 Malachi 3:6 43
Psalm 102:25-27 42, 132, 133, 134    
Psalm 104:30 147 Matthew 1:18 140
Psalm 130:7-8 76 Matthew 3:11 140
Psalm 139:7 147 Matthew 3:16-17 155
    Matthew 10:19-20 149
Proverbs 3:19 133 Matthew 11:27 146, 157
    Matthew 11:28 68
Isaiah 6 136 Matthew 12:31-32 144
Isaiah 6:1-3 63 Matthew 17:1-9 155
Isaiah 6:1-4 137 Matthew 27:46 157
Isaiah 6:1-10 132 Matthew 28:18-20 174
Isaiah 6:9 148 Matthew 28:19 144, 147
Isaiah 6:9-11 137    
Isaiah 9:6 75, 80    
Isaiah 9:7 80    
Mark 3:28-29 144 John 17:23-24 155
Mark 13:11 149 John 18:5-6 96, 103
Mark 14:62 96 John 20:17 70, 91
    John 20:24-25 69
Luke 1:15 140 John 20:26-27 69
Luke 4:8 112 John 20:28 70, 84, 95, 181
Luke 21:14-15 149 John 20:28-29 69
Luke 23:46 157    
    Acts 5:3-4 147
John 1:1 51-55, 57, 63, 84, Acts 5;32 143
John 1:1 95, 102, 123, 181 Acts 7:51 145
John 1:1-3 48, 58 Acts 8:29 142
John 1:1-18 64, 104 Acts 10:19-20 141
John 1:3 50, 56, 99 Acts 13:2 141
John 1:6, 12,13, 18 56 Acts 17:32 107
John 1:6-8 58 Acts 20:28 82, 143
John 1:10-13 58 Acts 21:11 142
John 1:14 51, 59, 102, 125 Acts 28:25-26 148
John 1:14,15,17,18 61    
John 1:18 58, 62, 63, 101, 158 Romans 1:20 85
John 3:35 154 Romans 1:7 157
John 3:6 150 Romans 5:5 143
John 4:23 16 Romans 6:3 147
John 4:24 40 Romans 8:9 150
John 5:16-19 87 Romans 8:26-27 142
John 5:17 88 Romans 8:29 112
John 5:20 155 Romans 9:5 71, 73
John 6:37-39 159 Romans 14:17-18 164
John 8:24 95, 102-104 Romans 15:16 164
John 8:24, 58 101 Romans 15:30 144
John 8:58 95-98, 102-103    
John 8:59 99 1 Corinthians 1:3 68, 157
John 10:28-29 159 1 Corinthians 1:9 150
John 10:30 89, 158 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 164
John 12:28 156 1 Corinthians 2:8 160
John 12:37-41 132, 136 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 142-143, 147
John 12:39-41 92, 101 1 Corinthians 6:11 164
John 13:19 95, 99, 100, 103 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 92
John 14 150 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 164
John 14:23 149 1 Corinthians 12:9-11 146
John 14:28 89, 90, 92 1 Corinthians 13:12 52
John 14:6 68    
John 14:9 68 2 Corinthians 1:2 157
John 14:9-10 158 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 164
John 15:9 155 2 Corinthians 5:19 56
John 15:26 141 2 Corinthians 11:31 73
John 15:27 97 2 Corinthians 13:14 150, 164
John 16  150    
John 16 13-14 141 Galatians 1:3 157
John 17:1-3 156 Galatians 3:27 147
John 17:3 83. 91, 92 Galatians 3:28 121
John 17:3-5 90-91 Galatians 4:6 142
John 17:5 90 Galatians 4:8 38
Ephesians 1:2 157 James 4:13-16 39
Ephesians 2:18 165    
Ephesians 3:16-17 165 2 Peter 1:1 78-79
Ephesians 4:4-6 165 2 Peter 1:11 78-79
Ephesians 4:30 145 2 Peter 1:20-21 47
    2 Peter 1:21 53, 148
Philippians 1:2 157 2 Peter 2:20 78-79
Philippians 1:21 68 2 Peter 3:18 78-79
Philippians 2:1-4 120    
Philippians 2:5-11 119-121 1 John 1:1-5 60
Philippians 2:5-7 122 1 John 1:2 58
Philippians 2:6 88, 90 1 John 1:3 151
Philippians 2:6-7 123 1 John 2:23 84, 154
Philippians 2:9-11 128 1 John 4:2-3 60. 109
Philippians 3:10 150 1 John 5:10-12 84
    1 John 5:20 83-84
Colossians 1:6-8 164-165    
Colossians 1:15-17 106, 109-110, 112-113 Revelation 1:17-18 86
Colossians 1:16-17 58, 99, 114 Revelation 1:5 112
Colossians 1:18 112 Revelation 1:7-8 86
Colossians 2:2-3 15 Revelation 5:11-14 116
Colossians 2:3 84 Revelation 19:16 68
Colossians 2:8-9 85 Revelation 22:12-13 86-87
Colossians 2:9 85, 86
Colossians 2:18 108
Colossians 2:19 109
Colossians 3:3 159
1 Thessalonians 1:3-5 163
2 Thessalonians 2:13 164
1 Timothy 1:17 183
2 Timothy 3:16 148
2 Timothy 3:16-17 47
Titus 2:13 73, 77-80
Titus 2:13-14 75
Titus 2:14 76
Titus 3:5 150
Hebrews 1:1-3 117
Hebrews 1:2-3 99
Hebrews 1:3 110
Hebrews 1:6 112
Hebrews 1:6-8 74
Hebrews 1:8 135
Hebrews 1:8-12 133-134
Hebrews 1:10-12 132, 135
Hebrews 6:17 146
Hebrews 10:29 145

Dave Hunt vs. Charles Haddon Spurgeon – Vintage

Using Obfuscation to Avoid Admission of Simple and Documented Error

It is obvious that a number of truth-loving “Bereans” have been contacting Dave Hunt’s ministry, The Berean Call, and calling him to accountability regarding the documentation of his error concerning the beliefs of Charles Haddon Spurgeon which I presented in my Open Letter responding to the publication of his book, What Love is This?  In the August, 2002 issue of The Berean Call Mr. Hunt attempts some damage-control, but in the process only digs a deeper hole for himself.  He is surely making it impossible for those who have followed his writings to put much trust in his use of sources, and his willingness to stand corrected when need be.

In this article I will provide the original documentation of Hunt’s error, followed by his attempted response, a brief rebuttal of key issues, and most importantly, the majority of the text of the chapter from which Hunt mistakenly derived his initial citation as found in What Love is This?  The text of this chapter is so clear, so compelling, that it simply overwhelms the very weak attempt made to excuse the original error.

A Glowing Example: Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the Atonement
     On page 19 of your book, Dave, you make the assertion that Charles Spurgeon “unequivocally” denied particular redemption (limited atonement).  Every single Calvinist who has done any meaningful reading in Spurgeon will be forced to immediately dismiss you as a very poor researcher on the basis of this statement.  Here I provide the quote as you gave it, placing the materials you did not include in bold (I thank Tom Ascol for first noting this and rushing me the context).  Folks who wonder if you are being fair to Augustine or Calvin should note your willingness to be completely and utterly inaccurate in your representation of someone as recent as Spurgeon:

I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy. In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, to have saved not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Maker’s law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work.

Anyone familiar with Spurgeon knows what he means by “the intent of the Divine purpose” here (he means what all us Calvinists mean: it was God’s intention to save the elect in the atonement).  But the rest of the section you quoted from makes it crystal clear:

Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Saviour, and to rejoice in Him.  Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption.

That is on the very next page after the one you quoted!  Spurgeon refers to your position, Dave, as “a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption”!  Yes, Spurgeon was unequivocal alright: only he said the exact opposite of what you indicated!  A quick scan of the relevant materials at reveals just how completely in error your assertion is, and how many sermons affirm Spurgeon’s belief in particular redemption.  Here is one of them:  I quote him directly:

We hold–we are not afraid to say that we believe–that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number;” and we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin, and stand, washed in blood, before the Father’s throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned; we dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them.

You really should hasten to retract this grossly errant assertion concerning Spurgeon.  For those of us who have even a passing familiarity with the great English preacher, your comments about him were outrageous.  The misuse of the quote from Spurgeon’s biography is simply indefensible, Dave.  Do you not think that we have these sources at hand?  Will you instruct your publisher to retract this statement in the next printing of the book, along with a note apologizing for such an error?  Or will you ignore this word of corrective advice as you have ignored so many others that have been provided to you?

I had not intended to be “prophetic” in that last line, but as the August, 2002 issue of The Berean Call proves, I was.  It should be noted that the question, while mentioning me by name, does not do justice to the actual statement Hunt made.  Keep in mind the statement that is found on page 19 of Dave Hunt’s book, What Love is This?  I quote:

Spurgeon himself, so often quoted by Calvinsts to support their view, rejected Limited Atonement, though it lies at the very heart of Calvinism and follows inevitably from its other points — and he did so in unequivocal language.

Please note the assertion in the final phrase: that Spurgeon rejected the doctrine of limited atonement “in unequivocal language.”  What does unequivocal mean?  It means plain, clear, explicit, without ambiguity.  This part of Hunt’s assertion is left out in what follows, and, as we read the attempt to befuddle the readers of The Berean Call, we see why.  Hunt’s new assertion is that Spurgeon was ambiguous, contradictory, and inconsistent in his teaching and proclamation.  This is not what Hunt said in his book.  And as we shall see, it’s not even true at that!  Here is what appeared in the August, 2002 Q&A section of The Berean Call:

Question:  James White has caught you red-handed misrepresenting Spurgeon in your book. You claim that Spurgeon “rejected Limited Atonement.” You support that assertion with a quote of rejection of any “limit to the merit of the blood of Jesus….” Yet you omitted clear statements In the very section from which you quote that “the intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering…we do not believe that Christ made any effectual atonement for those who are for ever damned.” Anyone who knows anything about Spurgeon knows that he taught Limited Atonement. How much longer do we have to wait to see in print your admission of your inexcusable misrepresentation of Spurgeon?

Answer: Spurgeon was torn between what he called “hyper-Calvinism” and the Word of God. In the quote I give he very clearly says, “In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore….Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question.” He then goes on to deny “that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew never could be saved, and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ. according to some men’s account. died to save them….The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work.”

Spurgeon seems to be contradicting himself. How could the “merit” of the atonement be unlimited unless Christ died for all? If He paid the penalty only for the sins of the elect, then the merit of His death is finite, being confined to a definite number. What did he really mean? I think I have good reason to believe that this is just another case of what one historian explained as “The…old Calvinistic phrases were often on Spurgeon’s lips but the genuine Calvinistic meaning had gone out of them.”

I think we find the key to Spurgeon’s real beliefs in his opposition to what he called “hyper-Calvinism.” His preaching sparked the “duty-faith” controversy in which he was accused of holding Arminianism. The controversy raged in England for some years and took its name from Spurgeon’s teaching that it was the “duty” of every person to have faith in Christ.

If Spurgeon believed in “particular redemption,” as the quote above seemed to indicate, it was a peculiar kind. He pressed upon all his hearers the duty of believing the gospel: “Read, write, print, shout—‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.’  Great Saviour, I thank Thee for this text; help Thou me so to preach from it that many may come to Thee, and find eternal life!”

Spurgeon claimed, “I have all the Puritans with me…without a single exception.” Even the Synod of Dort had declared, “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called…. [God] seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to him and believe on him.” That hardly sounds like the Particular Redemption elsewhere taught by Dort. Such are the contradictions inherent within Calvinism, which tries to maintain that God offers salvation to all, even to those whom He has predestined to eternal doom.

But the contradictions were more apparent in Spurgeon’s preaching, contradictions which were “regarded among many of the Particular Baptists as symptoms of defection from Calvinism.” His chief opponent was James Wells (referred to privately by Spurgeon as “King James”) who for 30 years had been the most popular and powerful Particular Baptist pastor south of the Thames until the arrival of Spurgeon at New Park Street. He pressed his attack to prove that Spurgeon was an Arminian with such damning quotes as this from the sermon “Future Bliss”: “Oh! Dear souls…if you believe in your Christ you are elect; whosoever puts himself on the mercy of Jesus…shall have mercy if he come for it.” Wells argued that “such words quietly set election aside, and rest the whole matter with the creature….” Am I caught red-handed misrepresenting Spurgeon? I don’t think so.

            The reader will immediately see the less-than-subtle shift in Hunt’s defense.  He nowhere makes reference to his own statement that Spurgeon “unequivocally” denies limited atonement, since, obviously, his entire attempted defense is that Spurgeon was not unequivocal at all about his commitment to Calvinism!  He defends himself by asserting that Spurgeon contradicted himself and was “torn” between opposite theologies. Mr. Hunt is in essence abandoning the original assertion and replacing it with its opposite, all the while saying, “I didn’t get caught red-handed!”

            Just a few words in response to these assertions.  First, Spurgeon was not “torn” between hyper-Calvinism and the Word of God.  He rejected hyper-Calvinism and spoke often against it.  Next, Mr. Hunt is simply misreading Spurgeon’s statement about merit.  He is not doing so because Spurgeon was unclear.  He is doing so because he refuses to listen to Reformed writers in their own contexts.  Hunt argues that if Christ dies only for the elect, then the merit of His death is finite.  This is the very point Spurgeon is denying.  And Hunt has no logical basis upon which to base his claim.  Why?  Simple: does Dave Hunt believe we are saved by grace?  Of course.  Does he believe those in hell are saved by grace?  No, of course not.  So, since only a certain number are saved by grace, then grace is therefore limited, right?  No, he would never say God’s grace is finite.  Hence, his position is internally inconsistent and self-contradictory.  Further, since the number of men born over time is a finite number as well, Hunt’s logic would mean that even in his own system Christ’s merit would have to be limited, since the number saved, no matter what, is finite!  But these obvious logical fallacies aside, Spurgeon is not contradicting himself.  The merit of Christ’s death is indeed limitless because of who He was.  The application of that merit is finite in anyone’s system, including Hunt’s, but that does not in any way diminish the limitless nature of the merit.

            It is simply farcical to write, as Hunt does, “If Spurgeon believed in ‘particular redemption,’ as the quote above seemed to indicate, it was a peculiar kind.”  He said he believed it, he defined it in terms identical to those used by all other Reformed writers, and the only reason Mr. Hunt can offer to us to disbelieve the plain words of Spurgeon is that he himself can’t see how you can preach the way Spurgeon preached, call men to Christ the way he called them to Christ, and believe in particular redemption!  Hence, Spurgeon’s theology is to be determined not on the basis of what he actually taught, but on the basis of what Dave Hunt can understand!  There is not a word Hunt quotes from Spurgeon that is not perfectly in harmony with particular redemption.  The fact is, Dave Hunt cannot produce a single word from Spurgeon in support of his original assertion.  He is simply trying to deflect attention from this fact by raising other issues, issues that do not address the topic at hand.

On the Dividing Line for August 10, 2002, I read the entirety of the 16th chapter of Spurgeon’s Autobiography, from which the citation found in What Love is This? was derived.  I noted with irony the title of the chapter: “Defense of Calvinism.”  I will not reproduce the entirety of the text here, but I will produce enough of it to give the reader more than sufficient basis upon which to judge if, indeed, as Dave Hunt continues to maintain to this day, Charles Haddon Spurgeon denied, “in unequivocal language,” the doctrine of limited atonement. 


The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again. — C. H. S.

It is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different “gospels” in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey’s end, it would be difficult to predict. I thank God that He early taught me the gospel, and I have been so perfectly satisfied with it, that I do not want to know any other. Constant change of creed is sure loss. If a tree has to be taken up two or three times a year, you will not need to build a very large loft in which to store the apples. When people are always shifting their doctrinal principles, they are not likely to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. It is good for young believers to begin with a firm hold upon those great fundamental doctrines which the Lord has taught in His Word.

Why, if I believed what some preach about the temporary, trumpery salvation which only lasts for a time, I would scarcely be at all grateful for it; but when I know that those whom God saves He saves with an everlasting salvation, when I know that He gives to them an everlasting righteousness, when I know that He settles them on an everlasting foundation of everlasting love, and that He will bring them to His everlasting kingdom, oh, then I do wonder, and I am astonished that such a blessing as this should ever have been given to me!

“Pause, my soul! adore, and wonder!
Ask, ‘Oh, why such love to me?’
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Saviour’s family:
Thanks, eternal thanks, to Thee

I suppose there are some persons whose minds naturally incline towards the doctrine of free-will. I can only say that mine inclines as naturally towards the doctrines of sovereign grace. Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done! I have thought, if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been! I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone. I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit.

Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my spiritual life-no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good. Wooings were lost upon me-warnings were cast to the wind- thunders were despised; and as for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, “He only is my salvation.” It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him. I can in very deed, say with Doddridge and Toplady, —

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes o’erflow

and coming to this moment, I can add —

“Tis grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go

Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, [emphasis added! JRW] I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul-when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man-that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God. One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher’s sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment- I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”

John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it, too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of election, “Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine. I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times, and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees. I said to him, “I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures.”

Then, in the fulness of time, He purchased me with His blood; He let His heart run out in one deep gaping wound for me long ere I loved Him. Yea, when He first came to me, did I not spurn Him? When He knocked at the door, and asked for entrance, did I not drive Him away, and do despite to His grace? Ah, I can remember that I full often did so until, at last, by the power of His effectual grace, He said, “I must, I will come in;” and then He turned my heart, and made me love Him. But even till now I should have resisted Him, had it not been for His grace. Well, then since He purchased me when I was dead in sins, does it not follow, as a consequence necessary and logical, that He must have loved me first? Did my Saviour die for me because I believed on Him? No; I was not then in existence; I had then no being. Could the Saviour, therefore, have died because I had faith, when I myself was not yet born? Could that have been possible? Could that have been the origin of the Saviour’s love towards me? Oh! no; my Saviour died for me long before I believed. “But,” says someone, “He foresaw that you would have faith; and, therefore, He loved you.” What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit. I have met with a great many believers, and talked with them about this matter; but I never knew one who could put his hand on his heart, and say, “I believed in Jesus without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.”

I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lord’s part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on God’s part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace. When the Lord entered into covenant with me, I am sure that it was all of grace, nothing else but grace. When I remember what a den of unclean beasts and birds my heart was, and how strong was my unrenewed will, how obstinate and rebellious against the sovereignty of the Divine rule, I always feel inclined to take the very lowest room in my Father’s house, and when I enter Heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of all saints, and with the chief of sinners.

The late lamented Mr. Denham has put, at the foot of his portrait, a most admirable text, “Salvation is of the Lord.” That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord.” I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, “God is my rock and my salvation.” What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ-the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? [emphasis added! JRW]  Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own Private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.

“If ever it should come to pass,
That sheep of Christ might fall away,
My fickle, feeble soul, alas!
Would fall a thousand times a da

If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; if one of the covenant ones be lost, so may all be; and then there is no gospel promise true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worth my acceptance. I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then He will love me for ever. God has a mastermind; He arranged everything in His gigantic intellect long before He did it; and once having settled it, He never alters it, ‘This shall be done,” saith He, and the iron hand of destiny marks it down, and it is brought to pass. “This is My purpose,” and it stands, nor can earth or hell alter it. “This is My decree,” saith He, “promulgate it, ye holy angels; rend it down from the gate of Heaven, ye devils, if ye can; but ye cannot alter the decree, it shall stand for ever.” God altereth not His plans; why should He? He is Almighty, and therefore can perform His pleasure. Why should He? He is the All-wise, and therefore cannot have planned wrongly. Why should He? He is the everlasting God, and therefore cannot die before His plan is accomplished. Why should He change? Ye worthless atoms of earth, ephemera of a day, ye creeping insects upon this bay-leaf of existence, ye may change your plans, but He shall never, never change His. Has He told me that His plan is to save me? If so, I am for ever safe.

“My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impress’d on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace

I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to be able to get through a day without despair. f I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort. I could not say, whatever state of heart I came into, that I should be like a well- spring of water, whose stream fails not; I should rather have to take the comparison of an intermittent spring, that might stop on a sudden, or a reservoir, which I had no reason to expect would always be full. I believe that the happiest of Christians and the truest of Christians are those who never dare to doubt God, but who take His Word simply as it stands, and believe it, and ask no questions, just feeling assured that if God has said it, it will be so. I bear my willing testimony that I have no reason, nor even the shadow of a reason, to doubt my Lord, and I challenge Heaven, and earth, and hell, to bring any proof that God is untrue. From the depths of hell I call the fiends, and from this earth I call the tried and afflicted believers, and to Heaven I appeal, and challenge the long experience of the blood-washed host, and there is not to be found in the three realms a single person who can bear witness to one fact which can disprove the faithfulness of God, or weaken His claim to be trusted by His servants. There are many things that may or may not happen, but this I know shall happen —

“He shall present my soul,
Unblemish’d and complete,
Before the glory of His face,
With joys divinely grea

All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God. The promises of man may be broken-many of them are made to be broken-but the promises of God shall all be fulfilled. He is a promise-maker, but He never was a promise- breaker; He is a promise-keeping God, and every one of His people shall prove it to be so. This is my grateful, personal confidence, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me”-unworthy me, lost and ruined me. He will yet save me; and —

“I, among the blood-wash’d throng,
Shall wave the palm, and wear the crown,
And shout loud victor

I go to a land which the plough of earth hath never upturned, where it is greener than earth’s best pastures, and richer than her most abundant harvests ever saw. I go to a building of more gorgeous architecture than man hath ever builded; it is not of mortal design; it is “a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.” All I shall know and enjoy in Heaven, will be given to me by the Lord, and I shall say, when at last I appear before Him —

“Grace all the work shall crown
Through everlasting days;
It lays in Heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the prais

I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such a limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not allow the thought to find a lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy. In Christ’s finished work I see an ocean of merit; my plummet finds no bottom, my eye discovers no shore. There must be sufficient efficacy in the blood of Christ, if God had so willed it, [emphasis added, JRW] to have saved not only all in this world, but all in ten thousand worlds, had they transgressed their Maker’s law. Once admit infinity into the matter, and limit is out of the question. Having a Divine Person for an offering, it is not consistent to conceive of limited value; bound and measure are terms inapplicable to the Divine sacrifice. The intent of the Divine purpose fixes the application of the infinite offering, but does not change it into a finite work. Think of the numbers upon whom God has bestowed His grace already. Think of the countless hosts in Heaven: if thou wert introduced there to-day, thou wouldst find it as easy to tell the stars, or the sands of the sea, as to count the multitudes that are before the throne even now. They have come from the East, and from the West, from the North, and from the South, and they are sitting down with Abraham, and with Isaac, and with Jacob in the Kingdom of God; and beside those in Heaven, think of the saved ones on earth. Blessed be God, His elect on earth are to be counted by millions, I believe, and the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Savior, and to rejoice in Him. The Father’s love is not for a few only, but for an exceeding great company. “A great multitude, which no man could number,” will be found in Heaven. A man can reckon up to very high figures; set to work your Newtons, your mightiest calculators, and they can count great numbers, but God and God alone can tell the multitude of His redeemed. I believe there will be more in Heaven than in hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I answer, because Christ, in everything, is to “have the pre-eminence,” and I cannot conceive how He could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise. Moreover, I have never read that there is to be in hell a great multitude, which no man could number. I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they die, speed their way to Paradise. Think what a multitude there is of them! Then there are already in Heaven unnumbered myriads of the spirits of just men made perfect-the redeemed of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues up till now; and there are better times coming, when the religion of Christ shall be universal; when —

“He shall reign from pole to pole,
With illimitable sway

when whole kingdoms shall bow down before Him, and nations shall be born in a day, and in the thousand years of the great millennial state there will be enough saved to make up all the deficiencies of the thousands of years that have gone before. Christ shall be Master everywhere, and His praise shall be sounded in every land. Christ shall have the pre-eminence at last; His train shall be far larger than that which shall attend the chariot of the grim monarch of hell.

Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Savior died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good! [emphasis added throughout, JRW.  Yes, this is unequivocal indeed!]

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, [emphasis added, JRW] and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer- I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.” I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Savior, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

It is often said that the doctrines we believe have a tendency to lead us to sin. I have heard it asserted most positively, that those high doctrines which we love, and which we find in the Scriptures, are licentious ones. I do not know who will have the hardihood to make that assertion, when they consider that the holiest of men have been believers in them. I ask the man who dares to say that Calvinism is a licentious religion, what he thinks of the character of Augustine, or Calvin, or Whitefield, [emphasis added, JRW: Hunt vociferously and unfairly attacks the character of both Augustine and Calvin] who in successive ages were the great exponents of the system of grace; or what will he say of the Puritans, whose works are full of them? Had a man been an Arminian in those days, he would have been accounted the vilest heretic breathing, but now we are looked upon as the heretics, and they as the orthodox. We have gone back to the old school; we can trace our descent from the apostles. It is that vein of free-grace, running through the sermonizing of Baptists, which has saved us as a denomination. Were it not for that, we should not stand where we are today. We can run a golden line up to Jesus Christ Himself, through a holy succession of mighty fathers, who all held these glorious truths; and we can ask concerning them, “Where will you find holier and better men in the world?” No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it “a licentious doctrine” did not know anything at all about it. Poor ignorant things, they little knew that their own vile stuff was the most licentious doctrine under Heaven. If they knew the grace of God in truth, they would soon see that there was no preservative from lying like a knowledge that we are elect of God from the foundation of the world. There is nothing like a belief in my eternal perseverance, and the immutability of my Father’s affection, which can keep me near to Him from a motive of simple gratitude. Nothing makes a man so virtuous as belief of the truth. A lying doctrine will soon beget a lying practice. A man cannot have an erroneous belief without by-and-by having an erroneous life. I believe the one thing naturally begets the other. Of all men, those have the most disinterested piety, the sublimest reverence, the most ardent devotion, who believe that they are saved by grace, without works, through faith, and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God. Christians should take heed, and see that it always is so, lest by any means Christ should be crucified afresh, and put to an open shame.

            It is simply beyond comprehension how, in the light of this chapter, penned by Spurgeon himself, anyone can possibly maintain that He “unequivocally” denied the particular redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  One might as well read the King Follett Funeral Discourse of Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, and as a result, call him a “monotheist” as maintain the completely backwards assertion of Dave Hunt that Spurgeon denied the doctrine.  Let the reader recall that it is this very chapter that Hunt cites as “unequivocally” denying the doctrine, yet, on the very next page of the chapter titled “Defense of Calvinism,” these words appear: “That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption.”  Spurgeon says, “Limited atonement is a Christian doctrine.”  Dave Hunt isolates a section from a preceding page, imports his own misunderstandings into it, and says, “Spurgeon unequivocally denied limited atonement.”  The facts are plain.  The only question is, will Dave Hunt have the honesty and integrity to stop trying to blow smoke across the landscape and simply admit his mistake and withdraw, with apologies, his assertion? 

            Someone might ask, “So what’s the big deal?  Spurgeon isn’t Scripture.”  Quite true.  However, this example shows everyone exactly how Dave Hunt uses sources, whether they be historical or biblical sources.  Mr. Hunt sees only what he wants to see.  He ignores anything, even if it is a direct counter-statement, that does not fit with his “thesis” concerning a topic.  His books are filled with this kind of “research.”  He can come up with new “translations” of biblical passages such as Acts 13:48 that end up being identical with the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses through the very same willy-nilly use of sources that has produced this glaring error. And the worst part is, he will not admit the errors.  Instead, he chooses to blame Spurgeon, or, when shown to have completely misrepresented the Greek text, or engaged in gross eisegesis of the text, he identifies those who seek to correct his errors as “elitists.”  Is He who is the truth served by this kind of attitude and activity?